How "Full" is Kant's Categorical Imperative?

Kenneth R. Westphal
Bogazici University
Through a careful examination of two detailed investigations of Kant’s Categorical Imperative as a criterion for determining correct action I show that Hegel’s widely castigated critique of Kant’s CI has significant merit. Kant holds that moral imperatives are categorical because the obligations they express do not depend upon our contingent ends or desires and he holds that the CI is the supreme normative principle. However, his actual illustrations show that Kant repeatedly appeals to contingent ends and desires in deriving our obligations and that CI tests often reveal conflicts between maxims and other presupposed norms of action. Moreover, Barbara Herman makes a persuasive case that Kant’s CI test must be supplemented by ‘Rules of Moral Salience’ and by ‘Middle Theory’, which links Kant’s theory of value to a theory of applications. These supplements ultimately shift the principle of universalization from the standpoint of individual morality to social ethics – precisely Hegel’s strategy in his Philosophy of Right!
Keywords Categorical Imperative  empty formalism  Barbara Herman  Christian Schnoor
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Kant's Moral Philosophy.Robert N. Johnson - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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