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BOOK IV.: THE METAPHYSICAL ELEMENTS OF THE DOCTRINE OF VIRTUE. - 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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THE METAPHYSICAL ELEMENTS OF THE DOCTRINE OF VIRTUE.
ETHICS signified of old the whole of Moral Philosophy in general, and this was also called the system of the offices (de officiis). But in modern times the name Ethics came to be confined to that part of Moral Philosophy which treats of duties not cognisable by an external and positive legislation. Whence it has come that the general system of the offices falls into Jurisprudence, treating of law external; and into Moral Philosophy, which is independent on any outward legislation.
EXPOSITION OF THE NOTION “VIRTUE.”
The notion Duty implies, in the very essence of it, the further notion Necessitation, i.e., co-action exercised by the law upon the choice; and this co-action may be either foreign or proper (self-command). The ethical imperative announced, by its categorical behest (an absolutely unconditioned shall), this co-action, which, however, cannot be extended to all Intelligents whatsoever (for of these some may be “holy”); but is valid for mankind only, as physical beings endowed with reason, who are unholy* enough to be seduced into the transgression of the law, even while they recognise and acknowledge its authority, and, when they do obey it, obey unwillingly (i.e., by withstanding inclination); in which point indeed self co-action properly consists. But since man is at the same time a free (moral) agent, the notion “duty” can involve no more than self-co-action (i.e., by the naked representation of the law), at least when regard is had to the inward mobile of the will; for, if the case were otherwise, it would be impossible to reconcile any such co-action with man’s liberty of choice. But where the constraint is inward, the notion “duty” comes within the sphere of morals.
The instincts of man’s physical nature give birth to obstacles which hinder and impede him in the execution of his duty. They are in fact mighty opposing forces, which he has to go forth and encounter: these he must deem himself able to overcome by his reason, and that not at some future period, but even now,—not bit by bit, but to beat all down at one single blow. He must judge that he can do, what things soever the law ordains that he ought and should.
But the consciousness of the power, and the predeterminate resolve, to withstand a strong and unjust enemy, is valour; and, in regard of that which opposes the advancement of the moral sentiments within us, moral valour,i.e.,virtue. Whence it has resulted, that the general system of the offices is, in that part which brings not the outward but the inward freedom under control, a doctrine or theory of virtue.
Jurisprudence treated singly of the formal conditions of man’s outward freedom (viz., that freedom should remain consistent with itself, in the event of its maxims being elevated to the rank of law universal), i.e., it investigated Law only. But Ethic presents matter to man’s free choice, an end given by pure reason for him to aim at, and which is represented as an objectively-necessary end, and so, consequently, as a “duty.” For since the appetites and instincts of the sensory mislead the will to ends subversive of morality, legislative reason can in no other manner guard against their inroad, than by presenting to the will an opposite and contrary and moral end, given independently of the sensory, and so à priori.*
An end is the object of the choice of a reasonable being; by the representation of which, the Intelligent is determined to an act tending to obtain and realize such object. Now, it is undoubted that I may be forced to act so as to be merely an instrument towards some ulterior and foreign end; but I never can in any event be constrained to propose to myself my end. I alone can assign and fix to myself the end I will to aim at. But, on the hypothesis that I stand under an obligation to constitute, as my end, somewhat presented by reason to my intellectual regards, that is, that I ought, over and above the formal determination of will (treated of in law), to superadd to it a material determinator, i.e., an end, contrary and opposed to the ends brought forth by sensitive excitement; then there emerges the notion of an end, which is in itself a ground of duty; and the doctrine of such an end cannot fall under the sphere of law, but it belongs to morals, which alone involve in their very notion that of self-co-action, according to ethic laws.
Upon this account Ethics may, in this part, be defined to be the system of the ends of pure practical reason. Physical co-action and self-co-action mark or determine the boundary obtaining betwixt Law and Morals, the two grand stems of the science of Ethics; and that Ethics must comprehend duty, to observe which, no one can be constrained physically by others, is just a corollary from the position, that it is a doctrine of the ends of reason; it being absurd to talk of force, when question is made of the practical autonomy of the agent himself.
Again, that Ethics is a doctrine of the offices of virtue, results from the definition given above of virtue, taken in conjunction with that peculiar obligation, the nature of which has just been stated. In fact, there is no other determination of will, except the determination and design to adopt an end, which carries already in the very notion of it, that the person cannot be co-acted to it physically by the will of another. No doubt another person may force me to do what is contrary to my own design, and such deed may be a mere mean or instrumental toward gaining the ends of that other person; but this he cannot force me to, that I should make his ends my own; and it is clear that no end can be mine, unless I make it so by proposing it to myself. Indeed, an end imposed by any other would be a contradiction—an act of freedom devoid of liberty: but there is no contradiction in designing an end, to have which end is the person’s duty; for here I co-act myself, and this is quite consistent with my freedom.
But now the question arises, How is such an end possible? for the logical possibility of the notion of a thing is insufficient to enable us to conclude upon the objective reality of the thing itself.*
EXPOSITION OF THE NOTION OF AN END WHICH IS AT THE SAME TIME A DUTY.
The relation of an end to duty may be cogitated in a twofold manner,—either beginning with the end to assign the maxim of actions in harmony with duty, or beginning with the maxim to determine that end, which it is a duty incumbent on mankind to propose to himself. Jurisprudence advances by the first method. Every one is free to give his actions what end he will, but the principle regulating the causality of the will is fixed à priori, viz., that the freedom of the agent must be exercised in such a manner as to consist with the freedom of every other person, conformably to law universal.
But Moral Philosophy strikes into an opposite march: here we cannot commence with the ends man may design, and from them determine and statute the maxims he has to take, i.e., statute the duty he has to follow; for in this latter event the grounds of his maxims would be experimental, which we know beget no obligation, the idea Duty and its categorical imperative taking their rise in pure reason only. Nor could we indeed even talk of duty, were the will’s inward principles based on tentative and experimental ends, these being all selfish and egotistical. In this branch of Ethics, then, the idea Obligation must guide to ends which we ought to aim at, and constitute maxims pointing to those ends conformably to ethic laws.
Postponing for the present the investigation into what these ends are which man ought to propose to himself, and how such ends come to be possible, we must remark, that a material duty of this kind is called a moral duty or virtuous office; and it may be requisite to state upon what accounts it is so.
To every duty there corresponds a right, considered as a title in general; but every duty does not import that the other has a right (a legal title) juridically to co-act the execution of duty from the obliged; but where duties are coercible, they are, strictly speaking, legal duties (duty-in-law). Exactly in the same way, to every obligation there corresponds the notion Virtue; but every ethic duty is not upon that account one of the offices of virtue: that obligation, for instance, is not, which abstracts from all given ends, and regards the bare formal of the will’s determination, viz., that the incumbent action be performed out of regard had to duty. It is only in the case where an action is at once both an end and a duty, that a virtuous office can be constituted: of this latter sort there may be several, and so different virtues; whereas of the former, as there can be but one ethical obligement, so only one duty, i.e., one virtuous sentiment extending to all actions, of whatever kind.
