Kant: Formulas of Universal Law and Humanity

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Karthik Keni
William Reckner
Philosophy 22
30 November 2010
Kant: Formulas of Universal Law and Humanity
Kant’s philosophy was based around the theory that we have a moral unconditional obligation and duty that he calls the “Categorical Imperative.” He believes that an action must be done with a motive of this moral obligation, and if not done with this intention then the action would hold no moral value. Under this umbrella of the “Categorical Imperative” he presents three formulations that he believes to be about equal in importance, relevance, and could be tested towards any case. The first formulation known as the Formula of Universal Law consists of a methodical way to find out morality of actions. The second formulation is known as the Formula of Humanity that states we should find value in people themselves rather than use them for our own objectives and purposes. In the case given of the doctor’s moral dilemma, we will test the moral obligation using Kant’s first formulation, try to determine whether Kant would suggest the same advice using both formulas, and see if tweaking the situation would render the same answer to mirror the previous scenario.

The Formulation of Universal Law is stated when performing an “act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law.” Four steps to determine the morality of certain actions and whether a maxim could be a universal law characterize the formulation. First, we would find out the general principle we would be acting on to perform a certain action. The next step would be to generalize the maxim and make it applicable to everyone. Finally, you would determine if the maxim could actually become a universal law. The last step of the formulation requires delving into the issue of whether we could will this maxim into a universal law and whether it would be rational. However, I saw it more as a two-part process because it’s simply put as someone...
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