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CHAPTER III.: TRANSIT FROM THE METAPHYSIC OF ETHICS TO AN INQUIRY INTO THE À PRIORI OPERATIONS OF THE WILL. - Immanuel Kant, The Metaphysics of Ethics 
The Metaphysics of Ethics by Immanuel Kant, trans. J.W. Semple, ed. with Iintroduction by Rev. Henry Calderwood (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1886) (3rd edition).
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TRANSIT FROM THE METAPHYSIC OF ETHICS TO AN INQUIRY INTO THE À PRIORI OPERATIONS OF THE WILL.
The Idea Freedom explains that of Autonomy of Will.
WILL*is that kind of causality attributed to living agents, in so far as they are possessed of reason; and freedom is such a property of that causality as enables them to originate events, independently of foreign determining causes; as, on the other hand (mechanical), necessity is that property of the causality of irrationals, whereby their activity is excited and determined by the influence of foreign causes.
This explanation of freedom is negative, and therefore unavailing to aid our insight into its essence and nature; but there emerges from it a positive idea of freedom, much more fruitful: for since causality brings with it the notion of law, conformably to which an antecedent gives of necessity the existence of somewhat else, its sequent; the idea freedom, though unconnected with mechanic laws, is not cogitated for that reason as altogether devoid of law, but merely as a causality different in kind, and carrying with it laws suited to that generic difference; for if otherwise, a free will were a chimera.6 The mechanical necessity observed in the physical system is heteronomy in causation, where each event happens only by virtue of somewhat else foreign to the cause determining its efficiency. On the contrary, freedom of will is autonomy,i.e.,that property of will by which it determines its own causality, and gives itself its own law. But the position, the will is in every action a law to itself, is equivalent to the position that it acts from no maxim unfit to be objectively regarded as law universal. This, however, tallies with the formula of the categorical imperative, i.e., with the supreme principle of morality. Whence it results that a free will, and a will subjected to the moral law, are one and identic.
Upon the hypothesis, then, of freedom of will, morality and its formula are arrived at by a mere analysis of the idea. The formula is, however, a pure synthetic proposition à priori, viz., a good will is one whose maxim can always be regarded as law universal; and no analysis of the notion Good Will can guide to this further one of that property of the maxim. Such synthetic propositions are alone possible when there is a common and middle term combining the extremes which meet in the synthesis. The positive idea Freedom is this middle term, which cannot, as in physic causes, be any part of the system presented to the sensory. Now, what this is to which freedom points, and of which we have an idea à priori, requires elucidation; and to make comprehensible the deduction of the idea Freedom, together with the grounds of the possibility of freedom and a categorical Imperative, requires still a little preparation.
Freedom must be postulated as a Property of the Will of every Intelligent whatsoever.
It is not enough to attribute freedom to our will, unless we have sufficient grounds to ascribe it likewise to every reasonable being; for, since morality is our law, only in so far as we are Intelligents, it must be so also for every other being endowed with reason: and since it can be evolved only from the idea Freedom, freedom must be represented as the property of every Intelligent’s will whatsoever. It is not enough to deduce it from experience of human nature (although this is impossible, for it demands an investigation à priori); but it must be evinced as indissolubly attached to the energy of all beings possessed of reason and will. Now, I say that every being who can only act under the idea Freedom, is for that reason to all practical ends really free;i.e., all laws bind him, which go hand in hand with the idea Freedom, just as much as if his will had been in speculative philosophy ascertained to be free; and I assert further, that we must ascribe to every Intelligent possessed of will the idea Freedom, under which idea he can alone act. For in such Intelligent we figure to ourselves a reason which is practical, i.e., has causality in respect of its objects. Now, it is impossible to figure to ourselves any reason conscious of receiving any foreign bias in constituting its judgments and notions; for then the person would ascribe the determination of his judgments, not to his reason, but to an extraneous impulse. Reason must therefore regard herself as the author of her own principles, independently of foreign influences: consequently she has a practical reason, i.e., as will of an Intelligent, to regard herself as free; that is to say, the will of an Intelligent can be his own will only by presupposing freedom; and this must therefore, for a practical behoof, be ascribed to all Intelligents whatsoever.
