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Jacques Louis David, The Oath of the Horatii, 1784 - page 33 / 80

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PRUDENCE AND DUTY I

If we looked at promise keeping as a hypothetical imperative which says: ‘If you want to be liked, then keep your promises,’ then it might be thought to be prudent to keep your promises given that objective.

Hypothetical imperatives, such as, ‘if you want a good grade, then study hard,’ are said to be prudential.

However, since a law which says that it is okay to break promises cannot be universalized, keeping promises is unconditional, and, as such, is something which we have a duty to do.

The categorical imperative is moral then rather than prudential.

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