Through his family pastor, Immanuel Kant received the opportunity to study at the newly founded Collegium Fredericianum, proceeding to the University of Konigsberg, where he was introduced to Wolffian philosophy and modern natural science by the philosopher Martin Knutzen. From to , he served as tutor in various households near Konigsberg. Between and , Kant published treatises on a number of scientific and philosophical subjects, including one in which he originated the nebular hypothesis of the origin of the solar system. Lambert and Moses Mendelssohn, but a professorship eluded Kant until he was over In Kant finally published his great work, the Critique of Pure Reason. Then, partly through the influence of former student J.
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Preface[ edit ] In the preface to the Groundwork Kant motivates the need for pure moral philosophy and makes some preliminary remarks to situate his project and explain his method of investigation.
Kant opens the preface with an affirmation of the ancient Greek idea of a threefold division of philosophy into logic, physics, and ethics. Logic is purely formal—it deals only with the form of thought itself, not with any particular objects. Physics and ethics, on the other hand, deal with particular objects: physics is concerned with the laws of nature, ethics with the laws of freedom.
Additionally, logic is an a priori discipline, i. By contrast, physics and ethics are mixed disciplines, containing empirical and non-empirical parts. The empirical part of physics deals with contingently true phenomena, like what kind of physical entities there are and the relations in which they stand; the non-empirical part deals with fundamental concepts like space, time, and matter.
Similarly, ethics contains an empirical part, which deals with the question of what—given the contingencies of human nature—tends to promote human welfare, and a non-empirical part, which is concerned with an a priori investigation into the nature and substance of morality.
Given that the moral law, if it exists, is universal and necessary, the only appropriate means to investigate it is through a priori rational reflection. Thus, a correct theoretical understanding of morality requires a metaphysics of morals. The purpose of the Groundwork is to prepare a foundation for moral theory.
Because Kant believes that any fact which is grounded in empirical knowledge must be contingent, he can only derive the necessity that the moral law requires from a priori reasoning. It is with this significance of necessity in mind that the Groundwork attempts to establish a pure a priori ethics. Section One[ edit ] In section one, Kant argues from common sense morality to the supreme principle of morality, which he calls the categorical imperative.
The Good Will Kant thinks that, with the exception of the good will , all goods are qualified. By qualified, Kant means that those goods are good insofar as they presuppose or derive their goodness from something else. Take wealth as an example. Wealth can be extremely good if it is used for human welfare, but it can be disastrous if a corrupt mind is behind it. In a similar vein, we often desire intelligence and take it to be good, but we certainly would not take the intelligence of an evil genius to be good.
The good will, by contrast, is good in itself. What guides the will in those matters is inclination. The argument is based on the assumption that our faculties have distinct natural purposes for which they are most suitable, and it is questionable whether Kant can avail himself of this sort of argument.
The Three Propositions Regarding Duty The teleological argument, if flawed, still offers that critical distinction between a will guided by inclination and a will guided by reason. That will which is guided by reason, Kant will argue, is the will that acts from duty. Although Kant never explicitly states what the first proposition is, it is clear that its content is suggested by the following common-sense observation. Because this person acts from duty, his actions have moral worth.
Kant thinks our actions only have moral worth and deserve esteem when they are motivated by duty. Scholars disagree about the precise formulation of the first proposition. One interpretation asserts that the missing proposition is that an act has moral worth only when its agent is motivated by respect for the law, as in the case of the man who preserves his life only from duty.
Another interpretation asserts that the proposition is that an act has moral worth only if the principle acted upon generates moral action non-contingently. If the shopkeeper in the above example had made his choice contingent upon what would serve the interests of his business, then his act has no moral worth. A maxim of an action is its principle of volition. By this, Kant means that the moral worth of an act depends not on its consequences, intended or real, but on the principle acted upon.
Kant combines these two propositions into a third proposition, a complete statement of our common sense notions of duty. The Categorical Imperative Kant thinks that all of our actions, whether motivated by inclination or morality, must follow some law. For example, if a person wants to qualify for nationals in ultimate frisbee, he will have to follow a law that tells him to practice his backhand pass, among other things.
Notice, however, that this law is only binding on the person who wants to qualify for nationals in ultimate frisbee. In this way, it is contingent upon the ends that he sets and the circumstances that he is in. We know from the third proposition, however, that the moral law must bind universally and necessarily, that is, regardless of ends and circumstances. Thus, Kant arrives at his well-known categorical imperative, the moral law referenced in the above discussion of duty.
Kant begins Section II of the Groundwork by criticizing attempts to begin moral evaluation with empirical observation. He states that even when we take ourselves to be behaving morally, we cannot be at all certain that we are purely motivated by duty and not by inclinations.
Kant observes that humans are quite good at deceiving themselves when it comes to evaluating their motivations for acting, and therefore even in circumstances where individuals believe themselves to be acting from duty, it is possible they are acting merely in accordance with duty and are motivated by some contingent desire.