Of the Interest indissolubly connected with the Idea of Morality.
We have now reduced the idea of morality to that of freedom of will; but we have not yet shown such freedom to exist as real in human nature. We only saw that we must presuppose freedom when we try to figure to ourselves an Intelligent conscious of its own causality with reference to its own actions, i.e., endowed with will. Upon the same grounds, it was requisite to attribute to every agent endowed with intelligence and will a property of determining its own agency by virtue of the idea of its own freedom.
Upon the presupposition of those ideas, there resulted further the consciousness of a law making it imperative how to act, viz., that the subjective rules of conduct ought always to be so constituted as to be objectively, i.e., universally valid, and so fit for proper catholic legislation. But still a question may be raised, Why am i bound to subject myself to this principle? and that too so sheerly as Intelligent, that every other Intelligent must be figured as standing in the same situation. I admit that no interest urges to this subjection; otherwise the categorical imperative were abrogated. Still I cannot be devoid of all interest to do so, nor without interest to comprehend on what such interest is based; for this word shall denotes properly a state of will valid for all Intelligents, which would alone obtain, if reason, unimpeded, were the alone actor. For beings like ourselves, affected by sensitive excitements, totally different in kind from the causal laws of reason, and whose actions fall out, vastly discrepant from what naked unimpeded reason would have done, such abstract necessity of acting is spoken of as what one should or ought, and the subjective is distinguished from the objective necessity.
It looks very like as if we set out with the idea Freedom for a vehicle to the moral law, and the principle of the autonomy of the will, but could not, apart from this presupposition, prove the law’s reality and proper objective necessity. However, even were it so, we should gain a very considerable end, viz., the fixing more closely than heretofore the true foundation of morality, even although we should not yet have succeeded in establishing its validity, and the practical necessity incumbent on man to subject himself to it. And this really has been done, although we should never be able to answer satisfactorily the question why the universal validity of our maxims for laws should be a condition limitary of our conduct; nor yet be able to tell whereon we base that worth, figured to attach to this mode of conduct, and which is alleged to run so high, that no higher interest is at all conceivable; nor whence it happens that man in these circumstances alone learns to feel his personal worth, in exchange with which a painful or a happy state shrinks equally to nothing.
It is found, indeed, that mankind are susceptible of an interest in a personal property, unconnected with any pleasurable state, provided such personal qualification may make us capable of the latter, in the event of a reason coming to distribute it; i.e., that the mere worthiness to become happy has an interest abstracted from any regard had to such happiness itself. But then this judgment and this susceptibility is itself a product of the admitted weight and importance of the moral law (when we, by force of the idea Freedom, detach ourselves from every sensitive excitement and emotion); but how we are at all able thus to detach ourselves, i.e., to cogitate ourselves as free, and why, in doing so, we ought to find an increased worth in our personality, requiting us for every loss we otherwise undergo, i.e., upon what grounds the moral law has virtue to oblige, cannot be comprehended by dint of the foregoing remarks.
It seems, I confess, as if the whole argument moved in a circle, from which there is no escaping. We assume ourselves free to explain our subjection to the moral law, and then we figure ourselves subjected to this law, because we have attributed to ourselves this property of freedom; for freedom and self-legislation issue both in autonomy of will, and so are convertible ideas; from which cause it comes that the one cannot be used to explain the other, nor can be assigned as its ground, but at the furthest may be put to the logical use of reducing seemingly different representations of the same object to one single notion (as in the mathematics, fractions equal, but with different denominators, are reduced to similar expressions by their common measure).
Only one escape remains to us from this labyrinth, namely, to inquire if we do not occupy an entirely different station, when we regard ourselves, as by means of freedom, spontaneous á priori causes, from that station which we hold when we represent to ourselves our actions as events in the system we see presented to our senses.
