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Which of Kant's formulations of the categorical imperative offers the most plausible account of what it is for an act to be right?

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Jonathan Sudaria Which of Kant's formulations of the categorical imperative offers the most plausible account of what it is for an act to be right? In "Groundworks of the Metaphysic of Morals" Immanuel Kant proposes that good will is the only thing which is good and that a person should "act only under that maxim which he would will to be universal" (273); Kant calls that test for morality the Categorical Imperative. Kant believes that the CI can be formulated in several different ways, a. The Formula of Universal Law b. The Formula of the End in Itself c. The Formula of the Kingdom of Ends Kant upheld scientific laws as the model rational principles. A characteristic of scientific laws is that they are universal, such as the law that when heated, gas will expand. Kant thought that moral laws or principles must have universality to be rational. Kant derives the categorical imperative out of the notion that we should be willing to adopt those moral principle that can be universalized, that is, those which we can imagine that everyone could act upon or adopt as their principle. Thus the first formulation of the categorical imperative is: "Act only on that maxim which you can will as a universal law." ...read more.


the maxim, he is willing that his own interest not be promoted "since many a situation might arise in which the man needed love and sympathy from others, and in which, by such a law of nature sprung from his own will, he would rob himself of all hope of the help he wants for himself." Thus his will is in conflict with itself. Suppose someone were to argue that he is prepared to will that all act on the maxim of helping others only when it is in their own interest. He might be sufficiently securely set up that it would pay him on balance for all to act on this maxim since he would forego having to help others and would almost always be able to get whatever help he needed by paying for it (of course, there may well be kinds of help he might need that cannot be bought). It would seem, then, that, while it might be wrong for some people to refuse to giver aid to others unless it was in their interest (because they could not rationally will that all act on the maxim), it might not be wrong for a person such as above According to Kant, as rational beings, we are self-directed beings. ...read more.


every rational being as one who must regard himself as making universal law by all the maxims of his will, and must seek to judge himself and his actions from this point of view, leads to a closely connected and very fruitful concept-namely, that of a kingdom of ends". Kants maxim of the Kingdom of Ends is an attractive moral position and one that seeks to respect each persons individuality in way similar to Utilitarianism. Rawls in the 'Theory of Justice' suggests we understand Kant as asking, not what principles we would will to be universal law from our own individual situations,with the knowledge of our social status, natural endowments, race, sex, and what we individually value. Rather, we should ask what principles it would be rational for a person to will that all be governed by were we to make that choice from a 'position of ignorance' about our own individual situations. Behind a veil of ignorance, all persons have the same interests as rational persons. On this "Rawlsian" interpretation, what Kant's CI is really asking is that we act only on maxims that would not conflict with principles that it would be rational to choose as universal law from behind a 'veil of ignorance'. "Groundwork of Metaphysics of Morals" - Kant "The Categorical Imperative" - Paton "The Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory" -LaFollette ...read more.

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