Kant’s Categorical Imperative

21 Sep, 2017 170 Ethics

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how, in the Enlightenment, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) sought to define the difference between right and wrong by applying reason, looking at the intention behind actions rather than at consequences. He was inspired to find moral laws by natural philosophers such as Newton and Leibniz, who had used reason rather than emotion to analyse the world around them and had identified laws of nature. Kant argued that when someone was doing the right thing, that person was doing what was the universal law for everyone, a formulation that has been influential on moral philosophy ever since and is known as the Categorical Imperative. Arguably even more influential was one of his reformulations, echoed in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in which he asserted that humanity has a value of an entirely different kind from that placed on commodities. Kant argued that simply existing as a human being was valuable in itself, so that every human owed moral responsibilities to other humans and was owed responsibilities in turn.

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  • Alison Hills No other episodes
    Professor of Philosophy at St John's College, Oxford
  • David Oderberg No other episodes
    Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading
  • John Callanan 3 episodes
    Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at King's College, London

Reading list

  • Kant's Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals: A Reader's Guide
    P. Guyer (Continuum, 2007) Google Books →
  • Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals
    Immanuel Kant (trans. Mary Gregor and Jens Timmerman) (Cambridge University Press, 2012) Google Books →
  • Creating the Kingdom of Ends
    Christine Korsgaard (Cambridge University Press, 1996) Google Books →
  • Kant: A Very Short Introduction
    Roger Scruton (Oxford University Press, 2001) Google Books →
  • Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals: An Introduction
    Sally Sedgwick (Cambridge University Press, 2008) Google Books →
  • An Introduction to Kant's Ethics
    Roger J. Sullivan (Cambridge University Press, 1994) Google Books →
  • Kant
    Allen W. Wood (Blackwell, 2005) Google Books →
  • Kant's Ethical Thought
    Allen W. Wood (Cambridge University Press, 1999) Google Books →

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Programme ID: b0952zl3

Episode page: bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0952zl3

Auto-category: 170 (Ethics and moral philosophy)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello, Immanuel Kant, 1724 to 1804, was one of the great thinkers of the Enlightenment, an age in which reason was the dominant force in philosophy as it was in science.