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OF THE INDWELLING of the BAD PRINCIPLE ALONG WITH THE GOOD; or, ON THE RADICAL EVIL IN HUMAN NATURE. - Immanuel Kant, Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason and Other Works on the Theory of Ethics 
Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason and Other Works on the Theory of Ethics, trans. Thomas Kingsmill Abbott, B.D., Fellow and Tutor of Trinity College, Dublin, 4th revised ed. (London: Kongmans, Green and Co., 1889).
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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; 1 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. 1 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) 1 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.1
(24) The answer given to the above question by the rigourists 1 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. 1
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.
of the original incapacity for good in human nature.
We may conveniently regard this capacity [Anlage] under three heads divided in reference to their end, as elements in the purpose for which man exists:—
(28) 1. The capacities belonging to the Animal Nature of man may be brought under the general title of physical and merely mechanical self-love, that is, such as does not require reason. It is threefold:—first, for the maintenance of himself; secondly, for the propagation of his kind, and the maintenance of his offspring; thirdly, for communion with other men, that is, the impulse to society. All sorts of vices may be grafted on it, but they do not proceed from that capacity itself as a root. They may be called vices of coarseness of nature, and in their extreme deviation from the end of nature become brutal vices: intemperance, sensuality, and wild lawlessness (in relation to other men).
2. The capacities belonging to his Humanity may be brought under the general title of comparative, though physical, self-love (which requires reason), namely, estimating one’s self as happy or unhappy only in comparison with others. From this is derived the inclination to obtain a worth in the opinion of others, and primarily only that of equality: to allow no one a superiority over one’s self, joined with a constant apprehension (29) that others might strive to attain it, and from this there ultimately arises an unjust desire to gain superiority for ourselves over others. On this, namely, jealousy and rivalry, the greatest vices may be grafted, secret and open hostilities against all whom we look upon as not belonging to us. These, however, do not properly spring of themselves from nature as their root, but apprehending that others endeavour to gain a hated superiority over us, these are inclinations to secure this superiority for ourselves as a defensive measure, whereas Nature would use the idea of such competition (which in itself does not exclude mutual love) only as a motive to culture. The vices that are grafted on this inclination may therefore be called vices of culture, and in their highest degree of malignancy (in which they are merely the idea of a maximum of badness surpassing humanity), ex. gr. in envy, in ingratitude, malice, &c., are called devilish vices.
3. The capacity belonging to Personality is the capability of respect for the moral law as a spring of the elective will adequate in itself. The capability of mere respect for the moral law in us would be moral feeling, which does not of itself constitute an end of the natural capacity, but only so far as it is a spring of the elective will. Now as this is only possible by free will adopting it into its maxim, hence the character of such an elective will is the good character, which, like every character of free elective will, is something that can only be acquired, the possibility of which, however, requires the presence of a capacity in our nature on which absolutely nothing bad can be grafted. The idea of the moral law alone, with the respect inseparable from it, cannot properly be called a capacity belonging to personality; (30) it is personality itself (the idea of humanity considered altogether intellectually). But that we adopt this respect into our maxims as a spring, this seems to have a subjective ground additional to personality, and so this ground seems therefore to deserve the name of a capacity belonging to personality.
If we consider these three capacities according to the conditions of their possibility, we find that the first requires no reason; the second is based on reason which, though practical, is at the service of other motives; the third has as its root reason, which is practical of itself, that is, unconditionally legislative: all these capacities in man are not only (negatively) good (not resisting the moral law), but are also capacities for good (promoting obedience to it). They are original, for they appertain to the possibility of human nature. Man can use the two former contrary to their end, but cannot destory them. By the capacities of a being, we understand both its constituent elements and also the forms of their combination which make it such and such a being. They are original if they are essentially necessary to the possibility of such a being; contingent if the being would be in itself possible without them. It is further to be observed that we are speaking here only of those capacities which have immediate reference to the faculty of desire and to the use of the elective will.
of the propensity to evil in human nature.
By propensity (propensio) I understand the subjective source of possibility of an inclination (habitual desire, concupiscentia) so far as this latter is, as regards man generally, contingent. 1 (31) It is distinguished from a capacity by this, that although it may be innate, it need not be conceived as such, but may be regarded as acquired (when it is good), or (when it is bad) as drawn by the person on himself. Here, however, we are speaking only of the propensity to what is properly, i.e. morally bad, which, as it is possible only as a determination of free elective will, and this can be adjudged to be good or bad only by its maxims, must consist in the subjective ground of the possibility of a deviation of the maxims from the moral law, and if this propensity may be assumed as belonging to man universally (and therefore to the characteristics of his race) will be called a natural propensity of man to evil. We may add further that the capability or incapability of the elective will to adopt the moral law into its maxims or not, arising from natural propensity, is called a good or bad heart.
