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Kant: Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy)

(Part of the Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy Series and Groundbook of the Metaphysics of Morals Series)

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Now in a new, affordable edition with updated notes, a superbly readable translation of Kant's classic work This work, one of the most important texts in the history of ethics, presents Immanuel... This description may be from another edition of this product.

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Understand Kantian ethics, it is not easy

I read this book for a graduate seminar on Ethics. In "The Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals," Kant astutely observes how ordinary people speak about morality. He argues, ordinary people's views are presupposed about morality, that there is one supreme moral principle it is the "Categorical Imperative" which is discussed in section two of the book. In section one, he talks about value, and special regard or esteem we have for someone who does the right things. Sometimes, people do the right things for wrong reasons. He is interested in what has to be true for an action to have moral worth. He has a kind of criticism of Utilitarians. Utilitarians say you can talk about what is good, i.e., happiness, before talking about what is right or moral. For Kantians "right" comes prior to the question of what is good. One must bring morality in before talking about the good. Talent and ability is good if put to good use, it can also be bad; for example computer hackers creating "viruses." Only one thing is good in and of itself unconditionally, which is a good "will" which means the will of a person who wants to do the right thing. Even if the plan doesn't work out they still have good will. They desire to do the right thing because it is the right thing. Kant argues that action has moral worth only if it is done out of respect for duty. For example, if a shopkeeper is honest in an effort to look good to customers he did the right thing, but only in "conformity with duty." He acted out of inclination. If the shopkeeper is honest out of being nice or likes kids then his action is still done out of inclination because he "likes to do it," but his moral worth is less in the action. The shopkeeper who has moral worth is the one who is honest because it was the right thing to do. Kant's 2nd proposition is that an action gets its moral worth from its "maxim." Maxim is a technical term for Kant; maxim is a kind of principle that explains why someone does something. Kant thinks that whenever we act on an action there always is some maxim that we are acting on. So you can think of a maxim as having the form: I will do A (some kind of action) in C (some set of circumstances) for P. (for some purpose). Now it is not as if normally when you act you formulate to yourself here is my maxim, here is what I am acting on. However, Kant thinks that when you do something there is some maxim that describes your choice. Therefore, Kant thinks there is an underlying maxim there, and it is this maxim Kant thinks that is the real decider about whether your action has moral worth or not. Only actions with the right maxim he thinks have moral worth. Kant's3rd proposition is that duty is the necessity of acting out of respect for law, (not government law). Kant thinks that actions get there moral worth from being done out of respect for a "universal moral law" that is binding on all rational beings. This is the real clincher for Kant in the fir

great introduction, expensive version

This version of the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals provides a clear and concise introduction. You will find it useful to understand how Kant's moral philosophy fits within his general philosophy and to get acquainted with some of the debates around his work. Although this book is rather expensive for what it is, it is useful and worth buying if you are really interested in this topic.

It is Imperative to read this...

As translator H.J. Paton states in his introduction, 'Kant's "Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals" is one of the small books which are truly great' despite the unapproachability of the title. Many rank this book alongside Aristotle's 'Ethics' and Plato's 'Republic'. Its main topic is the supremacy of morals and moral action, and Paton gives a section by section analysis of Kant's book. The purpose of this work is not to work out all of the implications and difficulties with the a priori part of ethics, but rather to set a foundation of the supreme principle of morality. The centerpiece of the Groundwork is Kant's most famous proposition, the Categorical Imperative. While this is often equated with the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you), the Categorical Imperative argues for a more universal set of moral action - for example, if one does not mind being lied to, then lying does not become a problem, according to the Golden Rule, but for Kant, this would be unacceptable as it is a violation of the rational principles of what morals are. Kant proceeds to look at issues of law, duty, free will and the good will, and autonomy of action. Kant argues strongly for the need for philosophy to guard against whim, taste and personal desire from becoming normative agents in the way we construct the moral universe. He argue for objective principles to govern the will, and categorises these as either hypothetical or categorical. 'All imperatives command either hypothetically or categorically. Hypothetical imperatives declare a possible action to be practically necessary as a means to the attainment of something else that one wills (or that one may will). A categorical imperative would be one which represented an action as objectively necessary in itself apart from its relation to a further end.' Kant goes from this discussion to the formulation of universal law and the way in which rational agents should formulate and view this kind of law. The final section of this work introduces ideas that will be more fully developed in Kant's 'Critique of Practical Reason', the second of his three-volume Critiques. He also covers some of the arguments from 'Critique of Pure Reason', but not very fully; as Paton states in his analysis, 'Kant cannot assume the elaborate arguments of the "Critique of Pure Reason" to be familiar to his readers nor can he attempt to repeat these elaborate arguments in a short treatise on ethics.' The finite, rational person must regard himself or herself both as a member of the world of experience/perception and also as a member of the world of ideas/rationality. This is the essence of the Empiricist/Rationalist split that Kant synthesises together in the first Critique. This is not easy going - the original 'Groundwork' had 128 pages, contained here in less than 100 (allowing for type-face differences as well as translation). Paton's version has 40 pages of analysis, endnotes, an index, an

A good read

The goal of this relatively brief treatise is to "seek out and establish the supreme principle of morality." As a means to addressing this goal, he investigates human will in relation to reason.He comes to understand the autonomy of the will and the freedom of man as a rational being: reason, will, and most importantly exist as ends in themselves. As ethical or dutiful action that is done with no other end but itself in men, the only principle that is free of self-interested inclinations is the Categorical Imperative - "Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law" (if a man lies to gain something, he must expect that it be alright for all other men to lie in the same). Thus, each maxim a man makes for himself, if rationally justified, is a law to which all men ought to adhere. The man submits himself to the law and simultaneously is the lawgiver. Kant calls this sum of men formulating and submitting to universal codes of behavior the Kingdom of Ends. As an extension of this, he finds that the soul and human will is autonomous, as it rules itself. It would be strange of me to call a text by Kant an easy read, but this was surprisingly readable, due to the adept translation by H.J. Patton. Patton manages to detangle the long sentences with myriad pronouns referring to a single hidden noun and maintains what he calls Kant's "suppressed intellectual excitement, his moral earnestness, his pleasure in words, anmd even , it may be, something of his peculiar brand of huour, which is so dry that it might have come directly out of Scotland itself." He also includes an analysis of kant's argument and some notes, which are relatively basic but useful. Overall this is a wonderful presentation of a critical work.

Read it, ponder it, implement it...

This is a powerful book about the rationale of a moral philosophy. For all of you who are not familiar with Kant, he is by no means an easy read. If you plan on getting this book plan on being engaged fully in the book. Some of the thoughts reveberate in your mind for months afterword. Kant breaks it down to pure logic and sets forth a notion of the categorical imperative. Check it out if you are into thought... and lots of it.
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