More specifically, is taking up any job immoral according to Kant? Because by the Categorical Imperative, since we don't wish that everyone in the world became a philosopher/scientist/engineer etc.?

Related: Is there a categorical impertaive against humour?

  • Again, maxims have to be general: In his Metaphysics of Morals, part two, it is similar to ancient philosophy; choosing your work according to your talents and improving your talents through work. Your use of the CI is in fact like @NelsonAlexander stated: ridiculous.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 17:36
  • @PhilipKlöcking Again, I see no well-defined way to choose these maxims in Kant. "General" isn't a specific term. Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 15:26
  • "general" may be replaced by "abstract", which is the very negative of "specific". This led to Hegels criticism of Kant. The specifics within maxims are ends, their relation to means already are general (law-like).
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 15:33
  • Perhaps your problem lies in the fact that you want something specific, analyzable to chew at. But I would argue that the concept of CI, as Kant stated it, is holistic. That means it has various aspects that cannot be stated as one definition and only the understanding of every single aspect/notion will enable you to understand the concept of Kant's CI.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 15:40

1 Answer 1


The answer in a nutshell is: don't be ridiculous.

You are taking the CA in far too crude a manner as a mandate of absolute "universality," almost as a synonym for behavioral cloning governing the specific "content" of judgments, as opposed to their "form." Kant was obviously a modern philosopher, for whom worldly contingency, radically specialized divisions of labor, and diversity of personality were givens.

The "hypothetical imperatives" of "if/then" judgments would apply to the content of most social interactions and decisions, with judgments referred to the more general CA as a "regulative ideal" or boundary condition. Similarly, we would never suppose that "equality under the law" requires everyone to have the same job.... or, say, to "not commit murder" in exactly the same way.

However, you do raise a good point. Off hand, not being a Kant expert, I cannot define exactly when judgments become "moral" judgments according to Kant. I assume others can answer. And the manner or extent to which some abstract concept of "equality" applies to individuals is always a crucial issue.

Kant takes "freedom" to be an inalienable aspect of human reason, moral status, and humanity in general. In the civil arena he favors, like most moderns, the maximum "freedom compatible with the freedom of others." And this civic "golden rule" would presumably constitute a moral indicator. However, Kant's Lutheran interpretation of "freedom" would not be that of the utilitarian or liberal.

But again, the CA is not some commandment to behave identically or to "act only as your neighbor acts." It is aimed at abstract moral contradictions, not the content and consequences of specific actions. It does not directly specify actions, but rather the constraints upon actions. It is, risking circularity, to act in such a way as to allow your neighbor to likewise act freely, rationally, and thus morally.

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