Immanuel Kant, disagreed with the Utilitarian principle that maximized happiness for the greatest number of people. In chapter 2 of his book, Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant theorizes an external critique that we don’t always act for desires but duty instead. Kant really has this worry and he wants to find a firm foundation for our moral laws. According to Kant, Act only on that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law. Universal moral law is not empirical, not based on experience because then it is not justified and can take on different meanings.
Once you strip away everything empirical, contingent, subjective about you will be left with a rational (form of the action itself). When all of us strip away from everything that makes us different, what’s left is those number of rational agents who are strictly identical. That’s why it has to be universal, people will be not different. A imperative is a type of a command that implements our wills. Kant believes our actions have a structure and we perform actions for a purpose but purpose doesn’t ground our moral obligations.
Hypothetical imperative is a law that commands on the basis of some other purpose. Categorical imperative commands just in virtue of that form of that law and the reason for doing the action comes from purpose. Kant concluded that it is a necessity of following an imperative without concern for the end and that all moral statements should be general laws, no matter what. Kant argued in his first premise that happiness cannot serve as a ground that happiness cannot serve as a ground for universal law. We don’t know what will make us happy. The reason for this is that all the elements that belong to the concept of happiness are empirical- that is, they must be borrowed from experience” (Kant 174). The fact that an action may lead to happiness cannot be the grounds for moral obligation. Happiness is permissible in duty, however cannot be the reason for out actions. Duty is the necessity of act done out of respect for the law. His claim is all of our emotions react to non-rational passion but respect responds to reason, how we evaluate our projected maxims.
Kant notes that “happiness” is too indefinite and too empirical to serve as the reason why we “ought” to do things. It is too indefinite because we all have different meanings of happiness; one person’s happiness can be someone else’s pain. For example for the people of France to ensure they are safe and happy, they banned Muslim women from wearing their burquas. This might please the people of France, however it upsets Muslim women who respect their religion and want to wear their burqua. Kant suggests that categorical imperatives supply unconditional justification of moral laws.
Every rational being would follow the categorical imperative. Moral imperative is categorical because it is our duty to obey the law no matter what. Categorical imperative is independent of experience and done out of duty and respect for the law. While hypothetical imperative is too irrational and too practical to be used to justify moral law. Categorical imperative justifies every statement as being moral. Under no circumstances, should this not be true for categorical imperatives must be conventional to the universal law.
Kant provides one example of a categorical imperative that states suicide is absolutely forbidden. God wants us to do our duty and live our life out, instead of taking the easy way out. Our self love is a feeling that is meant to promote life. As rational beings we need to be moving ourselves forward. Kant’s argument seeks to prove that only a categorical imperative can supply a sufficient ground, or justification, for moral laws which bind rational agents universally. This imperative does not rely on the consequences of an action but instead if an act is right or wrong.
He does not believe that our moral obligations should be based on experience rather by reason. Some objections are made against this principle such that, why should one not act from desire however through good will? Some might argue if we followed this categorical imperative no one could be unique and have their own personality. Kant has proclaimed that categorical imperative is done merely out of duty, not self interest. The only conditioned good is the good will which acts against inclination and on its own.