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  1. #1
    Aikido is offline Senior Member Community Builder
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    Default Categorical Imperative

    For some odd reason, i've been thinking a lot about Immanuel Kant over my winter break to satisfy my intellectual curiousity. I've been debating the issue of his categorical imperative. I'm not sure I believe in absolutes of that nature. I mean, if the maxim "theres always an exception to rule" is true, then the categorical imperative is categorically false (lol). But thinking about the social implications of such an imperative is an interesting excercise.

    for those wondering what this is, check this link.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Categorical_imperative

    Anyway, just looking for someone to have a quick debate with.

  2. #2
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    Cold-NiTe is offline Senior Member Community Builder
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    The thing about philosophy and ethics at this level is that it is always hard to derive how it applies to the common man. So Kant defined a system in which people create rules for themselves that they must follow which are not based on situations, but universal laws. Most of the people who break with these imperatives would never really understand nor care about them. Does that denigrate his work in a realistic sense? Maybe, I don't know. But it does render some of us incapable of understanding why he'd put so much effort into creating something that the people who really need it can't understand due to complexity issues.
    Dear cousin choppitychop89, you were a good relative, though I hardly knew ye.

  3. #3
    Aikido is offline Senior Member Community Builder
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    perhaps. i was mostly talking about the validity of what the theory is based around as opposed to its practicality. As you know, the large part of philosophy is based around the theoretical greater understanding over real world application. Seems to me that the categoric imperative is such a concept. as you say, why bother if only a select minority can grasp these concepts, but that is a problem inherent in all of philosophy. i guess the theory goes that once we get the ideal theory, we can strive for it. it becomes a goal. Inevitably, we will approach that.

    i think the real kicker with this theory in particular is the idea of universal laws. do they really exist? like, do not rape, do not kill, etc? bah! its three in the morning...

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    Ashtray is offline Member Frequent Poster
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    Theres no such thing as validity when it comes to morals...theres no universal "good" or "evil". If you want a universal law, then whatever you can manage to do is "right", because you managed to do it. If you want things like justice and good, those are human conventions. Theres no animal court.

  5. #5
    Aikido is offline Senior Member Community Builder
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ashtray
    Theres no such thing as validity when it comes to morals...theres no universal "good" or "evil". If you want a universal law, then whatever you can manage to do is "right", because you managed to do it. If you want things like justice and good, those are human conventions. Theres no animal court.
    so, if i manage to rape and kill your mother and sister, thats "right?" excuse me if i think you definition of morality is a bit skewed.

    justice is indeed a human convention, subject to our own definition of what is right. but i believe that there are greater truths, a sort of Platonic system of Virtues. those who are more Virtuous are more able to see clearly what the "right" and "good" thing to do is.

    pardon the oversimplification.

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    Saizou is offline Senior Member Always Around
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    Personally I find Kant's Categorical Imperative unreasonable. This is partly because I'm no fan of duty ethics in general, but also because Kant is somewhat arbitrary in his reasoning.

    Mainly I have problems with the "categorical" part, since a code of ethics which allows no exceptions is simply unable to produce desirable results in certain circumstances.

    I'm also skeptical to the idea of universal morals. I'm willing to accept general morals, but a universal morality implies the existance of objective definitions for "right" and "wrong". This is essentially assuming that a certain arbitrarily chosen way of conduct matches the definition of "right" or "wrong".

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    Ashtray is offline Member Frequent Poster
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    Like I said, its a human convention. Why make it universal? Laws in societies are built for the purpose of protecting its citizens, not to fulfill some grandiose "ideal" idea of good. Don't try to make shit universal, apply it to the world around you. Don't wanna get killed by some random jackass? Make it punishable, hopefully it'll cut down on murder. Morality isn't universal. Its human. People will, in the end, do whats right for them, may it be rape, steal, or murder, eventually it just comes down to the battle between the mind and instinct.

  8. #8
    Aikido is offline Senior Member Community Builder
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ashtray
    Like I said, its a human convention. Why make it universal? Laws in societies are built for the purpose of protecting its citizens, not to fulfill some grandiose "ideal" idea of good. Don't try to make shit universal, apply it to the world around you. Don't wanna get killed by some random jackass? Make it punishable, hopefully it'll cut down on murder. Morality isn't universal. Its human. People will, in the end, do whats right for them, may it be rape, steal, or murder, eventually it just comes down to the battle between the mind and instinct.
    you, my friend, would find the psychological egoist position very compelling. i recommend checking it out, if you have the time. wikipedia it or something. or better yet, read a book.

    but you are right about one thing, though not for a reason you understood when you said it. you said morality isnt universal. its human. and thats right. but im arguing ethics, not morality. there is a very distinct difference between the two. again, pick up a book.

    but seriously: psychological egoism. its one of the few theories that, as of yet, has not been disproven. see, one of the tricky things about philosophy is that there are a lot of theories, many very interesting, but most of which have been disproved. psychological egoism is a rarity in this respect.

    I wonder if you would be interested in a different form of egoism call ethical egoism. In a nutshell, psychological egoism is that, when it really comes down to it, we will at some unconcious or concious level do what we percieve to be in our best interest. much like you battle between the mind and instinct. ethical egoism is that we SHOULD always do what is in our percieved best interest. slight distinction, but one that means that ethical egoism has been largely disproved whereas psychological egoism has not. its an interesting proof, regardless.

