Immanuel Kant's <i>Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals</i>: A Commentary

Immanuel Kant's Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals: A Commentary

by Dieter Schönecker, Allen W. Wood


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A defining work of moral philosophy, Kant’s Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals has been influential to an extent far beyond what its modest length (roughly 75 pages) might suggest. It is also a famously difficult work, concerned with propounding universal principles rather than answering practical questions. As even professional philosophers will admit, first-time readers are not alone in finding some of its arguments perplexing.

Offering an introduction that is accessible to students and relevant to specialized scholars, Dieter Schönecker and Allen Wood make luminously clear the ways the Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals forms the basis of our modern moral outlook: that all human beings have equal dignity as ends in themselves; that every rational being is a self-governing agent whose morality freely derives from his or her own will; and that all rational beings constitute an ideal community, bound only by the moral laws they have agreed upon. Schönecker and Wood explain key Kantian concepts of duty, the good will, and moral worth, as well as the propositions Kant uses to derive his conception of the moral law. How the law relates to freedom, and the significance of the free will within Kant’s overall philosophy are rigorously interrogated. Where differing interpretations of Kant’s claims are possible, the authors provide alternative options, giving arguments for each. This critical introduction will help readers of the Groundwork gain an informed understanding of Kant’s challenging but central philosophical work.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674430136
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 01/05/2015
Edition description: Translatio
Pages: 248
Product dimensions: 9.30(w) x 6.10(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Dieter Schönecker is Professor of Philosophy at Universität Siegen.

Allen W. Wood is Ruth Normal Halls Professor at Indiana University, Bloomington, and Ward W. and Priscilla B. Woods Professor, Emeritus, at Stanford University.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

1 Kant's Preface: The Metaphysics of Morals and the Strategy of the Groundwork 1

1.1 The Task, Method, and Transitions of the Groundwork 1

1.2 The Concept and Idea of a Metaphysics of Morals 14

1.3 Summary 30

2 Section I of the Groundwork: The Good Will, Duty, and the Derivation of the Categorical Imperative 32

2.1 The Structure and Argument of GMS I 32

2.2 The Good Will 34

2.2.1 The Conditioned Worth of Gifts of Nature 34

2.2.2 The Conditioned Worth of Gifts of Fortune 40

2.2.3 The Efficacy and Effects of the Good Will 41

2.2.4 The Teleological Argument 47

2.3 Duty and Respect 50

2.3.1 From the Concept of the Good Will to the Concept of Duty 51

2.3.2 The Three Propositions Regarding Duty 54 The First Proposition Regarding Duty as Acting out of Respect 58 The Second Proposition Regarding Duty: The Objective Law 76 The Third Proposition Regarding Duty 78

2.4 The Derivation of the Categorical Imperative 89

2.5 Summary 93

3 Section II of the Groundwork: Practical Reason, Imperatives, and Kant's Formulas 95

3.1 The Structure and Basic Argument of GMS IT 95

3.2 The Practical Faculty of Reason and the Division of Imperatives 97

3.2.1 Imperatives as Objective Rational Principles for Beings That Are at Once Sensuous and Rational 98

3.2.2 Categorical and Hypothetical Imperatives 107

3.3 The Possibility of Hypothetical Imperatives 115

3.4 The Formulations of the Categorical Imperative and Kant's Examples 122

3.4.1 Enumerating the Various Formulas 123

3.4.2 The Derivation of Particular Duties: Kant's Formulas and His Examples 125 The Formula of Universalizability and the Formula of the Law of Nature 125 The Formula of Humanity as End in Itself 141 Autonomy and the Realm of Ends 156

3.4.3 The Categorical Imperative and the Relationship of Its Formulas to One Another 164

3.5 Summary 172

4 Section III of the Groundwork: The Deduction of the Categorical Imperative 175

4.1 The Structure and Task of GMS III 175

4.2 Freedom and Morality 179

4.2.1 The Thesis of Analyticity 179

4.2.2 The Presupposition of Freedom 191

4.3 The Deduction of the Categorical Imperative 205

4.4 Summary 215

5 Bibliography 219

5.1 Kant 219

5.2 Secondary Literature 221

Index 229

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