Front Page Titles (by Subject) BOOK II.: INQUIRY INTO THE À PRIORI OPERATIONS OF THE WILL. ( Extracted from the Critik of Practical Reason. ) - The Metaphysics of Ethics
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BOOK II.: INQUIRY INTO THE À PRIORI OPERATIONS OF THE WILL. ( Extracted from the “ Critik of Practical Reason. ”) - 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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INQUIRY INTO THE À PRIORI OPERATIONS OF THE WILL.
ANALYTIC OF PRINCIPLES.
PRACTICAL principles are propositions containing different rules, subordinate to them, which may be grounds of determining the Will. They are either subjective, and are called maxims, when the rule is considered as of force only in reference to the thinking subject himself; or they are objective, and are called laws, when reason pronounces the rule to have an ethical virtue of obliging all reasonable beings.*
If it be admitted that reason contains in itself practical grounds sufficient for determining the will, then there are practical laws; but if otherwise, then are there no more than practical maxims. Where a will is pathologically affected, there a collision of maxims is conceivable; nay, they may even militate against laws which the thinking subject himself admits to be presented to his will by reason. Thus, an individual may adopt the maxim to let no injury pass unavenged, and at the same time he may see very clearly that that principle is no law, but simply a maxim of his own; and that if such a maxim were raised to the rank of a law in a general code or system of moral legislation, it would become self-destructory, and inconsistent with itself. In natural philosophy, principles regulating what happens (events) (e.g., the principle of the equality of action and reaction in communicating motion) are also laws of nature; for in physics the use of reason is theoretic, and determined by the nature of the object. But in moral philosophy, where determinators of volition are alone inquired into, the rules or principles which a person may adopt to regulate what happens (actions) are not in any sense laws inevitably put upon him; for reason is here practical, and has to do with the appetitive faculty of the subject, according to the nature and qualities of which, the rule may be variously modified. Every practical rule is a product of reason, for it prescribes an act as a mean toward an end, which is intended. But such a rule is, in the case of a being whose reason is not the sole determinator of his choice, an imperative,i.e., a rule expressed by the word shall or ought, and it denotes the objective necessity of an action, and implies that, if the will were guided by reason singly, the action would follow according to the rule. Imperatives have therefore an objective import, and so differ totally from maxims, which are subjective singly. They determine the causality of an agent either in regard of the effect or purpose to be reached, or they determine the causality simpliciter. In the first case, the imperatives are hypothetical, and are no more than rules of art; but, in the second, they are categoric and absolute, and these alone are practical laws regulating conduct. While, then, maxims may be regarded as rules, they never can be considered as imperatives. Even imperatives, when no more than conditional determinators of the will, i.e., when they determine the will, not as such simply, but as a mean toward some desired effect, are not laws, but practical precepts only. Laws must determine the will, as will, and do not even depend on the question whether the subject possess the power requisite for some desired end: they are equally independent of the particular line of conduct conducive to it, i.e., they are categoric; and if they were not so, they would not be laws, being deficient in necessity,—a practical necessity, being only possible to be conceived where the will is separated thoroughly from all pathological and contingent circumstances which may attach to it. When it is said that a man must exert himself in youth, and be thrifty, that he may not starve when he is old, a true and important rule of conduct is advanced; but what is to be observed with regard to this rule is, that the will is referred to somewhat out of and beyond itself, of which it is presumed it makes a choice; and it must be left to the individual himself whether he so choose or no; whether he may expect funds from other sources than his own industry; whether he think he may live to old age; or whether he may keep himself by stealing when he comes to want. Reason, from which alone a rule expressive of necessity can emanate, lends a necessity to the foregoing precept (for, apart from its necessity, it were no imperative); but such necessity is subjectively conditional, and cannot be supposed of all thinking beings equally. But for a legislation of reason, nothing further can be required than that it presuppose itself, since in this event alone can a rule be objectively and universally valid, no subjective contingent circumstances being introduced distinguishing one reasonable being from another. Now, let it be said that none ought to promise deceitfully, and we have a rule which respects the will singly, and takes no cognisance of any ulterior aim or intention which a man may have, and is hence independent of the consideration of any such aim being attainable or not. It is the naked volition which is given as determined à priori by the rule. Again, suppose that the above rule be correct and true, then it is law; for the imperative it expresses is categoric. All practical laws refer to will, quite irrespective of any effects which its causality may produce, whence abstracting from “those,” we may consider “this” as it is à priori.
All practical principles which presuppose an object, or matter chosen, as a determinator of the will, are one and all of them taken from experience and observation, and, being à posteriori, cannot supply a law of acting.
By the matter of a choice, I understand an object, the existence of which is desired. When the desire of this object goes before the practical rule, and is the condition determining it, then I say, first, such rule is always à posteriori; for the determinator of choice is then the representation of an object, and the relation subsisting between the representation and the subject, whereby the choice is determined to realise the object. This relation, however, is called pleasure in the existence of the object. This pleasure must therefore be presupposed as a condition precedent to the possibility of such determination of the choice. Now, it is impossible to know à priori, in any case, whether the representation of an object is to be accompanied with pleasure or not; whence it follows that the determinator of the choice is à posteriori in such event, as is likewise the material principle of acting which rests on it as a condition.
Again, I say, secondly, that since a principle which is based on the susceptibility of an individual for pleasure or pain is known only by an induction à posteriori, and cannot be extended to other agents perhaps not endowed with any similar or the same capacity, it may become a maxim, but can never be law, not even for this individual; for it is devoid of objective necessity, which is always à priori. A material principle can therefore never yield a practical law regulating conduct.
All material practical principles, however different, agree in this, that they belong to one general system of Eudaimonism, and rest on self-love.
The pleasure arising from the representation of the existence of a thing, when a determinator of the choice towards that thing, rests on the susceptibility of the individual, and depends on the existence of the thing, and belongs for this reason to the sensory and not to the understanding, because this last refers a representation to the object by the intervention of a notion, and does not refer it to the subject by the intervention of a feeling. The pleasure is consequently only in so far practical, as the agreeable sensation expected by the individual from the object determines his choice. But the consciousness of agreeable sensations, regarded as uninterrupted through the whole course of life, constitutes happiness; and the ruling principle to make regard to one’s own happiness the supreme and single determination to action, is the principle which is justly called self-love: consequently all material principles which put the determinator of choice in the pleasure or pain resulting from the existence of an object, are to this extent all of the same kind—that they belong to a system of Eudaimonism, and rest on one’s own self-love.
Corollary.—Every material rule assigns a determination of choice taken from the lower powers of desire singly; and were there no formal law of the will sufficient to determine it, it would needs follow that there existed no superior power of desire at all.
It is quite surprising that men, otherwise acute, should have imagined that they had detected the difference betwixt the higher and inferior powers of desire, by observing whether the representation productive of pleasure sprang from the sensory, or from the understanding; for when inquiry is made as to the determinator of a choice, and the grounds of that determination be put in the agreeable sensation expected from an object, it is of no moment from what faculty the representation springs, but this alone is to be considered, how much the representation pleases or delights. If a representation, which may have its seat in the understanding, is only able to determine the choice by presupposing a pleasurable sensation in the subject, then it is clear that the determination depends on the peculiar constitution of the sensory, and its susceptibility for an emotion of delight. It is of no consequence to insist that the representations of objects are widely different, according as they are of the understanding, of reason, or of the sensory; for the feeling of pleasure, by which the will is put into motion, is in either of these three cases exactly of the same kind, both by being known only à posteriori, and by its stimulating the same vital function. The different agreeable sensations which may therefore determine the will, differ merely in degree; and if this were not so, it were impossible that any man could compare different representations, springing from different faculties, so as to prefer one before the other; and yet an individual may throw aside a useful book not to neglect a hunting match; the very same man may quit listening to a most pathetic harangue, not to be too late for dinner, or leave a most interesting party, and for whom he has the highest esteem, to adjourn to a gaming table; nay, a benevolent man, otherwise fond of giving alms, may turn away a poor object because he has just so much money in his pocket as will pay his entrance into the theatre. If the motive determining the will turn on the pleasure or pain expected from a representation, it must be quite indifferent to the individual what kind of representation affects him; his sole concern in determining his choice must be how intense, how durable, how easily acquired and repeated, may be the gratification,—just as it is indifferent to the man who is about to pay away his money, whether the gold of which his coin consists has been dug out of a mine or washed from the sand, provided it pass current in either case for the same value. A man, therefore, whose concern rises no further than to pass happily through life, is perfectly indifferent whether a representation of the sensory or of the understanding delight him, provided the enjoyment be equally great and equally durable in both cases. But, clear though this be, those who deny the power of reason to determine by itself the will, have continually embarrassed this matter by their bad definitions,—first holding certain sensations to be pleasures, and then pronouncing them somewhat totally diverse. Thus they observe that sustained exertion, that consciousness of force of will in overcoming great obstacles presented to the execution of our resolves, that the culture of the mind, impart high degrees of gratification; and that mankind deem them more refined, because they are more in our own power, do not wear out by usage, but rather strengthen our susceptibility for such enjoyment, and so expand the mind while they delight it: upon these grounds, they conclude that such pleasures determine the will in a totally different manner from the pleasure of the senses, and support themselves in this belief by inventing a peculiar sense (a moral sense, or sense of taste) for their vehicle;—a style this of arguing, which reminds one of those metaphysic quacks who keep cogitating at matter till it becomes so fine and suprafine, that they at length fancy it subtilized into spirit. If, like Epicurus, we rest virtue on the pleasure it may promise us, it is quite inconsistent to tax that philosopher with sottishness when he holds the pleasures of virtue as exactly the same in kind with the coarsest sensual enjoyment. And it is mistaking his system altogether to say, that the representations by which he expected to be delighted have their origin alone in the organs of the body. On the contrary, so far as we can understand him, he placed many pleasures in the culture and use of the intellectual powers; but this ought not, and did not, hinder him from regarding pleasures, when stimulating the will, as exactly alike and the same in nature. To be rigidly consistent, is the highest duty of a philosopher; and of this we find better examples in the old Greek schools than nowadays, when the most discordant systems are often forced, by the shallowness of their abettors, into a disgraceful coalition, in the hope of pleasing the public by giving them a little of everything. A system the principles of which turn on one’s own happiness, no matter how intellectually soever the understanding may be employed on it, can never furnish any further motive than such as excite and stimulate the inferior powers of desire. Either, then, a superior power of desire is to be abandoned, or else reason must itself be a practical or active faculty; i.e., such a one as can by the bare form of its rule determine a volition, and that abstracted from all feelings of the agreeable or disagreeable which may follow or compose the matter of a choice. And if reason be such a faculty, then it is not in anywise in the service of the sensory, but does itself alone determine a volition, and is a superior or supreme power of desire, generically distinct from the lower, and claiming the supremacy over it. To adulterate the legislation of reason with motives borrowed from the sensory, is to impair its strength, and derogate from its pre-eminence, in the same way as a geometric demonstration would be ruined if attempted to be assisted by an induction; for instead of being supported, it would lose its certainty and self-evidencing power.
Reason determines the will simpliciter by its law,* and not indirectly by the intervention of an emotion,—not even by means of pleasure felt in the contemplation of the law itself; and it is only because reason is an active faculty, that it is possible for it to legislate over the will.
