Conference Papers  |    |  January 3, 2018

A Formalization of Kant’s Second Formulation of the Categorical Imperative

Conference paper by Martin Mose Bentzen and Felix Lindner. Presented at  ISAIM 2018 – The International Symposium on Artificial Intelligence and Mathematics. Special Session on Formalising Robot Ethics.


We present a formalization and computational implementation of the second formulation of Kant’s categorical imperative. This ethical principle requires an agent to never treat someone merely as a means but always also as an end. Here we interpret this principle in terms of how persons are causally affected by actions. Introducing Kantian causal agency models in which moral patients, actions, goals, and causal influence are represented. We show how to formalize several readings of Kant’s categorical imperative that correspond to Kant’s concept of strict and wide duties towards oneself and others. Stricter versions handle cases where an action directly causally affects oneself or others, whereas the wide version maximizes the number of persons being treated as an end. We discuss limitations of our formalization by pointing to one of Kant’s cases that the machinery cannot handle in a satisfying way.