Further, another essential distinction obtaining betwixt juridical and moral obligements is, that the former are coercible, whereas the latter depend singly upon free self-co-action. Further, for finite holy beings (incapable of being tempted to swerve from duty), there can be no Doctrine of Virtue, but a Science of Ethics singly, which is an autonomy of practical reason; whereas a system of virtues treats not only of the autonomy, but also, at the same time, of the autokraty of the will,i.e., is a doctrine of the force reason has to vanquish and beat down all the appetites which oppose the execution of the law. A force not, indeed, immediately given in an intuition, but rightly inferred from the categorical imperative. Whence it results, that man’s morality is, at its highest grade, nothing more than virtue, even admitting that such morality were altogether pure (i.e., separated thoroughly from every admixture of foreign springs); a state and tone of soul which fancy has impersonated in the character of the sage, an ideal whitherwards mankind ought in unremitting progression to advance.
Nor can virtue be explained to be a habit, as Cochius has done in his prize essay, where he treats of it as an aptitude in morally good actions, acquired by long-continued custom; for when such use and wont is not effectuated by stable, firm, and ever more and more clarified first principles, then is the habitude—like any other mechanism brought about by technical reason—neither fortified against all assailants, nor has it any guard against the sudden fits and starts new enticements and unforeseen circumstances may occasion.
Remark.—Virtue = +a, is opposed to non-virtue (moral weakness) = 0, as its logical antipart; but to vice = -a, as its real antagonist. And it is a question not only devoid of meaning, but even offensive, to inquire if great crimes may not demand and display more strength of soul than even great virtues; for by strength of soul we understand the steadfastness of man’s will, as a being endowed with freedom, i.e., in so far as he is in a healthy state of intellect, and retains his command over himself. Great crimes are on the contrary paroxysms, at whose aspect the same part of mankind stand aghast. In fine, this sort of question may be compared to the question, whether a person may not have greater physical power in a fit of frenzy, than when in his right wits; and this question may be answered in the affirmative, without allowing him upon that account to be possessed of greater strength of soul: for as crimes take their rise from the inverted domination of the passions and appetites over reason, where no strength of soul is at all conceivable, this question is like asking if a man in a fever may not exhibit more strength than when in health, which may unhesitatingly be denied, because the want of health, which last consists in the due equilibrium and adjustment of all a man’s bodily powers, is a weakening of the system of his forces, according to which system only it is, however, that we can state any estimate of his absolute health.
OF THE GROUND UPON WHICH MAN REPRESENTS TO HIMSELF AN END WHICH IS AT THE SAME TIME A DUTY.
End is an object of free choice, which determines itself by the representation of this object to an action whereby this end is brought forth. Every action has consequently its own end; and since no one can design an end except by himself constituting the object chosen his end, it results that man’s aiming at any particular end is an act of his own freedom, and no effect operated by constitutional mechanism of his system. But because an act fixing an end is a practical principle, ordaining not a means (which were a hypothetical commandment), but the end itself (i.e., unconditionally), it follows that there is a categorical imperative of pure practical reason, connecting the idea Duty with that of an End in general.
That there must be such an end, and a categorical imperative corresponding to it, is apparent from this, that where there are free actions, there must also be ends, whitherwards they tend, as their object; and among these ends, there must be some, whereof it is of the very essence to be duties. For were none such given, then, because no action can be aimless, would every end be only valid in the eye of reason as a means instrumental and conducive towards some further end, and a categorical imperative would be impossible; a position which would overthrow all Ethics.
Accordingly we do not here treat of ends which mankind proposes to himself by force of the physical instincts of his system, but of such ends as he ought to aim at. The former might found a technical (subjective) doctrine of ends, and would contain the dictates of prudence in choosing one’s ends; but the latter must be called the ethical (objective) doctrine of ends,—a distinction which we do not insist upon, because the science of ethics is in its very notion contradistinguished from anthropology, the latter rising upon experimental principles, the former again, i.e., the ethical doctrine of ends, treating of duties founded upon à priori principles of pure practical reason.
WHAT ENDS THEY ARE, THE VERY ESSENCE WHEREOF IT IS TO BE DUTIES.
Such ends are one’s own perfection,—our neighbour’s happiness.
These ends cannot be inverted, and we cannot state as such,—one’s own happiness,—our neighbour’s perfection.
For his own happiness is an end which all mankind has by force of the physical constitution of his system; consequently this end cannot be regarded as a duty, without stating a contradiction. What every one inevitably wills, cannot fall under the notion duty,—duty importing necessitation to an end unwillingly adopted. So that it is a contradiction to say a man is obliged to advance his own happiness with all his might.
And there is the like contradiction in saying that we ought to design the perfection of another, and to hold ourselves obliged to further it; for the perfectness of another, when considered as a person, consists in this, that he can impose upon himself his own end, agreeably to his own understanding of his duty; and it is a repugnancy to impose on me, as a duty, the doing that which singly the other person can accomplish.
EXPLANATION OF THESE TWO NOTIONS.
One’s own Perfection.
The word perfection is open to many an interpretation. Thus, when used in ontology, perfection denotes the totality of the multifarious, which, taken together, do in the aggregate compose one thing. Then, again, when used in teleology, it is so understood as to signify the exact proportionateness of means to ends. Perfection, taken in the first sense, might be called quantitative, in the second qualitative (formal). The material and quantitative perfection is one only (for the total of the parts of anywhat is one whole); but of the formal there may be many sorts in the same thing, and it is of this last alone that we here treat.
When it is said that the perfecting of his nature is an end which it is man’s duty to propose to himself, this perfection must be placed in that which is the effect of his own activity, not any gift of nature, upon which account this duty can be nothing else than the culture of his natural faculties, the principal whereof is the understanding, as the power of dealing with notions and ideas, — among others, with the ideas of duty; and then, next, of his will to discharge all his duty.
It is, then, a duty incumbent upon mankind,—
I. To develop himself more and more from the animal characters stamped upon him by his brute nature, and to advance and evolve his humanity, which alone renders him capable of designing anywhat as his end. He ought to strip off his ignorance, by learning to correct and renounce his errors; and this is not a counsel given him by technically practical reason, but ethico-active reason ordains it unconditionally, in order that he may be worthy of the humanity he represents.
II. To clarify, and to carry the culture of his will to the purest grade of ethic sentiment, a state and tone of soul where the law itself is the immediate mobile of the will, and where duty is discharged because it is so. And this state and tone of soul is an inward ethical perfection, and is called the moral sense, because it is a feeling of the effect wrought by legislative reason upon man’s active power of conforming to the law. And although this feeling has been too often fanatically abused, as if it were a peculiar emotion astir in the mind antecedently to reason, and able (like the genius of Socrates) to dispense with her tardy determinations, it is notwithstanding an ethical accomplishment, enabling mankind to make every end his own, when that end is also his duty.
