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Immanuel Kant (17241804) is the most famous of the deontologists philosophers who hold that rules are the

basis of morality. In Kant's case, there is one overriding rule, which he refers to as the Categorical Imperative. This rule is very similar to what most of us know as the Golden Rule, though it is not simply to be identified with that principle Deontological ethical theories generally have held that what makes an action right is whether the agent is motivated by a desire to follow an "ethical principle." An agent who is so motivated is said to act "out of a sense of duty" or "moral obligation." Deontological ethical theories are often associated with various revealed religious traditions in that the "ethical principles" which are regarded as determining human moral obligation are in effect claimed to be commands of a divine being. Such theories may be called "theological deontological ethical theories." In philosophy, however, justification of ethical principles cannot proceed by appeal to a religious revelation, but must be made by appeal to rational arguments. There is no need for theological and philosophical deontological theories to conflict; a philosopher might, for example, argue that the ethical principles which reason dictates are the same as those a supreme being has commanded. Categorical Imperative The categorical imperative is the central philosophical concept in the moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Introduced in Kant's Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, it may be defined as a way of evaluating motivations for action. A categorical imperative denotes an absolute, unconditional requirement that asserts its authority in all circumstances, both required and justified as an end in itself. Its something you have to do for the sake of itself. This is opposed to a hypothetical imperative something you should do because you want to attain some goal. Going to the gym is something you should do IF you want to be in shape. Because whether or not you want to be in shape is really up to you, the imperative to go to the gym is contingent. Morality, Kant thought, is something different. Not killing someone is a categorical imperative. The killer cannot defend his action like the lazy person can. The lazy person does not go to the gym and defends this action by saying they do not care to get in shape. The killer cannot defend murder by saying they do not care to be moral. Moral imperatives are necessary, not contingent because of our rational nature. Good will, duty, and the categorical imperative Considerations of the physical details of actions are necessarily bound up with a person's subjective preferences, and could have been brought about without the action of a rational will, Kant concluded that the expected consequences of an act are themselves morally neutral, and therefore irrelevant to moral deliberation. The only objective basis for moral value would be the rationality of the good will, expressed in recognition of moral duty.

Duty is the necessity to act out of reverence for the moral law set by the categorical imperative. Because the consequences of an act are not the source of its moral worth, the source must be the maxim under which the act is performed, irrespective of all aspects or faculties of desire. Thus, an act can have moral content if, and only if, it is carried out solely with regard to a sense of moral duty; it is not enough that the act be consistent with duty, it must be carried out in the name of fulfilling a duty. Difference Between hypothetical and categorical imperatives We distinguished between hypothetical and categorical imperatives. A hypothetical imperative tells us what we must do if we want to achieve some goal. Example If one wants to control anger, one ought to take deep breaths If want to go dancing next weekend, I need to make sure I have a baby-sitter; if you want to solve differential equations, you must learn calculus. If one wants to control blood pressure, you should eat less meat. A categorical imperative is one that is binding on us absolutely, simply in virtue of the fact that we are rational creatures. And here it is important to remember: we are rational creatures because we have the capacity to let rationality govern our actions; not because we always act rationally. But what might count as a truly binding categorical imperative, that we really would agree that we have to follow? Example One ought to speak Truth. First Formulation Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law. Explanation The maxim of my action is my intention, or perhaps better yet, my principle of action. In asking whether I can will my maxim to be a universal law, Kant is, in effect, asking us to ask the simple question: "What if everybody did that?" And the question is whether we could consistently or coherently or rationally will that everyone act on the maxim. If the answer is no, then the categorical imperative tells us that the action is wrong. And note: in talking about what we can "will" we are talking about a rational willing; not about mere wishing

For explaining the formulation consider The moral proposition : "It is permissible to steal" would result in a contradiction in conceivability. The notion of stealing presupposes the existence of property, but were A universalized, then there could be no property, and so the proposition has logically negated itself. In general, perfect duties are those that are blameworthy if not met, as they are a basic required duty for a human Imperfect duties are circumstantial, meaning simply that you could not reasonably exist in a constant state of performing that duty. This is what truly differentiates between perfect and imperfect duties, because imperfect duties are those duties that are never truly completed. A particular example provided by Kant is the imperfect duty to cultivate one's own talents.

The second formulation "Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end."
Every rational action must set before itself not only a principle, but also an end. Most ends are of a subjective kind, because they need only be pursued if they are in line with some particular hypothetical imperative that a person may choose to adopt. For an end to be objective, it would be necessary that we categorically pursue it. A person has perfect duty not to use the humanity of themselves or others merely as a means to some other end. As a slave-owner would be effectively asserting a moral right to own a person as a slave, they would be asserting a property right in another person. But this would violate the categorical imperative because it denies the basis for there to be free rational action at all; it denies the status of a person as an end in themselves. One cannot, on Kant's account, ever suppose a right to treat another person as a mere means to an end. The second formulation also leads to the imperfect duty to further the ends of ourselves and others. If any person desires perfection in themselves or others, it would be their moral duty to seek that end for all people equally, so long as that end does not contradict perfect duty. The second formulation emphasize that the action taken by one in any circumstances should be such that if same action was done to hime/herself will accept it.