The Universal Law (FUL) and the Law of Nature (FLN)

Henry E. Allison

in Kant's Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199691531
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731808 | DOI:
The Universal Law (FUL) and the Law of Nature (FLN)

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This chapter deals with three topics: (1) the move from the universal law formula (FUL) of the categorical imperative to the formula of the law of nature (FLN); (2) Kant’s application of the latter to examples of four types of duty; (3) an analysis of the counter-examples to Kant’s applications. We learn that the move from FUL to FLN is motivated by the need to find the form of a law on the basis of which maxims can be tested for their conformity to the imperative. This is known as the “universalizability test” and Kant applies it to maxims of suicide, false promising, neglecting one’s talents, and non-benevolence, all of which fail the test and are rejected as morally impermissible. After considering each case, the rest of the chapter discusses proposed counter-examples to Kant’s procedure (“false positives” and “false negatives”) that are found in the literature.

Keywords: categorical imperative; false promising; formula of law of nature; formula of universal law; neglecting one’s talents; non-benevolence; suicide; universalizability test

Chapter.  16025 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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