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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/31/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,771 times Debate No: 29736
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I gots to do an argument on Catergorial imperative being either rite or wrong for my philosophy clase so lets debate
first round is acceptence
Pro has too support kant, no other options
pro is responsible for bop that kant is right, con prove it wrong or flawd
no semantics


I accept the challenge.
Debate Round No. 1


The Categorical Imperative and Morality

When we consider moral philosophy, Immanuel Kant almost immediately comes to mind. He is the predominant advocate for deontological ethics. However, I do not believe that his work is entirely valid or justified as a moral philosophy. This should be what this debate revolves around. The Categorical Imperative is deontological normative ethical theory that suggests that threw the formations of maxims one can arrive at a moral law. Ethically speaking, this theory has many pitfalls but I will highlight three specific issues that can be used as evidence to show that Kant doesn’t have an ethical leg to stand on.

Normative Ethical Theories

In general, normative ethical theories tell us what we should do. In more simplistic terms one wants a normative theory to tell them “What should I do?”. Any theory that fails to do this can be seen as incomplete and in need of revision. Certainly there are qualifiers for being a normative ethical theory just as other things, such as an attorney or accountant or a science degree. X cannot be called Y if X doesn’t have the essential properties (or the things that make Y) of Y.

Kantian theory is supposed to rule out actions (making them permissible or impermissible depending on the corresponding actions) however it doesn’t necessarily rule any in. There are possible cases in which all but one action are ruled impermissible by the categorical imperative. But these are few and far in between. More often Kant’s theory simply says what we shouldn’t do not what we should. I give a brief example:

Imagine if a person has promised to pay back a wealthy miser, within a month, a loan of say 2,000 thousand dollars, which he knows that he will be unable to repay on time, but which he will repay eventually. He promised to repay the loan in that amount of time because he would have been unable to get the money if he hadn’t made that promise. He needs the money in order to pay for a vaccine which he will use to save the lives of many underprivileged children, and he has no other means of getting the money in time. Was it wrong of him to make a false promise?

Ignoring the intuitive problem this creates for Kantian theory, I would like to make a more subtle point. While Kant would tell us this action is immoral, because it fails the first formulation of making false promises, it doesn’t tell us what he should do. Should he let the children die? We don’t know, because Kant abandons us to speculation. Therefore, Categorical imperative is inadequate as a normative ethical theory.


Normative ethical theories should also be concerned with what one should do in real life situations. Even if it derives that we cannot make these decisions practically in human life we still should be able to arrive at the conclusion of the argument regardless. For example, Unitarianism tells us “actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to promote the reverse of happiness”(John Stuart Mill, Unitarianism) and gives us a complex equation to solve solutions in daily life, even if though it recognizes that this impractical. All ethical theories should have practical application even if the practical application isn’t useful for daily life. Theories cannot ignore states of affairs and refuse to address them. There must be a system of determining the right choices, even if it’s impractical in daily life (It should be noted; when I say practical application I am referring to answering practical questions not its usefulness per se).

Another problem with Kant’s ethical theory is that he writes inside a vacuum allowing no room for conflict. A perfect example of this would be stealing for food. Under Kant’s Universality maxim, stealing in order to feed your family is immoral, since applied universality, stealing would result in a great deal of rights infringements. Under Kant’s Humanity maxim, however, you would steal food for your family because you accord them inherent worth. Thus, we can see that in his writings, Kant offers no standard in which to determine which formulation of his categorical imperative to follow.

Another conflict that arises out of Kant’s ethical system is that under Kant’s Universality maxim holds we should never kill, since we would not want killing to be a universal occurrence. This means-based determination leaves no room for conflict, however. In some cases, killing cannot be avoided. A contemporary example would be Abortion. Abortion is a complicated issue with many nuances. According to Kant there would be one correct decision. First, the answer is not as simple as yes or no, which would be what Kant would want people to believe; and second, Kant himself would be unable to resolve this issue in regards to a mother whose life is jeopardized by the coming baby. According to Kant, we have the perfect duty not to kill ourselves, yet we also have a perfect duty not to kill. Thus, the categorical imperative cannot resolve conflicts between perfect duties and emergency situations.

