Immanuel Kant is a key figure in modern philosophy known for synthesizing early modern rationalism and empiricism, setting terms commonly used in 20th and 21st century philosophy, and exercising a great influence in the areas of epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, aesthetics, political philosophy, and others. Kant made significant contributions to philosophy through several works with Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals being one of his first mature works exploring moral philosophy. This work has been summarized and reviewed by various scholars to give an insight of Kant’s message conveyed through the book. Glyn Hughes also has a squashed version of the book that highlights the three key ideas presented.
Hughes’ squashed version of Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals highlights its preface, first section, second section, and third section. The preface is all about the division of ancient Greek philosophy into physics, ethics, and logic. It also reiterates that all rational knowledge can be either formal o material. The preface further pinpoints that Kant’s primary concern in the book is with moral philosophy. The concern drives him to ask the question of whether it is not of utmost necessity to construct a pure thing that is empirical and that belongs to anthropology. After the preface comes the first section that focuses on the transition from the common rational knowledge of morality to the philosophical. In this section, Kant makes three key propositions. The first proposition is that being beneficent is a duty. This is interpreted that there exist several so sympathetically constituted minds that they seem to find pleasure in not only spreading joy around them but also taking delight in others’ satisfaction. The second proposition is that an action done from duty derives its moral worth mainly from the maxim by which the action is determined rather than the purpose sought to be attained by the action. The third proposition of the first section is that duty is the necessity of acting from respect for the law.
The squashed version by Hughes also gives an insight into the book’s second section that focuses on the transition from popular moral philosophy to the metaphysic of morals. In this section, Hughes takes note of Kant’s statement that drawing notion of duty from the common use of practical reason cannot be inferred as a concept of experience. The section also enumerates a few duties while adopting the division of them into duties to oneself and to others and into perfect and imperfect duties. Kant’s major inferences can be drawn from the second section. One of the inferences is that a person contemplating suicide ought to ask him or herself whether the action can be deemed consistent with the idea of humanity being an end in itself (Kant & Abbott, 2019). The second inference drawn from the section is that a person with the thought of making a lying promise to others is likely to see that he would be using another man as a means. The third inference is that an action should not only castigate the violation of humanity but should also harmonize with it. The fourth inference is that the ends of any subject ought to be also one’s ends if it is to have full effect with the person. The second section’s bottom line is that an action’s moral worth is determined by whether the action has respect for the law (Kant & Abbott, 2019). Hughes’ version also gives insight into the third section of Kant’s book that focuses on the transition from the metaphysic of morals to the critique of pure practical reason. The third section’s major inferences are that freedom is the key that explains the autonomy of the will and that freedom must be presupposed as a property of the will of all rational beings. The section also questions the possibility of a categorical imperative and delves into the extreme limits of all practical philosophy.
Throughout the squashed edition, Hughes mounts a nice case for Kant’s concern for character. The squashed edition concentrates on what Kant largely considered to be the key determinants for character in his book. The edition stresses the idea that good will is what determines whether one’s character can be considered good. Hughes does not criticize or disagree with Kant’s ideas but goes ahead to put them down in a summarized version that can be easily read and understood by the reader. In conveying Kant’s ideas, the squashed version sticks to the book’s major sections thereby hardly distorting the book’s intended message to readers. That the squashed version does not distort the book’s message or organization can be seen in how it starts by summarizing the preface of the book followed by the respective sections. It also includes a conclusion that summarizes the principal ideas of Kant’s book without integrating new concepts.
Although Hughes’ squashed edition presents the major themes and ideologies covered in Kant’s book, it is not a true reflection of what the book is. The squashed edition shortens the various sections of Kant’s books from the preface to sections one, two, and three. For instance, the preface in Kant’s book covers up to five pages of content giving background information on ancient Greek philosophy and other aspects such as metaphysics, ethics, and logic (Timmermann, 2013). On the other hand, the squashed edition has a preface that covers what appears to be half of a page. By shortening the preface, much relevant and necessary content presented in Kant’s actual book is left out. The three sections of the book are also shortened, which means that a significant amount of content is left out. Thus, there is a huge difference in terms of grasping Kant’s ideologies when one reads the squashed edition and the actual book.
Overall, Glyn Hughes’ squashed version of Immanuel Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Moral is a masterpiece. Hughes is keen not to distort Kant’s intended message to readers. He also keeps the structure of the book from the preface to the first, second, and third sections. Hughes further makes an effort to include the subheadings available in each section of Kant’s book.
Hughes, G. (2011). Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals: Immanuel Kant. Retrieved from http://sqapo.com/kant2.htm
Kant, I., & Abbott, T. K. (2019). Groundwork of the metaphysics of morals. Compass Circle.
Timmermann, J. (2013). Kants Groundwork of the metaphysics of morals: a critical guide. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.