The Problem with Using a Maxim Permissibility Test to Derive Obligations

Authors

  • Samuel Kahn

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.3384/de-ethica.2001-8819.227131

Keywords:

Kant’s ethics, Kantian ethics, Positive duties, Universalizability tests, Formula of universal law, Formula of a law of nature

Abstract

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.

References

Harrison, Jonathan. 1957. “Kant’s Examples of the First Formulation of the Categorical Imperative.” Philosophical Quarterly Vol. 7, No. 26: 50-62. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/2216346

Herman, Barbara. 1993. The Practice of Moral Judgment. Harvard University Press.

Kahn, Samuel. 2021. ”Obligatory Actions, Obligatory Maxims.” Kantian Review Vol. 26, No. 1: 1-25. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S136941542000028X

Kitcher, Patricia. 2004. “Kant’s Argument for the Categorical Imperative.” Nous Vol. 38, No. 4: 555-584. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0029-4624.2004.00484.x

Korsgaard, Christine. 1996. Creating the Kingdom of Ends. Cambridge University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139174503

Wood, Allen. 1999. Kant’s Ethical Thought. Cambridge University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139173254

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Published

2022-06-23

How to Cite

Kahn, S. (2022) “The Problem with Using a Maxim Permissibility Test to Derive Obligations”, De Ethica, 7(1), pp. 31–40. doi: 10.3384/de-ethica.2001-8819.227131.

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Articles