Online Library of Liberty

A collection of scholarly works about individual liberty and free markets. A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.

Immanuel Kant, Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason and Other Works on the Theory of Ethics [1785]

Edition used:

Immanuel Kant, 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 this Title:

This is an 1889 edition which includes many of Kant’s most important works such as the Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals, the Critique of Practical Reason, the Introduction to the Metaphysic of Morals, and the Philosphical Theory of Religion.

Copyright information:

The text is in the public domain.

Fair use statement:

This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.

Edition: current; Page: [i] Edition: current; Page: [ii]
Edition: current; Page: [iii]
translated by THOMAS KINGSMILL ABBOTT, B.D., fellow and tutor of trinity college, dublin.
Fourth Edition, Revised.
Edition: current; Page: [iv]

“For heaven’s sake, buy two books: Kant’s ‘Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals,’ and Kant’s ‘Critical Examination of the Practical Reason.’ Kant is not a light of the world, but a whole solar system at once,”

Jean Paul Richter.

First Edition of this Translation, 1871.

Second Edition (enlarged), 1879.

Third Edition (further enlarged), 1881.

Fourth Edition, 1889.


Edition: current; Page: [v]


This volume contains the whole of Kant’s works on the General Theory of Ethies. It consists of four parts:—

  • I. A complete translation of the Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten. This work was first published in 1785.
  • II. A complete translation of the Kritik der Praktischen Vernunft (first published in 1788).
  • III. A translation of the General Introduction to the Metaphysical Elements of Moral Philosophy (Metaphysische Anfangsgrunde der Sittenlehre), and of the Preface and Introduction to the Metaphysical Elements of Ethics (Metaph. Anfangsgründe der Tugendlehre).
  • IV. The first portion of Die Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der blossen Vernunft, 1 otherwise named Philosophische Religionslehre. This portion was first published Edition: current; Page: [vi] by Kant himself separately (in 1792), and it appears to me to be indispensable to a complete view of Kant’s Ethics. The remainder of the work (first edition, 1793) does not come within the sphere of Ethics proper.

I have added, in an appendix, a translation of Kant’s essay—Ueber ein vermeintes Recht aus Menschenliebe zu lügen (1797): Werke, ed. Rosenkr., vol. vii., which is interesting as throwing further light on Kant’s application of his principles.

The first of these treatises and half of the second were translated by Mr. Semple (Edinburgh, 1836; reprinted 1869) in connexion with the greater part of the Metaphysik der Sitten (which is concerned with the discussion of particular virtues and vices). Mr. Semple has also translated (in a distinct volume) the Religion u. s. w.

The edition which I have used is that of Kant’s whole works, by Rosenkranz and Schubert, vol. viii. of which contains the Grundlegung and the Kritik, and vol. x. the Religion. For convenience of reference to the original, I have given at the top of each page the corresponding pages of Rosenkranz’ edition. It is not very accurately printed; and, where the errors are obvious, I have silently corrected them; others I have Edition: current; Page: [vii] noticed in foot-notes. Many of these errors seem to have been handed down through all editions from the first. Hartenstein’s edition is more carefully revised, and I have referred to it and to Kirchmann’s in cases of doubt. Kant’s grammatical errors, partly provincialisms, partly due to his age, are usually corrected by Hartenstein, but silently, which is a somewhat questionable proceeding in an editor. Amongst these errors are: uncertainty in the use of the indicative and conjunctive; “an almost thoroughgoing misuse of prepositions” (Hartenstein), and irregularities in the gender of substantives. His use of “vor” for “für” has been generally corrected by editors: where “vor” remains, the reader must remember that its retention is a matter of judgment.

I have to express my obligation to Professor Selss for his kindness in revising the proofs, and for many valuable suggestions.

The Memoir prefixed will, it is hoped, prove interesting.

In the present (fourth) edition some corrections have been made.

The Portrait prefixed is from a photograph of an oil-painting in the possession of Gräfe and Unzer, booksellers, of Königsberg. It is inferior, as a work of art, to the portrait engraved in the former edition; Edition: current; Page: [viii] but as it represents Kant in the vigour of his age, and, unlike the former, has never appeared in any book, readers will probably be pleased with the substitution. I possess also a copy of a rare full-length silhouette, photographic copies of which can be supplied.

My notes are in square brackets.

Edition: current; Page: [ix]


