Reading Questions - Kant


1. What is Kant's aim in the Groundwork?

2. What is a "pure moral philosophy"? Why must we have a pure moral philosophy?

3. Why is it important to have a good will? What is the role of reason?

4. According to Kant, when does an action have moral worth? Why must we act from a motive of duty? Why is it not sufficient to act from self-interest or inclination?

5. What is the difference between an act done for duty and an act done in accord with duty?

6. What is the function of the "categorical imperative"?

 7. What is "popular moral philosophy"? Why is Kant opposed to it? Why can't moral philosophy be empirical?

8. What is an imperative? What are imperatives used for? To whom do they apply? Why and how are imperatives binding on us?

9. What are the different kinds of imperatives? What is Kant's proof that duty can be expressed only in the form of a categorical imperative?

10. Step by step, how can I determine whether an action of mine accords with duty?

11. Kant asks whether the categorical imperative applies to all cases, when we are interested in finding out what is the morally right thing to do. To show this, he looks at four cases (pp. 89-91). The first case is that of a perfect or necessary duty to oneself; the second, a case of necessary duty to others. (i) How can we describe the third and fourth cases? (ii) How do cases 1 and 2 differ from case 3 and 4?

12. On pages 91 and 92, how does Kant explain the fact that people realize that there is a universal law and yet do not always obey it when they act?

13. Briefly, why does Kant say we need pure ethics?

14. What is an "end in itself"? What is the significance of this for ethics? How is this related to the categorical imperative? How is this related to the four cases Kant discussed on pages 89-91?

15. What does Kant mean by "autonomy"? by "heteronomy"? How is this related to our knowledge of ethical laws? Why does Kant say that obedience to God is not the same as obedience to ethical law? Is concern for the interests of others, in itself, relevant to ethics? How?

16. What does Kant mean by a "kingdom of ends"? What is the "law" that applies to all rational beings in their relationships with one another (see p. 101)? What is the difference between being a member of a kingdom of ends and its head?

17. What does it mean to have dignity in the kingdom of ends? Who or what has "dignity"? Why does this being have dignity?


18. Why are empirical principles of heteronomy unsuitable to serve as the basis of moral laws?

19. How does Kant describe the categorical imperative on pages 112-113? What has he shown, therefore, about the relation of morality and autonomy? What is it that Kant believes he has yet to prove, with regard to morality?