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Kant_handout_2 - Philosophy 22 - Kant Notes (2) More on the...

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Philosophy 22 - Kant Notes (2) More on the Formula of Universal Law test (CI procedure): When you bring a maxim of action to the CI procedure, what do you find out? If the maxim fails , it is not permissible to act on that maxim. If the failing maxim is a general policy maxim (e.g., Never help anyone), it is not permissible to adopt that policy. Most ordinary maxims (“brush my teeth before breakfast”) will pass; they are permissible, i.e., neither right nor wrong. If a maxim fails the test, one must (it is morally obligatory to) adopt its contrary. (I must make non -deceitful promises; I must help some people sometimes.) When asked to imagine what would happen if your universalized maxim became a law of nature, you are not considering whether the consequences would be bad. The question is either can the universalized maxim be thought of (i.e. without contradiction) as a law of rationality in the imagined world of the CI procedure, or , if it is a general policy maxim, is it possible to will that there be a world with the general policy maxim as a law and at the same time will all the things one has to will, insofar as one is a rational being. How an action is described affects the test results. Irrelevant specifics corrupt the test. Suppose one’s maxim is to make deceitful promises only on Thursdays. If a maxim fails either test, it is a principle that could not be a law for all rational beings, and so could not be a principle of good willing. If not all rational beings can act on my maxim, then what makes it a suitable principle of action for me must be some feature specific to my situation. And that’s enough to show that the principle cannot be one of a good will. (Sometimes the feature that’s special is that in my actual circumstances, not all persons
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Kant_handout_2 - Philosophy 22 - Kant Notes (2) More on the...

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