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On What MattersVolume Two$
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Derek Parfit

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199572816

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199572816.001.0001

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On a Mismatch of Methods

On a Mismatch of Methods

Chapter:
(p.169) 20 On a Mismatch of Methods
Source:
On What Matters
Author(s):

Samuel Scheffler

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199572816.003.0008

This chapter talks about Immanuel Kant's Formula of Universal Law, which says it is wrong to act on any maxim that we could not rationally will to be universal. It argues that this formula fails because there are many maxims on which it is sometimes but not always wrong to act, citing as examples the Egoistic maxim ‘Do whatever would be best for me’ and the maxim ‘Never lie’, which it claims cannot be rationally willed to be universal. The imagined Egoist does not act wrongly when he acts on his maxim by keeping his promises, paying his debts, and saving a drowning child. Nor would it be wrong to act on the maxim ‘Never lie’ by telling someone the correct time. The chapter also comments on Barbara Herman's suggestion that Kant's Formula of Universal Law cannot provide a criterion of wrongness and that the Egoist acts wrongly. Finally, it considers Herman's objections to Kantian Contractualism.

Keywords:   maxims, Immanuel Kant, Formula of Universal Law, Egoist, Barbara Herman, wrongness, Contractualism

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