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Groundwork for the Metaphysic of Morals

Immanuel Kant

Copyright © Jonathan Bennett 2017. All rights reserved

[Brackets] enclose editorial explanations. Small ·dots· enclose material that has been added, but can be read as
though it were part of the original text. Occasional •bullets, and also indenting of passages that are not quotations,
are meant as aids to grasping the structure of a sentence or a thought. Every four-point ellipsis . . . . indicates the
omission of a brief passage that seems to present more difficulty than it is worth. Longer omissions are rerported
between square brackets in normal-sized type.] In the title, ‘Groundwork’ refers not to the foundation that is laid
but to the work of laying it.

First launched: July 2005 Last amended: September 2008

Contents

Preface 1

Chapter 1: Moving from common-sense knowledge to philosophical knowledge about morality 5

Chapter 2: Moving from popular moral philosophy to the metaphysic of morals 14

Chapter 3: Moving from the metaphysic of morals to the critique of pure practical reason 41

Groundwork Immanuel Kant Preface

Preface

Ancient Greek philosophy was divided into three branches
of knowledge: •natural science, •ethics, and •logic. This
classification perfectly fits what it is meant to fit; the only
improvement it needs is the supplying of the principle on
which it is based; that will let us be sure that the clas-
sification does cover all the ground, and will enable us to
define the necessary subdivisions ·of the three broad kinds of
knowledge·. [Kant, following the Greek, calls the trio Physik, Ethik and
Logik. Our word ‘physics’ is much too narrow for Physik, which is why

‘natural science’ is preferred here. What is lost is the surface neatness of

the Greek and German trio, and of the contrast between natural science

and metaphysics, Physik and Metaphysik]
There are two kinds of rational knowledge:

•material knowledge, which concerns some object, and
•formal knowledge, which pays no attention to differ-
ences between objects, and is concerned only with the
form of understanding and of reason, and with the
universal rules of thinking.

Formal philosophy is called •‘logic’. Material philosophy—
having to do with definite objects and the laws that govern
them—is divided into two parts, depending on whether the
laws in question are laws of •nature or laws of •freedom.
Knowledge of laws of the former kind is called •‘natural
science’, knowledge of laws of the latter kind is called •‘ethics’.
The two are also called ‘theory of nature’ and ‘theory of
morals’ respectively.

•Logic can’t have anything empirical about it—it can’t
have a part in which universal and necessary laws of thinking
are derived from experience. If it did, it wouldn’t be logic—i.e.
a set of rules for the understanding or for reason, rules that
are valid for all thinking and that must be rigorously proved.
The •natural and •moral branches of knowledge, on the other

hand, can each have an empirical part; indeed, they must
do so because each must discover the laws ·for its domain·.
For •the former, these are the laws of nature considered as
something known through experience; and for •the latter,
they are the laws of the human will so far as it is affected by
nature. ·The two sets of laws are nevertheless very different
from one another·. The laws of nature are laws according to
which everything does happen; the laws of morality are laws
according to which everything ought to happen; they allow
for conditions under which what ought to happen doesn’t
happen.

•Empirical philosophy is philosophy that is based on
experience. •Pure philosophy is philosophy that presents
its doctrines solely on the basis of a priori principles. Pure
philosophy ·can in turn be divided into two·: when it is
entirely formal it is •logic; when it is confined to definite
objects of the understanding, it is •metaphysics.

In this way there arises the idea of a two-fold metaphysic—
a metaphysic of nature and a metaphysic of morals. Physics,
therefore, will have an empirical part and also a rational
part, and ethics likewise, though here the empirical part may
be called more specifically ‘practical anthropology’ and the
rational part ‘morals’ in the strict sense.