It is a remark, not calling for much subtle penetration, but one made from yore by the most common understanding, that the representations we are possessed of through the intervention of the sensory, never teach knowledge of objects otherwise than how they affect us; and so, what they are in themselves remains latent and undiscovered: consequently that, notwithstanding the greatest efforts of the understanding with regard to such representations, we arrive at knowledge of the appearances of things only, and can attain none of things in themselves. So soon as this distinction has been made (even did it merely spring from the observed difference between the representations given us from without, and in receiving which we are passive, and those which we produce entirely within ourselves, and exert our own self-activity upon them), it follows at once that something must be assumed, lying at the bottom of phenomena, which cannot itself again be a phenomenon, viz., the thing itself, although we are at the same time perfectly aware that, since we never can know it further than how we are affected by it, we can come no nearer to it, nor detect its real nature and being. This may be the first separation made by man betwixt a cogitable world and the world presented to his senses, which sensible system may differ continually with the differing sensories of different percipients, although the supersensible system, its groundwork, remain unaltered and the same.* Nay, even what man knows of his own nature and constitution by his inward senses, is an appearance only, and no acquaintance with what he is in himself; for his perception of himself coming through the sensory is a mere phenomenon in nature, and can only take notice of the mode in which his consciousness is affected; and yet at the same time he must of necessity pass from this phenomenal composition of himself to that which lies at the bottom of it, viz., his I, figured as a thing in itself. This man, in regard of his sensory and receptive faculties, deems himself a part of the sensible system; but in regard of that within him, which may be his own pure spontaneity (i.e., that which is immediately present to consciousness, without any modification of the sensory), he deems himself likewise a member of a cogitable and unseen system, of which he has, however, no knowledge.
This conclusion must follow and hold with regard to everything presenting itself to man: probably it obtains to some extent in every human understanding; for the most untutored have always been inclined to figure to themselves an invisible and unknown at the back of the objects impinging on the sensory, and have expected to find there, somewhat self-active; but then they immediately ruin this discovery by giving this invisible an external and tangible configuration, and so halt on the threshold of discovery.
Now, in point of fact, man finds himself endowed with a function, by which he distinguishes himself from all other objects, nay, even from himself, in so far as he is affectable through the sensory; and this function or power is reason.* This, as pure self-activity, transcends in excellence even the faculty of understanding; for though this last is likewise self-activity, and does not, like the sensory, contain mere representations which result from its reaction, when impressed by things, yet it begets no conceptions, excepting only such as serve to regulate and order the impressions of the sensory, and so to combine them in the identity of self-consciousness, without which union and combination of perceptibles the intellect could furnish no thought. Whereas reason, in supplying the ideas, shows so original and high a power of pure spontaneity, that it passes altogether beyond the field of the sensory, and has for its most principal and chief function, to separate and disjoin the sensible and cogitable system; and, by assigning the limits and boundaries of these respectively, to fix at the same time those laws beyond which the understanding cannot pass.
Hence it happens, that a reasonable agent must, as Intelligent, cogitate himself a member, not so much of the sensible, but rather of the supersensible system.† He has therefore two stations from which to regard himself, and a twofold set of laws regulating the conduct and exercise of his powers. The one kind of laws import heteronomy, and subjection to the mechanism and necessity of the physical system. The second connect him with a cogitable system, are quite independent on mechanic influences, and have their grounds in nowise in the physical system, but in reason only.
As Intelligent, and member of a cogitable world, man can represent to himself his proper causality only by force of the idea Freedom; for independence on the determining causes of the physical system (which independency reason must always attribute to itself) is freedom; but to the idea Freedom that of autonomy is indissolubly attached; and with this last there goes hand in hand the principle of morality, which does in idea lie at the bottom of the actions of every rational, in exactly the same way as laws of nature lie at the bottom and are the groundwork of all phenomena.
And now the suspicion previously stated is removed, as if there were a latent and vicious circle in our concluding from freedom upon autonomy, and from autonomy upon the moral law; as if we set out with the idea Freedom merely for the sake of the moral law, and in order to deduce this law from it, and so could give no account, and could assign no grounds for this idea, but had begged it merely as a principle, which the charitable might kindly grant us, but which could never be set up as a position resting on its own independent grounds. For now we see that, cogitated as free, we transplant ourselves into a supersensible system, whereof we recognise the law of autonomy, and its sequel morality; but that again, when we figure ourselves obliged or beholden to an act, we regard ourselves as members at once both of the sensible and of the cogitable systems.
