Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals 
[Summary and Analysis]
 The three main branches of philosophy are logic, physics, and ethics. Logic is purely formal, dealing with thought itself, rather than the objects of thought, and thus is an a priori discipline, whose truths do not depend on experience. Physics and ethics, by contrast, combine empirical with a priori elements: the first seeks universal laws as they apply to nature as an object of experience, the second ethical laws that apply to human wills, as they are affected by desires and instincts that can only be known through experience. The a priori elements in physics are fundamental concepts such as space, time, matter, etc. – the “metaphysics of nature”; the a priori elements of ethics are the “metaphysics of morals.”
 The need for a “metaphysics of morals” is evident, proceeding from the conventional or popular understanding of duty as universal and necessary; only an inquiry into the a priori or pure part of ethics can tell us what duty is. This inquiry should not be confused with a full analysis of willing as such, but only a specific kind – willing that is morally good.
 The aim of the Groundwork is any case not to provide a complete analysis of the a priori side of ethics or “metaphysics of morals,” but merely to establish the foundations for such an analysis – above all, to establish the supreme principle of morality. The method pursued in Chapters I and II will be to start from our ordinary moral judgments, and then to ask what conditions must hold for them to be justified – what we can call the analytic (or regressive) method, which should bring us to the ultimate condition of all moral judgments – the supreme principle. In Chapter III, the method is, in a sense, reversed – we start with the insight of reason into the principle of its own activity, which leads us to the supreme principle, and then on to the ordinary moral judgments with which we started.
 Hence, the division of the work goes like this: Chapter I: Passage from ordinary rational knowledge of morality to philosophical knowledge (moving from analysis of ordinary moral judgments to a philosophical statement of the first principle of morality); Chapter II: Passage from popular moral philosophy to a metaphysic of morals (moving from analysis of the confusions of ‘popular’ philosophy, which works from examples and mixes the empirical with the a priori, to the supreme principle); Chapter III: Final step from a metaphysic of morals to a critique of pure practical reason (which attempts, “synthetically,” to justify the first principle of morality by deriving it from its source in pure practical reason – thus suggesting a “critique of practical reason”).
CHAPTER I: PASSAGE FROM ORDINARY RATIONAL KNOWLEDGE OF MORALITY TO PHILOSOPHICAL KNOWLEDGE
 (The Good Will]. The only thing that is good without any qualification or restrictions is a good will – that alone is good in all circumstances, good in itself. The good will is obviously not the only good; but all others – say, intelligence, wealth, beauty, etc. – are goods only in certain circumstances or under certain conditions. What’s more, the goodness of a good will is not derived from the goodness of its consequences or results. The good will certainly aims at specific results – but it remains good, even if these do not come about.
 [The function, or ‘end,’ or purpose of reason – the ‘teleological’ argument]. Ordinary moral awareness supports the view that the good will alone is unconditionally good. And we can find further corroboration by considering the function of reason in action. On the presupposition that in organic life every organ has a purpose or function, and that this applies to mental life too, it would appear that where instinct controls action in animals, it is reason that performs the same function in human beings. And if the function of reason were merely to produce happiness, instinct would probably be a better guide. Hence, if reason aims at some other purpose, this cannot be merely to a produce a will that is good as a means to happiness, but as a good in itself.
 [Good will and duty; its motives; the three propositions about duty]. In human conditions, when we often have to struggle against instincts and desires, the good will often acts out of duty – hence we need to examine the concept of duty. In order to think about the motives for duty, we might cite two examples: that of the shopkeeper who chooses not to overcharge an inexperienced customer – but not out of duty, but rather a desire to maintain the store’s reputation; and that of a person who is overwhelmed by adversity and grief, but who nevertheless chooses to accept the duty not to end one’s life.
(a) This leads to a first proposition about duty – about which commentators have long disagreed, since Kant didn’t state it explicitly; J. H. Paton analyzed it thus: “A human action is morally good, not because it is done from immediate inclination or instinct – say, spontaneous sympathy; and still less from self-interest; but because it is done for the sake of duty.”