Internal problems with the Categorical Imperative

Kant attributes the categorical imperative as a motive for human behavior, yet claims that it cannot be attached to any sort of feeling. This makes it internally flawed, as T.N. Pelegrinis writes in his 1980 book “Kant’s Conception of the Categorical Imperative and the Will” on page 111:

“Kant’s position appears on unsatisfactory for the following reason. He regards the categorical imperative as a motive, but he denies that it can be a feeling or inclination. As the word ‘motive’ is ordinarily used it means feeling or inclination. In denying that it is a feeling or inclination, Kant appears to be contradicting himself.”

Another problem with Kantian theory is that in the first formulation we need to know the motivation in order to apply the rule. However, in most cases we don’t know the motivation of the person and only the action, but this is the primary part of the maxim. On the second formulation, it talks about never treating people as a means to an end. However all that is required by the maxim is the consideration of the other persons interests, one could simply consider and then disregard, the interests of other people.

Another issue is that there is no universal motivation, because people seek different ends. Human nature denies the possibility of the imperative. In the book, “Ethics: Theory and Practice” philosophers Manuel Velasquez and Cynthia Rostenkowski argue:

“Kant now states that if the categorical imperative is really binding on everyone (as it must be if it is valid) then everyone must be motivated to follow it no matter what desires they happen to have. In other words there must be something that can motivate everyone to follow it in spite of their particular desires. But a subjective end cannot motivate everyone to follow the categorical imperative.”

And the last question that I would ask anyone supporting the Kantian theory why should we even support the Kantian theory. The fact that Kant was very intelligent isn’t an adequate reason to support the Categorical imperative. The first formulation suggests tells us to act on maxims that we can will as universal laws. Even if this wasn’t somewhat subjective and arbitrary, why would one’s ability to will something as a universal law has anything to do with its being the morally right thing to do? What is the connection? The second formulation tells us never to use others. Well, that is a nice thought but why should I think that this is the ultimate standard of morality. It doesn’t seem too plausible that everything this is right and wrong in the world is right and wrong because it does or doesn’t use people as a mere means.

For all of the preceding reasons, I honestly cannot see any vote but a negative one this day. Kant has very broad and irreconcilable problems. I thank my opponent for accepting this debate, and I sincerely hope we have a good discussion.



I thank my opponent for presenting his exposition and will now offer my defence of Kant's categorical imperative through the refutation of my opponent's claims and issues.
Without further ado, I shall begin.


The first issue my opponent points out is that the categorical imperative fails as a normative theory because it doesn't give precise guidelines as to how one should act - that is, rules actions out, but doesn't "rule any in".

Kant's theory is normative in that it gives a general guideline for human behavior. That guideline encompasses a wide range of actions and doesn't necessarily rule any specific actions in or out.

"Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law without contradiction." [1]

This is the first and most used formulation of the categorical imperative. To show why this imperative is a viable ethical theory, we must subject the categorical imperative to deeper analysis, therefore I will split the first formulation into two parts:

a) In a strict sense, the first formulation instructs a person to act the way they wish according their beliefs (also formulated as "be the change you wish to see"). This is a viable instruction - my opponent himself pointed out that there can be no strict guideline for specific situations and no rulebook that would successfully instruct human beings as to how they should act. Human beings are too diverse in comparison to one another and find themselves in too diverse situations for such a rule to exist. This is why Kant's imperative instructs people to act according to their underlying sense of morality. The main point of this stricter sense is to teach people not to abandon their beliefs and viewpoints; and to act accordingly in situations where there can be no definite solution.
To refer to my opponent's example - we do not know what the man will or should do. It is up to the man to decide. However, he has one guideline: do as your morality and experience suggest. Rely on yourself. Kant's imperative is the best maxim to use due to the fact that it allows, and encourages, free individual thought and search for solutions.

b) In a wider sense, the first formulation literally calls for a person to act in a way they wish would be a universal law. In practice, this means that an individual who finds themselves in a certain situation will use rational thought outside simple emotions and imagine countless situations the same as his. One must then ask themselves a question: "Should everyone, supposing they find themselves in a situation exactly the same as mine, act towards solution X, what would the universal consequence be?". This way an individual can balance between intuition, experience and rationality in the best possible way, allowing for the widest and most efficient range of solutions.

Kant's imperative is, in fact, the best possible norm. It does not tell us exactly what we should do - to do so would be to restrict human nature. It rather gives us a guideline that points us to our very humanity.
There is a difference between "speculation" and "thought". If one's ethical norms are only those that give exact solutions with no thought or intuition whatsoever, then those norms deserve to be challenges thoroughly.