How is a Categorical Imperative possible?
Every reasonable being reckons himself on the one hand as Intelligent in a cogitable system; and merely as an efficient in this system does he call his causality a will. On the other hand, he is conscious that he is a part of the physical or sensible system into which actions step forth, as the mere appearances or phenomena of that causality, the possibility of which, however, cannot be understood, as they have a descent from sources we know nothing of; but which appearances must, on the contrary, be regarded as determined by other and antecedent phenomena, namely, appetites and desires obtaining in the physical system. Regarded purely as an inhabitant of the cogitable world, all man’s actions would exactly tally with the autonomy of a pure will; while, again, regarded as a mere link in the chain of causes and events, all human actions are locked up under mechanic laws (heteronomy), and would ensue exactly according to the physical impulses given by instincts and solicitations in the sensory. But because the world of Noumena contains within it the last ground, not only of the world of Phenomena, but also of this last’s laws, I, as Intelligent, though likewise a phenomenon, must recognise myself as immediately attached to the intellectual law of the first, i.e., of reason, which by the idea Freedom gives a law, and ordains autonomy of will; from which it follows, that the laws of the cogitable and noumenal world are immediate and categorical imperatives; and the actions flowing from these principles it behoves me to judge of as duties.
Thus categorical imperatives are seen and comprehended to be possible, the idea Freedom making me an inhabitant of a cogitable system; where, were I such alone, my every action would fall out in harmony with autonomy of will, and, so far as I am likewise connected with a different but dependent system, ought and should so harmonize; which categorical “should,” expresses a synthetic proposition à priori; the constitution and origin of which synthesis is understood and comprehended, when we understand, that over and above my consciousness* of a will, stimulated by sensitive instincts and wants, there is superadded an idea of the very same will, but figured to be in a cogitable system, as pure self-active will, which likewise contains in it the last grounds and supreme conditions of the other,—pretty much as where, over and above the intuitions of the sensory, there are superadded notions of the understanding, which notions are in themselves nothing but legislative forms, and yet constitute, by the conjunction, synthetic propositions à priori, on which all knowledge of physics and of the laws of nature rests.
The practical use of the plainest understanding corroborates the accuracy of this investigation. No one, not even the most hardened ruffian, can fail to wish a change of state and character, when he has laid before his mental vision examples of sincerity and plain dealing, of unwavering steadfastness in adhering to good resolutions, of active sympathy, of inward good will, and universal benevolence. Such he too would willingly become; but he finds he cannot, in consequence of appetites and perturbations obtaining in his sensory; and this forces from him the further wish that he were disenthralled from the bondage of a servitude now felt to be intolerable. He therefore demonstrates that he, by force of the idea of a will separated from the perturbations of the sensory, does in thought waft himself into an order of things where none such intrude, and where he expects no real or imaginary gratification, but expects singly an advancement of the inward worth of his personality. This better person, however, man figures himself to be, when he regards himself, in his station, as an inhabitant of the cogitable system, whitherwards the idea Freedom (i.e., independency on the determinators of the physical system) must of necessity transplant him. There he is conscious of a good will,7 and recognises it as the law and standard for his wayward and phenomenal one. What he therefore morally should and ought, he sees to be his own proper necessary will, as member of a cogitable world; and he speaks of this his necessary will under the term shall, when, recognising its authority, he considers himself at the same time as residing in the system presented to his senses.
Of the Extreme Verge of all Practical Philosophy.
