The Categorical Imperative is an important idea suggested by Kant. The philosopher believed it to be the right philosophical approach to make ethical decisions and lead the person throughout one’s life. Although the Categorical Imperative remains an influential idea in the modern-day, there is a lot of criticism regarding its practical usage.
It is important to note that the Categorical Imperative can be viewed as a test because it enables people to test and evaluate different rules according to the premise the imperative and its ethics suggest. Therefore, in case the rules meet the requirements of the imperative and there are no false promises, they can be regarded as true and ethical.
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The main idea about the Categorical Imperative is focused on the maxims that should be the main determinants of the person’s willful decisions (Kohl, 2015). Therefore, the person always has to act by them; otherwise, his/her actions will no longer be ethical and morally acceptable. For people who follow the Categorical Imperative, it serves as an ultimate explanation for their further decisions because it simplifies the decision-making process as the person has to follow the doctrine of the Categorical Imperative.
Nevertheless, this philosophical doctrine does not stand up to criticism, and there are many practical examples to do that. In the current paper, I will use the most popular one because it is easier to relate to it and understand the flaws in Kant’s idea. The popular example to prove that Kant was wrong when defining the Categorical Imperative as an ultimate way to make the ethical decision is a situation that could take place during the Second World War and can be repeated now whenever there are conflicts, instability, and lack of justice. The situation is as follows: the Nazi officer knocks on the person’s door and asks about Jews. The officer wants to know whether there are any Jews in the house because he is ordered to kill or imprison them. The owner of the house does not think it is right to kill Jews, and at the same time, he/she knows that it is not right to lie. Therefore, there is a conflict of ideas because the person does not know what to do. There are two imperatives in this situation, and the person’s decision-making process shows the flaw of the Categorical Imperative.
The abovementioned example can be applied to a modern situation. For instance, instead of a Nazi soldier, one can think of an ISIS terrorist. This person may approach someone in the conflict zone and ask whether this person is a Christian or hides any Christians. The person may not be a Christian and not know any Christians, and in this situation, he/she will not have any problems because there will be no conflict of imperatives. Nevertheless, the situation may be different. The person may be a Christian or know some Christians. The individual may be hiding Christians in one’s house or do something to help them because he/she opposes the ISIS rule. Therefore, the person stays within the conflict area because he/she wants to help the Christians or other people who suffer the most from the terror, and the individual realizes that the biggest help one can provide can be given only if one stays within the dangerous area. Therefore, the person works there because of the Categorical Imperative that dictates the person to help others and be just.
As a result, the person helps Christians and possesses a lot of information about them because it is a part of one’s Categorical Imperative. This person risks one’s life and helps the Christians and other victims to be ethical and just. Nevertheless, when the ISIS terrorist asks the person the question about Christians, the individual understands that telling the truth would cause the people one is trying to protect to die. Henceforth, the individual knows one has to lie, and this is when the Categorical Imperative becomes a conflicting point.
From one perspective, the person should lie because it would save the lives of innocent people; nevertheless, it would still be a violation of the Categorical Imperative because a person would be doing something unjust and dishonest. Therefore, it shows that even if an individual does something very good in the essentials such as protecting innocent people and sacrificing and risking one’s life, it may be still perceived as wrongdoing by the Categorical Imperative. The person will be regarded as a liar, and it shows the imperfection of this philosophical doctrine because it cannot guide an individual in such a complicated situation when there is a conflict of interests and different problems arise at the same time. Therefore, the Categorical Imperative was ineffective when dealing with ethical dilemmas because it made the person think that one was doing the wrong things while, in fact, sometimes it is necessary to break some expectations to achieve the greater good. The fact that the Categorical Imperative does not set the priorities or divides them is highly important because it shows that this doctrine cannot always help when a person needs to make an important decision.
An individual who chooses to follow the Categorical Imperative risks losing one’s ability to think independently or make complex decisions because the Categorical Imperative works only for one-sided situations, but does not solve any problems which arise in controversial spheres. This doctrine is not bad, but it has to have particular priorities to work properly, otherwise, an individual who follows it risks being torn between different ethical issues. The important idea about Categorical Imperative is to act by ethical requirements and make them a part of one’s consciousness; still, this philosophical approach has to operate more complex features like solutions and exceptions for critical situations to meet the challenges that take place in life and have a practical implementation.