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CHAPTER I.: OF THE DUTY OWED TO OTHERS, CONSIDERED SIMPLY AS MEN. - 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 DUTY OWED TO OTHERS, CONSIDERED SIMPLY AS MEN.
OF THE OFFICES OF CHARITY.
THE principal division of these obligations may be made into such duties as oblige our fellow-men, when we discharge them; and second, into those which, when observed, entail upon the other no obligation of any sort. To fulfil the former is, in respect of others, meritorious; to fulfil the latter, of debt only. Love and reverence are the emotions which go hand in hand with our discharge of these two kinds of offices. These emotions may be considered separately, and in practice they may subsist, each for itself and apart from the other. Love of our neighbour may take place even while he deserves but little reverence; as, on the contrary, reverence is due to every man, although deemed hardly worth our love. But, properly speaking, they are at bottom inseparably united by the law, in every duty owed by us, to our neighbour; but this in such a manner, that sometimes the one emotion is the leading principle of the duty of the person, along with which the other follows as its accessory. Thus we regard ourselves obliged to benefit the poor; but because this favour would imply his dependence for his welfare on my generosity, a case which would be humiliating for the other, it becomes my further duty so to behave to him who accepts my gift, as to represent this benefit either as a bare incumbent duty upon my part, or as a trifling mark of friendship, and to spare the other such humiliation, and to uphold his self-reverence in its integrity.
When we speak, not of laws of nature, but of laws of duty as regulating the external relation of man to man, we then regard ourselves in a cogitable ethic world, where, by analogy to the physical system, the combination of Intelligents is figured to be effected by the joint action and reaction of attractive and repellant forces. By the principle of mutual love, they are destined for ever to approach, and by that of reverence, to preserve their due elongation from one another; and were either of these mighty moral principles to be suspended, the moral system could not be upheld, and, unable to sustain itself against its own fury, would retrovert to chaos.
But love must not be here understood to mean an emotion of complacency in the perfection of other people, there being no obligation to entertain feelings; but this love must be understood as the practical maxim of goodwill issuing in beneficence as its result.
The same remark holds of the reverence to be demonstrated towards others, which cannot be understood simply to mean a feeling emerging from contrasting our own worth with that of another,—such as a child may feel for its parents, a pupil for his ward, or an inferior for his superior in rank,—but must be taken to mean the practical maxim of circumscribing our own self-esteem, by the representation of the dignity of the humanity resident in the person of another—that is, a practical reverence.
This duty of the free reverence owed to other men is properly negative only, viz., not to exalt ourselves above others. It is in this way analogous to the juridical duty “to do no wrong,” and so might be taken for a strict and determinate obligation; but, regarded as a moral duty, and a branch of the offices of charity, it is a duty of indeterminate obligation.
The duty of loving my neighbour may be thus expressed,—that it is the duty of making my own the ends and interests of others, in so far as these ends are not immoral. The duty of reverencing my neighbour is expressed in the formula, to lower no man to be a bare means instrumental towards the attaining my own ends, i.e., not to expect from any man that he should abase himself to be the footstool of my views.
By discharging the former duty, I at the same time oblige the other; I make myself well-deserving of him. But by the observance of the latter, I oblige only myself, and keep myself within my own bounds, so as not to withdraw from the other any of that worth he is entitled as a man to put upon himself.
Sec. 26.—Of Philanthropy in general.
The love of our fellow-men must, because we understand by it practical benevolence, be understood, not as a love of complacency in our species, but as a maxim actively to befriend them. He who takes delight in the welfare of his fellows, considered merely as belonging to his own species, is a philanthropist,—a Friend of Mankind in general. He who alone finds delight in the misery and woes of his neighbour, is a misanthrope. An egotist is he who beholds with indifference the good or the bad fortunes of his neighbour. While that person who shuns society because he is unable to regard his fellows with complacency, although he wishes them all well, would be an æsthetic misanthrope; and his aversion from his kind might be called anthropophoby.