  • Memoir, . . . . . . . . . . page xiii
    • Author’s Preface, . . . . . . . . . 1
    • Transition from the common Rational Knowledge of Morality to the Philosophical, . . . . . . . . 9
    • Transition from Popular Moral Philosophy to the Metaphysic of Morals, . . . . . . . . . . 23
      • Autonomy of the Will the Supreme Principle of Morality, . 59
      • Heteronomy of the Will the Source of all Spurious Principles of Morality, . . . . . . . . . ib.
      • Classification of all Principles of Morality which can be founded on the Conception of Heteronomy, . . . 60
    • Transition from the Metaphysic of Morals to the Critique of Pure Practical Reason, . . . . . . . . 65
      • The Concept of Freedom is the Key that explains the Autonomy of the Will, . . . . . . . . ib.
      • Freedom must be presupposed as a Property of the Will of all Rational beings, . . . . . . . . 66
      • Of the Interest attaching to the Ideas of Morality, . . 67
      • How is a Categorical Imperative possible? . . . . 73
      • Of the Extreme Limits of all Pructical Philosophy, . . 75
      • Concluding Remark, . . . . . . . . 83
    Edition: current; Page: [x]
    • Preface, . . . . . . . . . . . 87
    • Introduction, . . . . . . . . . . 101
      • Of the Idea of a Critical Examination of Practical Reason, . ib.
      • CHAPTER I.
        • Of the Principles of Pure Practical Reason, . . . . 105
          • I. Of the Deduction of the Principles of Pure Practical Reason, . . . . . . . . . 131
          • II. Of the Right of Pure Reason in its Practical Use to an Extension which is not possible to it in its Speculative Use, . . . . . . . . . . 140
      • CHAPTER II.
        • Of the Concept of an Object of Pure Practical Reason, . . 148
        • Of the typic of the Pure Practical Judgment, . . . 159
      • CHAPTER III.
        • Of the Motives of Pure Practical Reason, . . . . 164
        • Critical Examination of the Analytic of Pure Practical Reason, 182
    Edition: current; Page: [xi]
      • CHAPTER I.
        • Of a Dialectic of Pure Practical Reason generally, . . 202
      • CHAPTER II.
        • Of the Dialectic of Pure Reason in defining the Conception of the Summum Bonum, . . . . . . . . 206
          • I. Antinomy of Practical Reason, . . . . . 209
          • II. Critical Solution of the Antinomy, . . . . . 210
          • III. Of the Primacy of Pure Practical Reason in its Union with the Speculative Reason, . . . . . . 216
          • IV. The Immertality of the Soul a Postulate of Pure Practical Reason, . . . . . . . . . 218
          • V. The Existence of God a Postulate of Pure Practical Reason, . . . . . . . . . 220
          • VI. Of the Postulates of Pure Practical Reason generally, . 229
          • VII. How is it possible to conceive an Extension of Pure Reason in a Practical point of view, without its Knowledge as Speculative being enlarged at the same time? 231
          • VIII. Of Belief from a Requirement of Pure Reason, . . 240
          • IX. Of the Wise Adaptation of Man’s Cognitive Faculties to his Practical Destination, . . . . . 244
    • Methodology of Pure Practical Reason, . . . . . 249
    • Conclusion, . . . . . . . . . . . 260
    Edition: current; Page: [xii]
    • Introduction to the Metaphysic of Morals, . . . . 265
      • I. Of the Relation of the Faculties of the Human Mind to the Moral Laws, . . . . . . . . ib.
      • II. Of the Conception and the Necessity of a Metaphysic of Ethics, . . . . . . . . . 270
      • III. Of the Subdivision of a Metaphysic of Morals, . . . 274
      • IV. Preliminary Notions belonging to the Metaphysic of Morals, 277
    • Preface to the Metaphysical Elements of Ethics, . . . 285
    • Introduction to the Metaphysical Elements of Ethics, . . 289
    • Note on Conscience, . . . . . . . . . 321
    • Of the Radical Evil in Human Nature, . . . . . 325
      • I. Of the Original Capacity for Good in Human Nature, . 332
      • II. Of the Propensity to Evil in Human Nature, . . . 335
      • III. Man is by Nature Bad, . . . . . . . 339
      • IV. Of the Origin of the Evil in Human Nature, . . . 347
      • [V.] * On the Restoration of the Original Capacity for Good to its Full Power, . . . . . . . . 352
  • APPENDIX, . . . . . . . . . . . 361
    • I. On a supposed Right to Tell Lies from Benevolent Motives, ib.
    • II. On the Saying, “Necessity has no Law,” . . . . 365
  • INDEX, . . . . . . . . . . . . 367
Edition: current; Page: [xiii]


Immanuel Kant was born in Königsberg on the 22nd of April, 1724, thirteen years after Hume, and fourteen after Reid. His family was of Scottish origin, his grandfather having been one of the many Scotchmen who emigrated from Scotland at the end of the seventeenth century, some settling in Prussia, and some in Sweden; and he is said to have been himself the first to change the spelling of the name from Cant, which he did in order to avoid the mispronunciation Zant. His father was a saddler in modest, if not humble, circumstances. Both parents were persons of simple and sincere piety. Kant himself, although he did not sympathize with their religious views, bears the strongest testimony to the practical effect of their religion on their life. “Although,” said he, speaking warmly, “the religious ideas of that time, and the notions of what was called virtue and piety were far from being distinct and satisfactory, yet such persons had the root of the matter in them. Let men decry pietism as they may, the people who were in earnest with it were honourably distinguished. They possessed the highest that man can possess—that calm, that serenity, that inward peace which is not disturbed by any passion. No trouble, no persecution dismayed them; no contest had the power to stir Edition: current; Page: [xiv] them up to anger or hostility: in a word, even the mere observer was involuntarily compelled to respect them. I still remember,” added he, “how a quarrel once broke out between the harnessmakers and the saddlers about their respective privileges. My father suffered considerably; nevertheless, even in conversation amongst his own family he spoke about this quarrel with such forbearance and love towards his opponents, and with such firm trust in Providence, that although I was then only a boy, I shall never forget it.” Of his mother, especially, he ever retained a tender and grateful memory, saying, “I shall never forget my mother, for she planted and fostered the first germ of good in me: she opened my heart to the impressions of nature, she awoke and enlarged my thoughts, and her teaching has always had an enduring and wholesome influence on my life.” She died when he was only thirteen, and even in his later years he could scarcely restrain his emotion, when he related to his intimate friends how she had sacrificed her own life through her devotion to a friend. 1 Kant strongly resembled his mother in features and in his singularly contracted chest.

Edition: current; Page: [xv]

At ten years of age Kant was sent to the Collegium Fridericianum, where he continued for seven years. Here he applied himself chiefly to classical studies, and learned to write Latin with ease and fluency. Of Greek he does not seem to have ever read much.

Amongst his schoolfellows was David Ruhnken, and these two, with a third, named Kunde, read their favourite authors together and laid their plans for the future, all three proposing to devote themselves to classical literature. Ruhnken actually attained high distinction in this field. At the age of sixteen Kant passed to the University, where he applied himself chiefly to mathematics and philosophy, the instruction in his favourite subject, the ancient classics, being inadequate. He had entered himself as a theological student, and, as was then the practice with such students in Prussia, he occasionally preached in the neighbouring churches. Indeed, he had completed his theological course when he finally gave up that line of study. No doubt his tastes had been long turning in a different direction; but the immediate cause of his decision seems to have been the failure of his application for a subordinate post in a school, such posts being usually the first step to ecclesiastical appointments.

