Kant's Groundwork

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Topics: Morality, Ethics
Kant’s First Formulation of the Categorical Imperative

The categorical imperative describes Kant’s account for morality’s absolute and unconditional commandment, which dictates rational beings’ moral obligations and duties. From the notion and understanding of a ‘good will’, to that of ‘duty,’ springs out Kant’s three propositions that give rise to the categorical imperative’s first formulation. Through these propositions, the first formulation arrives at the fundamental principle of morality and thus the principle upon a good will must act. It can be read as follows: ‘Act only according to that maxim whereby you can the same time, will that it should become a universal law.’ In order to understand how it is that Kant arrived at this first formulation, first, I will present a close examination and definition of concepts such as ‘good will’ and ‘duty,’ and then analyze how these are incorporated in Kant’s three propositions that arrive at the categorical imperative itself through the explanation of his three propositions. Together with this will be certain limitations I have observed upon close examination of the text in this first section of Kant’s Groundwork.
To start off, a brief explanation of the ‘will’ seems important to understand the concept of a ‘good will’ that is first presented by Kant. A will carries intention to perform an action. When the will is free, it is free to act without regards to inclinations. When the will is good, a ‘good will,’ it makes a commitment to do what is right in any case, free from inclinations, in accordance with duty (duty will be discussed later). Kant starts off Section I of the Groundwork saying, ‘There is nothing that is possible to think of anywhere in the world, indeed even outside it, that can be held to be good without restriction except a good will.’ Here, Kant introduces the ‘good will’ and starts the foundation upon where the rest of Section I will follow. This statement suggests that anything seen as good,

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