My Neighbour’s Happiness.
Happiness, i.e., contentment and satisfaction with one’s external lot, in so far as its permanence is secured, is the inevitable desire and wish of every human nature; but it is not upon that account an end affording the groundwork of any duty. Again, since a distinction has been made by some, betwixt what they term physical and moral happiness, whereof the former is stated to consist in man’s enjoyment and acquiescence in the goods and bounties bestowed on him, in free gift, by nature, but the latter in his own self-contentment and acquiescence in his own ethical deportment, it is needful for me to remark (omitting all censure of the misuse of such terms, which enclose a contradiction) that the latter kind of state belongs to the other head, that of perfection; for he who is to be happy in the bare consciousness of his honesty, possesses that very perfection treated of in the former title, as that end which it was man’s duty to pursue.
That happiness, then, which it is my end and my duty to further, can be the happiness of another singly, whose ends and interests I ought to make my own. What others may deem most conducive to their interests and happiness, rests upon their determination; it stands, however, always at my option to decline the pursuit of ends others would willingly obtain, if I hold them hurtful and pernicious. But to resist or evade this virtuous office of beneficence, by alleging a pretended obligation incumbent on me to study my own physical happiness, is in plain fact just to convert my private and subjective end into an objective one; and yet such pretended obligation has repeatedly been urged as an objection to the foregoing division of duties (No. IV.): the objection is merely plausible and apparent, and the following remark may serve to clear the matter up.
Grief, poverty, want, and pain, are unquestionably mighty temptations to the transgression of one’s duty; and hence it seems as if wealth, strength, health, which keep out the inroad of the first, were ends incumbent on mankind to pursue, i.e., it looks very like as if it were his duty to advance and study his own interests as much as those of others. But what is overlooked is this, that in such event a man’s general welfare is not the end aimed at, but is no more than a meansallowed as instrumental towards removing the obstacles which might stand in the way of the person’s own morality; and this last it is which is the true and real end of his exertions, and must needs be permitted, no one having a right to demand that I should sacrifice for him my proper end. To acquire wealth is thence directly and in itself no duty; but indirectly it may become so, viz., in order to guard against poverty, and that wretchedness which might come accompanied by vice. But then it is not my happiness, but my morality, which, to uphold in its integrity, is at once my end and my duty.
MORALS CONTAIN NO LAW FOR ACTIONS (THAT WERE JURISPRUDENCE), BUT ONLY FOR THE MAXIMS WHENCE ACTIONS TAKE THEIR RISE.
The notion Duty relates immediately to Law, even when I abstract from every end which might become the matter of it. This indeed was indicated by the supreme formal principle of ethics expressed in the categorical imperative: “So act that the maxim of thy conduct might be announced as law universal.” But in this part of ethics this formula denotes the law of thy own special individual will, not the law emanating from willin genere; in which latter case there would be room for the will of some other person, and the duty resulting from it would be a juridical obligation, and so fall beyond the domain of morals. In this part of ethics the maxims are regarded as such subjective principles as are not unfit to be elevated to the rank of law in a system of universal moral legislation; but this gives them only a negative character,* viz., not to be repugnant to lawin genere. The question, therefore, is, How can there be a law ordaining positive maxims of conduct?
The notion of an end in itself a duty—peculiar to this branch of ethics—is what founds a law commanding maxims of conduct, by subordinating the ends which all mankind have to the objective ends which all mankind ought to have. The imperative, Thou shalt make to thyself, this or that, thy end, points to the matter (the object) of choice; and since no free action is possible, where the agent does not design by it some end as the object chosen, a maxim tending to such end need only be fit for law universal; whereas, if that end be in itself a duty, such end-duty would found a law ordaining me to adopt the maxim taken from and belonging to it. For man’s practical maxims may be adopted arbitrarily, and it is always in his option to execute them or not, they being no otherwise fettered than by standing under the restrictive condition of being fit for law universal, this being the formal principle regulating the whole conduct of life. But a law takes away the whole optional part of action, and so differs widely from all expediential dictates, which counsel what means conduce best to certain ends.
MORAL DUTY IS OF INDETERMINATE OBLIGATION, BUT THE JURIDICAL OFFICES ARE STRICT.
This position is a corollary from the foregoing (No. VI.); for where the law ordains not the action, but its maxim only, that implies that it leaves to free choice a latitude in the execution of it, that is to say, that the law does not rigidly determine how much ought to be done toward the end which is our duty, but an indeterminate obligation must not be so understood as if it left a space open for exceptions from the maxim itself; it means only our title to limit one rule of duty by another (e.g., to limit the general social duty by the fraternal or filial), which virtually enlarges the field for the practical exercise of virtue. The more an obligation is extensive, the more indeterminate is the person’s obligement to act; nevertheless, the more he narrows the maxim of its observance, so as to make it approach to the nature of a strict and forensic obligation, the more complete is the virtue of his conduct.
Duties of indeterminate obligation are therefore the only offices of virtue. To discharge them is merit = +a; their transgression is not straightway guilt = -a, but simply moral unworth = 0. Unless, indeed, the person omitted upon system the observance of these duties. Steadfastness of purpose in carrying the first of these into action is what is properly styled virtue. Weakness in the second is not so much vice, as rather non-virtue,i.e., want of moral strength (defectus moralis). Every action repugnant to duty is transgression; but deliberate transgression, done upon system, is that only which properly is to be termed vice.
Although the conformity of a man’s actions to the law is nothing meritorious, yet to observe one’s juridical obligations as duties is; i.e., reverence for the rights of mankind is meritorious, for hereby a person makes the rights of man his end, and so extends his notion of obligation beyond that of mere debt (officium debiti). Another may, in consequence of his rights, demand from me actions tallying with the law, but he cannot likewise insist that the representation of the law should itself be the ground determining my will to action. A similar remark holds good of that more general ethic precept, Act duteously out of regard had to duty. To engrave such a sentiment deep in one’s heart, and often to revivify its impression, is meritorious, for it goes beyond the mere act incumbent to be done, and makes the law itself the spring of conduct.
Upon the same account, those duties must be reckoned as of indeterminate obligation, which are observed to be attended by an inward ethical reward; or rather, to bring the parallel yet nearer to the case of forensic obligations,—followed by a susceptibility for such rewards according to the moral law; viz., a susceptibility for an ethical complacency, surpassing the mere simple self-approbation (which is only negative) consequent on the fulfilment of the law; and this complacency it is which is meant when it is said that virtue is by such a consciousness her own reward.
This merit, which a man may have in regard of his kind, by advancing their common and known ends, and so making their happiness constitute his, may be called a sweet merit, and the consciousness of it brings forth an ethical delight, at which ecstatic banquet others may even sympathetically feast. Whereas the bitter merit of advancing the true weal of the ignorant and unthankful has in general no such reaction, and brings forth no more than self-approbation, although this last is in such a case likely to be more pure and more exalted.
