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Kant: Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals

The 'Groundwork' (1785) is Kant’s pioneering text in practical philosophy. It sold out within a year, in spite of its 'frightening title' (Preface 4:391), and has been successful ever since. The 'Groundwork' is famous because of the categorical imperative, which says, roughly, that we ought to act only according to rules which we could coherently 'will' to be universal laws (4:421). But the deceptively slim book also contains fascinating ideas about human autonomy, duty, dignity, happiness, and the connection between reason and will. Given its founding and systematic nature, the book is attractive in spite of its density; it is probably a 'must-read' for anyone interested in ethics. In this course, we will read the 'Groundwork' in full, and clarify the philosophical issues in discussion and in considerate detail. The aspiration is to make Kant’s ingenious and seminal work accessible, even to beginners in philosophy or ethics.

Date created:

2017-09-27 15:38
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Resources for this course

Displaying 1 - 19 of 19
Type Resource Description People Full details
Document Course Overview

Notes about the schedule, translations, coursework, and rescources.

Peter Wyss view
Document Reading the Preface

The first coursework sheet: questions and some background information relating to GMS 387–92.

Peter Wyss view
Link Digital Edition of Kant's Works (in German)

All the 23 volumes of the Akademie Ausgabe for reading online.

view
Link Kant's Moral Philosophy

The entry on Kant's ethics in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy by R. Johnson and A. Cureton (2016).

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Link Kant's Categorical Imperative

An episode of In Our Time (BBC, 21.9.2017), where M. Bragg discusses Kant's moral philosophy with A. Hills, D. Oderberg, and J. Callanan (43 mins...

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Document The Preface

Selective notes about the Preface of GMS.

Peter Wyss view
Document Section I: Good Will, Duty, Happiness

Selective background information and clarificatory notes for Section I of GMS.

Peter Wyss view
Document Reading the First Section

The second coursework sheet: questions and some background information relating to GMS I (393–405).

Peter Wyss view
Document Teleology and Dialectic: Further Thoughts

Further notes concerning GMS I: 394–6 (teleology) and 403–5 (natural dialectic).

Peter Wyss view
Document Duty, Will, Obligation, and Imperatives

Some notes that lead up to studying GMS II 412.26–414.11 (¶¶12–5).

Peter Wyss view
Document Groundwork Section II

A 4-page overview of the structure of GMS II (including a list the various formulae of the categorical imperative).

Peter Wyss view
Document Visualising the Groundwork

The results of the first two visualisation projects.

Peter Wyss view
Document More on Imperatives

Information about Kant's derivation of the categorical imperative FUL/FLN in GMS II, including a list of exemplary maxims.

Peter Wyss view
Document Duties, Maxims, and the Synthetic Apriori

Further notes related to passages in GMS II.

Peter Wyss view
Document Reading the Second Section

The third coursework sheet: questions and some background information relating to GMS II (406–45).

Peter Wyss view
Document Deriving the Formula of Humanity: 427.19–429.13

An attempt (with dubious success) to 'translate' and crystalise the passages leading up to FH.

Peter Wyss view
Document GMS III: Proving that the CI is Possible

A guide that visualises the proportional length of Kant's sections and paragraphs, and the frequency of selected key terms.

Peter Wyss view
Document Moving on to GMS III

The revised (corrected) version of the four-page notes for GMS III, §§1–4.

Peter Wyss view
Document Reaching the End

A diagrammatic summary of GMS III §§5 and 6; the occurrence and frequency of 14 key terms of GMS visualised.

Peter Wyss view