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:

  • hypothetical imperative — See categorical/hypothetical imperative …   Philosophy dictionary

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  • hypothetical imperative — see imperative …   The new mediacal dictionary

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  • imperative — n. in ethics, a principle used to direct or guide one s actions. Kantian ethics distinguishes between categorical and hypothetical imperatives. Whereas the latter are merely prudent or expedient and will vary with circumstances, the former are… …   The new mediacal dictionary

  • Categorical imperative — Part of a series on Immanue …   Wikipedia

  • Categorical Imperative — • A term which originated in Immanuel Kant s ethics Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Categorical Imperative     Categorical Imperative      …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • categorical imperative — categorical/hypothetical imperative …   Philosophy dictionary

  • categorical imperative — 1. Ethics. the rule of Immanuel Kant that one must do only what one can will that all others should do under similar circumstances. 2. the unconditional command of conscience. [1820 30] * * * In Immanuel Kant s moral philosophy, an imperative… …   Universalium

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