EXPOSITION OF THE MORAL DUTIES AS DUTIES OF INDETERMINATE OBLIGATION.
My own Perfection, as End and Duty.
A. Physical Perfection,i.e., culture of all our faculties in general, in order to attain the ends presented to us by reason. That this is our duty, and an end of our being, and that this culture rises on an unconditionate imperative, independently of any advantages to which such culture may perhaps conduce, may appear from what follows. The ability to propose to one’s self an end, is the characteristic of humanity, and distinguishes it from his brute nature. Along with the ends of the humanity subsisting in our person, goes hand in hand the rational will, and, together with that, the obligation to make one’s self well-deserving of mankind by general culture, in carrying to higher and higher degrees of perfection the powers intrusted to him, i.e., to develop the latent energies dormant in the unhewn substratum of his nature, whereby the brute animal is first of all changed and transformed into the man; all which is in itself an imperative duty.
But this duty is simply moral, i.e., of indeterminate obligation: how far any one ought to carry the improvement and the progression of his faculties, is left undetermined by reason. Besides, the difference of occasions and circumstances one may come into, renders quite arbitrary the choice of the kind of calling to which he will devote his talent; so that there can be no commandment of reason ordaining given actions, but ordaining only a maxim regulative of conduct; the tenor of which principle may be thus conceived: “Evolve betimes thy corporeal and mental faculties, that thou mayest be fitted for any kind of ends, it being uncertain which of them may come one day to be adopted by thee.”
B. Ethical perfection. The highest grade of ethical perfection possible to be attained by man, is to discharge his duty because it is so,—where the law is at once the rule and the mobile of the will. Now, at first sight, it seems as if this were a strict obligation, and that the supreme principle of duty called, not only for the legality, but likewise for the morality of every act, and that it must do so with the whole rigour and severity of law. But in fact the law concerns itself only with the maxims of conduct, and ordains man to seek the ground of his practical maxims in the law itself, not in any sensitive instinct or by-views and ends of prejudice and advantage. No individual act, then, is specially ordained. Besides, it is impossible for any one so to behold or fathom the abysses of his heart as to become fully convinced of the purity of his moral intentions, and of his sincerity, even in one single act, however clear he may be as to its legality. Imbecility, oftener than any other cause, deters a man from the hardihood of crime, and so passes with him for virtue, which, however, implies a certain grade of strength. And how many may there be who have long lived lives blameless and unrebukable, who are, after all, only lucky in having escaped temptation? How much ethical content may belong to any action, cannot be explored even by themselves.
We infer, then, that the duty of estimating the worth of one’s actions, not legally simply, but likewise according to their morality, is one of indeterminate obligation; that, in other words, the law does not ordain any such inward mental act, but merely that it ought to be our maxim to endeavour, by unremitted assiduity, to make the consciousness of duty sufficient by itself to stir the will to action.
My Neighbour’s Happiness as End and Duty.
A. Physical wellbeing. General benevolence may be unlimited, for in all this nothing need be done; but the case is different when we come to beneficence, more especially when actions have to be performed, not out of love to others, but out of duty, with the mortification and sacrifice of our own ends. That this beneficence is duty, results from this, 1st, That because our self-love goes inseparably linked hand in hand with the appetite to be loved by others, and, in case of need, to be assisted by them,—a state of things in which we make ourselves the end of others; and, 2nd, That since a maxim of this kind can only have ethical virtue to oblige the will of others, when it is potentially fitted for law universal: it follows that we must state others as the ends of our will, in adopting our maxims of practical conduct; i.e., the happiness of others is an end incumbent on us as a duty.
It is my duty, then, to yield a part of my wellbeing in sacrifice for others, without hoping any indemnity, because it is my duty; and it is impossible to assign indefinite boundaries, whither and how far this duty shall extend. Its extent will always rest on the peculiar wants of each, and these wants and needs each particular must determine for himself. Nor can it, in any event, be expected that I should abandon my own real happiness and proper needs, in order to study that of another; for a maxim containing such a rule would be found repugnant to itself, if elevated to the rank of law universal. This duty, then, is indeterminate only, and there is a latitude of doing more or less towards discharging it. The law embraces the maxim only,—it cannot be extended to special actions.
B. The moral welfare of our neighbour is no doubt an integral part of his general felicity (prosperity), and it is incumbent on us to promote it; but this obligation begets a negative duty only. The compunction a man feels from the stings of conscience is, although of ethical origin, yet physical in its results, just like grief, fear, and every other sickly habitude of mind. To take heed, that no one fall under his own contempt, cannot indeed be my duty, for that exclusively in his concern. However, I ought to do nothing which I know may, from the constitution of our nature, become a temptation, seducing others to deeds which conscience may afterwards condemn them for. There are, however, no limits assignable, within which our care of the moral tranquillity of our neighbour is to range; the obligation consequently is indeterminate.
WHAT A MORAL DUTY (OR VIRTUOUS OFFICE) IS.
Virtue is the strength of the human will in the execution of duty. All strength is ascertained singly by the obstacles it is able to overcome. Virtue has to combat against the physical instincts of our system, when these thwart and collide with man’s ethical resolves. And because it is the person himself who lays these impediments in the way of his own maxims, virtue is not only a self co-action (for then one physical instinct might wage war upon another), but a command conducted upon a principle of inward freedom; that is, a self co-action, by force of the naked idea Duty, and the law.
Every duty, of whatever kind, involves the notion of necessitation by law; and the moral, that necessitation which an inward legislation can alone effect; but the juridical, one possible also by an external and foreign legislation. Either kind imports the notion of a co-active power, and this co-action may be proper or foreign. The ethical force of the former is virtue; and the action rising upon such a sentiment (reverence for law) may be fitly termed an act of virtue, even although the law should announce a juridical duty only; for morals alone teach to keep inviolate the rights of mankind.
But that, the practice whereof is virtue, is not upon that account one of the offices of virtue—in the proper sense of the words—the first referring to the formal of the maxims, the second to their matter, that is, to an end which is cogitated as duty. But because the ethical obligement to ends, whereof there may be several, is indefinite,—the law ordaining a rule of deportment only,—it results that there may be (differing with the nature of the legitimate ends they tend to) several different duties, which may all be called duties in morality, or offices of virtue, because they are subjected to voluntary self-co-action only, are unsusceptible of coercive measures from without, and spring from ends which are in themselves duties.
Virtue, considered as the will’s unshaken constancy in adhering to the decrees of duty, can, like every formal, be only one, identic, and always the same with itself; but in respect of the incumbent ends of action, i.e., the materials man has to work upon, there may be several virtues; and since the obligement to adopt maxims or rules of life, resting on such materials, was called a moral duty or virtuous office, it follows that the offices of virtue may be several and distinct.