To be happy, is a desire entertained of necessity by every finite intelligence, and is therefore inevitably a determinator of choice. Contentment with our state of existence is no birthright of man. If it were, it would be fitly termed blessedness, and would consist in the consciousness of man’s all-sufficiency and independent self-contentment. On the contrary, happiness is a problem urged upon man’s notice by the wants and insufficiency of his finite nature. These wants point to the matter of desire, i.e., to something affecting man’s subjective feelings of pleasure and pain; and these feelings determine what a man considers wanting for his happiness and contentment with his situation. But because such a material determinator is subjective singly, and known only by observation and experience, it is impossible to regard this question of happiness as founding any law or obligation; a law being, as we have seen, objective, and containing a determinator of will, valid for all cases and for all intelligents whatever. And though the notion Happiness establishes a connection and relation betwixt objects and the powers of desire, still happiness is only a general denomination for all subjective determinators, and nothing is fixed by it specifically, which, however, is indispensable towards the solution of any problem, and therefore also toward the solution of the question of happiness. What different individuals may find conducive to their happiness, depends entirely on their peculiar tastes and feelings; and even in the same individual his conceptions of happiness vary and alter with circumstances, and with the emotions stimulating his sensory. So that such subjective laws (although necessary as parts of the physical system) are subjectively contingent (considered as practical principles of conduct), and unfit for law universal, in so far as the appetite for happiness disregards entirely the formal fitness, and considers singly the material fitness of an action to produce the greatest amount of pleasure. Principles of self-love contain general rules for adapting means to an end, and so are merely theoretic or technical principles; e.g., how he who would like to eat bread has to construct a mill. But no practical principle founded on them can be necessary, or of catholic extent; for when the will acts from maxims or self-love, the determinator of choice is based on feelings in the sensory; and it is uncertain that these feelings are universal, not even certain that they are unalterable in respect of the same external objects.
But even supposing that finite Intelligents were at one as to their opinions of the agreeable and unpleasant, and that they coincided as to the lines of conduct expedient to be taken in order to compass the one and avoid the other, still the principle of self-love could not be announced as a law for practical conduct; for this uniformity would itself be contingent; the determinator of choice would be given and known from observation and experience singly, and could not contain that necessity which is of the essence of law, i.e., a necessity presented to the mind by reason à priori: at least, if such principles were called laws, their necessity must be understood to mean, not a practical, but a physical necessitation, and would import that human actions followed on the appetites and passions by a determinate and fixed mechanism of our frame. But, rather than take refuge in such a baseless absurdity, it would be more judicious to maintain that there were no practical laws at all; for the utilitarian position elevates subjective principles to the rank of objective laws: in which case, however, their objective necessity behoved to be understood from grounds of reason à priori. Even in the physical system, the uniform sequences of its phenomena are alone called laws, because seen to be so à priori; or when, as in chemistry, they are postulated as such, because it is presumed they should be so recognised if our faculties reached further. But in the case of principles taken from the conceptions of self-love (one’s own happiness), no such hypothesis or postulate is admissible, since it is of the very essence of the theory that it rests on subjective and not on objective conditions: consequently, that the principles it yields can never be more than maxims, and are not, without contradiction, cogitable as laws. This may seem to a hasty reader a mere subtilizing upon words; however, it concerns the assigning in terms an exact formula for the most important distinction which enters into the consideration of ethical philosophy.
If an Intelligent cogitate his maxims as practical laws of catholic extent, he can do so singly when his maxim is, not by its matter, but by its form, the determinator of volition.
The matter of any practical principle is the object or end willed; and this end either determines the will, or it does not. If the matter chosen regulate the choice, then the rule depends on the relation subsisting betwixt the feelings of pleasure and pain, and the end represented, i.e., on a à posteriori condition; and so the rule is unfit for a practical law. But when the matter of a law is taken away, there remains nothing except the form of law in general: therefore an Intelligent either cannot in any event cogitate his maxims as fit for laws in a code of general moral legislation, or he must figure to himself that the bare form of law by which his maxims fit and are suited for catholic legislation, is what can alone render them practical laws.
What kind of maxim is fit for law universal, and what not, is plain to the most untutored understanding: for instance, a man resolves (i.e., adopts as maxim) to augment his income in every secure way. He holds in his hands a deposit intrusted to him by one who has just died intestate; and he proposes to apply his maxim to the sum in his trust. I now put the question, and ask if such maxim would be valid for a law of catholic extent, i.e., if his maxim can be announced in the form of a law; and it is directly perceptible that a law, ordaining every one to detain sums committed to his trust, when he safely can do so, is absurd and self-destructory; for it would tend to this issue, that no deposit would at any time be made, and so the law to break trust would effect its own avoidance. What reason recognises as a practical law, however, must be fit for law universal (for all agents). The proposition is identic, and cannot be made plainer. So that, if the will be subjected to a practical law, the depository cannot found on his appetite for hoarding as a determinator of choice fit for law universal. For, so far from being fit for that, it was seen, when considered under the form of a universal law, to be incompatible with itself, and self-annihilating.
Although the tendency to happiness is universal, as is also the maxim by which that tendency is made a determinator of choice, yet it is surprising that men of understanding should for that reason announce this want, as a foundation for a universal practical law. For while every other law effects uniformity as its result, the law taken from a maxim to make one’s self happy would not only exhibit the veriest counterpart of such harmony, but would annihilate the maxim itself, and frustrate the end designed, in making it a law. In the case of utilitarian (greatest happiness) principles, all wills have not the same end, but each will has its own (its own welfare), which may perhaps accord with others, perhaps not, but which at any rate gives no certain determinate law, the possible exceptions being innumerable; and that sort of harmony might emerge which a satiric poet describes as the concord of spouses who mutually ruin one another by their extravagance—
or that sort expressed by the message from Francis I. to Charles V.: “Whatever my brother Charles chooses (Lombardy), that assure him I choose also.” In short, principles founded on observation and experience never can become the groundwork of any law; for, to invent one capable of reducing to harmony all the appetites and by-ends of mankind, and at the same time founded on them, is altogether impossible.
Upon the hypothesis that a maxim is, by its legislative form singly, the alone valid determinator of choice,—to find the nature of a will so determinable.
Since the abstract form of law in genere is cogitable by the force of reason singly, it is nowhat presented to the senses, and so no phenomenon occurring in space and time; and the idea of it, considered as a determinator of will, is wholly different in kind, from the determinators of phenomena in the physical system, because in this last the determinator of a phenomenon is, by the law of the causal-nexus, itself also always a phenomenon. Again, since by hypothesis no determinator of will was valid as law, except the universal legislative form, it follows that such a will is quite independent of the causal law by which phenomena are regulated. But to be independent of the law of cause and effect, and of the mechanism of the physical system, is freedom, in the strictest sense of the word. A will, therefore, whose alone law is the legislative form of its maxims, is a free will.
Conversely: Upon the hypothesis that a will is free, to find the law, alone fit for its necessary determinator.
Since the matter of any practical law (i.e., the object of a maxim) can only be given à posteriori, and the will is, by the supposition, unaffected by any conditions à posteriori, and free, and yet cannot be cogitated as devoid of all law, it remains that a free will must find in the law somewhat fit for its regulation, irrespective of the matter of the law. But when the matter of a law is taken away, there remains nothing except its legislative form. The legislative form, therefore, contained in a maxim, is that which can alone determine a free will.
Freedom, and an imperative practical law, reciprocally point to one another. I do not here raise the question if they really differ, or if the unconditioned law is not identically the same with self-consciousness of pure practical reason, and this last again identic with the positive idea Freedom; but I only examine from what our knowledge of an unconditioned practical necessity takes its rise,—if from the idea Freedom, or from the law. That it should begin from the former is impossible; for we are conscious of it not immediately, as is seen by our first conception of it being negative only.* Neither do we know our freedom from observation and experience, experience teaching only that mechanic law of the causal-nexus which is the veriest anti-part of freedom. It is therefore from the moral law alone that its original is to be deduced; for of it we are instantly conscious, as soon as we adopt maxims or resolutions of conduct;* and reason, by representing this as a determinator, far outweighing all sensitive considerations, and totally unconnected and independent of them, leads to the idea Freedom.† And if the question is further put, How do we arrive at the consciousness of the moral law? the answer is the same as in the case of any other proposition à priori,—that we are conscious of a practical law à priori, as we are conscious of theoretic ones, by attending to the necessity with which reason obtrudes them on the mind; and by separating from them all à posteriori conditions, we arrive, from the first, at the idea of a pure will, as, from the last, at the notion of a pure understanding. That this is indeed the order in which these ideas are ushered into the mind, and that morality first reveals to man his inward freedom, and that practical reason first proposes to speculative reason its insoluble problems, is plain from this, that since no phenomenon can be explained by help of the idea Freedom, and since speculative reason was lost in the embarrass arising from its Antinomies, no one could have hazarded the introduction of such an idea into science, had not the moral law obtruded and flung it before the mind. This opinion is further strengthened by its consistency with what experience teaches; for let any one allege that his sexual appetite is so strong as to be quite ungovernable, and put the case to him, whether he could not refuse to give his passions vent if he knew he were to be led to instant execution if he did so, and there can be no doubt as to what his love of life would prompt him to answer; but ask him further, if his sovereign were to order him, upon pain of the same death, falsely to swear away the life of an obnoxious noble, whether his love of life would induce him to do so, or if he thought he could disobey the unjust mandate. Whether he would do so or not, he might not have confidence in himself to assert, but that he could, must be admitted by him without hesitation; that is, man judges it possible for him to do an act because he is conscious that he ought to do it; and so recognises his inward freedom, which, apart from the moral law, would have remained latent and undiscovered.
Fundamental law of Reason.
So act that thy maxims of will might become law in a system of universal moral legislation.
Geometry begins with postulates concerning the drawing of lines and the fixing of points, and these are practical propositions, containing nothing further than the supposition that an operation may be performed when science requires it; and they are the sole propositions of the mathematics which refer to the existence or non-existence of a phenomenon. They are therefore practical positions, standing under a problematic state of will. But in Ethics the practical rule is absolute, and ordains somewhat to be done, whereby the will is objectively determined. Pure self-active (spontaneous) reason being immediately legislative, the will is cogitated as independent on conditions à posteriori; i.e., as pure will determinable by the bare form of law. The fact is startling, and without any parallel; for the à priori idea of a potential legislation is unconditionally announced as law, without having its possibility established from any observation or experience, or supported by the fiat of any foreign or exterior will.
Our consciousness of this fundamental law is an ultimate fact of reason, for it issues from no preceding data, e.g., the consciousness of freedom, but is thrust upon the mind directly as a synthetic à priori proposition, and is bottomed on no intuition whatsoever, whether à priori or à posteriori. But if the idea Freedom were given, then would the law be analytic. But the idea is in the first instance negative singly; and if it were positive, would require an intellectual intuition, as to which there can be no question. Lastly, when it is said that this law is given, I beg it may be understood that it is not known by observation and experience, but that it is the single isolated fact of practical reason, announcing itself as originally legislative. Sic volo, sic jubeo.
Corollary.—Reason is spontaneously practical, and gives that universal law (to man) which is called the moral law.
This fact is undoubted. One needs only to analyze the judgments passed by mankind on the lawfulness of their own actions, in order to become aware with what unchanging necessity reason contrasts every maxim of conduct with the idea of a pure will, i.e., holds up, as a standard, itself represented as à priori causal. The above principle of morality is authentically announced by reason as law for all Intelligents, i.e., for all who have a faculty of determining their own causality by the representation of a rule, i.e., in so far as they are susceptible of actions upon system, and so susceptible of practical principles à priori; which last have alone that necessity which reason demands in an ultimate position. The moral law is therefore not confined to man, but extends over all, even to the Most High and Supreme Himself; but, in the former case, the law is expressed in the formula of an imperative; for although man is cogitated as the possessor of a pure will, yet, since he is susceptible of emotions and wants, inseparable from his finite state, he has by no means a holy will, i.e., a will incapable of adopting maxims incompatible with the law. The moral law is hence to finite Intelligents an imperative, expressing a categoric command.
The relation of such a will to the law is called obligation, which signifies necessitation by reason to an act, which act, again, is called duty. A will pathologically affected is in the state of wish, a state springing from subjective emotions, and therefore often not in harmony with the objective determinator, and so requires an inward intellectual co-action, i.e., moral necessitation. In the case, however, of the Most High and Supreme, His will is rightly cogitated as incapable of any maxim not fit for law universal. And the idea Holiness, which therefore becomes His attribute, excludes all limitary or negative laws, and so exalts Him far beyond the conceptions of obligation and duty. This Holiness of Will is, however, nothing more than a practical idea,—an infinite approximation towards which is all that is possible for man or any other finite being, and which ideal standard is constantly held up to man by the Moral Law, called for that reason itself Holy. Steadfastness in this continual advancement, and Hope in the unchangeableness of a man’s resolves to do so, or, in one word, virtue, is the utmost a finite reason can accomplish; and since this practical power is developed by exercise, and known by observation and experience, it can never be fully attained or secured, and the confident over-persuasion of such would militate to the prejudice of morality.
