I am interested in a book(s) that summarizes Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals.

  1. I don't mean a critical analysis of Kant's book.
  2. Also, I don't mean a summary of his overall moral philosophy, but rather a commentary on just the Groundwork in relatively accessible terms.
  3. I want something more detailed and sophisticated than spark notes.
  4. Preferably in the 20 to 100 page range.
  • 1
    I hope I haven't butchered what you wanted to ask, but I've edited out some redundancies and itemized the features I saw there. When possible, I've kept your own words.
    – virmaior
    Sep 15, 2015 at 4:11
  • If you have specific questions about things that happen in the Groundwork, you can ask them here. It's going to be difficult to find a text in the "sweet spot" you're asking for here, because the Groundwork is a difficult text with several thorny passages (e.g., shopkeeper, the entirety of section III)
    – virmaior
    Sep 15, 2015 at 4:14

3 Answers 3


Might I suggest,

Cambridge's Critical guide to Kant's Groundwork edited by Jens Timmermann

The purpose of the text is to help readers understand it, and the list of authors includes several good Kant scholars. A brief skimming on Google Books also says that it isn't too hard to read and while making the reader aware of complexities does not mire them into them.

  • As a German kantian, I strongly suggest this one. Timmermann has a coherent, well founded understanding of what Kant is doing in the Groundwork and is able to express it in German as well as English (teaching in St. Andrews, Scotland).
    – Philip Klöcking
    Oct 14, 2015 at 9:01

Good question, and one I wish I had the wit to ask before looking at the Groundwork.

I found this collection of four essays useful in interpreting the text, locating it historically in the tradition and offering a defence; it includes a translation of the text; which does means though altogether it comes in over 200 pages.

The SEP entry on the Kants Moral Theory despite the title exclusively concentrates on the Groundwork; and is very clear, particularly on the various formulations of CI, and unravelling it in terms of Perfect and Imperfect duties in a five step 'decision procedure'


Sparknotes has summaries of philosophical works, including the Groundwork.

Cambridge, who also publishes the whole of Kant's oeuvre, has a helpful companion. And Penn State Press has a wonderful series on feminist interpretations of many philosophers, Kant included.

In my opinion, being an admirer of Kant, and as someone who tries to read him carefully, there is no substitute for reading Kant in his own words. Kant is notoriously difficult and at times obtuse, but I find reading him to be a great intellectual workout. After you get the hang of him, he becomes less impenetrable.

  • 2
    While on the subject of reading carefully (as I missed your clarification in the other question you answered), OP does specifically call for "I want something more detailed and sophisticated than spark notes." This makes it a hard niche. And one I don't think the Cambridge Companion to Kant (which I own and use in my day job as a philosopher when I write about Kant) fits in super well.
    – virmaior
    Sep 16, 2015 at 6:51

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