All crafts, trades and arts have profited from the division
of labour; for when •each worker sticks to one particular
kind of work that needs to be handled differently from all
the others, he can do it better and more easily than when
•one person does everything. Where work is not thus differ-
entiated and divided, where everyone is a jack-of-all-trades,
the crafts remain at an utterly primitive level. Now, here is
a question worth asking: Doesn’t pure philosophy in each
of its parts require a man who is particularly devoted to
that part? Some people regularly mix up the empirical with
the rational, suiting their mixture to the taste of the public

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Groundwork Immanuel Kant Preface

without actually knowing what its proportions are; they
call themselves independent thinkers and write off those
who apply themselves exclusively to the rational part of
philosophy as mere ponderers. Wouldn’t things be improved
for the learned profession as a whole if those ‘independent
thinkers’ were warned that they shouldn’t carry on two
employments at once—employments that need to be handled
quite differently, perhaps requiring different special talents
for each—because all you get when one person does several
of them is bungling? But all I am asking is this: Doesn’t
the nature of the science ·of philosophy· require that we
carefully separate its empirical from its rational part? That
would involve putting

•a metaphysic of nature before real (empirical) natural
science, and

•a metaphysic of morals before practical anthropology.
Each of these two branches of metaphysics must be carefully
cleansed of everything empirical, so that we can know how
much pure reason can achieve in each branch, and from
what sources it creates its a priori teaching. ·The metaphysic
of morals must be cleansed in this way, no matter who the
metaphysicians of morals are going to be·—whether they will
include all the moralists (there are plenty of them!) or only a
few who feel a calling to this task.

Since my purpose here is directed to moral philosophy, I
narrow the question I am asking down to this:

•Isn’t it utterly necessary to construct a pure moral
philosophy that is completely freed from everything
that may be only empirical and thus belong to anthro-
pology?

That there must be such a philosophy is self-evident from
the common idea of duty and moral laws. Everyone must
admit •that if a law is to hold morally (i.e. as a basis for
someone’s being obliged to do something), it must imply

absolute necessity; •that the command: You are not to lie
doesn’t apply only to human beings, as though it had no
force for other rational beings (and similarly with all other
moral laws properly so called); •that the basis for obligation
here mustn’t be looked for in people’s natures or their
circumstances, but ·must be found· a priori solely in the
concepts of pure reason; and •that any precept resting on
principles of mere experience may be called a practical rule
but never a moral law. This last point holds even if there
is something universal about the precept in question, and
even if its empirical content is very small (perhaps bringing
in only the motive involved).

Thus not only are moral laws together with their prin-
ciples essentially different from all practical knowledge in-
volving anything empirical, but all moral philosophy rests
solely on its pure ·or non-empirical· part. Its application
to human beings doesn’t depend on knowledge of any facts
about them (anthropology); it gives them, as rational beings,
a priori laws—·ones that are valid whatever the empirical
circumstances may be·. (Admittedly ·experience comes into
the story in a certain way, because· these laws require a
power of judgment that has been sharpened by experience—
•partly in order to pick out the cases where the laws apply
and •partly to let the laws get into the person’s will and to
stress that they are to be acted on. For a human being has
so many preferences working on him that, though he is quite
capable of having the idea of a practical pure reason, he
can’t so easily bring it to bear on the details of how he lives
his life.)

A metaphysic of morals is therefore indispensable, ·for
two reasons, one •theoretical and one •practical·. One reason
comes from •our wish, as theoreticians, to explore the source
of the a priori practical principles that lie in our reason. The
other reason is that •until we have the guide and supreme

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Groundwork Immanuel Kant Preface

norm for making correct moral judgments, morality itself will
be subject to all kinds of corruption. ·Here is the reason for
that·. For something to be morally good, it isn’t enough that
it conforms to the ·moral· law; it must be done because it
conforms to the law. An action that isn’t performed with that
motive may happen to fit the moral law, but its conformity
to the law will be chancy and unstable, and more often
than not the action won’t be lawful at all. So we need to
find the moral law in its purity and genuineness, this being
what matters most in questions about conduct; and the only
place to find it is in a philosophy that is pure ·in the sense
I have introduced—see page 1·. So metaphysics must lead
the way; without it there can’t be any moral philosophy.
Philosophy ·that isn’t pure, i.e.· that mixes pure principles
with empirical ones, doesn’t deserve the name of ‘philosophy’
(for what distinguishes •philosophy from •intelligent common
sense is precisely that •the former treats as separate kinds
of knowledge what •the latter jumbles up together). Much
less can it count as ‘moral philosophy’, since by this mixing
·of pure with empirical· it deprives morality of its purity and
works against morality’s own purposes.

