Kants Fundamental Principles Of The Metaphysics Of Moral Essay

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Kant's Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Moral

The central concept of Kant's Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of
Morals is the categorical imperative. “The conception of an objective principle, in so far as it is obligatory for a will, is called a command (of reason), and the formula of the command is called an Imperative.” (Abbott, 30) An imperative is something that a will ought or shall do because the will is obligated to act in the manner in which it conforms with moral law. The categorical imperative is an obligation by the will to act so that the action can be classified as a universal law. When one acts in conformity with the universal law at all times, they are following out the categorical imperative. This
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Kant uses four examples to better describe the working of the categorical imperative in Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals. The first example is of a man who is suffering from many misfortunes in life and wishes to commit sucicide on the basis of self-love. Kant declares that this cannot be the categorical imperative at work because the maxim derived from self-love, to shorten his life to avoid more pain, is a contradiction in itself for no man can kill himself painlessly and therefore cannot be a universal maxim. The action of killing oneself would cause pain, which is not in conformity to the maxim stated to avoid pain. The second example Kant gives is based on the basic premise of lying. A man is forced to borrow money which he knows he will never be able to repay but he promises to do so anyway. This action is not consistent with duty and the maxim could be expressed as: “When I [the man] think myself in want of money, I will borrow money and promise to repay it, although I know that
I never can do so.”(Abbott, 39) The maxim cannot hold as a universal law because if everyone lied about promises, the promise itself would become impossible, and the end would be unattainable. Telling the truth is an end in itself. The third example is of a man who it bestowed a natural ability but does not use it to it's full
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