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

By A. R. C. Duncan | Go to book overview

Chapter XI
THE ETHICAL INTERLUDE

Descending to popular notions is certainly very commendable, if the ascent to the principles of pure reason has first taken place. -- IMMANUEL KANT.

In previous chapters it has been claimed that the forty-three paragraphs which constitute Sub-section C of Section II may be regarded as an interlude in which Kant permits himself to stray from the narrow path of a critique of practical reason to the more attractive meadows of pure moral philosophy or metaphysics of morals. We must now substantiate that claim, and in so doing we shall attempt to answer some of the questions which were raised in Chapter V. What did Kant have in mind when he spoke of making a transition from popular moral philosophy to the metaphysics of morals? Can we identify the popular moral philosophy? Why did Kant introduce this passage at all? While we admit that in this sub-section Kant may be regarded as expounding an ethical doctrine, we shall endeavour to support our earlier claim that the teaching of this sub-section is only tangential to Kant's main Critical theme.

It will be convenient to follow our usual method of prefixing to our discussion a brief analysis by paragraphs of the contents of the sub-section. The forty-three paragraphs may be grouped into five relatively independent discussions as follows:

(a) Paragraphs 33 to 45 (pages 421 to 427): Statement and discussion through seven paragraphs of a formula for the categorical imperative in terms of the idea of the law of nature with illustrative examples. In the next six paragraphs Kant returns to what is virtually his pet theme, and issues a series of warnings against the dangers of

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