I am pointing to the need for an entirely new field of
investigation to be opened up. You might think that ·there
is nothing new about it because· it is already present in the
famous Wolff’s ‘introduction’ to his moral philosophy (i.e. in
what he called ‘universal practical philosophy’); but it isn’t.
Precisely because his work aimed to be universal practical
philosophy, it didn’t deal with any particular kind of will,
and attended only to will in general and with such actions
and conditions as that brings in; and so it had no room for
the notion of •a will that is determined by a priori principles
with no empirical motives, which means that it had no place
for anything that could be called •a pure will. Thus Wolff’s
‘introduction’. . . .concerns the actions and conditions of the

human will as such, which for the most part are drawn from
·empirical· psychology, whereas the metaphysic of morals
aims ·at a non-empirical investigation, namely· investigating
the idea and principles of a possible pure will. Without
having the least right to do so, Wolff’s ‘universal practical
philosophy’ does have things to say about laws and duty; but
this doesn’t conflict with what I have been saying. For the
authors of this intellectual project remain true to their idea
of it ·in this part of its territory also: they· don’t distinguish

•motives that are presented completely a priori by
reason alone and are thus moral in the proper sense
of the word,

from
•motives that involve empirical concepts—ones that
the understanding turns into universal concepts by
comparing experiences.

In the absence of that distinction, they consider motives
without regard to how their sources differ; they treat them as
all being of the same kind, and merely count them; and
on that basis they formulate their concept of obligation,
·so-called·. This is as far from moral obligation as it could be;
but in a philosophy that doesn’t decide whether the origin of
all possible practical concepts is a priori or a posteriori, what
more could you expect?

Intending some day to publish a •metaphysic of morals, I
now present this •groundwork, ·this exercise of foundation-
laying·, for it. There is, to be sure, no other basis for such
a metaphysic than a critical examination of pure practical
reason, just as there is no other basis for metaphysic than
the critical examination of pure speculative reason that I
have already published. [The unavoidable word ‘speculative’ (like
its cognate‘speculation’) is half of the dichotomy between practical and

speculative. A speculative endeavour is one aimed at establishing truths

about what is the case, implying nothing about what ought to be the

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Groundwork Immanuel Kant Preface

case; with no suggestion that it involves guesswork or anything like that.

Two of Kant’s most famous titles—Critique of Pure Reason and Critique of

Practical Reason —are really short-hand for Critique of Pure Speculative

Reason and Critique of Pure Practical Reason. respectively. That involves

the speculative/practical contrast; there is no pure/practical contrast.

The second of those two works, incidentally, still lay in the future when

Kant wrote the present work.] However, ·I have three reasons
for not plunging straight into a critical examination of pure
practical reason·. (1) It is nowhere near as important to have
a critical examination of pure •practical reason as it is to have
one of ·pure· •speculative reason. That is because even in the
commonest mind, human reason can easily be brought to a
high level of correctness and completeness in moral matters,
whereas reason in its theoretical but pure use is wholly
dialectical [= ‘runs into unavoidable self-contradictions’]. (2) When
we are conducting a critical examination of pure practical
reason, I insist that the job is not finished until •practical
reason and •speculative reason are brought together and
unified under a common concept of reason, because ul-
timately they have to be merely different applications of
one and the same reason. But I couldn’t achieve this kind
of completeness ·here· without confusing the reader by
bringing in considerations of an altogether different kind
·from the matter in hand·. That is why I have used the
title Groundwork for the Metaphysic of Morals rather than
Critique of Pure Practical Reason. (3) A metaphysic of morals,
in spite of its forbidding title, can be done in a popular way
so that people of ordinary intelligence can easily take it in;
so I find it useful to separate this preliminary work on the
foundation, dealing with certain subtleties here so that I
can keep them out of the more comprehensible work that
will come later. [Here and throughout, ‘popular’ means ‘pertaining to
or suitable for ordinary not very educated people’. The notion of being

widely liked is not prominent in its meaning.]

In laying a foundation, however, all I am doing is seek-
ing and establishing the supreme principle of morality—a
self-contained and entirely completable task that should be
kept separate from every other moral inquiry. Until now
there hasn’t been nearly enough attention to this important
question ·of the nature of and basis for the supreme principle
of morality·. My conclusions about it could be •clarified
by bringing the ·supreme· principle to bear on the whole
system of morality, and •confirmed by how well it would
serve all through. But I must forgo this advantage: basically
it would gratify me rather than helping anyone else, because
a principle’s being easy to use and its seeming to serve well
don’t prove for sure that it is right. They are more likely
merely to create a bias in its favour, which will get in the way
of its being ruthlessly probed and evaluated in its own right
and without regard to consequences.

