The capacity that underlies deciding what is moral is called pure practical reason, which is contrasted with pure reason (the capacity to know without having been shown) and mere practical reason (which allows us to interact with the world in experience). Hypothetical imperatives tell us which means best achieve our ends. They do not, however, tell us which ends we should choose. The typical dichotomy in choosing ends is between ends that are "right" (e.g., helping someone) and those that are "good" (e.g., enriching oneself). Kant considered the "right" superior to the "good"; to him, the "good" was morally irrelevant. In Kant's view, a person cannot decide whether conduct is "right," or moral, through empirical means. Such judgments must be reached a priori, using pure practical reason.
Reason, separate from all empirical experience, can determine the principle according to which all ends can be determined as moral. It is this fundamental principle of moral reason that is known as the categorical imperative. Pure practical reason in the process of determining it dictates what ought to be done without reference to empirical contingent factors. Moral questions are determined independent of reference to the particular subject posing them. It is because morality is determined by pure practical reason rather than particular empirical or sensuous factors that morality is universally valid. This moral universalism has come to be seen as the distinctive aspect of Kant's moral philosophy and has had wide social impact in the legal and political concepts of human rights and equality.