Formulating Maxims: Defending the Formula of Universal Law Against False Negatives and Positives

Chris Perkins


In this paper, I discuss some counterintuitive results of Kant’s Formula of Universal Law (FUL), known as false positives and negatives. These false results are a critical problem for FUL if they cannot be avoided. I argue that the cause of at least some of these false results is the improper formation of maxims. Rules regulating the creation of maxims would help to prevent false results, and I attempt to develop one such rule. To do this I investigate examples of false results drawn from the work of Allen W. Wood and identify flaws in their maxims. I arrive at a rule that specifics like names, dates and times should not be included in maxims. This is used to show that at least one justifiable rule exists that can eliminate some false results.


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University of Victoria