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Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals by…

Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals (1785)

by Immanuel Kant

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It's a shame that this is the most famous of Kant's works, since its central argument is probably the weakest and wishy-washiest. It's less systematic and well argued and hence more confusing than the (albeit initially more difficult) Critique of Practical Reason.

As Kant points out in the Critique of Pure Reason, "if the size of a book were measured not by the number of its pages but by the time required to understand it [and the reasoning behind it], then we could say about many books that they would be much shorter if they were not so short." (A xix) Hear hear! ( )
  Audacity88 | Feb 7, 2014 |
Inasmuch as we can praise Kant's brilliance and analytical rigour, the Metaphysics of Morals falls patently flat if only because he is overextending the gains he has made in the first Critique to apply to the domain of ethics. Any movement from "is" to "ought" (i.e., the shift from ontology to ethics) is going to be fraught with perils. I would say that, from the standpoint of Kant's entire oeuvre, this is his lowest point. That being said, no serious reader in philosophy can bypass this text as it is essential reading in the development of ethics in the transition from the Enlightenment to subsequent Romanticism. ( )
1 vote KXF | Nov 29, 2011 |
  Aerow | Aug 15, 2011 |
Interesting... if you're forced into it by your Ethics teacher, like I was.
  Aerow | Aug 15, 2011 |
Kant is very hard to read, at least for me, however when reading him you discover a first rate mind, that looks very deeply into the human condition. In this book Kant looks for ground to build a system of moral and ethics on. While it has flaws, for its time his conclusions are breath taking. ( )
  michaelbartley | Nov 10, 2008 |
I don't know--this just doesn't come together for me. Kant tries to develop a consistent system of morals in light of reason and will. He starts off though (p143) with "We assume, as a fundamental principle, that no organ for any purpose will be found in the physical constitution of an organized being, except one which is also the fittest and best adapted for that purpose." He is speaking about reason and will as much as any other organ. Another odd tautology: "Innocence is indeed a glorious thing, only it is a pity that it cannot maintain itself well and is easily seduced." He defines God (ok, so here is why the die-hard intellectuals like him) as "the idea of moral perfection." He does have a nugget of truth in his footnotes about why moral teachings fail -- because the teacher does usually not have a consistent grounding of their own and thus fails to present a coherent picture by example. He describes happiness as the one common end and a duty of practical reason. Ends are valued over means and the "one categorical imperative" is "Act only on a maxim by which you can will that it, at the same time, should become a general law." His conclusion of a few paragraphs does summarize everything and is perhaps the first clearly conveyed information. However, much of his work is an attack on straightforward reason. ( )
  jpsnow | May 8, 2008 |
To read Kant is to become acquainted with what it means to take thought seriously. Today it is not uncommon to set up a straw Kant in Phil 101 classes, using either this text or the "Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics," to depict Kant as an incorrigible rationalist reductionist. Still, if you want to read Kant without slogging through the three Critiques, read "Prolegomena," the "Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals," and the "Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime;" you’ll discover a thinker with, yes, tremendous intellect, but more importantly, the integrity of genius; and moreover, one who could also be considered (especially in the "Remarks") a fine stylist. Modern thought remains emphatically post-Kantian: even when it rejects his premises or his conclusions, it is still Kant's project to which it reacts. More than any text I know except Wittgenstein's Tractatus, these works by Kant exhibit the absolute rigor and confidence of hard thinking. Reading them slowly, one almost recaptures the sense that, if the difficulties are simply thought through to the end, even the most immovable problems will yield to the irresistible force of the mind. What Kant and Wittgenstein share is a surprising way of drawing limits to thinking in a way that is meant, ultimately, to empower thought. Kant sought to make clear the power and the limits of human reason in such a way as to encourage, rather than undermine, confidence in it. The mind may have limits, but for Kant, as for Socrates, everything is gained in *knowing* those limits. His ethics--the real pinnacle of his work--demonstrate that definite, positive conclusions for action and conduct could follow from such a delimiting. Seen in this way, his thought is a breathtaking synthesis of audacity and humility, and remains as pertinent as it ever was; not because it's incontestable, or even merely right, but because it engages questions most worth contesting, and does so with courage, consistency, and a real capacity for awe. ( )
6 vote skholiast | Feb 15, 2007 |
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Yale University Press

2 editions of this book were published by Yale University Press.

Editions: 0300094876, 0300094868

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