My opponent claims theories must have a practical application and offers the example of unitarianism.
However, unitarianism and the categorical imperative function in similar fashion:

UNITARIANISM: "Do so as to increase your happiness as much as possible."
CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE: "Do so as to enforce what you will would be a universal law."

Both theories remain relative in respect to one's nature, predicament and viewpoints. Both give us a partially defined guideline according to which we should act.
The "state of affairs" is an equally important factor in both principles.

Furthermore, my opponent then claims Kant's imperative is conflictive due to the fact it is not clearly specified which standard one should use, and an example of stealing food is offered.
However, rational thought is also to be employed:

A situation where one must steal food to feed themselves must have a cause. One is first to weigh the relation between a cause and their predicament and then act.

Also, this situation presupposes that the only way out is stealing food. If Kant's imperative had been followed in the hypothetical situation, there would be no such predicament where one would have to steal food - this example is flawed.

Furthermore, my opponent's example about abortion is flawed. Abortion is not murder. I am aware that this is another matter entirely, but since this was one of the offered examples, it was my duty to refute it. I shall defend my stance on abortion if need be.


The first problem my problem sees within the imperative is the fact that it should motivate humans to act in a certain way, while not being attached to emotions.
Here I must point out that the imperative calls for the only motivation to be human beliefs and intuition - not to let emotions bilnd one's sight and lead them to a wrong decision.
The interpretation of the word "motive" is a matter of semantics. It is logical and obvious that motive in this case means a reason to act, and that reason stems from the categorical imperative alone.

The only motivation, or reason to act, one would have is to produce the best possible effect in regard to everyone. This is the exact reason for the existence of ethical normatives.
There is only one motivation, and it comes from the imperative per se.

As for desires, they are in the sphere of imperfect duties [1]. When one has carried out their main duties according to the imperative, desires can be followed, and rewards from them reaped, as long as perfect duties are not violated.

Furthermore, my opponent raises the question of the reason one would ever support the categorical imperative, stating that we cannot be sure that it is the main and best principle to use when one acts.
However, there is not a single principle or rule of morality for which we can claim it is best with certainty. This leads us either to the conclusion that there is indeed no true morality, or the conclusion that the best and most true morality is the one that stems from human nature.
Kant's imperative encourages the second conclusion. It encourages drawing conclusions from one's viewpoints.
This is why it is a viable position.

Finally, presupposing one does not expect perfect, definite solutions for every possible situation (a normative that attempts to offer those is thorougly flawed), Kant's imperative is functional. It was intended to direct human thought and decision-making, not control it wholly. When used as a simple guideline, a "reminder" of sorts, to act according to one's viewpoints and to always weigh the consequences on everyone, it is functional.

Back to my opponent, whom I must commend on his debating skills. This was easily one of the hardest and most interesting replies I've had to write.


Debate Round No. 2


Kant believed that there are higher principles that are good in every time, every culture, and every situation” – the Daniels Fund

I thank my opponent for his well thought out case. Evidently he knows Kant well.

Normative Ethical Theories

My opponent attempts to justify the first formulation of the categorical imperative and (I think this is a flawed justification) he has failed to justify the second formulation. In order to understand the categorical imperative it is necessary to have both formulations justified.

My opponent claims that the categorical imperative is a general guideline for human behavior. However this seems rather false given Kant’s own work. If the categorical imperative is true than the ideas of the categorical imperative one finds that the principles contained within are universal, making its possible applications universal, unlike many other criteria. Hence, we can see that Kant means this application is universal. This in of itself would not be enough to refute the guideline principle my opponent holds, however combined with Kant’s notion that there is a correct decision for every circumstance, the categorical imperative cannot be seen as mere guideline but as a stone cold moral law. As many people, including S Peter Davis, recognize Kant’s law as binding regardless of belief or circumstance. Therefore, Kantianism is not only binding on everyone but it implicitly denies individualism. No longer must we incorporate diversity into our lives, for we all must make the same decisions and thus eventually live the same lives. As Wilhelm Ropke recognizes in his treatise “A Humane Economy”:

“The individual means less and less, mass and collectivity more and more—and so the net of servitude which hems development becomes even denser, more closely meshed, and inescapable”

I should make a clarification Kant in his formulation wants us to follow a very specific procedure in order to find out if the action is permissible. However this doesn’t have to do with belief other than the initial maxim, but no matter of your beliefs you are required to recognize them as false if they are contrary to the categorical imperative. However even if my opponents alternative Kantian theory he has burdened himself with the relativity of values. This obviously not true especially if we are talking about Kant

“If we consider the idea of law in general, moreover, its fundamental feature is universality… Law is applicable without exception” (The Questions of Philosophy Immanuel Kant and the Categorical Imperative).

