Kant 's Philosophy And Philosophy Essay

Kant 's Philosophy And Philosophy Essay

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Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) grew up in a pietistic Lutheran family of modest means in a German-speaking region now part of Russia. He responded to the religious pressure he experienced at school as a boy by immersing himself in study and reading of early Latin writings. At the age of sixteen he began university studies in mathematics, physics, theology, and philosophy.
II. Synopsis
Kant’s preface opens with a discussion of the difference between physics, ethics and logic, the latter of which Kant views as “formal philosophy” in contrast with physics and ethics, which he calls “material philosophy.” Physics, Kant describes as dealing with how the world works, whereas ethics deals with how it ought to work. He further distinguishes between “empirical” and “pure” philosophy, declaring the necessity of the latter in order to build a solid and unassailable foundation for ethics. He declares, “The sole aim of the present Groundwork is to seek out and establish the supreme principle of morality” (60), and he explains that his intention is to move from common sense thought and observation to theory and back again.
The first chapter is entitled “Passage from Ordinary Rational Knowledge of Morality to Philosophical,” and Kant opens it by declaring, “It is impossible to conceive anything at all in the world, or even out of it, which can be taken as good without qualification except a good will” (61). This is true, he says, because even laudable qualities and abilities can be turned to evil ends if exercised with ill will. Nonetheless, it is not consequences of an action that are ultimately good or bad, but only the will that animates it (61-62).
Kant points to the human capacity for reason as an indication of the importance of good will, argui...


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...er, that his insistence on not submitting to any will but one’s own is so diametrically opposed to biblical injunctions to submit to God and even to human authority, that his viewpoint could reasonably be characterized as diabolical. His emphasis on duty, similarly, resonates with the scriptural idea of dying to self, but the idea that pleasure can strip dutiful behavior of moral value in no way fits with the Bible’s emphasis on love, joy, and whole-heartedness.
Taken together, the emphasis on freedom of the will, self-determination, and the categorical imperative amount to an unsettling rule for conduct. His prescription for moral conduct is that in every decision and every action, people should ask themselves how they want all mankind to conduct themselves, in essence to imagine themselves in the place of God. Such “groundwork” is a shaky foundation for morality.

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