Whether mankind be found worthy of love or not, a practical principle of goodwill (active philanthropy) is a duty mutually owed by all men to one another, according to the ethical precept of perfection, Love thy neighbour as thyself; for every ethical relation obtaining between man and man is a relation subsisting in the representation of pure reason, i.e., is a relation of mankind’s free actions, according to maxims potentially fit for law universal, which maxims can therefore, in no event, be founded on an emotion of selfishness. The constitution of my nature forces me to desire and will every other person’s benevolence; wherefore, conversely, I am beholden to entertain goodwill towards others; but, again, because all others, except myself, are not all mankind, a maxim expressing my active goodwill towards all others would want the absolute universality whereby alone the law has ethical virtue to oblige; consequently the ethical law of benevolence must include my own person likewise with others, as the object of the commandment announced by practical reason;—which is not to say, that I thereby become obliged to love myself, such self-love obtaining of its own accord, and inevitably, but states, that legislative reason, which embraces in its idea of humanity the whole race (i.e., me likewise), includes in its universal legislation myself likewise, under the duty of reciprocal benevolence; and so renders it allowed for me to wish well to myself, under the condition that I cherish goodwill towards every other person; my maxim being thus alone fitted for law universal, whereon is based every law of duty whatsoever.
The goodwill expressed in universal philanthropy is extensively the greatest possible, but intensively (in degree) the most contracted; and to say of any one that he is interested in the welfare of his neighbour, as a general philanthropist is to say that the interest he takes in him is just the smallest possible,—he is merely not indifferent.
But of my fellows, one stands nearer to me than another; and, so far as goodwill is concerned, I am nearest to myself: how does this harmonize with the formula, “Love thy neighbour as thyself”? If one is more my neighbour (nearer to me in the obligation of benevolence) than another, and I thus am bound to more benevolence toward one person than toward another, and am, moreover, nearer to myself than to any other person; then it would appear that it cannot without contradiction be asserted that I ought to love all others as myself,—this measure, self-love, admitting no difference of degree. The smallest reflection, however, shows that the benevolence here intended is not a bare wish, which last is properly an acquiescence in the happiness of my neighbour, while I myself contribute nothing towards it, according to the adage, “Every one for himself, God for us all;” but that we have to understand an active practical beneficence, which makes the welfare of others its end: and so in wishes I may have an equal kind intent to all, while actively the degree may be carried to any extent or measure, according to the difference of the beloved persons, some of whom may stand nearer to me than others, and all this without violating the absolute universality of the maxim.
THE OFFICES OF CHARITY ARE: A. BENEFICENCE; B. GRATITUDE; C. SYMPATHY.
Of the Duty of Beneficence.
To enjoy the bounties of fortune, so far as may be needful to find life agreeable, and to take care of one’s animal part, but short of effeminacy and luxury, is a duty incumbent on us to ourselves; the contrary of which would be, sottishly to deprive one’s self of the bounties of fortune,—either out of avarice, servilely, or out of an outrageous discipline of one’s natural appetities, fanatically,—things both of which are repugnant to the duty owed by mankind to himself.
But how comes it that, over and above the benevolent wish, which costs me nothing, my fellows are entitled to expect that this wish should become practical, and be exerted into action,—that is, how can we evince that beneficence is due to the necessitous, from him who is possessed of means empowering him to become kind? Benevolence or goodwill is the pleasure we take in the prosperity and happiness of our neighbour: beneficence, again, would be the maxim to make that happiness our end; and the duty to do so is necessitation by the subject’s own reason, to adopt this maxim as his universal law.
It is by no means evident that any such law is originated by reason; on the contrary, it would seem that the maxim, “Every one for himself, God for us all,” were far more natural.
To deal kindly toward our brethren of mankind who are in distress, without hoping for anything in return, and to aid them in extricating themselves out of it, is a mutual duty incumbent on us all.