Kant clearly doesn’t believe in my opponents’ interpretation of his own imperative. Furthermore, if my opponents’ conception of values is correct all actions could be justified. The supposed higher principles would just be “gift-wrapped” versions of the same beliefs that the wrapper held.

In terms of point b, the question my opponent asks us to ask ourselves is invalid. I would ask a clarification on what Kant is asking since that is what my opponent is supposing.

The fact is Kant’s imperative is supposed to (according to him) give us a moral code rather than a general guide to ethics. Kantianism doesn’t follow the rules in which my opponent seems to suggest. Because of this my criticism is valid especially since he hasn’t really attacked it only the criteria I used to judge which was solidly refuted.


In terms of practical application, Kant fails for one main reason, I would’ve mentioned this last round but for lack of space I wasn’t able to expand this point, the primary reason for the impracticability of Kantian position is due to the denial of human nature. The basic premise (as mentioned before) that underlies Kant’s philosophy is that there is a correct decision in every situation. The assumption behind this is that people are identical in the rationality. Because human behavior dictates a teleological approach (ends-based) toward morality, moral questions are answered through empirical experience. Kant never provides a way around basic human nature.

In terms of my stealing food example, my opponent unfortunately has not adequately refuted this. He seems to claim that if the hypothetical imperative had been followed then there would be no predicament. The problem is that we have to hold two different contrary things according to Kant. The Universality maxim contradicts the Humanity maxim, in that there are situations in which we cannot weigh the cause. Weighing the cause of starvation has no bearing on the ethical status of stealing food for starving children.

In terms of Abortion this isn’t the only contemporary example that can be given. Simply asserting that the Abortion issue isn’t relevant should be proven or rejected as mere prejudice. Another example of this is if someone was trapped in a “Saw” type situation where you can either save yourself and kill someone else or kill yourself and save someone else again Kant is silent on the conflict of perfect duties and emergency situations.

Internal Problems with the Categorical Imperative

The problem with my opponents response is it fails to see the central point of the objection. Emotion is generally what motivates people. Or at least this is what incites higher intellectual standards for people to follow. While I suppose I could justify why murder is wrong objectively the primary reason I believe Murder is wrong is because of the rush of feelings I get from murder. This is the motivation for my intellectual condemnation of murder. Emotion is very much intertwined with the very nature of motivation. So it is internally contradictory to affirm motivation without emotion. If we look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs we find further evidence of the emotional security needed to support intellectual stability.

My opponent says that the only motivation is one that would produce the best for everyone in the categorical imperative. This is absolutely contradictory to the categorical imperative to assert this. The categorical imperative is not a consequentialist theory in fact it is the exact opposite of this type of theory. The imperative tells us that it doesn’t really matter what’s the best for everyone, as long as we fulfill our duty and follow the universal law.

My opponent hasn’t answered the objection regarding desires because I do not think he understands what I am trying to say. I am saying that there is no real universal motivation because we all seek different ends and for different reasons. Desires often change motivations entirely as noted above. Kant tries to rule actions impermissible or permissible however no action can ever be ruled either way because it seems queer to think there is never a good reason to do some action. If this is true than Kant not only violates typical deontological ethics but also general normative ethics as well.

On my objections to the reasoning behind Kantian theory and the formulations he failed to justify the second formulation, so something must be flawed about Kant(as my opponent refused to address this). One the first formulation he seems to claim that there is no single moral rule (including the categorical imperative) and that Kant encourages us to think one that is true is based off of human nature. I have two problems with this line of reasoning, the first is that Kant’s imperative doesn’t seem to align with human’s tendency to focus on ends rather than means so if the second conclusion is true perhaps we should move to a more consequentialist type theory. The second problem with this reasoning is that it fails to justify the connection between universality and moral truth value.

Kant intended that his imperative could be applied in any circumstance without contradiction. He has undoubtedly failed, as he wasn’t simply going for a guideline, he wanted a solid non-negotiable moral theory that held up regardless of circumstance.

Viable is a funny word, it means to be capable of working successfully, and so far Kant’s theory has shown to be anything but. Vote Con.



