Just discovered Kant - help!

I didn’t think I would enjoy Kant. I merely bought his book “Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals” because ethics is one of my two main philosophical interests and the aforementioned book was supposedly a groundbreaking work in ethics, although I had been told that it was deeply flawed and reading up about it online myself, I felt it was a flawed version of my favourite ethicist - who was influenced by Kant - R.M. Hare’s Universal Prescriptivism.

So I bought a bunch of books and after reading “Man’s search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl, I brushed through Kant and found it interesting. I started reading a couple other books, but I kept being drawn back to Kant. It’s really weird, even though I felt he’d leave no impact on me, I find myself drawn to his work. I have this craving to understand what he’s saying, and I feel like it’s something important.

The problem is that his writing style is so hard to penetrate. I read passages nine times and still only barely grasp it. Does anyone know how to penetrate his texts? How to understand his terms, etc. etc. And also, since I’m finding his work hard to grasp first-hand (although easy to grasp from secondary sources) I would like to hear other people’s comments on his ethical theories, pro and con, since so far I have only heard con.


kant’s ethics is nothing more than a glorification of the golden rule.


In the words of Nietzsche: Kant sought to prove the common man right, in a way that only scholars could understand. Basically, Kant is the philosophical ground upon which decadence resides. Don’t let him seduce you!

Hi Ponty,

I’m fascinated as well by the study of morality.

You might also enjoy reading Thomas Nagel’s little book of essays, Mortal Questions, especially the chapter titled, “Moral Luck,” which I credit, to some degree, for rousing me from my moral “dogmatic slumber.” Btw, you can find my post on the subject of “moral luck” here.

Otherwise, Bernard Williams, Derek Parfit, and Galen Strawson, to name a few, all are great reading. The most recent book I’ve read on the topic was Richard Joyce’s, The Myth of Morality. As for Kant, I would ask you to please read my advice on the subject here.

Kant was brilliant. But as Michael Schumer (who writes for Scientific American Magazine) has pointed out, having brilliance sometimes allows one to devise very clever arguments in support of very bad ideas. Kant’s determination to derive morality from reason strikes me as wrongheaded as the flatlander, newly arrived in Vermont, attempting to draw maple sap from a pine tree - or even worse, from a telephone pole.

“In the last resort, it is our love for people which counts for more than our love for principles.” William Gass, “The Case of the Obliging Stranger”

Happy reading,