(b) The second proposition is: “An action from duty has its moral worth not in the purpose to be attained by it but in the maxim in accordance with which it is decided upon, and thus does not depend upon the realization of the object of the action but merely upon the principle of volition with which the action is done, without regard for any object of the faculty of desire.”
(c} The third proposition is an inference derived from the first two [though this claim of Kant’s is controversial, and disputed by not a few commentators): “Duty is the necessity to act out of reverence – respect – for the law. Or rather, to act on the maxim of doing one’s duty for its own sake is to act out of reverence – or “respect,” a very unique kind of feeling – for the law. In any case, this points us on to what kind of law we might be talking about – a first formulation of the supreme law of morality.
 [The categorical imperative]. It would seem to be a strange law, which the good man is supposed not just to obey but to revere – one that has nothing whatever to do with consequences or outcomes, and is somehow thereby universally binding, to be obeyed for its own sake. Universality is indeed inscribed in the essence of the supreme law, the “categorical imperative,” whose first statement is negative in form: “I ought never to to act except in way that I can also will that my maxim should become a universal law.” That is the principle from which all other moral laws must be “derived” – the example for which is the lie. In any case, we can conclude the first chapter by saying that although ordinary morality does not formulate this principle in this abstract fashion, it is still there; and that ordinary morality nevertheless needs philosophy, because ordinary men are so inclined to self-deception about the principle, lured away by what Kant calls “dialectic” – plausible, yet contradictory arguments that undermine the claims of duty. The remedy can only be found in philosophy – and, in particular, in a “critique of practical reason.”
CHAPTER II: PASSAGE FROM POPULAR MORAL PHILOSOPHY TO A METAPHYSIC OF MORALS
 Although popular moral philosophy has led us to the fundamental principle of morality, we didn’t get there in the manner that popular philosophy does, by generalizing on examples and illustrations of acting out of duty. Human beings are too good at deceiving themselves, when it comes to their motives; and popular philosophy compounds the problem by failing to distinguish between the empirical and the a priori side of ethics. The result is hopelessly to confuse moral principles with those of self-interest, which ends up fatally weakening the claims of morality. Genuine more principles have to be grasped entirely a priori, without reference to empirical consequences and considerations of self-interest.
 [Imperatives – Hypothetical and Categorical]. So let’s start in again, this time with the phenomenon of rational willing – acting with reasons. All of nature follows laws, but humans act for reasons, which can be seen as representations of laws or principles – those times when we say we “ought” to do something. We’ll call those “ought” imperatives, and distinguish among two main kinds: hypothetical and categorical. Hypothetical imperatives take the form of “if, then” – where the “ifs” typically refer to experience of the empirical world – to circumstances. Actually, you can further distinguish between two large classes of hypothetical imperatives: rules of skill and counsels of prudence – the former typically a good deal more measurable and objective than the latter. And then there are categorical imperatives, which take the form of “I ought to . . . ” without any “ifs” – no conditions – and which can also be called “apodeictic,” necessary in the sense of being unconditioned and absolute.
 [ The Categorical Imperative – the three Formulations]. We should stress that the categorical imperative, if it exists, necessarily involves synthetic judgments – as opposed to analytic ones, true merely by definition. Hypothetical imperatives obviously rely on synthetic judgments, too, since they depend on experience of the empirical world. But the categorical imperative does not rely on the empirical world – if it exists, it would have to rely on synthetic a priori judgment. In any case, our initial problem, before we even get to the synthetic a priori, is to formulate the categorical imperative in ethics – which we’ll do in three different but interrelated ways:
(a) [The Formula of the Universal Law of Nature}. So the first formula we’ll consider is a categorical imperative merely bids us to act in accordance with a universal law as such: “Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law‘ – or, rather more specifically, “Act as if the maxim of your action were to become through your will a universal law of nature.” Now, the application of such a test clearly depends on some empirical knowledge of human nature – which leads us to distinguish between duties toward the self and duties toward others, and between what we may call “perfect” and “imperfect” duties. A perfect duty is one that admits of no exception for interests or inclination – say, the ban on suicide, or making a false promise in order to receive a loan, doing either of which would involve a “contradiction in conception.” Imperfect duties are positive actions, such as giving to charity or developing one’s talents; not doing them involves a “contradiction in willing.”
