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Essay on grounding for the metaphysics of morals

Kant's Metaphysics of Morals: February 03, 2003 Timmons, Mark, ed. Part of the difficulty stems from the different methodological status of the latter work. In the Metaphysics, Kant builds a theory of justice and virtue, whereas in the earlier works he explores the rational basis of morality. Since the Metaphysics is about principles of action and the earlier works put forward various versions of the principle of justification of principles of action i.

First, an interpreter needs to be clear whether the fundamental principles of right and virtue are derived from or justified by the imperative; or whether they are, or can be seen as, relatively independent from it. According to the textbook interpretation, Kant believed that the imperative can by itself answer all central questions about morals. The Metaphysics, by contrast, suggests that the imperative is one, although central, among many elements of moral thinking.

Interpretative Essays edited by Mark Timmons.

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The seventeen essays collected in the book can be divided into two large groups. The topics of most other essays are related to the fundamental question of practical deliberation and motivation. In my presentation of the essays, I shall follow this leading theme, diverging from their order in the book, where they are organized according to the sequence of topics in the Metaphysics. This claim is the subject matter of the next three essays. This analysis generates rules of interaction of beings each of whom has an interest in the greatest possible freedom.


Guyer convincingly argues that the analyticity of a proposition does not imply that it does not need justification or derivation. The logical correctness of an argument does not prove the objective reality of what is proven.

Drawing on textual evidence, Guyer says that the principle of right is derived from the concept of freedom which is accessible to agents in the form of the categorical imperative. Bernd Ludwig draws a similar conclusion.

The subject of property rights is addressed to a greater extent by Kenneth R. Westphal who focuses on the contradiction in the conception test of the categorical imperative in its version as the Universal Law of Right. Westphal argues that property rights are necessary for finite beings who live under the conditions of scarcity of space and resources and who attempt to achieve rationally their ends.

The exchange of arguments among Woods, Pogge, Guyer, and Ludwig is fascinating. It shows how the ideas of an influential philosopher of the past can provoke a genuine debate that is relevant to citizens of contemporary societies. In this respect, Thomas W. The chapters discussed above address the most fundamental questions of justification of the principles of justice.

Papers by Marcus Willaschek and Katrin Flickschuh concentrate on the question of motivation and performance of duties of justice. This, however, generates a paradox: Willaschek proposes to solve the paradox in a very ingenious way. This conception of desires is closer to its ancient forerunners and provides an alternative to the modern view known from the economic and political literature.

This is due to the fact that the constraints of principles of action require satisfaction in all situations, even essay on grounding for the metaphysics of morals it may sometimes be impossible to satisfy them all. Since the appropriate moral response to a situation should satisfy the constraints of all principles, or of as many of them as possible, practical judgment should be seen as inseparable from deliberation. Papers by Thomas Hill, Jr.

Mark Timmons argues that in order to preserve a central Kantian distinction between morality moral worthiness and legality rightness of actions, the motive of duty should not be seen as a condition of rightness of actions.

On this account virtue involves a harmony of motives, which makes the agent resistant to determination by affects and passions. In opposition to Reath and closer to the textual evidence, Potter argues that for Kant ethical as opposed to legal duties are relatively loosely linked to the social character of human action.

It examines various aspects of his practical philosophy and often shows it in a new light. For this reason, the book is not only an invaluable contribution to Kant scholarship. It is also important reading for all those who are essay on grounding for the metaphysics of morals for philosophical resources to address moral problems of today.