Yu-hwa Sharon Song

PHI 1700

TTH 11:10AM-12:25PM

Essay #2

Explain Kant’s Formula of Universal Law, and provide a detailed example of your own to illustrate how the Formula of Universal Law works. Do you think the Formula of Universal Law works as a method for deriving universal moral laws? What, in your opinion, is the best criticism of the Formula of Universal Law?

        Kant’s Formula of Universal Law branches from categorical imperatives, which according to Kant, is what makes morality. In order to understand the Formula of Universal Law, we must first briefly define what categorical imperatives are. Moral statements can only be expressed in command forms, so categorical imperatives are commands that disregard what you want. A person’s predispositions don’t matter. It is unconditional and does not contain an “if” clause for a command is naturally absolute regardless of what you want or don’t want.

On the lines of being absolute and unconditional Kant wanted a structure based on that and thus, came up with the Formula of Universal Law.  This law states: Act always in such a way that you can at the same time will the maxim of your action to become universal law. This simply means that when you perform an action, you must be able to first pick out and filter the maxim, or principle, of the action. Then, you must be able to apply that maxim/principle to everyone in the universe without exception. But, if you are not willing to universalize the maxim, then you cannot perform that action. For example, let’s say I just got home from exercising and I am about to take a shower. The maxim/principle of my action is, ‘I ought to take a shower.’ The question I must then ask myself is: Am I willing to universalize the maxim and change it to ‘everyone ought to take a shower’? If my answer to this question is ‘no’ I am forbid to perform this action of taking a shower. Obviously in this case I would be willing to universalize it, so I can take a shower.

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Kant strongly stresses that all human beings are rational. Rationality necessitate for people to be impartial and consistent so you should be able to apply the same rule to yourself and other human beings and vice versa. Because of this, he knows that no one would be able to get away with morally bad actions because he/she would not be willing to universalize it. For example, if the maxim was, ‘I ought to steal’, I wouldn’t want to universalize it because I wouldn’t want it to be okay for anyone to steal from me. Therefore, I would not be able ...

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