[Kant has, and uses in the present work, a well-known distinction
between •‘analytic’ propositions (known to be true just by analysing
their constituent concepts) and •‘synthetic’ propositions (can’t be known
without bringing in something that the concepts don’t contain). In this

next sentence he uses those terms in a different way—one that goes

back to Descartes—in which they mark off not two •kinds of proposition
but two •ways of proceeding. In the analytic procedure, you start with
what’s familiar and on that basis work out what the relevant general

principles are; synthetic procedure goes the other way—you start with

general principles and derive familiar facts from them.]
In the present work I have adopted the method that is, I

think, the most suitable if one wants to proceed •analytically
from common knowledge to settling what its supreme princi-
ple is, and then •synthetically from examining this principle
and its sources back to common knowledge to which it
applies. So the work is divided up thus:

4

Groundwork Immanuel Kant Chapter 1

Chapter 1 Moving from common-sense knowledge to philo-
sophical knowledge about morality.

Chapter 2 Moving from popular moral philosophy to the

metaphysic of morals.
Chapter 3 Final step from the metaphysic of morals to the

critical examination of pure practical reason.

Chapter 1:
Moving from common-sense knowledge to philosophical knowledge about morality

Nothing in the world—or out of it!—can possibly be con-
ceived that could be called ‘good’ without qualification except
a GOOD WILL. Mental talents such as intelligence, wit, and
judgment, and temperaments such as courage, resoluteness,
and perseverance are doubtless in many ways good and
desirable; but they can become extremely bad and harmful
if the person’s character isn’t good—i.e. if the will that is to
make use of these •gifts of nature isn’t good. Similarly with
•gifts of fortune. Power, riches, honour, even health, and
the over-all well-being and contentment with one’s condi-
tion that we call ‘happiness’, create pride, often leading to
arrogance, if there isn’t a good will to correct their influence
on the mind. . . . Not to mention the fact that the sight of
someone who shows no sign of a pure and good will and yet
enjoys uninterrupted prosperity will never give pleasure to
an impartial rational observer. So it seems that without a
good will one can’t even be worthy of being happy.

Even qualities that are conducive to this good will and
can make its work easier have no intrinsic unconditional
worth. We rightly hold them in high esteem, but only because
we assume them to be accompanied by a good will; so we
can’t take them to be absolutely ·or unconditionally· good.

•Moderation in emotions and passions, self-control, and
calm deliberation not only are good in many ways but seem
even to constitute part of the person’s inner worth, and they
were indeed unconditionally valued by the ancients. Yet they
are very far from being good without qualification—·good
in themselves, good in any circumstances·—for without the
principles of a good will they can become extremely bad: ·for
example·, a villain’s •coolness makes him far more dangerous
and more straightforwardly abominable to us than he would
otherwise have seemed.

What makes a good will good? It isn’t what it brings about,
its usefulness in achieving some intended end. Rather, good
will is good because of how it wills—i.e. it is good in itself.
Taken just in itself it is to be valued incomparably more
highly than anything that could be brought about by it in
the satisfaction of some preference—or, if you like, the sum
total of all preferences! Consider this case:

Through bad luck or a miserly endowment from step-
motherly nature, this person’s will has no power at
all to accomplish its purpose; not even the greatest
effort on his part would enable it to achieve anything
it aims at. But he does still have a good will—not as a

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Groundwork Immanuel Kant Chapter 1

mere wish but as the summoning of all the means in
his power.

The good will of this person would sparkle like a jewel all
by itself, as something that had its full worth in itself. Its
value wouldn’t go up or down depending on how useful or
fruitless it was. If it was useful, that would only be the
setting ·of the jewel·, so to speak, enabling us to handle it
more conveniently in commerce (·a diamond ring is easier
to manage than a diamond·) or to get those who don’t know
much ·about jewels· to look at it. But the setting doesn’t
affect the value ·of the jewel· and doesn’t recommend it the
experts.