The supreme principle of this division of Ethics therefore is, “Adopt such ends in thy maxims as may be made imperative on all mankind to design.” By force of this principle, each man is stated as his own and every other’s end; and it is now not enough to abstain from employing them or himself as means to his own end,—a case which would leave him quite indifferent to his fellows,—but he is beholden to make all mankind his end.
This position in morals admits, being a categorical imperative, of no proof; but some account may be given of it, i.e., a deduction from the nature of pure practical reason itself. What thing soever stands so related to humanity, one’s self or others, as possibly to be an end, must be declared an end, reason being judge, for practical reason is the power of designing ends; and to assert that reason were indifferent in regard of any such, i.e., to maintain that reason took no interest in them, is an absurdity; for then reason would miss of her function in determining the maxims and rules of life, which maxims rest always on an end; that is, in other words, would be no practical reason at all. But when pure reason announces any end à priori, it announces at the same time that end as a duty incumbent on all mankind; and this is the kind of duty termed a virtuous office or moral duty.
THE SUPREME PRINCIPLE OF LAW WAS ANALYTIC—THAT OF MORALS IS SYNTHETIC.
It was evinced in Law that the outward co-active power, so far forth as it withstands whatever would let and hinder the mutual freedom of the subject, could be made consistent with ends in general; and that this position holds good, results from the principle of contradiction. I need not quit the idea of Freedom, but need only to evolve the principle analytically out of it, while the end each person may propose to himself may be what it will: so then the supreme principle of law was analytical.
On the contrary, the principle of Morals goes out of and beyond the notion of external freedom, and conjoins with it, conformably to law universal, an end which it constitutes a duty; and this principle is synthetic: the possibility of the synthesis of the notions contained in it is explored in the deduction at the close of No. IX.
This extension of the notion Duty beyond that of outward liberty, and the limiting of this last to the bare formal condition of constantly harmonizing with every other person’s freedom, depends upon the fact that here ends are drawn into consideration from which Law altogether abstracts, and inward freedom put in room of outward co-action; and the power of self-command not by force of other instincts, but by force of pure practical reason, which disdains all such intermediaries.
To constitute the juridical imperative, the law, the power to execute it, and the will regulating the maxims, were the elements required. But whoso prescribes to himself a moral duty, has, over and above the notion of his self-co-action, the further notion of an end, not which he already has, but which he ought to have; which end, therefore, goes hand in hand with practical reason, whose last, chief, and unconditioned end (which, however, never ceases to be duty) consists in this, that virtue is its own end, and is, by its own good desert, its own reward. By all which, virtue so shines, that it seems even to eclipse the lustre of holiness itself, which cannot so much as be solicited to swerve from the law. This, however, is a deception, and arises in this manner, that, owing to our having no standard whereby to measure the grades of a strength except the magnitude of the obstacles (in us the appetites and instincts of the sensory) it has been able to subdue and overcome, we are led into the mistake of holding the subjective conditions, whereby we estimate a force, tantamount to the objective grounds of the force itself. But when virtue is compared with other human ends, each of which may have its own several obstacles to overcome, it is quite true that the inward worth of virtue as its own end far outweighs the value of all utilitarian and experimental ends, which last may notwithstanding go hand in hand with it.
It is quite a correct expression to say that man is under an obligement to virtue, as ethic strength; for although the power of mastering every opposing excitement of the sensory may, and indeed must, be absolutely postulated—the will’s causality being free—nevertheless this power is in its strength (robur) a matter of acquisition, viz., where the force of the ethical spring has been advanced by the contemplation of the dignity of our pure rational law, and at the same time by unremittingly carrying its decrees into execution.
TABLE OF MORAL DUTIES.
A table of all moral duties may, agreeably to what has been just advanced, be drawn out in the following manner:—
PREREQUISITES TOWARDS CONSTITUTING MAN A MORAL AGENT.
There are such ethical predispositions, that where a man has them not, neither can he be obliged to acquire them. These are—(1) the moral sense; (2) conscience; (3) love of our neighbour; and (4) reverence for one’s self. There can exist no obligation to endeavour to acquire these, because they are subjective conditions of man’s susceptibility for ethical conceptions, not objective grounds of morality. They are every one of them æsthetical, and given antecedently in the mind, as natural predispositions, fitting man for becoming a partaker of ethic notions,—predispositions given and subsisting in the substratum of his person, which therefore cannot be said to be any one’s duty to acquire; for it is first of all by these that he is rendered the subject of ethical obligement. Man’s consciousness of them is not originated by experience and observation, but they must be deemed the effects of the moral law itself upon the mind.
A. The moral sense. This feeling is the susceptibility for pleasure or displacency, upon the bare consciousness of the harmony or of the discrepancy of our actions with the law. All determination of choice whatsoever begins with the representation of the intended act, and passes through the feeling of pleasure or pain, by taking an interest in the act, or its ulterior end, and so becomes event; and this internal determination of the sensory (liking or disliking) is either a pathognomic or an ethical emotion: the former is that sensation of pleasure which may exist antecedently to the representation of the law; the latter is that complacency brought forth by its representation, and which can only follow after it.
Now there can be no duty either to have or to acquire any such feeling; for all consciousness of obligation presupposes it, and, apart from it, no man could feel the necessitation accompanying the idea Duty; and every one must, as a moral being, have such originarily within him: an obligement in regard to it can only ordain that this sensible effect of the law be cultivated and invigorated by the admiration of its unknown and inscrutable original, which can be effected by showing that this emotion, when separated from all admixture of pathognomic attractions, is then most enlivened by the naked energies of reason.
No man is destitute of this feeling; and were he deprived of all capacity for being thus affected, he would be ethically dead; and when, to speak in medical language, his moral vitality could no longer stimulate this feeling, then would his humanity be decomposed, and resolved into his animality, and he could not be distinguished from the common herd of brute natures. We have no specific and individual sense of moral good and evil, any more than we have a sense of truth, although such expressions are not unfrequently employed; but we have an original susceptibility for having our free choice impelled by pure practical reason and her law; and this it is which is termed the moral feeling.
B. Of conscience. Conscience is original, and no additamentum to our person; and there can be no duty to procure one; but every man has, as a moral being, a conscience. To be obliged to have a conscience, would be tantamount to saying, man stands under the obligation of acknowledging that he is obliged. Conscience is man’s practical reason, which does, in all circumstances, hold before him his law of duty, in order to absolve or to condemn him. It has accordingly no objective import; and refers only to the subject, affecting his moral sense by its own intrinsic action. The phenomenon of conscience is accordingly an inevitable event, and no obligement or duty; and when it is said in common parlance, that such a one has no conscience, that means merely that he disregards its dictates; for had he none in real fact, then he could impute to himself no action, as either conformable or repugnant to the law, and so would be unable to cogitate to himself the duty of having conscience.
