You've heard of the Categorical Imperative, eh? Here's Dr. Schulz's one-page summary of the thing:
Here is the conversation Dr. Schultz and I had about Kant and the :
Download the conversation here:
Here, now, is the full text of Kant's discussion of the Categorical Imperative:
Finally, here is Dr. Schulz's suggestions for engaging this Master Metaphor:
Kant’s Ultimate Principle for Relationships
(a) Think of Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804) as the poster Professor of the Enlightenment.
To hear from Kant in his own words what the Enlightenment Project is please see his 1784 essay What is Enlightenment (at least the first two paragraphs) at www.allmendeberlin.de/What-is-Enlightenment.pdf
I recommend considering that this Enlightenment Project amounts to “Let’s assume that the God of the Bible does not exist and see how politics, ethics and life are better without Him”.
This, then, is what Kant is endeavoring to do with his moral philosophy:
“Sapere aude! ‘Have courage to use your own reason!’- that is the motto of enlightenment.”
-Or, in other words- Act veluti si Deus daretur. “Act as if God is not a given” – that is the Enlightenment Project.
(b) How does Kant work this out? He introduces the categorical imperative.
To read Kant’s thinking on this way of construing ethics (a branch of philosophy seeking to answer the question, “How then ought we to live together as human beings?”) see his 1785 book Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals.
The complete Groundwork is available in its entirety with footnotes and critical essays at http://www.inp.uw.edu.pl/mdsie/Political_Thought/Kant%20-%20groundwork%20for%20the%20metaphysics%20of%20morals%20with%20essays.pdf
I’ve included the central sections from the Groundwork (around section 420) regarding the three forms of the categorical imperative for you below, with my highlighting.
BTW, for the very hearty philosophical appetite, there is a nice and blessedly brief introduction to Kant’s moral or ethical reasoning within the context of his wider philosophical development at http://www.iep.utm.edu/kantmeta/. Section (8) treats his ethics.
(c) Above you will find my PHIL 101 handout with my paraphrases of the categorical imperative.
(d) About the voice behind the categorical imperative …
Q. As you read the groundwork or my paraphrases, do you hear a familiar voice behind the categorical imperative?
A1. It may sound like your mother’s voice, but oddly reversed: “If you are getting set to jump off the bridge, do you want everyone else to jump off too?”
A2. It may sound like Jesus’ voice in His Sermon on the Mount: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
(e) In university ethics courses, we normally refer to Kant’s moral philosophy as deontology or a duty-driven ethic.
However, this Enlightenment deontology is derived from a biblical, 3rd petition understanding of ethics. Call it biblical deontology (see Ecclesiastes, esp 12:11-14)
11 The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. 12 My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. 13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.
About Deontology or a “Duty-driven” Ethos
“[Taking to heart Genesis 22 and Abraham’s test.] A Temptation; but what does that mean? That which ordinarily tempts a human, to be sure, is whatever would keep him from doing his duty, but here the temptation is the ethical itself, which would keep him from doing God’s will. But Here the necessity of a new category for understanding Abraham becomes apparent.
-- Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling
Such a Christian ethics, although it is reasonable, is not a gnostic undertaking; on the contrary, it is an anxious, existential resurrecting to a new life kata Christon, in Christ Himself. Think of Bonhoeffer’s Christ-ethic.
Doing God’s Will versus Ethical Self-Knowledge
“The knowledge of good and evil seems to be the aim of all ethical reflection. The first task of Christian ethics is to invalidate this knowledge” (21).
1. All knowledge now is based upon self-knowledge (29).
1.1 The experience of shame indicates an original loss (24-27).
1.2 Our original comprehension of God and other human beings has become empty.
1.3 Our original union has been displaced by disunion: disunion from God, from human beings, from
self (see the datum of conscience).
1.4 “Know yourself” (gnothi seauton, Greek) is unachievable.
2. Freedom in Christ, not knowledge, is the center of Christian ethics (30ff).
2.1 We cannot know or approach God except through the Word (nisi per Verbum).
2.2 Jesus’ freedom is the freedom of the absolute simplicity of His action. There is never a plurality of possibilities, conflicts or alternatives; there is only doing the will of His Father.
3. Doing God’s will, not merely contemplating the good, is the summum bonum of Christian ethics.
3.1 Genuine knowledge depends on God’s revelation in the Person of Christ (37).
3.2 The knowledge of the Pharisees was barren, disruptive, negating.
3.3 The knowledge of Jesus and His disciples is fruitful, redemptive, active.
4. Paradoxically, then, if we gain merely an epistemology from Christ – if hearing the Word does
not make us doers – knowing becomes a forgetting (48).
4.1 Hearing and doing are interdependent.
4.2 “To know” in the biblical languages means “to love;” we love because He first loved us (1 John
4.3 Loving God is simply the other aspect of being loved by God.
-- adapted from Bonhoeffer’s Ethics (Part One, I)