During the latter part of his residence at the University he had been obliged to eke out his scanty means by giving instruction in classics, mathematics, and natural philosophy to some of his fellow-students, for whom the lectures of the professors were too difficult; but the little that he could earn in this way was insufficient for his support, when by his father’s death (1746) he was thrown altogether on his own resources. Edition: current; Page: [xvi] He therefore sought and obtained employment as a resident tutor in families of distinction. He was thus engaged for nine years, and, according to his own candid confession in later years, there was hardly ever a tutor with a better theory or a worse practice. However that may be, he certainly gained the affection of his pupils, and the respect of their parents. At the beginning of this period he published his first work—an Essay on the estimation of vis viva; and towards the end of it his second—a brief discussion of the question whether the length of the day has undergone any change, a question which had been proposed by the Berlin Academy as the subject for a prize essay. Kant argues that the tides must have the effect of retarding the earth’s rotation, and he enters into a rough calculation of the amount of this retardation, his first step to a conjectural approximation being an estimate of the effect of the impulse of the water on the whole east coast of the American continent. His suggestion was sound 1 and sagacious; but he overrated vastly the amount of the effect. He inferred that the day had lengthened by about 1½s in two thousand years. According to Delaunay, the actual amount of retardation is 1s in 200,000 years. This result is based on historical facts (the record of eclipses). Kant’s was a purely physical calculation, and for this he did not Edition: current; Page: [xvii] possess sufficient data. On account of this inevitable lack of precision, he did not offer his essay in competition for the prize.

The same essay contained another very remarkable suggestion in explanation of the fact, that the moon always presents the same face to the earth. In fact, if the moon were originally in a fluid state the tides produced in it by the earth (which would be very great) would similarly retard its rotation until the fluid surface attained a position of equilibrium relatively to the earth, i. e. until the moon rotated round its axis in the same time that it revolved round the earth. This speculation has been recently brought forward as novel.

The conjecture as to the moon’s original fluidity was no isolated one in Kant’s mind; on the contrary, he speaks of it as part of a general theory of the heavens, which he was about to publish. In the following year (1755), accordingly, he published (anonymously) an important work of about 200 pages, entitled, A General Theory of the Heavens; or, Essay on the Mechanical Origin of the Structure of the Universe, on the Principles of Newton. This work is an elaborate exposition of the Nebular Theory, commonly called by the name of Laplace, although Laplace’s Système du Monde was not published till forty years later (1796). The only considerable differences are, first, that Laplace supposes the condensation of the diffused matter to be the result of cooling; and, secondly, that he postulates an original movement of rotation; whereas Kant thought he could account for both condensation and rotation from the two elementary forces of attraction and repulsion. It is not easy to say whether Laplace Edition: current; Page: [xviii] was aware of Kant’s priority. He asserts, indeed, that he was not aware of any theory except Buffon’s (a rather extravagant one); but then Laplace never did acknowledge that he borrowed anything from anybody else. Even when he used the mathematical discoveries of contemporary Frenchmen, he introduces them as if they were his own; how much more if he adopted a suggestion of an anonymous German philosopher. If he really did calculate on the ignorance of his reader, the event has justified his expectation; for even those writers who mention Kant’s priority speak as if Kant had merely thrown out a hint, while Laplace had developed a theory; whereas, in fact, Kant wrote a treatise on the subject, and Laplace only a few pages. 1

Kant begins by defending his attempt against the possible objections of those who might regard it as an endeavour to dispense with the necessity for a Divine Author. Such persons, he says, appear to suppose that nature, left to its own laws, would produce only disorder, and that the adaptations we admire indicate the interference of a compelling hand, as if nature were a rebellious subject that could be reduced to order only by compulsion, or else were an independent principle, whose properties are uncaused, and which God strives to reduce into the plan of His purposes. But, answers he, if the general laws of matter are themselves a result of supreme wisdom, must they not be fitted to carry out its wise design? In fact, Edition: current; Page: [xix] we have here a powerful weapon in aid of Theism. When we trace certain beneficial effects to the regular working of the laws of nature, we see that these effects are not produced by chance, but that these laws can work in no other way. But if the nature of things were independent and necessary, what an astounding accident, or rather what an impossibility, would it not be that they should fit together just as a wise and good choice would have made them fit! As this applies to such reasoning in general, so it applies also to the present undertaking. We shall find that matter had certain laws imposed on it, by virtue of which it necessarily produced the finest combinations. That there is a God is proved even by this, that Nature, even in chaos, could only proceed with regularity and order.

He proceeds to work out in detail the problem of the formation of the planets out of the originally diffused matter, taking into consideration the eccentricities, inclinations, &c., of the planets, the rings of Saturn, the satellites, the comets. It is noticeable that he does not, like Laplace, regard the rings of Saturn as an illustration of his theory. On account of their large inclination to the ecliptic (28°), he thought it necessary to assign to them a different origin. His hypothesis was, that they were produced by emanations from the planet itself, and he showed further (as Laplace afterwards did) that the ring must have a movement of rotation, and that in consequence of the different velocities belonging to different distances from the planet, its stability required that it should consist of several distinct rings. This conjecture, or rather deduction, Edition: current; Page: [xx] has been verified. He also conjectured, as a result of his hypothesis regarding the formation of the ring, that the great velocity of rotation of particles of the inner ring would be the same as that of the planet’s equator. From this consideration, combined with the assumption that the ring conforms to Kepler’s third law, he deduced the time of the planet’s rotation. He drew particular attention to this as the first prediction of the kind. His deduction, however, has not been verified. Saturn’s time of rotation is nearly double what it ought to be on Kant’s theory. 1 Another conjecture of his, subsequently verified, was, that there are planets beyond Saturn. Later, he conjectured also the existence of a planet between Mars and Jupiter. 2

