Formula of Universal Law and Formula of Humanity

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This discussion will require you to have carefully read Chapter 4 of the textbook, as well as the assigned portions of Immanuel Kant’s (2008) Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals.

Kant’s text and the textbook discuss two “formulations” or ways of expressing Kant’s Categorical Imperative, the “Formula of Universal Law” and the “Formula of Humanity.” For each formula, Kant considers four test cases to explain how it applies: Suicide, False Promises, Cultivating One’s Talents, and Beneficence.

1. Engage with the text:

Choose one of these test cases (it can be from either formula), and explain in your own words the reasoning that leads to the conclusion Kant defends. You should first explain the Categorical Imperative itself, focusing on the particular formula you are considering, and then carefully show how that principle leads to a particular conclusion.

2. Reflect on the theories:

Would a utilitarian come to a different conclusion? If so, explain why. If a utilitarian would come to the same conclusion in this case, could there be a variation in the case that would lead the utilitarian and Kant to come to different conclusions?

3. Reflect on yourself:

Do you agree with Kant’s conclusion? If not, explain the flaws in his reasoning. If you do agree, and you think a utilitarian would come to a different conclusion in this or a slightly varied case, why do you think that Kant’s reasoning is superior to the utilitarian’s? (You may want to consult section 4.3, “Challenges to Kant’s Theory” for help with this section). Post must be minimum 200 words.

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