Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals

For a copy of another translation of the Groundwork, click  here.


Class Introduction:

  1. biographical and bibliographical notes
  2. deontology, rationalism and absolutism
  3. subject of the Groundwork
  4. To whom is it addressed?
  5. How it is organized?
  6. What kind of ethical theory does it provide?



  1. The parallels and differences between physics and ethics
  2. The nature of a "pure" moral philosophy and its basis
  3. The role of experience
  4. The nature of practical reason
  5. Relation to religion
  6. Kant's aim and the objective of the Groundwork
First section:
  1. Kant's starting point
  2. The "good will" as good without qualification
  3. The role of reason in ethics and the relation of reason to happiness
  4. The kinds of motive and duty as the only moral motive
  5. The relation of motive to the good will. The 1st proposition of morality
  6. The nature of maxims. The 2nd proposition of morality.
  7. The law and duty as acting out of reverence for the law. The 3rd proposition of morality
  8. The universalization of one's maxim and the 4th proposition of morality
Second section:
  1. "Popular moral philosophy" and why Kant is opposed to it.
  2. Imperatives and the law. Hypothetical and categorical imperatives. How the categorical imperative differs from the hypothetical
  3. Synthetic a priori propositions
  4. The function of the `categorical imperative'
  5. The application of the categorical imperative: perfect and imperfect duty
  6. Ends in themselves and the reformulation of the categorical imperative. Implications and applications to perfect and imperfect duties.
  7. Why the categorical imperative is binding: autonomy and heteronomy.
  8. Ends in themselves and the `kingdom of ends'
  9. Autonomy and human dignity

Reading questions: click here

Criticisms of Kant