Autonomy of will is the alone foundation of morality, and of the duties springing from it; and every other principle whatsoever, not only cannot found laws of necessary obligation and catholic extent, but is in fact subversive of morality. In being independent of the matter of any law (a desired object), and being determinable by the legislative form of his own maxims, consists the ethical nature of man, and that which renders him a subject for morality; that independence is freedom negatively, while this self-legislation is freedom positively. The moral law expresses, therefore, nothing else than just the autonomy of reason, i.e., of a man’s freedom or spontaneity;* and this autonomy or freedom is a condition which must qualify every maxim, if these last are to harmonize with the moral law itself. On the contrary, when the matter of a volition, which can be nothing else than the object of a desire, is made of the practical law, and represented as a condition prerequisite to its possibility, then Heteronomy (a false principle of morals) results; and the will ceases to prescribe to itself its own law, and is left exposed to laws taken from pathological phenomena. In this case, however, the maxim adopted by the will is formally unfit for law universal, and not only founds no obligation, but goes to subvert the principles of practical reason itself, and so militates against genuine moral sentiments, even while the actions emanating from such heteronomy are not wanting in conformity to the law.
Practical rules, based on accidental and contingent circumstances, can never be regarded as laws for conduct. The will’s proper law wafts it from this visible system into another order of things; and that necessity it expresses, having no common part with the mechanic necessity expressed by laws of nature, can consist alone in the formal conditions requisite to the possibility of law in general. The matter of every practical rule depends on subjective facts not extending to all agents whatsoever, and hinges on the principle of one’s own happiness. And although it cannot be questioned that every volition has an end aimed at (i.e., a matter), yet that by no means warrants the conclusion that such matter is the condition and determinator of the maxim; for if so, then maxims could not be elevated to the rank of law in a system of universal moral legislation, as they would rest on accidental, and not on necessary circumstances. Thus it is quite possible that the happiness of others may be the object of the will of an Intelligent; but if regarded as the determinator of the maxim, then it must be supposed that we not merely feel a secret gratification on perceiving the happiness of others, but that we are stimulated by a physical want or appetite to act towards it, as in the case of compassion; and so there would be no law of benevolence, that physical feeling not reaching all persons whatever (e.g., God). However, there may be a law enjoining universal love, and the matter of benevolent maxims may remain, provided it is not figured as their prerequisite condition; and it is the form of law which, by moulding the matter chosen, is the ground of adding such matter to the will. To make this as clear as may be, let the object-matter of my choice be my own happiness, then a maxim expressing such volition can only be fit for law universal (i.e., be moral), when I involve in it the happiness of every other Intelligent throughout the universe. And a law ordaining me to promote universal happiness is therefore quite independent of the supposition that happiness is the choice of all wills, and rests singly on its own formal universality. This satisfies the demands of reason, and gives to what would else be a mere selfish maxim, a qualification fitting it for law. In this way it is observable that a pure will is not determined by a desire of happiness, but is so singly by the form of legality; this form again—adapting the maxim founded on the appetite for happiness for law universal—is that alone which allows me to act upon it, for on no other condition can this appetite be brought into harmony with the requisitions of reason. On this is based the obligation to extend my private selfish choice of happiness, so as to include at the same time that of others.
The antipart of this principle of morality is that of self-love, on which, I have already shown, every system must be based, when the determinator regulating the choice is sought for elsewhere than in the legislative form of the maxim; and this contrariety is not logical merely, but practical, and would infallibly overthrow all morality, were not the voice of reason at all times too audible, and its native force to determine the will too strong to be affected by dark and deceitful subtleties of the schools, as may be made palpable by the following examples:—
If a person were to attempt to justify his having borne false witness, by alleging to his friend the sacred obligation he lay under of consulting his own happiness, by enumerating the profits and advantages accruing from this falsehood; and if he were, in conclusion, to point out the extreme cunning he had employed in the whole matter, to fortify himself against detection, and to add, that although he now intrusted to his friend this secret, yet he was ready to deny it stoutly at any future occasion, and that in all this he was discharging a humane and reasonable duty,—certainly his friend must either laugh him to scorn, or turn from him with disgust; although, if maxims are to be constructed singly with respect to one’s own advantage, nothing of moment can be urged against such a line of conduct. Or, however, to take a second case, if somebody were to recommend an overseer or factor to you, and were to say that he was an exceedingly clever man,—most restlessly active in securing his own interest, quite unembarrassed by any scruples as to any mode conducive to this end, and perfectly indifferent whether the money he had occasion to disburse was his own or another’s,—you would either conclude that there was an attempt to make a fool of you, or that the person who could give such a recommendation had lost his understanding. Thus widely separated are the confines of self-love from those of morality. A gulf impassable lies betwixt their maxims. Self-love (prudence) advises by its maxims, but the moral law commands; and the difference is unspeakably great betwixt what is expedient and what is imperative to be done.
The action called for by autonomy is always known and undoubted, but that demanded by a heteronomous principle is uncertain, and requires extended experience and acquaintance with the world; in other words, every man knows within himself what is “duty;” but what is to found one’s prosperity and happiness is matter of inextricable doubt, and it demands extreme dexterity, even to apply such selfish rules to the conduct of life, for the exceptions they make upon one another are endless. The moral law has no exceptions, but demands from every one punctual observance, and must therefore be so plain and obvious in its requirements, that the most common understanding can advance along it, without any study of the intricate ways of the world.
To obey the categorical law of morals, is at all times in every one’s power; but it is not practicable for all to act upon dictates of expediency: the reason is, that the first demands singly a pure and unadulterated will (maxim), but the latter calls further for ability and physical power to gain the end aimed at. A law to pursue one’s own happiness were absurd; for it is superfluous to ordain any one to choose what the constitution of his nature inevitably forces him to will, and it were more fit to instruct him as to those measures calculated to carry his choice into effect. But to command morality and the name of duty is quite rational, for we do not willingly yield obedience to its law; and as to the steps requisite to be taken in order to adhere to it, that is explained in the methodology of ethics. What is here wanted, is alone the original bent or cast of the volition to do so; for whenever any one wills, that also gives him the power to carry the law into effect, i.e., to act upon it.
To carry as far as may be this difference between principles of utilitarianism and morality, I observe further:
He who has lost at play may be vexed at his imprudence and want of skill; but he who is conscious within himself of having cheated, must despise himself as soon as he compares his conduct with the moral law, and that too, although he have won treasures. The moral law must therefore be somewhat widely distinct from principles of self-aggrandizement. And for any one to be obliged to say to himself, I am worthless and a villain, though wealthy, and to say, I am clever and cunning, for I have amassed riches, are judgments founded on standards of conduct totally imcompatible.
Again, the idea of blameworthiness and punishment, which reason invariably attaches to that of guilt, makes a singular contrast with the Eudaimonistic system; for although he who appoints a punishment may do so with a view to the ulterior happiness of the delinquent, yet punishment, as actual pain or evil added to the offender, must be justified as such, so as to constrain even the guilty to acknowledge that the severity is just, and that his evil lot answers to his ill desert. Every punishment must be rigidly just, for justice is of the very essence of this idea. Benignity is not contrary to justice, and may in union with justice deal out punishment; but for kindness or mercy, the blameworthy has no claim: and so it is clear that punishment is a physical evil, which it behoved should be annexed to moral evil (according to the ethical legislation of reason), even if it were not already so. If, then, every crime is a fit object of punishment, and infers to some extent a forfeiture of happiness, it is a contradiction and absurdity to say that a crime requires punishment, because the transgressor has injured his own happiness; for this is the whole conception of crime according to the Utilitarian System; for then physical evil, i.e., punishment, would be the ground and reason of considering any action as a transgression, and justice would come to consist in avoiding all pains and penalties (threatened by law), and in preventing those which come of themselves, which, when fully done, there would cease to be any evil in an action,—those evils consequent on a bad action, and which alone make it so, being henceforward removed. It were idle to examine the statement that rewards and punishments are stimulant forces applied by a supreme power to man, in order to lead him towards true felicity; the fancy of such mechanism of will being quite destructory of all freedom.
The intervention of a moral sense, as a foundation for ethic science, is a somewhat more refined theory, but as untrue as the former; for it alleges that this feeling, not reason, promulgates the moral law; and further, since the consciousness of virtue is immediately connected, owing to this feeling, with enjoyment and pleasure, and that of vice with uneasiness and pain, it virtually runs up into a suifelicity or greatest-happiness system. Not to insist again on those objections which are amply set forth in former paragraphs, I merely stop to point out a mistake which pervades the whole theory. Before we can figure to ourselves the vicious as haunted with an uneasy recollection of his misdeeds, he must be cogitated as already in some degree morally good; as must likewise he who is to be gratified from reflecting on the integrity of his conduct. So that the ideas of morality and duty are presupposed to explain the existence of such a feeling, and cannot be derived from it. It is absolutely necessary that a person have estimated the high importance of duty, the authority of the moral law, and the immediate unconditioned worth which the observance of it imparts to man in his own eyes, antecedently to his being able to feel that contentment springing from the consciousness of a moral character, or that bitter reproach springing from the conviction of the want of it. This moral felicity cannot precede the idea Obligation, much less found it; and it is requisite that an individual have some notions of morality and honour before he can ever figure to himself what is meant by such emotions. This, however, is so far from inclining me to deny that a standing determination to act upon the representation of the moral law, and unswerving constancy in doing so, will eventually establish this feeling of self-contentment, that I rather deem it a duty to cultivate such a state of mind, which state alone ought rigidly to be termed “a moral sense.” However, to deduce thence the idea Duty is impossible, for we would require a feeling of the law as such, so as to make that an object of sensation which can be represented to the mind by reason singly; a statement which, if not a downright contradiction, goes to substitute in the room of duty a mechanic play of refined and more subtilized emotions, sometimes thwarting, sometimes harmonizing with the coarser feelings of our system.
We are now in a condition to exhibit and contrast our formal position, the autonomy of the will, with every other material principle of morals hitherto advanced, and so to make it evident from a glance that these, and through them every other conceivable foundation, are exhausted, and that henceforth the attempt must be fruitless to base morality on any other ground than the one on which it has been now rested. Every possible determinator of the will is either subjective, and borrowed from observation and experience, or else objective, and based on reason; and these, again, whether rational or inductive, are either external or internal.
Those on the left are all inductive, and plainly unfit for founding laws of catholic extent. Those on the right hand, however, have their origin and seat in reason (for perfection as a quality, and supreme perfection cogitated in substance, i.e., God, can only be figured to the mind by reason). But the first notion can mean only either perfection in a theoretic or in a practical sense: in the first it signifies completeness (i.e., quantitative perfectness), which can have no reference to what we are here talking of; or else it signifies (qualitative perfection) the practical fitness of man for accomplishing all possible variety of ends. Such an inward perfection is talent; and whatever adds to or serves as complement to that is called skill.
Supreme perfection hypostatized, or in substance (i.e., God), consequently external perfection considered practically, is the all-sufficiency of the Supreme Being for every end whatsoever.
Now, if ends must be given in order to fix the notion of perfection, so that the representation of a perfection in ourselves, or an external perfection in God, may determine a volition towards them; then, since such matter of choice precedes the volition, and is the condition of its practical rule, it follows that the will is determined as on the Epicurean system. For the notion Perfection determines the will by the gratification expected from our own accomplishments; and the will of God, when harmony with it is chosen, apart from any prior investigation of what is a perfect and absolutely good will, can only move the will by an expectation of happiness awaited from Him.
