Kant and the Imagination


When I started editing the option that Thomas selected for our Transmediale talk, I immediately started thinking about more talk proposals that I had to resist including in my write up.  So I am including them here.

The first involves Kant and the categorical imperative. The categorical imperative is a way to determine the right way to act in a particular situation.

to decide how to know the right way to act. response to the question -how do I know what to do.  I take a maxim and I universalize it and if I am able to universalize it then it is a imperative – I must act this way. (I think radical evil is when I always chose not to act according to the categorical imperative but I dont remember)

So — I am considering stealing candy from a baby – I create a maxim like “dont steal a hershey kiss from my little brother”. I universalize it to “Never steal candy from a baby or never steal candy from anyone.”

The first thing I realized is that this is an act of the imagination. Kant is a psychologist. We must use our imagination – a non-rational faculty in order to realize the hyper rational categorical imperative.   When I use my imagination to universalize my maxims, I do not necessarily have to use images, but I use empathy perhaps to understand how someone else might feel in different scenarios.

The second thing I realized is that we could easily create computer simulations to universalize the maxims in different scenarios.  This would remove the quality of the imagination in creation of the universal imperative.  Does this matter?  Although Kant might not agree, I would argue the imaginative faculty involved in determining whether a maxim were universalizable is important in becoming an ethical person – or perhaps performing a truly ethical action.   If I act according to the result of the decision of a computer simulation – that is an action but it is an ethical action? Does it make me an ethical person.