Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and the more steadily we reflect on them: the starry heavens above and the moral law within. I have not to search for them and conjecture them as though they were veiled in darkness or were in the transcendent region beyond my horizon; I see them before me and connect them directly with the consciousness of my existence. The former begins from the place I occupy in the external world of sense, and enlarges (313) my connexion therein to an unbounded extent with worlds upon worlds and systems of systems, and moreover into limitless times of their periodic motion, its beginning and continuance. The second begins from my invisible self, my personality, and exhibits me in a world which has true infinity, but which is traceable only by the understanding, and with which I discern that I am not in a merely contingent but in a universal and necessary connexion, as I am also thereby with all those visible worlds. The former view of a countless multitude of worlds annihilates, as it were, my importance as an animal creature, which after it has been for a short time provided with vital power, one knows not how, must again give back the matter of which it was formed to the planet it inhabits (a mere speck in the universe). The second, on the contrary, infinitely elevates my worth as an intelligence by my personality, in which the moral law reveals to me a life independent on animality and even on the whole sensible world—at least so far as may be inferred from the destination assigned to my existence by this law, a destination not restricted to conditions and limits of this life, but reaching into the infinite.
But though admiration and respect may excite to inquiry, they cannot supply the want of it. What, then, is to be done in order to enter on this in a useful manner and one adapted to the loftiness of the subject? Examples may serve in this as a warning, and also for imitation. The contemplation of the world began from the noblest spectacle that the human senses present to us, and that our understanding can bear to follow in their vast reach; and it ended—in astrology. Morality began with the noblest attribute of human nature, the development and cultivation of which give a prospect of infinite utility; and ended—in fanaticism or superstition (314). So it is with all crude attempts where the principal part of the business depends on the use of reason, a use which does not come of itself, like the use of the feet, by frequent exercise, especially when attributes are in question which cannot be directly exhibited in common experience. But after the maxim had come into vogue, though late, to examine carefully beforehand all the steps that reason purposes to take, and not to let it proceed otherwise than in the track of a previously well-considered method, then the study of the structure of the universe took quite a different direction, and thereby attained an incomparably happier result. The fall of a stone, the motion of a sling, resolved into their elements and the forces that are manifested in them, and treated mathematically, produced at last that clear and henceforward unchangeable insight into the system of the world, which as observation is continued may hope always to extend itself, but need never fear to be compelled to retreat.
This example may suggest to us to enter on the same path in treating of the moral capacities of our nature, and may give us hope of a like good result. We have at hand the instances of the moral judgment of reason. By analysing these into their elementary conceptions, and in default of mathematics adopting a process similar to that of chemistry, the separation of the empirical from the rational elements that may be found in them, by repeated experiments on common sense, we may exhibit both pure, and learn with certainty what each part can accomplish of itself, so as to prevent on the one hand the errors of a still crude untrained judgment, and on the other hand (what is far more necessary) the extravagances of genius, by which, as by the adepts of the philosopher’s stone, without any methodical study or knowledge of nature, visionary treasures are promised (315) and the true are thrown away. In one word, science (critically undertaken and methodically directed) is the narrow gate that leads to the true doctrine of practical wisdom, if we understand by this not merely what one ought to do, but what ought to serve teachers as a guide to construct well and clearly the road to wisdom which everyone should travel, and to secure others from going astray. Philosophy must always continue to be the guardian of this science; and although the public does not take any interest in its subtle investigations, it must take an interest in the resulting doctrines, which such an examination first puts in a clear light.
INTRODUCTION to THE METAPHYSIC OF MORALS; and PREFACE to the METAPHYSICAL ELEMENTS OF ETHICS.
INTRODUCTION to THE METAPHYSIC OF MORALS.
of the relation of the faculties of the human mind to the moral laws.
THE appetitive faculty is the faculty of being by means of one’s ideas the cause of the objects of these ideas. The faculty which a being has of acting according to its ideas is Life. Firstly—Desire or aversion has always connected with it pleasure or displeasure, the susceptibility to which is called feeling. But the converse does not always hold; for a pleasure may exist which is not connected with any desire of the object, but with the mere idea which one frames to one’s self of an object, no matter whether its object exists or not. Secondly—The pleasure or displeasure in the object of the desire does not always precede the desire, and cannot always be regarded as its cause, but must sometimes be looked on as the effect thereof.
Now, the capability of having pleasure or displeasure in an idea is called feeling, because both contain what is merely subjective in relation to our idea (10), and have no relation to an object so as to contribute to the possible cognition of it (not even the cognition of our own state); whereas in other cases sensations, apart from the quality which belongs to them in consequence of the nature of the subject (ex. gr. red, sweet, etc.), may yet have relation to an object, and constitute part of our knowledge; but pleasure or displeasure (in the red or sweet) expresses absolutely nothing in the object, but simply a relation to the subject. Pleasure and displeasure cannot be more closely defined, for the reason just given. We can only specify what consequences they have in certain circumstances so as to make them cognizable in practice. The pleasure which is necessarily connected with the desire of the object whose idea affects feeling may be called practical pleasure, whether it is cause or effect of the desire. On the contrary, the pleasure which is not necessarily connected with the desire of the object, and which, therefore, is at bottom not a pleasure in the existence of the object of the idea, but clings to the idea only, may be called mere contemplative pleasure or passive satisfaction (11). The feeling of the latter kind of pleasure we call taste. Accordingly, in a practical philosophy we can treat this only episodically, not as a notion properly belonging to that philosophy. But as regards the practical pleasure, the determination of the appetitive faculty which is caused, and therefore necessarily preceded by this pleasure, is called appetite in the strict sense, and habitual appetite is called inclination. The connexion of pleasure with the appetitive faculty, in so far as this connexion is judged by the understanding to hold good by a general rule (though only for the subject), is called interest, and hence in this case the practical pleasure is an interest of inclination. On the other hand, if the pleasure can only follow an antecedent determination of the appetitive faculty, it is an intellectual pleasure, and the interest in the object must be called an interest of reason. For if the interest were one of sense, and not merely founded on pure principles of reason, sensation must be joined with pleasure, and thus be able to determine the appetitive faculty. Although where a merely pure interest of reason must be assumed, no interest of inclination can be substituted for it, yet in order to accommodate ourselves to common speech, we may admit an inclination even to that which can only be the object of an intellectual pleasure—that is to say, a habitual desire from a pure interest of reason. This, however, would not be the cause but the effect of the latter interest, and we might call it the sense-free inclination (propensio intellectualis). Further, concupiscence is to be distinguished from the desire itself as being the stimulus to its determination. It is always a sensible state of mind, but one which has not yet arrived at an act of the appetitive faculty.
The appetitive faculty which depends on concepts, in so far as the ground of its determination to action is found in itself (12), not in the object, is called a faculty of doing or forbearing as we please. In so far as it is combined with the consciousness of the power of its action to produce its object, it is called “elective will” [Willkühr = arbitrium]; if not so combined, its act is called a wish. The appetitive faculty, whose inner determining principle, and, consequently, even its “good pleasure” (Belieben), is found in the reason of the subject, is called the Rational Will [Wille]. Accordingly the Rational Will is the appetitive faculty, not (like the elective will) in relation to the action, but rather in relation to what determines the elective will [Willkühr] to the action; and it has properly itself no determining ground; but in so far as it can determine the elective will, it is practical reason itself.
Under the will may be included the elective will [Willkühr], and even mere wish, inasmuch as reason can determine the appetitive faculty; and the elective will, which can be determined by pure reason, is called free elective will. That which is determinable only by inclination would be animal elective will (arbitrium brutum). Human elective will, on the contrary, is one which is affected but not determined by impulses. It is accordingly in itself (apart from acquired practice of reason) not pure; but it can be determined to actions by the pure will. Freedom of the elective will is just that independence of its determination on sensible impulses: this is the negative concept of it. The positive is: the power of pure reason to be of itself practical. Now this is possible only by the subordination of the maxim of every action to the condition of fitness for universal law. For being pure reason it is directed to the elective will, irrespective of the object of this will. Now it is the faculty of principles (in this case practical principles, so that it is a legislative faculty) (13); and since it is not provided with the matter of the law, there is nothing which it can make the supreme law and determining ground of the elective will except the form, consisting in the fitness of the maxim of the elective will to be a universal law. And since from subjective causes the maxims of men do not of themselves coincide with those objective maxims, it can only prescribe this law as an imperative of command or prohibition.
These laws of freedom are called, in contradistinction to physical laws, moral laws. In so far as they are directed to mere external actions and their lawfulness, they are called judicial; but when they demand that these laws themselves shall be the determining ground of the actions, they are ethical, and in this case we say—the agreement with the former constitutes the legality, agreement with the latter the morality of the action. The freedom to which the former laws relate can only be freedom in its external exercise; but the freedom to which the latter refer is freedom both in the internal and external exercise of the elective will in as far, namely, as this elective will is determined by laws of reason. Similarly, in theoretic philosophy we say, that only the objects of the outer senses are in space, while the objects both of the external and of the internal sense are in time; because the ideas of both are still ideas, and for this reason all belong to the inner sense. Just so, whether we regard freedom in the external or the internal exercise of the elective will, in either case its laws, being pure practical laws of reason governing free elective will generally, must be also its internal grounds of determination; although they need not always be considered in this point of view.
of the conception and the necessity of a metaphysic of ethics.
(14) It has been shown elsewhere that for physical science which has to do with the objects of the external senses we must have à priori principles; and that it is possible—nay, even necessary—to prefix a system of these principles under the name of metaphysical principles of natural philosophy to physics, which is natural philosophy applied to special phenomena of experience. The latter, however (at least when the question is to guard its propositions from error), may assume many principles as universal on the testimony of experience, although the former, if it is to be in the strict sense universal, must be deduced from à priori grounds; just as Newton adopted the principle of the equality of action and reaction as based on experience, and yet extended it to all material nature. The chemists go still further, and base their most universal laws of combination and dissociation of substances by their own forces entirely on experience, and yet they have such confidence in their universality and necessity that, in the experiments they make with them, they have no apprehension of error.
It is otherwise with the moral laws. These are valid as laws only so far as they have an à priori basis and can be seen to be necessary; nay, the concepts and judgments about ourselves and our actions and omissions have no moral significance at all, if they contain only what can be learned from experience; and should one be so misled as to make into a moral principle anything derived from this source, he would be in danger of the grossest and most pernicious errors.
If the science of morals were nothing but the science of happiness, it would be unsuitable to look out for à priori principles on which to rest it. For however plausible it may sound to say that reason could discern, even before experience, by what means one might attain a lasting enjoyment of the true pleasures of life, yet everything which is taught on this subject à priori is either tautological or assumed without any foundation. It is experience alone that can teach us what gives us pleasure (15). The natural impulses to nutrition, to the propagation of the species, the desire of rest, of motion, and (in the development of our natural capacities) the desire of honour, of knowledge, &c., can alone teach, and moreover teach each individual in his own special way, in what to place those pleasures; and it is these also that can teach him the means by which he must seek them. All plausible à priori reasoning is here at bottom nothing but experience raised to generality by induction: a generality, too, so meagre that everyone must be allowed many exceptions, in order to make the choice of his mode of life suitable to his special inclination and his susceptibility for pleasure; so that after all he must become wise only by his own or others’ loss. It is not so with the doctrines of morality. They are imperative for everyone without regard to his inclinations, solely because and so far as he is free, and has practical reason. Instruction in its laws is not drawn from observation of himself and his animal part; not from perception of the course of the world, from that which happens and from the way in which men act (although the German word “sitten,” like the Latin mores, signifies only manners and mode of life); but reason commands how men should act, even although no instance of such action could be found; moreover, it pays no regard to the advantage which we may hereby attain, which certainly can only be learned by experience. For although it allows us to seek our advantage in every way that we can; and in addition, pointing to the testimony of experience, can promise us, probably and on the whole, greater advantages from following its commands than from transgression of them, especially if obedience is accompanied by prudence, yet the authority of its precepts as commands does not rest on this (16). Reason uses such facts only (by way of counsel) as a counterpoise to the temptations to the opposite, in order, first of all, to compensate the error of an unfair balance, so that it may then assure a due preponderance to the à priori grounds of a pure practical reason.