Therefore, 1st, All principles in this schedule are material; 2ndly, they represent all such conceivable principles whatsoever; and, 3rdly, because material principles are quite unfit for law universal, it results that the formal practical principle of reason (according to which the bare form of a potential legislation served for the supreme and immediate determinator of choice) is the alone possible which can found categorical imperatives, i.e., practical laws, and is thus at once the sole standard for estimating deportment, and the sole ethical determinator of the will.
ON THE À PRIORI SPRING OF THE WILL.
THE essence of all moral worth in acting consists in this, that the moral law be the immediate determinator of the will. If the will be determined so as to be in harmony with the law, but only mediately, and by the intervention of an emotion or feeling, no matter of what kind soever this last may be, which emotion must be presupposed before the law becomes the sufficient determinator; i.e., when the determination is not out of single reverence for the law, then the action is possessed of legality, but it contains no morality. Further, if by a spring is meant the subjective determinator of the will of an Intelligent, who is not of necessity conformed to the objective law, then, from such explanation we conclude, first, that to a divine will no springs can be figured as attached; and, second, that in the case of the human, or of any other being, these can be none other than the moral law itself, i.e., that the objective determinator must be also at the same time the always and single subjectively-sufficient determinator of an act,—if the act is to fulfil, not the bare letter, but likewise the spirit of the law.*
Since, then, no further spring is to be sought for as a medium to the moral law, in procuring it control and purchase on the will, which would be a dispensing with and supplanting of the moral law, and could produce nothing but an unstable hypocrisy,—nay, since it were even hazardous to call on any other spring for aid (e.g., utilitarian incitements), to work alongside of and co-operate with the law,—we can have no further task than carefully to inquire, how the ethical law acts as spring? and what changes of state happen in the mind and man’s powers of desire, as effects of its determining causality? For how a law should be itself the alone and immediate determinator of the will (wherein the essence of all morality consists), is a problem not solvable by human reason, and quite identic with the question, how a free will is possible? What we therefore have to show à priori, is not the ground, by force of which the moral law is a spring, but merely, when it is so, what it effects, and indeed must effect, upon the mind.
The essence of all determination of will by the moral law lies in this, that it, as free will, be determined, not only without any co-operations from sensitive excitements, but that it even cast all such behind-back, and discard them, in so far as they may infringe upon the law, and be determined by it singly. Thus far the action of the moral law, as a spring, is no more than negative, and is known as such à priori. For every appetite and every sensitive excitement is based on feeling, and the negative action of the law on the sensory (when casting out all appetitive stimuli) is again itself a feeling. Consequently we understand à priori, that the moral law, the ground determining the will, must produce a feeling when it circumscribes and discards the solicitations of the sensory. This feeling may be called pain, and is the first, probably the only case, where we have been able to assign upon grounds à priori, the relation obtaining betwixt knowledge (here of pure practical reason) and a feeling of pleasure or pain. The aggregate of the appetites (which easily admit of being brought into a very tolerable system, and whereof the gratification is then one’s own happiness) make up and compose what is called selfishness or solipsism; and this selfishness is either that of self-love or that of self-conceit: the solipsism of the first resides in overstrained fondness and good will to a man’s own self, and is sometimes called vanity; the solipsism of the other is an extravagant self-complacency, and is particularized by the name of arrogance or vainglory.* Practical reason circumscribes the claims of self-love, but allows them to be plausible, as they are astir in the mind even before the law itself; and limits them to the condition of being in harmony with the law, after which self-love is equitable; but the high thoughts of self-conceit it overthrows entirely, and declares all pretensions to self-esteem, prior to conformity with the law, void and empty; because the certain consciousness of being so conformed is the supreme condition fixing all moral worth of the person; and all assumption of any—where there is not yet such conformity—is false and illegal. Now, the propensity to esteem one’s self is one of those appetitive instincts infringed upon by reason to this extent, that it makes self-esteem depend upon morality. Thus the moral law casts down all self-conceit; but since the law is in fact somewhat positive,—namely, the form of an intellectual causality, i.e., of freedom,—it becomes, by contrast with the appetites it weakens and invades, an object of reverence; and in so far as it altogether prostrates self-conceit—i.e., humbles—an object of the most awful reverence, that is, that it is the ground of a positive feeling, not begotten by anywhat sensitive, and which can be recognised à priori.Reverence for the moral law is therefore a feeling of emotion, caused by an intellectual ground, and is the only feeling capable of being recognised à priori, and the necessity of which we are able to comprehend.
In the former chapter* it was shown that everything which could be presented as an object to the will before the moral law, was excluded by that law from the grounds determining a will which is to be unconditionally good; and that nothing but the naked practical form, which consists in the fitness of maxims for law universal, establishes what is in itself absolutely good, and founds maxims of a will good at all points. But we now find that our system is so constituted, that the matter of desire first obtrudes itself on the sensory; and our pathological à posterioriself, although its maxims are quite unfit for law universal, immediately endeavours, as if it were our whole and proper self, to make its claim valid, as the originary and prior. This deflective tendency† to make a man’s subjective self the objective terminator of his will, may be called self-love; and when dominant and elevated to the rank of an unconditional practical law, may be styled self-conceit. The moral law excludes, as the alone true objective law, the influence of self-love from any share in the legislation, and derogates infinitely from self-conceit, when it announces the subjective conditions of the other as laws; but whatsoever does diminution in man’s own eyes to his self-conceit, humbles. The moral law, therefore, inevitably humbles every man, when he compares with it the deflective tendency of his sensitive system; again, that which, when represented as the determinator of the will, humbles man in his own consciousness, does, in so far as it is positive, and a determinator, beget for itself reverence. The moral law is therefore subjectively the ground of reverence; and since all the parts of self-love belong and refer to appetite and inclination, and these latter rest on feeling, and anything which curbs and reins up the impetuosity of self-love must, by doing so, of necessity take effect upon the feelings, we thoroughly comprehend how it is that we know à priori that the moral law exercises an effect on the sensory, by excluding appetite, and the bias to elevate it to the rank of a supreme practical condition; which effect, in one point of view, is negative only (humility); but in another, and when regard is had to the limitary ground—pure spontaneity of reason—is positive (reverence); and this effect does not admit or require us to assume any particular kind of feeling under the name of a practical or moral or internal sense, as if it were antecedent to the moral law, and the groundwork of it.
The negative effect wrought upon the sensory (displacency) is, like every other action on the feelings, and indeed, as is also every feeling, pathological. Considered, however, as the effect springing from the consciousness of the moral law, i.e., considered in reference to its intellectual cause—a personality of pure practical reason as supreme legislatrix—this feeling of a reasonable subject, perturbed by appetite and inclination, is called, no doubt, humility: but again, when referred to its positive ground—the law—it is called reverence felt toward it; which law itself cannot be felt indeed; but when impediments in the sensory, which hindered the law from being carried into effect, are cleared out of the way, Reason deems the removal of such obstacle tantamount to a positive advancement of her causality; and hence this feeling may be further called a feeling or emotion of reverence toward the law, and, upon both these grounds together, may be called the moral sense.
Hence, as the moral law is at once the formal determinator of an act by pure practical reason, and is likewise the material and yet objective determinator of the object-matter of an act as good or evil, so it becomes at the same time the subjective determinator to such an act, by operating upon the morality of the subject, and effectuating an emotion which advances the force of the law upon the will. But in all this there is no antecedent feeling given in the subject himself, pointing to morality; which last hypothesis is a downright impossibility, every feeling being of the sensory; whereas the spring of ethical volitions must be quite abstracted from every sensitive condition. Nay, that sensitive state—feeling—which lies at the bottom of all appetite and emotion, is the condition of that specific state of mind we have called reverence; but the cause of such state lies in pure practical reason; and the emotion in this respect, and on account of whence it has its origin, cannot be regarded as a pathognomonic, but ought to be regarded as a practical or active emotion; an emotion practically effectuated, when the representation of the law, having curbed the licentiousness of self-love, and beaten down the overweenings of self-conceit, takes away the hindrance obstructing the action of pure practical reason, and exhibits the superiority of her objective law to the solicitations of the sensory, and so gives, in the scales of reason, weight to the former, by removing the counterpoise pressing upon the will from the latter. Reverence toward the law is therefore not a spring advancing morality, but is morality itself considered subjectively as a spring;i.e., in so far as in this state of mind the appetencies of the sensory are silenced, and an inlet is afforded for advancing the authority of the law. To all which is to be added, that since such reverence is an effect wrought upon the sensory, it involves the supposition of the sensitive, and so of the finite nature of those Intelligents whom the moral law thus inspires with reverence; but in the case of a Supreme Intelligent, or even of one not percipient by the intervention of a sensory—where, therefore, no obstacle is presented to practical reason—no reverence can exist.
This feeling (called the Moral Sense) is the pure product and effect of reason. It is of no service in judging of conduct, nor yet in founding the moral law, but is a mere spring, making the law man’s practical maxim in life; nor is there any name more appropriate for so strange a feeling, which has no analogy to any pathological emotion, but is entirely of its own kind, and seems to stand at the command of pure practical reason only.
Reverence is bestowed on Persons only, never on Things. The latter may be objects of affection; and when they are animals, may awaken in us even love or fear. Volcanoes and the ocean may be regarded with dread, but cannot with reverence. What approaches nearer to this last, is wonder, which, when impassioned, may rise to admiration, astonishment, or amazement; as when we contemplate the summits of lofty mountains, storms, the extent of the firmament, the strength and velocity of some animals, etc., and so of the rest; but all this is not reverence. A man may be an object of my love, my fear, or my admiration, up to the highest grade of wonder, and still he may be no object of reverence. His jocose humour, his strength and courage, his power and authority, from the rank he has, may give me such emotions, but they all fall short of reverence. Fontelle says, “It is my body, not my mind, which bows to my superior.” I may add, that to any plain man in whom I may discover probity of manners in a grade superior to my own, my mind must bow whether I will or not. To what is this owing? His example presents to me a law which casts down my self-conceit when it is compared with my own deportment; the execution of which law—that is, its practicability—I see proved to me by real fact and event. Nay, even if I were conscious of like honesty to his, my reverence for him would continue; the reason whereof is, that all good in man being defective, the law, made exhibitive by an example, prostrates my conceit, which exemplar is furnished by a person whose imperfections—which must still attach to him—I do not know as I do my own, and who therefore appears to me in a better light. Reverence is a tribute which cannot be refused to merit, whether we choose or not. We may decline outwardly to express it, but we cannot avoid inwardly to feel it.
So far is reverence from being a pleasurable feeling, that we entertain it unwillingly toward any man, and begin instantly to cast about for some fault which may lighten us from its burden, and give indemnity against the humiliation otherwise put upon us by his example. Even the dead, especially when their example seems to surpass all power of imitation, are not exempt from this sifting scrutiny. Nay, the moral law itself, in its solemn majesty, is open to this endeavour to screen one’s self from the reverence owed it; or do we think that it is upon some other account that mankind would fain have the law frittered down to an object of his love, and that it is upon quite different and contrary grounds that he exerts himself to find in it nothing more than the amiable precepts of his own well-understood advantage; and not upon this single and only one, that he would willingly be rid of that deterring reverence which unremittingly shows him his own unworthiness? And yet there is in reverence so little of dislike or disinclination, that when once mankind has laid aside his self-conceit, and allowed that reverence to take its practical effect, he cannot become sated with contemplating the glory of the law, and his soul believes itself exalted in proportion as he sees the holy law advanced above him and the frailty of his system. Unquestionably great talents, when accompanied by commensurate and suitable activity, beget reverence, or a feeling bearing a strong likeness to it; and it is in truth quite becoming and decorous to show them such; and here it would seem that wonder and reverence were the same. But, on stricter analysis, it is observed, that since we do not know how much innate force of talent, and how much study and industrious self-culture, conduce to the effect wondered at and admired, reason represents this last as probably the fruit of study, i.e., as a kind of merit which strikes directly at one’s own self-conceit, hands the bystander over to his own reproach, or imposes on him an obligation to follow such example. This reverence or admiration is, then, not mere wonder, but is reverence toward the person (or, properly speaking, toward the law exhibited in his example). A matter confirmed by this, that when the general mass of admirers discover, from some quarter or another, the depravity of their admired’s morals (e.g., Voltaire), all reverence for him is immediately abandoned. But one who is a member of the literary republic continues to feel some regard still when weighing his talents, because he finds himself engaged in a profession and calling which makes it imperative upon him to imitate in some respect his example.