For every one who himself is in difficulties, desires to be aided by other men; but if, on the contrary, he were to make the rule general, not to succour others when distressed, then would every one refuse, or at least be entitled, when such a law were announced as of catholic extent, to refuse to him all assistance; that is, a selfish principle of this kind would, when elevated to the rank of law universal, be self-contradictory and self-destructive, that is, would be contrary to duty; whence, conversely, we hold the social principle of mutual and joint assistance to one another in case of need a universal duty owed by man to man; for, as fellow-beings, i.e., necessitous (by the finite constitution of their natures), they ought to consider themselves as stationed in this one dwelling to be fellow-workers to one another.
Beneficence, where a man is rich, i.e., enjoys the means of happiness to superfluity and beyond his own wants, is to be looked upon by the benefactor, not even as a meritorious duty, although his neighbour be obliged by it. The pleasure which he procures to himself, and which, after all, costs him no sacrifice, is a kind of moral luxury. He must, likewise, studiously avoid all appearance of intending to oblige the other by this means, because, otherwise, it would not be truly a benefit done to, but an obligation thrust upon his neighbour, to come under which must needs make the latter stand a grade lower in his own eyes. He ought rather so to carry himself, as if he were the obliged and honoured by his neighbour’s acceptance of his kindness; that is, he ought so to figure to himself, and so to represent the favour, as if it were of mere debt, and rather, when possible, exercise his good deeds quite in private. This virtue might deserve a yet greater name, when the ability to give benefits is curtailed, and the soul of the benefactor is so strong as to take upon himself, in silence, the evils which he spares the other from undergoing; a case where he must be deemed ethically wealthy.
Casuistics.—How far ought the outlay expended by any one in deeds of charity to be carried? Surely not till we ourselves came to stand in need of our friends’ generosity? What may a benefit be worth, offered to us by a dead hand in his testament? Does he who uses the right conferred upon him by the law of the land, of robbing some one of his freedom, and then making the other happy, according to his own notions of enjoyment,—can, I say, such a man be regarded as a benefactor, in consequence of the parental care he may take of his slave’s welfare? or is not the unrighteousness of bereaving any one of his freedom so grave a violation of the rights of man, that all the advantages his master could bestow would cease to deserve the name of kindness? or can he become so well-deserving of his slave by kindness, as to counteract and redeem the violation committed by him against his slave’s person? It is impossible that I can act kindly toward any other (infants and madmen excepted) by force of my idea of his happiness, but only by studying his ideas of welfare, to whom I wish to exhibit my affection, no kindness being truly shown when I thrust upon him a present without his will.
Of the Duty of Gratitude.
Gratitude is the venerating of another on account of a benefit we have received from him: the sentiment or emotion which goes hand in hand with such a judgment is that of reverence toward the benefactor we are beholden to; whereas this other stands toward the receiver in the relationship of love. A mere heartfelt, generous goodwill toward another, for a kindness shown us, even apart from any demonstrated regard, deserves the name of a moral duty; and this would indicate a distinction betwixt an affectionate gratitude and an active thankfulness for a favour.
Gratitude is a duty, i.e., not a mere maxim of prudence, to engage my benefactor to yet greater degrees of kindness, by professing my obligation for what he has already done; for that would be to use him as a means toward my by-ends; but gratitude is immediately made necessary by the moral law, i.e., it is a duty.
But gratitude must be regarded still further as a sacred duty, i.e., as such a duty, which to violate, would be to extinguish the moral principles of benevolence, even in their source; for that ethical object is sacred and holy, in regard of whom the obligation can never be adequately acquitted and discharged (that is, where the person who is indebted must always stand under the obligation). All other is only ordinary and vulgar duty. But there is no retribution which can acquit a person of a conferred benefit, the benefactor having always the good desert of being first in the benevolence, an advantage which the receiver cannot take away However, even without any active returns, a bare cordial goodwill toward the benefactor is of itself a kind of gratitude; in this state of mind, we say that a person is grateful.
