Hypothetical imperative


Hypothetical imperative

A hypothetical imperative, originally introduced in the philosophical writings of Immanuel Kant, is a commandment of reason that applies only conditionally: if "A", then "B", where "A" is a condition or goal, and "B" is an action. Then "A" would be a reaction of action "B". For example, "if" you wish to remain healthy, "then" you should not eat spoiled food. Thus, a hypothetical imperative is not justified in itself, but as a means to an end; whether it is in force as a command depends on whether the end it helps attain is desired (or required). The opposite of a hypothetical imperative is a categorical imperative, which is unconditional and an end in itself.

Kant divides hypothetical imperatives into two subcategories: the rules of skill and the councils of prudence. The rules of skill are conditional and are specific to each and every person to which the skill is mandated by. The councils of prudence (or rules of prudence) are attained a priori (unlike the rules of skill which are attained via experience, or a posteriori) and have universal goals such as happiness. Thus, almost any moral "rule" about how to act is hypothetical, because it assumes that your goal is to be moral, or to be happy, or to please God, etc. The only non-hypothetical imperatives are ones which tell you to do something no matter who you are or what you want, because the thing is good in itself.


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Look at other dictionaries:

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