What is an imperative and what does it mean?

An order addressed to itself and not denying freedom, it is not opposed to it, but is a necessity that freedom imposes on a person — that is what imperative is. It is not imperative to obey an order from the outside — to a ruler or a sovereign, as in feudal times, or to God for religious people — it is only an obedience, only obedience. Of course, this is often necessary during life, but not all orders can and should be carried out. But you can not control yourself a day or a minute, it is a necessity, that is what imperative is.

imperative what is


Since the time of Kant's teaching, people have distinguished two types: a categorical imperative and a hypothetical imperative. The latter may be subject to one of the conditions that defines the goal. For example, if a person wants his friends to deal with him honestly, he must first of all be honest with them. Or if a person does not want to be jailed, he should not commit bad deeds.

These thoughts are the essence of the rules of skillful behavior, prudence, but nothing more.A person chooses the means suitable for the implementation of his chosen goal, and these funds come in handy only when this goal is achieved. The choice of norms of behavior depending on the existing goals and objectives - this is what the imperative is imperative. And these funds are needed until their execution and achievement of success.

Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative

And this categorical imperative is absolutely free from any conditions, there are no definite goals before it, it is not obliged to anyone, it simply performs what is necessary. For example: you can not lie. That is, be honest. Not only with friends, but in general with everyone and always. What is imperative, if not debt?

The nature of his absolute, categorical, having nothing to do with the hope of success or any result, it does not exist for the development of dexterity or caution. Just a man owes it. And not to someone from the side. Only to myself. And just to not lose respect for yourself. Because if he, testifying before a court, doubts the need to tell the truth, his very human nature is destroyed.

categorical imperative


What is the difference? Kant's hypothetical imperative has a private character, understood only by those who can verify all its conditions, that is, for those who act for the sake of the goal.For example, honesty leads to the acquisition of friends, friends can count on mutual trust and help that will lead to success. And the categorical (or moral, or moral) imperative is complete unconditionalness without any goal, with a universal character.

The value of the categorical imperative for any person is enormous, and the relationships remain even with those people who do not comply with this imperative at all. Through its universality, it fits into the behavior of any person, because the mind itself formulates it, prescribes it for itself. And he, as we know, can be both mental - theoretical reason, and active - practical, and let them act in different spheres, but go to the same - the statement of the internal body of rules - the imperative. In short, these are man’s requirements for himself.

Kant's imperative

Universal loneliness

The formulation of the imperative of Immanuel Kant from "Fundamentals of the Metaphysics of Morality" (second section) became widely known: "It is necessary to act as if the maxim of this act due to the will must become law for all." It means,that a person should obey only to himself (this is autonomy), but at the same time it is necessary to free oneself from oneself (from oneself, beloved, and this is universality).

The personal moral imperative, therefore, also matters to all other people. Thus, the morality that exists for everyone was formed precisely because it is of great importance for everyone. The only duty that every person must fulfill is to be free from his own egoism. This state Alan called "universal loneliness."

moral imperative


Examples, justifications, as well as the concept are given in the Christian commandments. What is an imperative? This is an obligation, and Kant here does not depart far from theological concepts, using the same formula. Ethical imperatives are the commandments of conscience, morality, the expression of the norms of moral will. The obedience of reason is the objective principle of compelling appointment to the will, which is imperative. What is maxim? This is a subjective principle of will, a subjective principle of activity, that is, rules of behavior.

The imperative is fundamentally opposed to the maxim. As already mentioned, the imperative can be of two kinds. The hypothetical acts under certain conditions, the categorical acts unconditionally.There is a difference in the examples. Want to be a priest - study theology. This is a hypothetical imperative. Want to trade - learn to cheat. He, too, but in this case there will definitely be a conflict with the categorical imperative: "Do not bear false witness!" (never, at all). The hypothetical imperative is an action means for achieving a goal, a categorical one is an aim for oneself.

imperative immanuel kant

General rule

The categorical imperative is supposed to be a formal principle of morality, which corresponds to the dignity of man, his practical reason, and in priority determine the form of the activity of his own will. The formal nature of the categorical imperative is intended to become the universal rule for all reasonable people. Practical principles that put a matter or object with the ability to desire as a basis for determining the will are the principles of purely empirical, practical laws cannot be given to the world.

Empirical principles lack the need that gives rise to the law. A rational being, following empirical principles, must think maxims, that is, the rules of its own behavior as practical universal laws.Accordingly, in the categorical imperative, action is seen as an objective necessity, but not at the expense of a goal, which can be achieved through this action, but at the expense of only the representation of this action itself, that is, its form.

categorical imperative immanuel

Other philosophers

A similar categorical imperative formula was proposed by the English moralist William Paley in the second half of the eighteenth century. The moral imperative must command categorically and unconditionally, ignore all material motives. It should be done in such a way that personal rules could become the principle of universal law. Mankind should never be a means in the actions of man, but only an end.

The German sociologist and philosopher Georg Simmel criticized the Kantian formulas of the categorical imperative. And Ehrenfels, Goldsheid, Unold, Cornelius did not consider that Kant had completed the work on this theory, and accepted it in a slightly modified form. However, the founder of the school of classical philosophy in Germany Immanuel Kant, of course, completed this work.

Kant's philosophy

The highest value is a person, as the philosopher believed, and he is always a goal in itself, he cannot be a means. Everyone has his own dignity, but everyone must understand that any other dignity also has dignity, and it is also the highest value. Each person has a choice - how to act, which category is closer to him - good or evil.

This choice is given to man by God, since there is no standard, model, or quintessence of good as a concrete person on earth. But all people have an idea of ​​both good and evil. Given over. And the moral consciousness that has already formed will always come to the conclusion that the Lord serves us as the symbol of the moral ideal. It was from here that the philosopher Immanuel Kant pushed himself, formulating his moral law governing human relations. Hence the categorical imperative.

imperative brief

Great humanist

Kant developed the concept of autonomous ethics, when laws and moral principles exist separately from the external environment and closely interact with each other. Hence the categorical imperative as a strict need for the existence of the basic principles that determine human behavior.

The human person is not intended to serve as a yardstick for good and evil, since there is no perfection in humanity. Nevertheless, the main moral value is man, and God is the ideal for moral imitation and self-improvement. Kant made the following prescriptions for human behavior:

1. Always follow the rules that for you and those around you - the law.

2. Treat your neighbor the way you want to be treated.

3. Never consider your neighbor as a personal benefit for yourself.


Only if the moral law does not depend on extraneous causes, can it make a person truly free. The moral law is an imperative that rules categorically, because every person is subject to sensual impulses, because he always has needs, and therefore is capable of producing maxims that are contrary to moral law. The imperative prescribes the human will to relate to the law as obligatory, that is, it forces internally to moral actions. The concept of debt also lies precisely in this.

Morality is a formula for survival and happiness, and the amount of suffering that has fallen to a person is highly dependent on how moral his life is. In people of immoral life is disgusting.The rules of the imperative help to distinguish between good and evil. Kant did it best of all, stating that man is his own goal, and the tool should never be. This means that no concepts, ideologies, or states stand above man. Nobody knows the purpose of a person, and no one has the right to use it. Moral will only be what the person himself has agreed to, and coercion of any kind is immoral. You can not allow yourself to blackmail, manipulation, pressure on the person. And Kant said that the funds always deform the goal. That is, for all the immoral will have to pay.

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