If, therefore, we give the name Metaphysic to a system of à priori knowledge derived from mere concepts, then a practical philosophy, which has for its object not nature but freedom of choice, will presuppose and require a metaphysic of morals: that is, to have it is itself a duty, and, moreover, every man has it in himself, though commonly only in an obscure way; for without à priori principles how could he believe that he has in him a universal law-giving? Moreover, just as in the metaphysic of natural philosophy there must be principles touching the application to objects of experience of those supreme universal laws of a physical system generally: so also a metaphysic of morals cannot dispense with similar principles; and we shall often have to take the special nature of man, which can only be known by experience, as our object, in order to exhibit in it the consequences of the universal moral principles; but this will not detract from the purity of the latter nor cast any doubt on their à priori origin—that is to say, a Metaphysic of Morals cannot be founded on anthropology, but may be applied to it.
The counterpart of a metaphysic of morals, namely, the second subdivision of practical philosophy generally, would be moral anthropology, which would contain the subjective conditions favourable and unfavourable to carrying out the laws of the power in human nature. It would treat of the production, the propagation, and strengthening of moral principles (in education, school and popular instruction) (17), and other like doctrines and precepts based on experience, which cannot be dispensed with, but which must not come before the metaphysic, nor be mixed with it. For to do so would be to run the risk of eliciting false, or at least indulgent moral laws, which would represent that as unattainable which has only not been attained because the law has not been discerned and proclaimed in its purity (the very thing in which its strength consists); or else because men make use of spurious or mixed motives to what is itself good and dutiful, and these allow no certain moral principles to remain; but this anthropology is not to be used as a standard of judgment, nor as a discipline of the mind in its obedience to duty; for the precept of duty must be given solely by pure reason à priori.
Now with respect to the division to which that just mentioned is subordinate, namely, the division of philosophy into theoretical and practical, I have explained myself sufficiently elsewhere (in the Critical Examination of the Faculty of Judgment), and have shown that the latter branch can be nothing else than moral philosophy. Everything practical which concerns what is possible according to physical laws (the proper business of Art) depends for its precept on the theory of physical nature; that only which is practical in accordance with laws of freedom can have principles that do not depend on any theory; for there can be no theory of that which transcends the properties of physical nature. Hence by the practical part of philosophy (co-ordinate with its theoretical part) we are to understand not any technical doctrine, but a morally practical doctrine; and if the habit of choice, according to laws of freedom, in contrast to physical laws, is here also to be called art, we must understand thereby such an art as would make a system of freedom like a system of nature possible; truly a divine art, were we in a condition to fulfil by means of reason the precepts of reason, and to carry its Ideal into actuality.
of the subdivision of a metaphysic of morals.
All legislation (whether it prescribes internal or external actions, and these either à priori by pure reason or by the will of another) involves two things: first, a law, which objectively presents the action that is to be done as necessary, i. e. makes it a duty; secondly, a spring, which subjectively connects with the idea of the law the motive determining the elective will to this action; hence, the second element is this, that the law makes duty the spring. By the former the action is presented as duty, and this is a mere theoretical knowledge of the possible determination of the elective will, i. e. of practical rules; by the latter, the obligation so to act is connected with a motive which determines the elective will generally in the agent.
Accordingly, all legislation may be divided into two classes in respect of the springs employed (and this whether the actions prescribed are the same or not: as, for instance, the actions might be in all cases external) (19). That legislation which at once makes an action a duty, and makes this duty the spring, is ethical. That which does not include the latter in the law, and therefore admits a spring different from the idea of duty itself, is juridical. As regards the latter, it is easily seen that this spring, which is distinct from the idea of duty, must be derived from the pathological motives of choice, namely, the inclinations and aversions, and amongst these from the latter, since it is a legislation, which must be constraining, not an invitation, which is persuasive.
The mere agreement or disagreement of an action with the law, without regard to the motive from which the action springs, is called legality; but when the idea of duty arising from the law is also the motive of the action, the agreement is called the morality of the action.
Duties arising from forensic legislation can only be external duties, because this legislation does not require that the idea of this duty, which is internal, shall be of itself the motive of the elective will of the agent; and as it, nevertheless, requires a suitable spring, it can only connect external springs with the law. On the other hand, ethical legislation, while it makes internal actions duties, does not exclude external actions, but applies generally to everything that is duty. But just because ethical legislation includes in its law the inner spring of the action (the idea of duty), a property which cannot belong to the external legislation; hence ethical legislation cannot be external (not even that of a divine will), although it may adopt duties which rest on external legislation, and take them regarded as duties into its own legislation as springs of action.
(20) From hence we may see that all duties belong to Ethics, simply because they are duties; but it does not follow that their legislation is always included in Ethics: in the case of many duties it is quite outside Ethics. Thus Ethics requires that I should fulfil my pledged word, even though the other party could not compel me to do so; but the law (pacta sunt servanda) and the corresponding duty are taken by Ethics from jurisprudence. Accordingly, it is not in Ethics but in Jus that the legislation is contained which enjoins that promises be kept. Ethics teaches only that even if the spring were absent which is connected by forensic legislation with that duty, namely, external compulsion, yet the idea of duty would alone be sufficient as a spring. For if this were not so, and if the legislation itself were not forensic, and the duty arising from it not properly a legal duty (in contrast to a moral duty), then faithfulness to one’s engagements would be put in the same class as actions of benevolence and the obligation to them, which cannot be admitted. It is not an ethical duty to keep one’s promise, but a legal duty, one that we can be compelled to perform. Nevertheless, it is a virtuous action (a proof of virtue) to do so, even where no compulsion is to be apprehended. Law and morals, therefore, are distinguished not so much by the diversity of their duties, but rather by the diversity of the legislation which connects this or that motive with the law.
Ethical legislation is that which cannot be external (although the duties may be external); forensic legislation is that which can be external. Thus to keep one’s contract is an external duty; but the command (21) to do this merely because it is a duty, without regard to any other motive, belongs only to the internal legislation. Accordingly, the obligation is reckoned as belonging to Ethics, not as being a special kind of duty (a special kind of actions to which one is bound)—for in Ethics as well as in law we have external duties—but because in the supposed case the legislation is an internal one, and can have no external lawgiver. For the same reason duties of benevolence, although they are external duties (obligations to external actions), are yet reckoned as belonging to Ethics because the legislation imposing them can only be internal. No doubt Ethics has also duties peculiar to itself (ex. gr. duties to ourselves), but it also has duties in common with law, only the kind of obligation is different. For it is the peculiarity of ethical legislation to perform actions solely because they are duties, and to make the principle of duty itself the adequate spring of the will, no matter whence the duty may be derived. Hence, while there are many directly ethical duties, the internal legislation makes all others indirectly ethical.
preliminary notions belonging to the metaphysic of morals.
(Philosophia practica universalis.)
The concept of Freedom is a pure concept of the reason, and on this account it is as regards theoretical philosophy transcendent, that is, a concept for which there is no corresponding example in any possible experience, which therefore forms no object of any theoretic knowledge possible to us, and is valid not as a constitutive, but simply as a regulative principle of pure speculative reason, and that a negative one; but in the practical exercise of reason it proves its reality by practical principles (22), which, being laws of a causality of pure reason, determine the elective will independently on all empirical conditions (sensible conditions generally), and prove the existence of a pure will in us in which the moral concepts and laws have their origin.
On this concept of freedom, which (in a practical aspect) is positive, are founded unconditional practical laws which are called moral, and these, in respect of us, whose elective will is sensibly affected, and therefore does not of itself correspond with the pure will, but often opposes it, are imperatives (commands or prohibitions), and, moreover, are categorical (unconditional) imperatives, by which they are distinguished from technical imperatives (precepts of art), which always give only conditional commands. By these imperatives certain actions are permitted or not permitted, that is, are morally possible or impossible; some, however, or their opposites, are morally necessary, that is, obligatory. Hence arises the notion of a duty, the obeying or transgressing of which is, indeed, connected with a pleasure or displeasure of a peculiar kind (that of a moral feeling), of which, however, we can take no account in the practical laws of reason, since they do not concern the foundation of the practical laws, but only the subjective effect in the mind when our elective will is determined by these; and they may be very different in different persons without adding to or taking from the validity or influence of these laws objectively, that is, in the judgment of the reason.
The following notions are common to both parts of the Metaphysic of Morals:—
Obligation is the necessity of a free action under a categorical imperative of reason. The Imperative is a practical rule by which an action in itself contingent is made necessary; it is distinguished from a practical law by this (23), that while the latter exhibits the necessity of the action, it takes no account of the consideration whether this already inheres by an internal necessity in the agent (say, a holy being), or whether, as in man, it is contingent; for where the former is the case there is no imperative. Accordingly, the imperative is a rule, the conception of which makes necessary an action that is subjectively contingent, and hence represents the subject as one who must be constrained (necessitated) to agreement with this rule. The categorical (unconditional) imperative is one that does not command indirectly through the idea of an end that can be attained by the action, but immediately, through the mere conception of this action itself (its form), thinks it as objectively necessary and makes it necessary.
No example of an imperative of this kind can be supplied by any other practical doctrine but that which prescribes obligation (the doctrine of morals). All other imperatives are technical and conditioned. The ground of the possibility of categorical imperatives lies in this, that they refer to no other property of the elective will (by which any purpose could be ascribed to it), but only to its freedom. An action is allowed (licitum) which is not contrary to obligation; and this freedom which is not limited by any opposed imperative is called right of action (facultas moralis) [Befugniss]. Hence it is obvious what is meant by disallowed (illicitum).
Duty is the action to which a person is bound. It is therefore the matter of obligation, and it may be one and the same duty (as to the action), although the obligation to it may be of different kinds.
The categorical imperative, since it expresses an obligation in respect of certain actions, is a moral practical law. But since obligation contains not only practical necessity (24) (which law in general expresses), but also constraint, the imperative mentioned is either a law of command or of prohibition, according as the performance or omission is represented as duty. An action which is neither commanded nor forbidden is merely allowed, because in respect of it there is no law limiting freedom (right of action), and therefore also no duty. Such an action is called morally indifferent (indifferens, adiaphoron, res meræ facultatis). It may be asked: are there any such, and if there are, then in order that one may be free to do or forbear a thing as he pleases, must there be, besides the law of command (lex præceptiva, lex mandati) and the law of prohibition (lex prohibitiva, lex vetiti), also a law of permission (lex permissiva)? If this is the case, then the right of action would not be concerned with an indifferent action (adiaphoron); for if such an action is considered according to moral laws, it could not require any special law.
