Philosophical Topics 31 (1/2):457-484 (2003)

Abstract
Kant begins the First Section of the Groundwork with a statement that is one of the most memorable in all his writings: “There is nothing it is possible to think of anywhere in the world, or indeed anything at all outside it, that can be held to be good without limitation, excepting only a good will” (Ak 4:393).[i] Due to the textual prominence of this claim, readers of the Groundwork have usually proceeded to read that work, and Kant’s other ethical works as well, on the assumption that the truth of that assertion, and therefore the conception of the good will, both occupy a fundamental place in Kantian ethics. The assumption, however, becomes increasingly hard to sustain as we gain more familiarity with Kant’s ethical writings and better understanding of his ethical theory.[ii] As for the concept of the good will, Kant does avow the intention of “developing” it (Ak 4:397), and he goes on to thematize concepts that he thinks of as related to the good will (the moral worth of an action, acting from duty). But he never provides an explicit account of what he takes a ‘good will’ to be.[iii].
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  General Interest  Philosophy of Mind
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ISBN(s) 0276-2080
DOI 10.5840/philtopics2003311/24
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