Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals

Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals

Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals

Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals

Excerpt

There is hardly an introduction to any of Kant's major works that does not begin by commenting on the unusual importance and centrality of this eighteenth century philosopher. Professor L. W. Beck begins his introduction to a recent edition of Kant's major ethical writings by quoting the well known adage, "You can philosophize with Kant or against Kant, but you cannot philosophize without him." H. J. Paton puts it this way in the preface to The Categorical Imperative: "It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of grasping the supreme principle of morality; and because Kant . . . Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten . . . treats of this topic, and of this topic alone, it is an indispensable book for all who profess to think seriously about moral problems." Kant's influence on all subsequent moral and metaphysical speculation was so profound and his creative genius so original that it is literally true that even contemporary philosophy still cannot afford to ignore him.

But while the extraordinary importance of Kant's philosophy is rarely brought into question, his moral theory, in particular, is seldom accorded the kind of sympathetic interpretation which any work of such depth and penetration inevitably requires. Instead there has grown up about Kant's moral philosophy a tradition of interpretation which often makes of his doctrine sheer nonsense. Professor Paul A. Schilpp, in his work on Kant's Pre- Critical Ethics, stresses the fact that "the conventional interpretation of Kant's ethics is recognized as making Kant too ludicrous to be taken seriously." Similarly, H. J. Paton notes that "so many of those who either explicitly or implicitly regard Kant as a great . . .

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