1 An action we are obliged to perform out of respect for the moral law.
2 Kant describes immortality and the existence of God as ‘postulates’ to distinguish them from the ‘ideas’ of the soul and of God that rationalist metaphysics had made objects of theoretical proofs. These ‘postulates of practical reason’ are fundamental components in what Kant calls ‘moral faith’.
3 Kant famously said ‘Nothing in the world — indeed nothing even beyond the world — can positively be conceived which could be called good without qualification, except the good will.’ Here Kant is proposing that the only thing that is good in and of itself is the good will. The good will, then, is free from subjective needs or desires.
4 By this kind of imperative, Kant means that a command or maxim is applied conditionally. A classic example would be the maxim ‘If I want to lose weight, I must eat less.’ The only non-hypothetical imperatives are ones that tell you to do something no matter who you are or what you want, because the thing is good in itself.
5In Kantian ethics, there is an unconditional moral law that applies to all rational beings and is independent of any personal motive or desire. This is why Kant’s concept of duty is important as it is through duty that we determine moral principles. It can also be expressed as the rule that one’s actions should be capable of serving as the basis of universal law.
6 Kant said ‘Two things fill the mind with ever new increasing admiration and awe…the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.’ By this Kant is implying that, contained within every rational being, is a moral awareness with which we are born. It is innate and does not come from any outside agent.
7 In the first formulation of Kant’s categorical imperative he states, ‘act only in accordance with that maxim which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law of nature’. This can be seen as a summary of a decision process for moral reasoning.
8 a First, Kant suggests that a person describes an intended moral action through a maxim. That might be ‘I will never lie’ or ‘When it suits me I will lie’. At this stage we are still to find out whether or not it can become a universal law of nature.
b Here Kant wants the person making the moral decision to ask themselves what would happen if everyone did what they were planning, e.g. never tell a lie or lie when it suits them.
c Here we see whether or not it can become a law of nature by seeing what happens when it is universalised. Lying when it suits one can never be universalised, as communication would break down as no one would believe anything anyone else said. However, a world where no one ever lied could lead to a universal law of nature.