But there is something extremely strange in this •idea
of the absolute worth of the will—the mere will—with no
account taken of any use to which it is put. It is indeed so
strange that, despite the agreement even of common sense
(·an agreement I have exhibited in the preceding three para-
graphs·), you’re bound to suspect that there may be nothing
to it but high-flown fancy, and that I have misunderstood
what nature was up to in appointing reason as the ruler of
our will. So let us critically examine the •idea from the point
of view of this suspicion.

We take it as an axiom that in the natural constitution
of an organized being (i.e. one suitably adapted to life) no
organ will be found that isn’t perfectly adapted to its purpose,
whatever that is. Now suppose that nature’s real purpose
for you, a being with reason and will, were that you should
survive, thrive, and be happy—in that case nature would
have hit upon a very poor arrangement in appointing your
reason to carry out this purpose! For all the actions that you
need to perform in order to carry out this intention of nature
– and indeed the entire regulation of your conduct—would
be marked out for you much more exactly and reliably by
instinct than it ever could be by reason. And if nature had

favoured you by giving you reason as well as instinct, the
role of reason would have been to let you •contemplate the
happy constitution of your nature, to admire it, to rejoice in
it, and to be grateful for it to its beneficent cause; not to let
you •subject your faculty of desire to that weak and delusive
guidance and to interfere with nature’s purpose. In short,
nature would have taken care that reason didn’t intrude
into practical morality and have the presumption, with its
weak insight, to think out for itself the plan of happiness and
how to get it. Nature would have taken over the choice not
only of ends but also of the means to them, and with wise
foresight she would have entrusted both to instinct alone.
[Kant presents this paragraph in terms not of ‘you’ but of ‘a being’.]

What we find in fact is that the more a cultivated reason
devotes itself to the enjoyment of life and happiness, the
more the person falls short of true contentment; which
is why many people—especially those who have made the
greatest use of reason—have a certain hostility towards
reason, though they may not be candid enough to admit
it. They have drawn many advantages from reason; never
mind about its role in the inventions that lead to •ordinary
luxuries; my interest is in the advantages of intellectual
pursuits, which eventually seem to these people to be also
a •luxury of the understanding. But after looking over all
this they find that they have actually brought more trouble
on themselves than they have gained in happiness; and
eventually they come not to despise but to envy the common
run of people who stay closer to merely natural instinct
and don’t give reason much influence on their doings. ·So
much for the drawbacks of well-being and happiness as one’s
dominant aim in life·. As for those who play down or outright
deny the boastful eulogies that are given of the happiness
and contentment that reason can supposedly bring us:
the judgment they are making doesn’t involve gloom, or

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Groundwork Immanuel Kant Chapter 1

ingratitude for how well the world is governed. Rather, it’s
based on the idea of another and far nobler purpose for their
existence. It is for achieving this purpose, not happiness,
that reason is properly intended; and this purpose is the
supreme condition, so that the private purposes of men
must for the most part take second place to it. ·Its being
the supreme or highest condition means that it isn’t itself
conditional on anything else; it is to be aimed at no matter
what else is the case; which is why our private plans must
stand out of its way·.

So reason isn’t competent to act as a guide that will lead
the will reliably to its objectives and will satisfy all our needs
(indeed it adds to our needs!); an implanted instinct would
do this job much more reliably. Nevertheless, reason is given
to us as a practical faculty, that is, one that is meant to
have an influence on the will. Its proper function must be to
produce a will that is good in itself and not good as a means.
Why? Because

•nature has everywhere distributed capacities suitable
to the functions they are to perform,

•the means ·to good· are, as I have pointed out, better
provided for by instinct, and

•reason and it alone can produce a will that is good in
itself.

This ·good· will needn’t be the sole and complete good, but
it must be the condition of all others, even of the desire for
happiness. So we have to consider two purposes: (1) the
unconditional purpose of producing a good will, and (2) the
conditional purpose of being happy. Of these, (1) requires the
cultivation of reason, which – at least in this life—in many
ways limits and can indeed almost eliminate (2) the goal of
happiness. This state of affairs is entirely compatible with
the wisdom of nature; it doesn’t have nature pursuing its
goal clumsily; because reason, recognizing that its highest

practical calling is to establish a good will, can by achieving
that goal get a contentment of its own kind (the kind that
comes from attaining a goal set by reason), even though this
gets in the way of things that the person merely prefers.

