The word categorical is used in colloquial language to indicate that something is blunt in a positive or negative sense. “He told me not categorically” or “I’m categorically in favor of the proposal.” On the other hand, this term has a philosophical dimension.
The categorical in the syllogism
When we affirm or deny something in relation to a class, we employ categorical propositions. So, when you say “All athletes are young”, you are saying something of a universal category ; on the other hand, when one says “Some poets are romantic”, it is a statement of a particular category.
On the other hand, the categorical syllogism is a type of statement built from two premises and a conclusion . For example, the following argument is a show of categorical syllogism: all dogs are animals, some dogs are black, and therefore some animals are dogs.
Categorical propositions depend on a series of rules: if two premises of the syllogism are affirmative, it is not possible for the conclusion to be negative.
The Kantian Categorical Imperative
Within the scope of moral obligations we employ hypothetical or conditioned judgments. So, when you say “Brush your teeth if you don’t want to go to the dentist”, you say something conditioned (if you want A, you must do B).
However, there are other types of judgments that are not hypothetical but categorical. These judgments must arise from our own moral conviction , that is, from a law that we ourselves impose as a standard of conduct . Consequently, the categorical imperative does not say what has to be done, but rather how to do it.
In other words, the moral law employed individually is acceptable as long as everyone accepts it as valid.
The classic example of the categorical imperative says: “There is a moral rule that is valid for all.” Now if my moral rule is “I do what I feel like”, this rule doesn’t apply to everyone. On the other hand, when you say “I behave with the intention of doing good to others”, this statement is a categorical imperative, since it is a moral rule that the person imposes, in turn, it becomes a universal principle .
The categorical imperative formulated by Kant is intended to be a general moral principle. According to this thought , moral issues should not be based on proposals such as: “Don’t steal because it’s a sin” or “Don’t tell lies because it’s not good”. Moral principles must start from a rational criterion: act according to rules that can be accepted by any human being.