Kant describes the categorical imperative as “expressed by an ought and thereby indicate the relation of an objective law of reason to a will that is not necessarily determined by this law because of its subjective constitution.” In other words, a categorical impetrative is a command of morality that applies everywhere at all times no matter what, without exception. Kant describes two forms of imperatives, hypothetical and categorical.
Kant defines the hypothetical imperative as “an action is good for some purpose, either possible or actual.” The hypothetical imperative that Kant describes is a situation that prescribes an action as a means to get a particular end. In this imperative, inclination is allowed to play a role in your motives. It states action is good for some purpose, either possible or actual. Rational human beings may use appropriate means and ends that are based needs or wants.
It is these actions that Kant considers to be hypothetical imperatives. Next, when Kant defines the categorical imperative he states that, “the action is represented as good in itself, and hence as necessary in a will which of itself conforms to reason as the principle of the will.” He is generally saying that a categorical imperative is an ends that is a means only to itself and not to some other need, desire, or purpose. The categorical imperative may be based on an “end in itself.” Duties can be classified under categorical imperatives.
Kant provides three versions of categorical imperatives. The first version is Universal Law. This means that one should “act only on that maxim of action that at the same time you can will to be universal law”.
This means whatever no matter what action you do, you should ask yourself “will every other rational human being do what I want to do right now?” If you cannot will it to be a universal law then it is not and action out of morality or duty. Secondly, one should act in a way that all rational beings are treated as ends in themselves, never as means merely. In this version of categorical imperative, consent has much to do with whether of not you are treating a person as means merely. Lastly, Kant states that, “every rational being as a will that legislates universal law,” meaning one should act such that your maxim could be law.
When someone commits suicide because of difficult life situations, they are using themselves as a means to escape. This is in violation of the categorical imperative. In this categorical imperative you must ask yourself “Am I using myself or others as a means to my own trivial end?” Lastly, Kant wants us to take care of the welfare of others. Kant wants us to work towards maximum happiness for humanity. All ends must be recognizable to rational beings.Kant states that “Autonomy of the will is the property that the will has of being a law to itself.
” When rational people practice morality to achieve some sort of ends they are not doing things out of what Kant describes as a moral duty. To Kant, Rational beings establish independence which Kant calls autonomy of their will. Thus, moral actions are assume for the sake of duty alone and are based on the idea of the autonomy of the will.