Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

Kant's Moral Philosophy

Kant's Moral Philosophy
PHGA 7170--Kant II:
Professor Gowans
Spring 2009, Mondays 2-4

Description.  The class will examine Kant's moral philosophy, partly in relationship to Kant's overall philosophical enterprise, and partly in relationship to concerns in contemporary moral philosophy. We will discuss topics such as freedom and determinism, the foundation of morality in pure practical reason, empirical aspects of morality, the categorical imperative and its implications, autonomy, the nature of the good, the nature of virtue, and the moral arguments for God and immortality. Throughout an attempt will be made to distill what is valuable in Kant's approach to moral philosophy from what is not.

The main primary texts for the course are:
  • Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals
  • Critique of Practical Reason
  • The Metaphysics of Morals
All these texts are contained in Immanuel Kant, Practical Philosophy, Mary J. Gregor ed. and tr. (Cambridge University Press, 1996). Everyone should have this book (I will order it at the bookstore).

However, we will begin by looking at portions of the Critique of Pure Reason, and we will periodically refer to other works such as Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, Critique of the Power of Judgment, the pre-critical Lectures on Ethics, and some of the shorter texts. In all cases, the recent Cambridge translations are recommended.

In addition to primary sources, we will discuss some of the contemporary secondary literature on Kant’s ethics by philosophers such as Henry Allison, Marcia Baron, Paul Guyer, Barbara Herman, Thomas Hill, Christine Korsgaard, Robert Louden, Onora O’Neill, and Allen Wood.

Background.  There are no formal prerequisites, but it will help if students have some background in the Critique of Pure Reason. The following are good introductory secondary sources on Kant’s overall philosophy:
  • Paul Guyer, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Kant (Cambridge University Press, 1992). Chs. 2-9 discuss the Critique of Pure Reason.
  • Allen W. Wood, Kant (Blackwell Publishing, 2005). Chs. 2-5 discuss the Critique of Pure Reason.
  • Paul Guyer, “Kant,” Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (available on-line through the library). Sections 4-8 discuss the Critique of Pure Reason.
For introductions to Kant's moral philosophy, students may consult ch. 10 of the Guyer anthology and ch. 7 of the Wood book above, as well as the following:
  • Christine Korsgaard, "Kant," Ethics in the History of West­ern Philosophy (St. Martin's, 1989); reprinted as ch. 1 of Korsgaard’s Creating the Kingdom of Ends (Cambridge University Press, 1996).
  • Roger J. Sullivan, An Introduction to Kant's Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 1994)
  • Roger J. Sullivan, Kant's Moral Theory (Cambridge University Press, 1989)
  • Robert Johnson, “Kant’s Moral Philosophy,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (available on-line).
Requirements. Students are expected to attend and participate in class, give a class presentation, and write a term paper.

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