Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals
Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals is the first of Immanuel Kant's mature works on moral philosophy and remains one of the most influential in the field. Kant purposes to lay bare the fundamental principle of morality and show that it applies to us. Central to the work is the role of what Kant refers to as the categorical imperative, the concept that one must act only according to that precept which he or she would will to become a universal law. He provides a groundbreaking argument that the rightness of an action is determined by the principle that a person chooses to act upon.
In fact, it is absolutely impossible to make out by experience with complete certainty a single case in which the maxim of an action, however right in itself, rested simply on moral grounds and on the conception of duty. Sometimes it happens that with the sharpest self-examination we can find nothing beside the moral principle of duty which could have been powerful enough to move us to this or that action and to so great a sacrifice; yet we cannot from this infer with certainty that it was not really some secret impulse of self-love, under the false appearance of duty, that was the actual determining cause of the will. We like them to flatter ourselves by falsely taking credit for a more noble motive; whereas in fact we can never, even by the strictest examination, get completely behind the secret springs of action; since, when the question is of moral worth, it is not with the actions which we see that we are concerned, but with those inward principles of them which we do not see.
- FIRST SECTION
- SECOND SECTION
- THIRD SECTION
- Concluding Remark