I thank my opponent for his well thought out reply and shall now offer mine in turn.


The first objection to the categorical imperative my opponent offers in this round is that the universality of Kant's imperative, combined with, as my opponent puts it, its supposition that there is always a correct decision, makes the imperative flawed as a normative theory.

This is where we, once again, must use logic and rationality - which I've pointed out many times during the last round.

To begin with, I will deal with the problem of universality. Universality means supposing a situation in which many people find themselves in the same predicament as the person in question (person applying the imperative). In that case, said person can contemplate outside of a purely emotional sphere and make a decision that is more rational through the question that I've already stated in the last round: "Should everyone, supposing they find themselves in a situation exactly the same as mine, act towards solution X, what would the universal consequence be?".
Now, there exists no such world where everyone would find themselves in the exact same situation as said individual, and by extension, there is no world where universality can be applied in practice.
Thus, complaints towards practicality are unfounded.

Kant's universality is hypothetical and based on a hypothetical world. And in that sphere, it is correct and applicable. Due to the fact that there is no practical application, there can be no practical flaw. On the other hand, the hypothetical sphere falls perfectly under Kant's universality and extends one's range of thought.

Now, onto the claim about correct decisions:

There is, relatively, always a correct decision. That is indeed what Kant states. However, since universality in itself is hypothetical, we cannot logically claim that Kant presupposes a definite correct decision for every single individual.
On the contrary, based on the predicament an individual finds themselves in, the state of affairs etc. (I've explained this already), there can only be a correct, or better said, most correct, decision for each and every individual respectively.
Due to the general hypothetical and relative nature of this problem, the claims my opponent makes about the flawed connection between universality and decisions are unfounded.

Next, my opponent quotes Kant's statement about the general applicability of law. I stand fully by that statement. However, laws have always been applied in different ways, in relativity to a certain predicament. Kant indeed claims that laws are always applicable, and they are - but they are relative in respect to the state of affairs.
A general moral code is in this case basically the same as a general guide to ethics, due to what I've explained.

As to what Kant's question really is - the only way one can actually interpret the first formulation is in the shape of belief (do what your beliefs suggest) and in the shape of a law (which is what my opponent himself quotes from Kant's work - suppose universality of law). The second part requires the question which I've stated because of the relative nature of the problems Kant's imperative tries to solve.


My opponent first mentions the issue about decisions that was brought up in the first part of his exposition as well, therefore I see no need to refute it again.

Now, onto examples.
The situation my opponent presupposes, indeed, its very existence, contradicts the principles of humanity and morality that my opponent himself mentions. Had these maxims been followed in the first place, there would be no such predicament.
Furthermore, in a situation before said predicament, there would be no contradiction of maxims - this is what Kant wanted to achieve. Kant's imperative exists to avoid such conflicting situations and prevent their existence in the first place. The situation we are talking about is a result of failure to obey the imperative this debate revolves around and is in itself irrelevant.
Even should we forsake that level, universality cannot practically be in a contradiction due to its hypothetical nature.

As for abortion, I'd really like my opponent to state whether or not I am required to defend my stance on the issue, since he does mention a certain "prejudice" in the last round.
The second example, about a "Saw-type" situation, is extremely surreal, and it touches the state of affairs I've explained when refuting the first example. The reason that a "so-called" problem with such situations exists is that the following of Kant's imperative supposes that there are no situations of the kind.


My opponent first talks about emotion being a motivation for peforming an action. To be able to talk about this, we must separate emotion from reason, as well as their applications.

Kant does not negate the fact that emotion is the underlying reason that one wants to perform an action. His imperative only asserts that when one is trying to reason as to how to perform said action, emotions should be excluded - here is a quote from Kant's Groundwork on the Metaphysics of Morals:

"Human choice, however, is a choice that can indeed be affected but not determined by impulses, and is therefore of itself (apart from an acquired proficiency of reason) not pure but can still be determined to actions by pure will." [1]

As we can clearly see, Kant admits that choices (reasons for acting) can be affected by emotional impulses. However, he claims that the way of performing a choice should be determined by pure will (thought). The wide spectre of thought of hypothetical universality offered by the first formulation serves to help achieve that.

Furthermore, it is false that Kant's imperative claims that it doesn't matter what is best for everyone. The second formulation of Kant's imperative is as follows:

"Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end." [2]

This formulation absolutely contradicts the claims made by my opponent. It represents a respectable moral standard which I believe we can all agree on. Also, this touches the problem of ends and means my opponent discusses. Even if humanity does look mostly towards ends, the rule stated by the second formulation that humanity itself should be an end shows us that Kant does not forsake general well-being.
I will have this also represent my justification of the second formulation.