Kant then extends his view to the sidereal system. He states that the first to suggest to him that the fixed stars constituted a system was Wright, of Durham. 3 Kant develops this conception. If gravitation is a Edition: current; Page: [xxi] universal property of matter, we cannot suppose the sun’s attractive force limited to our system; but if it extends to the nearest fixed star, and if the fixed stars, like suns, exercise a similar force around them, then they would, sooner or later, fall together if not prevented (like the planets) by a centrifugal force. Hence we may conclude that all the stars of the firmament have their own orbital motion. If we conceive our planetary system multiplied a thousand-fold, and the several bodies in it to be self-luminous, the appearance, as seen from the earth, would resemble that of the Milky Way. The form of the heaven of the fixed stars then is in great an effect of the same systematic arrangement as our system in little; our sun with the other stars are, in short, the planets of a vaster system, which is, in fact, the Milky Way. 1 There may be many such systems, and some of these may appear to us as nebulæ, and these being seen obliquely would present an elliptic form. The Milky Way seen from a sufficient distance would appear like one of these elliptic nebulæ. But these systems, again, may be mutually related, and constitute together a still more immeasurable system. This opens to us a view into the infinite field of creation, and gives us a conception of the work of God suitable to the infinity of the great Creator. If the magnitude of a planetary system in which the earth is as a grain of sand fills our understanding with wonder, with what amazement are we seized when we consider the vast multitude of worlds and systems which constitute Edition: current; Page: [xxii] the Milky Way; and how is this amazement increased again when we learn that all these immeasurable star systems are in their turn only a unit in a number whose limit we know not, and which is perhaps as inconceivably great as the former, while it is itself the unit of a new combination. 1 There is here a veritable abyss of immensity in which all human power of conception is lost. The wisdom, the goodness, the power, that are revealed are infinite, and in the same degree fruitful and active; the plan of its revelation must, therefore, be equally infinite. He ventures upon the conjecture (giving his reasons) that nature may in course of time be again reduced to chaos, and again emerge like a phœnix from its ashes. When we contemplate nature in these successive changes, carrying out the plan by which God reveals Himself in wonders that fill space and eternity, the mind is overwhelmed with astonishment; but not satisfied with this vast yet perishable object, the soul desires to know more nearly that Being whose intelligence and whose greatness are the source of that light which spreads as from a centre over all nature. With what awe must not the soul regard even its own nature, when it reflects that it shall outlive all these changes. “O happy,” he exclaims, “when amid the tumult of the elements and the ruin of nature it is placed on a height from whence it can, as it were, see beneath its feet the desolation of all perishable things Edition: current; Page: [xxiii] of the world. Reason could not even dare to wish for such happiness, but Revelation teaches us to hope for it with confidence. When the fetters that have bound us to the vanity of the creature have fallen off, the immortal spirit will find itself in the enjoyment of true happiness in communion with the Infinite Being. The contemplation of the harmony of universal nature with the will of God must fill with ever-increasing satisfaction the rational creature who finds himself united to this source of all perfection. 1 Viewed from this centre, nature will show on all sides nothing but stability and fitness; its changes cannot interfere with the happiness of a creature who has reached this height. In sweet foretaste of this condition the soul can exercise its mouth in those songs of praise with which all eternity shall ring:—

  • “When nature fails, and day and night
  • Divide Thy works no more,
  • My ever-grateful heart, O Lord,
  • Thy mercy shall adore.
  • Through all eternity to Thee
  • A joyful song I’ll raise;
  • For, oh! eternity’s too short
  • To utter all Thy praise.” 2
  • Addison.

Discussing the question, whether the planets are inhabited, he states his opinion that it would be absurd to deny this as to all or even most of them. But in the wealth of nature, in which worlds and systems are to the whole creation only sundust, there may well be Edition: current; Page: [xxiv] waste and uninhabited places as there are uninhabited waste on our own earth. Perhaps, indeed, he adds, some of the planets are not yet brought into a state fit for habitation; it may take thousands of years to bring the matter of a great planet into a steady condition. Jupiter appears to be in this transition state. One planet may come to its perfection thousands of years later than another. 1 We may be sure that most of the planets are inhabited, and those that are not will be so in due time. He imagines that the further the planets are from the sun the more the inhabitants excel in liveliness and distinctness of thought. Indulging in fancy, he asks, Does sin exist in those worlds? and suggests that perhaps the beings in the inferior planets may be too low to be responsible; those in the superior planets too wise and too elevated to fall into sin, with the exception, perhaps, of Mars. Perhaps, he adds, some of these bodies may be preparing for our future habitation: who knows whether the satellites which revolve round Jupiter are destined one day to illumine us? “No one, however, will base his hopes of the future on such uncertain fancies. When corruption has claimed its part in human nature, then shall the immortal spirit swiftly soar above all that is finite, and continue its existence in a new relation to the whole of nature arising from its nearer relation to the Supreme Being. When we gaze on the starry heavens with our mind filled with such thoughts as have here been expressed, while all nature is at rest and our senses also in repose, the hidden faculties of Edition: current; Page: [xxv] the immortal soul speak in a language unutterable, and give us conceptions which can be felt but not described. If there are on this planet thinking beings so base as to bind themselves to the service of corruption, in spite of all that draws them away from it, how unhappy is this globe to produce such miserable creatures! but how happy, on the other hand, that under conditions worthy of all acceptation a way is opened to them to attain to a happiness and a dignity infinitely beyond all the advantages which the most favourable arrangements of nature can reach in all the bodies of the universe!”

