Metaphysics of Morals Essay

Metaphysics of Morals Essay

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Through his discussion of morals in the Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, Immanuel Kant explores the question of whether a human being is capable of acting solely out of pure duty and if our actions hold true moral value. In passage 407, page 19, Kant proposes that if one were to look at past experiences, one cannot be certain that his or her rationalization for performing an action that conforms with duty could rest solely on moral grounds. In order to fully explain the core principle of moral theory, Kant distinguishes between key notions such as a priori and a posteriori, and hypothetical imperative vs. categorical imperative, in order to argue whether the actions of rational beings are actually moral or if they are only moral because of one’s hidden inclinations.
When Kant says, "For when moral value is being considered, the concern is not with the actions, which are seen, but rather with their inner principles, which are not seen," in page 19, he is suggesting that a person's true motives behind the action are more important in determining if the action holds true moral value. As Jonathan Bennett, a British philosopher of language and metaphysics who translated Kant's Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, says, when moral worth is in question it is not a matter of visible actions but of their invisible inner principles (Bennett, 19). Kant explains that a human being might have inclinations, reasons for doing something, beyond moral reasons. Inclinations are motives (desires, interests, incentives, fears, or impulses) that one may possess, but will sometimes seem hidden when performing an action. If there lies a motive behind carrying out an action, aside for the sake of duty alone, then it can be considered to be i...


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... value through discussing duty in light of a priori and experience. In conclusion, he suggests that because actions depend on specific circumstances, a priori beliefs cannot be extracted from experience. People’s experiences and actions are based on circumstantial motivations; thus they can’t conform to categorical imperatives either because categorical imperatives are principles that are intrinsically good and must be obeyed despite the circumstance or situation. Kant concludes that rational beings are ends in themselves and that principle is a universal law, which comes from reason and not experience.



Works Cited

Bennett, Jonathan. "Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals." Http://www.stolaf.edu/.
N.p., July 2005. Web. 17 Feb. 2014.
Kant, Immanuel, and James W. Ellington. Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals.
Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Pub., 1981. Print.

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