We may conceive three distinct degrees of this:—first, it is the weakness of the human heart in following adopted maxims generally, (32) or the frailty of human nature; secondly, the propensity to mingle non-moral motives with the moral (even when it is done with a good purpose and under maxims of good), that is impurity; thirdly, the propensity to adopt bad maxims, that is the depravity of human nature or of the human heart.
First, the frailty (fragilitas) of human nature is expressed even in the complaint of an apostle: “To will is present with me, but how to perform I find not;” that is, I adopt the good (the law) into the maxim of my elective will; but this, which, objectively in its ideal conception (in thesi) is an irresistible spring, is subjectively (in hypothesi), when the maxim is to be carried out, weaker than inclination.
Secondly, the impurity (impuritas, improbitas) of the human heart consists in this, that although the maxim is good in its object (the intended obedience to the law), and perhaps also powerful enough for practice, yet it is not purely moral, that is, does not, as ought to be the case, involve the law alone as its sufficient spring, but frequently (perhaps always) has need of other springs beside it, to determine the elective will to what duty demands. In other words, that dutiful actions are not done purely from duty.
Thirdly, the depravity (vitiositas, pravitas), or if it is preferred, the corruption (corruptio), of the human heart, is the propensity of the elective will to maxims which prefer other (not moral) springs to that which arises from the moral law. It may also be called the perversity (perversitas) of the human heart, because it reverses the moral order in respect of the springs of a free elective will; and although legally good actions may be consistent with this, the moral disposition is thereby corrupted in its root, and the man is therefore designated bad.
(33) It will be remarked that the propensity to evil in man is here ascribed even to the best (best in action), which must be the case if it is to be proved that the propensity to evil amongst men is universal, or what here signifies the same thing, that it is interwoven with human nature.
However, a man of good morals (bene moratus) and a morally good man (moraliter bonus) do not differ (or at least ought not to differ) as regards the agreement of their actions with the law; only that in the one these actions have not always the law for their sole and supreme spring; in the other it is invariably so. We may say of the former that he obeys the law in the letter (that is, as far as the act is concerned which the law commands), but of the latter, that he observes it in the spirit (the spirit of the moral law consists in this, that it is alone an adequate spring). Whatever is not done from this faith is sin (in the disposition of mind). For if other springs beside the law itself are necessary to determine the elective will to actions conforming to the law (ex. gr. desire of esteem, self-love in general, or even good-natured instinct, such as compassion), then it is a mere accident that they agree with the law, for they might just as well urge to its transgression. The maxim, then, the goodness of which is the measure of all moral worth in the person, is in this case opposed to the law, and while the man’s acts are all good, he is nevertheless bad.
The following explanation is necessary in order to define the conception of this propensity. Every propensity is either physical, that is, it appertains to man’s will as a physical being; or it is moral, that is, appertaining to his elective will as a moral being. In the first sense, there is no propensity to moral evil, for this must spring from freedom; (34) and a physical propensity (founded on sensible impulses) to any particular use of freedom, whether for good or evil, is a contradiction. A propensity to evil, then, can only attach to the elective will as a moral faculty. Now, nothing is morally bad (that is, capable of being imputed) but what is our own act. On the other hand, by the notion of a propensity we understand a subjective ground of determination of the elective will antecedent to any act, and which is consequently not itself an act. Hence there would be a contradiction in the notion of a mere propensity to evil, unless indeed this word “act” could be taken in two distinct senses, both reconcilable with the notion of freedom. Now the term “act” in general applies to that use of freedom by which the supreme maxim is adopted into one’s elective will (conformably or contrary to the law), as well as to that in which actions themselves (as to their matter, that is, the objects of the elective will) are performed in accordance with that maxim. The propensity to evil is an act in the former sense (peccatum originarium), and is at the same time the formal source of every act in the second sense, which in its matter violates the law and is called vice (peccatum derivativum); and the first fault remains, even though the second may be often avoided (from motives other than the law itself). The former is an intelligible act only cognizable by reason, apart from any condition of time; the latter sensible, empirical, given in time (factum phœnomenon). The former is especially called, in comparison with the second, a mere propensity; and innate, because it cannot be extirpated (since this would require that the supreme maxim should be good, whereas by virtue of that propensity itself it is supposed to be bad); (35) and especially because, although the corruption of our supreme maxim is our own act, we cannot assign any further cause for it, any more than for any fundamental attribute of our nature. What has just been said will show the reason why we have, at the beginning of this section, sought the three sources of moral evil simply in that which by laws of freedom affects the ultimate ground of our adopting or obeying this or that maxim, not in what affects the sensibility (as receptivity).
man is by nature bad.
