Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals

Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals

Edited and translated by Allen W. Wood
J. B. Schneewind
Marcia Baron
Shelly Kagan
Allen W. Wood
Copyright Date: 2002
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals
    Book Description:

    Immanuel Kant'sGroundwork for the Metaphysics of Moralsis one of the most important texts in the history of ethics. In it Kant searches for the supreme principle of morality and argues for a conception of the moral life that has made this work a continuing source of controversy and an object of reinterpretation for over two centuries.This new edition of Kant's work provides a fresh translation that is uniquely faithful to the German original and more fully annotated than any previous translation. There are also four essays by well-known scholars that discuss Kant's views and the philosophical issues raised by theGroundwork.J.B. Schneewind defends the continuing interest in Kantian ethics by examining its historical relation both to the ethical thought that preceded it and to its influence on the ethical theories that came after it; Marcia Baron sheds light on Kant's famous views about moral motivation; and Shelly Kagan and Allen W. Wood advocate contrasting interpretations of Kantian ethics and its practical implications.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12815-4
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Editor’s Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. A Note on the Translation
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  6. Text: Immanuel Kant: Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals (1785)
    • Preface
      (pp. 3-8)
    • First Section: Transition from common rational moral cognition to philosophical moral cognition
      (pp. 9-21)

      There is nothing it is possible to think of anywhere in the world, or indeed anything at all outside it, that can be held to be good without limitation, excepting only a good will. Understanding, wit, the power of judgment,¹ and liketalentsof the mind,² whatever they might be called, or courage, resoluteness, persistence in an intention, as qualities oftemperament, are without doubt in some respects good and to be wished for; but they can also become extremely evil and harmful, if the will that is to make use of these gifts of nature, and whose peculiar constitution...

    • Second Section: Transition from popular moral philosophy to the metaphysics of morals
      (pp. 22-62)

      If we have thus far drawn our concept of duty from the common use of our practical reason, it is by no means to be inferred from this that we have treated it as a concept of experience. Rather, if we attend to the experience of the deeds and omissions of human beings, we encounter frequent and, as we ourselves concede, just complaints that one could cite no safe examples of the disposition to act from pure duty; that, even if some of what is done mayaccordwith whatdutycommands, nevertheless it always¹ remains doubtful whether² it is...

    • Third Section: Transition from the metaphysics of morals to the critique of pure practical reason
      (pp. 63-80)

      The concept of freedom is the key to the definition¹ of autonomy of the will. Thewillis a species of causality of living beings, insofar as they are rational, andfreedomwould be that quality of this causality by which it can be effective independently of alien causesdeterminingit; just asnatural necessityis the quality of the causality of all beings lacking reason, of being determined to activity through the influence of alien causes.

      The proposed definition² of freedom isnegative, and hence unfruitful in affording insight into its essence; yet from it flows apositiveconcept...

  7. Essays
    • 1. Why Study Kant’s Ethics?
      (pp. 83-91)

      Kant’sGroundwork for the Metaphysics of Moralsis a very hard book to understand. Those of us who have put this volume together plainly think it’s worth trying to do so. Why? There are three reasons.

      First, Kant created a dramatically new way of thinking about morality and about ourselves as moral beings. He held that all previous attempts to spell out the principles of ethics had been mistaken. In theGroundworkhe presented the fundamentals of a different vision of morality. And in later writings he showed how to work out the details of morality using his new formulation...

    • 2. Acting from Duty
      (pp. 92-110)

      Readers of theGroundworkare often taken aback by Kant’s discussion of acting from duty and moral worth. This reaction is not new. In 1796 Friedrich Schiller wryly expressed his distaste for what he took to be Kant’s position:

      Scruples of Conscience

      I like to serve my friends, but unfortunately I do it with inclination

      And so often I am bothered by the thought that I am not virtuous.


      There is no other way but this! You must seek to despise them, And do with repugnance what duty bids you.¹

      Schiller apparently read Kant as holding that if one...

    • 3. Kantianism for Consequentialists
      (pp. 111-156)

      Kant’s moral philosophy represents one of the most significant approaches to the foundations of ethics. For obvious reasons—including the simple fact that Kant offered no distinctive name for his general approach to ethics—views of this same, basic sort are typically known as Kantian. But this common practice, natural as it is, carries with it an obvious danger as well: there is a temptation to assume that Kant himself is the last word on Kantianism, rather than merely being an important advocate of thissortof view. This can lull us into overlooking the possibility that in various places...

    • 4. What Is Kantian Ethics?
      (pp. 157-182)

      Kant is the most influential moral theorist of modern times. Many philosophers, of whom I am one, think that of all figures in the history of ethics, Kant did the best job of identifying what lies at the heart of moral values and principles, providing a philosophical defense of our core moral convictions, and constructing a moral theory on the basis of them. At the same time, nobody today actually subscribes to every aspect of Kant’s thought about morality, especially to Kant’s moral opinions on certain subjects. To enlightened people in our day, some of Kant’s views on lying, or...

  8. Glossary
    (pp. 183-188)
  9. Index
    (pp. 189-194)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 195-195)