Immanuel Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals ranks alongside Plato's Republic and Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics as one of the most profound and influential works in moral philosophy ever written. In Kant's own words its aim is to search for and establish the supreme principle of morality, the categorical imperative. The centerpiece of the Groundwork is Kant's most famous proposition, the Categorical Imperative. While this is often equated with the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you), the Categorical Imperative argues for a more universal set of moral action - for example, if one does not mind being lied to, then lying does not become a problem, according to the Golden Rule, but for Kant, this would be unacceptable as it is a violation of the rational principles of what morals are. Kant proceeds to look at issues of law, duty, free will and the good will, and autonomy of action. Kant argues strongly for the need for philosophy to guard against whim, taste and personal desire from becoming normative agents in the way we construct the moral universe. He argue for objective principles to govern the will, and categorizes these as either hypothetical or categorical. Kant also discusses the formulation of universal law and the way in which rational agents should formulate and view this kind of law.
About the Author
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was an 18th-century German philosopher from the Prussian city of Konigsberg. Kant was the last influential philosopher of modern Europe in the classic sequence of the theory of knowledge during the Enlightenment beginning with thinkers John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume. Kant created a new perspective in philosophy which had widespread influences on philosophy continuing through to the 21st century. He published important works on epistemology, as well as works relevant to religion, law, and history. One of his most prominent works is the Critique of Pure Reason, an investigation into the limitations and structure of reason itself. It encompasses an attack on traditional metaphysics and epistemology, and highlights Kant's own contribution to these areas. The other main works of his maturity are the Critique of Practical Reason, which concentrates on ethics, and the Critique of Judgment, which investigates aesthetics and teleology. Kant's thought was very influential in Germany during his lifetime, moving philosophy beyond the debate between the rationalists and empiricists. The philosophers Fichte, Schelling, Hegel and Schopenhauer each saw themselves as correcting and expanding the Kantian system, thus bringing about various forms of German idealism. Kant continues to be a major influence on philosophy, influencing both analytic and continental philosophy.