categorical imperative

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categorical imperative (plural categorical imperatives)

  1. (ethics) A fundamental ethical principle intended as a guide for determining whether any contemplated action is morally right, based on the concept that an action is good or bad in and of itself regardless of what the actor's aims or preferences are.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Kant used "categorical imperatives" in the plural is his exposition in the The Metaphysics of Morals. While within his system there is only one categorical imperative, and thus properly no plural, the several formulations of it by Kant are sometimes referred to as "categorical imperatives." Likewise, the second formulation of the categorical imperative is often called "Kant's second categorical imperative."


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