Ed Note: This was orginally posted to a now defunct livejournal in 2007. I’m moving it and over 100 other reviews over to this site.
Kant: Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy)
If you’re interested in Kantian ethics, and you’re going to read one like this. The man himself is, in my opinion extremely difficult to muscle through. Kant’s ethical ideas when distilled down are actually straight forward and clear. But getting there from his writings is real work.
Still, if you’re going to wrestle with Mr. Obtuse, then this, or the preface to the Critique of Pure Reason, are where you should turn.
Anyway, this one is like Mill. What’s there to say about one of the most important philosopher’s in history? His ethical theory is pretty hard to argue with (you know the drill, don’t use people as tools; universalize ethical maxims and see if they create a contradiction, etc) and seem almost self-evident on first impression. Of course, in practice, they’re impossible for anyone to live fully and are subject to manipulation (i.e I can frame the ethical maxim to allow for exceptions to my own behavior; I can frame my use of another person as assistance, not exploitation).
But isn’t that true of all ethics?
I’ve never seen a fool proof guide to an ethical life. Kant comes pretty close.
Recommended for the Enthusiast.