As for the extent of gratitude, it is not by any means confined to contemporaries, but goes back to our ancestors, even to those whom we cannot certainly name. And this is the reason why it is considered indecorous not to defend the ancients as much as possible against all attacks, invective, and slights—the ancients being here considered as our teachers; although it were a ridiculous opinion to grant to them any superiority over the moderns, merely on account of their antiquity, either in their talents or in their kind intentions toward humanity, and to disregard what is new, in comparison of what is old, as if the world were continually declining from its primitive perfection.
But as to the intensity of this duty, i.e., the degree in which we may be obliged to this virtue, that is to be estimated by the advantage we have derived from the benefit, and the disinterestedness which prompted the benefactor to bestow it on us, the least degree of gratitude would be, when our benefactor is alive, to repay to him the identic service performed for us, or, when he is no more, to show like services to others. In all which, we must take good heed not to regard the benefit as a burden we would willingly be rid of and discharge, but rather to hold and to accept of the occasion as an ethical advantage, i.e., as an opportunity afforded us to exercise and practise this virtue of gratitude, which does, by combining the ardour of benevolence with its tenderness (perpetual unremitted attention to the minutest shades of this duty), invigorate the growth of philanthropy.
Of the Duty of Sympathy.
To have a fellow-feeling with the joys and sorrows of our friends, is no doubt a physical emotion only; and is an æsthetic susceptibility of pleasure or pain, on perceiving these states obtain in another. There arises, however, from this disposition of our nature, a particular, but only conditionate duty, called humanity, to cultivate and employ these physical springs as means of advancing an effective and rational benevolence. The duty is called humanity, man being now regarded, not as a reasonable being, but as an animal endowed with reason. This sympathy may be regarded either as seated in the will and the ability to communicate to one another what we feel, or as seated in that physical susceptibility, which nature has implanted in us, for feeling in common the delights or misery of our neighbour. The former is free or liberal, and depends on practical reason; the second is unfree and illiberal, as in pity, and may be called contagious,—like a susceptibility for heat or for distempers. The obligation extends to the former only.
It was a lofty cogitation of the Stoic sages when they said, I would wish I had a friend, not to assist me in poverty, sickness, captivity, and so on, but whom I might be able to assist and rescue; and yet this very Sage again thus speaks, when the case of his friend is gone past remedy—What concern is it of mine? i.e., he rejected pity.
And, in truth, when another suffers, and I allow myself to be infected by his sorrow, which, however, I cannot mitigate nor avert, then two persons suffer, although naturally the evil affects one singly; and it is quite inconceivable that it can be any one’s duty to augment the physical evils in the world; and consequently there can be no obligation to act kindly out of pity. There is likewise an offensive variety of this pity called mercy, by which is meant that kind of benevolence shown to the unworthy; but such an expression of benevolence ought never to take place betwixt man and man, no one being entitled to boast of his worthiness to be happy.
But although it is no direct duty to take a part in the joy or grief of others, yet to take an active part in their lot is; and so by consequence an indirect duty, to cultivate the sympathetic affections, and to make them serve as instruments enabling us to discharge the offices of a humane mind, upon ethical principles. Thus it is a duty not to avoid the receptacles of the poor, in order to save ourselves an unpleasant feeling, but rather to seek them out. Neither ought we to desert the chambers of the sick nor the cells of the debtor, in order to escape the painful sympathy we might be unable to repress, this emotion being a spring implanted in us by nature, prompting to the discharge of duties, which the naked representations of reason might be unable to accomplish.
Casuistical Question.—Would it not be better for the world if all morality and obligation were restricted to the forensic duties, and charity left among the adiaphora? It is not easy to foresee what effect such a rule might have on human happiness. But, in this event, the world would want its highest ethical decoration—charity—which does by itself alone, even abstractedly from all its advantages, represent the world as one fair moral whole.
