Student review: An Introduction to Kant's Moral Philosophy

May 27, 2010

Authors: Jennifer K. Uleman

Edition: First

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Pages: 200

Price: £50.00 and £16.99

ISBN 9780521199629 and 36440

Immanuel Kant is arguably the most important philosopher in the Western tradition. The widespread study and use of his work has given rise to much criticism, some of which is based on a shallow understanding of his ideas. In this book, Jennifer Uleman sets out to present Kant's moral theory in a sympathetic light. She argues passionately against many of the stereotypes of Kant's theory as unfeeling or coldly rational. Her argument is well developed and persuasive and links Kant's moral theory to his wider interests as well as to related areas such as philosophy of mind, moral psychology and contemporary moral issues.

The aim of the book is to introduce the reader to Kant's moral philosophy in a way that avoids a basic reading and highlights what Kant can offer to contemporary moral philosophy. It succeeds in presenting a moral theory that is neither cold nor overly formalistic. Uleman elaborates her argument over the course of eight well-structured and thoughtful chapters that offer a comprehensive and compelling overview of Kantian moral theory.

In each chapter, Uleman takes the reader through the often thick and confusing terminology of Kant's moral philosophy, and she does so clearly and passionately. Rather than merely introducing and explaining the terminology, the book uses Kant's theoretical terms in order to mount a defence of his position.

The key focus is on his concept of free rational will, or "the strange thing", as Uleman refers to it. This focus allows her to bring in all the necessary elements of Kant's theory in an easily digestible manner. Readers are introduced to Kant's own aims and goals for his moral philosophy and aided in developing their own understanding of his work.

Interest in this book will depend on the extent of one's acquaintance with moral philosophy. For those with little or no knowledge of Kant, this introduction provides a clear and sympathetic argument for his morality, as well as links to his work in other areas of philosophy.

This book is ideal for anyone who has had a very brief introduction to Kant, perhaps one with strong emphasis on his dedication to duty and unsympathetic rationality. It overturns some of the classic presentations of Kant as a thinker and reintroduces him as someone who has something important to offer moral philosophy.

Who is it for? Undergraduates with an understanding of moral philosophy.

Presentation Logical.

Would you recommend it? Yes, for in-depth understanding of moral theory.

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