All men regard themselves,quoadtheir wills, as free:* hence come those judgments passed with regard to actions, that they ought to have happened, although in fact and event they happen not. This freedom is no conception taken from experience and observation, for it remains unaltered, even while all experience exhibits the very contrary of what, according to laws of freedom, ought to be; and yet, on the other hand, it is equally necessary to think of every event as inevitably determined by laws of nature. And this necessity in the physical sequences is no conception either, borrowed from observation and experience; for it is the notion of a necessity, and is part of knowledge à priori. Now this conception of a necessary-nexus in the physical system is substantiated by experience, nay, behoved to be presupposed if experience and observation (i.e., regular and uniform knowledge of the objects of sense) are to be possible. Hence freedom is only an idea of reason, and the objective reality of it is doubtful, but the mechanic nexus is a notion of the understanding, and proves its reality in experience and observation, and must prove it.*
Thus reason finds itself involved in a dialectic, for the freedom attributed to it seems to collide with the necessity obtaining in the physical system. And although, in this dilemma, reason, for speculative purposes, finds the path of mechanical necessity much smoother, and more unimpeded, yet, for all practical ends, she finds the narrow path of freedom the alone and single, along which she can exert herself in action. Hence the most subtle philosophy and the plainest understanding have both found it alike impossible to quibble themselves out of freedom: they have therefore been both conscious at bottom, that there was no real contradiction betwixt freedom and the laws of nature, considered both as regulating human actions; for reason can no more give up the notion of nature, than she can divest herself of the idea of freedom.
But at any rate, the appearance of contradiction must be removed, although how freedom is possible remains totally incomprehensible;* for if the idea Freedom be repugnant to itself, or the causal laws of nature, which are just as necessary, it must be abandoned for the sake of the latter.
But this contradiction cannot be avoided, unless the subject attributing to itself freedom thinks itself under different relations, when it at one time calls itself free, and yet regards the same action as fixed and subjected to the causal mechanic law determining phenomena. The problem is one which cannot be declined by reason, at least to show that the deceptive appearance of contradiction consists in this, that we cogitate mankind in a totally different point of view when we deem him free from what we regard him in when, as a phenomenon in space of time, we deem him subjected to their laws. Nay, to show further, that these two are not only consistent, but must of necessity be combined in the same subject, since we could not otherwise assign a ground why reason is to be embarrassed with an idea, not perhaps giving the lie direct to an old and well-established notion, but which idea exposes her to a very unnecessary and needless dilemma. This duty is incumbent on speculative philosophy, that it may prepare the way for the practical: there is therefore no option left to the philosopher, whether he will solve this seeming enigma, or leave it uninvestigated; for if he do this last, he leaves the theory concerning freedom a bonum vacans, which the first coming fatalist may seize on as unoccupied, and expels morals, as usurping grounds to which she can show no title.
However, it is not here the outer verge and border of practical philosophy is descried, for the difficulty just mentioned does not fall under its province, but is for speculative reason to make an end of, that it may warrant to practical reason secure and easy possession against all assailants of the domain on which she intends to erect her seat.
The legal title on which reason claims her freedom of will is grounded on the consciousness* and admitted presupposition of reason’s independency on merely subjectively determined causes, which aggregately compose whatever is of the nature of sensation, and passes under the general name of sensory. Man, considered as thus independent and intelligent, wafts himself, when he does so, into another order of things, and into a relationship with determining grounds of quite another kind (as intelligence endowed with will, i.e., causality) from those with which he is connected when he perceives himself a phenomenon objected to his senses (which likewise he most certainly is), and finds his causality subjected to foreign determinators, according to mechanic laws. Now he immediately becomes aware that both states may co-exist, nay, that in point of fact they must do so; for that a thing as it appears, and as part of sensible phenomena, is affected by certain laws, on which it, the same thing, not as appearance, but as a real, actual thing in itself, is independent, is in nowise a contradiction; and that man must reflect of himself in this twofold light, rests first on his consciousness of his being an object in the sensible system, and then, second, on his consciousness of himself as Intelligent, i.e., as in his originary use of reason, independent on sensitive impressions, i.e., detached from them, and in a cogitable state.*
