Kant's Arguments for His Formula of Universal Law

Derek Parfit

in The Egalitarian Conscience

Published in print March 2006 | ISBN: 9780199281688
Published online May 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780191603747 | DOI:
Kant's Arguments for His Formula of Universal Law

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This essay considers the structure of the argument for duty in the Kantian context, in which it was most influentially formed. Kant notoriously argues that the supreme principle of morality must be purely formal, by which he means that it does not direct us to act in order to achieve certain ends. Thus, any principle directed to the realization of certain ends must be merely hypothetical in character, and its motivational grounds subjective. It is shown that Kant overlooks a third possibility, namely, that there can be substantive categorical principles that objectively require us to realize certain ends regardless of our inclinations.

Keywords: Parfit; Kant; duty; universal law; contractualism; hypothetical imperatives; categorical imperatives; deontology; teleology; formal principles

Chapter.  6280 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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