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Kantian Deontological Ethics

3. Hypothetical vs. Categorical Imperatives

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the distinction between hypothetical and categorical imperatives.


In this course, Dr Iain Law (University of Birmingham) thinks about Kantian deontological ethics, one of the three main normative ethical theories alongside utilitarianism and virtue ethics. We begin in the first module by introducing the concept of a moral theory and outlining what distinguishes deontological theories from other kinds of moral theories, before introducing the deontological theory of Immanuel Kant more specifically. After that, we consider Kant's distinction between acting from duty and acting (merely) in accordance with duty. In the third module, we think about the difference between hypothetical and categorical imperatives, before turning in the fourth and fifth modules to *the* Categorical Imperative, as Kant described it. In the fourth module, we focus on the first formulation of the Categorial Imperative (sometimes known as the Formula of Universality) and in the fifth, we focus on the second formulation (sometimes known as the Formula of Humanity). Finally, in the sixth module, we think about some potential objections to Kantianism, including the limitations of the Formula of Universality, clashes of duties, and its lack of interest in what might ordinarily be considered important motives, e.g. compassion, empathy.


Iain Law is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Birmingham. His main interests are in meta-ethics, applied ethics and ethical theory, and he is currently working on papers in moral theory, moral psychology, the philosophy of medicine and applied ethics.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Law, I. (2019, January 09). Kantian Deontological Ethics - Hypothetical vs. Categorical Imperatives [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Law, I. "Kantian Deontological Ethics – Hypothetical vs. Categorical Imperatives." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 09 Jan 2019,