OF THE VICES SPRINGING FROM THE HATRED OF OUR FELLOWS, AND WHICH ARE OPPOSED TO THE DUTIES OF PHILANTHROPY.
These vices form the detestable family of envy, ingratitude, and malice; but the hate is in these vices not open and violent, but veiled and secret; and so, to the forgetfulness of one’s duty toward one’s neighbour, superadds meanness, that is, a violation of what a man owes to himself.
A. Envy is the propensity to perceive the welfare of our neighbour with a grudge, even though our own happiness does not suffer by it; and, when it rises to the extreme of tempting any one actively to diminish his neighbour’s happiness, is the highest and most aggravated kind of envy, although otherwise it is most commonly no more than jealousy, and is only indirectly a wicked sentiment, viz., an ill-will at finding our own happiness cast into the shade by the surpassing prosperity of our neighbour; and is a displeasure arising from not knowing how to estimate our own advantages by their own intrinsic worth, but singly by comparing them with those enjoyed by others: from hence come the expressions, the enviable concord and happiness of a married pair, or of a family, just as if these were cases where it were quite allowed to envy. The movements of envy are implanted in the human heart, and it is only their utterance which can raise it to the shocking and disgraceful spectacle of a peevish, self-tormenting passion, which aims, in its inward wish, at the destruction and ruin of the good fortune of another,—a vice alike contrary to what is due from us to our neighbour and to ourselves.
B. Ingratitude towards one’s benefactor is, according to the common judgment of mankind, one of the most odious and hateful vices; and yet our species is so notorious for it, that every one holds it for likely that he may create himself enemies by his benefits. The ground of the possibility of such a vice lies in the misunderstood duty owed to one’s self, not to come to need, or to summon up, others to assist us, which lays us under obligation to them; but rather to support alone the calamities of life, than to pester our friends with them, and so to stand in their debt, which places us to others in the relation of clients to a patron, a state subversive of a man’s proper self-estimation. And this is the reason why gratitude to those who have been by necessity before us and our antecessors, is always generously expressed,—but scantily to our contemporaries; or why even sometimes we invert the latter relation, and show the contrary of gratitude, to make insensible the unequal obligation. However, this is a vice at which humanity always revolts, not only on account of the prejudice which such an example must entail, by deterring mankind from benevolence (for this benevolence would, when the ethic sentiment is pure, be only so much the more worth, when disdaining even this hope of recompense), but because the duties of philanthropy are inverted, and the want of love is transmuted to a title to hate those by whom we have been first beloved.
C. Malice is the exact counterpart of sympathy, and denotes joy at the sorrow of another; nor is it any stranger to our frame; but it is only when it goes so far as to do ill, or to assist the miscreant in executing his nefarious designs, that it appears in all its horrors, and presents the finished form of misanthropy, or the hatred of our species. It is quite inevitable, by the laws of imagination, not to feel more vividly our own welfare or good deportment, when the miseries or the scandalous behaviour of others serve as a foil to set off the brighter hues of our own state; but to find immediate joy in the existence of such portentous disasters as subvert the general welfare of our kind, or to wish that such enormities should happen, is an inward hate of mankind, and the veriest antipart of the offices of charity which are incumbent on us. The insolence of some upon uninterrupted prosperity, and their arrogancy upon their good deportment (properly upon their good fortune to have escaped seduction to any public vice), both which advantages the selfish imputes to himself as his deserts, are the causes productive of this miserable joy on their reverse of fortune,—a joy quite opposed to the sympathetic maxim of honest Chremes: “I am a man, and I take an interest in all that relates to mankind.”
Of this joy in the misery of another, there is a sort which is at once the sweetest, and which seems even to rest on some title of justice, nay, where it would appear that we stood under an obligation to pursue the misery of another as our end, abstracting from all views of our own advantage; and that is the case of the desire for vengeance.
