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What is the task of Kant's groundwork of the metaphysic of morals supposed to accomplish? How does he proceed? Is his project of any relevance for current debates in moral theory?

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Introduction

What is the task of Kant's groundwork of the metaphysic of morals supposed to accomplish? How does he proceed? Is his project of any relevance for current debates in moral theory? Amy Bond One of the most prominent deontological ethical theorists of modern times was the German philosopher Immanuel Kant. Kant's moral theory has had a tremendous influence on ethical thought, and the broad framework of his approach to ethics is still widely used today as a guide to ethical discussion. In order to understand Kant's position, we must understand the philosophical background that he was reacting to. There are two major historical movements in the early modern period of philosophy that had a significant impact on Kant: Empiricism and Rationalism. Kant argues that both the method and the content of these philosophers' arguments contain serious flaws. A central problem for philosophers in both movements was determining how we can escape from within the confines of the human mind and the immediately knowable content of our own thoughts to acquire knowledge of the world outside of us. The Empiricists sought to accomplish this through the senses and a posteriori reasoning. The Rationalists attempted to use a priori reasoning to offer such an explanation. A posteriori reasoning depends upon experience or contingent events in the world to provide us with information and is derived from subjective senses. That "Prince Charles will become King of England in 2007," for example, is something that can only be known through experience; I cannot determine this to be true through an analysis of the concepts of "Prince" or "King" A priori reasoning, in contrast, does not depend upon subjective experience to determine knowledge. ...read more.

Middle

We must recognize that we cannot know things as they are in themselves and that our knowledge is subject to the conditions of our experience. The Rationalist project was doomed to failure because it did not take note of the contribution that our faculty of reason makes to our experience of objects. Their a priori analysis of our ideas could inform us about the content of our ideas, but it could not give a coherent demonstration of metaphysical truths about the external world, the self, the soul, God, and so on. Kant's methodological innovation was to employ what he calls a transcendental argument to prove synthetic a priori claims. Typically, a transcendental argument attempts to prove a conclusion about the necessary structure of knowledge on the basis of an incontrovertible mental act. Kant argues in the Refutation of Material Idealism that "There are objects that exist in space and time outside of me," (B 274) and we have to transcend the real world in the order to understand freedom. Kant argues that we are governed by the law of practical reason, which in turn, explains the empirical world and the intuitions about ones self. The first fundamental aim of moral philosophy, and so also of the Groundwork, is to "seek out" the foundational principle of a metaphysics of morals. Kant pursues this project through the first two chapters of the Groundwork. He proceeds by analyzing and elucidating commonsense ideas about morality. The point of this project was to come up with a precise statement of the principle or principles on which all of our ordinary moral judgments are based. ...read more.

Conclusion

This challenge occurred while Kant was still alive, and his response was the essay On a Supposed Right to Tell Lies from Benevolent Motives. In this reply, Kant argued that it is indeed one's moral duty to be truthful to a murderer, which is a result that deeply conflicts with many people's moral intuitions. Therefore, Kant argued that it is indeed one's moral duty to be truthful to a murderer, which is a result that deeply conflicts with many people's moral intuitions. Kant argued that telling the truth to the murderer is required because the action itself is of value, regardless of the consequences; lying to the murderer would treat him as a means to another end, which is immoral because the will would be acting only under a particular interest, and not one that has universality. Furthermore, one does not know what will happen in the future. It might turn out that if you lied about where the victim is, you would be morally responsible for that lie. For example, say you said the victim was in the park, when you thought he was in the library. However, little did you know, the victim actually left the library and went to the park. The lie would actually lead the murderer to the victim.. Kant offers an account of human rationality that is essentially oriented towards judgment and Kant's analysis of moral intuitions and the idea of a rational agent as a self-governing being still has contemporary relevance today. I believe that Kant's theory sets a high ideal of conduct to follow and as result, his theory on ethics and the hope of identifying universal principles remains the paradigmatic and most influential attempt to do so. ...read more.

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