Reverence toward the moral law is, then, the only and undoubted ethic spring, and is an emotion directed to no object except upon grounds of the law. First, the moral law determines objectively and immediately the will. Freedom, whose causality is alone determinable by the law, consists in this very matter, that all appetite and emotion, and so also the affection of self-esteem, is restrained by it to the prior condition of having executed its pure law. This control takes effect upon the sensory, and produces there a feeling of pain or displacency, which can be recognised à priori, when eyed from the vantage-ground of the moral law. But since this is a negative effect only, resulting from the agency of reason (i.e., the spontaneity of the person when he withstands the solicitations of his sensory, and strips off the overweening fancy of his personal worth, which, where there is no harmony with the law, shrinks at once to zero), such action of the law begets no more than a feeling of humility, which we comprehend à priori; but in this we do not see wherein consists the force of the pure practical law as spring, but only its withstanding the springs of the sensory. But, second, since this same law is further objectively (i.e., according to the representation of pure reason) an immediate determinator of will, and this humiliation is effected only relatively to the purity of the law, it follows that this depression of man’s claim to his own ethical reverence (i.e., his humiliation from the part of his sentient economy) is an exaltation (from his intelligent part) of the ethical, i.e., practical reverence for the law itself,—in other words, is just that reverence itself; consequently a positive feeling considered with respect to its intellectual ground, which feeling also is cognisable à priori. For every diminution of the obstacles opposed to an activity is in plain fact an advancement of that activity itself. The acknowledgment of the moral law, however, is the consciousness of an activity of pure reason from objective grounds: which activity does not always pass into action, merely because subjective causes stop and hinder it. Reverence for the moral law must therefore be regarded as the law’s positive though indirect effect upon the sensory, when it weakens the impeding forces of appetite and inclination, by casting down all self-conceit; that is, reverence is the subjective ground of such activity, or, in other words, is the spring towards the executing of the law, and the ground of adopting maxims of conduct which harmonize with its requirements. Upon this notion of a spring rests this further one of an interest, which cannot be attributed to any being not endowed with reason; and it denotes a spring towards volition, in so far as that spring is begotten by reason only. Again, because the law must be the spring where the will is morally good, the ethical interest is a pure insensitive interest of naked practical reason. Upon this notion of an interest rests again that of a maxim; and this is only truly genuine when it is based on the naked interest taken by man in the execution of the law. These three notions, however—spring, interest, and maxim—are applicable only to finite beings; they all presuppose bounds and limits put to the nature of the person, and intimate that the subjective structure of his choice does not spontaneously and of its own accord harmonize with the objective law of practical reason, and imply a need to be urged by somewhat to activity, that activity being obstructed by an inward hindrance.
There is somewhat so strange in this unbounded reverence for the pure moral law, divested of all by-views of advantage or expediency, and exhibited as practical reason holds it up to mankind for his execution, whose voice makes the most daring scoffer tremble, and forces him to hide himself from his own view, that one ought not to be surprised at finding this energy of a naked intellectual idea upon the sensory quite uninvestigable by reason, and that man must content himself with comprehending à priori thus much, that such a feeling attaches inseparably to the representation of the law by every finite Intelligent. Were this emotion of reverence pathologic, and bottomed to the internal sense of pleasure, then were it vain to attempt to track out the alliance obtaining betwixt it and an idea à priori. But an emotion pointed only to a practical end, and attached to the bare, formal representation of a law, quite abstractedly from any object, and which therefore pertains neither to pleasure nor pain, and yet establishes an interest in that law’s execution, is what we properly call a moral one; and the susceptibility to take such an interest in the law—in other words, to have reverence for the moral law itself—is what we, properly speaking, call the moral sense.
The consciousness of man’s free submission of his will to the law, going, however, hand in hand with a necessary control and constraint put by reason on every appetite and inclination, is reverence toward the law.* The law, which at once calls for and inspires this reverence, is, as we have seen, no other than the moral, no other law excluding appetite and inclination from the immediateness of its own action on the will. An act objectively incumbent to be done in conformity with this law, and with the postponement of every appetitive determinator, is what is called duty, and involves in the very conception of it, on account of this postponement, practical necessitation,i.e., determination to an act, how unwillingly soever,—the emotion arising from the consciousness of this co-action or necessitation is not pathological (is unlike those effected by an object of sense), but is practical, i.e., is only possible by an antecedent causality of reason and objective determination of will. It contains, therefore, as subordination to law (i.e., a commandment which announces restraint to a person affected by a sensory), no pleasure, but rather dislike to that extent to the act itself; while yet, on the other hand, since this restraint is enforced singly by the legislation of man’s own reason, it brings with it exaltation; and the subjective effect upon the sensory, when pure practical reason produces it, can be called no more than self-approbation in respect of such exaltation, mankind disinterestedly recognising himself destined by the law to such subordination, and becoming then aware of a new and another interest purely practical and free; to take which disinterested interest in acts of duty no appetite invites, but reason, by its practical law, imperatively ordains, and also produces, upon which accounts the interest bears a quite peculiar name—that of Reverence.
Upon these accounts, therefore, the notion Duty demands, in the act, objectively, Conformity to the Law, and subjectively, in the maxim, from which it flows, Reverence for the Law, such being the only method of determining the will by it; and on this rests the difference betwixt those states of consciousness,—that of acting in harmony with what is duty, and doing so from a principle of duty, i.e., out of reverence for the law. The first case (legality) is possible when mere appetites determine to volition; but the second (morality), the moral worth, can be placed in this only, that the act has been performed out of duty, i.e., out of naked regard had to the law.
It is of the greatest consequence, in all ethical judgments, to attend with most scrupulous exactness to the subjective principle of the maxims, in order that the whole morality of an act be put in the necessity of it, out of duty and out of reverence for the law, not in love and inclination towards what may be consequent upon the act: for man and every created Intelligent, the ethical necessity is necessitation, i.e., obligation, and every act proceeding thereupon is duty, and cannot be represented as a way of conduct already near to us; or which may in time become endeared to us, as if man could at any time ever get the length of dispensing with reverence towards the law (which emotion is attended always with dread, or at least with active apprehension, lest he transgress); and so, like the independent Godhead, find himself—as it were, by force of an unchanging harmony of will with the law, now at length grown into a second nature—in possession of a holy will; which would be the case, the law having ceased to be a commandment, when man could be no longer tempted to prove untrue to it.
The moral law is, for the will of the Supreme Being, a law of holiness; but for the will of every finite Intelligent, a law of duty, a law of ethical constraint and determination of his actions by reverence toward the law, and out of awe for what is duty. No other subjective principle can be assumed as a spring; for while the act then falls out as the law requires, and is outwardly in conformity with the law, yet it is not done out of duty; the bent and ply of the mind is not moral, which, however, is of the essence of this legislation.
It is very well to show kindness to mankind from love and compassionate benevolence, as it is likewise to act justly from a love of order and method; but such cannot be the genuine ethic principles regulating man’s deportment: nor is it quite congruous and suited to our station among the ranks of Intelligents as men, when we presume to propose ourselves as volunteers, and set ourselves loftily above the idea Duty; and when, as if mankind were independent on the law, he proposes to do out of his own good pleasure what he needs no commandment to enjoin. Man stands, however, under a discipline and probation of reason, and ought never to forget his subjection to its authority,—never to withdraw anywhat from it, or impair the supremacy of the law (although announced by his own reason), by the fond and vain imagination that he can put the ground determining his will elsewhere than in the law and reverence toward it. Duty, and what we owe, are the only denominations under which to state our relation to the moral law. We are, no doubt, legislative members of an ethical kingdom, realizable by freedom of will, and held up by practical reason to our reverence; but in it we are subjects, not the sovereign; and to mistake our lower rank as creatures, and to back our self-conceit against the authority of the holy law, is already to swerve from its spirit, even while its letter is not unfulfilled.
With all this the commandment is in perfect unison. Love God above all, and thy neighbour as thyself; for, being a commandment, it calls for reverence toward a law enjoining love, and leaves man no option whether or not to make such love a principle of active conduct. Love to God, however, as an affection (pathognomic liking), is an impossibility, God being no object of sense; and although, in the case of mankind, such pathological excitement is possible, yet it cannot be commanded, for it stands in no one’s power to love upon command. It is, therefore, practical benevolence alone which is intended in that sum of all commandments. Understood in this signification, to love God means cheerfully to obey His law; to love our neighbour, to perform willingly all duties towards him. The commandment, however, establishing such a rule cannot enjoin us to have this sentiment in discharging our incumbent duties, but can enjoin only to endeavour after it; for a commandment to do anywhat willingly is self-contradictory: for if we are once let know what is suitable for us to do, and are conscious we should like to do so, a commandment to such effect would be superfluous; and do we the act notwithstanding, but only unwillingly and out of reverence toward the law, a commandment making such reverence the spring of the will, would thereby subvert and overturn the desiderated sentiment love. That summary of the moral law does therefore, like every other precept in the Gospel, represent the perfection of the moral sentiment in an ideal of holiness not attainable by any creature, but which is the archetype toward which it behoves us to approximate, and to exert ourselves onward thitherward in an unbroken and perpetual progression. Could at any time any intelligent creature ever attain this point of discharging willingly all moral laws, then that would imply that he felt no longer within himself the possibility of a desire seducing him to swerve from them (for the overcoming any such incentive always costs the subject some sacrifice, and stands in need of self-constraint, i.e., inward necessitation toward somewhat done not altogether willingly). But this grade of ethic sentiment no creature can at any time attain; for, being a creature, and so dependent in regard of what he wants to make him thoroughly contented with his situation, he can never be fully disenthralled from appetite and want, which rest on physical causes not always harmonizing with the moral law; the physical and moral system proceeding on causalities of different kinds,—a circumstance making it always necessary to establish the posture of a man’s maxims with regard to the former, upon ethical constraint, not upon free-willed devotedness,—upon reference calling for the execution of the law, how unwillingly soever, not upon love, which apprehends no inward demurring of the will against the law, although this last, the mere love of the law (which would then cease to be a commandment, and morality, now subjectively transformed into holiness, would cease to be virtue), is to be the unremitting although unattainable aim of exertion; for toward that which we ethically admire, and yet (upon account of the consciousness of our defects) partly dread, such reverential dread passes, with the increasing ease whereby we become conformed to the standard dreaded, into affection, and the reverence into love; at least this would be the completent of a sentiment fully devoted to the law, if to attain it were at any time possible for any creature.
