What is the categorical imperative

Science in dialogue

Can the categorical imperative according to Immanuel Kant even exist? Why is ethics based on the teachings of Kant?

According to Kant, the fact that there is a categorical imperative is a fact of consciousness. These are considered evidence in philosophy. In addition, there is no “one” ethics in philosophy, but different ethics that coexist.

The categorical imperative is not a moral rule established by Kant but the result of an analysis of the already existing human morality. There are four or five different formulations for this in Kant. In the “Foundations for the Metaphysics of Morals” it says, for example: “Act only according to the maxim that you can also want to become a general law.” Another form can be found in the same work: “Act in such a way that you humanity, both in your person and in the person of everyone else, at all times as an end, never merely as a means. ”This means that those who are“ used ”to achieve your goals should always be as well Perceiving people and taking their concerns into account.

An example of a categorical imperative is the demand “Thou shalt not kill”. Categorical imperatives apply unconditionally and regardless of a specific purpose. The hypothetical imperatives are different. These are based on the principle: whoever wants the end, also wants the associated means to achieve this end. An example would be: "If you want to keep healthy teeth, brush your teeth three times a day".

Some philosophers are of the opinion that there are only negative categorical imperatives, i.e. those in the sense of "You shouldn't do this or that". This point is controversial in expert circles. Another controversial assumption is that there are no categorical imperatives, i.e. imperatives that apply without any condition. According to the critics, this would mean that ultimately any act would be permitted under certain conditions - including killing people, as was the case with the crimes of National Socialism. Since opponents of the categorical imperative certainly do not agree with this either, they judge according to the categorical imperative, but do not put it into theory, so the argumentation of the advocates of the categorical imperative.

In philosophy, facts of consciousness represent a form of proof. According to Kant, every rational being has a priori, that is, without the need for experience, that there are unconditional commandments, that is, the categorical imperative. Categorical imperatives would therefore be a fact of consciousness. Kant's ethics based on the categorical imperative can be true without other ethics being false. There is no such thing as “one” ethics. Rather, different philosophical ethics exist side by side and complement each other. For example, the virtue ethics of Aristotle deals with what qualities a person should have. In contrast, legal ethics says something about which laws people should adhere to.

The question was answered by answered by em. Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Norbert Hinske, Kant Research Center at the University of Trier.