Decision Making Models: Kant’s Categorical Imperative

According to Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), the moral character of an action depends solely on the principle behind it – not upon the consequences it produces.  Ethical obligations are “higher truths,” which we must obey regardless of the results.

According to Kant, moral obligations are absolute and do not allow for exceptions or extenuating circumstances.  A major virtue of Kant’s duty theory is its simplicity; it does not require one to consider or predict consequences of a specific decision.

There are two rules:

  • Rule of Universality – Behave only in ways you feel appropriate for all people, at all times.
  • Rule of Respect – All individuals are important and the wellbeing of each is moral end in itself.  Never treat others as the means for your own gain.


Shall we lie to save an innocent life from terrorists? Kant’s rigid theory gives us no way to choose between ethical values.