These remarks are not intended so much to explain the above precept of the Gospel, with a view to guard against religious fanaticism upon the question of the love of God, but rather to fix exactly the moral sentiments with which we ought to discharge our duties toward our fellow-men, and to guard against, and if possible cut up by the roots, a kind of ethical fanaticism, wherewith the heads of many are besotted. The grade on the ethic scale where mankind finds himself (as is also the case with every created Intelligent, so far as we can comprehend) is that of reverence toward the law. The sentiment incumbent upon him to entertain in obeying, is to do so out of regard to duty; not, as a volunteer, from affection, to go through uncommanded and spontaneously undertaken tasks; and his moral state, wherein he always must be found, is virtue,i.e.,the moral sentiment militant, not holiness, where he would be in possession of full purity in the sentiment of his will. It is nothing but downright ethical fanaticism, and an advancement of self-conceit, when the mind is spirited on to actions as were they noble, sublime, or magnanimous, whereby men fall into the imagination that it is not duty (whose yoke, which, though easy, because put upon us by our own reason, must be borne, however unwillingly) that claims to be the ground determinative of conduct, and which, even while they obey, always humbles, but that actions are expected from them, not out of duty, but as parts of merit. For, not to insist on this, that by imitating such deeds, i.e., performing them upon such a principle, no satisfaction is given to the spirit of the law, which consists in the subordinating of the will to the law, and not in the legality of the act, when the act proceeds upon other grounds (be these what they may), this fanaticism does, by putting the spring of action pathologically in sympathy or solipsism, and not ethically in the law, beget in this way a windy, overweening, and fantastical cast of thought, which flatters itself with having so spontaneously good-natured a temperament, as to require neither spur nor rein, and to be able to dispense altogether with a commandment; by all which, duty is lost sight of, although it ought to be more thought upon than merit should. Other people’s actions, when performed with great sacrifices, and out of naked reverence for duty, may very fitly be praised as noble and exalted deeds; which, however, can only be done in so far as there is no ground to think that they flowed from any fits and starts of sensitive excitement, but proceeded singly from reverence for duty; and if these deeds are to be held up to any one as exemplars to be followed, reverence for duty, as the alone genuine moral emotion, must indispensably be employed as the spring. The solemn holy precept does not allow our frivolous self-love to toy with pathognomic excitement, which may bear some likeness to morality, and to plume ourselves upon meritorious worth. Very little investigation will suffice to find for any praiseworthy action a law of duty which commands, and takes away all option, whether it fall in with our propensities or not; this is the only method of exhibition capable of giving an ethic training to the soul, it being alone capable of fixed and rigidly defined maxims.
Fanaticism, in its most extensive sense, may be defined an overstepping, upon system, of the limits and barriers of human reason; and if this be so, then ethical fanaticism will be the overstepping of those limits put by pure practical reason to humanity, when she forbids man to place the subjective determinator of his will, i.e., the ethical spring to dutiful actions, anywhere else than in the law, or to entertain sentiments in his maxims other than reverence toward this law: consequently ordaining man not to forget to make duty his supreme practical principle of conduct,—a conception which at once dashes both arrogance and self-love.
Upon this same account, not only novel-writers and sentimental pedagogues (however these last declaim at sentimentalism), but even philosophers, nay, the most rigid of all the Stoic sages, have helped to introduce ethical fanaticism instead of a sober and wise gymnastic discipline of ethics; nor can we here regard this distinction, that the fanaticism of these sages was heroic, whereas that of the others was of a more effeminate and shallow kind; and it can be affirmed without the least hypocrisy, that the moral precepts of the Gospel were what first introduced purity of moral principle, and that they did at the same time, by their adaptation and fitness to the limits of finite beings, in placing all good conduct in man’s subordination and subjection of his will to the discipline and training of a duty laid before his mental vision, first prevent him from fanatically disorienting himself among imagined moral excellences; and did, by thus putting a stop to ethical fanaticism, first assign limits of humility (i.e., of self-knowledge), equally to self-love and to self-conceit, both of which are apt to overstep their barriers.
Duty! Thou great, thou exalted name! Wondrou thought, that workest neither by fond insinuation, flattery, nor by any threat, but merely by holding up thy naked law in the soul, and so extorting for thyself always reverence, if not always obedience,—before whom all appetites are dumb, however secretly they rebel,—whence thy original? and where find we the root of thy august descent, thus loftily disclaiming all kindred with appetite and want? to be in like manner descended from which root, is the unchanging condition of that worth which mankind can alone impart to themselves?
Verily it can be nothing less than what advances man, as part of the physical system, above himself,—connecting him with an order of things unapproached by sense, into which the force of reason can alone pierce; which supersensible has beneath it the phenomenal system, wherewith man has only a fortuitous and contingent connection, and so along with it the whole of his adventitiously determinable existence in space and time. It is in fact nothing else than personality,i.e., freedom and independency on the mechanism of the whole physical system,—always, however, considered as the property of a being subjected to peculiar laws emerging from his own reason, where the person, as belonging to the sensitive system, has imposed on him his own personality, in so far as this last is figured to reside in a cogitable system; upon which account we need not wonder how man, an inhabitant of both systems, cannot fail to venerate his higher nature, and to regard its laws with the greatest reverence.
On this celestial descent are founded many expressions denoting the worth of the objects of ethical ideas. The moral law is holy. Man no doubt is unholy enough, but the humanity inhabiting his person must be holy. In the whole creation everything may be used as a mean, man alone excepted. He is alone an end-in-himself. He is the subject of the moral law, by force of the autonomy of his freedom, which law is holy. Upon the same account, every will, nay, every person’s will when referring merely to himself, is restrained to the condition of its coincidence with the autonomy of an Intelligent Being, viz., that it be subjected to no end not possible under a law fit to emanate from the will of the subject himself, consequently to the condition of never using himself as a mean, but always as an end. Such a condition is ascribed even to the divine will in respect of the Intelligents in this world, who are His creatures, in so far as that condition rests on their personality, by force of which alone they are ends-in-themselves.
This reverence-arousing idea of Personality, showing us the august and sublime of our natural destiny, but showing us also the want of the adaptation of our deportment to it, and so casting down all self-conceit, is natural, and thrusts itself upon the most untutored reason, and is easily observable. Every tolerably honest man must at some time or another have felt that he eschewed a harmless untruth, singly not to despise himself in his own eyes, although that lie might have produced signal advantages to a dear and well-deserving friend; and in the extremest exigencies of life, an upright, straightforward man, conscience sustains, by telling him that he declined to avoid these miseries by bartering his duty, that he never prostituted his humanity, that he honoured the inhabitancy of reason in his own person, so that he needs not to blush before himself, and has no cause to shun his own inward self-examination. This consolation is not happiness,—is nothing like happiness,—and no one would wish to be so situated, nor for a life in such conjunctures. But so long as man lives, he cannot endure to be in his own eyes unworthy of life. This inward peace is therefore merely negative, and contains nowhat positive to make life happy; it is merely a defence, warding off the danger man runs of sinking in the worth of his person, long after he has been despoiled of all worth in situation. This peace is the effect of reverence for somewhat quite different from life, in comparison and contrast with which, life, with all its amenities, has no value. Man in such case continues to live singly out of duty, not because he has the least taste for life.
Thus does the genuine spring of pure practical reason act. The spring is no other than the law itself letting us have a vista of the loftiness of our own supersensible existence, and so subjectively effecting in man, who is conscious of his sensitively affected and dependent nature, reverence for his higher destiny. Along with this spring may no doubt be combined so many graces and amenities of life, that, for the sake of these last alone, the most prudent choice of a judicious Epicurean might be given in favour of ethical deportment. And it may be advisable to combine the prospect of enjoying life with that other and prior and singly sufficient determinator of the will: and yet, merely in order to counterbalance the incentives which vice ceases not to offer, not to use it as a spring, no, not in any wise, when question is made as to duty; for if otherwise, then is the moral sentiment polluted in its source. The awe of duty has nowhat in common with the enjoyment of life; and although they were to be taken and well shaken, and so handed mixed as an opiate for the sick soul, yet they would soon separate; or were this last not to happen, the former part would take no effect; and while man’s physical existence might gain in force, his ethical would without stop fade away.
DILUCIDATION OF THE FOREGOING ANALYTIC.—ON FREEDOM AND NECESSITY.
BY the critical dilucidation of a science, or of a portion of it, I understand the inquiring and showing why it must assume precisely this and no other form when contrasted with some other system based on a like power of knowledge. Now the Practical Reason and Speculative are at bottom identic, in so far as both are pure reason; whence it will result, that the difference obtaining betwixt their systematic forms will be found, as to its last ground, by comparing them both together.
The analytic of pure Theoretic Reason was conversant with the knowledge of objects given to the understanding, and so began at the intuitions; and since intuition is always sensitive, it started with the sensory, and arrived next at the notions (of the objects of intuition), and so, after premising both, ended with the principles. But since, on the contrary, Practical Reason is not occupied about the knowledge of objects, but about her own power to make such objects real, i.e., with a will, which is a cause so far forth as reason contains in itself the ground of its determination, and so has consequently to treat of no object of intuition, but of a law (because it is of the very essence of the notion causality to refer to law, fixing and determining the relative existence of the multifarious), a Critique of Practical Reason has, upon these grounds (if it is to be a practical reason at all), to set out with the possibility of practical principles à priori. Thence we descended to notions of the objects of a practical reason, viz., to the notions of the good and evil,* in order to assign them conformably to those principles (for it is impossible, prior to such principles, to fix by any power of knowledge what is good or evil); and then, only then, could the last chapter conclude by investigating the relation obtaining betwixt pure practical reason and the sensory, and the necessary effect, cognisable à priori thereon, which effect we called the moral sense. Thus the analytic of pure practical reason is divided quite analogously to the theoretical, throughout the whole extent of the conditions of its use, but in a reverse order. The analytic of pure theoretic reason was divided into Æsthetics and Logic; that of practical, again, invertedly into Logic and Æsthetics of Pure Practical Reason, if I may be allowed to misapply these words, merely for the sake of the analogy: there, Logic branched out into the analytic of notions and then of principles; but here, into that of principles and then of notions. There Æsthetics had two parts, owing to the twofold sorts of sensitive intuition; here the sensory is not regarded as the intuitive faculty, but as a bare feeling (fit to become the subjective ground of desire), which, however, is not susceptible of any further subdivision.
Further, that this division into two under-parts (as might have been expected, from the instance of the former Critique) was not attempted by me in this work, arose from this special ground. For since it is practical reason we are talking of, which begins with a principle à priori, and not with experimental determinators, it follows that the division of the analytic of pure practical reason will be like that of a syllogism, viz., first, the universal in the major (the moral principle); second, a subsumption in the minor, of possible acts, as good or bad; and then, lastly, the conclusion, when we advance to the subjective determinator of the will (an interest in the practically-possible good, and the maxim based on such interest). Such comparisons will infallibly gratify those who are convinced of the truth of the position laid down in the analytic; for they nourish the expectation that we may one day attain a thorough insight into the unity of the whole rational faculty, and be able to deduce it all from one principle, an unavoidable demand made by human reason, which finds only in a completely systematic unity of its knowledge, rest and satisfaction.
If now we consider further the content of the knowledge we possess, either concerning, or by means of pure practical reason, as just expounded in the analytic, then there are observable, notwithstanding the marvellous analogy obtaining betwixt them, no less extraordinary and signal differences. Theoretic reason was able to exhibit the power of pure rational knowledge à priori, easily and evidently by examples of the sciences; but that pure reason, without any admixture of experimental grounds, could be for itself practical, behoved to be exhibited by the common practical use of every man’s reason, whereby to authenticate the supreme practical principle, as one which every common reason recognised as quite à priori, independent on any sensitive data, and the supreme law of the will. It was necessary to this end, first to establish and evince this principle, quoad the purity of its origin, by the judgment of the most common reason, before science could receive it, or make any use of it; just like a fact, antecedent to all quibbling about its possibility, or about the results possible to be extracted from it. This circumstance, however, could easily be explained from what has been just alleged, since practical reason must of necessity begin with principles, which, as data, were to lie at the bottom of all science, and so could not be derived from it; and the justification of the moral principles, as positions of pure reason, could very well be managed by an appeal to the judgment of mankind’s common sense; because everything experimental, which could insinuate itself as a determinator into our maxims, becomes forthwith perceptible by the feeling of pleasure or pain, inevitably attaching to it, so far forth as it excites desire; whereas that pure practical principle directly counterworks all such, and refuses to adopt any feeling, as a condition, into its principle. The dissimilarity of the determinators (experimental or rational) is pointed out so prominently, and in such relief—when this antagonism of a practically-legislative reason withstands every appetite—by a peculiar kind of sensation, not antecedent to the legislation of practical reason, but rather effectuated alone by it, viz., the feeling of reverence, the which no man has for any appetite, be they of what kind they may, but has invariably for law, that no one of the most common understanding can fail, on the instant, to become aware, in any example, that he may indeed be advised to follow an experimental stimulant of volition, but that it cannot be expected he should be required to obey anywhat except reason’s pure practical law.
