'Kant: Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals'
By Mary Gregor (Translator), Jens Timmermann (Translator), Christine M. Korsgaard (Introduction)
Published in 1785, Immanuel Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals ranks alongside Plato's Republic and Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics as one of the most profound and influential works in moral philosophy ever written. In Kant's own words, its aim is to identify and corroborate the supreme principle of morality, the categorical imperative. He argues that human beings are ends in themselves, never to be used by anyone merely as a means, and that universal and unconditional obligations must be understood as an expression of the human capacity for autonomy and self-governance. As such, they are laws of freedom. This volume contains Mary Gregor's acclaimed translation of the work, sympathetically revised by Jens Timmermann, and an accessible, updated introduction by Christine Korsgaard.
Considered by many to be the greatest of all German philosophers, Immanuel Kant has left a very deep influence upon the field of the theory of knowledge, ethics and aesthetics. He spent his whole life in Konigsberg in Germany leading a quiet and sheltered existence. He studied theology as well as Newtonian physics and mathematics before becoming attracted to philosophy. He began to attack the philosophy of Leibnitz which was popular in Germany at that time and after 1770, when he was appointed as the chair of philosophy and logic at the University of Konigsberg, he began to write his major works, especially The Critique of Pure Reason, The Critique ofPractical Reason and The Critique ofJudgement. He is the father of what is called critical philosophy. This is a philosophy which seeks to examine the limits of reason itself, a philosophy which Kant called critical or transcendental.
Kant came to the conclusion that human reason cannot know the essence of things or anything in an ultimate sense. He sought to make philosophy a science and believed that the fact that we perceive objects in time and space is as a result of the imposition of the categories of time and space by the mind upon the world around us. Kant believed that human reason cannot reach either the knowledge or in fact the proof of the existence of God and that God can only be known through practical reason and not pure reason. He emphasized the significance of ethics, a field for which he has been particularly known in later centuries.
After his death, Kantianism became an important school of thought especially at Marburg. It was revived later in the thirteenth/nineteenth and fourteenth/twentieth centuries by such philosophers as the neo- Kantian Ernst Cassirer and influenced even Martin Heidegger. In any case, the idea of the critique of reason by use of reason itself and the founding of what was called critical philosophy by Kant marks an important point in the history of Western thought. It must be considered as a watershed after which philosophy gradually turned away from the age of rationalism to the age of ideological philosophies and also the rebellion against reason which occurred in Western thought in the thirteenth/nineteenth century.
The philosophy of Kant also attracted many Muslim thinkers. His works were translated into Arabic, Persian and Turkish, while during the past century the first encounter of Islamic philosophy with Western philosophy came in the form of the response of the Persian philosopher Mulla 'Ali Zunuzi in his Badayi' al-Hikam to some of Kant's ideas.
(Seyyed Hossein Nasr)