An action is called a deed, in so far as it comes under laws of obligation, and, consequently, in so far as the subject is regarded in it according to the freedom of his elective will, the agent is regarded as by such an act the author of the effect, and this, along with the action itself, may be imputed to him if he is previously acquainted with the law by virtue of which an obligation rests on him.
A Person is the subject whose actions are capable of imputation. Hence moral personality is nothing but the freedom of a rational being under moral laws (whereas psychological personality is merely the power of being conscious to oneself of the identity of one’s existence in different circumstances). Hence it follows that a person is subject to no other laws than those which he (either alone or jointly with others) gives to himself.
(25) That which is not capable of any imputation is called a Thing. Every object of free elective will which is not itself possessed of freedom is, therefore, called a thing (res corporalis).
A deed is Right or Wrong in general (rectum aut minus rectum), according as it is consistent or inconsistent with duty (factum licitum aut illicitum), no matter what the content or the origin of the duty may be. A deed inconsistent with duty is called transgression (reatus).
An unintentional transgression, which, however, may be imputed, is called mere fault (culpa). An intentional transgression (that is, one which is accompanied by the consciousness that it is transgression) is called crime (dolus). That which is right according to external laws is called just (justum); what is not so is unjust (injustum).
A conflict of duties (collisio officiorum seu obligationum) would be such a relation between them that one would wholly or partially abolish the other. Now as duty and obligation are notions which express the objective practical necessity of certain actions, and as two opposite rules cannot be necessary at the same time, but if it is a duty to act according to one of them, it is then not only not a duty but inconsistent with duty to act according to the other; it follows that a conflict of duties and obligations is inconceivable (obligationes non colliduntur). It may, however, very well happen, that in the same subject and the rule which he prescribes to himself there are conjoined two grounds of obligation (rationes obligandi), of which, however, one or the other is inadequate to oblige (rationes obligandi non obligantes), and then one of them is not a duty. When two such grounds are in conflict, practical philosophy does not say that the stronger obligation prevails (fortior obligatio vincit), but the stronger ground of obligation prevails (fortior obligandi ratio vincit).
(26) Binding laws, for which an external lawgiving is possible, are called in general external laws (leges externæ). Amongst these the laws, the obligation to which can be recognized by reason à priori even without external legislation, are natural though external laws; those on the contrary which, without actual external legislation, would not bind at all (and, therefore, would not be laws), are called positive laws. It is possible, therefore, to conceive an external legislation which would only contain [positive] laws; but then a natural law must precede, which should supply the ground of the authority of the lawgiver (that is, his right to bind others by his mere will).
The principle which makes certain actions a duty is a practical law. The rule which the agent adopts from subjective grounds as his principle is called his Maxim; hence with the same laws the maxims of the agents may be very different.
The categorical imperative, which only expresses in general what obligation is, is this: Act according to a maxim which can at the same time hold good as a universal law. You must, therefore, examine your actions in the first place as to their subjective principle; but whether this principle is also objectively valid can only be recognized by this, that when your reason puts it to the test of conceiving yourself as giving therein a universal law, it is found to be adapted to this universal legislation.
The simplicity of this law, compared with the great and manifold requirements which can be drawn from it, must at first appear surprising, as must also the authoritative dignity it presents, without carrying with it perceptibly any motive.
(27) But when, in this astonishment at the power of our reason to determine choice by the mere idea of the fitness of a maxim for the universality of a practical law, we learn that it is just these practical (moral) laws that first make known a property of the will which speculative reason could never have arrived at, either from à priori grounds or from experience—and if it did arrive at it could by no means prove its possibility, whereas those practical laws incontestably prove this property, namely, freedom—then we shall be less surprised to find these laws, like mathematical axioms, undemonstrable and yet apodictic, and at the same time to see a whole field of practical cognitions opened before us, in which reason in its theoretic exercise, with the same idea of freedom, nay, with any other of its supersensible ideas, must find everything absolutely closed to it. The agreement of an action with the law of duty is its legality (legalitas); that of the maxim with the law is its morality (moralitas). Maxim is the subjective principle of action, which the subject makes a rule to itself (namely, how he chooses to act). On the contrary, the principle of duty is that which Reason commands him absolutely and therefore objectively (how he ought to act). The supreme principle of the order is therefore: Act on a maxim which can also hold good as a universal law. Every maxim which is not capable of being so is contrary to morality.
Laws proceed from the Rational Will; maxims from the elective will. The latter is in man a free elective will. The Rational Will, which is directed to nothing but the law only, cannot be called either free or unfree, because it is not directed to actions, but immediately to the legislation for the maxims of actions (and is therefore practical reason itself). Consequently it is absolutely necessary, and is even incapable of constraint. (28) It is therefore only the elective will that can be called free.
Freedom of elective will, however, cannot be defined as the power of choosing to act for or against the law (libertas indifferentiæ) as some have attempted to define it; although the elective will as a phenomenon gives many examples of this in experience. For freedom (as it becomes known to us first through the moral law) is known to us only as a negative property in us, namely, the property of not being constrained to action by any sensible motives. Considered as a noumenon, however, that is, as to the faculty of man merely as an intelligence, we are quite unable to explain theoretically how it has a constraining power in respect of the sensible elective will—that is, we cannot explain it in its positive character. Only this we can very readily understand: that although experience tells us that man as an object in the sensible world shows a power of choosing not only according to the law but also in opposition to it, nevertheless his freedom as a being in the intelligible world cannot be thus defined, since phenomena can never enable us to comprehend any supersensible object (such as free elective will is). We can see also that freedom can never be placed in this, that the rational subject is able to choose in opposition to his (legislative) reason, even though experience proves often enough that this does happen (a thing, however, the possibility of which we cannot comprehend). For it is one thing to admit a fact (of experience); it is another to make it the principle of a definition (in the present case, of the concept of free elective will) and the universal criterion between this and arbitrium brutum seu servum; since in the former case we do not assert that the mark necessarily belongs to the concept, which we must do in the latter case. Freedom in relation to the inner legislation of the reason is alone properly a power; the possibility of deviating from this is an impotence. How then can the former be defined from the latter? (29) A definition which over and above the practical concept adds the exercise of it as learned from experience is a bastard definition (definitio hybrida) which puts the notion in a false light.
A Law (a moral practical law) is a proposition which contains a categorical imperative (a command). He who gives commands by a law (imperans) is the lawgiver (legislator). He is the author (auctor) of the obligation imposed by the law, but not always author of the law. If he were so, the law would be positive (contingent) and arbitrary. The law which binds us à priori and unconditionally by our own reason may also be expressed as proceeding from the will of a Supreme Lawgiver, that is of one who has only rights and no duties (namely, from the Divine Will). But this only involves the idea of a moral being whose will is law for all, without his being conceived as the author of it.
Imputation (imputatio) in the moral sense is the judgment by which any one is regarded as the author (causa libera) of an action, which is then called a deed (factum), and to which laws are applicable; and if this judgment brings with it the legal consequences of this deed it is a judicial imputation (imputatio judiciaria s. valida), otherwise it is only discriminating imputation (imputatio dijudicatoria). The person (whether physical or moral (who has right to exercise judicial imputation is called the judge or the court (judex s. forum).
What anyone does in accordance with duty beyond what he can be compelled to by the law is meritorious (meritum); what he does only just in accordance with the law is duty owed (debitum); lastly, what he does less than the law demands is moral demerit (demeritum). The legal effect of demerit is punishment (pæna); that of a meritorious act, reward (præmium) (30), provided that this, promised in the law, was the motive). Conduct which agrees with duty owed has no legal effect. Fair recompense (remuneratio s. repensio benefica) stands in no legal relation to the deed.
The good or bad consequences of an obligatory action, or the consequences of omitting a meritorious action, cannot be imputed to the agent (modus imputationis tollens).
The good consequences of a meritorious action, and the bad consequences of an unlawful action, can be imputed (modus imputationis ponens).
Subjectively considered, the degree of imputability (imputabilitas) of actions must be estimated by the greatness of the hindrances which have to be overcome. The greater the natural hindrances (of sensibility) and the less the moral hindrance (of duty), the higher the imputation of merit in a good deed. For example, if at a considerable sacrifice I rescue from great necessity one who is a complete stranger to myself.
On the other hand, the less the natural hindrance, and the greater the hindrance from reasons of duty, so much the more is transgression imputed (as ill desert). Hence the state of mind of the agent, whether he acted in the excitement of passion or with cool deliberation, makes an important difference in imputation.
PREFACE to the METAPHYSICAL ELEMENTS OF ETHICS.
IF there exists on any subject a philosophy (that is, a system of rational knowledge based on concepts), then there must also be for this philosophy a system of pure rational concepts, independent on any condition of intuition—in other words, a Metaphysic. It may be asked whether metaphysical elements are required also for every practical philosophy, which is the doctrine of duties [deontology], and therefore also for Ethics, in order to be able to present it as a true science (systematically), not merely as an aggregate of separate doctrines (fragmentarily). As regards pure jurisprudence no one will question this requirement; for it concerns only what is formal in the elective will, which has to be limited in its external relations according to laws of freedom; without regarding any end which is the matter of this will. Here, therefore, deontology is a mere scientific doctrine (doctrina scientiæ).
(218) Now in this philosophy (of Ethics) it seems contrary to the idea of it that we should go back to metaphysical elements in order to make the notion of duty purified from everything empirical (from every feeling) a motive of action. For what sort of notion can we form of the mighty power and herculean strength which would be sufficient to overcome the vice-breeding inclinations, if Virtue is to borrow her “arms from the armoury of metaphysics,” which is a matter of speculation that only few men can handle. Hence all ethical teaching in lecture-rooms, pulpits, and popular books, when it is decked out with fragments of metaphysics, becomes ridiculous. But it is not, therefore, useless, much less ridiculous, to trace in metaphysics the first principles of Ethics; for it is only as a philosopher than any one can reach the first principles of this conception of duty, otherwise we could not look for either certainty or purity in the ethical teaching. To rely for this reason on a certain feeling [or sense], which on account of the effect expected from it is called moral, may, perhaps, even satisfy the popular teacher, provided he desires as the criterion of a moral duty to consider the problem: “if everyone in every case made your maxim the universal law, how could this law be consistent with itself?” (219) But if it were merely feeling that made it our duty to take this principle as a criterion, then this would not be dictated by reason, but only adopted instinctively, and therefore blindly.
But in fact, whatever men imagine, no moral principle is based on any feeling, but such a principle is really nothing else than an obscurely conceived metaphysic which inheres in every man’s reasoning faculty; as the teacher will easily find who tries to catechize his pupil in the Socratic method about the imperative of duty and its application to the moral judgment of his actions. The mode of stating it need not be always metaphysical, and the language need not necessarily be scholastic, unless the pupil is to be trained to be a philosopher. But the thought must go back to the elements of metaphysics, without which we cannot expect any certainty or purity, or even motive power in Ethics.
If we deviate from this principle and begin from pathological, or purely sensitive, or even moral feeling (from what is subjectively practical instead of what is objective), that is, from the matter of the will, the End, not from its form, that is the law, in order from thence to determine duties; then, certainly, there are no metaphysical elements of Ethics, for feeling by whatever it may be excited is always physical. But then ethical teaching, whether in schools, or lecture-rooms, &c., is corrupted in its source. For it is not a matter of indifference by what motives or means one is led to a good purpose (the obedience to duty). However disgusting, then, metaphysics may appear to those pretended philosophers who dogmatize oracularly, or even brilliantly, about the doctrine of duty, it is, nevertheless, an indispensable duty for those who oppose it to go back to its principles, even in Ethics, and to begin by going to school on its benches.
