Front Page Titles (by Subject) I.: of the original incapacity for good in human nature. - Kant's Critique of Practical Reason and Other Works on the Theory of Ethics
Return to Title Page for Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason and Other Works on the Theory of Ethics
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
I.: of the original incapacity for good 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).
About Liberty Fund:
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
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.