Every act violating the rights of man deserves punishment, by which the sufferer is not only indemnified, but where the crime itself is avenged upon the transgressor. Punishment, however, is no act emanating from the private authority of the injured, but from that of a tribunal different from himself, which gives effect to the Laws of a Sovereign to whom all are subject; so that when we consider mankind as in a society (as Ethic demands of us) combined, not by civil laws, but by laws of reason singly, it remains that no one can be entitled to discern a punishment, and to avenge the insults received from mankind, except He who is the Supreme moral Lawgiver; and He alone, i.e.,God, can say, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” Upon this account it is a moral duty, not only not to pursue with avenging hatred the aggressions of another, but even not to summon up the Judge of the World to Vengeance,—partly because man has himself so much guilt as to stand too much in need of pardon, and also partly and principally because no vengeance or punishment ought to be inflicted out of hatred. Placability is therefore a duty owed by man to man, which, however, is not to be confounded with a soft tolerance of injuries. This last consists in abstaining from employing rigorous means to obviate the continued provocations offered us by others; and would be an abandonment of one’s rights, and a violation of the duty owed by man to himself.
Remark.—All those vices which make human nature hateful when they are practised upon system, are objectively inhuman; but, subjectively, experience teaches us that they belong to our species. So that though some people may, from their extreme horror of them, have called such vices devilish, and the opposite virtues angelic, yet such notions express only a maximum, used as a standard in order to compare the particular grade of morality an action has, by assigning to man his place in heaven or in hell, without allowing a middle station betwixt either for him to occupy. Whether Haller has hit it better, when he speaks of man being an ambiguous mongrel betwixt angel and brute, I shall here leave undecided; but to halve or strike averages when comparing heterogeneous things, gives birth to no definite conception; and nothing can assist us in classifying beings according to the unknown differences of their ranks. The first division into angelic virtues and devilish vices is exaggerated,—the second is objectionable; for though mankind do, alas! sometimes fall into brutal vices, yet that is no ground for assigning to their vices a root peculiar to our species, as little as the stunting of some trees in the forest justifies us in taking them for a particular kind of shrub.
OF THE DUTY OF REVERENCE OWED TO OTHERS.
Moderation in one’s pretensions, i.e., the voluntary circumscription of a man’s own self-love by the self-love of others is modesty or discreetness. The want of this moderation in regard of the demands we make to be loved by others, is self-love; but this indiscreetness in pretending to the consideration of others, is self-conceit. The reverence I entertain toward any one, or that observance which another may demand from me, is the recognition and acknowledgment of a dignity in the person of another; i.e., of a worth exalted beyond all price, and admitting no equivalent, in exchange for which the object of my estimation could be bartered. The judgment that somewhat is possessed of no worth at all, is contempt.
Every man may justly pretend to be reverenced by his fellows, and he ought in turn to accord to them his. Humanity is itself a Dignity; for no man can be employed, neither by others nor by himself, as a mere instrument, but is always to be regarded as an end; in which point, in fact, his Dignity, i.e., his Personality, consists, and where he stands pre-eminent over all other creatures in the world,—not of his kind, and which yet may be used, and stand at his command. And as he cannot dispose of himself for any price (which would be subversive of his own self-reverence), neither is he at liberty to derogate from the equally necessary self-reverence of others as men, i.e., he is obliged practically to recognise the dignity of every other man’s Humanity, and so stands under a duty based on that reverential observance, which is necessarily to be demonstrated towards every other person.
To despise others, i.e., to refuse them that reverence we owe to mankind at large, is, in any event, contrary to duty: to think but little of them, when compared with others, is sometimes inevitable; but externally to demonstrate such disregard, is at all times offensive. What thing soever is dangerous is no object of disregard, and consequently the vicious is not so; and if my superiority to his attacks should authorize me to say I despise him, the only meaning such words can have is, that there is no danger to be apprehended from him, even though I take no precautions, because he shows himself in his full deformity. Nevertheless, I am not entitled to refuse, even to the vicious, all consideration in his capacity as a man, this last being inalienable, although the other make himself unworthy of it. Hence it comes that some punishments are to be reprobated, as dishonouring Humanity (such are drawing and quartering, to be devoured by wild beasts, demembration of the eyes and ears), which are often more grievous to the unhappy sufferer than the loss of goods and life, on account of the afflicting degradation they import (and impending his pretending to the reverence of others, which indeed every man must do); and they also make the spectator blush, to know that he belongs to a race which some dare to treat in such a manner.