    Quote Originally Posted by Saizou
    Mainly I have problems with the "categorical" part, since a code of ethics which allows no exceptions is simply unable to produce desirable results in certain circumstances.


    I'm also skeptical to the idea of universal morals. I'm willing to accept general morals, but a universal morality implies the existance of objective definitions for "right" and "wrong". This is essentially assuming that a certain arbitrarily chosen way of conduct matches the definition of "right" or "wrong".
    your first point is essentially how I feel as well. like you, im not sure if i can fully trust in duty ethics. but heres where i get tripped up.
    i believe in universal morals. i think that there is, somewhere, an objective definition of right and wrong. we know some of it, but clearly, much is lacking. much like we understand slavery to be wrong now, there are many things that we take for granted that future generations will look back on and think of how barbaric we were. but if, somewhere, universal laws exist, shouldnt some sort of conceptualization of duty ethics account for every law? this is the conflict i find myself battling over.
    im dont think that the "chosen way of conduct" is arbitrary in the least. it should align nicely with what is right and what is wrong.

    and if that wasnt enough, then theres the issue of complexity! so, im assuming there are a lot of universal laws. Kant spent a lot of time trying to define his own list. What if some situation arose where you had to violate one law to satisfy another? Can such a situation exist (maybe the more complicated question)? Keep in mind, the use of fanciful dilemmas will not be tolerated.

  9. #9
    Saizou is offline Senior Member Always Around
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aikido
    Quote Originally Posted by Saizou
    Mainly I have problems with the "categorical" part, since a code of ethics which allows no exceptions is simply unable to produce desirable results in certain circumstances.


    I'm also skeptical to the idea of universal morals. I'm willing to accept general morals, but a universal morality implies the existance of objective definitions for "right" and "wrong". This is essentially assuming that a certain arbitrarily chosen way of conduct matches the definition of "right" or "wrong".
    your first point is essentially how I feel as well. like you, im not sure if i can fully trust in duty ethics. but heres where i get tripped up.
    i believe in universal morals. i think that there is, somewhere, an objective definition of right and wrong. we know some of it, but clearly, much is lacking.
    I disagree. If we assume that there are universal and objective definitions for right and wrong we must know that those definitions are true without exception. How can we guarantee that the things we see as right actually are right? If we can't perfectly define right and wrong we're just arbitrarily defining our own opinions as absolute truth.
    Kant does this as he argues that his system is right by definition. Therefore his system is flawed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aikido
    much like we understand slavery to be wrong now, there are many things that we take for granted that future generations will look back on and think of how barbaric we were. but if, somewhere, universal laws exist, shouldnt some sort of conceptualization of duty ethics account for every law? this is the conflict i find myself battling over.
    im dont think that the "chosen way of conduct" is arbitrary in the least. it should align nicely with what is right and what is wrong
    Again, what is right? What we view as right is in essence a desirable way of conduct. Picking a certain way of conduct and defining it as right by definition is highly arbitrary.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aikido
    and if that wasnt enough, then theres the issue of complexity! so, im assuming there are a lot of universal laws. Kant spent a lot of time trying to define his own list. What if some situation arose where you had to violate one law to satisfy another? Can such a situation exist (maybe the more complicated question)? Keep in mind, the use of fanciful dilemmas will not be tolerated.
    Why should we assume that there are universal laws at all? Most societies have similar laws, but that's because certain rules (you shall not kill, steal, lie, etc) are necessary for a society to function properly. These are examples of general laws, but we can't say that they are objectively right since any reasonable person would recognize that there are circumstances where breaking these rules is the right thing to do.

    Also, duty ethics will always be full of dilemmas since it does not allow for flexibility. An utilitarian code of ethics is far more logical, since you're not bound by absolutes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aikido
    but seriously: psychological egoism. its one of the few theories that, as of yet, has not been disproven. see, one of the tricky things about philosophy is that there are a lot of theories, many very interesting, but most of which have been disproved. psychological egoism is a rarity in this respect.
    I would argue that psychological egoism is absurd because of the simple fact that people occasionally do altruistic things. Of couse, the normal reply would be that altruism somehow serves the individual's self interest. I find this unreasonable because it's basically arguing that psychological egoism is correct by definition.

  10. #10
    Ashtray is offline Member Frequent Poster
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    I've been taking philosophy classes since I was 15 guy, I've read a little myself. Just because I haven't been stating theory names you don't have to talk down to me. Besides, theories on universal morality and what I live by are two different things.

    If anything, I live by more of an Aristatillian (however you spell it) way, I choose my path at each situation I come upon. Whatever is right for me in a given situation may be right for me but not for you. One of my teachers gave me an example once of him being mugged and a marine being mugged, and said that while he would give up all his stuff or run away, the marine would break out and beat the crap outta the mugger. I just like the analogy o.o

    But yeah. You tell me I should read a book? Twice? "but you are right about one thing, though not for a reason you understood when you said it"? Who the FUCK are you? Watch how you talk to people asshat. Maybe you didn't realise how that sounds when you typed it, but seriously...

    So, like I said, theres no universal laws for social sciences. As was said, "the social sciences aren't real sciences," that shit isn't physical. You can't apply things to it like math.

 

 
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