Original Research Article
Year: 2017 | Month: March | Volume: 4 | Issue: 3 | Pages: 54-75
A Critical Analysis of Immanuel Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals
Abraham Tsehay Jemberie
Debre Berhan University, Debre Berhan, Ethiopia
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), a German philosopher, is considered as the father of modern ethics and one of the great philosophers in the history of philosophy. He wanted to establish firm foundation for moral philosophy. He contributed something new to modern ethics which was not attempted by earlier ethicists. He wanted to show by using reason that morality is based on a single supreme universal principle, which is binding to all rational beings. Precisely, Kant wanted to establish the first principle of morality which neglects all consideration of self-interest and even particular human problems. In the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant claimed that his intention is to seek out and establish the supreme principle of morality, and that supreme principle is the categorical imperative. He puts the supreme principle of morality or the categorical imperative in at least five ways. These are formula of universal law (FUL), formula of universal law (FLN), formula of humanity (FH), formula of humanity (FA), and formula of realm of ends (FRE). However, Kant affirms that there is one canonical and general formulation of the categorical imperative and it is the FUL. For him, the other formulas are not distinct ethical principles; rather they are the reformulations or variant formulations of the single categorical imperative. Kant put this position in his works, The Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. So, in this paper, I will mainly concentrate on the fundamental doctrine of the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. As I have tried to make clear before, Kant’s aim in the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals is to search for and establish the supreme principle of morality (i.e., categorical imperative). He attempted to do this at the end of the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. But, to me, the way he attempted to justify the categorical imperative is problematic. Thus, in this paper, I argue that Kant did not put the categorical imperative or morality on a solid ground.
Key words: Categorical Imperative; formula of universal law (FUL);Groundwork of Metaphysics of Morals; Immanuel Kant; Morality; Supreme Principle of Morality..[PDF Full Text]