Following is a list of further resources used to understand Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals:
Kant’s Groundwork: An Introduction, Sally Sedgwick
An introductory text to the Groundwork that steps through the preface and each of the three sections, explaining what they mean and some of the common interpretations of Kant’s work. In addition, the book looks at the more contentious point of Kant’s ethics, such as his multiple definitions of the ‘categorical imperative’ and what this means for someone attempting to read the work.
Kantian Practical Reason Defended, Stephen Darwall
This essay is a response to criticisms made of Kant’s notion of ‘practical reason’. According to the critics, (1) practical reason alone cannot produce any action, and (2) happiness and personal desires should form part of any theory of morals. Darwall attempts to show that these propositions come about due to an incorrect reading of Kant.
Form and Matter of the Categorical Imperative, Paul Guyer
This essay is actually a chapter from Guyer’s book ‘Kant’s System of Nature and Freedom’. The essay looks at the various definitions of the categorical imperative and determines whether there are three or four definitions. In particular, Guyer considers which of the definitions relate to form (objective general principles) and which relate to matter (applying the categorical imperative to actual cases).
Kant’s Examples of the First Formulation of the Categorical Imperative, Jonathan Harrison
Harrison considers the four famous examples from Kant’s Groundwork, and how effective they are in providing a clear explanation of the ‘formula of universal law’ (the first definition of the CI provided by Kant).
Kant’s Examples of the Categorical Imperative, J Kemp
This essay is a direct refutation of the points claimed by Harrison in the previous essay. Kemp provides his own interpretation of the four examples.
Kant’s Analysis of Obligation, Christine Korsgaard
Korsgaard examines Kant’s Groundwork in its historical context, in particular the 18thcentury debate between the Rationalists and the Sentimentalists. David Hume is singled out for attention, with Korsgaard comparing Hume’s view with that of Kant’s. Korsgaard also examines Kant’s concept of ‘duty’ and where we should look to determine whether duty has been complied with. In particular, Korsgaard addresses the common criticism of Kant in which he asserts that actions can only be moral if they are carried out reluctantly or against one’s nature.
Reason and Autonomy, Onora O’Neill
O’Neill considers Kant’s concepts of ‘morality’, ‘autonomy’, ‘reason’ and ‘freedom’, attempting to reconcile the terms within the framework of the Groundwork. In particular, O’Neill attempts to provide an explanation of Section 3 of the Groundwork, and how it fits in with principles already discussed by Kant.
Kant’s Moral Philosophy, Stanford
The Stanford introduction provides the usual thorough overview of Kant’s work, linking the Groundwork to moral principles discussed by Kant in his other works. The essay provides an extensive analysis of the various definitions of the categorical imperative, along with a discussion of Kant’s concepts of ‘freedom’ and ‘autonomy’.
What is Kantian Ethics?, Allen Wood
Wood is one of the foremost modern scholars on Kant’s work, so this highly accessible introduction provides an overview of what Kant is attempting to achieve in the Groundwork in terms of providing a system of morality. Wood also examines some of the common criticisms made of Kant and whether these criticisms have any merit.
Kant’s Formulations of the Moral Law, Allen Wood
Wood provides a detailed analysis of all the formulas of the categorical imperative, including both the main definitions and the subsidiary definitions. Wood will attempt to reach some sort of consensus overall in deciding which of the definitions should be considered the most authoritative.
The Good Will, Allen Wood
This essay looks at Kant’s concept of the ‘good will’. In particular, the essay examines what Kant means when he describes the good will as ‘good without qualification’, and also Kant’s idea of how the good will is motivated to act in accordance with duty. Wood attempts to reach a conclusion on what the ‘good will’ actually is, before exploring the good will in practice, and how it causes us to act.