Third-Party Voting and Kant’s Categorical Imperative

Satyagraha

5d-evil-1One of Kant’s great contributions to ethics is his statement of the principle known as the categorical imperative. This asserts that, for an act to be moral, one must be able to wish that its “maxim be universal,” or, in ordinary terms, one must do only what one believes all others should do in similar circumstances. The categorical imperative is not without difficulties in practice — there are exceptions and questionable cases — but these notwithstanding it is a remarkably powerful principle.

How might it apply to voting in an American presidential election? Consider two alternative strategies, which we’ll call (1) voting the lesser evil, and (2) voting on principle.

Voting the lesser evil has become virtually the norm today. The Democratic and Republican parties nominate horrible candidates. The task is therefore not to vote for the candidate you like, but against the worse of the…

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