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Categorical Imperative


24 June 2015

Categorical Imperative

정언명령(定言命令)은 정언적 명령 또는 단언적(斷言的) 명령, 무상(無上) 명령이라고 한다.

칸트에 따르면, 도덕법칙은 이 세상의 행복을 얻기 위한 수단으로서, 이렇게 저렇게 해야 한다는 것이 아니다.

즉 “만약 행복해지려면 …하라!”(가언 명령(假言命令))라는 것이 아니다. 행복한가 어떤가에 관계없이 무조건으로 반드시 이렇게 해야(되어야) 한다고 명령한다(정언 명령). 도덕법칙은 그 자체가 최고의 가치를 지니며, 어떤 수단이 되지는 않는다. 따라서 도덕법칙은 정언적(定言的)·단언적(斷言的)인 지상 명령인 것이다.

칸트는 이 정언 명령을 “그대가 하고자 꾀하고 있는 것이 동시에 누구에게나 통용될 수 있도록 행하라!”라고 정식화(定式化)했다. 정언명령은 무조건적이며, 어떤 선행적 목적이나 목표에 의존하지 않는다.

칸트는 특정한 원리들을 미리 규정하지 않고 모든 타당한 도덕 원리가 따라야만 하는 일반적인 시금석을 제시함으로써 인간 주체성의 초월적 특징은 객관적 세계에 대한 지식뿐만 아니라 내부의 도덕 법칙에 관한 지식의 토대를 제공했다.

The categorical imperative (German: kategorischer Imperativ) is the central philosophical concept in the deontological moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Introduced in Kant’s 1785 Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, it may be defined as a way of evaluating motivations for action.

According to Kant, human beings occupy a special place in creation, and morality can be summed up in an imperative, or ultimate commandment of reason, from which all duties and obligations derive. He defined an imperative as any proposition declaring a certain action (or inaction) to be necessary.

Hypothetical imperatives apply to someone who wishes to attain certain ends. For example:

  • if I wish to quench my thirst, I must drink something;
  • if I wish to acquire knowledge, I must learn.

A categorical imperative, on the other hand, denotes an absolute, unconditional requirement that must be obeyed in all circumstances and is justified as an end in itself. It is best known in its first formulation:

Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.

Kant expressed extreme dissatisfaction with the popular moral philosophy of his day, believing that it could never surpass the level of hypothetical imperatives: a utilitarian says that murder is wrong because it does not maximize good for those involved, but this is irrelevant to people who are concerned only with maximizing the positive outcome for themselves. Consequently, Kant argued, hypothetical moral systems cannot persuade moral action or be regarded as bases for moral judgments against others, because the imperatives on which they are based rely too heavily on subjective considerations. He presented a deontological moral system, based on the demands of the categorical imperative, as an alternative.


  1. Categorical imperative, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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