“Vitiis nemo sine nascitur.”
According to what has been said above, the proposition: Man is bad can only mean: He is conscious of the moral law, and yet has adopted into his maxim (occasional) deviation therefrom. He is by nature bad is equivalent to saying: This holds of him considered as a species; not as if such a quality could be inferred from the specific conception of man (that of man in general) (for then it would be necessary); but by what is known of him through experience he cannot be otherwise judged, or it may be presupposed as subjectively necessary in every man, even the best.
Now this propensity itself must be considered as morally bad, and consequently not as a natural property, but as something that can be imputed to the man, and consequently must consist in maxims of the elective will which are opposed to the law; but on account of freedom these must be looked upon as in themselves contingent, which is inconsistent with the universality of this badness, unless the ultimate subjective ground of all maxims is, by whatever means, interwoven with humanity, and, as it were, rooted in it; hence we call this a natural propensity to evil; and as the man must, nevertheless, always incur the blame of it, (36) it may be called even a radical badness in human nature, innate (but not the less drawn upon us by ourselves).
Now that there must be such a corrupt propensity rooted in men need not be formally proved in the face of the multitude of crying examples which experience sets before one’s eyes in the acts of man. If examples are desired from that state in which many philosophers hoped to find pre-eminently the natural goodness of human nature, namely, the so-called state of nature, we need only look at the instances of unprovoked cruelty in the scenes of murder in Tofoa, New Zealand, the NavigatorIslands, and the never-ceasing instances in the wide wastes of North-West America (mentioned by Captain Hearne), 1 where no one has even the least advantage from it; 2 and comparing these with that hypothesis, we have vices of savage life more than enough to make us abandon that opinion. On the other hand, if one is disposed to think that human nature can be better known in a civilized condition (in which its characteristic properties can be more perfectly developed), then one must listen to a long melancholy litany of complaints of humanity; (37) of secret falsehood, even in the most intimate friendship, so that it is reckoned a general maxim of prudence that even the best friends should restrain their confidence in their mutual intercourse; of a propensity to hate the man to whom one is under an obligation, for which a benefactor must always be prepared; of a hearty good-will, which nevertheless admits the remark that “in the misfortunes of our best friends there is something which is not altogether displeasing to us”; 3 and of many other vices concealed under the appearance of virtue, not to mention the vices of those who do not conceal them, because we are satisfied to call a man good who is a bad man of the average class. This will give one enough of the vices of culture and civilization (the most mortifying of all) to make him turn away his eye from the conduct of men, lest he should fall into another vice, namely, misanthropy. If he is not yet satisfied, however, he need only take into consideration a condition strangely compounded of both, namely, the external condition of nations—for the relation of civilized nations to one another is that of a rude state of nature (a state of perpetual preparation for war), and they are also firmly resolved never to abandon it—and he will become aware of principles adopted by the great societies called States,1 (38) which directly contradict the public profession, and yet are never to be laid aside, principles which no philsopher has yet been able to bring into agreement with morals, nor (sad to say) can they propose any better which would be reconcilable with human nature; so that the philosophical millennium, which hopes for a state of perpetual peace founded on a union of nations as a republic of the world, is generally ridiculed as visionary, just as much as the theological, which looks for the complete moral improvement of the whole human race.
