Contradiction and Kant's Formula of Universal Law

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
1654 Downloads (Pure)


Kant’s most prominent formulation of the Categorical Imperative, known as the Formula of Universal Law (FUL), is generally thought to demand that one act only on maxims that one can will as universal laws without this generating a contradiction. Kant's view is standardly summarized as requiring the 'universalizability' of one's maxims and described in terms of the distinction between 'contradictions in conception' and 'contradictions in the will'. Focussing on the underappreciated significance of the simultaneity condition included in the FUL, I argue, by contrast, that the principle is better read as requiring that one be able to will two things simultaneously without self-contradiction, namely, that a maxim be one's own and that it be a universal law. This amounts to a new interpretation of the FUL with significant interpretive and philosophical advantages.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-115
Number of pages27
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Immanuel Kant
  • Formula of Universal Law
  • Categorical Imperative
  • contradiction
  • maxim
  • volitional self-contradiction

Cite this