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Moral Imperatives



What are "moral imperatives"? Are they innate parts of our personality or are they fluid and influenced by our environment? Do we gain them from our parents, teachers, or society, or is it something we can excuse as a natural part of who we are? What happens when go against our moral imperatives and acquiesce to another's will and demands? Will our moral imperatives bend or do they break? Do they fall into categories or hypothetical constructs of thought?


Immanuel Kant (1724 - 1804), a German philosopher during the Age of Enlightenment, wrote that there are two kinds of imperatives: Categorical and Hypothetical. A categorial imperative is the basis for society and the laws that govern that society. This imperative is based on moral precepts, standardized principals, and consistency in application universally. Hypothetical imperatives are based on one's needs and wants and do not require inclusion from others to validate the imperative. This idea is found in a quote by exiled Italian statesman turned philosopher, Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), "The end always justifies the means." This ideal was embraced by Machiavellian dictators Henry VIII, Adolph Hitler, and Joseph Stalin.


So why am I giving a history lesson on moral imperatives? Well, because as a nation we were founded on moral imperatives based on universal laws for all and we are shifting toward hypothetical imperatives based on the wants and needs of individuals. This shift in philosophy is worthy of noting because in every situation where philosophies clash, revolution follows. In a home, in a city, in a society; where there is disagreement in philosophy compromise fails.


I find more and more people today do not have a conviction to the truth as much as they are committed to a philosophy and these two philosophical differences (society versus individual) is the basis for unrest in America. Song writer Aaron Tippin wrote, "You've got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything." You must know why you support one philosophy over another and know the truth behind the concepts and principles that govern the beliefs that drive it. When people chose to remain ignorant and live in denial of the facts they will one day wake up to learn all they believed was untrue.


Recently, someone shared that they felt "ashamed" because they had allowed themselves to be manipulated and deceived for 9 years in a marriage where their spouse neither loved or wanted what was best for the marriage. He was living by his imperative to be a good husband and provider. She on the other hand was living by her imperative that the end justified the means. He was not guilty of any wrong doing, yet he carried all the guilt. She on the other hand felt no guilt, no shame, and no remorse.


Theordore Rosevelt said it best when he offers the choice to be the better person,

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”



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