Definition of categorical imperative in English:

categorical imperative

Pronunciation /ˈˌkadəˈɡôrəkəl əmˈperədiv/ /ˈˌkædəˈɡɔrəkəl əmˈpɛrədɪv/


  • (in Kantian ethics) an unconditional moral obligation which is binding in all circumstances and is not dependent on a person's inclination or purpose.

    • ‘Since only free action can have genuine moral worth, the categorical imperative must be not only the supreme imperative of reason, but also the supreme law of morality.’
    • ‘Adorno even conceives of categorical imperatives in exactly the way Kant conceives of them, and they are connected to metaphysics, rather than epistemology, again as they are for Kant.’
    • ‘People know what is right and submit to a Kantian categorical imperative - you have to do what you know is right.’
    • ‘Though the advantages resulting from obedience to particular moral laws can be shown, the moral obligation itself is a categorical imperative, something that we feel but cannot explain.’
    • ‘Kant gives at least four versions of the categorical imperative, but one is especially direct: Treat people as an end, and never as a means to an end.’


categorical imperative

/ˈˌkadəˈɡôrəkəl əmˈperədiv/ /ˈˌkædəˈɡɔrəkəl əmˈpɛrədɪv/