Kant's Categorical Imperative: An Example Narrative to Add to Postman

"Act only that maxim which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law."

Think about an action and try to imagine if it would be logically possible as a universal law. If it will, the act is moral. If it will not, the act is immoral.

In school, we can reflect on history and major events and decide on the morality of various actions. In Language Arts, we can discuss the morality of immorality of standard English usage. We can reflect on the need for math in universal terms, rather than "what will this do for me now." Since the categorical imperative is based on logical thought, basing our curriculum around it would develop minds and promote logical reasoning.

Kant provides examples (parables) of the immorality of the following actions: committing suicide, making false promises, failing to develop one's abilities, and refusing to be charitible. Kant's example of the person who makes false promises to obtain a loan indicates that if everyone did it, it would be impossible to make false promises to obtain a loan because no one would ever believe anyone's promises.

In Kant's narrative, the questions shifts from "Why can't I do it?" to "What if everyone did it?"

Kant would make a clear statement about our discussion of skepticism on the Internet. By making us more skeptical, those actions are destroying their purpose. For example, if someone claims to have cancer for the purpose of bringing people together and helping to educate people, our built-up skepticism will not allow us to be educated or helped, even by those people who are truthful. Following Kant's line, no one would be truthful anyway if the action were to become universal.

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This page was prepared by Dr. David M. Marcovitz.

Last Updated: June 6, 2001