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What can I know? What ought I to do? What can
fill me with constantly increasing admiration and awe, the longer and more earnestly
I reflect on them: the starry heavens without and the moral law within.
Nothing is divine but what is agreeable to reason.
From such crooked wood as that which
man is made of, nothing straight can be fashioned.
is not the doctrine of how we may make ourselves happy, but how we may make ourselves
worthy of happiness.
a lie, a man...annihilates his dignity as a man.
the interests of my reason, speculative as well as practical, combine in the three
following questions: 1. What can I know? 2. What ought I to do? 3. What may I
Out of timber
so crooked as that from which man is made nothing entirely straight can be carved.
Ours is an age of criticism, to which
everything must be subjected. The sacredness of religion, and the authority of
legislation, are by many regarded as grounds for exemption from the examination
by this tribunal, But, if they are exempted, and cannot lay claim to sincere respect,
which reason accords only to that which has stood the test of a free and public
All thought must,
directly or indirectly, by way of certain characters, relate ultimately to intuitions,
and therefore, with us, to sensibility, because in no other way can an object
be given to us.
Famous Quotes from Groundwork of the Metaphysics
of Morals (1785) - Immanuel Kant
- Only the descent
into the hell of self-knowledge can pave the way to godliness.
- A metaphysics of morals is therefore indispensably necessary, not merely
because of a motive to speculation— for investigating the source of the practical
basic principles that lie a priori in our reason— but also because morals themselves
remain subject to all sorts of corruption as long as we are without that clue
and supreme norm by which to appraise them correctly...
ought never to act except in such a way that I could also will that my maxim should
become a universal law.
- Kant's supreme moral principle
or "categorical imperative"; Variant translations: Act only on that maxim
which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.
as if the maxim of thy action were to become by thy will a universal law of nature.
act that your principle of action might safely be made a law for the whole world.
you live your life as if the maxim of your actions were to become universal law.
your life as though your every act were to become a universal law.
Do not feel
forced to act, as you're only willing to act according to your own universal laws.
And that's good. For only willfull acts are universal. And that's your maxim.
- I do not, therefore, need any penetrating
acuteness to see what I have to do in order that my volition be morally good.
Inexperienced in the course of the world, incapable of being prepared for whatever
might come to pass in it, I ask myself only: can you also will that your maxim
become a universal law?
- Even if there never have
been actions arising from such pure sources, what is at issue here is not whether
this or that happened; that, instead, reason by itself and independently of all
appearances commands what ought to happen; that, accordingly, actions of which
the world has perhaps so far given no example, and whose very practicability might
be very much doubted by one who bases everything on experience, are still inflexibly
commanded by reason... because ... duty ... lies, prior to all experience, in
the idea of a reason determing the will by means of apriori grounds.
- Morality is thus the relation of actions to the autonomy of the will,
that is, to a possible giving of universal law through its maxims. An action
that can coexist with the autonomy of the will is permitted; one that does not
accord with it is forbidden. A will whose maxims necessarily harmonize with the
laws of autonomy is a holy, absolutely good will. The dependence upon the principle
of autonomy of a will that is not absolutely good (moral necessitation) is obligation.
This, accordingly, cannot be attributed to a holy being. The objective of an action
from obligation is called duty.
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