Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals by Immanuel Kant


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Page 3

The present treatise is, however, nothing more than the
investigation and establishment of the supreme principle of
morality, and this alone constitutes a study complete in itself and
one which ought to be kept apart from every other moral investigation.
No doubt my conclusions on this weighty question, which has hitherto
been very unsatisfactorily examined, would receive much light from the
application of the same principle to the whole system, and would be
greatly confirmed by the adequacy which it exhibits throughout; but
I must forego this advantage, which indeed would be after all more
gratifying than useful, since the easy applicability of a principle
and its apparent adequacy give no very certain proof of its soundness,
but rather inspire a certain partiality, which prevents us from
examining and estimating it strictly in itself and without regard to

I have adopted in this work the method which I think most
suitable, proceeding analytically from common knowledge to the
determination of its ultimate principle, and again descending
synthetically from the examination of this principle and its sources
to the common knowledge in which we find it employed. The division
will, therefore, be as follows:

1 FIRST SECTION. Transition from the common rational knowledge of
morality to the philosophical.

2 SECOND SECTION. Transition from popular moral philosophy to the
metaphysic of morals.

3 THIRD SECTION. Final step from the metaphysic of morals to the
critique of the pure practical reason.





Nothing can possibly be conceived in the world, or even out of it,
which can be called good, without qualification, except a good will.
Intelligence, wit, judgement, and the other talents of the mind,
however they may be named, or courage, resolution, perseverance, as
qualities of temperament, are undoubtedly good and desirable in many
respects; but these gifts of nature may also become extremely bad
and mischievous if the will which is to make use of them, and which,
therefore, constitutes what is called character, is not good. It is
the same with the gifts of fortune. Power, riches, honour, even
health, and the general well-being and contentment with one's
condition which is called happiness, inspire pride, and often
presumption, if there is not a good will to correct the influence of
these on the mind, and with this also to rectify the whole principle
of acting and adapt it to its end. The sight of a being who is not
adorned with a single feature of a pure and good will, enjoying
unbroken prosperity, can never give pleasure to an impartial
rational spectator. Thus a good will appears to constitute the
indispensable condition even of being worthy of happiness.

There are even some qualities which are of service to this good will
itself and may facilitate its action, yet which have no intrinsic
unconditional value, but always presuppose a good will, and this
qualifies the esteem that we justly have for them and does not
permit us to regard them as absolutely good. Moderation in the
affections and passions, self-control, and calm deliberation are not
only good in many respects, but even seem to constitute part of the
intrinsic worth of the person; but they are far from deserving to be
called good without qualification, although they have been so
unconditionally praised by the ancients. For without the principles of
a good will, they may become extremely bad, and the coolness of a
villain not only makes him far more dangerous, but also directly makes
him more abominable in our eyes than he would have been without it.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Mon 16th May 2022, 15:54