Note.—Upon this is founded a duty of reverence for man, even in the logical use of reason; viz., not to reprehend his blunders under the name of absurdities, not to say that they are inept, but rather to suppose that there must be something true at bottom in them, and to endeavour to find out what this is; to which would be attached the still further duty of exerting ourselves to discover the false appearance by which the other was misled (i.e., the subjective of the judgment, which by mistake was taken for objective), and thus, by explaining to him the ground of his error, to uphold for him his reverence for his own understanding. And truly, when we deny all sense to an adversary, how can we expect to convince him that he is in the wrong? The same remark holds of the reproach of vice, which ought never to be allowed to rise to a complete contempt of the vicious, so as to refuse him all moral worth; this being a hypothesis according to which he never could redintegrate his moral character,—a statement repugnant to the very idea of a man, who being, as such, a moral being, can never lose the ordinary substratum for a good will.
Reverence for law, which subjectively was styled the moral sense, is identic with what is called the sense of duty; and this is the reason why the demonstration of reverence toward mankind as a moral agent (highly venerating the Law) is a duty owed by others towards him, and, in his case, a right which he cannot abdicate. The standing upon this right is called the love of honour, and the expression of it, in one’s external conduct, is decorum,—the infraction whereof is what is called “scandal,” and is a disregard of this right, which may be followed as an example by others, whence it is highly reprehensible to give any such; although, to take such scandal at what is merely paradoxical and a mere deviation from the common fashion, is a mere fantastic whim mistaking the uncommon for the disallowed, and an error highly prejudicial and perilous to virtue. For the reverence due to others, who display by their conduct an example, ought never to degenerate into a mere servile copying of their manners (which would be to raise a custom into the authority of a law), a tyranny of the popular use and wont, altogether subversive of the duty owed by man to himself.
To omit the offices of charity is merely non-virtue (a fault); but to neglect the duties founded on the incumbent reverence due to every man whatsoever, is a vice. When the first are disregarded, no one is offended; but by the breach of the latter, the just rights of mankind are affected: the one is merely negative of virtue; but that which not only is no moral acquisition, but which abolishes that worth which ought otherwise to belong to the subject, is vice. Upon this account, the duties owed toward one’s neighbour in respect of the reverence he is entitled to challenge, admit of a negative enunciation only; i.e., this moral duty is expressed indirectly, by forbidding its opposite.
Sec. 42.—Of the Vice subversive of the Reverence owed by us to others.
These Vices are: A. Pride; B. Backbiting; C. Sneering.
Pride (superbia), i.e.,the thirst to be always uppermost, is a kind of ambition, where we impute to others that they will think meanly of themselves when contrasted with us, and is a vice subverting that reverence for which every man has a legal claim.
Pride differs entirely from “fierté,” considered as a love of honour, i.e., care to abate nothing of one’s dignity as a man when compared with others; and which fierté is on that account often spoken of as noble, for the proud demands from others a reverence which he refuses to return them. But this fierté becomes faulty, and even insulting, when it presumes that others will occupy themselves with its importance.
That pride is unjust is manifest of itself; for it is a courting of followers by the ambitious, whom he deems himself entitled to handle contemptuously, and so is repugnant to the reverence due to humanity in general. It is also folly, since it uses means to attain somewhat as an end, which is nowise worth being followed as such. Nay, it is even stupidity, i.e., an insult upon common sense, to use such means as must produce directly the contrary effect; since every man refuses his reverence to the proud, the more the haughty endeavours after it. But it is perhaps not quite so obvious that the proud is always, at the bottom of his soul, mean and abject; for he never could impute to others that they would think lightly of themselves in comparison with him, were he not inwardly conscious that, on a reverse of fortune, he would have no difficulty to sneak in his turn, and to renounce every pretension to be reverenced by others.
