Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals
by Immanuel Kant – Session Four
REVISED DATE – Sunday, August 21, 2022
Is it possible to know what is morally right?
In this short work, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) offers a foundation for a theory of ethics based on the values of freedom and autonomy and how they relate to an Enlightenment conception of persons as rational, capable of their own intellectual discernment, and therefore endowed with morality and made responsible for their behavior. As such, Kant helps to provide the individual rights perspective that is often counterbalanced by collectivist tendencies in Western democracies and, in so doing, offers one of the key moral frameworks that continues to inform public debate.
In this analysis of moral concepts, Kant takes what he claims to be our average, ordinary intuitions about ethics and formalizes them into a philosophical theory that, he believes, we each already hold in nascent form. His arguments are tight and compelling, though not without interesting and revealing philosophical problems. This fact and the foundational role of the text in ethics make the Groundwork one of the most studied of all philosophical texts.
This four-part online series will explore one section per session, about one month apart.
August 21 Reading:
Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals by Immanuel Kant – Section Three
Cambridge University Press; 2nd edition (May 2012), ISBN 1107401062