I BACKGROUND (1) Protestantism: emphasis on duty as obedience to the law (of God) (2) Newton: Idea from the Principia that nature is governed by universal laws (3) Descartes: Foundations of Knowledge must be certain; in Kant's philosophy this means that the fundamental principle(s) must be necessary Dualism: Mind and Body are two distinct substances which can exist independently. In Kant's ethics practical reason is independent of the physical so that psychology andethics are completely separate (unlike Plato and Aristotle) (4) Aristotle: The distinction between Theoretical (in Kant, Speculative) Reason which is concerned with reasons for belief and Practical Reason which is concerned with reasons for acting is fundamental in Kant. Kant uses the idea of final causes in nature. Kant rejects the view that Happiness is the supreme good (as well as the view that virtues like courage, wisdom, and moderation are good in themselves).


The Purpose of the Grounding of the Metaphysics of Morals is to establish the Supreme Principle of Morality. (1) To explain what the supreme principle is and to relate it to ordinary moral concepts of duty, dignity, and freedom (2) To show that the supreme principle is the necessary precondition of ordinary morality (3) To show that the supreme principle is true of all rational being as rational beings

The supreme principle of morality must be a Law which is Universal and Necessary. This principle will determine the Will which is the faculty of practical reason. In order to be a necessary principle, it must be Pure, that is independent of empirical content.


Only the Good Will is good without qualification, independently of what it achieves. Gifts of nature such as intelligence, qualities of temperament like courage or perseverance, are often good but may be used for evil ends unless directed by a good will. Gifts of fortune which include riches and health can also be used for good or ill. Even moderation and self-control are not good in themselves but require a good will Happiness is not the Supreme Good

(1) Happiness can lead to arrogance without a good will. ("The sight of a being who is not graced by any touch of a pure and good will but who yet enjoys uninterrupted prosperity can never delight a rational and impartial observer." P.7) (2) Happiness and Virtue (or Goodness) are two distinct things. Happiness is not proportional to well-doing (P. 46) "...making a man happy is quite different from making him good and making him prudent and sharp-sighted for his own advantage quite different from making him virtuous." (P.46) (3) Securing happiness is not the function of the will. The supreme good must be related to the will as the faculty of practical reason. Every organ has a purpose for which it is best suited by nature. Practical reason is poorly equipped to promote th e happiness of a rational being. Instinct would be a much more effective guide to happiness or well-being. Therefore, the function of the will must be something other than securing happiness (P.8) (4) Rules for promoting happiness (what Kant calls Imperatives of Prudence) cannot be completely certain, and therefore do not really command (or determine) the will. Happiness is an indeterminate idea which means that it is impossible for rules for happ iness to have the universal and necessary character of a true moral principle. (P.28) Happiness is an empirical goal of everyone. In that sense Aristotle was correct in saying that everyone desires happiness. But according to Kant, "Empirical principles are wholly unsuited to serve as the foundation for moral laws.' (P.46) Because such principles are based on the contingent facts of human nature and the contingent circumstances in which people find themselves, such empirical principles are at best generally true, but they are not necessary truths.


The Empirical Will is determined through the principle of causality by Inclination (habits, desires, etc.) Such a will is determined by alien causes. It is Heteronomous. The Pure (non-empirical) Will is determined by its own principle of practical reason. It is self-determined and is therefore Autonomous. An Autonomous Will is Free in the sense that it is not determined by something else. It makes its own law(s). This law must be a law of practical reason which will be true of all rational beings because they are rational. What brings about actions:

(1)Inclination (or habit or desire) may directly cause an action. OR (2) Recognizing a desire, a person may consider different options or means of obtaining it. These options are possible actions and are reasons and are reasons for acting. (3) A person may also consider whether one ought to fulfill a particular desire or goal. This is reasoning about the ends. (4) A person may also consider whether to do something for which one has no desire, perhaps because one has an obligation. (5) A person may also consider whether a proposed action really is a duty.

