CATEGORICAL.— V. PROPOSITION.
CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE (Imperativ kategorisch).—The direct command "Thou shalt," of the Moral Law.
"Such an Imperative as represents an action to be in itself necessary, and
without regard to anywhat out of and beyond it" (Semple's translation of The
Metaphysic of Ethics, new ed., p. 27). "An imperative, which, irrespective of
every ulterior end or aim, commands categorically" (ib., p. 27). "The
representation of an objective principle, so far as it necessitates the will, is
called a Commandment or Reason, and a formula expressing such is called an
IMPERATIVE" (ib., p. 25).
This formula Kant presents in three forms:—(1) "Act
from a maxim at all times fit for law universal" (13); (2) "act from
that maxim only when thou canst will law universal" (34); (3) "act as if
the maxim of thy will were to become, by thy adopting it, a universal
law of nature" (34). All three forms point to universality as
characteristic of the Ethical Imperative, the first expresses the
authoritative in the law; the second
indicates that the Will must be its own legislator; and the third,
that the imperative belongs to the fixed law of nature.