Kant: the Universal Law Formation of the Categorical Imperative
Kantian philosophy outlines the Universal Law Formation of the Categorical Imperative as a method for determining morality of actions. This formula is a two part test. First, one creates a maxim and considers whether the maxim could be a universal law for all rational beings. Second, one determines whether rational beings would will it to be a universal law. Once it is clear that the maxim passes both prongs of the test, there are no exceptions. As a paramedic faced with a distraught widow who asks whether her late husband suffered in his accidental death, you must decide which maxim to create and based on the test which action to perform. The maxim "when answering a widow's inquiry as to the nature and duration of her late husbands death, one should always tell the truth regarding the nature of her late husband's death" (M1) passes both parts of the Universal Law Formation of the Categorical Imperative. Consequently, according to Kant, M1 is a moral action.
The initial stage of the Universal Law Formation of the Categorical Imperative requires that a maxim be universally applicable to all rational beings. M1 succeeds in passing the first stage. We can easily imagine a world in which paramedics always answer widows truthfully when queried. Therefore, this maxim is logical and everyone can abide by it without causing a logical impossibility. The next logical step is to apply the second stage of the test. The second requirement is that a rational being would will this maxim to become a universal law. In testing this part, you must decide whether in every case, a rational being would believe that the morally correct action is to tell the truth. First, it is clear that the widow expects to know the truth. A lie would only serve to spare her feelings if she believed it to be the truth. Therefore, even people who would consider lying to her, must concede that the correct and...
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