Baier's Test for Practical Rules Re-Examined

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In his recent book, Kurt Baier proposed two methods for the testing of moral rules. One method consists in applying the fundamental criteria for such rules: those criteria determined by the formal condition of “universal teachability,” and those criteria (“reversibility” and “universalizability”) which are determined by the material condition that moral rules be “for the good of everyone alike.” But Baier’s analysis of practical reasoning allows for many sorts of rules, not all of which are “moral.” The second method of testing is most generally applicable, and is intended to be sufficient for the validation of every sort of practical, action-guiding rule. In view of the increased attention given to the role of rules in practical deliberation, it would seem that any proposal of a universally sufficient test for practical rules would enjoy serious and sympathetic consideration. Unfortunately, however, most of the written commentary on Baier’s test methods seems to have been preoccupied with a shocking – and I think misleading – statement of Baier’s regarding his second, the more general test. I should like to suggest a new interpretation of this test in order, first, to rebut the presumption that it rests essentially on a logical blunder, and second, to point out where criticism of the test should properly be directed.

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