(220) We may fairly wonder how, after all previous explanations of the principles of duty, so far as it is derived from pure reason, it was still possible to reduce it again to a doctrine of Happiness—in such a way, however, that a certain moral happiness not resting on empirical causes was ultimately arrived at, a self-contradictory nonentity. In fact, when the thinking man has conquered the temptations to vice, and is conscious of having done his (often hard) duty, he finds himself in a state of peace and satisfaction which may well be called happiness, in which Virtue is her own reward. Now, says the Eudaemonist, this delight, this happiness, is the real motive of his acting virtuously. The notion of duty, says he, does not immediately determine his will; it is only by means of the happiness in prospect that he is moved to do his duty. Now, on the other hand, since he can promise himself this reward of virtue only from the consciousness of having done his duty, it is clear that the latter must have preceded: that is, he must feel himself bound to do his duty before he thinks, and without thinking, that happiness will be the consequence of obedience to duty. He is thus involved in a circle in his assignment of cause and effect. He can only hope to be happy if he is conscious of his obedience to duty; and he can only be moved to obedience to duty if he foresees that he will thereby become happy. But in this reasoning there is also a contradiction. For, on the one side, he must obey his duty, without asking what effect this will have on his happiness, consequently, from a moral principle (221); on the other side, he can only recognize something as his duty when he can reckon on happiness which will accrue to him thereby, and consequently on a pathological principle, which is the direct opposite of the former.
I have in another place (the Berlin “Monatsschrift” ), reduced, as I believe, to the simplest expressions the distinction between pathological and moral pleasure. The pleasure, namely, which must precede the obedience to the law in order that one may act according to the law, is pathological, and the process follows the physical order of nature; that which must be preceded by the law in order that it may be felt is in the moral order. If this distinction is not observed; if eudaemonism (the principle of happiness) is adopted as the principle instead of eleutheronomy (the principle of freedom of the inner legislation), the consequence is the euthanasia (quiet death) of all morality.
The cause of these mistakes is no other than the following: Those who are accustomed only to physiological explanations will not admit into their heads the categorical imperative from which these laws dictatorially proceed, notwithstanding that they feel themselves irresistibly forced by it. Dissatisfied at not being able to explain what lies wholly beyond that sphere, namely, freedom of the elective will, elevating as is this privilege that man has of being capable of such an idea, they are stirred up by the proud claims of speculative reason, which feels its power so strongly in other fields, just as if they were allies leagued in defence of the omnipotence of theoretical reason, and roused by a general call to arms to resist that idea; and thus at present, and perhaps for a long time to come, though ultimately in vain, to attack the moral concept of freedom, and if possible render it doubtful.
Introduction to Ethics.
Ethics in ancient times signified moral philosophy (philosophia moralis) [sittenlehre] generally, which was also called the doctrine of duties [deontology]. Subsequently it was found advisable to confine this name to a part of moral philosophy, namely, to the doctrine of duties which are not subject to external laws (for which in German the name Tugendlehre was found suitable). Thus the system of general deontology is divided into that of Jurisprudence (Jurisprudentia), which is capable of external laws, and of Ethics, which is not thus capable, and we may let this division stand.
—Exposition of the Conception of Ethics.
The notion of duty is in itself already the notion of a constraint of the free elective will by the law; whether this constraint be an external one or be self-constraint. The moral imperative, by its categorical (the unconditional “ought”), announces this constraint, which therefore does not apply to all rational beings (for there may also be holy beings), but applies to men as rational physical beings (223) who are unholy enough to be seduced by pleasure to the transgression of the moral law, although they themselves recognize its authority; and when they do obey it, to obey it unwillingly (with resistance of their inclination); and it is in this that the constraint properly consists. Now, as man is a free (moral) being, the notion of duty can contain only self-constraint (by the idea of the law itself), when we look to the internal determination of the will (the spring), for thus only is it possible to combine that constraint (even if it were external) with the freedom of the elective will. The notion of duty then must be an ethical one.
The impulses of nature then contain hindrances to the fulfilment of duty in the mind of man, and resisting forces, some of them powerful; and he must judge himself able to combat these and to conquer them by means of reason, not in the future, but in the present, simultaneously with the thought; he must judge that he can do what the law unconditionally commands that he ought.
Now the power and resolved purpose to resist a strong but unjust opponent is called fortitude (fortitudo) (224), and when concerned with the opponent of the moral character within us, it is virtue (virtus, fortitudo moralis). Accordingly, general deontology, in that part which brings not external, but internal, freedom under laws, is the doctrine of virtue [ethics].
Jurisprudence had to do only with the formal condition of external freedom (the condition of consistency with itself, if its maxim became a universal law), that is, with law. Ethics, on the contrary, supplies us with a matter (an object of the free elective will), an end of pure reason which is at the same time conceived as an objectively necessary end, i. e. as duty for all men. For, as the sensible inclinations mislead us to ends (which are the matter of the elective will) that may contradict duty, the legislating reason cannot otherwise guard against their influence than by an opposite moral end, which therefore must be given à priori independently on inclination.
An end is an object of the elective will (of a rational being), by the idea of which this will is determined to an action for the production of this object. Now I may be forced by others to actions which are directed to an end as means, but I cannot be forced to have an end; I can only make something an end to myself. If, however, I am also bound to make something which lies in the notions of practical reason an end to myself, and therefore besides the formal determining principle of the elective will (as contained in law) to have also a material principle, an end which can be opposed to the end derived from sensible impulses; then this gives the notion of an end which is in itself a duty. The doctrine of this cannot belong to jurisprudence, but to Ethics, since this alone includes in its conception self-constraint according to moral laws.
(225) For this reason Ethics may also be defined as the system of the Ends of the pure practical reason. The two parts of moral philosophy are distinguished as treating respectively of Ends and of Duties of Constraint. That Ethics contains duties to the observance of which one cannot be (physically) forced by others is merely the consequence of this, that it is a doctrine of Ends, since to be forced to have ends or to set them before one’s self is a contradiction.
Now that Ethics is a doctrine of virtue (doctrina officiorum virtutis) follows from the definition of virtue given above compared with the obligation, the peculiarity of which has just been shown. There is in fact no other determination of the elective will, except that to an end, which in the very notion of it implies that I cannot even physically be forced to it by the elective will of others. Another may indeed force me to do something which is not my end (but only means to the end of another), but he cannot force me to make it my own end, and yet I can have no end except of my own making. The latter supposition would be a contradiction—an act of freedom which yet at the same time would not be free. But there is no contradiction in setting before one’s self an end which is also a duty; for in this case I constrain myself, and this is quite consistent with freedom. But how is such an end possible? That is now the question. (226) For the possibility of the notion of the thing (viz., that it is not self-contradictory) is not enough to prove the possibility of the thing itself (the objective reality of the notion).
—Exposition of the Notion of an End which is also a Duty.
We can conceive the relation of end to duty in two ways; either starting from the end to find the maxim of the dutiful actions; or conversely, setting out from this to find the end which is also duty. Jurisprudence proceeds in the former way. It is left to every one’s free elective will what end he will choose for his action. But its maxim is determined à priori; namely, that the freedom of the agent must be consistent with the freedom of every other according to a universal law.
Ethics, however, proceeds in the opposite way. It cannot start from the ends which the man may propose to himself, and hence give directions as to the maxims he should adopt, that is, as to his duty; for that would be to take empirical principles of maxims, and these could not give any notion of duty; since this, the categorical “ought,” has its root in pure reason alone. Indeed, if the maxims were to be adopted in accordance with those ends (which are all selfish) we could not properly speak of the notion of duty at all. Hence in Ethics the notion of duty must lead to ends, and must on moral principles give the foundation of maxims with respect to the ends which we ought to propose to ourselves.
Setting aside the question what sort of end that is which is in itself a duty, and how such an end is possible (227), it is here only necessary to show that a duty of this kind is called a duty of virtue, and why it is so called.
To every duty corresponds a right of action (facultas moralis generatim), but all duties do not imply a corresponding right (facultas juridica) of another to compel any one, but only the duties called legal duties. Similarly to all ethical obligation corresponds the notion of virtue, but it does not follow that all ethical duties are duties of virtue. Those, in fact, are not so which do not concern so much a certain end (matter, object of the elective will), but merely that which is formal in the moral determination of the will (ex. gr. that the dutiful action must also be done from duty). It is only an end which is also duty that can be called a duty of virtue. Hence there are several of the latter kind (and thus there are distinct virtues); on the contrary, there is only one duty of the former kind, but it is one which is valid for all actions (only one virtuous disposition).
The duty of virtue is essentially distinguished from the duty of justice in this respect; that it is morally possible to be externally compelled to the latter, whereas the former rests on free self-constraint only. For finite holy beings (which cannot even be tempted to the violation of duty) there is no doctrine of virtue, but only moral philosophy, the latter being an autonomy of practical reason, whereas the former is also an autocracy of it. That is, it includes a consciousness—not indeed immediately perceived, but rightly concluded from the moral categorical imperative—of the power to become master of one’s inclinations which resist the law; so that human morality in its highest stage can yet be nothing more than virtue; even if it were quite pure (perfectly free from the influence of a spring foreign to duty), (228) a state which is poetically personified under the name of the wise man (as an ideal to which one should continually approximate).
Virtue, however, is not to be defined and esteemed merely as habit, and (as it is expressed in the prize essay of Cochius) as a long custom acquired by practice of morally good actions. For, if this is not an effect of well resolved and firm principles ever more and more purified, then, like any other mechanical arrangement brought about by technical practical reason, it is neither armed for all circumstances, nor adequately secured against the change that may be wrought by new allurements.
To virtue = + a is opposed as its logical contradictory (contradictorie oppositum) the negative lack of virtue (moral weakness) = 0: but vice = - a is its contrary (contrarie s. realiter oppositum); and it is not merely a needless question but an offensive one to ask whether great crimes do not perhaps demand more strength of mind than great virtues. For by strength of mind we understand the strength of purpose of a man, as a being endowed with freedom, and consequently so far as he is master of himself (in his senses) and therefore in a healthy condition of mind. But great crimes are paroxysms, the very sight of which makes the man of healthy mind shudder. The question would therefore be something like this: whether a man in a fit of madness can have more physical strength than if he is in his senses; and we may admit this, without on that account ascribing to him more strength of mind, if by mind we understand the vital principle of man in the free use of his powers. For since those crimes have their ground merely in the power of the inclinations that weaken reason, which does not prove strength of mind, this question would be nearly the same as the question whether a man (229) in a fit of illness can show more strength than in a healthy condition; and this may be directly denied, since the want of health, which consists in the proper balance of all the bodily forces of the man, is a weakness in the system of these forces, by which system alone we can estimate absolute health.
—Of the Reason for conceiving an End which is also a Duty.
An end is an object of the free elective will, the idea of which determines this will to an action by which the object is produced. Accordingly every action has its end, and as no one can have an end without himself making the object of his elective will his end, hence to have some end of actions is an act of the freedom of the agent, not an effect of physical nature. Now, since this act which determines an end is a practical principle which commands not the means (therefore not conditionally) but the end itself (therefore unconditionally), hence it is a categorical imperative of pure practical reason, and one therefore which combines a concept of duty with that of an end in general.