The reader who is interested in Kant himself will readily pardon this long notice of a work to which he attached some importance. At its first publication it was dedicated to the king, Frederick the Great, and the theory developed in it is frequently referred to by Kant in his subsequent writings, 1 for he never ceased to take an interest in these subjects. So late as 1785 he wrote an essay on the volcanoes in the moon, with reference to an observation of Herschel. In this Paper he suggests a mode of accounting for the great heat of the sun, and (originally) of the planets. His suggestion is based on the discovery of Crawford, that heat is developed by condensation. On the hypothesis then that the sun and planets were formed by the condensation of matter originally diffused through the whole Edition: current; Page: [xxvi] space, this heat would be a direct consequence of the condensation. Still later, in 1794, writing on the influence of the moon on the weather, he throws out the suggestion that the moon’s centre of gravity may (for reasons which he gives) lie beyond its centre of figure: 1 a consequence of which would be that any air and water which might be upon its surface would be collected at the side remote from us.

In another instance, both Kant and Laplace might have had reason to say, “Pereant qui ante nos nostra dixerunt.” In 1756 Kant wrote a short Paper on the theory of the winds, in which, for the first time, as he believed, he gave the true account of the trade winds and monsoons. Halley had shown that the effect of the sun in heating the atmosphere at the equator would be to cause an indraught towards the equator from north and south. This indraught, according to him, naturally followed the daily course of the sun, and hence the easting. 2 Kant showed that this theory was untenable. In fact, the wind would tend rather to meet the sun, the region to the west being the cooler. Nor could a wind from such a cause extend with nearly equal force all round the earth. Kant showed further, that owing to the difference in the velocity of rotation between the parts near the equator and those near the poles, all winds that move from the poles towards the equator tend to become more and more easterly, and those that move from the equator towards the poles become more and more Edition: current; Page: [xxvii] westerly. 1 Hence, in the northern hemisphere every north wind tends to become a north-east, and every south wind a south-west wind. In the southern hemisphere, on the contrary, south winds tend to become south-east, and north winds north-west. He follows out in some detail the general principles of this circulation of the atmosphere. We can thus explain, for instance, the monsoons of the Indian Ocean, &c., which blow from April to September from the south-west; for when the sun is north of the equator the wind blows from the equator towards these parts, and therefore takes a south-westerly direction. Again, the current from the poles towards the equator is balanced by a counter current, the heated air in the upper strata at the equator overflowing as it were towards the poles. When this descends, or overcomes the weaker motion of the lower strata, it becomes in the northern hemisphere a westerly wind, such as prevail between the 28th and 40th degrees of latitude. Kant subsequently introduced this theory into his course of lectures on Physical Geography, which was very numerously attended. Laplace propounded the same theory forty years later.

Edition: current; Page: [xxviii]

In 1763, Kant published his Essay On the only possible Demonstrative Proof of the Existence of God. The proof developed in this Essay is founded on the principle that every possibility of existence presupposes an actually existing thing on which it depends. This he characterizes as a more thoroughly à priori argument than any other that has been proposed, since it does not assume any actual fact of existence. I need not explain how he develops step by step the attributes of Unity, Intelligence, &c. At a later period he himself abandoned this line of argument. However, the greater part of the Essay is occupied with remarks on design in the constitution of nature, and with an exposition of the theory developed in the above-mentioned treatise on the structure of the heavens. We may, he observes, argue from design, either as exhibited in a contingent arrangement, for example, in the body of an animal or in a plant; or we may argue from the necessary results of the constitution of matter, the laws of motion, &c. The latter method has the great advantage of presenting the First Cause not merely as an architect, but as a creator. From this point of view he instances first the simplicity and harmony resulting from the geometrical conditions of space, e. g. that if we seek all the paths which a falling body would traverse either to or from the same point in the same time, they are found to be chords of the same circle. Again, he takes the manifold and harmonious benefits resulting by necessary laws from the mere fact of the existence of an atmosphere. There may be many reasons for its existence: if we suppose its primary purpose to be that it should serve for respiration, we find that its existence leads to other Edition: current; Page: [xxix] important beneficial results. It makes clouds possible which intercept excessive heat, prevents too rapid cooling and drying, and keeps the land supplied with the necessary moisture from the great reservoir of the sea. By causing twilight it prevents the strain on the eyes which would be caused by the sudden change from day to night. Its existence prevents rain from dropping with too great force, and its pressure makes sucking possible. If it occurs to anyone to say—Oh, these are all the necessary results of the nature of matter, &c., he answers: Yes; it is just this that shows that they proceed from a wise Creator. He treats of the laws of motion from the same point of view, and then takes occasion to show how the laws of the planetary motions result from the simplest laws of matter, attraction, and repulsion.

In conclusion, he remarks that while it is of the greatest consequence to be convinced of the existence of God, it is by no means necessary to have a demonstration of it, and those who cannot grasp the demonstrative proof are advised to hold fast by the more easily apprehended proof from design. Hardly, indeed, he observes, would anyone stake his whole happiness on the correctness of a metaphysical proof, especially if it were opposed to the convictions of sense. The argument from design is more striking and vivid, as well as easy to the common understanding, and more natural than any other. It also gives an idea of the wisdom and providence, &c., of God, which comes home and has the greatest effect in producing awe and humility; and it is in fine more practical than any other, even in the view of a philosopher. It does not, indeed, give a definite abstract idea of Edition: current; Page: [xxx] Divinity, nor does it claim mathematical certainty; but so many proofs, each of great force, take possession of the soul, and the speculation may calmly follow since conviction has preceded—a conviction far above the force of any subtile objections.