Furthermore, as I've explained many times during my exposition, universality helps to achieve morality through the widening of the sphere of thought - I do not deem it necessary to explain this claim once again.

Finally, Kant did indeed wish his theory to be universally applicable. However, universal applicablity of anything and everything in the modern world (even when speaking of things that we would most definitely agree are created to be generally applicable) requires flexibility relative to the state of affairs. Kant, indeed, never rules this out - that supports my claims made throughout this whole round.

I've managed to answer my opponent's complaints, and by extension, solidify my case supporting Kant's imperative - reinforcing the idea that it is indeed viable.

Back to my opponent.


[1] "Groundwork on the Metaphysics of Morals" - Immanuel Kant, p. 213, 214
Debate Round No. 3


"“the objectives we may have in acting, and also our actions' effects considered as ends and what motivates our volition, can give to actions no unconditional or moral worth…[this] can be found nowhere but in the principle of the will, irrespective of the ends that can be brought about by such action” (4: 400). This appears to say that moral rightness is not a function of the value of intended or actual outcomes." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
I thank voters for taking the time to read this debate along with zgb1997 for participating and with that I will(after a short rebuttal) conclude this case.
Normative Ethical Theories
My opponent completely misunderstands the objection that I placed in the third round, I was responding to the criticism of my objection to the categorical imperative rather than raising a new argument. You see I claimed that Kant never tells us what we should do only what we shouldn't. It tells us what permissible not what's right necessarily because Kant's imperative rarely eliminates all possible choices. In response my opponent said that it is a general guideline for ethical law. However this is simply flawed, I was making that argument in the third round.

Now as I quoted at the top of the debate, if my opponent is correct in his statements that the principle of universality is supposed to be the guide for the categorical imperative than Kant has contradicted himself. He claims no actual or intended consequences matter, clearly if we are asking for a universal consequence than we are asking what the intended(or expected) consequences would be. His definition of universality contradicts Kant and therefore fails.

My opponent makes the claim that no two people find themselves in the exact same situation. While this seems plausible normally in Kantian framework this is simply false. Everyone is making the exact same situation when voting because we are(under the categorical imperative) committed to abandoning circumstance. belief, and emotion. My opponent has backed off his initial claim that it's purely based off our personal beliefs(rightly so) therefore we know that the imperative can be applied under almost all circumstances and come out with the same solution. The individualism objection stands.

My opponent has misunderstood my objection about practicality as well. All normative ethical theories need practical application or they are not complete as they never tell us what we should do. Only what we would do in a perfect world. There is no reason to even formulate ethical theories if this is the case.

My opponent again tries to limit the categorical imperative to far less than Kant envisioned it however I will respond to this just the same. Kant tells us to act on these maxims in real life. He tells in the Groundwork that these principles are binding and furthermore compelling. If we are supposed to act on these in real life as Kant himself says than we must not be acting in a purely hypothetical world.

Laws are applied universally and true, laws are applied relative to the certain circumstance they are nor relative to a persons personal beliefs. I cannot go murder somebody simply because I happen to believe murder would be a great universal occurrence. Laws do not have a subjective nature about them, they are objective regardless of belief. Morality guides these principles so my opponent cannot affirm relativistic Kantian theory while the categorical imperative. This is absolutely contradictory.

My opponent never answers the impracticality of examining means instead of ends which means that he contradicts himself because he admits impracticality of the categorical imperative(by not addressing it) because it doesn't consider human nature and affirms that the "best" moral theory is one that examines morality through human nature(round two). Objection stands.

On my starving food example, he simply ignores it saying that it never could have happened if one had followed the maxims in the first place. But this seems irrelevant to the current situation, regardless of whether the family or the individual had followed the maxims prior this has no barring on the using the categorical imperative in the situation. Furthermore, even if it was relevant whether they followed it previously my opponent has provided no evidence they could have never, ever found themselves in that particular situation if they followed the categorical imperative. He then claims this cannot prove the categorical imperative wrong because it is hypothetically based. While I disagree with this line of reasoning, in this case my opponent is completely wrong because this situation in its very nature is hypothetical. So if my opponent cannot refute the objection than it disproves not only the practical but the theoretical basis for the imperative.