So we have to develop •the concept of a will that is to be
esteemed as good in itself without regard to anything else,
•the concept that always takes first place in judging the total
worth of our actions, with everything else depending on it,
•a concept that is already lodged in any natural and sound
understanding, and doesn’t need to be taught so much as to
be brought to light. In order to develop and unfold it, I’ll dig
into the concept of duty, which contains it. The concept of a
good will is present in the concept of duty, ·not shining out
in all its objective and unconditional glory, but rather· in a
manner that brings it under certain subjective •restrictions
and •hindrances; but •these are far from concealing it or
disguising it, for they rather bring it out by contrast and
make it shine forth all the more brightly. ·I shall now look at
that contrast·.

·My topic is the difference between doing something from
duty and doing it for other reasons. In tackling this, I
shall set aside without discussion two kinds of case—one
for which my question doesn’t arise, and a second for which
the question arises but is too easy to answer for the case
to be interesting or instructive. Following those two, I shall
introduce two further kinds of case·. (1) I shan’t discuss
actions which—even if they are useful in some way or
other—are clearly opposed to duty, because with them the
question of doing them from duty doesn’t even arise. (2) I
shall also ignore cases where someone does A, which really
is in accord with duty, but where what he directly wants
isn’t to perform A but to perform B which somehow leads
to or involves A. ·For example: he (B) unbolts the door so
as to escape from the fire, and in so doing he (A) enables

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Groundwork Immanuel Kant Chapter 1

others to escape also. There is no need to spend time on
such cases·, because in them it is easy to tell whether an
action that is in accord with duty is done •from duty or
rather •for some selfish purpose. (3) It is far harder to detect
that …

During “Participation” weeks, each student is expected to post at least two times in the course Blog Section. One of these must be a question about the assigned readings from the previous “Reading” week and one must be a response to classmates’ posts, for a total of two posts per “Participation” week. The first post is due by 11:55 PM on Wednesday of the Participation week.  Your question must be posted in your own personal blogs that you will create (each new blog) every other week.

 

The first post of the Participation week must be a question about the readings, not a response to a classmate’s post. Questions must show familiarity with the assigned readings and must be specific, not open-ended. For example, “What do you guys think?” is too open-ended and non-specific, which makes it hard for the rest of us to write effective responses. Questions should also suggest a possible analysis of the reading or a line of inquiry to be developed by commentators.  As a result, question posts should be at least paragraph length. Commenting on another student’s blog post (either an original question post -OR- a comment to an original post) should develop and enrich the points in the post; helpful and respectful criticism is welcomed.  As a result, comments should be roughly paragraph in length or more.  Students will not earn credit for posts of insufficient quality.  To receive credit, posts must be intellectually valuable, encourage further discussion, and draw support from at least one reference to the assigned readings from the previous “Reading” week. Students will not receive credit for posts such as “Good idea!” and “I agree with you!”

 

The purpose of each post should be to help each other better understand the arguments made in the assigned readings and how to apply those arguments to real-world situations. I will comment on some posts in order to help the class to understand better certain ideas.  Feedback will also be given on your individual blog posts.  You should monitor all posts to improve your understanding of the material.

 

Note: In an online environment, it is tempting to write in the kind of shorthand we often see in text messages, blogs, etc. Please note that for our course this is not acceptable.  Blog posts are considered formal writing, so they must be written in complete sentences with a minimum of spelling and grammatical errors.  Blog posts that are not written in complete sentences or that contain excessive spelling or grammatical mistakes will not receive full credit.  Additionally, in an online environment, it is tempting for some to be less courtesy.  You are expected to be courtesy and respectful to each other and me.  Inappropriate posts will be monitored and sanctioned (See Code of Conduct).

 

“Participation” weeks open at 12:05 AM on Monday mornings and close at 11:55 PM on Sunday nights.

 

To encourage ongoing discussions, no more than one post per day in the Blog section will be selected for grading. To be clear, if a student creates four posts on a single day, only one of them will be graded. This means that students must post on at least two different days in order to receive full credit for a “Participation” week.

 

TO ACCESS OTHER STUDENTS’ BLOGS: In the upper right hand corner, your name or a name should be listed.  Click on the name and other students’ names will drop down.  Click on a name to see the posted blog question and blog responses.

