Immanuel Kant 's Universal Law Test Essay

Immanuel Kant 's Universal Law Test Essay

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In this paper, I will argue that Immanuel Kant’s universal law test is a form of consequentialism. I will begin by explaining Kant’s formulation of his Categorical Imperative, and the moral theories on which it relies. Next, I will introduce John Stuart Mill’s criticism of Kant’s moral theory, and explain why I believe that he is correct in claiming that Kant’s arguments ultimately rely on utilitarian principles.
In his book Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant argues that “There is no possibility of thinking of anything at all… which can be regarded as good without qualifications, except a good will” (7). He explains that any other quality, even those usually considered virtuous, can be applied to either malevolent or benevolent ends (7). Kant claims that it is therefore the will guiding an action, rather than the nature of the act itself that that determines its moral worth. He further claims that the actual result of the action is equally irrelevant to the action’s morality, writing that “A good will is good not because of what it effects or accomplishes, nor because of its fitness to attain some proposed end… it is good in itself” (7). Because Kant does not consider the actual outcome caused by an action to be determinant of the action’s goodness, his moral theory is often considered to be distinct from, or even in contradiction with utilitarian principles. However, he does believe that there are actions that a rational person with a good will avoids, saying that “the concept of a will estimable in itself and good without regard to any further end must now be developed. This concept already dwells in the natural sound understanding and needs not so much to be taught... Therefore, we shall take up the concept of duty,...


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...he law is self-defeating. The act of making false promises would be perfectly possible under this universal law, even if the promises are unlikely to be believed. For Kant to successfully claim that the making of a false promise is not in accordance with duty using the Categorical Imperative, he would have to show that a universal law allowing for such action is necessarily impossible. Instead, he merely demonstrates that it would lead to an undesirable result.
In conclusion, the universal law test of Kant’s Categorical Imperative is, for all practical purposes, merely an appeal to consequences. Although Kant defines it in such a way as to make it appear distinct from utilitarian principles, his application of the test in his example concerning false promises demonstrates that it is the ultimately the consequences of an action that determines whether or not it passe

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