News

Loading...

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Green on the Categorical Imperative

"If -- not merely for practical purposes but as a matter of speculative certainty -- we identify its injunction with any particular duty, circumstances will be found upon which the bindingness of that duty is contingent, and the too hasty identification of the categorical imperative with it will issue in a suspicion that, after all, there is no categorical imperative, no absolute duty, at all. After the explanations just given, however, we need not shrink from asserting as the basis of morality an unconditional duty, which yet is not a duty to do anything unconditionally except to fulfil that unconditional duty." -- Prolegomena to Ethics, from Principles of Political Obligation and other writings, p. 261

This captures very nicely a point I have been making about morality: it is both timeless and universal and dependent upon circumstances. The view that it must be one or the other ignores Hegel's philosophical breakthrough in conceiving the concrete universal.

5 comments:

  1. Gene, would you briefly elaborate on this "breakthrough" ...? I understand that contemporary analytical philosophers are skeptical of most anything that Hegel says; I just want some brief elucidation (that happens to be more robust than wikipedia's definition!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Concrete reality, as a world of ideas, is comprehensible in itself, and we don't need to abstract from it or have general laws to understand, say, history. Collingwood and Oakeshott are both Hegelians in this regard.

      Delete
  2. I prefer your straightforward style to Green's.

    ReplyDelete
  3. If I understand this correctly, then it's that every circumstance has only one correct moral choice of action and that all of them together represent the single imperative. That close?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Categorical_imperative

      Delete