 

TO CREATE YOUR OWN BLOG QUESTION: In the upper left/middle of the page, click on Createe Blog Entry button.  For each question, please create a separate blog entry.  So, each of your two questions are required to be posted in separate blog entries.

 

Students must post at least two times per “Participation” week. Students who post less than two times per “Participation” week will receive a maximum of half credit for the posts they do create.

 

Below are examples of two questions and one response from previous courses:

Question Posts:

1.) From the very first objection, in “Third Set of Objections”, Descartes’ responses are shown to be usually quick and final. I was surprised to find that Hobbes wrote these objections from the introduction in one of the other readings, it’s interesting to see them discuss Descartes’ Meditations.

I found “Against Meditation II” one of the most interesting, because it covers the “I think, therefore I am,” argument that I believe Descartes is famous for. In the second objection, Hobbes criticizes Descartes’ deduction that the subject in “I am thinking…it follows that I am,” is “…a mind, or soul, or understanding, or reason” (76). He discusses that Descartes’ second meditation did not address an action separate from the thing itself that causes the action. In a response from Descartes, he defends himself by clarifying the relationship between acts and the objects themselves. He then defends himself to a third objection, clarifying his phrasing and stating that “modes of thinking are within me” (78). Hobbes’ last objection details that Descartes failed to clarify the difference between imagining and conceiving with the mind/reasoning adequately enough. Descartes explains that examples he provided show the difference, and further demonstrates that Hobbes is ignoring the semantics of his arguments. He asks, “…why does he not want our reasonings to be about this something which is signified rather than about mere words?” (79). Do you think that Hobbes’ objections of Descartes’ second Meditation had some other merits that Descartes did not address? Are there any objections you would offer to this Meditation (Meditation II: Concerning the Nature of the Human Mind)?

Cited: Descartes’ “Third Set of Objections with the Author’s Replies” 76-79

2.) Zeno of Elea is cited as having challenged the “seemingly incontrovertible evidence of our senses” (66) via his famous “paradoxes” or arguments as they are described in the provided reading. The reading focuses on Zeno’s four arguments concerning motion and Aristotle’s interpretation of these arguments in Physics. My attention was held by Aristotle’s descriptions of arguments two and three. The second argument I will discuss now and the third I will discuss in my following post. Aristotle’s interpretation of Zeno’s second argument. The Achilles (68), describes a slower entity that can never be caught be their faster pursuer based on the Zeno’s concept Aristotle refers to as “the Dichotomy” (69). However, If it is the case that Zeno describes the entities as either slower or faster in the way Aristotle suggests, wouldn’t labeling each entity with a relative speed invalidate Zeno’s original notion that there is no motion as speed itself is a relationship between distance and time? To assign one entity as being faster than another admits that a rate of change exists, this admission seems to me to undermine Zeno’s position. Is there something I have overlooked to reach this conclusion?

 

Response Post:

 

3.) The care and willingness to investigate and cite external sources made this a pleasure to read. I am under the impression that what Parmenides is describing here is a sort of ontology for homosexuality. Given that what we are examining is a small fragment of a dead language written in verse, naturally it is difficult to access the writer’s intention and therefore lends itself to disagreement and discourse among scholars. Dr. Rose Cherubin, an associate professor of Philosophy at George Mason University translated the fragments and posited that this theory of homosexuality was Parmenides’ intent. Found here: 
https://mason.gmu.edu/~rcherubi/poem4.html.
 Furthermore, in her work “Sex, Gender, and Class in the Poem of Parmenides: Difference without Dualism?” Cherubin further posits that the mixing described by Parmenides indicates the mixing of gendered traits as well as sex. Dr. Cherubin writes, “With respect to the first question, that of whom Parmenides was discussing in this passage, Caelius says (Tardae Passiones 4.9.134–5) that according to Soranus, the passage represents Parmenides’ attempt to explain how “molles . . . seu subactos homines” come to be. Molles means “soft” or “effeminate”; subactos would seem to refer to those who “get under” or “are subdued” or “get worked over,” thus to men who seek a receptive role in sexual relations with other men.” I am not claiming that this position is final but it appears compelling based on the various translations made freely available. I’m looking forward to what others think.