Omitting all the various divisions of conscience, I remark merely that an erring conscience is a chimera; for although, in the objective judgment, whether or not anything be a duty, mankind may very easily go wrong,—yet, subjectively, whether I have compared an action with my practical (here judiciary) reason, for the behoof of such objective judgment, does not admit of any mistake; and if there were any, then would no practical judgment have been pronounced,—a case excluding alike the possibility of error or of truth. He who knows within himself that he has conducted himself agreeably to his conscience, has done all that can be demanded of him, relatively to guilt or innocence. His obligement can extend only to the illuminating his understanding as to what things are duty, what not. But when it comes to the act, or when a man has acted, conscience speaks inevitably. We cannot, for these reasons, say that man ought to obey his conscience; a case where he would require a supplemental conscience to control, and take cognisance of the acts of the first.
The only duty there is here room for, is to cultivate one’s conscience, and to quicken the attention due to the voice of a man’s inward monitor, and to strain every exertion (i.e., indirectly a duty) to procure obedience to what he says.
C. Love of our neighbour. Love is an affair of sentiment, not of will; and I cannot love when I will, and still less when I ought. A duty to love is therefore chimerical. Benevolence, however, considered as practical, may very well stand under a law of duty. Sometimes disinterested wishes for the good of our neighbour is called love; but this is improper. Sometimes even when the welfare of the other person is not concerned, but when we devotedly surrender all our ends to the ends of another (superhuman even), love is talked of, and said to be our duty; but all duty is necessitation, i.e., co-action, even where it is self-co-action, conformably to a law; but whatsoever is done by constraint and co-action, that is not performed out of love.
Acting beneficently to our fellows, according to our ability, is our duty, and that, too, whether we love them or not; and this duty loses nothing of its importance, even although we are forced to make the sad remark that our species is but little amiable when we come to know them better. Misanthropy is, however, at all times hateful, even when, shunning hostile actions, it merely induces the man-hater to isolate and separate himself from commerce with his kind. Beneficence is at all times incumbent upon us as a duty even toward a misanthrope, whom we cannot assuredly love, but towards whom we can deal kindly.
To hate the vices of other people is neither our duty nor the reverse, but simply the feeling of detestation for them; a sentiment unrelated, and standing in no connection to the will, and vice versa. Beneficence is a duty: he who is often engaged in the discharge of this duty, and beholds the success of his beneficent designs, comes in the end to love him whom he has benefited. When, therefore, it is said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, that is not to be understood, thou shalt first love thy neighbour, and then, by means of this love, act kindly towards him; but, contrariwise, do good to thy fellow-men, and this beneficence will work in thee philanthropy, i.e., a habitude or inclination to be beneficent.
Benevolent love is upon these accounts only indirectly a duty; but the love of complacency would be immediate and direct. To be constrained by duty to this is, however, a contradiction; for the pleasure of complacency is immediately attached to the perception of the existence of the beloved object; and to be obliged to be necessitated to this is absurd.
D. Of reverence. In like manner, reverence is somewhat altogether subjective, an emotion of its own kind,—no judgment referring to any object which might make it incumbent on us to produce and establish this emotion; for were this the case, such a duty could be represented only by the reverence felt towards it; and to say that it is our duty to have this reverence, would be tantamount to saying, we were obliged to an obligation. So that when it is said man ought to reverence himself, that is improperly said, and it should rather be thus couched, The law within him inevitably extorts reverence from him for his own being, and this peculiar and unique emotion, which is of its own kind, is the ground of certain duties, i.e., certain actions comporting with the duty owed by man to himself. But it is ill expressed to say, we have a duty of reverencing ourselves; for mankind must first of all revere the law, before he can so much as cogitate anything as his duty.
GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF THE METAPHYSIC OF ETHICS FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF A PURE MORAL PHILOSOPHY.
I. First: A single duty can rise upon only one ground of obligation; and when two or several arguments are adduced to support it, that indicates for certain, either that as yet no valid reason has been assigned, or else that they are several and distinct duties, which, by mistake, have come to be regarded as one.
For since every ethic argumentation is philosophical, it is a rational knowledge arising out of notions, and not as the mathematics are, raised upon the construction of notions. These last admit of several different demonstrations, because, in an à priori intuition, there may be given several determinations of the nature of an object, the whole of which carry the cogitation backwards to one and the same common ground. Put the case, that we wish to prove that veracity is a duty, and argue first from the detriment inflicted on others by the lie, and then support this argument by urging the internal vileness of the liar, and the violation of his own self-reverence,—and it is observable, that the first argument proves a duty of benevolence, not one of veracity, i.e., is no proof at all of the virtue desiderated. To flatter one’s self, that by adducing several bad arguments in support of one position, their number may make up what is wanting in their cogency, is a most unphilosophic stratagem, and betrays at once guile and dishonesty,—because a series of insufficient reasons, aggregated together, cannot eke out the certainty which each wants; nay, they do not even beget a probability amongst them,—and yet this is the common artifice of the rhetorician.
II. Secondly: The difference obtaining betwixt virtue and vice cannot be stated to consist in the grade of adhering to given maxims and rules of life; but must be sought for in their specific qualities,i.e., in their relation to the law: that is, in other words, the lauded principle of Aristotle is false: “Virtue is the mean betwixt extremes.” For instance, let frugality be taken as a mean betwixt the two vices, prodigality and avarice, and it is clear that its origin as a virtue cannot be explained by gradually decreasing and abating the first of these vices; neither can it by gradually enlarging the expenses of the miser,—these vices being incapable of being so taken, as if they came from diametrically opposite directions, and met in the point of frugality; but each vice has its own proper maxim, and these have qualities making them inconsistent with one another. Upon the same account, no vice can, generally speaking, be explained by saying that it is a practice carried to excess; as when it is said, Prodigality is excess in the consumption of wealth: nor yet, that it is a defect, or falling short in practice, Avarice is the failing to expend one’s wealth. For since the grade is here left undetermined, and yet everything is made to depend on this degree, whether conduct fall in with duty or otherwise, it is plain that such explanations can serve no purpose.
III. Thirdly: Duties are to be judged of, not by the power man attributes to himself of being able to fulfil them; but, contrariwise, his power is to be concluded upon from the law, which commands categorically; that is, we go, not by the experimental acquaintance taught us of mankind by observation, but by the intellectual apprehension we have of what we ought to be, as conformed to the idea of humanity. These three positions towards a scientific treatise on morals are pointed against these old apophthegms.
I. There is one only virtue, and one only vice.
II. Virtue is the keeping of the due mean betwixt extremes.
III. Virtue must, like prudence, be taught us by experience and observation.
OF VIRTUE IN GENERE.