In the same year in which Kant published his Theory of the Heavens, he issued his first metaphysical treatise, Principiorum Primorum Cognitionis Metaphysicœ Nova Dilucidatio, and publicly defended it as an exercise prior to his obtaining permission to deliver lectures in the University as a “Privat-docent.” He forthwith commenced lecturing on mathematics and physics; to these subjects he afterwards added lectures on philosophy, natural theology, physical geography, anthropology, and fortification. He had already so great a reputation, that at his first lecture the room (in his own house) was filled literally to overflowing, the students crowding even on the stairs. His lectures are thus described by the celebrated Herder, who attended them in the years 1762-1764; “I have had the good fortune to know a philosopher who was my teacher; he had the happy sprightliness of a youth, and this I believe he retains even in old age. His open, thoughtful brow was the seat of unruffled calmness and joy; discourse full of thought flowed from his lips; jest and wit and humour were at his command, and his lecture was the most entertaining conversation. With the same genius with which he criticised Leibnitz, Wolf, Crusius, Hume, and expounded the laws of Newton and Kepler, he would also take up the writings of Rousseau, or any recent discovery in nature, give his estimate of them, and come back again to the knowledge of nature and Edition: current; Page: [xxxi] to the moral worth of man. Natural history, natural philosophy, the history of nations and human nature, mathematics, and experience—these were the sources from which he enlivened his lecture and his conversation. Nothing worth knowing was indifferent to him; no party, no sect, no desire of fame or profit had the smallest charm for him compared with the advancement and elucidation of the truth. He encouraged and urged to independent thought, and was far from wishing to dominate. This man, whom I name with the greatest gratitude and reverence, is Immanuel Kant; his image stands pleasantly before me.” His lectures attracted many hearers of mature age, and visitors to Königsberg even prolonged their stay for the purpose of attending them. At the same time he continued to act as tutor to young men specially entrusted to his care, who lived with him.

He had to wait fifteen years in the position of “Privat-docent” before obtaining a professorship. He had, indeed, been offered a professorship by the Government before this, but it was almost the only chair which he felt he could not worthily fill—the Chair of Poetry. This involved not only the censorship of new poems, but the composition of poems for academic celebrations, and Kant declined the office. In the following year he was appointed sub-librarian at the modest salary of 62 thalers. This was his first official appointment (œt. 42). Four years later he was nominated to the professorship of Logic and Metaphysics 1 , with an income (from all sources) of Edition: current; Page: [xxxii] 400 thalers. This was ultimately increased to 620. This was of course exclusive of fees from students. He inaugurated his professorship by defending his essay, De mundi sensibilis atque intelligibilis forma et principiis. In this he distinguishes the sensible apprehension of phenomena from the Concept of the Understanding, just as in the Critique of Pure Reason. He shows, precisely as in the latter work, that space and time are forms of the intuitions of sense.

As professor, he continued to lecture in the same wide circle of subjects as before. The lectures on physical geography and anthropology were especially popular. He was fond of studying nature, but especially human nature in all its phases, and took great pleasure in reading books of travel, although he never travelled. Having an excellent memory and a lively power of imagination, he could distinctly picture to himself, even in minute detail, the several objects described. On one occasion he described Westminster Bridge, its form, dimensions, &c., with such detail and distinctness, that an Englishman who was present thought he was an architect, and had spent some years in London. At another time he spoke of Italy as if he had known it from long personal acquaintance. So popular were his lectures, that we find Von Zedlitz, the Prussian Minister, writing from Berlin to say that he is reading with pleasure an imperfect manuscript report of the lectures on Physical Geography, and requesting Kant to favour him with a Edition: current; Page: [xxxiii] correct copy. These lectures were published in 1802. The lectures on Anthropology had appeared in 1798. Both works are written in an extremely interesting and popular style, and those on Anthropology are full of entertaining remarks and illustrative anecdotes, not without humour. Thus speaking of the emotions that nature employs for the promotion of health, which are chiefly laughing and weeping, he remarks that anger also conduces to health, if one can indulge in a good scolding without fear of opposition; and in fact many a housewife gets no hearty exercise, except in scolding her children and servants, and provided these take it patiently, a pleasant feeling of fatigue spreads itself through the organism. This sort of exercise, however, he adds, is not without danger, as the objects of the scolding may possibly resist. Even when lecturing on Metaphysics, Kant is said to have been lucid and interesting. When the difficulty of his writings was complained of, he used to say that he wrote for thinkers by profession, and with these technical expressions had the advantage of brevity. Besides, said he, it flatters the vanity of the reader to find perplexities and obscurities here and there, which he can solve by his own acuteness. But in his lectures he endeavoured to be clear and intelligible. He sought, as he expressed it, to teach “not philosophy, but to philosophize.” In one of his letters he states that he was unceasingly observant of phenomena and their laws, even in common life, so that, from first to last, his hearers should not have to listen to a dry exposition, but be interested by being led to compare his remarks with their own observations.

It was his custom to keep his eyes fixed on some Edition: current; Page: [xxxiv] particular student sitting near him, perhaps in order to judge from the hearer’s countenance whether he was making himself understood. So Arago, in his popular lectures, used to select for the same purpose the most stupid-looking person in the audience, continuing his explanations until the person “fixed” showed signs of intelligence. With Kant, however, the consequences were disastrous if the student happened to have any peculiarity or defect, either in person or dress. One day the student thus selected happened to have lost a button from his coat. Kant’s glance recurred to the vacant spot, and during the whole lecture his thoughts were distracted, and even confused, in a manner inexplicable to those who were not in the secret.

He did not like to see his hearers taking notes; but would say, “Put up your pencils, gentlemen,” and would not begin until they had done so. The reason of this was that he thought such attempts at reporting interfered with their attention to the matter of the lecture, by fixing it on the words. Some of his hearers took full notes, nevertheless.

