عنوان مقاله [English]
Immanuel Kant presents several formulations of the categorical imperative, first of which is called “Formula of Universal Law” containing the well-known generalizability test. Numerous pros and cons have been associated with the nature and application of this formula in the history of moral philosophy, each with its staunch supporters and opponents. In this paper, we will first review the nature of this formula and its position in Kant's moral system. Second, we will evaluate its application in practice and argue that some thinkers have not fully grasped Kant's purpose and have attributed improper defects to this formula. Third, Shelly Kagan's consequential interpretation of the general formula will be investigated to figure out whether it is possible to draw consequential normative sentences from this formula. Finally, we will evaluate alleged criticisms against this formula in the history of moral philosophy in some detail.
Keywords: Formula of Universal Law, Generalizability, strict and wide judgments, acceptable and unacceptable in ethics, Kantian consequentialism
1. Introduction, Objectıve
In this article, we will examine the first formula of Kant's ethics which is called Universal Law. In the history of moral philosophy, different interpretations of this formula have been offered. Some commentators have considered it the best and most important of Kant's moral formulas, while some others have deemed it completely futile. In our opinion, both groups must rethink their positions. In Kant's ethics, the general formula is very important, but it should be used in the right place. It also seems that in the normative ethics section, the second formula (human as an end in itself) is the most important and most practical form of Kantian ethics. Therefore, once the true meaning of the first formula is considered, many objections and misunderstandings are resolved.
2. Fındıngs And Argument
This article is divided into four main sections:
2.1 Theoretical explanation of the universal formulation
In this section, we refer to the position of generalization and rationality in Kant's ethics and discuss the circumstances that a rule (maxim) requires to become law.
2.2. Application of the universal formula
How can we use this formula? Are all rules that pass the generalizability test obligatory or ethical? Is "Whistling in the dark while lonely" a moral behavior because it is generalizable? Our answer is negative. We explain our point of view and prove it by referring to the works of Kant and his commentators.
2.3. Universal formula and consequentialism
Shelly Kagan thinks that we can separate Kant and Kantian ethics and then we can speak of Kantian consequentialism. This section will briefly explain and analyze this theory and Kagan's reasons. In our opinion, Kant is not a consequentialist per se and his formula is not consequential, but with some modifications this theory is tenable.
Two important objections have been made to Kant's universal formula: a) Generalizability may prohibit items that are not immoral; b) Generalizability may allow things that are immoral. We will examine these two issues. Concerning the first, it seems that these critics do not know the right place to use the formula and also don't understand Kant's purpose of constructing this formula. In fact, in this formula Kant intends to help moral people who do not really know the correct option, and he also wants to prevent selfishpeople who want to exempt themselves from fulfillingtheir duties. Concerning the second, it should be said their maxims do not pass the test at all.
The general formula is Kant's most formal statement of the categorical imperative and provides the moral agent with the generalizability test. The function of this formula is not to put everything into a generalizability test. It has a more general function which, for the most part, is to determine the domain of permissible and impermissible behaviors. Concerning the problem of consequentialism, neither Kant nor this formula has such an attribute but we can establish a Kantian moral system that is consequential. Finally, regarding the two above-mentioned criticisms, both seem to be due to misunderstanding.
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