Now there must be such an end and a categorical imperative corresponding to it. For since there are free actions, there must also be ends to which as an object those actions are directed. Amongst these ends there must also be some which are at the same time (that is, by their very notion) duties. For if there were none such, then since no actions can be without an end, all ends which practical reason might have would be valid only as means to other ends, and a categorical imperative would be impossible; a supposition which destroys all moral philosophy.
(230) Here, therefore, we treat not of ends which man actually makes to himself in accordance with the sensible impulses of his nature, but of objects of the free elective will under its own laws, objects which he ought to make his end. We may call the former technical (subjective), properly pragmatical, including the rules of prudence in the choice of its ends; but the latter we must call the moral (objective) doctrine of ends. This distinction is, however, superfluous here, since moral philosophy already by its very notion is clearly separated from the doctrine of physical nature (in the present instance, anthropology); the latter resting on empirical principles, whereas the moral doctrine of ends which treats of duties rests on principles given à priori in pure practical reason.
—What are the Ends which are also Duties?
They are—Our own Perfection; The Happiness of Others.
We cannot invert these, and make on one side our own happiness, and on the other the perfection of others, ends which should be in themselves duties for the same person.
For one’s own happiness is, no doubt, an end that all men have (by virtue of the impulse of their nature), but this end cannot without contradiction be regarded as a duty. What a man of himself inevitably wills does not come under the notion of duty, for this is a constraint to an end reluctantly adopted. It is, therefore, a contradiction to say that a man is in duty bound to advance his own happiness with all his power.
It is likewise a contradiction to make the perfection of another my end, and to regard myself as in duty bound to promote it (231). For it is just in this that the perfection of another man as a person consists, namely, that he is able of himself to set before him his own end according to his own notions of duty; and it is a contradiction to require (to make it a duty for me) that I should do something which no other but himself can do.
—Explanation of these two Notions.
—Our own Perfection.
The word Perfection is liable to many misconceptions. It is sometimes understood as a notion belonging to transcendental philosophy; viz., the notion of the totality of the manifold which taken together constitutes a Thing; sometimes, again, it is understood as belonging to teleology, so that it signifies the correspondence of the properties of a thing to an end. Perfection in the former sense might be called quantitative (material), in the latter qualitative (formal) perfection. The former can be one only, for the whole of what belongs to the one thing is one. But of the latter there may be several in one thing; and it is of the latter property that we here treat.
When it is said of the perfection that belongs to man generally (properly speaking, to humanity), that it is in itself a duty to make this our end, it must be placed in that which may be the effect of one’s deed, not in that which is merely an endowment for which we have to thank nature; for otherwise it would not be duty. Consequently, it can be nothing else than the cultivation of one’s power (or natural capacity) and also of one’s will [Wille] (moral disposition) to satisfy the requirement of duty in general. The supreme element in the former (the power) is the Understanding, it being the faculty of concepts, and, therefore, also of those concepts which refer to duty. (232) First it is his duty to labour to raise himself out of the rudeness of his nature, out of his animal nature more and more to humanity, by which alone he is capable of setting before him ends, to supply the defects of his ignorance by instruction, and to correct his errors; he is not merely counselled to do this by reason as technically practical, with a view to his purposes of other kinds (as art), but reason, as morally practical, absolutely commands him to do it, and makes this end his duty, in order that he may be worthy of the humanity that dwells in him. Secondly, to carry the cultivation of his will up to the purest virtuous disposition, that, namely, in which the law is also the spring of his dutiful actions, and to obey it from duty, for this is internal morally practical perfection. This is called the moral sense (as it were a special sense, sensus moralis), because it is a feeling of the effect which the legislative will within himself exercises on the faculty of acting accordingly. This is, indeed, often misused fanatically, as though (like the genius of Socrates) it preceded reason, or even could dispense with judgment of reason; but still it is a moral perfection, making every special end, which is also a duty, one’s own end.
—Happiness of Others.
It is inevitable for human nature that a man should wish and seek for happiness, that is, satisfaction with his condition, with certainty of the continuance of this satisfaction. But for this very reason it is not an end that is also a duty. Some writers still make a distinction between moral and physical happiness (the former consisting in satisfaction with one’s person (233) and moral behaviour, that is, with what one does; the other in satisfaction with that which nature confers, consequently with what one enjoys as a foreign gift). Without at present censuring the misuse of the word (which even involves a contradiction), it must be observed that the feeling of the former belongs solely to the preceding head, namely, perfection. For he who is to feel himself happy in the mere consciousness of his uprightness already possesses that perfection which in the previous section was defined as that end which is also duty.
If happiness, then, is in question, which it is to be my duty to promote as my end, it must be the happiness of other men whose (permitted) end I hereby make also mine. It still remains left to themselves to decide what they shall reckon as belonging to their happiness; only that it is in my power to decline many things which they so reckon, but which I do not so regard, supposing that they have no right to demand it from me as their own. A plausible objection often advanced against the division of duties above adopted consists in setting over against that end a supposed obligation to study my own (physical) happiness, and thus making this, which is my natural and merely subjective end, my duty (and objective end). This requires to be cleared up.
Adversity, pain and want, are great temptations to transgression of one’s duty; accordingly it would seem that strength, health, a competence, and welfare generally, which are opposed to that influence, may also be regarded as ends that are also duties; that is, that it is a duty to promote our own happiness, not merely to make that of others our end. But in that case the end is not happiness but the morality of the agent; and happiness is only the means of removing the hindrances to morality; permitted means (234), since no one has a right to demand from me the sacrifice of my not immoral ends. It is not directly a duty to seek a competence for one’s self; but indirectly it may be so; namely, in order to guard against poverty, which is a great temptation to vice. But then it is not my happiness but my morality, to maintain which in its integrity is at once my aim and my duty.
—Ethics does not supply Laws for Actions (which is done by Jurisprudence), but only for the Maxims of Action.
The notion of duty stands in immediate relation to a law (even though I abstract from every end which is the matter of the law), as is shown by the formal principle of duty in the categorical imperative: “Act so that the maxims of thy action might become a universal law.” But in Ethics this is conceived as the law of thy own will, not of will in general, which might be that of others; for in the latter case it would give rise to a judicial duty which does not belong to the domain of Ethics. In Ethics, maxims are regarded as those subjective laws which merely have the specific character of universal legislation, which is only a negative principle (not to contradict a law in general). How, then, can there be further a law for the maxims of actions?
It is the notion of an end which is also a duty, a notion peculiar to Ethics, that alone is the foundation of a law for the maxims of actions; by making the subjective end (that which every one has) subordinate to the objective end (that which every one ought to make his own). The imperative: “Thou shalt make this or that thy end (ex. gr. the happiness of others)” (235) applies to the matter of the elective will (an object). Now since no free action is possible, without the agent having in view in it some end (as matter of his elective will), it follows that if there is an end which is also a duty, the maxims of actions, which are means to ends, must contain only the condition of fitness for a possible universal legislation; on the other hand, the end which is also a duty can make it a law that we should have such a maxim, whilst for the maxim itself the possibility of agreeing with a universal legislation is sufficient.
For maxims of actions may be arbitrary, and are only limited by the condition of fitness for a universal legislation, which is the formal principle of actions. But a law abolishes the arbitrary character of actions, and is by this distinguished from recommendation (in which one only desires to know the best means to an end).
—Ethical Duties are of indeterminate, Juridical Duties of strict, Obligation.
This proposition is a consequence of the foregoing; for if the law can only command the maxim of the actions, not the actions themselves, this is a sign that it leaves in the observance of it a latitude (latitudo) for the elective will; that is, it cannot definitely assign how and how much we should do by the action towards the end which is also duty. But by an indeterminate duty is not meant a permission to make exceptions from the maxim of the actions, but only the permission to limit one maxim of duty by another (236) (ex. gr. the general love of our neighbour by the love of parents); and this in fact enlarges the field for the practice of virtue. The more indeterminate the duty, and the more imperfect accordingly the obligation of the man to the action, and the closer he nevertheless brings this maxim of obedience thereto (in his own mind) to the strict duty (of justice) [des Rechts], so much the more perfect is his virtuous action.
Hence it is only imperfect duties that are duties of virtue. The fulfilment of them is merit (meritum) = + a; but their transgression is not necessarily demerit (demeritum) = - a, but only moral unworth = 0, unless the agent made it a principle not to conform to those duties. The strength of purpose in the former case is alone properly called Virtue [Tugend] (virtus); the weakness in the latter case is not vice (vitium), but rather only lack of virtue [Untugend], a want of moral strength (defectus moralis). (As the word ‘Tugend’ is derived from ‘taugen’ [to be good for something], ‘Untugend’ by its etymology signifies good for nothing). Every action contrary to duty is called transgression (peccatum). Deliberate transgression which has become a principle is what properly constitutes what is called vice (vitium).
Although the conformity of actions to justice [Recht] (i. e. to be an upright [rechtlicher] man) is nothing meritorious, yet the conformity of the maxim of such actions regarded as duties, that is, Reverence for justice, is meritorious. For by this the man makes the right of humanity or of men his own end, and thereby enlarges his notion of duty beyond that of indebtedness (officium debiti), since although another man by virtue of his rights can demand that my actions shall conform to the law, he cannot demand that the law shall also contain the spring of these actions. The same thing is true of the general ethical command, “Act dutifully from a sense of duty.” To fix this disposition firmly in one’s mind and to quicken it is, as in the former case, meritorious (237), because it goes beyond the law of duty in actions, and makes the law in itself the spring.
But just for this reason those duties also must be reckoned as of indeterminate obligation, in respect of which there exists a subjective principle which ethically rewards them; or to bring them as near as possible to the notion of a strict obligation, a principle of susceptibility of this reward according to the law of virtue; namely, a moral pleasure which goes beyond mere satisfaction with one’s self (which may be merely negative), and of which it is proudly said that in this consciousness virtue is its own reward.
When this merit is a merit of the man in respect of other men of promoting their natural ends, which are recognized as such by all men (making their happiness his own), we might call it the sweet merit, the consciousness of which creates a moral enjoyment in which men are by sympathy inclined to rerel; whereas the bitter merit of promoting the true welfare of other men, even though they should not recognize it as such (in the case of the unthankful and ungrateful), has commonly no such reaction, but only produces a satisfaction with one’s self, although in the latter case this would be even greater.
—Exposition of the Duties of Virtue as Indeterminate Duties.
Our own Perfection as an end which is also a duty.
(a) Physical perfection; that is, cultivation of all our faculties generally for the promotion of the ends set before us by reason. That this is a duty, and therefore an end in itself, and that the effort to effect this even without regard (238) to the advantage that it secures us, is based, not on a conditional (pragmatic), but an unconditional (moral) imperative, may be seen from the following consideration. The power of proposing to ourselves an end is the characteristic of humanity (as distinguished from the brutes). With the end of humanity in our own person is therefore combined the rational will [Vernunftwille], and consequently the duty of deserving well of humanity by culture generally, by acquiring or advancing the power to carry out all sorts of possible ends, so far as this power is to be found in man; that is, it is a duty to cultivate the crude capacities of our nature, since it is by that cultivation that the animal is raised to man, therefore it is a duty in itself.
This duty, however, is merely ethical, that is, of indeterminate obligation. No principle of reason prescribes how far one must go in this effort (in enlarging or correcting his faculty of understanding, that is, in acquisition of knowledge or technical capacity); and besides the difference in the circumstances into which men may come makes the choice of the kind of employment for which he should cultivate his talent very arbitrary. Here, therefore, there is no law of reason for actions, but only for the maxim of actions, viz.: “Cultivate thy faculties of mind and body so as to be effective for all ends that may come in thy way, uncertain which of them may become thy own.”