Virtue signifies ethic strength of will; but this does not exhaust the whole notion of it: for a like strength may belong to a holy (superhuman) being, in whom no instinct reacts against the law, and who, therefore, executes the whole law willingly. Virtue is therefore the ethic strength of man in the fulfilment of his duty, a strength which is an ethical co-action, by force of one’s own legislative reason, so far forth as this last constitutes itself also at the same time the executive of the law. This ethico-active reason is not itself a duty, nor is it incumbent on us to procure it; but it announces its behest, and makes this commandment go hand in hand with an ethical co-action, possible according to laws of inward freedom; but because this co-action has to be irresistible, strength is indispensable, and the grade of this force can only be estimated by the magnitude of the obstacles springing from the person’s own appetites and instincts, and to which reason has to rise superior. Vice, the offspring of illicit passion, is the Hydra which man has to encounter and to overcome; upon which account this ethic strength, as valour (fortitudo moralis), constitutes the highest, and indeed the only martial glory of the brave; and this it is which has been rightly styled wisdom, because this wisdom makes her own the ends of man’s existence here below, and by possessing this alone, is any one rendered
Liber, pulcher, honoratus, Rex denique Regum,
and enabled to stand invincible against all assaults of chance or fate; because man cannot be shaken from his own self-possession, nor can the virtuous be stormed out of the inexpugnable fortress of his own virtue.
The encomiums passed upon the Ideal of Humanity in his ethical perfection are not in anywise invalidated by showing how contrary mankind are, have been, and very likely will be; nor can anthropology, which gives but a tentative and experimental knowledge of man, at all affect or impair that anthroponomy which is reared upon our unconditionately legislative reason; and although virtue may from time to time be well-deserving of our fellow-men (never in respect of the law), and may merit a reward, yet it ought to be considered, as it is, its own end, so also to be in itself its own reward.
Virtue represented in its entire perfection, is to be regarded as if it held possession of man, and not as if he had appropriated or were the proprietor of it; in which last case, it would seem as if man had the option to accept or to decline her, and so would need an interior virtue to induce him to make his election of the latter. To acknowledge several virtues, as we inevitably must, is merely to cogitate different moral objects, towards which the will is guided and led by the one and single principle of virtue; and the same remark holds of the contrary vices. Expressions which impersonate the one or other of them are æsthetic engines, which typify a moral import. An æsthetic of ethics is, by consequence, no part, but it is a subjective exposition, of the metaphysic of ethics; and such a Critique of moral taste would make sensible in outward delineation those emotions effected by the co-active force of the law upon the sensory. Horror, disgust, etc. etc., depict in lively and vivid colours the ethical antagonism of the will, and would aid in counteracting the false allurements of sensitive excitement.
OF THE PRINCIPLE DISTINGUISHING BETWIXT MORALS AND LAW.
This separation, obtaining betwixt the two main branches of Ethics, is grounded on this, that the idea Freedom, common to both these, renders necessary a distinction of duties into the offices of outward and those of inward liberty, whereof the latter alone are moral. Whence it results that we must now state some preparatory remarks on inward freedom as the condition precedent of all moral duty, exactly as we previously, in No. XII., held a preliminary discourse on conscience as the condition precedent of all obligement whatsoever.
Of Virtue according to the Principles of Inward Freedom.
Readiness or aptitude is a facility in acting in a particular way, and is a subjective perfection of choice; but every readiness of this sort is not necessarily a free or liberal facility; for when it degenerates into habit,i.e., when the uniformity of custom slides into mechanical necessity, by the too frequent iteration of an act, such inveterate aptitude is no product of freedom, and is by consequence no ethical facility; and this is the reason why virtue, as we have said, cannot be defined to be a readiness or facility in acting conformably to the law; although it might be so defined, were we to add that it was an aptitude of determining one’s self so to act by the representation of the law, for then the habitude would cease to be a quality of choice, and would become one of will, which is a function of desire, announcing law universal, by the maxims of conduct it adopts; and such a readiness alone can be deemed and taken for a part of a virtue.
This inward freedom demands two things: the first, that mankind, in any unforeseen emergency, remain master of himself; and, second, that he suffer not the empire of his own reason to be usurped by his appetites and passions. The state and tone of soul is, by such inward freedom, noble and erect; by the contrary, abject, servile.
VIRTUE, SO FAR AS IT IS BASED UPON A PRINCIPLE OF INWARD FREEDOM, DEMANDS, FIRST (POSITIVELY), MAN’S SELF-COMMAND.
Emotions and passions differ essentially: the former are seated in the sensory; and as these feelings are astir in the mind, prior to all thought and reflection, they hinder and obstruct the exercise of reason, or even render it for the time impossible. The emotions are often called transports or tempests of soul; and reason promulgates to us, by the idea Virtue, the law of self-command. However, imbecility in the exercise of reflection, coupled with the headlong impetuosity of emotion, is merely non-virtue. It is silly and childish, and is not inconsistent with a good will, and has this advantage peculiar to such a frame of mind, that the storm soon blows over: a propensity to an emotion, e.g., to wrath, is therefore not merely so much allied to vice as a passion and affection is. These last denote permanent states of desire; e.g.,hatred, revenge, as contradistinguished from anger and wrath. The calm and composure wherewith mankind incline to those admit of reflection, forethought, and predetermination, and allow the mind to adopt maxims of conduct tending to the gratification of those affections; and so, by brooding over them, allow the hate to strike deep root; by all which, evil is deliberately determined on, which, as aggravated wickedness, is a true crime.
It results, therefore, that virtue, in so far as it depends upon man’s inward freedom, addresses to mankind an affirmative commandment, ordaining him to bring all his feelings and passions under the dominion and government of his reason—i.e.,ordains self-command; and this it superadds to the prohibitive commandment the duty of apathy, whereby it ordains (negatively) man not to allow himself to have it lorded over him either by his appetites or instincts; for when reason does not take into her own hands the administration of self-government, those revolting, subject her to their thraldom.
VIRTUE, AS BASED ON A PRINCIPLE OF INWARD FREEDOM, DEMANDS, SECOND (i.e., NEGATIVELY), APATHY, CONSIDERED AS FORCE OF WILL.
The term apathy, as if it meant bluntness or want of feeling, i.e., listlessness or indifference in regard of the objects of choice, has fallen into bad repute. People have mistaken it for a weakness; a misunderstanding which may be obviated by denominating this dispassionateness, which has no common part with indifference, the ethic apathy, a freedom from passion, which takes place then only when the increasing reverence for the Law has so awed and ballasted the mind, that it ceases to tumble to and fro, and to be agitated by the storms and hurricane emotions which threaten to shipwreck its morality. It is but the seeming strength of one distempered, to allow one’s interest, even in what is good, to degenerate into passion. An affection of this kind is called enthusiasm, and so gives occasion for that just medium which is recommended even in the practice of virtue.
For it were ridiculous to fancy that any one could be too wise or too virtuous. An emotion is always of the sensory, by what object soever it may be excited. The true strength of virtue is the mind at tranquillity, established upon a well-pondered and steadfast determination to put the law into execution. This is the “health” of the ethic life. While, on the contrary, enthusiastic feelings, even when engendered by the representation of good, sparkle but with momentary lustre, and leave the mind chill and exhausted. He, again, might be called chimerically virtuous, who admits, in his system of morality, of no indifferent things, and who is beset at every step with duties strewed along his path, like spring-guns; and deems it of moment whether he dine on fish or fowl, whether he drink beer or wine, although they all agree alike well with his constitution. But if the doctrine of virtue were to deal with such infinitesimal duties, her empire would be transmuted to a tyranny.