Hence also it happens that man deems himself the potential possessor of a will which tramples under foot whatever is the mere progeny of appetite and want, and represents actions to be by it not only possible, but necessary, which can alone be performed by casting behind-back and discarding every inclination and excitement of the sensory. This will’s causality resides within him as Intelligent, and has its origin and seat in the laws of a cogitable world; of which world, however, man knows nothing further than that therein reason, naked reason, i.e., reason separated from every perturbation of the sensory, has alone the sway; and since it is there alone that, as Intelligent, man is properly himself (whereas here he is but an appearance of that self), that sway and dominion of reason concern him immediately and categorically. Nor can the whole stimulants in the phenomenal system affect or impair in any way the laws of his intellectual will; so much so, that he counts not these stimulants as his, but acquits himself of them as irresponsible. These he imputes not to his proper self, i.e., his will; but to himself alone any indulgence whereby he may incline to them, and allow them any influence derogatory to the authority of the law presented by reason to his will.*
Nor does reason overstep her bounds, in cogitating herself into a supersensible state; but she would then, when she pretended to feel herself into it, or by intuition to envisage herself there. Such supersensible is a mere idea, negative of the sensible world, which gives no laws to determine reason; and is in this point alone positive, that freedom, although a negative quality, carries with it a positive function and causality of reason called will,† enabling man so to act that the principle of his conduct may tally with the essential constitution of all causal reasons; i.e., the condition, that a reasonable agent’s maxims of conduct should be at all times fit for law universal. But when reason attempts to draw down an object of will from the cogitable world, then she oversteps her limits, and affects a knowledge where she knows nothing. The notion of a cogitable system is a mere station which reason needs for a fulerum to lift itself out of the mass of appearances, and cogitate itself as suiactive. This, however, mankind could not at all do, if sensitive excitements necessarily determined the human will; but which he must inevitably do, unless self-consciousness, as intelligent and spontaneous reason, is to be denied.* This conception leads, no doubt, to the idea of a different order of things, and of a legislation totally diverse from laws obtaining over the mechanic events in nature, and renders the representation of a cogitable world (i.e., the aggregate of Intelligents as things-in-themselves) necessary and inevitable. But all this takes place without the smallest pretence to know anything of the laws obtaining there, excepting only the formal condition of them, viz., the potential universality of the maxims of their wills for law—that is, their autonomy, which alone can consist with freedom; whereas all laws whatsoever grounded on an object beget heteronomy, and can take place singly in mechanic nexus and a physical system.
But reason would indeed overstep all bounds and limits were she to undertake an explanation, how pure reason can be spontaneous and self-practical? — a problem perfectly identic with this one, to explain how freedom of will is possible.†
For we can explain nothing which we cannot reduce to laws, the object of which is given, or at least may be given, in observation and experience; whereas freedom is a bare idea, and its objective reality cannot be exhibited or explained by laws of the physical system, i.e., is nowhere found in observation and experience; and since no example or analogy can be supplied to it, its reality can never become either comprehended or understood. It is valid merely as a necessary hypothesis for that reason which believes itself possessed of will, i.e., of a function superior to mere powers of desire;* namely, a function to determine itself to act as pure intelligence upon grounds of reason, and independently on physical instincts. Now, where events cease to be regulated by physic laws, there explanation is at end; and all that remains is to defend our possession of the idea, that is, to repel the attacks of those who pretend to see further into the nature of things than others, and who boldly pronounce freedom an absurdity. And we can show them, that the contradiction they imagine they have found out lies only in their refusing to regard man in his twofold character; and that when, in order to support the unvariedness of the causal law in respect of human actions, they consider man of necessity as a phenomenon in the physical system, and are then further required to figure to themselves man as Intelligent, and not as an appearance, but a thing in itself, they still persist in regarding him as in space and time: in which case, indeed, to separate his causality (i.e., his will) from the laws obtaining there, is impossible, and an absurdity; which difficulty vanishes entirely if they would bethink themselves, as reason calls on them to do, that beyond phenomena must needs be things-in-themselves, although latent,—the laws of which last cannot be expected to turn out identic with the laws under which their appearances rank.
This subjective impossibility to explain the freedom of the will is identic with the impossibility to investigate or explain the interest† mankind takes in the moral law; and although he has such interest, the groundwork of which is called the moral sense, no further account of it can be given. The feeling itself has been falsely declared to be the standard and guide of our ethical judgments, whereas it is the inward effect exercised by the law upon the will, the objective grounds of which reside in reason.
