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CHAPTER II.: ON THE À PRIORI SPRING OF THE WILL. - Immanuel Kant, The Metaphysics of Ethics 
The Metaphysics of Ethics by Immanuel Kant, trans. J.W. Semple, ed. with Iintroduction by Rev. Henry Calderwood (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1886) (3rd edition).
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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.
[* ]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.