In 1772 he formed the design of writing a Critical Examination of Pure Reason, Theoretical and Practical, the former part of which he hoped to complete in three months. The months grew to years. Six years later he writes that he expects it to appear “this summer,” and that it would not be a large volume. It did not see the light, however, until 1781, nine years after he had announced that it would be ready in three months. When this master-work was produced, Kant was fifty-seven years of age. He states himself that it was Hume that roused Edition: current; Page: [xxxv] him from his dogmatic slumber, and compelled him to seek a solid barrier against scepticism. 1

It is stated on Kant’s own authority that he did not commit to writing a single sentence in this work, on which he had not first asked the judgment of his friend Green. A man to whom Kant showed such deference deserves a brief notice. He was an English merchant, and during the American War of Independence happened to be present when Kant, who sympathized with the Americans, denounced the conduct of England in strong terms. Green sprang up in a rage, declared that Kant’s words were a personal insult to him as an Englishman, and demanded satisfaction. Kant replied so calmly and persuasively that Green shook hands with him, and they became fast friends, and continued so until the death of Green in 1784, a loss which Kant deeply felt.

Of the Critique of Pure Reason I need not here speak. Suffice it to say, that as Locke’s attempt to keep the mind from “going beyond its tether” was followed at no long interval by the Idealism of Berkeley, and the annihilating Scepticism of Hume, so Kant’s analogous attempt led in a still shorter space to the most complete idealism and transcendentalism. Indeed his reviewers not unnaturally mistook him for an idealist, and Hamann called him the Prussian Hume. Edition: current; Page: [xxxvi] The work excited a lively controversy in the philosophical world, but most of the publications to which it gave rise have been long forgotten. Kant’s fame, however, rose to the highest, and Königsberg became a shrine to which students and tourists made pilgrimages.

The Critique of Pure Reason was to be followed by the Metaphysical Elements of Natural Philosophy and of Moral Philosophy. The former appeared in 1786, under the title Metaphysische Anfangsgründe der Naturwissenschaft. 1 The views respecting motion with which this treatise commences had, however, already been published as a programme of lectures in 1758. Motion is only relative to the surrounding space. While I sit with a ball on the table before me in the cabin of a ship moored in a river, I say that the ball is at rest; I look out and see that the ship has been unmoored, and is drifting westward; the ball then is moving. But I reflect that the earth is rotating with greater velocity eastward; the ball then is moving eastward. Nay; for the earth in its orbit is moving westward with still higher speed. The orbit itself is moving, I cannot tell how rapidly, nor do I know in what direction. In any case then it is the same thing whether I regard a point as moving in its space, or regard the space as moving and the point as at rest. Hence the law of the composition of motions results directly; for if A be a point having a motion of one foot per second westward, and two feet per second southward, I can regard it as having only the southward motion, while the space in which it is, is moving one foot per second eastward. At the end, therefore, Edition: current; Page: [xxxvii] of one second, the point will be found two feet to the south; and as its space in moving east has left it one foot behind, it will also be one foot west, relatively to its surrounding space. This is the same as if it had moved in the diagonal of the parallelogram. Kant claimed as an advantage of this proof, that it represented the resultant motion, not as an effect of the two motions, but as actually including them. It is incomparably simpler and more philosophical than the proof given by D’Alembert, and other contemporary mathematicians. When we treat of collision of bodies, this mode of viewing the matter becomes absolutely indispensable. If the body A is approaching the body B (equal to it) with a velocity of two degrees, we regard A as moving with a speed of one degree, while B and its space move one degree in the opposite direction. The motions being equal and opposite, the result of their contact is mutual rest; but, as the space is moving, this rest is equivalent to a motion of the two bodies in contact, relative to the surrounding space, and in amount one degree. If the bodies are unequal and have unequal velocities, we have only to divide the velocities in the inverse proportion of the masses, and assign to the space the motion which we take from one to add to the other, and the result will again be mutual rest, which is equivalent to a motion of the bodies in contact, with a velocity equal and opposite to what we have assigned to the space. We can in this way banish altogether the notion of vis inertiœ.

Matter could not exist unless there were both a repulsive force and an attractive force. If attraction only existed, matter would be condensed into a point; Edition: current; Page: [xxxviii] if repulsion only, it would be dispersed infinitely. The relative incompressibility of matter is nothing but the repulsive force emanating from points, which increases as the distance diminishes (perhaps inversely as the cube), and would therefore require an infinite pressure to overcome it altogether. Physical contact is the immediate action and reaction of incompressibility. The action of matter on matter without contact is what is called actio in distans, and the attraction of gravitation is of this kind. Both attraction and repulsion being elementary forces, are inexplicable, but the force of attraction is not a whit more incomprehensible than the original repulsive force. Incompressibility appears more comprehensible, solely because it is immediately presented to the senses, whereas attraction is only inferred. It seems at first sight a contradiction to say that a body can act where it is not; but in fact we might rather say, that everything in space acts where it is not; for to act where it is, it should occupy the very same space as the thing acted on. To say that there can be no action without physical contact is as much as to say that matter can act only by the force of incompressibility: in other words, that repulsive forces are either the only forces of matter or the conditions of all its action, which is a groundless assertion. The ground of the mistake is a confusion between mathematical contact and physical contact. That bodies attract one another without contact, means that they approach one another according to a certain law, without any force of repulsion being required as a condition; and this is just as conceivable as that they should separate from Edition: current; Page: [xxxix] one another without an attractive force being supposed as a condition. 1

Kant, however, thought it conceivable that in the case of chemical solution there might be complete interpenetration or “intussusception.” On this view of matter we may, he remarks, regard matter as infinitely divisible.

The Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals had appeared the year before the last-mentioned work, and was followed in 1788 by the Critical Examination of Practical Reason. Both these are translated in the present volume. The few remarks I have to offer on them will be found at the end of the Memoir. In 1790 was published the Critical Examination of the Faculty of Judgment.

