A Summary of Groundworks of the Metaphysics of Morals by Immanuel Kant

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Critique of Practical Reason and Groundwork for the Metaphysic of Morals
Summary
Groundwork for the Metaphysic of Morals, published in 1785, is Kant’s first major work in ethics. Like the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, the Groundwork is the short and easy-to-read version of what Kant deals with at greater length and complexity in his Critique. The Critique of Practical Reason, published three years later, contains greater detail than the Groundwork and differs from it on some points—in the Critique of Practical Reason, for instance, Kant places greater emphasis on ends and not just on motives—but this summary and analysis will cover only the general points of Kant’s ethics, which
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Many of the ethical theorists who preceded Kant attempt to ground moral judgment in the law of God or of a sovereign monarch. Kant recognizes that grounding morality in an externally imposed law compromises the autonomy of the will: in such a case, we act under a feeling of compulsion to a will that is not our own, and so we are not entirely accountable for our actions. We act autonomously only if we act in accordance with a law dictated by our own reason. While earlier philosophers recognize that rationality is the source of morality, Kant is the first to argue that reason also provides the standard by which we make moral evaluations.
Kant’s ethics is the most influential expression of an approach to ethics known as deontology, which is often contrasted with consequentialism. The distinctive feature of deontology is that it approves or disapproves of actions in and of themselves. For instance, according to Kant, lying is always wrong because we cannot will it as a universal maxim that lying is okay. The consequentialist view, by contrast, argues that moral value lies not in our actions but in their consequences. The utilitarianism of John Stuart Mill is one of the most influential forms of consequentialist ethics. Mill argues that we should always aim at ensuring the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people and that, for instance,
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