Study Questions for Cahn and Markie, eds. Ethics

Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals

Instructor: Dr. Jan Garrett

July 26, 2010


1. What alone is good without limitation? (283.1) Does Kant agree with Aristotle, who holds that happiness and the virtues such as courage and moderation are good without limitation? (283.1-2)

2. Is the good will good because of its consequences for society? (283.2) Are intentions or results more significant, morally? (283.2-284.1)

3. When Nature gave us reason, was preservation of the human creature its purpose? (284.1-2) How does Kant defend his answer here?

4. What is the "true vocation" of reason? (284.2 last ¶ - 285.1)

5. How does an action from duty differ from an action done merely in conformity with duty but from inclination? Give examples of each. (285.1 middle)

6. When does conduct have "properly moral worth"? (286.2)

7. What is the "second proposition" of morality? (286.2) (Note: a maxim is a principle, borne in mind by the acting person or agent, which determines her action.)

8. What is the third proposition of morality? (287.1) Can we respect an inclination? What is the "highest and unconditional" good? (287.1, last full ¶)

9. How should one never act? (287.2) What is the "shortest and yet infallible" way to determine whether a deceitful promise is consistent with duty? (288.1)

10. Is the proper moral outlook implicit in common human reason? (287.2, 288.1-2)

11. Why is innocence and even wisdom in need of "science" (i.e., rigorous philosophy)? (289.1)


12, What works according to laws? What alone can act acording to the conception ("representation") of laws? (292.1) (For Kant these are radically different.)

13. What is will? (292.1) Practical reason? (292.1) For another definition of "will," see 299.1, start of ¶.

14. What does Kant mean by command of reason? Imperative? (292.2 middle)

15. To what sort of will do imperatives speak? Are they relevant to perfectly good wills? (292.2)

16. What two types of imperative does K. distinguish? How does he define each? (293.1)

17. K then divides the first class of imperative into two subclasses. How are they different? (293.1, last ¶)

18. Why does K say that imperatives of skill are based on an analytic proposition? (284.2) What prevents imperatives of prudence from being analytic? (294.2) What is it about the concept of happiness as understood by Kant that explains this? (294.2-295.1)

19. How many categorical imperatives does K. recognize? How are "all imperatives of duty" related to it (or them)? (296.1)

20. Consider Kant's applications of his principle. Are they equally convincing? Explain. Does K's principle really suffice to determine what is right? How does the application of the principle differ in cases 2 and 4? (296.2-297.2)

21. How does Kant restate the categorical imperative (cf. "the practical imperative" on 300.1)?

22. How does Kant connect the will to the "inner worth" and "dignity" of persons? (298-300, 302-303)