Now the source of this badness (1) cannot, as is usually done, be placed in the sensibility of man and the natural inclinations springing therefrom. For not only have these no direct reference to badness (on the contrary, they afford the occasion for the moral character to show its power, occasion for virtue), but further we are not responsible for their existence (we cannot be, for being implanted in us they have not us for their authors), whereas we are accountable for the propensity to evil; for as this concerns the morality of the subject, and is consequently found in him as a freely acting being, it must be imputed to him as his own fault, notwithstanding its being so deeply rooted in the elective will that it must be said to be found in man by nature. The source of this evil (2) cannot be placed in a corruption of Reason which gives the moral law (39), as if Reason could abolish the authority of the law in itself and disown its obligation; for this is absolutely impossible. To conceive one’s self as a freely acting being, and yet released from the law which is appropriate to such a being (the moral law), would be the same as to conceive a cause operating without any law (for determination by natural laws is excluded by freedom), and this would be a contradiction. For the purpose then of assigning a source of the moral evil in man, sensibility contains too little, for in taking away the motives which arise from freedom it makes him a mere animal being; on the other hand, a Reason releasing from the moral law, a malignant reason, as it were (a simply bad Rational Will, [“Wille”] involves too much, for by this antagonism to the law would itself be made a spring of action (for the elective will cannot be determined without some spring), so that the subject would be made a devilish being. Neither of these views, however, is applicable to man.
Now although the existence of this propensity to evil in human nature can be shown by experience, from the actual antagonism in time between human will and the law, yet this proof does not teach us its proper nature and the source of this antagonism. This propensity concerns a relation of the free elective will (an elective will, therefore, the conception of which is not empirical) to the moral law as a spring (the conception of which is likewise purely intellectual); its nature then must be cognized à priori from the concept of the Bad, so far as the laws of freedom (obligation and accountability) bear upon it. The following is the development of the concept:—
Man (even the worst) does not in any maxim, as it were, rebelliously abandon the moral law (and renounce obedience to it). (40) On the contrary, this forces itself upon him irresistibly by virtue of his moral nature, and if no other spring opposed it he would also adopt it into his ultimate maxim as the adequate determining principle of his elective will, that is, he would be morally good. But by reason of his physical nature, which is likewise blameless, he also depends on sensible springs of action, and adopts them also into his maxim (by the subjective principle of self-love). If, however, he adopted them into his maxim as adequate of themselves alone to determine his will without regarding the moral law (which he has within), then he would be morally bad. Now as he naturally adopts both into his maxim, and as he would find each, if it were alone, sufficient to determine his will, it follows that if the distinction of the maxims depended merely on the distinction of the springs (the matter of the maxims), namely, according as they were furnished by the law or by an impulse of sense, he would be morally good and bad at once, which (as we saw in the Introduction) is a contradiction. Hence the distinction whether the man is good or bad must lie, not in the distinction of the springs that he adopts into his maxim, but in the subordination, i. e. which of the two he makes the condition of the other (that is, not in the matter of the maxim but in its form). Consequently a man (even the best) is bad only by this, that he reverses the moral order of the springs in adopting them into his maxims; he adopts, indeed, the moral law along with that of self-love; but perceiving that they cannot subsist together on equal terms, but that one must be subordinate to the other as its supreme condition, he makes the spring of self-love and its inclinations the condition of obedience to the moral law; whereas, on the contrary, the latter ought to be adopted into the general maxims of the elective will as the sole spring, being the supreme condition of the satisfaction of the former.
(41) The springs being thus reversed by his maxim, contrary to the moral order, his actions may, nevertheless, conform to the law just as though they had sprung from genuine principles: provided reason employs the unity of maxims in general, which is proper to the moral law, merely for the purpose of introducing into the springs of inclination a unity that does not belong to them, under the name of happiness (ex. gr. that truthfulness, if adopted as a principle, relieves us of the anxiety to maintain consistency in our lies and to escape being entangled in their serpent coils). In which case the empirical character is good, but the intelligible character bad.
Now if there is in human nature a propensity to this, then there is in man a natural propensity to evil; and since this propensity itself must ultimately be sought in a free elective will, and therefore can be imputed, it is morally bad. This badness is radical, because it corrupts the source of all maxims; and at the same time being a natural propensity, it cannot be destroyed by human powers, since this could only be done by good maxims; and when by hypothesis the ultimate subjective source of all maxims is corrupt, these cannot exist; nevertheless, it must be possible to overcome it, since it is found in man as a freely acting being.
The depravity of human nature, then, is not so much to be called badness, if this word is taken in its strict sense, namely, as a disposition (subjective principle of maxims) to adopt the bad, as bad, into one’s maxims as a spring (for that is devilish); but rather perversity of heart, which, on account of the result, is also called a bad heart. (42) This may co-exist with a Will [“Wille”] good in general, and arises from the frailty of human nature, which is not strong enough to follow its adopted principles, combined with its impurity in not distinguishing the springs (even of well-intentioned actions) from one another by moral rule. So that ultimately it looks at best only to the conformity of its actions with the law, not to their derivation from it, that is, to the law itself as the only spring. Now although this does not always give rise to wrong actions and a propensity thereto, that is, to vice, yet the habit of regarding the absence of vice as a conformity of the mind to the law of duty (as virtue) must itself be designated a radical perversity of the human heart (since in this case the spring in the maxims is not regarded at all, but only the obedience to the letter of the law).