Alternatives (2) to (5) are all sorts of practical reasoning which are increasingly separated from considerations of desires and are more and more general. Kant recognizes the distinction between (1) and (4) but does not consider the other kinds of practi cal reasoning.]


Every action is an instance of a general principle or rule. Rules of action may be expressed in two ways. (1) As a command or imperative "Turn off the lights" or (2) As a statement of obligation "You ought to turn off the lights"

The Maxim of an action is the rule the specific action exemplifies

When the Will is determined by Empirical Inclination, the Maxim of the action may be expressed as a Hypothetical Imperative. For examples, "If you want to conserve resources, then (you ought to) turn off the lights. A hypothetical Imperative has the for m, "If you desire Y, (you ought to) Do X" There are two kinds of Hypothetical Imperatives: Imperatives of Skill which express a means for obtaining a desired goal and Imperatives of Prudence which are general rules for obtaining happiness . Imperatives of Prudence are not moral principles because they are neither necessary nor universal. (Descartes' Moral Maxims are Imperative of Prudence)

A Principle of action which commands the will necessarily is called a Categorical Imperative. A Categorical Imperative will be both necessary and universal and will be independent of any empirical inclination. Only a Categorical Imperative can be a true moral principle. Because a categorical imperative in independent of empirical inclination, it is what can determine the autonomous will. A Will which is autonomously determined by the categorical imperative will be a Good Will.


A perfectly rational being whose will was never determined by inclination and always acted autonomously would never experience any conflict between inclination and autonomous principles Such a will is called "holy" by Kant. People are not perfectly rational so that the categorical imperative is experienced as a command or as necessary. Duty is the necessity of an action done out of respect for the law" (P.13) The law is a moral principle which is necessary and universal. W hen the will is in conformity with universal practical reason, the will is Good

When a person's actions are determined by a moral principle, that person is acting From a Sense of Duty. Such actions are the only kind that have Moral Worth. Actions done from a sense of duty are those in which the will is determined by the Categorical Imperative. When a person acts from a sense of duty, one is autonomous because one is obeying a law which one gives to oneself. The autonomy of the will in itself has intrinsic worth. This intrinsic worth of the Good will is what constitutes the special Dignity of Man. Dignity is "unconditional and incomparable worth" (P.41) It is the Dignity of Man which is the result of the practical reason which allows for autonomy which makes people worthy of respect.

A person's actions may be in Accord with Duty but if the will is determined by Inclination and not by the Categorical Imperative, the that person does not have a Good Will, nor does the action have any moral worth nor is the action an example of autonomy.

Kant gives four examples of duties and uses them to illustrate the distinction between acting from a sense of duty (which has moral worth and is worthy of respect) and acting in accord with duty which is neither. In cases where the action is in accord with duty and "the subject has in addition an immediate inclination to do the action" (P. 10) it is difficult to tell whether the action has moral worth.

(1) The Honest Merchant who acts honestly because of fear of being caught. It is relatively easy to recognize that this is a case of acting in accord with duty for selfish purposes. (2) Preserving one's life is a duty but one also has an immediate inclination to do so. Most people preserve their lives from inclination not from duty. (3) To be beneficent where one can is a duty, and many people have "are so sympathetically constituted that... they find an inner pleasure in spreading joy around them...." (P. 11) According to Kant, such actions have no true moral worth. He compares the sympathetic person to the "friend of mankind" who acts beneficently from a sense of duty. (4) To secure one's own happiness is a duty (at least indirectly) so that it is usually difficult to tell whether the immediate inclination or the duty determined the action.

Kant on the Scripture's command to Love thy Neighbor (P.12)

"Love as inclination cannot be commanded; but beneficence from duty when no inclination impels us and even when a natural and unconquerable aversion opposes such beneficence is practical and not pathological love. Such love resides in the will and not in the propensities of feeling, in principles of action and not in tender sympathy; and only practical love can be commanded." VII CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE: THE FIRST FORMULATION

The first formulation of the Categorical Imperative is: ACT SO THAT THE MAXIM OF YOUR ACTION CAN BE WILLED A UNIVERSAL LAW (OF NATURE). This principle is supposed to be equivalent to the Golden Rule, "Do Unto Others as You Would Have Others Do Unto You."