(b) Cultivation of Morality in ourselves. The greatest moral perfection of man is to do his duty, and that from duty (that the law be not only the rule but also the spring of his actions). Now at first sight this seems to be a strict obligation, and as if the principle of duty commanded not merely the legality of every action, but also the morality, i. e. the mental disposition, with the exactness and strictness of a law; but in fact the law commands even here only the maxim of the action (239), namely, that we should seek the ground of obligation, not in the sensible impulses (advantage or disadvantage), but wholly in the law; so that the action itself is not commanded. For it is not possible to man to see so far into the depth of his own heart that he could ever be thoroughly certain of the purity of his moral purpose and the sincerity of his mind even in one single action, although he has no doubt about the legality of it. Nay, often the weakness which deters a man from the risk of a crime is regarded by him as virtue (which gives the notion of strength). And how many there are who may have led a long blameless life, who are only fortunate in having escaped so many temptations. How much of the element of pure morality in their mental disposition may have belonged to each deed remains hidden even from themselves.
Accordingly, this duty to estimate the worth of one’s actions not merely by their legality, but also by their morality (mental disposition), is only of indeterminate obligation; the law does not command this internal action in the human mind itself, but only the maxim of the action, namely, that we should strive with all our power that for all dutiful actions the thought of duty should be of itself an adequate spring.
Happiness of Others as an end which is also a duty.
(a) Physical Welfare.—Benevolent wishes may be unlimited, for they do not imply doing anything. But the case is more difficult with benevolent action, especially when this is to be done, not from friendly inclination (love) to others, but from duty, at the expense of the sacrifice and mortification of many of our appetites. That this beneficence is a duty results from this: that since our self-love cannot be separated from the need to be loved by others (to obtain help from them in case of necessity) (240), we therefore make ourselves an end for others; and this maxim can never be obligatory except by having the specific character of a universal law, and consequently by means of a will that we should also make others our ends. Hence the happiness of others is an end that is also a duty.
I am only bound then to sacrifice to others a part of my welfare without hope of recompense; because it is my duty, and it is impossible to assign definite limits how far that may go. Much depends on what would be the true want of each according to his own feelings, and it must be left to each to determine this for himself. For that one should sacrifice his own happiness, his true wants, in order to promote that of others, would be a self-contradictory maxim if made a universal law. This duty, therefore, is only indeterminate; it has a certain latitude within which one may do more or less without our being able to assign its limits definitely. The law holds only for the maxims, not for definite actions.
(b) Moral well-being of others (salus moralis) also belongs to the happiness of others, which it is our duty to promote, but only a negative duty. The pain that a man feels from remorse of conscience, although its origin is moral, is yet in its operation physical, like grief, fear, and every other diseased condition. To take care that he should not be deservedly smitten by this inward reproach is not indeed my duty but his business; nevertheless, it is my duty to do nothing which by the nature of man might seduce him to that for which his conscience may hereafter torment him, that is, it is my duty not to give him occasion of stumbling [Skandal]. But there are no definite limits within which this care for the moral satisfaction of others must be kept; therefore it involves only an indeterminate obligation.
—What is a Duty of Virtue?
Virtue is the strength of the man’s maxim in his obedience to duty. All strength is known only by the obstacles that it can overcome; and in the case of virtue the obstacles are the natural inclinations which may come into conflict with the moral purpose; and as it is the man who himself puts these obstacles in the way of his maxims, hence virtue is not merely a self-constraint (for that might be an effort of one inclination to constrain another), but is also a constraint according to a principle of inward freedom, and therefore by the mere idea of duty, according to its formal law.
All duties involve a notion of necessitation by the law, and ethical duties involve a necessitation for which only an internal legislation is possible; juridical duties, on the other hand, one for which external legislation also is possible. Both, therefore, include the notion of constraint, either self-constraint or constraint by others. The moral power of the former is virtue, and the action springing from such a disposition (from reverence for the law) may be called a virtuous action (ethical), although the law expresses a juridical duty. For it is the doctrine of virtue that commands us to regard the rights of men as holy.
But it does not follow that everything the doing of which is virtue is, properly speaking, a duty of virtue. The former may concern merely the form of the maxims; the latter applies to the matter of them, namely, to an end which is also conceived as duty. Now, as the ethical obligation to ends, of which there may be many, is only indeterminate, because it contains only a law for the maxim of actions (242), and the end is the matter (object) of elective will; hence there are many duties, differing according to the difference of lawful ends, which may be called duties of virtue (officia honestatis), just because they are subject only to free self-constraint, not to the constraint of other men, and determine the end which is also a duty.
Virtue being a coincidence of the rational will, with every duty firmly settled in the character, is, like everything formal, only one and the same. But, as regards the end of actions, which is also duty, that is, as regards the matter which one ought to make an end, there may be several virtues; and as the obligation to its maxim is called a duty of virtue, it follows that there are also several duties of virtue.
The supreme principle of Ethics (the doctrine of virtue) is: “Act on a maxim, the ends of which are such as it might be a universal law for everyone to have.” On this principle a man is an end to himself as well as others, and it is not enough that he is not permitted to use either himself or others merely as means (which would imply that he might be indifferent to them), but it is in itself a duty of every man to make mankind in general his end.
This principle of Ethics being a categorical imperative does not admit of proof, but it admits of a justification [Deduction] from principles of pure practical reason. Whatever in relation to mankind, to one’s self, and others can be an end, that is an end for pure practical reason; for this is a faculty of assigning ends in general; and to be indifferent to them, that is, to take no interest in them, is a contradiction; since in that case it would not determine the maxims of actions (which always involve an end), and consequently would cease to be practical reason (243). Pure reason, however, cannot command any ends à priori, except so far as it declares the same to be also a duty, which duty is then called a duty of virtue.
—The Supreme Principle of Jurisprudence was Analytical; that of Ethics is Synthetical.
That external constraint, so far as it withstands that which hinders the external freedom that agrees with general laws (is an obstacle of the obstacle thereto), can be consistent with ends generally is clear on the principle of Contradiction, and I need not go beyond the notion of freedom in order to see it, let the end which each may be what he will. Accordingly, the supreme principle of jurisprudence is an analytical principle. On the contrary, the principle of Ethics goes beyond the notion of external freedom, and by general laws connects further with it an end which it makes a duty. This principle, therefore, is synthetic. The possibility of it is contained in the Deduction (§ ix.)
This enlargement of the notion of duty beyond that of external freedom and of its limitation by the merely formal condition of its constant harmony; this, I say, in which instead of constraint from without, there is set up freedom within, the power of self-constraint, and that not by the help of other inclinations, but by pure practical reason (which scorns all such help), consists in this fact, which raises it above juridical duty; that by it ends are proposed from which jurisprudence altogether abstracts. In the case of the moral imperative, and the supposition of freedom which it necessarily involves, the law, the power (to fulfil it) (244) and the rational will that determines the maxim, constitute all the elements that form the notion of juridical duty. But in the imperative, which commands the duty of virtue, there is added, besides the notion of self-constraint, that of an end; not one that we have, but that we ought to have, which, therefore, pure practical reason has in itself, whose highest, unconditional end (which, however, continues to be duty) consists in this: that virtue is its own end, and by deserving well of men is also its own reward. Herein it shines so brightly as an ideal that to human perceptions it seems to cast in the shade even holiness itself, which is never tempted to transgression. This, however, is an illusion arising from the fact that as we have no measure for the degree of strength except the greatness of the obstacles which might have been overcome (which in our case are the inclinations), we are led to mistake the subjective conditions of estimation of a magnitude for the objective conditions of the magnitude in itself. But when compared with human ends, all of which have their obstacles to be overcome, it is true that the worth of virtue itself, which is its own end, far outweighs the worth of all the utility and all the empirical ends and advantages which it may have as consequences.
We may, indeed, say that man is obliged to virtue (as a moral strength). For, although the power (facultas) to overcome all opposing sensible impulses by virtue of his freedom can and must be presupposed, yet this power regarded as strength (robur) is something that must be acquired by the moral spring (245) (the idea of the law) being elevated by contemplation of the dignity of the pure law of reason in us, and at the same time also by exercise.
—According to the preceding Principles, the Scheme of Duties of Virtue may be thus exhibited.
>The Material Element of the Duty of Virtue.
External Duty of Virtue.
The Formal Element of the Duty of Virtue.
Internal Duty of Virtue.
—Preliminary Notions of the Susceptibility of the Mind for Notions of Duty generally.
These are such moral qualities as, when a man does not possess them, he is not bound to acquire them. They are: the moral feeling, conscience, love of one’s neighbour, and respect for ourselves (self-esteem). There is no obligation to have these, since they are subjective conditions of susceptibility for the notion of duty, not objective conditions of morality. They are all sensitive and antecedent, but natural capacities of mind (prædisposito) to be affected by notions of duty; capacities which it cannot be regarded as a duty to have, but which every man has, and by virtue of which he can be brought under obligation. The consciousness of them is not of empirical origin, but can only follow on that of a moral law, as an effect of the same on the mind.
—The Moral Feeling.
This is the susceptibility for pleasure or displeasure, merely from the consciousness of the agreement or disagreement of our action with the law of duty. Now, every determination of the elective will proceeds from the idea of the possible action through the feeling of pleasure or displeasure in taking an interest in it or its effect to the deed; and here the sensitive state (the affection of the internal sense) is either a pathological or a moral feeling. The former is the feeling that precedes the idea of the law, the latter that which may follow it.
(247) Now it cannot be a duty to have a moral feeling, or to acquire it; for all consciousness of obligation supposes this feeling in order that one may become conscious of the necessitation that lies in the notion of duty; but every man (as a moral being) has it originally in himself; the obligation then can only extend to the cultivation of it and the strengthening of it even by admiration of its inscrutable origin; and this is effected by showing how it is just by the mere conception of reason that it is excited most strongly, in its own purity and apart from every pathological stimulus; and it is improper to call this feeling a moral sense; for the word sense generally means a theoretical power of perception directed to an object; whereas the moral feeling (like pleasure and displeasure in general) is something merely subjective, which supplies no knowledge. No man is wholly destitute of moral feeling, for if he were totally unsusceptible of this sensation he would be morally dead; and, to speak in the language of physicians, if the moral vital force could no longer produce any effect on this feeling, then his humanity would be dissolved (as it were by chemical laws) into mere animality, and be irrevocably confounded with the mass of other physical beings. But we have no special sense for (moral) good and evil any more than for truth, although such expressions are often used; but we have a susceptibility of the free elective will for being moved by pure practical reason and its law; and it is this that we call the moral feeling.
Similarly, conscience is not a thing to be acquired, and it is not a duty to acquire it (248); but every man, as a moral being, has it originally within him. To be bound to have a conscience would be as much as to say to be under a duty to recognise duties. For conscience is practical reason which, in every case of law, holds before a man his duty for acquittal or condemnation; consequently it does not refer to an object, but only to the subject (affecting the moral feeling by its own act); so that it is an inevitable fact, not an obligation and duty. When, therefore, it is said: this man has no conscience, what is meant is, that he pays no heed to its dictates. For if he really had none, he would not take credit to himself for anything done according to duty, nor reproach himself with violation of duty, and therefore he would be unable even to conceive the duty of having a conscience.
I pass by the manifold subdivisions of conscience, and only observe what follows from what has just been said, namely, that there is no such thing as an erring conscience. No doubt it is possible sometimes to err in the objective judgment whether something is a duty or not; but I cannot err in the subjective whether I have compared it with my practical (here judicially acting) reason for the purpose of that judgment; for if I erred I would not have exercised practical judgment at all, and in that case there is neither truth nor error. Unconscientiousness is not want of conscience, but the propensity not to heed its judgment. But when a man is conscious of having acted according to his conscience, then, as far as regards guilt or innocence, nothing more can be required of him, only he is bound to enlighten his understanding as to what is duty or not; but when it comes or has come to action, then conscience speaks involuntarily and inevitably. To act conscientiously can therefore not be a duty, since otherwise it would be necessary to have a second conscience, in order to be conscious of the act of the first.
(249) The duty here is only to cultivate our conscience, to quicken our attention to the voice of the internal judge, and to use all means to secure obedience to it, and is thus our indirect duty.
—Of Love to Men.
Love is a matter of feeling, not of will or volition, and I cannot love because I will to do so, still less because I ought (I cannot be necessitated to love); hence there is no such thing as a duty to love. Benevolence, however (amor benevolentiæ), as a mode of action, may be subject to a law of duty. Disinterested benevolence is often called (though very improperly) love; even where the happiness of the other is not concerned, but the complete and free surrender of all one’s own ends to the ends of another (even a superhuman) being, love is spoken of as being also our duty. But all duty is necessitation, or constraint, although it may be self-constraint according to a law. But what is done from constraint is not done from love.
It is a duty to do good to other men according to our power, whether we love them or not, and this duty loses nothing of its weight, although we must make the sad remark that our species, alas! is not such as to be found particularly worthy of love when we know it more closely. Hatred of men, however, is always hateful: even though without any active hostility it consists only in complete aversion from mankind (the solitary misanthropy). For benevolence still remains a duty even towards the manhater, whom one cannot love, but to whom we can show kindness.
To hate vice in men is neither duty nor against duty, but a mere feeling of horror of vice, the will having no influence on the feeling (250) nor the feeling on the will. Beneficence is a duty. He who often practises this, and sees his beneficent purpose succeed, comes at last really to love him whom he has benefited. When, therefore, it is said: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, this does not mean: Thou shalt first of all love, and by means of this love (in the next place) do him good; but: Do good to thy neighbour, and this beneficence will produce in thee the love of men (as a settled habit of inclination to beneficence).
The love of complacency (amor complacentiæ) would therefore alone be direct. This is a pleasure immediately connected with the idea of the existence of an object, and to have a duty to this, that is, to be necessitated to find pleasure in a thing, is a contradiction.
Respect (reverentia) is likewise something merely subjective; a feeling of a peculiar kind, not a judgment about an object which it would be a duty to effect or to advance. For if considered as duty it could only be conceived as such by means of the respect which we have for it. To have a duty to this, therefore, would be as much as to say, to be bound in duty to have a duty. When, therefore, it is said: Man has a duty of self-esteem, this is improperly stated, and we ought rather to say: The law within him inevitably forces from him respect for his own being, and this feeling (which is of a peculiar kind) is a basis of certain duties, that is, of certain actions which may be consistent with his duty to himself. But we cannot say that he has a duty of respect for himself; for he must have respect for the law within himself, in order to be able to conceive duty at all.
—General Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals in the treatment of Pure Ethics.
First. A duty can have only a single ground of obligation; and if two or more proofs of it are adduced, this is a certain mark that either no valid proof has yet been given, or that there are several distinct duties which have been regarded as one.
For all moral proofs, being philosophical, can only be drawn by means of rational knowledge from concepts, not like mathematics, through the construction of concepts. The latter science admits a variety of proofs of one and the same theorem; because in intuition à priori there may be several properties of an object, all of which lead back to the very same principle. If, for instance, to prove the duty of veracity, an argument is drawn first from the harm that a lie causes to other men; another from the worthlessness of a liar, and the violation of his own self-respect, what is proved in the former argument is a duty of benevolence, not of veracity, that is to say, not the duty which required to be proved, but a different one. Now, if in giving a variety of proofs for one and the same theorem, we flatter ourselves that the multitude of reasons will compensate the lack of weight in each taken separately, this is a very unphilosophical resource, since it betrays trickery and dishonesty; for several insufficient proofs placed beside one another do not produce certainty, nor even probability. (252) They should advance as reason and consequence in a series, up to the sufficient reason, and it is only in this way that they can have the force of proof. Yet the former is the usual device of the rhetorician.
Secondly. The difference between virtue and vice cannot be sought in the degree in which certain maxims are followed, but only in the specific quality of the maxims (their relation to the law). In other words, the vaunted principle of Aristotle, that virtue is the mean between two vices, is false. For instance, suppose that good management is given as the mean between two vices, prodigality and avarice; then its origin as a virtue can neither be defined as the gradual diminution of the former vice (by saving) nor as the increase of the expenses of the miserly. These vices, in fact, cannot be viewed as if they, proceeding as it were in opposite directions, met together in good management; but each of them has its own maxim, which necessarily contradicts that of the other.
(253) For the same reason, no vice can be defined as an excess in the practice of certain actions beyond what is proper (e. g. Prodigalitas est excessus in consumendis opibus); or, as a less exercise of them than is fitting (Avaritia est defectus, &c.). For since in this way the degree is left quite undefined, and the question whether conduct accords with duty or not, turns wholly on this, such an account is of no use as a definition.
Thirdly. Ethical virtue must not be estimated by the power we attribute to man of fulfilling the law; but conversely, the moral power must be estimated by the law, which commands categorically; not, therefore, by the empirical knowledge that we have of men as they are, but by the rational knowledge how, according to the idea of humanity, they ought to be. These three maxims of the scientific treatment of Ethics are opposed to the older apophthegms:—
- 1. There is only one virtue and only one vice.
- 2. Virtue is the observance of the mean path between two opposite vices.
- 3. Virtue (like prudence) must be learned from experience.
—Of Virtue in General.
Virtue signifies a moral strength of Will [Wille]. But this does not exhaust the notion; for such strength might also belong to a holy (superhuman) being, in whom no opposing impulse counteracts the law of his rational Will; who therefore willingly does everything in accordance with the law. Virtue then is the moral strength of a man’s Will [Wille] in his obedience to duty; and this is a moral necessitation by his own law giving reason (254), inasmuch as this constitutes itself a power executing the law. It is not itself a duty, nor is it a duty to possess it (otherwise we should be in duty bound to have a duty), but it commands, and accompanies its command with a moral constraint (one possible by laws of internal freedom). But since this should be irresistible, strength is requisite, and the degree of this strength can be estimated only by the magnitude of the hindrances which man creates for himself by his inclinations. Vices, the brood of unlawful dispositions, are the monsters that he has to combat; wherefore this moral strength as fortitude (fortitudo moralis) constitutes the greatest and only true martial glory of man; it is also called the true wisdom, namely, the practical, because it makes the ultimate end [= final cause] of the existence of man on earth its own end. Its possession alone makes man free, healthy, rich, a king, &c., nor can either chance or fate deprive him of this, since he possesses himself, and the virtuous cannot lose his virtue.
All the enconiums bestowed on the ideal of humanity in its moral perfection can lose nothing of their practical reality by the examples of what men now are, have been, or will probably be hereafter; Anthropology which proceeds from mere empirical knowledge cannot impair anthroponomy which is erected by the unconditionally legislating reason; and although virtue may now and then be called meritorious (in relation to men, not to the law), and be worthy of reward, yet in itself, as it is its own end, so also it must be regarded as its own reward.
Virtue considered in its complete perfection is therefore regarded not as if man possessed virtue, but as if virtue possessed the man (255), since in the former case it would appear as though he had still had the choice (for which he would then require another virtue, in order to select virtue from all other wares offered to him). To conceive a plurality of virtues (as we unavoidably must) is nothing else but to conceive various moral objects to which the (rational) will is led by the single principle of virtue; and it is the same with the opposite vices. The expression which personifies both is a contrivance for affecting the sensibility, pointing, however, to a moral sense. Hence it follows that an Aesthetic of Morals is not a part, but a subjective exposition, of the Metaphysic of Morals, in which the emotions that accompany the necessitating force of the moral law make the efficiency of that force to be felt; for example: disgust, horror, &c., which give a sensible form to the moral aversion in order to gain the precedence from the merely sensible incitement.
—Of the Principle on which Ethics is separated from Jurisprudence.
This separation, on which the subdivision of moral philosophy in general rests, is founded on this: that the notion of Freedom, which is common to both, makes it necessary to divide duties into those of external and those of internal freedom; the latter of which alone are ethical. Hence this internal freedom which is the condition of all ethical duty must be discussed as a preliminary (discursus præliminaris), just as above the doctrine of conscience was discussed as the condition of all duty.
Of the Doctrine of Virtue on the Principle of Internal Freedom.
Habit (habitus) is a facility of action and a subjective perfection of the elective will. But not every such facility is a free habit (habitus libertatis); for if it is custom (assuetudo) that is a uniformity of action which, by frequent repetition, has become a necessity, then it is not a habit proceeding from freedom, and therefore not a moral habit. Virtue therefore cannot be defined as a habit of free law-abiding actions, unless indeed we add “determining itself in its action by the idea of the law”; and then this habit is not a property of the elective will, but of the Rational Will, which is a faculty that in adopting a rule also declares it to be a universal law, and it is only such a habit that can be reckoned as virtue. Two things are required for internal freedom: to be master of one’s self in a given case (animus sui compos), and to have command over one’s self (imperium in semetipsum), that is to subdue his emotions and to govern his passions. With these conditions the character (indoles) is noble (erecta); in the opposite case it is ignoble (indoles abjecta serva).
—Virtue requires, first of all, Command over One’s Self.
Emotions and Passions are essentially distinct; the former belong to feeling in so far as this coming before reflection makes it more difficult or even impossible. Hence emotion is called hasty [jäh] (animus præceps) (257). And reason declares through the notion of virtue that a man should collect himself; but this weakness in the life of one’s understanding, joined with the strength of a mental excitement, is only a lack of virtue (Untugend), and as it were a weak and childish thing, which may very well consist with the best will, and has further this one good thing in it, that this storm soon subsides. A propensity to emotion (ex. gr. resentment) is therefore not so closely related to vice as passion is. Passion, on the other hand, is the sensible appetite grown into a permanent inclination (ex. gr. hatred in contrast to resentment). The calmness with which one indulges it leaves room for reflection and allows the mind to frame principles thereon for itself; and thus when the inclination falls upon what contradicts the law, to brood on it, to allow it to root itself deeply, and thereby to take up evil (as of set purpose) into one’s maxim; and this is then specifically evil, that is, it is a true vice.
Virtue therefore, in so far as it is based on internal freedom, contains a positive command for man, namely, that he should bring all his powers and inclinations under his rule (that of reason); and this is a positive precept of command over himself which is additional to the prohibition, namely, that he should not allow himself to be governed by his feelings and inclinations (the duty of apathy); since, unless reason takes the reins of government into its own hands, the feelings and inclinations play the master over the man.
—Virtue necessarily presupposes Apathy (considered as Strength).
