Formulating Categorical Imperatives1 by Philip Stratton-Lake, Keele/Staffordshire According to Kant, the supreme principle of morality is the categorical imperative2. Given the obvious importance of this principle, it is crucial that it is understood correctly. Such an understanding would begin initially with a formulation. Kant arrives at an initial formulation of the categorical imperative at the end of Groundwork I3. This formulation is arrived at via an analysis of popular reason and runs: "I ought never to act except in such a way that 1 can also will that my maxim should become a universal law"4. However, in Chapter Two of the Groundwork Kant complicates the issue by giving a number of different formulations. As Pa ton notes: "We might have expected Kant to be content with one formulation of the categorical imperative. Instead he embarrasses us with no less than five different formulae5, though, curiously enough, he tends to speak as if there were only three"6. The question of the correct formulation of the categorical imperative is further complicated by the fact that Kant at one point claims that there is only "a single categorical imperative"7, i. e., the formula of universal law. Yet later he describes universality
Kant-Studien – de Gruyter
Published: Jan 1, 1993
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