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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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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 29 November 2021

On a Mismatch of Methods

On a Mismatch of Methods

(p.169) 20 On a Mismatch of Methods
On What Matters

Samuel Scheffler

Oxford University Press

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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