Philosophy Word of the Day – Categorical / Hypothetical Imperative

In the moral philosophy of Kant, a distinction between ways in which the will may be obliged. A hypothetical imperative (of the form, “If you want X, then do A.”) is always conditioned on something else, but a categorical imperative (of the form “Do A.”) is absolute and universal. Moral action for Kant always follows from the categorical imperative, “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it become a universal law.”

Recommended Reading: Immanuel Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, tr. by James W. Ellington (Hackett, 1993) {at Amazon.com}; Roger J. Sullivan, An Introduction to Kant’s Ethics (Cambridge, 1994) {at Amazon.com}; and Terence Charles Williams, The Concept of the Categorical Imperative: A Study of the Place of the Categorical Imperative in Kant’s Ethical Theory (Oxford, 1993) {at Amazon.com}.

(Via Philosophical Dictionary)

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