However, the fact that we see ourselves as often falling short of what morality demands of us indicates we have some functional concept of the moral law. Kant begins his new argument in Section II with some observations about rational willing. All things in nature must act according to laws, but only rational beings act in accordance with the representation of a law. In other words, only rational beings have the capacity to recognize and consult laws and principles in order to guide their actions.
Thus, only rational creatures have practical reason. The laws and principles that rational agents consult yield imperatives, or rules that necessitate the will. For example, if a person wants to qualify for nationals in ultimate frisbee, he will recognize and consult the rules that tell him how to achieve this goal.
These rules will provide him with imperatives that he must follow as long as he wants to qualify for nationals. Imperatives Imperatives are either hypothetical or categorical. Hypothetical imperatives provide the rules an agent must follow when he or she adopts a contingent end an end based on desire or inclination. So, for example, if I want ice cream, I should go to the ice cream shop or make myself some ice cream.
But notice that this imperative only applies if I want ice cream. If I have no interest in ice cream, the imperative does not apply to me. Kant thinks that there are two types of hypothetical imperative—rules of skill and counsels of prudence. Rules of skill are determined by the particular ends we set and tell us what is necessary to achieve those particular ends. However, Kant observes that there is one end that we all share, namely our own happiness.
Unfortunately, it is difficult, if not impossible, to know what will make us happy or how to achieve the things that will make us happy. Therefore, Kant argues, we can at best have counsels of prudence, as opposed to outright rules.
The Categorical Imperative Recall that the moral law, if it exists, must apply universally and necessarily. Therefore, a moral law could never rest on hypothetical imperatives, which only apply if one adopts some particular end. Rather, the imperative associated with the moral law must be a categorical imperative. The categorical imperative holds for all rational agents, regardless of whatever varying ends a person may have. If we could find it, the categorical imperative would provide us with the moral law.
What would the categorical imperative look like? We know that it could never be based on the particular ends that people adopt to give themselves rules of action. Kant thinks that this leaves us with one remaining alternative, namely that the categorical imperative must be based on the notion of a law itself. Laws or commands , by definition, apply universally. From this observation, Kant derives the categorical imperative, which requires that moral agents act only in a way that the principle of their will could become a universal law.
The Formula of the Universal Law of Nature The first formulation states that an action is only morally permissible if every agent could adopt the same principle of action without generating one of two kinds of contradiction. This formula is called the Formula for the Universal Law of Nature. For example, suppose a person in need of money makes it his or her maxim to attain a loan by making a false promise to pay it back. If everyone followed this principle, nobody would trust another person when he or she made a promise, and the institution of promise-making would be destroyed.
But, the maxim of making a false promise in order to attain a loan relies on the very institution of promise-making that universalizing this maxim destroys. For example, a person might have a maxim never to help others when they are in need.
However, Kant thinks that all agents necessarily wish for the help of others from time to time. Therefore, it is impossible for the agent to will that his or her maxim be universally adopted. If an attempt to universalize a maxim results in a contradiction in conception, it violates what Kant calls a perfect duty. If it results in a contradiction in willing, it violates what Kant calls an imperfect duty. Perfect duties are negative duties, that is duties not to commit or engage in certain actions or activities for example theft.
Imperfect duties are positive duties, duties to commit or engage in certain actions or activities for example, giving to charity. In the Groundwork, Kant says that perfect duties never admit of exception for the sake of inclination n , which is sometimes taken to imply that imperfect duties do admit of exception for the sake of inclination.
However, in a later work The Metaphysics of Morals , Kant suggests that imperfect duties only allow for flexibility in how one chooses to fulfill them. Kant thinks that we have perfect and imperfect duties both to ourselves and to others.
The Formula of Humanity The second formulation of the categorical imperative is the Formula of Humanity, which Kant arrives at by considering the motivating ground of the categorical imperative.
Because the moral law is necessary and universal, its motivating ground must have absolute worth Were we to find something with such absolute worth, an end in itself, that would be the only possible ground of a categorical imperative. However, Kant thinks that we also have an imperfect duty to advance the end of humanity.
This is, therefore, a violation of a perfect duty. By contrast, it is possible to fail to donate to charity without treating some other person as a mere means to an end, but in doing so we fail to advance the end of humanity, thereby violating an imperfect duty. The Formula for the Universal Law of Nature involves thinking about your maxim as if it were an objective law, while the Formula of Humanity is more subjective and is concerned with how you are treating the person with whom you are interacting.
The Formula of Autonomy combines the objectivity of the former with the subjectivity of the latter and suggests that the agent ask what he or she would accept as a universal law. To do this, he or she would test his or her maxims against the moral law that he or she has legislated.
All ends that rational agents set have a price and can be exchanged for one another. Ends in themselves, however, have dignity and have no equivalent. Autonomy is the capacity to be the legislator of the moral law, in other words, to give the moral law to oneself. Because alien forces could only determine our actions contingently, Kant believes that autonomy is the only basis for a non-contingent moral law.
Grounding for the metaphysics of morals
Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals by Immanuel Kant - PDF free download eBook
Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals