Front Page Titles (by Subject) PART II.: THE ASCETIC EXERCISE OF ETHICS. - The Metaphysics of Ethics
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PART II.: THE ASCETIC EXERCISE OF ETHICS. - 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 ASCETIC EXERCISE OF ETHICS.
The rules for the exercise of virtue are intended to bring about and establish these two moods or frames of mind, viz., to make it (1) hardy and (2) cheerful in the discharge of duty. Virtue has to combat obstacles, for the vanquishing of which she has to rally all her forces; and is also sometimes summoned to quit and yield up the joys of life, the loss of which may well sadden the soul, and might even make it dark and sulky. But he who does not do what he has to do with alacrity, but renders the servile services of bondage, finds no inward worth in the obeying of the law, but dislikes it; and will shun as much as possible all occasions of observing it.
The culture of virtue, i.e., the ethical ascetics, has, in regard of its first element, i.e., for the valiant, dauntless, indefatigable practice of virtue, no other than the old watchword of the Stoa (ἀνέχου και ἀπέχου, bear and forbear). Bear,endure the evils of life without complaint;forbear,abstain from its superfluous enjoyments. This is a kind of dietetics, enabling man to keep himself ethically in health. Health, however, is, after all, only a negative satisfaction, and is not itself capable of being made sensible. Something must be superadded (viz., the second element) to make us taste the sweet amenity of life, and which must still be only moral. This is the having a serene, gay, and ever-joyous heart, according to the sentiment of the virtuous Epicurus. And who indeed can have more reason to be contented with himself, and gay—nay, who so able, even to regard it as a duty owed by him to himself, to transplant himself into a serene and joyous frame of mind and to make it habitual—as he who is aware of no wilful transgression, and knows himself secured against a lapse (hic murus aheneus esto)? the antipart of all this, however, is the ascetic exercise of the monasteries,* which inspired by superstitious fear, and the hypocritical disesteem of a man’s own self, sets to work with self-reproaches, whimpering, compunction, and a torturing of the body, and is intended not to result in virtue, but to make expurgation for sins, where, by self-imposed punishment, the sinners expect to do penance, instead of ethically repenting of them (i.e., merely forsaking them by the undecaying energy of the representation of the law); but this custom of imposing and executing punishment upon a man’s own self (which encloses a contradiction—punishment demanding the sentence of another) cannot beget that hilarity which goes hand in hand with virtue, and would rather tend to engender a covert hatred of the behests of duty. All ethical gymnastic consists, therefore, singly in the subjugating the instincts and appetites of our physical system, in order that we remain their master in any and all circumstances hazardous to morality; a gymnastic exercise rendering the will hardy and robust, and which, by the consciousness of regained freedom, makes the heart glad. To feel compunction is inevitable on the remembrance of former sins,—it is even a duty not to suffer it to fade on such reminiscence; but this compunction, and the infliction of a penance, such as fasting, are totally distinct and disparate ethical operations, the latter whereof, understood not in a dietetical but pious sense, is cheerless, sad, and gloomy, makes virtue hateful, and scares away her supporters. The discipline exercised by man upon himself can only by its attendant hilarity and alacrity become welcome and exemplary.
[* ]A reply made by Kant to Schiller may belong to this place. The common objection in Germany to Kant’s Ethics is, that it is too rigoristical; and the poet, in his paper on grace and decorum, affirms that Kant’s ideas of duty and obligation are best fitted to produce monastic manners, being subversive of all physical grace, and proper only for slaves. Here is the answer of the philosopher. He distinguishes betwixt the idea Duty and the beneficial effects of virtue. The first admits of no grace, on account of the awe and sense of the sublime, which follow on its representation—the sublime disdaining charms and embellishment as only proper to the beautiful; but permanent effects of active virtue on him who has fulfilled his duty, may be, and often are, advantageous, and appear as graceful and decorous.