Kant's Universal Law Formula Revisited

Metaphilosophy 46 (2):280-299 (2015)
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Kantians are increasingly deserting the universal law formula in favor of the humanity formula. The former, they argue, is open to various decisive objections; the two are not equivalent; and it is only by appealing to the humanity formula that Kant can reliably generate substantive implications from his theory of an acceptable sort. These assessments of the universal law formula, which clash starkly with Kant's own assessment of it, are based on various widely accepted interpretative assumptions. These assumptions, it is argued in this article, depend on misleading translations of key terms; selective attention to Kant's concrete examples; not taking seriously Kant's theoretical claims about the relations among his various ideas; and a failure to take into account Kant's idiosyncratic definitions of key concepts. The article seeks to right these interpretative wrongs, and finds that the universal law formula is not open to many of the standard objections.



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Sven Nyholm
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München

Citations of this work

Obligatory Actions, Obligatory Maxims.Samuel Kahn - 2021 - Kantian Review 26 (1):1-25.
Do We Always Act on Maxims?Sven Nyholm - 2017 - Kantian Review 22 (2):233-255.
Thinking about Cases: Applying Kant's Universal Law Formula.Jochen Bojanowski - 2017 - European Journal of Philosophy 26 (4):1253-1268.

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References found in this work

On What Matters: Two-Volume Set.Derek Parfit - 2011 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Creating the Kingdom of Ends.Christine M. Korsgaard - 1996 - New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press.
An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals.David Hume - 1751 - New York,: Oxford University Press UK.

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