Lying is bad, right? So what if everybody knows you won't lie and you are asked in a game of Battlestar Galactica what is your role card by a particularly competitive player? This is important, as Battlestar Galactica is a game whose fun factor is built upon the suspicion of your fellow players and trying to figure out who is or is not a Cylon.
Thus by revealing what your hidden role is you are just spoiling everybody's enjoyment of the game.
You then proceed to tell him, yes, you are a Cylon to the groans of your fellow players.
You have done nothing wrong. Why?
This is the theory behind the Categorical imperative of Immanuel Kant, which we will be exploring today. Firstly, the 3 formulations of the Categorical Imperative.
Formula of Universality and the Law of Nature
This formula is the idea that there are ideas that are inherently right. For example, Kant lists murder, theft, lying, etc. and he supports it in said way. He proposes that if you were to remove these acts from any specific situation or person, the act in itself is wrong and there is no getting around it.
For example, it is akin to most board gamers extreme dislike of cheaters in games. It is wrong to cheat so you can't give the cheater a pass even if he did it with good intentions, as the act you are condoning is still immoral and you are just using an excuse to hide the fact that you did not have the moral fortitude to do the right thing.
Formula of Humanity
I will let Kant speak for himself first on this point:
"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."
Basically, treat another being as an end, not a means. For example, if you were playing the extremely anticipated Pandemic Legacy Season 2 and wanted to rush through the game just so you can tell everyone you finished the game first at the cost of the enjoyment of all the other players in the campaign, then you are using them as a means to your end.
This basic tenet of a universal truth is unto others as you would have them do to you. Thus just like how you would want others to respect your being, you should do the same for others too.
Formula of Autonomy
For something to be a moral Universal Truth, it has to be made with the right intentions and reasons. On top of that, the Universal Truth comes from our ability to make meaningful choices.
This is because without the ability to make conscious decisions. Then nothing is our fault, so how can anyone be blamed for any action considered moral or immoral. Like you could not claim victory in a cooperative game of Pandemic just because you were in the vicinity when the victory happened without playing the game, can you?
No Philosophy discussion would be complete without a mention of what others think is wrong with said idea and thus here are the major problems people have with the Categorical Imperative.
Consequences don't matter
As the above example at the top of the articles shows, the Categorical Imperative is a rather inflexible system and this inflexibility has led to the philosophy's Achilles's heel.
Simply put, it just does not "feel" right. For what is the use of a moral act if your decision leads to more suffering and because Kant specifically states the consequences don't matter, he can't even use the Utilitarian rationale of an overall benefit in happiness in the long run.
Biasness of the "Universal Truth"
Although heavily detailed on how a Universal Truth is to be found in his masterpiece the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. There is always doubt on any method that confirms itself as the way to find and prove something as impactful as a Universal Truth that everyone should be emboldened too.
This doubt stemming in no small reason from the point that Kant, you can argue started with a conclusion first, then worked his theory to fit that conclusion. This is because Kant came up with the Categorical Imperative to reconcile the idea of God with a more modern scientific rationale of morality. Thus, that biasedness might have swayed Kant's arguments more than fairly.
Is there really autonomy?
Is there free will, that is a question that has been asked since man could think for oneself and although there are good points made on why free will might exist. There are equally good theories of why free will does not exist. Such as Induction theories from the determinist David Hume, which Kantian Philosophers still have not fully addressed.
A good example of this from the above video shows is that there are even studies that show the temperature of your coffee cup affects whether you will react with more kindness to a stranger or not.
In conclusion, there is a reason why Utilitarianism and Kantianism have survived as the premier points of debate of modern morality. Hopefully, with both sides explained in this article series, you will have a better understanding of these Philosophies of Morality and that will spur you to look up both sides in more detail and come up with your own conclusions and maybe even write the next great text of Moral Philosophy.