The phenomenon of the imperative is a rather well-known philosophical subject. Having been coined by Immanuel Kant, the idea of an imperative as the concept that defines one’s decision-making has been accepted and used widely in philosophy, specifically, in Kantianism (Longuenesse, 2020). Although the two imperatives, namely, the categorical and hypothetical ones, cannot be considered the exact opposite of each other, they are linked tightly in a specific type of relationship.
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The idea of a categorical imperative as the best-known type of Kantian imperatives is fairly basic. According to Kant’s theoretical framework, the notion of a categorical imperative boils down to the set of supreme morality standards that allows one to stay within the boundaries allowed by ethical principles (Longuenesse, 2020). In turn, the hypothetical imperative, which was suggested by Kant as the way of describing another type of command that one may face, implies the course of actions that one should undertake in a specific situation. Namely, the hypothetical imperative applies when an individual faces the need to satisfy one of the basic needs, such as thirst or hunger, namely, when needing to drink or eat.
Although the two types of imperatives are typically used in tandem when mentioning Kant’s ethics, they are not juxtaposed. Instead, one of them is used to explain the other. Namely, by utilizing the hypothetical imperative, one can explain the presence of a categorical one. Specifically, the hypothetical imperative allows modeling a situation in which a specific course of action is preferable to satisfy one’s needs, whereas the categorical imperative is applied to the said situation to determine the ethical value of the action (Longuenesse, 2020). Therefore, while bearing little similarity, the two imperatives cannot be seen as opposing each other. Instead, one, namely, the categorical imperative, represents the extension of another, which is the hypothetical one.
Longuenesse, B. (2020). Kant and the capacity to judge: sensibility and discursivity in the transcendental analytic of the Critique of Pure Reason. Princeton University Press.