(b) [The Formula of the End in Itself – Humanity]. The second formula is: “Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of another, never as simply means, but always and at the same time as an end.” All action has a ground or end; with hypothetical imperatives, these grounds will be subjective, belonging to an individual and his or her specific purposes. But the only possible ground of a categorical imperative would be objective, and thus absolute and unconditional, something of absolute worth. What is a rational end? “A human being and generally every rational being exists as an end in itself.” We have a perfect duty not to use ourselves or others merely as a means to the satisfaction of our inclinations; and we have an imperfect, positive, duty to further the ends of nature in ourselves and in others – that is to say, to seek our own perfection and that of humanity in general.
(c) [the Formula of Autonomy – the Formula of the Kingdom of Ends]. Then there’s the third formula, that of “Autonomy”: “Act so that your will can regard itself at the same time as making universal law,” which combines the objectivity of the Formula of the Universal Law of Nature with the objectivity of the Formula of the End in itself. The idea is that a will which is not subject to law because of any interest can be subject only to laws which it itself makes. The supreme merit of the Formula of Autonomy is that by the express statement that a rational will makes the laws which bind it makes the categorical imperative fully explicit. And this becomes clearer still if we reformulate it (in “another fruitful concept”) as “The Formula of the Kingdom of Ends”: “Act as if you were through your maxims a law-making member of a Kingdom of Ends.”
Autonomy of the Will as the Supreme Principle of Morality
So the principle of the autonomy of the will (and a categorical imperative requiring action in accordance with such autonomy) is a necessary condition of the validity of moral judgments. If, however, we wish to establish the validity of the principle of autonomy, we must pass beyond our judgments about moral actions to a critique of pure practical reason.
Heteronomy of the Will as the Source of Spurious Principles of Morality
Any moral philosophy that rejects the principle of autonomy has to fall back on a principle of heteronomy: it must make the law governing human action depend, not on the will itself, but on objects other than the will. Such a view can give rise only to hypothetical and so non-moral judgments.
Classification of all Possible Principles of Morality Based on Heteronomy as their Fundamental Concept
Heteronomous principles are either empirical or rational. When empirical, their principle is always the pursuit of happiness; some of these may be based on natural feelings of pleasure and pain; or on a supposed feeling of “moral sense” or “sensibility.” When heteronomous principles are rational, their principle is always the pursuit of perfection – either a perfection of ourselves to be attained by our own will, or one supposed to be already existent in the will of God. The theological principle that to be moral is to obey the perfect will of God must be utterly rejected: for if we suppose that God is good, this can only be because we already know what good is, and our theory is a vicious circle; or we conceive of Him as all-powerful, with morality based on fear of an arbitrary will – equally in opposition to true morality. All these doctrines, that suppose that the moral law has to be derived, not from the will itself but from some object of the will, necessarily fail – they place man under a law of nature rather than a law of freedom.
CHAPTER III: PASSAGE FROM A METAPHYSIC OF MORALS TO A CRITIQUE OF PRACTICAL REASON
The Concept of Freedom is the Key to Explaining Autonomy of the Will
 When we consider will (aka “practical reason”), we can define it as a sort of causality – a power of causal action. To call it free will is to say that it can act causally without being caused to do so by something other than itself. Non-rational beings act causally only when they are caused to do so by something else, which is what we mean by natural necessity or determinism, as opposed to freedom.
 So far that’s just a negative definition of freedom. But a lawless free will would be self-contradictory: we thus have to make our definition positive by saying that a free will would act under laws, but that these laws can’t be imposed on it by something other than itself. In other words, freedom is identical with autonomy – and since autonomy is the principle of morality, a free will be under or subject to moral laws.
