The Problem with Using a Maxim Permissibility Test to Derive Obligations
Keywords:Kant’s ethics, Kantian ethics, Positive duties, Universalizability tests, Formula of universal law, Formula of a law of nature
The purpose of this paper is to show that, if Kant’s universalization formulations of the Categorical Imperative are our only standards for judging right from wrong and permissible from impermissible, then we have no obligations. I shall do this by examining five different views of how obligations can be derived from the universalization formulations and arguing that each one fails. I shall argue that the first view rests on a misunderstanding of the universalization formulations; the second on a misunderstanding of the concept of an obligation; the third on a misunderstanding of the concept of a maxim; the fourth on a misunderstanding of the limits of action description; and the fifth on a misunderstanding of the universalization formulations again.
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