The Method of Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals: Establishing Moral Metaphysics as a Science

Dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles (2006)
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This dissertation concerns the methodology Kant employs in the first two sections of the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (Groundwork I-II) with particular attention to how the execution of the method of analysis in these sections contributes to the establishment of moral metaphysics as a science. My thesis is that Kant had a detailed strategy for the Groundwork, that this strategy and Kant’s reasons for adopting it can be ascertained from the Critique of Pure Reason (first Critique) and his lectures on logic, and that understanding this strategy gains us interpretive insight into Kant’s moral metaphysics. At the most general level of methodology, Kant says there are four steps for the establishment of any science: 1) make distinct the idea of the natural unity of its material 2) determine the special content of the science 3) articulate the systematic unity of the science 4) critique the science to determine its boundaries The first two of these steps are accomplished by the genetically scholastic method of analysis, paradigmatically the method whereby confused and obscure ideas are made clear and distinct, thereby logically perfecting them and transforming them into possible grounds of cognitive insight that are potentially complete and adequate to philosophical purposes. The analysis of Groundwork I is a paradigmatic analysis that makes distinct what is contained in common understanding, i.e. its Inhalt or intension, making distinct the higher partial concepts that together define the concept of morality. The analysis of Groundwork II is an employment more specifically of the method of logical division, which makes distinct what is contained under the concept, i.e. its Umfang, by which the extension or object of morality is determined. Part I introduces Kant’s conception of moral metaphysical science and why he took it to be in need of establishment, explains the general method for establishing science and the scholastic method of analysis by which its first two steps are to be accomplished, then provides an interpretation of Groundwork I as an execution of this method. Part II details Kant’s determination of the special content of moral science in Groundwork II in relation to the central problem for moral metaphysics – how synthetic a priori practical cognition is possible.

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Susan V. H. Castro
Wichita State University


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