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Kant’s Formula of Universal Law Report (Assessment)

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Kant suggested that there is one moral obligation, known as the “Categorical imperative”, and is constituted from the principle of duty. Categorical imperatives are concepts that are known to be suitable; they are valid in and of themselves; they must be followed in any way if our actions is to obey the moral law.

Thus, categorical imperative acts as the basis of moral obligations. Kant’s Formula of Universal Law states: “Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law” (Korsgaard, 2). The formulation suggests that the imperative is both rational and moral.

If it is abused then the subjects are behaving irrationally and immorally. The test for universal acceptance involve: determining the agent’s maxim; imagining that everyone in the same position as the real-world agent observed that maxim; deciding if there is any contradictions generated from the maxim; if there are contradictions, that maxim is unacceptable in the real world; and if no contradiction arise, then the maxim is acceptable.

Kant implies that categorical imperative is an essential law of rationality and therefore morality should be derived from the law because morality ought to apply to every person despite inclination. Besides, an insightful way of viewing the essence of the universal test is to know that it makes it likely for an individual to test his or her reasons to analyze if they are reasons he or she would allow for anyone.

Arriving at a maxim is always a difficult task, considering the fact that everybody is supposed to arrive at the same conclusions in aspects of duty. It is therefore an issue of what you can will should not result into contradiction. A Universal will generates contradiction in conceptions and contradiction in will (Korsgaad, 3).

Summary of Hegel’s Criticism

Hegel argues that the universal law of categorical imperative contradicts itself and it only provides an abstract understanding on the moral principle. The concept of universal law does not always happen in reality but only happens as a theoretical notion. “Act from maxims” implies that we should follow wills that are deemed to be universally acceptable by others.

Sometimes such laws are not always universal. For the realization of duty, Kant has suggested nothing but the form of duty, which is the rule of abstract understanding. For instance, Hegel disagrees with the statement, “to defend one’s fatherland, to promote the happiness of another, is a duty, not because of the content, but because it is a duty”.

The content in the real sense is not what is appropriate universally in the moral principle, since it contradicts itself. With respect to property, Hegel outlines that the respect of property can be a universal principle but the opposite cannot qualify. This is only a formal determination. At times the determination may be absent and therefore there is no disagreement concerned with theft. If there is no property, then it is not respected. That is the problem with Kant’s principle.

Thoughts on the Criticism

Hegel’s arguments do not consider the conditions set by Kant in coming up with a maxim. He uses a one way approach to analyze the theory; the criticism does not provide us with the benefits of the universal law. For instance, Hegel uses a benevolence example by arguing that the statement, “give your belongings to the poor”, is inappropriate.

His stance is that if all offer what they posses, beneficence is done away with; the matter is not what holds good universally in the moral law. However, Kant suggests that logical, teleological, and practical contradictions may arise due to a maxim. The benevolence statement is a form of logical contradiction that is depicted by Hegel. However, giving possessions to the poor does not imply that people perform actions without conscience.

Giving possessions is more than material property as it involves moral support and encouragement. Even though, the criticism is true, Hegel ought to consider that human beings in most cases incorporate other ethical principles, such as the moral rights principle, in coming up with ethical decisions. Different actions are taken in different occasions, time, and places, therefore actions vary.

Work Cited

Korsgaard, Christine M.1985. “Kant’s formula of universal law”. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly. 66, no. 1-2: 24-47.

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