Ideas from 'Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals' by Immanuel Kant [1785], by Theme Structure

[found in 'The Moral Law (Groundwork of Morals)' by Kant,Immanuel (ed/tr Paton,H.J.) [Hutchinson 1948,0-09-036033-8]].

Click on the Idea Number for the full details    |     back to texts     |     expand these ideas


1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 4. Metaphysics beyond Science
Metaphysics goes beyond the empirical, so doesn't need examples
2. Reason / A. Nature of Reason / 4. Aims of Reason
The hallmark of rationality is setting itself an end
12. Knowledge Sources / A. A Priori Knowledge / 5. A Priori Synthetic
The categorical imperative is a practical synthetic a priori proposition
16. Persons / F. Free Will / 1. Free Will / a. Nature of free will
We shall never be able to comprehend how freedom is possible
Free will is a kind of causality which works independently of other causes
16. Persons / F. Free Will / 1. Free Will / b. Pro-free will
We cannot conceive of reason as being externally controlled
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 1. Value / c. Subjective value
We must only value what others find acceptable
Values are created by human choices, and are not some intrinsic quality, out there
Our rational choices confer value, arising from the sense that we ourselves are important
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 1. Value / e. Ultimate value
The categorical imperative says nothing about what our activities and ends should be
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 7. Altruism
Reverence is awareness of a value which demolishes my self-love
We may claim noble motives, but we cannot penetrate our secret impulses
22. Metaethics / C. Sources of Ethics / 6. Ethics from Reason
Kant united religion and philosophy, by basing obedience to law on reason instead of faith
22. Metaethics / D. Consequentialism / 1. Consequentialism
A good will is not good because of what it achieves
The good of an action is in the mind of the doer, not the consequences
23. Ethics / B. Contract Ethics / 2. Golden Rule
The 'golden rule' cannot be a universal law as it implies no duties
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 1. Virtue Theory / a. Nature of virtue
Virtue lets a rational being make universal law, and share in the kingdom of ends
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 1. Virtue Theory / d. Virtue theory critique
Kant thinks virtue becomes passive, and hence morally unaccountable
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / f. Compassion
Generosity and pity are vices, because they falsely imply one person's superiority to another
23. Ethics / D. Deontological Ethics / 1. Deontology
If 'maxims' are deeper underlying intentions, Kant can be read as a virtue theorist
We can ask how rational goodness is, but also why is rationality good
Kant follows Rousseau in defining freedom and morality in terms of each other
The only purely good thing is a good will
Other causes can produce nice results, so morality must consist in the law, found only in rational beings
The will is good if its universalised maxim is never in conflict with itself
23. Ethics / D. Deontological Ethics / 2. Duty
There are no imperatives for a holy will, as the will is in harmony with moral law
Men are subject to laws which are both self-made and universal
Kantian duty seems to imply conformism with authority
Dutiful actions are judged not by purpose, but by the maxim followed
Telling the truth from duty is quite different from doing so to avoid inconvenience
A categorical imperative sees an action as necessary purely for its own sake
Kant has to attribute high moral worth to some deeply unattractive human lives
23. Ethics / D. Deontological Ethics / 3. Universalisability
Suicide, false promises, neglected talent, and lack of charity all involve contradictions of principle
The categorical imperative smells of cruelty
The intuition behind the categorical imperative is that one ought not to make an exception of oneself
Act according to a maxim you can will as a universal law
If lying were the universal law it would make promises impossible
The categorical imperative will not suggest maxims suitable for testing
Almost any precept can be consistently universalized
I can universalize a selfish maxim, if it is expressed in a way that only applies to me
Act as if your maxim were to become a universal law of nature
23. Ethics / D. Deontological Ethics / 4. Persons as Ends
Rational beings necessarily conceive their own existence as an end in itself
Always treat humanity as an end and never as a means only
23. Ethics / D. Deontological Ethics / 5. Motivation for Duty
Our inclinations are not innately desirable; in fact most rational beings would like to be rid of them
Actions where people spread happiness because they enjoy it have no genuine moral worth
Only a good will makes us worthy of happiness
The function of reason is to produce a good will
For Kant, even a person who lacks all sympathy for others still has a motive for benevolence
If we are required to give moral thought the highest priority, this gives morality no content
24. Applied Ethics / B. Moral Rights / 3. Animal Rights
Non-rational beings only have a relative value, as means rather than as ends
25. Society / A. State of Nature / 4. Natural Rights / a. Natural rights
Rational beings have a right to share in the end of an action, not just be part of the means
25. Society / D. Social Rights / 2. Social Freedom / d. Free market
Kant is the father of the notion of exploitation as an evil
25. Society / D. Social Rights / 4. Right to Punish / b. Retribution for crime
Retributive punishment is better than being sent to hospital for your crimes
28. God / A. Divine Nature / 5. Divine Morality / b. Euthyphro question
We judge God to be good by a priori standards of moral perfection
We can only know we should obey God if we already have moral standards for judging God