To distinguish betwixt utilitarianism and morality, where experimental principles are the foundation of the first, and no part at all of the foundation of the second, is the prime and the weighty business of the analytic of pure practical reason, and imposes on the author a procedure as punctual and painful as is the method in geometry. And here the philosopher stands in pretty much the same situation as the chemist, for he institutes at all times an experiment with every man’s practical reason, in order to separate the pure (moral) determinator from the experimental. Suppose that he superadd to the will of one sensitively affected (who would like to lie, because somewhat may be earned by it), the moral law. Then it is as when the experimenter adds an alkali to a solution of muriate of lime: the acid deserts the lime, combines with the alkali, and the earth is precipitated. In like manner, present to an honest man the moral law, by which standard he observes the vileness of a liar, and his practical reason deserts straightway the prospect of advantage, and combines itself with that which upholds for him the reverence for his own person.
But this distinction betwixt utility and morality is not in anywise their contrariety; and pure practical reason does not by any means demand that the claim to happiness be abandoned, but only, whenever question is made as to duty, that then no account at all be made of it. Nay, it in some cases may be a duty to look sharp after one’s own happiness, partly because the elements of happiness (skill, health, wealth) contain means toward the execution of duty, partly because the want of them (e.g., poverty) may present temptations to transgress the law. However, to study one’s own happiness never can be dutiful directly and still less a principle of duty. Again, since every determinator of will, except the single moral law, is experimental, and as such pertains to the utilitarian system, it results that all these must be detached from the supreme ethical principle, and never welded up with it as a condition; since this would destroy all moral worth, just as any tentative experimenting with geometric theorems would annihilate their self-evidencing certainty—the chief pre-eminency (according to Plato) which the mathematics have; an excellency to be prized higher than any utility to which geometry may accidentally conduce.
Out of and beyond a deduction of the supreme principle of pure practical reason, i.e., the explanation of the possibility of such à priori knowledge, nothing further could be done except to state, that if we could comprehend the possibility of the freedom of an active cause, then we should comprehend not only the possibility, but likewise the very necessity of the moral law, i.e., of the supreme practical law of Intelligents, to whom freedom of causality of will is ascribed; both notions being so inseparably linked together, that freedom might be defined by saying that it is independency on everything except the moral law itself. But the freedom of an active cause, especially of a cause acting in upon the world of phenomena, cannot be comprehended, even as to its possibility; and we must deem ourselves happy that its impossibility cannot be evinced, and that we are necessitated by the law which postulates this freedom, and so entitled, to assume it.* But as there are some who still think they can explain this freedom by help of observation and experience, like any other physical energy, and regard it as a mere psychological quality, whereof the exposition rests singly on a more sifting scrutiny into the springs of will, not as the unconditioned and supersensible predicate of the causality of an agent appertaining at the same time to the sensible world (on which last it alone depends); and since these philosophasters do by such assumption cut short the vista gloriously afforded us by pure practical reason, through the intervention of the moral law (viz., the vista into a cogitable world,—alone realizing to us the otherwise transcendent notion Freedom, and by consequence the moral law itself), it will be requisite to adduce a few remarks, as a guard against this quackery, and to show it up in its full nakedness and deformity.
The notion Causality, considered as involving that of necessary mechanism, and contradistinguished from the same notion as that of freedom, concerns only the existence of things, so far forth as they are determinable in time, i.e., as phenomena, and so is different from their causation, as things-in-themselves; so that if now we mistake (as is most commonly done) the determinations of the existence of things-in-time, for determinations of the existence of things-in-themselves, then the necessity cogitated in the causal-nexus can never be brought into harmony with freedom, but they remain stated the one contrary to the other; for from the first can be inferred, that every event, and therefore every action, exhibitive in time, is necessary, under the conditions of what happened in some prior time: and since time elapsed, and its contents are no longer within my power, it will follow that every action which I perform is necessary by force of determining grounds no longer within my power, i.e., I am, at any point of time wherein I act, never free. Nay, even were I to assume my whole existence, as independent on any foreign grounds (e.g., God), so that the determinators of my causality, and even of my whole existence, did not lie out of and beyond myself, still all this could not transmute the mechanical necessity of the physical system into freedom. For at each point of time I should always stand under the necessity of being determined to act, by somewhat no longer within my power, and the à parte priori infinite series of events would still be a standing chain of natural sequents which I could only continue, not commence; and so my causality never would be free.
If, then, we ascribe to an Intelligent, whose existence is determined in time, freedom, still we cannot upon that account exempt him from the law of physical necessity regulating all events in his existence, and so also all his actions, for that would be to hand them over to blind chance; but since this law infallibly refers to all causality of things, so far as their existence is determinable in time, it would follow that freedom behoved to be rejected as a blank and impossible idea, were this the mode according to which we had to cogitate the existence of these things-in-themselves. Are we then seriously intent on rescuing this freedom, there remains this only mode, to attribute to the existence of things-in-time, i.e., to the phenomenon, a causality according to the law of the mechanic-nexus, and to attribute to it freedom as a thing-in-itself; and this is our inevitable ultimatum, if we wish to preserve the two contrary notions; although even then there present themselves very formidable difficulties, when we try to explain how they can be combined in one and the same action; nay, difficulties so great as would seem to lead us to infer that any such combination must be impracticable.*
If I say of any man who has just perpetrated a theft, that the act was a necessary result, from determinators contained in the antecedent time, according to the law of the causal-nexus, then it was impossible that the act should not have happened; how then can any judgment, according to the moral law, change this opinion, and beget the supposition that the act might nevertheless have been left undone, simply because the law says it ought so to have been avoided? i.e., how can any man, at the very same point of time, and with regard to the same action, be quite free, when he is under an inevitable necessity of nature? To seek an evasion in this, by fitting on a comparative notion of freedom to the mode in which man’s causality is determined by the laws of nature, is a wretched subterfuge, by which, however, some still suffer themselves to be deluded; and an intricate problem, at whose solution centuries have laboured, is not to be figured as solved by a mere jargon of words, since it is not likely, in any event, that the solution lies so near the surface. The inquiry after that freedom, which lies at the bottom of the moral law, and of our accountability, does not depend on this,—whether the causality governed by a law of nature be determined by grounds within or without the person? nor yet on this, whether—on the former supposition—the determination be necessary by force of instinct or of reason? so long as, agreeably to the confession of such supposers, these determining representations have the ground of their existence in time, and in its elapsed state, and so backwards to prior and antecedent states of time. For, be those determinations ever so inward, and be their causality called ever so psychological instead of mechanical, i.e., though such causality produce its act by dint of perceptions, and not by motion or matter, still such are determinations of the causality of an agent, so far forth as his existence is determinable in time: consequently, determinations rendered necessary by conditions contained in prior times, which are therefore, when the subject comes to act, no longer in his power; and such psychological freedom is in nowise to be distinguished from physical necessity. No room is left for transcendental freedom, which must be cogitated as independency on the whole physical system, whether as object of the internal senses merely in time, or as also object of the external senses both in space and time at once; apart from which freedom, which alone is à priori practical, no moral law and no responsibility can be supported. On these accounts, the necessity of events in time, agreeably to the law of the causal-nexus, is part of the mechanism of nature, although we do not assert that the things affected by such necessary nexus are material machines. Regard is in such denomination had only to the sequences of events in time, whether the subject in which such flux occur be automaton materiale, or, as Leibnitz had it, spirituale, impelled by perceptions; for, in truth, were the freedom of our will of this comparative and psychological sort only, then it were no more than the freedom of a turnspit, which, once wound up, continues of itself in motion.
Now, to clear up this seeming antagonism between the mechanism of nature, and freedom in one and the same given action, we must refer to what was advanced in the Critique of Pure Reason, or what at least is a corollary from it, viz., that that necessity of nature, which may not consort with the freedom of the subject, attaches singly to the modifications of a thing standing under conditions of time,i.e.,to the modifications of the acting subject as phenomenon; and that, therefore, so far (i.e., as phenomenon) the determinators of each act lie in the foregoing elapsed time, and are quite beyond his power (part of which are the actions man has already performed, and the phenomenal character he has given himself in his own eyes), yet, e contra,the self-same subject, being self-conscious of itself as a thing in itself, considers its existence as somewhat, detached from conditions of time, and itself, so far forth, as only determinable by laws given it by its own reason; and in this existence nothing precedes its own voluntary act, every action, and generally every determination of its being, changing conformably to its internal sense; nay, the entire series of its existence as a sensible being, is, in its consciousness of an intelligible cogitable existence, nothing but a mere sequent of its causality, never its determinator, as noumenon.* Under this aspect, an Intelligent may rightly say of every illegal act he perpetrates, he could very well have omitted it, although such act is as phenomenon sufficiently determined by the elapsed in time, and so far forth infallibly necessary; for this act, together with all prior ones, belong to one single phenomenon, his character, which character he has begotten for himself, and by force of which he, as a cause, independent on all sense, imputes to himself the causality of these phenomena.
In accordance with this are the decrees of that marvellous power within us which we call Conscience. A man may try never so much to paint some immoral conduct, which memory reminds him of, as unpremeditated accident, as a mere incaution, never at all times to be avoided, and so as somewhat where he was hurried forward by the stream of necessity, and wherein by consequence he was guiltless; but still, notwithstanding, he finds that the advocate who pleads in his behalf can by no means bring his inward accuser into silence, so long as he is conscious that at the time when he perpetrated the injustice he was master of his senses (i.e., free): although he even then explains to himself his crime from sundry bad habits entailed through want of active attention to himself,—habits which he had suffered to augment up to that degree that he can regard the act as their natural result, without being able thereby to escape the self-reproach and blame he is forced to put upon himself. On this part of our nature is bottomed the contrition felt for a long-committed deed, on every recollection of it; which compunction is a painful feeling, begotten by the moral sentiment, and is so far practically void, as it cannot serve to make the done undone, and would even be absurd (as Priestley, like a consistent fatalist, has asserted), were it not that it, as pain, is quite legitimate,—reason knowing no relations of time, when question is made as to the law (moral) of our cogitable existence, but inquiring singly if the event belongs to me as my act, and then connecting with it ethically just the same sensation whether it happened now or long ago. For a man’s sentient existence is, in respect of his intelligible consciousness of existence (freedom), the absolute unity of one phenomenon, which, so far forth as it contains what are only phenomena of his sentiments, he judges of, not according to that necessity he is fettered by, as a part of the physical system, but according to the absolute spontaneity of his freedom. It may therefore be very well admitted, that could we have so deep an insight into a man’s cast of thinking, as it exhibits itself in inward and outward act,—that could we know every the smallest spring, and at the same time every external circumstance impinging upon such spring, — that then we could calculate a man’s future conduct with the same exactness with which we now compute eclipses, and still affirm that such man was free.
Were we capable of an intellectual intuition of this self-same subject, we should then observe, that this whole chain of appearances, so far forth as the moral law is concerned, emanates from the spontaneity of the subject, as a thing-in-himself, of whose determinations no physical explanation is at all possible. In default, however, of such intuition, the moral law assures us of the actuality of this distinction, when we refer our acts as phenomena to the sensitive existence of the subject, and when, on the other hand, we refer the sensitive itself to the cogitable substratum within us. A reference to this distinction which is natural to reason, although quite inexplicable, enables us to justify opinions uttered with the greatest conscientiousness, and which yet, at their first appearance, seem repugnant to all equity. There are cases where individuals from youth up, notwithstanding an education whereby others have been benefited, show so early a wickedness, and persist in it up to man’s estate, that one may be led to deem them innate villains, and declare their whole cast of thinking unsusceptible of any amelioration; and yet, at the same time, so condemn them in everything they compass or avoid, as if they continued as responsible as any other person, notwithstanding that hopeless quality of mind attributed to them. But this could not happen, did we not suppose that everything arising from man’s choice depended on a free causality at bottom, which causality impresses, from youth up, its character upon the phenomena: these phenomena do by their uniformity make a sequence in the physical system visible, but do not make the wicked quality of will necessary, but rather such sequence follows the freely adopted evil and unchanging maxims, which do therefore make him the more reprobate and the more blameworthy.