In order to will what reason ordains* that man ought and should, this last must have a function enabling it to beget a feeling of amenity, in the carrying its law into execution—in other words, in discharging duty; consequently, reason must have a causality of its own, adapted for determining the sensory according to its own principles. It is, however, altogether impossible to comprehend how a naked thought, containing in it nothing of the sensory, can bring forth an emotion of pleasure or pain; for it is a peculiar kind of causality, and of it, like every other kind of causality, we can predicate nothing à priori, but see ourselves compelled to interrogate experience. Observation and experience, however, teach no other relation betwixt cause and effect, than the relation obtaining betwixt one phenomenon and another; and in the case we are considering, reason is, by its ideas (which no experience reaches), the cause of an effect, which last alone lies within observation and experience; whence we see that an explanation, how and why the universal validity of a maxim for law (i.e.,morality) should interest mankind, is quite unattainable. Only thus much is certain, that morality is not valid for man because it interests him (for that were heteronomy and dependency of the will on sense), but that it interests because it has validity for man—because its law springs from our very intellectual being, and from what is man’s proper self: now, whatever (e.g., the interest) is among the appearances, must needs be subordinated by reason to the essential constitution of the thing itself.
The question, how a categorical imperative is possible, may therefore be thus far replied to, that we can assign the alone hypothesis on which such imperative can be founded, viz., freedom; and it is replied to, in so far as we can comprehend the necessity of this postulate freedom, which is sufficient for the practical conduct of reason, i.e., to a practical conviction of the authority and validity of the imperative, that is, generally of the moral law. But how the hypothesis itself comes to be possible, is what no human reason can comprehend. Upon the hypothesis of freedom of will, autonomy, the formal condition of its determination was inferred as a necessary sequel; to postulate which freedom of will, is not only possible, but is unconditionally necessary, for a being conscious of its intellectual causality, that is, of a will, which it distinguishes from its desires;* which postulate it must likewise apply to the practical use of every voluntary action. But how naked reason, independently of every other spring, can be itself active and spontaneous, i.e., how the mere principle of the validity of its maxims for universal laws, independently on every object man may be interested in, can be itself a spring to action, and beget an interest which is purely ethical; to explain this, I say, how reason can be thus practical, is quite beyond the reach and grasp of all human thought, and the labour and toil bestowed on any such inquiry is fruitless, and thrown away.
An inquiry instituted to this effect would be just the same as if I were to try to fathom how freedom is, as a causality of will, possible; for I then quit all philosophic grounds of explanation, and have none other. I might no doubt give my fancy reins, and let it run riot through a cogitable region which still remains. But though I have a well-grounded idea of such a state, I have no knowledge of it whatever, and can acquire none by any stretch of thought. The idea denotes a mere somewhat (cogitable) which remains when every sensitive excitement is excluded from the will; and this exclusion is had recourse to, in order to show that the sensible system is not all in all, but that beyond lies somewhat ulterior. But this ulterior is a vast unknown and blank. When reason thinks of such an ideal state, and abstracts from all known objects, there remains nothing except the form (of reason itself), viz., the law of the universal validity of its maxims; and in harmony with this, reason, as therein an agent, i.e., a cause determining volition. Every spring is here awanting and abstracted from, unless indeed the idea of this cogitable state be itself the spring, i.e., that in which reason takes its original interest; but to make this comprehensible, is just the problem we have declared insoluble.
Here, then, is the utmost verge of all ethical inquiry, to fix the just bounds and limits of which is of very great importance; for it provides reason with a guard against seeking in the sensible system for its last determinator, and finding there, to the utter ruin of all morality, a physical and comprehensible interest; and it likewise furnishes a guard whereby reason is prevented from impotently flapping its wings and attempting to soar in the blank void of impossible ideas, and, without moving from the spot, disorienting itself amid chimeras. The idea of a pure cogitable world, as an aggregate of reasonable beings, to which ourselves belong (although still parts in a physical system), is a most fertile and allowed idea for the behoof of a reasonable faith, all knowledge falling short on this side of it. Nor can the august ideal of a universal kingdom of ends in themselves fail to excite in man a lively interest in the moral law, since mankind can only then figure themselves its inhabitants, when they most industriously adhere to the imperatives of freedom, as if they were necessary laws of the physical system.
