What is ethical must be done for the sake of the law, not merely be the same as the law because then it would be mere coincidence (it wouldn’t matter if I happen to not lie — I have to not lie because I recognize the ethical demand on me). His test case is an action which is in conformity to duty, since one which is in opposition to duty would be too easy to distinguish the causation. The absolutely good will relies on autonomy without any incentive in it. A good will is the only thing that can be good without limitation, since all other good things are contingent on it. “Freedom must be presupposed as a quality of the will of all rational beings.” Log in here. This is because rational nature exists as an end in itself, which is how a human being “represents his own existence.” [the proof apparently comes later?] From this principle, Kant is able to derive a principle for formulating moral actions: always act in such a way that your action could be the basis for a universal law. Thus Kant poses the question if it is necessary for ALL rational beings to always act in accordance with universal law and maxims, and if that is the case, then it must be shown a priori in the concept of the will or of the rational being. Finally, he defends the autonomy or freedom of the will in section 3. According to Kant, in the Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, why can’t even Jesus Christ serve as a model for moral action? Philosophy is a kind of meta-knowledge—knowledge about knowledge. In the first section, he argues that only a will may be good in any unqualified sense. But following prudence is a hypothetical imperative because it leads to happiness, is done to achieve happiness. Although he could will the lie, he could not will the maxim to lie, as the universal law would destroy promises and law would “destroy itself.” This gives us the general principle of the common understanding, which would serve as an acceptable compass for moral behavior (and appears to be the equivalent of Socrates’ human wisdom), but it could still be corrupted by the human desire for happiness, which would try to bring these laws closer in accordance to our inclinations. Study Guide for Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. To act morally means to act in accordance with the moral law, and inclination and feeling do this only accidentally. It could always be the case that man, even while claiming to follow duty, is actually secretly acting for self-benefit. ( Log Out /  A “command” is the presentation of an objective principle, and the formula of that is an imperative (30). Thus, the categorical imperative is “act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law (of nature)” (38). Our feelings might steer us towards what is good; but the next moment, they might just easily steer towards what is bad. Kant closes the Groundwork by admitting that, while the categorical imperative is the only legitimate formulation for moral action, he cannot prove that we must be moral. First is the man who, depressed while still in possession of his reason, thinks the maxim that “from self-love, I make it my principle to shorten my life when by longer term it threatens more ill than it promises agreeableness” (38). GradeSaver, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals Summary, Read the Study Guide for Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals…, Blood and Freedom: How Agency Explains and Permits Proscriptions of Violence, View Wikipedia Entries for Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals…. Thus, in the following sections, Kant has to show how practical philosophy can determine the correct moral laws and thus subjects common practical reason to the “complete critique of reason.”, —– Notes on Kant’s Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. Kant then uses the example of a person in a tight spot lying to avoid embarrassment. Kant’s Groundwork aims to use what Kant calls “pure philosophy,” or intellect alone, to develop a moral philosophy. A metaphysics of human understanding is what Kant had spelt out in the Critique, and more plainly in Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics (1783). Why is it difficult to explain how a categorical imperative is possible, (referring to the Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals)? The categorical imperative represents the accordance of the subjective maxim with the objective law, and accordance alone is the content of the imperative.