Expanding the Limits of Universalization: Kant's Duties and Kantian Moral Deliberation

Canadian Journal of Philosophy 33 (1):23 - 47 (2003)
Abstract
Despite all the attention given to Kant’s universalizability tests, one crucial aspect of Kant’s thought is often overlooked. Attention to this issue, I will argue, helps us resolve two serious problems for Kant’s ethics. Put briefly, the first problem is this: Kant, despite his stated intent to the contrary, doesn’t seem to use universalization in arguing for duties to oneself, and, anyway, it is not at all clear why duties to oneself should be grounded on a procedure that envisions a world in which everyone wills the contrary of those duties. The second, more global problem is that if we follow Barbara Herman in holding that Kantian ethics can provide a structure for moral deliberation, we need an interpretation of the universalization procedure that unproblematically allows it to generate something like prima facie duties to guide that deliberation; but it is not at all clear that we have such an interpretation. I argue here that if we expand our limited way of thinking about universalization, we can solve the first problem and work towards a solution to the second. We can begin by recalling that Kant’s ‘Law of Nature’ formulation (FLN) of the Categorical Imperative obligates us to ‘act as if the maxim of your action were to become by your will a universal law of nature’ (G, 421).
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