Unlike our first reading of Sidgwick’s Methods, our first reading of Kant’s Groundwork is, in some ways, the best. There are some striking and inspiring claims, and we are not worried by what we can’t understand. But when we re-read the Groundwork, many of us become discouraged, and give up. We decide that Kant, though he may be a great philosopher, is not for us.
The first problem is Kant’s style. It is Kant who made really bad writing philosophically acceptable. We can no longer point to some atrocious sentence by someone else, and say ‘How can it be worth reading anyone who writes like that?’ The answer could always be ‘What about Kant?’
Kant did not have a single, coherent theory.
Kant makes many conflicting claims, and such claims cannot all be true.
As Kemp Smith points out, Kant often ‘flatly contradicts himself’ and ‘there is hardly a technical term which is not employed by him in a variety of different and conflicting senses. He is the least exact of the great thinkers.’ (To avoid provoking Hegelians, we should perhaps say ‘one of the least exact’.)
When I first re-read Kant, what I found most irritating was not Kant’s obscurities and inconsistencies, but a particular kind of overblown, false rhetoric.
…since I knew that Kant believed in a Categorical Imperative, I was surprised by Kant’s second sentence. I asked a Kantian, ‘Does this mean that, if I don’t give myself Kant’s Imperative as a law, I am not subject to it?’ ‘No,’ I was told, ‘you have to give yourself a law, and there’s only one law.’ This reply was maddening, like the propaganda of the so-called ‘People’s Democracies’ of the old Soviet bloc, in which voting was compulsory and there was only one candidate. And when I said ‘But I haven’t given myself Kant’s Imperative as a law’, I was told ‘Yes you have’. This reply was even worse. My irritation at such claims may have left some traces in this book.
当然，最后 Parfit 还是说 that irritation has gone.