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47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Great Works in Moral Philosophy
Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals is probably the single most influential work of philosophical ethics since Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics. While Kant himself considered this a sort of introduction to ethical thinking, it's come to be his most influential and widely read work on ethics. Despite its length--it's less than a hundred pages--this is a work of...
Published on March 1, 2004 by ctdreyer

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3.0 out of 5 stars Not an easy read
A bit difficult to read due to the vernacular if the era. Recommend it for those who truly want a challenge.
Published 4 months ago by Rob Weinhold


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47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Great Works in Moral Philosophy, March 1, 2004
This review is from: Kant: Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy) (Paperback)
Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals is probably the single most influential work of philosophical ethics since Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics. While Kant himself considered this a sort of introduction to ethical thinking, it's come to be his most influential and widely read work on ethics. Despite its length--it's less than a hundred pages--this is a work of remarkable depth and intellectual insight.
This isn't an easy work, however. It needs to be read and re-read (and, I suppose, re-read) to be fully understood and appreciated. I've never found Kant as difficult and obscure as his reputation would suggest, but as a writer of philosophical prose he's certainly not the caliber of, say, Hume or Descartes. As many have noted, Kant is the first great philosopher of the modern era to have been an academic, and it shows. He writes long, meandering sentences, and the organization of his works leaves quite a bit to be desired. Furthermore, his penchant for arcane terminology and architechtonic can make his work seem more forbidding than it is. Still, Kant's ideas in the Groundwork, while subtle and sometimes elusive, are profound and original, and this book is a must-read for anyone interested in philosophical ethics. I should also note that the importance of this book isn't solely historical since there has been a recent resurgence of Kantian moral thinking in the English-speaking world.
Kant's aim in the Groundwork is to discover the fundamental principle of morality. In the first section he attempts to derive this fundamental principle from ordinary moral thought. In particular, he attempts to derive this principle from considerations concerning what is unconditionally good. Kant claims that the only thing that is unconditionally good is a good will. Moreover, its goodness is not a matter of the results of acting on a good will; it is good in itself. As a matter of fact, Kant claims that the results of an action done with a good will and the aims and inclinations of the agent with the good will are morally insignificant.
What, then, is it to act with a good will? It is, Kant argues, a matter of doing one's duty for duty's sake, regardless of one's feeling and the results of doing so. What is it to act from duty's sake? It is to act from principles that accord with the fundamental principle of morality. And here we get the first formulation of the fundamental principle of morality: act only on maxims that you can consistently will to be universal laws. In other words, if one is unable to will the principle of one's action to become a universal law, the action is morally impermissible.
In the second section of the Groundwork Kant attempts to draw the same conclusion from some philosophical points about the nature of duty. He begins by claiming that our knowledge of our duty is a priori and based on the exercise of reason. He then argues that facts about our duties are necessary facts, and that this shows that they must be based on a categorical imperative: that is, that our duties apply to us insofar as we are rational beings, irrespective of the contingent aspects of their nature. And, Kant argues, the one categorical imperative is the fundamental principle of morality mentioned above. He then applies this principle to some examples in order to display just how it grounds our duties in particular cases.
The rest of the second section is filled with lots of interesting, albeit abstruse, ideas. First, Kant attempts to ground the categorical imperative in something that is of unconditional worth. What is that something? The existence of rational beings, which, he says, is an end in itself. And this leads to a second formulation of the categorical imperative: (ii) act only in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in the person of yourself or someone else, as an end and never merely as a means.
This section also includes a third formulation of the categorical imperative: (iii) act only on maxims that you could will to become universal laws legislated by your own will. This formulation encapsulates Kant's claim that we can achieve autonomy only by acting in accordance with the moral law. Conformity with the moral law does not constrain our freedom since we legislate the moral law for ourselves. The moral law is not forced on us from without; its source is to be found in our own rational nature. Indeed, it is only by acting morally that we are able to achieve genuine freedom by transcending the contingent desires and inclinations that are beyond our control.
Of course, that doesn't come close to summing up the Groundwork. But it's a start.
Gregor's translation of Kant's text is fairly clear. She does her best to render Kant's work in readable English prose, and she usually succeeds in this endeavor. I also think Kant's main ideas come through pretty well in this translation. Moreover, this is likely to become something like the standard edition of Kant's Groundwork in the future, since this translation is the one that appears in the Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent for teaching Kant, November 22, 2003
This review is from: Kant: Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy) (Paperback)
This new edition of the *Groundwork* is excellent for undergraduate teaching purposes; the introduction by Korsgaard is very helpful on several points, including her distinction between the purposes or objects ('materials') of our intentions and the maxims or principles on the basis of which we formed these intentions. [The trouble is that Kant unfortunately does not use the word "intentions" but sometimes also uses "maxims" for that concept as well, which generates much confusion]. Professor Korsgaard also gives an excellent explanation of Kant's critique of sympathy or Rousseauian natural pity as the motive that makes for a good will. I only wish more was said about the 2nd-order nature of the 'goal' of the good will, namely assuring that we pursue our other 1st-order purposes in ways that are fair or just to all. However, the introduction includes a shortened and simplified version of several key insights in Korsgaard's published essays. Moreover, the text itself is smoother in many places than the Paton translation in the Harper Torchbook edition. I recommend trying this book to any teacher still using the old Harper edition.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great introduction, expensive version, February 24, 2006
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This review is from: Kant: Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy) (Paperback)
This version of the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals provides a clear and concise introduction. You will find it useful to understand how Kant's moral philosophy fits within his general philosophy and to get acquainted with some of the debates around his work. Although this book is rather expensive for what it is, it is useful and worth buying if you are really interested in this topic.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars very hard, very good, May 20, 2011
This review is from: Kant: Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy) (Paperback)
I spent a long time to read this book, (more like "trying" to read) and since I have no philosophy background, I am sure my understanding of this book is very limited. However, I enjoyed learning the main concepts of Kant's on morality, and I think it will help me with understanding other philosophical theories as well.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moral Philosophy, July 28, 2005
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Sam (Durham, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Kant: Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy) (Paperback)
Immanuel Kant is truly one of the most influential moral philosophers in history; and with this book, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, he positioned himself far further.

In this book you will find things to be deeply contemplated, about "good will", the moral value of conduct and its metaphysical aspects.

This translation of the Kant's original Grundlegung von Metaphysik der Sitten to English is quiet easy to understand, so it is relatively an easy-reading book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read and understand the introduction, June 3, 2013
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Korsgaard semi-clunkily explains Kant, and gets it right! Fantastic read.

I read this in my Ethical Theory class at Stanford and learned a lot about Kantianism.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed this book!, October 13, 2014
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It's been 3 months since I had to read this book for a class, and I found myself referencing it just last night! Kant is remarkable and this book equips one with the tools to answer fundamental questions about morals.
As for the translation, I can't say that I have anything with which it may be compared. I neither speak German nor have I read an alternative translation per sé. I can only say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and that it has impacted my mentality to a profound degree.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not an easy read, July 12, 2014
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Rob Weinhold (Dale City, VA USA) - See all my reviews
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A bit difficult to read due to the vernacular if the era. Recommend it for those who truly want a challenge.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Read this!!!, November 30, 2013
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The introduction is long and wonderful. It is a requirement before reading Kant's text. For me, this work of Kant reinforces my religious beliefs
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four stars, November 29, 2012
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This review is from: Kant: Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy) (Paperback)
The text was difficult to read, but there were translations/modifications to the text in the back of the book which made reading easier. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in moral philosophy and ethics.
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