Conclusion of the Groundwork.
Speculative reason, when examining the physical system, arrived at the idea of an absolute necessity contained in some last and supreme cause of the world. Practical reason, reflecting on its actions, arrives also at an absolute necessity (in freedom),—a necessity extending no farther than to the laws of the actions of a reasonable being considered as such. Now it is a fundamental principle of all use of reason, to carry back all knowledge to a consciousness of its necessity (and where this is not done, the knowledge does not rest on grounds of reason); and yet it is a limit as invariably put to it, that it cannot comprehend this necessity, either of what happens, or of what ought to happen, unless it is able to assign some condition as a ground upon which somewhat either is or ought to be. In this way, by continually requiring further and further conditions, the insight and satisfaction of reason is postponed. In this restless state reason is driven on the unconditionally necessary, and is forced upon it, although it cannot by any means comprehend such unconditionate necessity, and deems itself happy when it impinges on an idea able to support the load of such a hypothesis. It is therefore no fault of this deduction and inquiry into the supreme and last principle of morality, but an objection which it behoved to make to human reason itself, that it cannot make comprehensible the absolute necessity of an unconditioned practical law, which unconditionate necessity the categorical imperative must have; for that reason refuses to explain it by adopting the further condition of an interest attaching to it, can be no reproach to reason, since in such event the imperative would cease to be a moral, i.e., supreme law of freedom, and so we cannot comprehend the unconditionate practical necessity of the ethical imperative, but we comprehend why it is incomprehensible; and this is as much as can be reasonably demanded from a system of philosophy which has for its object to investigate the reach and extent of the faculty of reason.
INQUIRY INTO THE À PRIORI OPERATIONS OF THE WILL.
[* ]Ref. 5, from p. 45.—C.
[6 ]For a full view of Kant’s theory of the Freedom of the Will, the passage on pp. 63, 64, distinguishing between the sensible and supersensible or cogitable systems, must be taken as fundamental. Then compare pp. 63, 64, 68, 69, 72, 73, 95, 135, 137, 139, 161, 169, 175.—C.
[* ]Ref. 6, from page 57.—C.
[* ]Ref. 2, from p. 6; and Ref. 4, from p. 40.—C.
[† ]Ref. 6, from p. 57.—C.
[* ]See note on next page.—C.
[7 ]For such occasional references to Consciousness as occur in discussing the Freedom of the Will, v. pp. 70, 72, 75, 95, with which, by way of contrast, may be taken p. 175.—C.
[* ]Ref. 6, from p. 57.—C.
[* ]Ref. 6, from p. 57.—C.
[* ]Ref. 6, from p. 57.—C.
[* ]Ref. 7, from p. 67.—C.
[* ]Ref. 7, from p. 67.—C.
[* ]Ref. 4, from p. 40.—C.
[† ]Ref. 5, from p. 45.—C.
[* ]Ref. 7, from p. 67.—C.
[† ]Ref. 5, from p. 45; and Ref. 6, from p. 57.—C.
[* ]Ref. 6, from p. 57.—C.
[† ]Interest is that whereby reason becomes a cause practically determining the will. Hence we say of rationals only, that they have an interest in anywhat; irrationals have no more than an appetite or instinct. Reason takes an immediate interest in an action only then, when the universal validity of its maxim is the exclusive determinative of the will.* Such an interest is the alone pure. Again, the interest taken by reason in an action is then indirect and oblique, when some object of desire or particular feeling of the subject is pre-required to determine the choice; and since abstract reason cannot assign any objects of desire, nor beget any feeling pointing to such object, but these arise from observation and experience singly, such latter interest is no pure interest of reason, but is one adulterated with à posteriori grounds. Even the logical interest of reason is not immediate, but rests on the end and aim it may have of advancing its speculative extent.
[* ]Ref. 4, from p. 40.—C.
[* ]Ref. 7, from p. 67.—C.