This is a principle of action which is a true moral law because it necessarily holds for all rational beings. To violate this principle requires that the will contradict itself. To illustrate this claim Kant analyzes what the violation of four different types of duties would involve. (1) The Perfect Duty to Oneself: The Duty to Preserve One's Life (P.30) (2) The Perfect Duty to Others: The Duty to Make Only Sincere Promises (P.31) (3) The Imperfect Duty to Oneself: The Duty to Promote One's Talents (P.31) (4) The Imperfect Duty to Others: The Duty To Help Those In Need (P.32)

"Some actions are so constituted that their maxims cannot without contradiction even be thought as a universal law of nature, much less willed as what should become one. In the case of others this internal impossibility is indeed not found, but there is still no possibility of willing that their maxim should be raised to the universality of a law of nature because such a will would contradict itself." Perfect duties cannot be thought of as universal laws; imperfect duties cannot be willed as universal l aws. [Note: the distinction between perfect and imperfect duties is found in earlier natural law theories to mark the distinction between obligation which are necessary for the existence of any society and ones which are necessary for a society to be a g ood one.]


Again, Kant uses the four examples of duties to illustrate how violating those duties would be a violation of this version of the Categorical Imperative.

(1) Necessary Duty to Oneself: The Man who Contemplates Suicide (P.36) (2) Strict Duty to Others: The Man Who Intends to Make A False Promise (P.37) (3) Contingent (Meritorious) Duty to Oneself: The Duty to Promote One's Talents (P.37) (4) Contingent (Meritorious) Duty to Others: The Duty to Contribute to the Happiness of Others (P. 37) One avoids treating others as means only by treating them as ends in themselves The Humanity referred to in this principle is people's Rational Nature especially the power to set an end (choose a goal)

The Rational Nature of Man includes:

(1) The capacity to act on Maxims - to act on the basis of reasons (2) The capacity to follow rational principles of prudence and skill (efficiency) (3) The capacity to set any end - to foresee consequences of possible actions, to adopt long-range goals, to adopt ends for which one has no (present) desire (4) The capacity to accept unconditional principles of conduct (5) A Capacity for theoretical reason - to understand the world and reason abstractly.

IX END IN ITSELF Because of their rational nature, people are ends in themselves. (p.35)

Consequences of the Imperative to Treat Humanity as an End In Itself

(1) One would refuse to do anything which would impair or damage a person's rational capacities. (2) One would not destroy the rational capacities of oneself or others (3) One would try to develop the rational capacities in oneself and others. (4) One would strive to exercise these capacities (5) One would appeal to others' reason (instead of trying to manipulate them) (6) One would leave other the freedom to pursue their ends in a rational way (7) One would not mock, dishonor, or degrade humanity.


The third formulation of the Categorical Imperative FOLLOW THE RULES WHICH ONE WOULD MAKE AS A LAW-GIVER IN A UNIVERSAL KINGDOM OF ENDS A rational being belongs to the kingdom of ends as a member when he legislates in it universal laws while also being himself subject to those laws (P.39-40)

These rules are one which are formulated by fully rational, autonomous persons They give themselves universal laws and abide by them. When making these rules, they abstract from personal differences Requirements for the third formulation: (1) The Laws must be universal in form (2) The Laws must abstract from Personal Differences (be universal in content) (3) They must be the Laws of Rational Legislators: (1) They must be logical in the following senses: There must be reasons for the laws The Laws must be consistent with one another The Laws must not give rise to conflicting orders for the same situation The Laws must not be self-defeating (2) The Legislators follow the rules they adopt (4) The Law-makers are autonomous (5) Each Law-makers regards himself and others as ends in themselves in the following senses:

(1) Each Member has the same rights (2) Rationality is unconditional worth (3) Prima Facie concern to see that each person's ends are realized or at least that each person has the freedom necessary to realize his ends