This is called innate guilt (reatus), because it can be perceived as soon as ever the use of freedom manifests itself in man, and nevertheless must have arisen from freedom, and therefore may be imputed. It may in its two first degrees (of frailty and impurity) be viewed as unintentional guilt (culpa), but in the third as intentional (dolus), and it is characterized by a certain malignancy of the human heart (dolus malus), deceiving itself as to its own good or bad dispositions, and provided only its actions have not the bad result which by their maxims they might well have, then not disquieting itself about its dispositions, but, on the contrary, holding itself to be justified before the law. Hence comes the peace of conscience of so many (in their own opinion conscientious) men, when amidst actions in which the law was not taken into counsel, (43) or at least was not the most important consideration, they have merely had the good fortune to escape bad consequences. Perhaps they even imagine they have merit, not feeling themselves guilty of any of the transgressions in which they see others involved; without inquiring whether fortune is not to be thanked for this, and whether the disposition which, if they would, they could discover within, would not have led them to the practice of the like vices, had they not been kept away from them by want of power, by temperament, education, circumstances of time and place which lead into temptation (all things that cannot be imputed to us). This dishonesty in imposing on ourselves, which hinders the establishment of genuine moral principle in us, extends itself then outwardly also to falsehood and deception of others which, if it is not to be called badness, at least deserves to be called worthlessness, and has its root in the radical badness of human nature, which (inasmuch as it perverts the moral judgment in respect of the estimation to be formed of a man, and renders imputation quite uncertain both internally and externally) constitutes the corrupt spot in our nature, which, as long as we do not extirpate it, hinders the source of good from developing itself as it otherwise would.
A member of the English Parliament uttered in the heat of debate the declaration, “Every man has his price.” 1 If this is true (which every one may decide for himself)—if there is no virtue for which a degree of temptation cannot be found which is capable of overthrowing it—if the question whether the good or the bad spirit shall gain us to its side only depends on which bids highest and offers most prompt payment—then what the Apostle says might well be true of men universally: “There is no difference, they are altogether sinners; there is none that doeth good (according to the spirit of the law), no not one.” 2
on the origin of the evil in human nature.
Origin (primary) is the derivation of an effect from its primary cause, that is, one which is not in its turn an effect of another cause of the same kind. It may be considered either as a rational or a temporal origin. In the former signification, it is only the existence of the effect that is considered; in the latter, its occurrence, so that it is referred as an event to its cause in time. When the effect is referred to a cause which is connected with it by laws of freedom, as is the case with moral evil, then the determination of the elective will to the production of it is not regarded as connected with its determining principle in time, but merely in the conception of the reason, (45) and cannot be deduced as from any antecedent state, which on the other hand must be done when the bad action, considered as an event in the world, is referred to its physical cause. It is a contradiction then to seek for the time-origin of free actions as such (as we do with physical effects); or of the moral character of man, so far as it is regarded as contingent, because this is the principle of the use of freedom, and this (as well as the determining principle of free will generally) must be sought for simply in conceptions of reason.
But whatever may be the origin of the moral evil in man, the most unsuitable of all views that can be taken of its spread and continuance through all the members of our race and in all generations is, to represent it as coming to us by inheritance from our first parents; for we can say of moral evil what the poet says of good:
. . . Genus et proavos, et quæ non fecimus ipsi, Vix ea nostro puto. . . . 1
(46) It is to be observed, further, that when we inquire into the origin of evil, we do not at first take into account the propensity to it (as peccatum in potentia), but only consider the actual evil of given actions, in its inner possibility, and in what must concur to determine the will to the doing of them.
