Immanuel Kant’s moral philosophy, namely, deontology, has worked to provide the basis for existential thought. Deontology, otherwise known as the study of the nature of duty and obligation, has helped to realize that the good and the bad in the world rely heavily on moral commitment. The theory of the Will of Kant holds that moral actions can only be made by rational beings using pure reason. From Kant’s point of view, we RATIONALLY and CONSCIOUSLY choose how to act. Furthermore, a rational being will follow through with an action because of the moral sense of duty that they feel.
Kant maintains that his imperatives, both hypothetical and categorical, are laws which define the way we act. He states that there are two types of imperatives – the hypothetical imperative and the categorical imperative. A hypothetical imperative is a set of means which we must follow in order to achieve the specific end that we want. When a rational being creates a goal, there will be a certain action that they must carry out in order to obtain this end. The means, or actions which will get you there are normative, meaning they have been derived from norms. While these means have been created through the use of empirical realization (the past experiences of rational beings), they hold as constraints which will guide you to your desired end. If you will a specific end to happen, then you must will these means in order to achieve this end. The hypothetical imperative is further divided into two subcategories: the rules of skills, or a technical imperative and the counsels of prudence. Otherwise known as an imperative of skill, the rules of skill inform rational beings on how to achieve a certain end. This might tell us that in order to achieve D, we must first do A, B and C. Moreover, the rules of skill are conditional to the skills of the rational being – therefore each skill is denoted to an individual depending on their specialties and what end they are trying to achieve . Another type of hypothetical imperative are the counsels of prudence. Individuals understand these counsels, or rules through an a priori knowledge, and instead of having a small set goal such as gaining a new career as an Accountant, counsels of prudence will universal goals such as happiness or morality. I understood where you were coming from but it might be a bit confusing to others Neither of these imperatives have to be acted upon in order to will the end that you would like to achieve.
In opposition, a categorical imperative is a moral demand. The categorical imperative tells us what we ought to do whether not we are trying to obtain a certain outcome. Kant holds that this outcome should be done unconditionally. Our moral reason leads us to discover these imperatives as create objective principles which Kant recognizes to be “valid for every rational being and the principle [is a law] according to which one ought to act” (Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals, Kant, 34). The categorical imperative is, in turn, the only imperative which interconnects with moral duty – it is acted on through a sense of moral duty that is unconditional and obligatory no matter the inclination of the rational being. Rational beings act on their moral duty when their motive is determined by a principle recognized through practical reason rather than desire. Practical reason is the way in which we use our reason to assist us in deciding how to act. This contrasts the notion of theoretical reason presented by the hypothetical imperative. Theoretical reason gives an individual reason to decide which path they should follow. Kant believes then, that we act morally only when we act rationally, this being through practical reason.
As rational beings, we are able to produce objective laws of practical reason, these are recognized by Kant as imperatives. Furthermore, we are able to use our innate senses to recognize if an action is moral or not. Kant believes that actions based on duty should be a priori in nature, therefore rejecting the relevance of past experience.