A Contradiction of the Right Kind: Convenience Killing and Kant’s Formula of Universal Law

Philosophical Quarterly 69 (274):64-81 (2019)
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One of the most important difficulties facing Kant’s Formula of Universal Law (FUL) is its apparent inability to show that it is always impermissible to kill others for the sake of convenience. This difficulty has led current Kantian ethicists to de-emphasize the FUL or at least complement it with other Kantian principles when dealing with murder. The difficulty stems from the fact that the maxim of convenience killing fails to generate a ‘contradiction in conception’, producing only a ‘contradiction in the will’ when subjected to the two-fold test associated with the FUL. This result is thought to imply that the FUL allows us sometimes to kill for the sake of convenience. In this essay, I argue that the very diagnosis of the problem rests on a mistake, and that if the maxim of convenience killing generates a contradiction in the will, then acting on it is never permissible.
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First archival date: 2018-09-21
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