Every bad action, when we inquire into its rational origin, must be viewed as if the man had fallen into it directly from the state of innocence. For whatever may have been his previous conduct, and of whatever kind the natural causes influencing him may be, whether moreover they are internal or external, his action is still free, and not determined by any causes, and therefore it both can and must be always judged as an original exercise of his elective will. He ought to have left it undone, in whatever circumstances he may have been; for by no cause in the world can he cease to be a freely acting being. It is said indeed, and justly, that the man is accountable for the consequences, of his previous free but wrong actions; but by this is only meant, that one need not have recourse to the subterfuge of deciding whether the later actions are free or not, because there is sufficient ground for the accountability in the admittedly free action which was their cause. But if a man had been never so bad up to the very moment of an impending free action (even so that custom had become second nature), yet not only has it been his duty to be better, but it is now still his duty to improve himself; (47) he must then be also able to do so, and if he does not, he is just as accountable at the moment of acting as if, endowed with the natural capacity for good (which is inseparable from freedom), he had stepped into evil from the state of innocence. We must not inquire then what is the origin in time of this act, but what is its origin in reason, in order to define thereby the propensity, that is to say, the general subjective principle by which a transgression is adopted into our maxim, if there is such a propensity, and if possible to explain it.
With this agrees very well the mode of representation which the Scriptures employ in depicting the origin of evil as a beginning of it in the human race, inasmuch as they exhibit it in a history in which that which must be conceived as first in the nature of the thing (without regard to the condition of time) appears as first in time. According to the Scriptures, evil does not begin from a fundamental propensity to it—otherwise its beginning would not spring from freedom—but from sin (by which is understood the transgression of the moral law as a divine command); while the state of man before all propensity to evil is called the state of innocence. The moral law preceded as a prohibition, as must be the case with man as a being not pure, but tempted by inclinations (Gen. ii. 16, 17). Instead now of following this law directly as an adequate spring (one which alone is unconditionally good, and in respect of which no scruple can occur), the man looked about for other springs (iii. 6), which could only be conditionally good (namely, so far as the law is not prejudiced thereby), and made it his maxim—if we conceive the action as consciously arising from freedom—to obey the law of duty not from duty, but from regard to other considerations. (48) Hence he began with questioning the strictness of the law, which excludes the influence of every other spring; then he reasoned down 1 obedience to it to the mere conditional conformity to means (subject to the principle of self-love), whence, finally, the predominance of sensible motives above the spring of the law was adopted into the maxim of action, and so sin was committed (iii. 6). Mutato nomine, de te fabula narratur. That we all do just the same, consequently “have all sinned in Adam, 1 ” and still sin, is clear from what has preceded; only that in us an innate propensity to sin is presupposed in time, but in the first man, on the contrary, innocence, so that in him the transgression is called a fall; whereas in us it is conceived as following from the innate depravity of our nature. What is meant, however, by this propensity is no more than this, that if we wish to apply ourselves to the explanation of evil as to its beginning in time, we must in the case of every intentional transgression pursue its causes in a previous period of our life, going backwards till we reach a time when the use of reason was not yet developed: in other words, we must trace the source of evil to a propensity towards it (as a foundation in nature) which, on this account, is called innate. In the case of the first man, who is represented as already possessing the full power of using his reason, this is not necessary, nor indeed possible; (49) since otherwise that natural foundation (the evil propensity) must have been created in him; therefore his sin is represented as produced directly from a state of innocence. But we must not seek for an origin in time of a moral character for which we are to be accountable, however inevitable this is when we try to explain its contingent existence (hence Scripture may have so represented it to us in accommodation to this our weakness).
The rational origin, however, of this perversion of our elective will in respect of the way in which it adopts subordinate springs into its maxims as supreme, i. e. the origin of this propensity to evil, remains inscrutable to us; for it must itself be imputed to us, and consequently that ultimate ground of all maxims would again require the assumption of a bad maxim. 1 What is bad could only have sprung from what is morally bad (not the mere limits of our nature); and yet the original constitution is adapted to good (nor could it be corrupted by any other than man himself, if he is to be accountable for this corruption); there is not then any source conceivable to us from which moral evil could have first come into us. Scripture, 2 in its historical narrative, expresses this inconceivability, at the same time that it defines the depravity of our race more precisely (50) by representing evil as pre-existing at the beginning of the world, not however in man, but in a spirit originally destined for a lofty condition. The first beginning of all evil in general is thus represented as inconceivable to us (for whence came the evil in that spirit?), and man as having fallen into evil only by seduction, and therefore as not fundamentally corrupt (i. e. even in his primary capacity for good), but as still capable of an improvement; in contrast to a seducing spirit, that is, a being in whom the temptation of the flesh cannot be reckoned as alleviating his guilt; so that the former, who, notwithstanding his corrupt heart, continues to have a good Rational Will [“Wille”], has still left the hope of a return to the good from which he has gone astray,