On Abortion, he never justifies why Abortion isn't murder. But it doesn't matter whether its murder for the situation to work we simply assume that the person is killing a fetus(regardless of person hood status) or killing themselves. Instead of making a brief summary of why he doesn't think that abortion is murder he has conceded it therefore the objection stands.

My opponent has made a truly outlandish claim regarding the "Saw" situations. My opponent claims Kant proposes that in a hypothetical world no emergency situation would exist. This would be peculiar theory indeed one that no ought follow since emergency situations happen all the time and any ethical theory must have some form of practical applicability.

Internal problems with the categorical imperative

The central basis for the theory is the thought that motivation is central basis for evaluating moral actions. What I am arguing is it is practically impossible to separate the two. Emotion is the underlying basis of motivation.

My opponent doesn't realise the application of Kant's theory that he is explaining in his quote. Kant is saying that emotion isn't what determines choices it only affects human choices. I am arguing against this notion as motivation can't be derived from pure will(thought). There is no argumentation point about certain facts(most facts) but disputable facts always have emotional connection. Disputable facts are where we derive motivation, imagine a world of pure will and no emotion whatsoever. Purely conceptual notions, such as Justice or Freedom really do not exist because the only basis of argumentation is pure fact. Justice is arbitrary notion as is freedom without emotion. I think the opposite is true as well mind you. What would Justice be without justification for the need of such a concept? A mere feeling that has no bearing objectively. Thought cannot be separated from emotion even hypothetically. But Kant denies that emotion can be apart of a individuals decision making process when following the categorical imperative. This is a internal unrecoverable problem for categorical imperative.

My opponent completely misunderstands what the second formulation means. The second formulation means you shouldn't treat people as mere means(in that you use them for your own purposes without regard to their interests. Treating them as a end means to take their well being into consideration. The point is you must not disregard other people completely. What you must do is try not to harm other rational agents in your own dealings. You need not consider the greater good as Jeremy Benthem might say. Kant even goes as far to say the greater good is irrelevant because each individual is there own rational agent and no one should be manipulated to achieve the goals of another.

So if Kant is really saying that we should do what's best for everyone then he must admit that lying can be justifiable in some circumstances since lying can be best for all. This is yet another internal contradiction.
I am sorry but my opponent has failed to adequately defend or justify Kantian theory. Vote Con today.


I thank my opponent for presenting his exposition, as well as for this whole debate, which was excellent and thoroughly enjoyable.
That being said, I shall now offer my final rebuttal.


My opponent begins his argumentation by repeating the argument about the categorical imperative being flawed as a normative theory.
However, in round 2, I've already debunked this claim, as well as his refutation of my view of the imperative as an ethical guideline.

The problem lies in functionality. If one is to examine the purpose of an ethical normative, then it is obvious that such normatives exist to best direct human actions and give the best results. Not necessarily define actions and moves for every situation, because every situation differs from another do to the state of affairs etc. Theories that seek to define actions clearly fail in their very formulation.
Kant's imperative provides a fine guide as well as offering a substantial freedom of thought, making it a viable ethical theory for aid in human action.

Furthermore, it seems my opponent doesn't understand the first formulation of Kant's imperative very clearly.
I shall quote it again:

"Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law without contradiction."

A universal law indicates literally what it means - a hypothetical world in which every situation the same or almost the same as a certain one would be solved in the same way. Such a thing cannot exist in reality, and therefore cannot have practical consequences.
However, if one understands Kant's work, one would see the functionality of this maxim in the hypothetical sphere - my opponent has failed to do so, and indeed, failed to refute my argumentation about hypotheticality.

Also, Kant's theory never goes in favour of rejecting and abandoning belief - belief is created through rationalization and is a key part of thought. Kant also never denies emotion as the underlying cause of action, or even a factor which affects decision-making. His imperative only favours rationalizing one's decisions through thought, for emotions truly aren't rational.
As for the example about voting - are those people really in the same situation? They live in different conditions, different type of families, and finally, they are all different individuals per se.
Kant's universality presupposes a truly and completely exact situation, therefore the example offered by my opponent fails to refute my claims.

My opponent misunderstands the practical application of Kant's imperative wholly. Truly Kant does encourage acting as per his imperative - that is why he formulated it in the first place. However, universality cannot per se be applied to the real world. A human being can use it as thought process, though, and then apply his findings to the real world through the rationalization that Kant continuously encourages in the Groundwork on the Metaphysics of Morals. I am thus not in contradiction towards any of Immanuel Kant's claims or statements.

