The Nature of and Need for a Metaphysic of Morals: An Analysis of the Preface of GMS

Henry E. Allison

in Kant's Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199691531
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731808 | DOI:
The Nature of and Need for a Metaphysic of Morals: An Analysis of the Preface of GMS

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This chapter analyzes the Preface of the Groundwork. Its main focus is on Kant’s argument for the necessity of a metaphysics of morals, that is, an a priori moral philosophy. Kant claims that such a metaphysics is necessary for both moral theory and practice. The former stems from the assumption that moral principles have an absolute necessity and universal scope, which precludes deriving them from experience. The latter stems from the fact that, without firm principles, which can only be established by such a metaphysics, morals are open to corruption by alien considerations, e.g., a concern for happiness. It is claimed that absolute necessity must be understood in a modal sense, as applicability to every conceivable rational agent. This means that the supreme principle of morality must be derived from a concept that applies to every conceivable rational agent, which is just that of being a rational agent.

Keywords: absolute necessity; a priori; concept of a rational agent; happiness; metaphysics of morals; modality; universal scope

Chapter.  13778 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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