“The Golden Rule says that you should do unto others as you would have them do unto you. What is the difference between the Golden Rule and the categorical imperative? Explain.
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher who developed the idea of the categorical imperative. The categorical imperative, Kant says, is the fundamental principle of our moral duties. The categorical imperative is a command that tells us to exercise our wills in a particular way, and not to perform some action. The commands are categorical because they apply to us unconditionally, meaning we as individuals possess rational wills, without referring to any ends that we may or may not have.
“…we should never act in such a way that we treat Humanity, whether in ourselves or in others, as a means only but always as an end in itself.”
Kant developed a formula for the categorical imperative that says you should “act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law.” The CI formula is a four step process that will determine if your actions will then be morally permissible. If the maxim passes all four steps, then your actions would be morally permissible. However, if the maxim were to fail even one step of the formula it would not be morally right. He gives the example of suicide. Suicide would not pass the third step of the CI formula, which states that the maxim must be conceivable in a world governed by a universal law of nature. Committing suicide to avoid future unhappiness is forbidden. Kant’s position of categorical imperatives is that it is irrational to perform an action if that action’s maxim would contradict itself were it to be a universal law of nature.
“We do not try to produce our self-preservation. Rather, the end of self-preservation prevents us from engaging in certain kinds of activities, for instance, picking fights with mobsters, and so on.”
The CI Formula guides how we should act in regards to humanity. The idea is to have respect for people, which is essential to our humanity. We may use other people as a means to our ends. However, one cannot take advantage of Humanity as the only way to achieve our ends. Kant’s Humanity Formula requires that people have respect for the Humanity within other persons. Ultimately we must respect human beings simply because they are persons.
The Golden Rule, simply stated is doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. However, the categorical imperative is an absolute, unconditional requirement that shows no exceptions. In my opinion the Golden Rule is subjective based upon the person. Not every person wants to be treated the same and all of us have our own notions and conceptions on what is morally right and wrong. Different cultures also would have different perceptions on morality as we have pointed out throughout the semester. Therefore, I believe the Golden Rule is subjective. On the other hand, categorical imperatives and the Humanity formula leaves no room for interpretation. Something is either morally right or morally wrong based upon the CI formula and whether a maxim passes all four steps of the test. I would have to agree with Kant’s categorical imperative reasoning as based upon my interpretation of it in the reading.