Canadian Journal of Philosophy 37 (4):547-579 (2007)

Lara Denis
Agnes Scott College
The formula of universal law (FUL) is a natural starting point for philosophers interested in a Kantian perspective on the morality of abortion. I argue, however, that FUL does not yield much in the way of promising or substantive conclusions regarding the morality of abortion. I first reveal how two philosophers' (Hare's and Gensler's) attempts to use Kantian considerations of universality and prescriptivity fail to provide analyses of abortion that are either compelling or true to Kant=s understanding of FUL. I then turn to some recent interpretations of Kant=s FUL contradiction in conception (CC) and contradiction in will (CW) tests. I argue that none of the interpretations of the CC testBincluding the practical interpretation favored by KorsgaardBdoes much to reveal moral problems with maxims of abortion. The CW test (as developed by Herman) is more helpful. Nevertheless, I argue that neither by considering abortion maxims as a subset of maxims of convenience killing, nor by considering such maxims as maxims of refusing to aid, can the CW test generate a general prohibition of abortion. At best, the CW test illuminates the abortion issue because by forcing us to think about how killing a fetus differs from killing other human beings, what attitudes we may reasonably have toward a fetus, and whether Kant's moral theory must be amended to do justice to the problem of abortion. But to pursue these questions, we must look beyond FUL; Kant’s formula of humanity and doctrine of virtue may well have more to offer.
Keywords Kantian ethics  formula of universal law  abortion
Categories (categorize this paper)
ISBN(s) 0045-5091
DOI 10.1353/cjp.2008.0001
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 65,599
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Why Abortion is Immoral.Don Marquis - 1989 - Journal of Philosophy 86 (4):183-202.
The Practice of Moral Judgment.Thomas E. Hill - 1995 - Journal of Philosophy 92 (1):47.
Kant on Duties Regarding Nonrational Nature.Allen W. Wood - 1998 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 72 (1):189–210.

View all 19 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Kantianism and Mere Means.Christopher A. Brown - 2010 - Environmental Ethics 32 (3):267-284.
Animality and Agency: A Kantian Approach to Abortion.Lara Denis - 2008 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 76 (1):117-37.
Reason Alone Cannot Identify Moral Laws.Noriaki Iwasa - 2013 - Journal of Value Inquiry 47 (1-2):67-85.
Abortion, Society, and the Law. Edited by David F. Walbert & J. Douglas Butler.David F. Walbert - 1973 - Cleveland [Ohio]Press of Case Western Reserve University.
From the Good Will to the Formula of Universal Law.Samuel C. Rickless - 2004 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 68 (3):554-577.


Added to PP index

Total views
504 ( #16,012 of 2,462,131 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
11 ( #65,013 of 2,462,131 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes