This engaging collection of essays on Immanuel Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals covers a wide range of issues raised by Kant's seminal work. Included are interpretive and critical essays concerning Kant's conception of character, the role of happiness and inclination in Kant's arguments, Kant's rejection of earlier moral theories, how to understand "dignity" in the humanity formulation of the categorical imperative, and the metaphysical arguments or lack thereof in the arguments of the third section of the Groundwork. There are eleven essays in total. In some cases these essays are in conversation with each other although not explicitly , offering distinct interpretations of key arguments for example, to what degree the arguments in the third section are metaphysical , and in some cases they stand alone in the collection as treatments of specific issues that arise in the work for example, Alison Hills's essay concerning Kant's conception of happiness and the role it plays in the arguments of the Groundwork. In the interest of space, I will briefly discuss only three representative essays from the volume. This means that I will not be able to discuss most of the excellent essays in this collection: Hills's essay concerning Kant's conception of happiness and how it can provide us with an assertoric imperative "Happiness in the Groundwork " ; Robert Louden's essay concerning the role of examples in Kant's philosophy -- that is, their importance to, as well as their insufficiency for grounding, morality "Making the Law Visible: The Role of Examples in Kant's Ethics" ; Robert Johnson's modest first step in closing the gap between the fact that an agent has to act on universally valid laws and the requirement that these laws be universally willable "The Moral Law as Causal Law" ; Katrin Flikschuh's essay arguing that metaphysical claims must not be ignored as part of Kant's arguments for the categorical imperative especially the kingdom of ends formulation "Kant's Kingdom of Ends: Metaphysical, Not Political" ; J.
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SparkNotes is here for you with everything you need to ace or teach! Find out more. The one thing in the world that is unambiguously good is the "good will.
By contrast, a good will is intrinsically good--even if its efforts fail to bring about positive results. It is a principle of the composition of natural organisms that each of their purposes is served by the organ or faculty most appropriate to that purpose. The highest purposes of each individual are presumably self-preservation and the attainment of happiness.
Reason does not appear to be as well suited as instinct for these purposes. Indeed, people with a refined capacity for reason are often less happy than the masses. As a result, refined people often envy the masses, while common people view reason with contempt. The fact is that reason serves purposes that are higher than individual survival and private happiness.
Reason's function is to bring about a will that is good in itself, as opposed to good for some particular purpose, such as the attainment of happiness. The specific obligations of a good will are called "duties. First, actions are genuinely good when they are undertaken for the sake of duty alone.
People may act in conformity with duty out of some interest or compulsion other than duty. For instance, a grocer has a duty to offer a fair price to all customers, yet grocers abide by this duty not solely out of a sense of duty, but rather because the competition of other grocers compels them to offer the lowest possible price.
Similarly, all people have a duty to help others in distress, yet many people may help others not out of a sense of duty, but rather because it gives them pleasure to spread happiness to other people. A more genuine example of duty would be a person who feels no philanthropic inclination, but who nonetheless works to help others because he or she recognizes that it is a duty to do so.
The second proposition is that actions are judged not according to the purpose they were meant to bring about, but rather by the "maxim" or principle that served as their motivation. This principle is similar to the first. When someone undertakes an action with no other motivation than a sense of duty, they are doing so because they have recognized a moral principle that is valid a priori. By contrast, if they undertake an action in order to bring about a particular result, then they have a motivation beyond mere duty.
The third proposition, also related to the first two, is that duties should be undertaken out of "reverence" for "the law. Chance events could bring about positive results. But only a rational being can recognize a general moral law and act out of respect for it. The "reverence" for law that such a being exhibits this is explained in Kant's footnote is not an emotional feeling of respect for the greatness of the law. Rather, it is the moral motivation of a person who recognizes that the law is an imperative of reason that transcends all other concerns and interests.
Since particular circumstances and motivations cannot be brought into the consideration of moral principles, the moral "law" cannot be a specific stipulation to do or not do this or that particular action. Rather, the moral law must be applicable in all situations. Thus the law of morality is that we should act in such a way that we could want the maxim the motivating principle of our action to become a universal law.
Artboard Created with Sketch. Error Created with Sketch. Summary Chapter 1. Page 1 Page 2 Page 3. Summary The one thing in the world that is unambiguously good is the "good will.
Previous section Preface Next page Chapter 1 page 2. Popular pages: Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals. Take a Study Break.
Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals
Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals German : Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten ; ; also known as the Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals , Grounding of the Metaphysics of Morals and the Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals is the first of Immanuel Kant 's mature works on moral philosophy and remains one of the most influential in the field. Kant conceives his investigation as a work of foundational ethics—one that clears the ground for future research by explaining the core concepts and principles of moral theory and showing that they are normative for rational agents. Kant aspires to nothing less than this: to lay bare the fundamental principle of morality and show that it applies to us. In the text, Kant provides a groundbreaking argument that the rightness of an action is determined by the character of the principle that a person chooses to act upon. Kant thus stands in stark contrast to the moral sense theories and teleological moral theories that dominated moral philosophy at the time he was writing. Central to the work is the role of what Kant refers to as the categorical imperative , the concept that one must act only according to that precept which he or she would will to become a universal law. The Groundwork is broken into a preface, followed by three sections.