But another difficulty attends freedom, so far as it is to be regarded as combined in harmony with the mechanism of the physical system, in the person of a being who is himself a part of that system; a difficulty so great, as even, when all the foregoing is admitted, threatens freedom with its entire destruction. But, notwithstanding this danger, there is a circumstance which gives hope of an exit issuing in favour of freedom, viz., the circumstance that the same difficulty presses upon every other, nay, as we shall soon see, presses alone upon that theory which takes the entities in time and space for existences of things in themselves; and so we need not depart from our main theory regarding the ideality of time as a mere form of sensitive intuition, i.e., as a mere mode of perceiving, peculiar to a person who is part of a sensible world, but need only to unite the idea Freedom with this other part of the theory.
When it is admitted that the intelligible person may, in regard of any given act, be free, even while he, as a person belonging in part to the world of sense, is mechanically conditioned, it still seems as if we must admit that the actions of mankind have their determining ground in somewhat entirely beyond their power, so soon as we admit that God, as the author of all things, is the cause of the existence of substance (a position which cannot be deserted without abandoning all theology). Here it would seem that all man’s actions have their last ground in the causality of a Supreme Being different from himself; and in truth, if the actions of man, which belong to his modifications in time, be not mere determinations of him as phenomena, but of him as a thing-in-itself, then freedom would irrecoverably be lost,—man would be an automaton, wound up and set agoing by some supreme artist. His self-consciousness would no doubt make him a thinking automaton, where, however, the consciousness of his spontaneity, if deemed freedom, were illusory, as it could only be called so, comparatively speaking, since the next determinators of his movements and their series up to their last cause would, it is true, be internal, but the last and highest would be met with in a different hand. In consequence of this, I cannot see how they who insist on regarding space and time as modes pertaining to the existence of the things in themselves, can escape the fatality of actions. Or if (as Mendelssohn did) they declare them requisite only to the existence of finite and derived beings, but no conditions of an Infinite and Illimitable Supreme, then, first, it is incomprehensible upon what title this distinction is asserted; and second, how they propose to escape the contradiction of making existence in time a necessary modification of Finites; God being the cause of their existence, while He yet cannot be the cause of the existence of time and space, these being, on this assumption, necessary à priori conditions of the existence of things themselves. And so His causality would be conditioned in regard of the existence of things; after which, all the objections to God’s Infinitude and Independency must again enter; whereas, on the contrary, the determining the Divine Existence as independent on any conditions of time, as contradistinguished from that of a being of the sensible world, is quite easy upon our theory, as it is just the discriminating betwixt the existence of a being-in-itself, and its existence phenomenally. So that if the Ideality of space and time be not admitted, Spinozism is the only alternative, where space and time are taken for essential modes of the Supreme Being; and the things which depend on Him (i.e., we ourselves) are not substances, but accidents inhering in Him, because, if these things exist only as His effects in time, which time conditions their existence-in-itself, then all actions of such a product would be just actions of this Supreme, which He performed somewhere and somewhen. Spinozism, therefore, notwithstanding the absurdity of its main idea, concludes more logically than the creationtheory can, when beings in time are stated as substances, and as effects of Supreme Cause, and yet denied to belong to God and His actions.
The solution of the said difficulty can be effected shortly and clearly as follows:—If existence-in-time is a mere sensitive kind of representing, appertaining to the thinking subjects in the world, and so quite unrelated to things-in-themselves, then the creating of these latter beings is a creating of things-in-themselves, because the notion of creation has nowhat to do with the sensitive representing of an entity, but refers to Noumena. When, then, I say of beings in the sensible world, “they are created,” so far I regard them as Noumena. And as it would import a contradiction to affirm that God is the originator of the Phenomena, so it is likewise a contradiction to affirm that He is, as Creator, cause of the actions which, as phenomena, are exhibited in the sensible world, although He is cause of the existence of the agent as a Noumenon. And if now it is possible to assert freedom without prejudice to the mechanism of the system of actions as phenomena, then it cannot make the least difference that the agent is regarded as created, since creation refers to intelligible, not to sensible existence, and so cannot be figured as a ground of the determination of phenomena; which result, however, would fall out the other way if the finite beings existed in time as things-in-themselves, since then the Creator of the substance would be the author of all the machinery attaching to the substance.
Of so vast importance is the separation of time from the existence of real entities, effected in the Critique.
The solution of this difficulty here advanced is exceedingly difficult itself, it will be said, and appears hardly susceptible of a lucid explanation; but is there any other which has been yet attempted more easy and more comprehensible? It would be better to say, and more true, that the dogmatic teachers of metaphysic rather showed their cunning than their sincerity, by removing this difficulty out of sight, in the hope that, if they said nothing of it, it would occur to nobody. But if effective aid is to be given to science, every difficulty must be exposed, and even sought for, if peradventure any lurk in secret; for every difficulty evokes a mean of help, which cannot be found without giving science an increase in extent or in precision; and so difficulties advance the groundworks of science. But when difficulties are disingenuously concealed, or obviated by palliatives, they burst out by and by into incurable evils, and science is lost in absolute scepticism.
Since it is, properly speaking, the idea Freedom which alone procures us (of all ideas of pure speculative reason) so great an extension in the fields of the supersensible, although only in order to a practical behoof, I ask how it has exclusively so great and signal a fertility, while the rest denote undoubtedly the vacant spot for possible objects of the understanding, but cannot determine by anywhat the notion of them. I soon comprehend that since I can think nothing without a category, this category must first of all be sought, even for the idea Freedom. Here it is the category Causality; and I am aware that I cannot give to the idea Freedom, as a transcendent one, any corresponding intuition, yet that to the representation Causality a sensible intuition must first of all be given, in order that objective reality may be secured to it. Again, all the categories fall into two classes—the mathematic, which tend only to the unity of the synthesis in the representing of objects, and the dynamic, which refer to the unity in the representing the existence of objects. The first kind, those of quantity and quality, contain always a synthesis of the homogeneous, where the unconditioned, belonging to the given conditioned in a sensible intuition in space and time, could not at all be found, as it behoved itself to belong to space and time, and so was always still conditioned. Hence, too, it came, that in this part of the dialectic of speculative reason, the antagonistic modes of finding the unconditionate, and the totality of their conditions, were both false. The categories of the second class (those of the causality and of the necessity of a thing) demanded not in their synthesis this homogeneousness of the conditioned and unconditionate, because here, not the intuition, and how it was originated and compounded out of the multifarious, behoves to be represented, but only how the existence of the conditioned object corresponding to the intuition was added to the existence of the condition; and there it was allowable to place the unconditioned of the every-way-conditioned in the sensible world (both in regard of the causality and the contingent existence of the things) in the cogitable world, and to make the synthesis transcendent: and so we found, in the dialectic of pure reason, that both the “seemingly” antagonist modes of finding the unconditioned for the conditioned—e.g., in the synthesis of causality for the conditioned sequences of causation and effect in the sensible world—did not contradict one another, when a causality was cogitated no longer sensitively conditioned, and that the very same action, which, as pertaining to the sensible world was always sensitively conditioned, i.e., mechanically necessary, could yet have at bottom a causality independent on the sensory, as causality of the actor, so far forth as he belonged to the intelligible world, and so be cogitated as free. All depended upon this, to change this can into existence, which, as it were, one could prove in some one instance by a fact, and to show that certain actions presupposed such a causality (viz., the intellectual, unconditioned by sense), whether such actions were actual or commanded,i.e., were objectively and practically necessary. In actually experienced and observed actions, as events in the sensible world, we never could hope to attain this connection, because the causality of freedom must be sought always beyond the sensible world, in the cogitable. But nowhat is presented to our perception, except sensible entities. There remained by consequence no alternative, except that an incontrovertible and objective law of the causality, secluding all sensitive conditions from its determinators, should be found; i.e., such a law, wherein reason appealed, to nowhat else and ulterior, as a determinator of causation, but which determinator reason herself contains by means of that law, and where she is accordingly as pure reason self-practical. But this principle needs no seeking and no finding, but is from days of yore interwoven with the reason and substance of all men, and this is the principle of morality. Consequently, an unconditioned causality, and our power of having it, freedom, and along with it, my being, belonging to the sensible world, and also at the same time to the cogitable, is not merely indefinitely and problematically thought, but is, in regard of the law of its causality, precisely and assertively known; and this fixes for us, and states, the reality of the cogitable world in a practical point of view; and this fixing, which in a theoretic point of view would be transcendent,* is, in a practical, immanent. But this step we could not take in reference to the second dynamical idea, viz., that of a Necessary Being; we could not arrive at him beyond the sensible world, without the intermediation of the first dynamic idea.8 For had we hazarded any such step, we must have quitted all data, and soared up to that, whereof nothing was given, by means of which we might make out the connection of such an intelligible person with the world of phenomena (since the Unoriginated and Necessary behoved to be known as given without us), while yet this was quite possible in regard of our own subject, so far as, on the one hand, it determines itself by the moral law as a cogitable being by means of freedom, and, on the other hand, recognises itself as acting in the sensible world, conformably to this destination, as indeed every day’s experience may prove.
The idea Freedom alone permits that we quit not the datum self, to find the unconditioned and cogitable for the conditioned and sensible. Yet it is our reason itself, which, by its supreme and unconditioned practical law, recognises itself, and the being conscious of this law (our own person), as pertaining to the cogitable system, and that too with a determination of the mode how it as such may be active. Thus we understand how it is the practical faculties alone which can help us beyond the sensible world, and procure us a knowledge of a supersensible order and combination of things; which knowledge can, however, be extended only so far as is just requisite for a pure practical purpose.
There is only one remark behind, viz., that every step taken by pure reason, even in a practical department where regard is not had to subtlety of speculation, does of itself most minutely coincide with the whole progress and march of the Critique of Pure Speculative Reason,—nay, as exactly as if each step were taken just to procure this establishment and confirmation. Such an unsought and self-presenting arrival of the most important passages of pure practical reason at the same goal, with the exceeding subtle and often needless-seeming remarks in the critique of pure speculative, surprises and corroborates and reinforces, the maxim already known and lauded by others, to prosecute with all frankness and exactness a man’s research in every scientific undertaking, without caring in the least against what extraneous matters it may offend or collide, but to go on to execute it completely by and for itself alone. Repeated observation has shown me, that when a work of this sort is ended, some things which in the middle of the investigation looked exceedingly doubtful, came, notwithstanding, to a final coincidence and harmony in the most unexpected manner, with dogmas obtained without any reference to these results, or any partiality or fondness for them. Writers might spare themselves many blunders, and much lost toil (since they aimed at a dazzling result), could they but resolve to go more openly to work.
[* ]Ref. 4, from p. 40.—C.
[* ]Ref. 4, from p. 40.—C.
[* ]Ref. 7, from p. 67.—C.
[† ]Ref. 6, from p. 57.—C.
[* ]Ref. 5, from p. 45.—C.
[* ]It may be said of every act outwardly in harmony with the law, but which has not been performed out of naked regard had to it, that it is morally good after the letter, but not so according to the spirit, of the law.
[* ]Pride (superbia) differs from all these. It is treated of as a vice, Met. Eth.
[* ]Not translated.
[† ]Although the will deflect originally from the law, it is not necessary to say anything of such causality here; for the duties imposed by the law remain the same, whatever bias a will may labour under.
[* ]Ref. 4, from p. 40.—C.
[* ]In the chapter not translated.—Tr.
[* ]Ref. 6, from p. 57.—C.
[* ]Ref. 6, from p. 57.—C.
[* ]Ref. 6, from p. 57, taken with all that follows in this chapter.—C.
[* ]Kant distinguishes between transcendental and transcendent. The former is that which, as à priori, transcends experience; the latter is that which transcends all knowledge, or, according to the terminology of his system, transcends both the sensible and the cogitable.—C.
[8 ]For Kant’s views as to recognition of God, compare with this passage pp. 301, 306, 307.—C.