Practical Reason and Morality: A Study of Immanuel Kant's Foundations for the Metaphysics of Morals

Practical Reason and Morality: A Study of Immanuel Kant's Foundations for the Metaphysics of Morals

Practical Reason and Morality: A Study of Immanuel Kant's Foundations for the Metaphysics of Morals

Practical Reason and Morality: A Study of Immanuel Kant's Foundations for the Metaphysics of Morals

Excerpt

The following study is the outcome of years of dissatisfaction with an interpretation of Kant's teaching in the Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten (Foundations for the Metaphysics of Morals) which has been widely accepted among Englishspeaking philosophers. In consequence of this interpretation a number of philosophers have been led to make statements about Kant's ethical views which would imply either that he was foolish or that he was an unusually incompetent philosopher. The principle on which I have endeavoured to conduct my argument in the following pages has been admirably expressed by A. C. Ewing in these words: 'unless we have conclusive reasons for supposing that Kant made a fool of himself, it is surely more likely that he has not done so than that he has, and he should therefore, if possible, be interpreted accordingly.' The habit of interpreting the Foundations in a manner which makes Kant appear foolish was challenged by H. J. Paton in his work The Categorical Imperative, which was the first full book-length study in English of Kant Foundations. It is to be hoped that his work will be instrumental in causing the disappearance from the pages of works purporting to expound Kant of some of the more absurd and fantastic charges which have been so uncritically and carelessly levelled against him. Although my own approach to this work is different from that of Professor Paton, I am in wholehearted agreement with him when he states that he regards 'the proper interpretation of Kant's doctrine as of vital importance, not merely to students of Kant, but to all students of moral philosophy.' It is improbable that Kant's own solution to the problem with which he deals in the Foundations will be acceptable to an age in which the prevailing philosophy is empiricist or even positivist in character, but the problem to which he was seeking a solution is, if anything, more . . .

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