Virtue is constantly progressive, and yet it has always to begin again, of new, from the beginning. The first part of this position results from this, that morality, considered objectively, is an ideal, and unattainable, although it is our incumbent duty to press with advancing footstep unremittingly toward it: the second, that virtue has always to start afresh, arises subjectively from its relation to the nature of man,—a nature ever lying so open to the perturbations of appetite and instinct, that virtue can, in its combat with them, never find a truce, but must infallibly, if she keep not herself in the van, and on the advance, be driven to the rear, and forced to retrograde: ethical maxims not being, like the technical, based on habit (which last refers to the physical part of voluntary determination)—so much so indeed, that were the exercise of virtue to become habit, the agent would thereby undergo the loss of freedom; which, however, is of the very essence of all actions performed out of duty.
PRELIMINARY. OF THE SUBDIVISION OF MORALS.
The principle of subdividing ought to comprehend—
First, As to the formal of duty, all conditions serving to distinguish this part of general ethics from the science of law, a desideratum attained by the following: (1) That no moral duty admits of any outward legislation; (2) That while all duty, of whatever kind, must rest upon the law, yet, in morals, the commandment of duty ordains no given action, but only maxims and rules of life tending to given ends; (3) which follows from the second, That moral duty is of indeterminate, and never of strict obligation.
Second, As to its matter, Ethic has to be represented, not as a system of duties merely, but likewise as the system of the ends and scope of practical reason,—where man is shown as obliged to cogitate himself and all his fellow-men as his ends, which some moralists have talked of as duties of self-love, and of the love of our neighbour; but such expression is inaccurate, there being no direct obligation to “love” of any sort, although there are to such actions as state one’s self and others as their ends.
Thirdly, As for the distinction betwixt the form and the matter of morals (i.e., betwixt an action’s conformity to law and its conformity to its end), we have to remind the reader that not every ethical obligation is a moral duty; in other words, that reverence for law begets of itself no end which can be represented as a duty, this last alone being a moral duty. There is the one only ethical obligement, but several moral duties, there being many objects which for us are ends that we are obliged to propose to ourselves. There can, however, be but one ethical intent, as the inward ground of a man’s determination to fulfil his duty; an intention extending even to his juridical duties, though these last must not on this account be held or reputed moral duties. Every subdivision of morals will therefore have respect only to moral duties. The knowledge of the ground whereon the law has its ethical virtue to oblige the will, is the science of ethics itself,formally considered.
Remark.—But why, it will be asked, have I divided morals into an elementary and a methodic part, seeing this mode of division has been dispensed with in law? The reason is, because the former treats of duties of indeterminate obligation, the latter of those of strict; whence it happens, that the latter is in its nature rigid and precise, and requires, no more than the mathematics, general directions (a method) for judging, but shows its method to be true, by real fact and event. Moral Philosophy, on the contrary, on account of the latitude admissible in its duties of indeterminate obligation, conducts inevitably to questions, calling upon the judgment to determine what maxim ought to be applied in any given case; and this maxim may come attended by its secondary or subordinate maxim, of which last we equally demand a principle for applying it to different occurring cases. Thus morals fall into a sort of casuistry which law is quite ignorant of.
Casuistry is, then, neither a science nor a part of any science; for, were it scientific, it would be dogmatic: and it is not so much a method for finding truth, as a mere exercise of judgment in searching for it. Cases of casuistry are therefore interwoven, not systematically, but fragmentarily, into morals, and come in, under the form of scholia, as addenda to the system. But when it is no exercise of the judgment that engages us, but the exercise of reason itself, and that both in the theory and in the practice of her duty, then does this last belong appropriately to ethics, being the methodologyof pure practical reason. Its methodic, in the first sort of exercise, viz., in the theory of its duty, is called didactics; and this last is either akroamatic or erotematic. The erotetic method is the art of interrogating out of the pupil the notions of duty he already is possessed of; and these his notions may be extracted by the question, either out of his memory or out of his reason: from his memory, when he has been previously taught how to answer, where the method is catechetic: from his reason, when it is fancied that what is asked him, lies, although latent, in his mind, and needs only to be developed; and this is the dialogic or socratic method.
To the didactics, as the method of theoretic exercise, corresponds, as antipart, the ascetic exercise, which is that part of the methodology, where it is taught not only how the notion Virtue, but likewise how man’s active and moral powers, his will, may be gymnasticized by the ascetic exercise, and cultivated.
Agreeably to these principles, we shall divide the whole system into two parts,—the Elementology and the Methodology of Ethics. Each part will have its chapters and divisions. In the former part, the order of the chapters will be regulated upon the diversity of the persons toward whom obligations may be constituted; in the second, upon the different ends reason ordains man to have, and according to his capacity for these ends.
XIX. The division established by practical reason toward an architectonic of the system of her ethical conceptions, may be regulated upon a twofold principle, either conjoined or separate: the one represents, materially, the subjective relation obtaining betwixt the obliged and the obligors; the other, formally, the objective relation obtaining betwixt ethic laws and the offices they enjoin. The first division proceeds upon that of the different living beings in relation to whom ethical obligement may be thought as subsisting; but the last would be the order of the conceptions of pure ethico-active reason, which conceptions correspond to each duty made imperative by reason, and belong to Ethics regarded barely as a science, and are therefore indispensable for the methodical contexture and arrangement of those propositions which the former division may throw into our hands.
Which second division exhibits the form of the science, and must, as its ground-plan, go before the other.
[* ]And yet man, as a moral being, does, when he considers himself objectively, and beholds in an intellectual apprehension the destiny whitherward his reason calls him, deem himself enough holy, to violate his law only unwillingly and with compunction: nor can there exist any one so irrecoverably far gone and decayed in ethical apostasy, as not to feel, in any instance of transgression, an inward warfare and self-dislike, against which he is compelled to struggle. This phenomenon, that mankind should at this conjuncture (where the fable represents Hercules betwixt Virtue and Voluptuousness) give ear rather to his appetites than to the law, is quite inexplicable; for we can explain events only by assigning a cause agreeably to the laws regulating the mechanism of the physical system; and were we to do so here, then were the will not free. Whereas it is just this double and contrary self co-action, and its inevitability, that first of all reveals to mankind that amazing quality of his nature, moral freedom.
[* ]Ref. 4, from p. 40.—C.
[* ]This principle carries the refutation of much of the later German speculation, closely connected with the system of Kant.—C.
[* ]Duty is a negative conception only, i.e., it expresses that the will is limited to the condition of not being repugnant to a potential legislation universal; but since no will can be devoid of ends, the assigning of an end à priori, upon grounds of practical reason, is the ordaining of a maxim to act toward such end.—Tr.