The Universal Law Formula of the Categorical Imperative Essay

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The universal law formula of the categorical imperative ("the CI") is an unconditional moral law stating that one should “act only on that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.” A maxim is the motivating principle or reason for one’s actions. A moral act is an act by which its maxim can become universal law that would apply to all rational creatures. As a universal law, all rational creatures must act according to this maxim. The CI requires one to imagine a world where the maxim one wishes to act by becomes a universal law, in which all people must act according to this maxim. If one wills this maxim to become universal law that all rational creatures must follow, but there is a…show more content…
This is an example of a contradiction in conception. The maxim of deceiving others to get what one wants cannot be acted upon successfully when the maxim is universalized. For deception to be successful, truthfulness must be assumed, but when the maxim is universalized the assumption no longer holds, and therefore, such a world becomes logically impossible because deception cannot successfully occur and communication becomes unreliable. Moreover, when the maxim is willed to become universal law it leads to a contradiction because deception is no longer possible, and thus, acting out of deception to get what one wants is not morally permissible. John Stuart Mill claims that the CI is false, because when applied to certain situations, it may lead to the intuitively wrong conclusion for there would be no contradiction “in the adoption by all rational beings of the most outrageously immoral rules of conduct.” An example illustrating this is as follows: Suppose there is someone with the intention to kill another at the door of one's home. The potential murderer inquires as to whether the person he or she seeks to kill is in their home when in fact the targeted person is in their home. The homeowner wants to keep the person safe, and wishes to act on a maxim that “in order to get what I want, I will deceive this murderer.” Intuitively, lying to save another's life is the morally correct action. When applying the CI, however, this person cannot
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