Sec. 43.—B. Detraction.
To speak evil of one’s neighbour, or backbiting,—by which I do not mean calumny, a verbal injury which might be prosecuted before a court of justice, but by which I understand the appetite (apart from any particular purpose) to spread about reports to the disparagement of the reverence due to others,—is contrary to the reverence owed to mankind in general; because every scandal we give weakens this reverence, on which emotion, however, depends the spring toward the moral good, and in fact tends to make people disbelieve in its existence.
The studied and wilful propagation of anywhat impeaching the honour of another (not made judicially before a court), even allowing it were quite true, diminishes the reverence due to mankind at large, and goes to throw upon our species a shadow of worthlessness, and tends finally to make misanthropy or contempt the ruling cast of thinking, which mankind entertain for one another, and blunts away the moral sense, by habituating the person to the contemplation of scenes and anecdotes of his neighbour’s vileness. It is, therefore, a duty, instead of a malignant joy, in exposing the faults of others, so as thereby to establish one’s self in the opinion of being as good, at least not worse than others, to cast, on the contrary, a veil of charity over the faults of others, not merely by softening our judgments, but by altogether suppressing them; because examples of reverence bestowed on others may excite the endeavour to deserve it. Upon this selfsame account, the spying and prying into the customs and manners of others is an insulting pretext to a knowledge of the world and of mankind, against which every man may justly set himself, as violating the reverence due him.
Sec. 44.—C. Scorn.
The propensity to exhibit others as objects of ridicule, sneering (persiflage), i.e.,the making the faults of others the immediate object of one’s amusement, is wickedness, and quite different from jesting, where, amid familiar friends, certain peculiarities of one of their number are laughed at, but not to scorn; but to exhibit, as the object of ridicule, one’s real faults, or, still more, alleged faults, as were they real, with the intent of depriving any one of the reverence due to his person, and the propensity to do so by biting sarcasm, is a sort of diabolic pleasure, and is so much the graver violation of the duty of reverence owed toward other people.
Contradistinguished from this, is the jocose retortion, nay, even the sarcastic retortion, of the insolent attacks of an adversary, where the sneerer (or generally a malicious but impotent antagonist) is sneered down in return, and is a just defence of that reverence we are entitled to exact from the other. But when the topic is no object of wit, and one in which reason takes an ethical interest, then it is better, no matter how much soever the adversary may have sneered, and so have exposed many points for ridicule and sarcasm, and is also more conformable to the dignity of the matter, and to the reverence due toward humanity, either to make no defence at all against the attack, or otherwise to conduct it with dignity and seriousness.
Note.—It will be observed that in the foregoing chapter it is not virtues that are insisted on, but rather the contrary vices which have been represented; and this arises from the very notion of reverence, which, as we are bound to demonstrate it towards others, is but a negative duty singly: I am not obliged to revere others (regarded simply as men), i.e., to pay them positive veneration. The whole reverence to which I am naturally beholden is toward the law; to observe which law and its reverence, in my intercourse with my fellow-men, is a universal and unconditionate duty, although it is not to entertain positive reverence toward other men in general, nor to bestow upon them any such; whereas the other, viz., the negative, is the originary reverence owed to and challengeable from whomsoever. The reverence to be demonstrated to others according to their different qualities and various accidental relations, such as age, sex, descent, strength, or fragility, and those things which mainly rest on arbitrary institutions, cannot be expounded at length, nor classed in the metaphysic principles of ethics, since here we study singly the pure principles of reason.
Sec. 45.—Of the Ethical Duties owed by Mankind toward one another in regard of their State and Condition.
This chapter, consisting of a single paragraph, is omitted as immaterial.