Kant's universal law formula revisited

S. Nyholm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


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 human- ity 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 inter- pretative wrongs, and finds that the universal law formula is not open to many of the standard objections
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)280-299
Number of pages20
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015


  • Kant
  • laws of nature
  • maxims
  • the humanity formula
  • universal law formula


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