Finally, universality serves to destroy unrationalized beliefs such as "murder is great". Say someone truly believes that - they have a positive emotion towards murder (the underlying cause). Now, they imagine a situation where everyone feels the same as them and goes around, merrily killng everybody else. Surely, that person is bound to see that not even they could survive in such a world, and that their own emotion and unrationalized belief concerning murder would be their end.
Here we also have another application of universality in the real world.


Firstly, I've actually written in round 3 that humanity does generally look towards ends. One cannot negate that, nor can one try - my opponent's accusations concerning this are unfounded. Also, what I've claimed in round two is that the best ethical theory is the one that examines morality through human nature - indeed. As far as I recall, I have also continuously been stating that Kant's imperative takes relativity (thus, human nature as well) into account from the very beginning of this debate.

Furthermoe, my opponent fails to understand what I meant by the application of Kant's imperative in his hypothetical situation of stealing food. I did not mean the family which finds itself in said predicament, but their entire society. Had the societal hierarchy followed the imperative, starting with the authorities, the family - who are at the bottom of the pyramid - wouldn't have found themselves in their predicament in the first place.
The categorical imperative indeed serves to prevent such situations.

Furthermore, my opponent informs me only in the final round that I should defend my stance on abortion. even though I asked time and time again whether that is necessary. This is unsportsmanlike conduct.
As for abortion, it is not murder because the majority of abortions are carried out in a phase where the foetus has no nervous system or awareness and is in no way more than a cell system resembling a tumor.
Also, we cannot "suppose" that something that is not murder should be.

Finally, my opponent offers an outlandish example, and then accuses me of offering an outlandish response. Interesting.
As my opponent himself says, the imperative serves to be applies to the real world. Since there never was, and likely never will be an emergency situation such as the one my opponent mentions, there is no need to apply the categorical imperative to this example.


My opponent's first claim is that emotion is the underlying basis of motivation. I've never denied this. Actually, I've stood by that claim since the beginning of the debate.

Motivation truly cannot be derived from thought. Motivation is derived from emotions, Kant accepts this as well. However, evaluation of said motivation and the actions it may encompass falls into the sphere of rational thought where Kant considers emotions to be a liability.
Emotions determine motivation, thought evaluates it - this is Kant's theory. And it is most functional too, because only through true rationalization can one best evaluate their potential actions.

Furthermore, my opponent offers an example of a world with no emotion. This is solely his idea and example, for I've never argued anything of the like. Justice and freedom are derived from human feelings. Their acquisition and application have always been derived from human thought, rationality and practicality; that is why laws, and indeed, the very discipline of politics, exist.

Next, my opponent succeeds in contradicting himself very well. He first says that Kant intends us not to harm others and consider their well being, and then claims that this cannot be considered to be "the greater good" pertaining to these individuals. This is a direct contradiction.
The statement that "Kant even goes as far to say the greater good is irrelevant because each individual is their own rational agent and no one should be manipulated to achieve the goals of another." is false and another contradiction. Not manipulating someone and considering them as a factor is in itself minding the greater good.

Finally, Kant's imperative was created to prevent situations where maxims would be contradicted - this appies to lying as well. But, say such an unsolvable situation indeed exists. Would one such situation contradict the entire imperative and its practicality and applicability in most situations; which I've proven.
Definitely not.

Vote pro!

I thank my opponent for the debate once again.

Debate Round No. 4
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Fanboy 5 years ago
*blushes* Thanks
Posted by zgb1997 5 years ago
Thanks :)
You're having quite an impressive debut.
Posted by Fanboy 5 years ago
Your a great debater too! Just didn't want to waste character space! :)
Posted by wiploc 5 years ago
I read some Kant, and it was stupid. It doesn't matter what class I read it in.
Posted by Noumena 5 years ago
Well come on. Philosophy 101? *gun in mouth*
Posted by wiploc 5 years ago
He may be great, overall. But the samples of Kant they showed us in Philosophy 101 were trivial exercises in equivocation, so I never developed a taste for him.
Posted by Noumena 5 years ago
Bite your tongue!
Posted by Noumena 5 years ago
Bite your tongue!
Posted by wiploc 5 years ago
Kant struck me as an idiot.
Posted by wiploc 5 years ago
Kant struck me as an idiot.
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