Freedom Must Be Presupposed as a Property of the Will of all Rational Beings
If morality is to be derived from freedom, and if is to be valid for all rational beings, then it looks as though we need to prove that the will of a rational being is necessarily free. The problem is that we can’t prove that, by either experience or any philosophic theory. However, what we we can do is show that a rational being can only act under the presupposition of freedom – and thus the moral laws bound up with freedom would be just as valid for the actor, as if he were known to be free. Reason thus necessarily functions under the presupposition that it is free both negatively and positively: it presupposes that it is not determined by outside influences and that it is the source of its own principles. or maxims.
The Interest Attached to the Ideas of Morality
[1 – Moral interest and the vicious circle] But now we confront the question: why should I, because you say I’m a rational being, subject myself to the principle of autonomy and the categorical imperative? What interest do I, and we, have in doing so? No doubt we do – sometimes – take an interest in morality or moral excellence – but this interest owes much to the idea that moral law is binding, and we still need to know why. And here we’ve got something like a vicious circle: we’ve argued that we must suppose ourselves to be free because we’re under moral laws, and have argued that we must be under moral laws because we have supposed ourselves to be free. Which is it?
[2 – The two standpoints] We can escape from the vicious circle by realizing and acknowledging that we view our actions from two quite different points of view. Without going into all the arguments for it [i.e., assuming that the “Copernican revolution” of the Critique of Pure Reason is a done deal], recall that all the ideas given to our senses come to us without volition of our own, and seem to come from objects outside of us – but we cannot know anything about these objects “in themselves,” outside of our experience of them. Our world is divided into the phenomena that we know, via our senses, and the noumena, beyond them, that we can’t know. The distinction between a sensible and intelligible world applies to knowledge of ourselves, too: there is the self that appears to the senses, and, we must assume, a noumenal self [the famous “transcendental unity of apperception,” in the Critique of Pure Reason]. Paradoxically, or otherwise, it’s in that latter world – intelligible because intelligent, if also unknown to us – that reason holds sway, as a spontaneous power of understanding and action – where we are free to choose the maxims that will guide our actions.
How is a Categorical Imperative Possible?
As finite yet rational agents, men must regard themselves from two standpoints – simultaneously as members of the intelligible and the sensible worlds. If I were solely a member of the intelligible world, all my actions would necessarily accord with the principle of autonomy; if solely part of the sensible world, they would be entirely subject to the laws of nature. Fortunately, the intelligible world contains the ground of the sensible world and also of its laws – the law governing my will as a member of the intelligible world ought to govern my will in spite of the fact that I am also a member of the sensible world. The categorical “I ought” is a synthetic a priori judgment: the third term that connects this “ought” with the will of an imperfectly rational agent like myself is the Idea of the same will, viewed, however, as a pure will belong to the intelligible world. [The function of this “Idea” is roughly similar to that played by the categories in the synthetic a priori propositions that are necessary for our experience of nature, as set forth in the Critique of Pure Reason].
The Extreme Limit of Practical Philosophy
[1 –The antinomy of freedom and necessity]. We confront, in the relationship of freedom and necessity, one of those “antinomies” – conflicting propositions, each of which looks irrefutable. The concept of freedom is an Idea of reason without which there could be no moral judgments, just as the concept of natural necessity (or of cause and effect) is a category of understanding without which there could be no knowledge of nature. Reason has either to show that the contradiction between the two notions is illusory in some way, or else abandon freedom in favor of natural necessity, which at least has the advantage of being confirmed by experience.
[2 – Again, the two standpoints] The contradiction would be impossible to resolve, if we conceived ourselves both as free and as determined in the same sense and in the same relationship. To see that this is not the case, we must let speculative philosophy return us to that double standpoint – that man must consider himself both a member of the intelligible world and a part of the sensible world – then the contradiction disappears. For there is no contradiction in supposing that as an appearance in the sensible world one is subject to laws that do not apply to one as a thing in itself. One need not consider oneself responsible for one’s desires and inclinations; but one must consider oneself responsible for acting on them, in detriment to the moral law.
