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Hypothetical Imperatives

  • Fred Feldman
Part of the Philosophical Studies Series in Philosophy book series (PSSP, volume 35)

Abstract

The moral writings of Immanuel Kant have drawn attention to a class of interesting and puzzling iffy oughts. These are the so-called “hypothetical imperatives”. While some philosophers1 have apparently used the term ‘hypothetical imperative’ as little more than a stylistic variant for ‘statement of conditional obligation’, I think there is good reason to distinguish hypothetical imperatives from other iffy oughts, and to give them a separate analysis. Some of these reasons will emerge shortly. In this chapter, I try to identify the sort of statement Kant may have had in mind; I note a variety of puzzling features of these things; I explain why some proposed accounts seem to me to be inadequate; I give my own account of them; and I try to explain why they have the puzzling features noted.

Keywords

Moral Obligation Double Dose Ordinary Language Accessible World Puzzling Feature 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes to Chapter 5

  1. 1.
    Von Wright is an example. See his ‘A New System of Deontic Logic,’ in Deontic Logic: Introductory and Systematic Readings, ed. by Risto Hilpinen (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1971), p. 109.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, transl. by H. J. Paton (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1964), p. 108.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ibid., p. 108.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Ibid., pp. 82–83.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Ibid., p. 85.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Ibid., p. 86.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Ibid., p. 87.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Ibid., p. 109.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Practical Reason in The Philosophy of Kant, ed. by Carl Friedrich (New York: The Modern Library, 1949), p. 213.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    H. A. Prichard, Moral Obligation (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1957), p. 91.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    R. M. Hare, The Language of Morals (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964), p. 91.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Ibid, p. 34.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphystc of Morals, transl. by H. J. Paton (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1964), pp. 82–84.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Ibid, p. 108.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Ibid, p. 85.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Ibid, p. 85.Google Scholar
  17. 17a.
    Kant suggests this view in the Groundwork, pp. 84–86.Google Scholar
  18. 17b.
    It is also suggested by Thomas Hill in ‘The Hypothetical Imperative,’ The Philosophical Review LXXXII (1973), 425–450.Google Scholar
  19. 18.
    This causal view also has its origins in Kant. See, for example, Groundwork, p. 65.Google Scholar
  20. 19.
    The example is taken from Kant. See the Groundwork, p. 65.Google Scholar
  21. 20.
    For an interesting discussion of this approach to the concept of prudence, see Phillip Bricker, ‘Prudence,’ The Journal of Philosophy XXXVII (1980), 381–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 21.
    Critique of Pure Practical Reason in The Philosophy of Kant, ed. by Carl Friedrich (New York: the Modern Library, 1949), p. 229.Google Scholar
  23. 24a.
    See her ‘Conditional Oughts and Hypothetical Imperatives,’ The Journal of Philosophy LXXII (1975), 259–276.Google Scholar
  24. 24b.
    A similar view seems to be defended in Thomas Hill, ‘The Hypothetical Imperative,’ The Philosophical Review LXXXII (1973), 429–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 24c.
    Valuable commentary on Hill’s view may be found in John Marshall, ‘Hypothetical Imperatives,’ The American Philosophical Quarterly 19 (1982), 105–114.Google Scholar
  26. 24d.
    See especially John Marshall, ‘Hypothetical Imperatives,’ The American Philosophical Quarterly 19 (1982), pp. 109–110.Google Scholar
  27. 25.
    Greenspan, op. cit., p. 273. See also the discussion of “the second assumption”, p. 272.Google Scholar
  28. 26.
    R. M. Hare, The Language of Morals, p. 34.Google Scholar
  29. 28a.
    Related points are discussed in Phillipa Foot, ‘Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives,’ The Philosophical Review LXXXI (1972), 305–316CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 28b.
    John Harsanyi, ‘Ethics in Terms of Hypothetical Imperatives,’ Mind N. S. LXVII (1958), 305–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 29.
    Groundwork, p. 85.Google Scholar
  32. 30.
    Thomas Hill, ‘The Hypothetical Imperative,’ The Philosophical Review LXXXII (1973), 429–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 31.
    Hill, ibid, p. 434.Google Scholar
  34. 32.
    Hill, ibid, p. 436.Google Scholar
  35. 33.
    Hill, ibid, p. 436.Google Scholar
  36. 34.
    Hill, ibid, p. 443.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fred Feldman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Massachusetts at AmherstUSA

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