This word (apathy) has come into bad repute, just as if it meant want of feeling, and therefore subjective indifference with respect to the objects of the elective will (258); it is supposed to be a weakness. This misconception may be avoided by giving the name moral apathy to that want of emotion which is to be distinguished from indifference. In the former the feelings arising from sensible impressions lose their influence on the moral feeling only because the respect for the law is more powerful than all of them together. It is only the apparent strength of a fever patient that makes even the lively sympathy with good rise to an emotion, or rather degenerate into it. Such an emotion is called enthusiasm, and it is with reference to this that we are to explain the moderation which is usually recommended in virtuous practices—
- “Insani sapiens nomen ferat, æquus iniqui
- Ultra quam satis est virtutem si petat ipsam.”
For otherwise it is absurd to imagine that one could be too wise or too virtuous. The emotion always belongs to the sensibility, no matter by what sort of object it may be excited. The true strength of virtue is the mind at rest, with a firm, deliberate resolution to bring its law into practice. That is the state of health in the moral life; on the contrary, the emotion, even when it is excited by the idea of the good, is a momentary glitter which leaves exhaustion after it. We may apply the term fantastically virtuous to the man who will admit nothing to be indifferent in respect of morality (adiaphora), and who strews all his steps with duties, as with traps, and will not allow it to be indifferent whether a man eat fish or flesh, drink beer or wine, when both agree with him—a micrology which, if adopted into the doctrine of virtue, would make its rule a tyranny.
Virtue is always in progress, and yet always begins from the beginning. The former follows from the fact that, objectively considered, it is an ideal and unattainable, and yet it is a duty constantly to approximate to it. The second [characteristic] is founded subjectively on the nature of man which is affected by inclinations, under the influence of which virtue, with its maxims adopted once for all, can never settle in a position of rest; but if it is not rising, inevitably falls; because moral maxims cannot, like technical, be based on custom (for this belongs to the physical character of the determination of will); but even if the practice of them become a custom, the agent would thereby lose the freedom in the choice of his maxims, which freedom is the character of an action done from duty.
[The two remaining sections discuss the proper division of Ethics, and have no interest apart from the treatise to which they are introductory. They are therefore not translated. I add some remarks on Conscience, taken from the “Tugendlehre” itself.]
The consciousness of an internal tribunal in man (before which “his thoughts accuse or excuse one another”) is Conscience.
Every man has a conscience, and finds himself observed by an inward judge which threatens and keeps him in awe (reverence combined with fear); and this power which watches over the laws within him is not something which he himself (arbitrarily) makes, but it is incorporated in his being. It follows him like his shadow, when he thinks to escape. He may indeed stupefy himself with pleasures and distractions, but cannot avoid now and then coming to himself or awaking, and then he at once perceives its awful voice. In his utmost depravity he may, indeed, pay no attention to it, but he cannot avoid hearing it.
Now this original intellectual and (as a conception of duty) moral capacity, called conscience, has this peculiarity in it, that although its business is a business of man with himself, yet he finds himself compelled by his reason to transact it as if at the command of another person. For the transaction here is the conduct of a trial (causa) before a tribunal. But that he who is accused by his conscience should be conceived as one and the same person with the judge is an absurd conception of a judicial court; for then the complainant would always lose his case. Therefore in all duties the conscience of the man must regard another than himself as the judge of his actions, if it is to avoid self-contradiction. Now this other may be an actual or a merely ideal person which reason frames to itself. Such an idealized person (the authorized judge of conscience) must be one who knows the heart; for the tribunal is set up in the inward part of man; at the same time he must also be all-obliging, that is, must be or be conceived as a person in respect of whom all duties are to be regarded as his commands; since conscience is the inward judge of all free actions. Now, since such a moral being must at the same time possess all power (in heaven and earth), since otherwise he could not give his commands their proper effect (which the office of judge necessarily requires), and since such a moral being possessing power over all is called God, hence conscience must be conceived as the subjective principle of a responsibility for one’s deeds before God; nay, this latter concept is contained (though it be only obscurely) in every moral self-consciousness.”—Tugendlehre, p. 293, ff.
FIRST PART of THE PHILOSOPHICAL THEORY OF RELIGION.
OF THE INDWELLING of the BAD PRINCIPLE ALONG WITH THE GOOD; or, ON THE RADICAL EVIL IN HUMAN NATURE.
THAT the world lieth in wickedness is a complaint as old as history, even as what is still older, poetry; indeed, as old as the oldest of all poems, sacerdotal religion. All alike, nevertheless, make the world begin from good; with the golden age, with life in paradise, or one still more happy in communion with heavenly beings. But they represent this happy state as soon vanishing like a dream, and then they fall into badness (moral badness, which is always accompanied by physical), as hastening to worse and worse with accelerated steps; so that we are now living (this now being however as old as history) in the last times, the last day and the destruction of the world are at the door; and in some parts of Hindostan (20) the judge and destroyer of the world, Rudra (otherwise called Siva), is already worshipped as the God that is at present in power; the preserver of the world, namely, Vishnu, having centuries ago laid down his office, of which he was weary, and which he had received from the creator of the world, Brahma.
Later, but much less general, is the opposite heroic opinion, which has perhaps obtained currency only amongst philosophers, and in our times chiefly amongst instructors of youth; that the world is constantly advancing in precisely the reverse direction, namely, from worse to better (though almost insensibly): at least, that the capacity for such advance exists in human nature. This opinion, however, is certainly not founded on experience, if what is meant is moral good or evil (not civilization), for the history of all times speaks too powerfully against it, but it is probably a good-natured hypothesis of moralists from Seneca to Rousseau, so as to urge man to the unwearied cultivation of the germ of good that perhaps lies in us, if one can reckon on such a natural foundation in man. There is also the consideration that as we must assume that man is by nature (that is, as he is usually born) sound in body, there is thought to be no reason why we should not assume that he is also by nature sound in soul, so that nature itself helps us to develop this moral capacity for good within us. “Sanabilibus ægrotamus malis, nosque in rectum genitos natura, si sanari velimus, adjuvat,” says Seneca.
But since it may well be that there is error in the supposed experience on both sides, the question is, whether a mean is not at least possible, namely, that man as a species may be neither good nor bad, or at all events that he is as much one as the other, partly good, partly bad? (21) We call a man bad, however, not because he performs actions that are bad (violating law), but because these are of such a kind that we may infer from them bad maxims in him. Now although we can in experience observe that actions violate laws, and even (at least in ourselves) that they do so consciously; yet we cannot observe the maxims themselves, not even always in ourselves: consequently, the judgment that the doer of them is a bad man cannot with certainty be founded on experience. In order then to call a man bad, it should be possible to argue à priori from some actions, or from a single consciously bad action, to a bad maxim as its foundation, and from this to a general source in the actor of all particular morally bad maxims, this source again being itself a maxim.
Lest any difficulty should be found in the expression nature, which, if it meant (as usual) the opposite of the source of actions from freedom, would be directly contradictory to the predicates morally good or evil, it is to be observed, that by the nature of man we mean here only the subjective ground of the use of his freedom in general (under objective moral laws) which precedes every act that falls under the senses, wherever this ground lies. This subjective ground, however, must itself again be always an act of freedom (else the use or abuse of man’s elective will in respect of the moral law could not be imputed to him nor the good or bad in him be called moral). Consequently, the source of the bad cannot lie in any object that determines the elective will through inclination, or in any natural impulse, but only in a rule that the elective will makes for itself for the use of its freedom, that is, in a maxim. Now we cannot go on to ask concerning this, What is the subjective ground why it is adopted, and not the opposite maxim? (22) For if this ground were ultimately not now a maxim but a mere natural impulse, then the use of freedom would be reduced to determination by natural causes, which is contradictory to its conception. When we say then, man is by nature good, or, he is by nature bad, this only means that he contains a primary source (to us inscrutable) of the adoption of good or of the adoption of bad (law violating) maxims: and this generally as man, and consequently so that by this he expresses the character of his species.
We shall say then of one of these characters (which distinguishes man from other possible rational beings, it is innate, and yet we must always remember that Nature is not to bear the blame of it (if it is bad), or the credit (if it is good), but that the man himself is the author of it. But since the primary source of the adoption of our maxims, which itself must again always lie in the free elective will, cannot be a fact of experience, hence the good or bad in man (as the subjective primary source of the adoption of this or that maxim in respect of the moral law) is innate merely in this sense, that it is in force before any use of freedom is experienced (23) (in the earliest childhood back to birth) so that it is conceived as being present in man at birth, not that birth is the cause of it.
The conflict between the two above-mentioned hypotheses rests on a disjunctive proposition; man is (by nature) either morally good or morally bad. But it readily occurs to every one to ask whether this disjunction is correct, and whether one might not affirm that man is by nature neither, or another that he is both at once, namely, in some parts good, in others bad. Experience seems even to confirm this mean between the two extremes.
It is in general, however, important for Ethics to admit, as far as possible, no intermediates, either in actions (adiaphora) or in human characters; since with such ambiguity all maxims would run the risk of losing all definiteness and firmness. Those who are attached to this strict view are commonly called rigourists (a name that is meant as a reproach, but which is really praise): and their antipodes may be called latitudinarians. The latter are either latitudinarians of neutrality, who may be called indifferentists, or of compromise, who may be called syncretists.
(24) The answer given to the above question by the rigourists is founded on the important consideration: (25) That freedom of elective will has the peculiar characteristic that it cannot be determined to action by any spring except only so far as the man has taken it up into his maxim (has made it the universal rule of his conduct); only in his way can a spring, whatever it may be, co-exist with the absolute spontaneity of the elective will (freedom). Only the moral law is of itself in the judgment of reason a spring, and whoever makes it his maxim is morally good. Now if the law does not determine a man’s elective will in respect of an action which has reference to it, an opposite spring must have influence on his elective will; and since by hypothesis this can only occur by the man taking it (and consequently deviation from the moral law) into his maxim (in which case he is a bad man), it follows that his disposition in respect of the moral law is never indifferent (is always one of the two, good or bad.)
(26) Nor can he be partly good and partly bad at the same time. For if he is in part good, he has taken the moral law into his maxim; if then he were at the same time in another part bad, then, since the moral law of obedience to duty is one and universal, the maxim referring to it would be universal, and at the same time only particular, which is a contradiction.
When it is said that a man has the one or the other disposition as an innate natural quality, it is not meant that it is not acquired by him, that is, that he is not the author of it, but only that it is not acquired in time (that from youth up he has been always the one or the other). The disposition, that is, the primary subjective source of the adoption of maxims can be but one, and applies generally to the whole use of freedom. But it must have been itself adopted by free elective will, for otherwise it could not be imputed. Now the subjective ground or cause of its adoption cannot be further known (although we cannot help asking for it); since otherwise another maxim would have to be adduced, into which this disposition has been adopted, and this again must have its reason. (27) Since, then, we cannot deduce this disposition, or rather its ultimate source, from any first act of the elective will in time, we call it a characteristic of the elective will, attaching to it by nature (although in fact it is founded in freedom). Now that when we say of a man that he is by nature good or bad, we are justified in applying this not to the individual (in which case one might be assumed to be by nature good, another bad), but to the whole race, this can only be proved when it has been shown in the anthropological inquiry that the reasons which justify us in ascribing one of the two characters to a man as innate are such that there is no reason to except any man from them, and that therefore it holds of the race.
“With all his failings, man is still
Better than angels void of will.”
“Dann Gott liebt seinen Zwang; die Welt mit ihren Mangeln
Ift besser als ein Reich von willenlofen Engeln.”]
Insani sapiens nomen ferat, æquus iniqui,
Ultra quam satis est virtutem si petat ipsam—
Aetas parentum, pejor avis, tulit
Nos nequiores, mox daturos