[3 – However, there is no knowledge of the intelligible world]. However, in thus conceiving of the intelligible world and thus thinking itself into it, practical reason must not overstep its limits – which it would do, if it claimed to know the intelligible for and intuit itself in it. In other words, our thoughts about the intelligible world must be negative – thought of only as a world that is not known through sense. But this does, at least, enable us not only to conceive the will as negatively free (free from determination by sensuous causes), but to conceive of its as positively free as well. Without this concept of the intelligible world we would have to regard our will as completely determined by sensuous causes.
[4 – And there is no explanation of freedom]. Reason would equally overstep its boundaries, were it to pretend to explain how freedom is possible – how pure reason could be practical. We obviously can’t explain a free action by pointing out its cause, and this means we can’t explain it at all. But best we can do is defend freedom against the attacks of those who claim to know that it is impossible.
[5- And no explanation of moral interest, either]. And to say that we can’t explain freedom is also to say that we can’t explain how it is possible to take an interest in the moral law. An interest arises through a combination of feeling and reason; a sensuous impulse becomes a causal interest only when it is conceived by reason. Remember that there are two kinds of interest: that based on feeling and desire roused by some object of experience, which gives rise to a mediate or ‘pathological’ interest in the action appropriate to obtaining it; and the immediate or ‘practical’ interest that is aroused by the Idea of the moral law. The latter interest in moral action is what we call ‘moral feeling” – the result of recognizing the binding character of the moral law and not – as is often held – the gauge of our moral judgments. This means that pure reason, by its Idea of moral law, must be the cause of a moral feeling: we have here a special kind of causality, that of a mere Idea – and it is impossible to know a priori what cause will produce that effect, since we can have no sensuous experience of a mere Idea [this argument is held by commentators to be different from the one Kant presents in Critique of Practical Reason] In any case, the important point is that the moral law is not valid because it interests us – on the contrary, it interests us because we recognize it to be valid.
[6 – The extreme limit of moral enquiry]. With this Idea of the intelligible world as something other than and more than the sensible world, we arrive at the extreme limit of all moral enquiry – and to fix this limit is of the utmost importance. Unless we see that this world of sense is not the whole of reality, reason will never be kept from trying to discover empirical interests as a basis for morality – an operation that will be fatal to morality itself. At the same time, unless we see that we can have no knowledge of the “something else” beyond the world of sense, reason will never be kept from forever fluttering around impotently through its empty space. Empirical and mystical theories of morality can both be gotten rid of only when we determine the limit of moral enquiry. And yet, although all knowledge ends when we come to the limit of the sensible world, the Idea of the intelligible world as a whole of intelligences may serve the purpose of a rational belief; it may arouse a lively interest in the moral law by means of the splendid ideal of a universal kingdom of ends.
 Pure reason can never be satisfied with the merely contingent – it always seeks knowledge of the necessary. But it can grasp the necessary only by finding its necessary condition; and it is bound eventually to conceive of the Idea of the totality of conditions – a totality which, if it is a totality, can have no further conditions and must thus be unconditionally necessary if there is to be anything necessary at all. But such an Idea of the unconditionally necessary cannot, however, give us knowledge, since it has no corresponding sensible object.
 We’ve seen that in the same way, practical reason must also conceive of a law of action that is unconditionally necessary and thus a categorical imperative. Here too, if we can comprehend a necessity only by discovering its conditions, an unconditioned necessity would be incomprehensible – and thus, the unconditioned necessity of the categorical imperative must be incomprehensible – the best we can do is comprehend its incomprehensibility.
 The point is that it is absurd to ask why we should obey the categorical imperative and do our duty – to expect as an answer that we should do our duty because of something else – some interest or satisfaction of our own in this world or the next. If such an answer could be given, it would mean that no imperatives were categorical and that duty it s mere illusion.
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