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A Critique of the Practical Contradiction Procedure for Testing Maxims

  • Shawn D. Kaplan (a1)

Emerging from the growing swell of recent literature concerning Kant's practical philosophy, one interpretation of his procedure for testing maxims has crested above others. The influential interpretation to which I refer believes that the categorical imperative guides a procedure that finds maxims impermissible when they cannot be universalized without producing a 'practical' contradiction. As a major proponent of the practical contradiction interpretation, Christine Korsgaard claims that, while there is textual support for this point of view, she is more concerned with developing a defensible interpretation of maxim testing for a ‘Kantian’ system of morality. Accordingly, one cannot simply attempt to evaluate such a theory solely by considering its various incongruities with Kant's specific claims and arguments. Instead, my evaluation of the practical contradiction interpretation will examine: (a) whether it is a procedure that is applicable to a full range of maxims; (b) whether it maintains a distinct advantage over the alternative readings; and (c) whether it is an internally coherent and consistent model for testing maxims. I propose, here, that regardless of the practical contradiction test's many advantages, it fails with regard to all three of these questions.

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Jonathan Harrison , ‘Kant's examples of the first formulation of the categorical imperative’, in Kant: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Robert Paul Wolff (New York: Anchor Books, 1967), pp. 228–45

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Kantian Review
  • ISSN: 1369-4154
  • EISSN: 2044-2394
  • URL: /core/journals/kantian-review
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