Front Page Titles (by Subject) PART II.: OF THE INDETERMINATE MORAL DUTIES OWED BY MAN TO HIMSELF IN REGARD OF HIS END. - The Metaphysics of Ethics
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PART II.: OF THE INDETERMINATE MORAL DUTIES OWED BY MAN TO HIMSELF IN REGARD OF HIS END. - 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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OF THE INDETERMINATE MORAL DUTIES OWED BY MAN TO HIMSELF IN REGARD OF HIS END.
Sec. 19.—Of the Duty owed by him to himself of advancing his Physical Perfection.
The culture of all the different resources of mind, soul, and body, as means conducive to many ends, is a duty owed by man to himself. Man owes it to himself as a reasonable being, not to allow to go to rust and lie dormant the latent energies and native elements of his system, whereof his reason might one day make use. And even were he to rest contented with the measure of talent nature had endowed him with as his birthright, still it ought to be upon grounds of reason, that he should instruct such a remaining satisfied without so moderate a share of capacity; for, being a person capable of designing ends, or of proposing himself to others as an end, he ought to stand indebted for the development and amelioration of his powers, not to any physical instinct of his system, but to his own liberty, whereby he freely decides how far he will carry them. This duty, then, is altogether independent on any advantages the culture of his faculties as means to ends may procure to him,—for perhaps the advantage, according to Rousseau’s views, might lie in the uncultivated roughness of a savage life,—but is founded on a commandment of ethico-active reason, and a duty imposed on man by himself to advance and ameliorate the condition of his humanity, according to the diversity of the ends assigned him, and to make himself, in a practical point of view, adapted to the final destinies of his being.
Powers of mind we call those faculties whose exercise is possible by force of reason singly. They are creative, so far forth as their use is independent on experience and observation, and rests on principles à priori. Some of their products are, the mathematics, logic, and metaphysic of ethics, which two last fall under the head of philosophy, viz., the speculative philosophy, where this word is taken, not to signify wisdom, as it ought to do, but only science; which last, however, may be subservient to advancing the ends of practical wisdom.
Powers of soul, again, are those which stand at the command of the understanding, and of the rule this last prescribes in order to attain the end it designs, and so depend to a certain extent on observation and experience. Instances of such powers are, memory, imagination, and the like, from which learning, taste, the graces of outward and inward accomplishments take their rise, and which can be employed as instrumental to a vast variety of ends.
Lastly, the culture of our bodily powers (gymnastic properly so called) is the caring for the stuff and materials of the man, apart from which instrument and engine his ends could not be exerted into acts; consequently, the intentional and regular revivifying of man’s animal part is a duty owed by mankind to himself.
Which of these natural perfections may be the more eligible, and in what proportion, when compared with the remainder, it may be his duty to design them as his ends, must be left to the private reflection of each individual, who will decide according to his taste for this or that kind of life, and according to the estimate he may make of his ability, whether he should follow some handicraft, or a mercantile employment, or become a member of a learned profession. Because, over and above the necessity man stands in of providing for his livelihood, a necessity which never can of itself beget any obligation, it is a duty owed by man to himself to make himself of use to the world; this belonging to the worth of the humanity he represents, and which, therefore, he ought not to degrade.
But this duty owed by man to himself in regard of his physical perfection, is only of indeterminate obligation. Because the law ordains only the maxims of the action, not the act itself; and, in regard of this last, determines neither its kind nor its degree, but leaves a vast latitude for man’s free choice to roam or settle in.
Sec. 21.—Of the Duty owed by Man to himself of advancing his Ethical Perfection.
This consists, first of all, subjectively, in the purity of his moral sentiments, where, freed from all admixture of sensitive excitement, the law is itself alone the spring of conduct; and actions are not only conformable to what is duty, but are performed because it is so, — Be ye holy is here the commandment; and, second,objectively, consists in attaining his whole and entire moral end, i.e., the execution of his whole duty, and the final reaching of the goal placed before him as his mark,—the commandment here is Be ye perfect. The endeavour after this end is, in the case of mankind, never more than an advancement from one grade of ethical perfection to another. If there be any virtue, if there be any praise, that study and pursue.
The duty towards one’s self is, in its quality, determinate and strict; but in degree it is of indeterminate obligation, and that on account of the frailty of human nature; for that perfection which it is our constant and incumbent duty to pursue, but never (at least in this life) to attain, and the obeying which can by consequence consist only in urging after it with an unfaltering and progressive step, is no doubt, in regard of the object (the idea to realize which is end), determinate, strict, and given; but in regard of the subject, is but a duty of indeterminate obligation owed by mankind to himself.
The depths of the human heart are inscrutable. Who has such an exact of self-knowledge as to be able to say, when he feels the impelling force of duty, that the mobile of his will is swayed singly by the naked idea of the law, and to declare that other sensitive excitements may not work alongside of it and pollute it,—such as by-views of advantage, or of avoiding harm?—considerations which on occasion might serve the turn of vice. Again, as for that perfection which concerns the accomplishment of one’s end, there can, it is true, be only one virtue objectively in idea,—the ethical strength of one’s practical principles; but subjectively, in point of real fact and event, a vast number of virtues, of the most heterogeneous nature, amongst which it is not impossible some vice may lurk, although it escapes observation, and is not so called, on account of the virtues in whose company it appears. But a sum of virtues, the completeness or defects of which no self-knowledge can accurately detect, can beget only an indeterminate obligation to perfect our moral nature.
Whence we conclude, that all the moral duties, in respect of the ends of the humanity subsisting in our person, are duties of indeterminate obligation only.