The essay on the corruption of human nature, which forms the third part of this volume, appeared in 1792 in a Berlin magazine. Four years before this an edict had been issued, limiting the freedom of the Press, and appointing special censors, whose Edition: current; Page: [xl] business was to examine as to the orthodoxy, not only of books, but of professors, lecturers, and theological candidates. The magazine in question was printed in Jena; but in order to avoid any appearance of underhand dealing, Kant expressly desired that his essay should be submitted to the Berlin licensing authority, who gave his imprimatur, on the ground that only deep thinkers read Kant’s works. The second part of the work on the Theory of Religion was referred to the theological censor, who refused his imprimatur. Kant accordingly submitted his essay to the censorship of the theological faculty of Königsberg, and this unanimously sanctioned the publication, which reached a second edition in the following year. The Berlin censors were naturally annoyed at this way of escaping their decision, and the severe remarks in the preface did not tend to conciliate them. A few months afterwards Kant received an order from the King (Frederick William II.), forbidding him to teach or write anything further in this manner. Kant did not mention the order even to his intimate friends. A slip of paper, found after his death, contained this reflection: “To deny one’s inner conviction is mean, but in such a case as this silence is the duty of a subject; and, although a man must say only what is true, it is not always a duty to say all the truth publicly.” He therefore, in his reply to the King, declared that to avoid all suspicion, he, “as his Majesty’s most loyal subject,” solemnly engaged to refrain from writing or lecturing on religion, natural or revealed. The words, “as your Majesty’s most loyal subject,” were inserted with the intention of limiting his engagement to the life of Edition: current; Page: [xli] the King, and on the death of Frederick William in 1797, Kant regarded himself as free, and published his Contest of the Faculties (i. e. of the Academical Faculties).

In 1797 Kant ceased to lecture publicly. In the same year he published his Metaphysical Elements of Morals, which treats of the several virtues and vices in detail, 1 and Metaphysical Elements of Law. After the publication of these, he seems to have been regarded as a counsellor to be consulted in all difficulties, and an authority in all questions of conscience. The pains he took to give real assistance in such cases, both by his own reflection, and by inquiring from his colleagues, are attested by his written and often corrected memoranda. As an example may be mentioned the question whether inoculation was morally allowable or not. This question was addressed to him at the same time by a Professor of Medicine in Halle, and by a young nobleman who was going to be married, and whose bride wished to be inoculated. Kant’s reply is not known, although some memoranda for it exist.

After this time he began to feel the burden of age, and his powers, mental and bodily, gradually failed. He was quite aware of his condition, and resigned. “Gentlemen,” said he one day, “I do not fear to die. I assure you, as in the presence of God, that if on this very night, suddenly the summons to death were to reach me, I should bear it with calmness, should raise my hands to heaven, and say, ‘Blessed be God!’ Were it indeed possible that such a whisper as this Edition: current; Page: [xlii] could reach my ear—‘Fourscore years thou hast lived, in which time thou hast inflicted much evil upon thy fellow-men,’ the case would be otherwise.” This was spoken, says Wasianski, in a tone of earnest sincerity. Two days after his seventy-ninth birthday he wrote in his memoranda: “According to the Bible our life lasts seventy years, and if very long, fourscore years, and though it was pleasant, it has been labour and sorrow.” 1 Up to this time he was able to read the smallest print without spectacles, although he had lost the sight of one eye nearly twenty years before. But soon after he had written this memorandum his sight also failed, and he died in February, 1804, in his eightieth year. His body was so dried up that the physicians said they had hardly ever seen so wasted a body. Indeed he had himself said jestingly some years before, that he thought he had reached the minimum of muscular substance. 2

Kant was of weak frame, and still weaker muscular power; he was barely five feet in height. 3 His chest was flat, almost concave, the right shoulder slightly crooked, his complexion fresh, his forehead high, square, and broad, while his piercing blue eyes made so lively an impression that it was long remembered by some of his pupils. Even after he had lost the sight of one eye, the defect was not visible to a stranger. In consequence of his contracted chest he suffered from a feeling of oppression, which early in life caused a tendency to hypochondria, to such an Edition: current; Page: [xliii] extent as even to make him feel weary of life. This, however, he overcame by force of thought. When engaged on the Kritik, in 1771, he speaks of his health being seriously impaired, and some years later he says that it is unceasingly broken; yet by dint of careful attention and great regularity he was able, without medical aid, to maintain such good health on the whole, that at a later period he used to say to himself on going to bed, “Is it possible to conceive any human being enjoying better health than I do?” His maxim for preserving health was, sustine et abstine. His practice illustrated this. The two indulgences of which he was found were tobacco and coffee. But of the former he limited himself to a single pipe in the morning, whilst he altogether abstained from the latter until far advanced in life, thinking it injurious to health. At the age of seventy he wrote an essay, On the Power of the Mind to Master the Feeling of Illness by Force of Resolution. 1 The essay was originally addressed to Hufeland, the celebrated author of the treatise on the Art of Prolonging Life, and the principles contained in it are exemplified from Kant’s own experience. He attached great importance to the habit of breathing through the nostrils instead of through the mouth, and asserted that he had by this means overcome a tendency to cough and cold in the head. There is more truth in this than is perhaps generally thought. 2 Kant, however, is said to have Edition: current; Page: [xliv] regarded it as of so much importance that he did not like to have a companion in his daily walk, lest he should have to open his mouth. The true reason of this preference (in later life only) for solitary walks was, beyond doubt, that which is mentioned in this essay, that it is undesirable to exercise the limbs and the brain (or the brain and the stomach) at the same time.

His punctilious attention to health is amusingly illustrated by the artifice he used for suspending his stockings. Thinking that garters injuriously impeded the circulation, he had a couple of bands attached to each stocking, and passing through a hole in the pocket of his breeches. Inside the pocket they were connected with a spring enclosed in a box, and this spring regulated the tension. That he might not be without some exercise in his study, he habitually left his handkerchief at the other side of the room, so that now and then he should have to get up and walk to it. On the same principle his hours of sleep, &c., were adhered to with the utmost regularity. He went to bed punctually at ten, and rose punctually at five. His servant had orders not to let him sleep longer on any account; and on being asked once by Kant, in presence of guests, testified that for thirty years his master had never once indulged beyond the appointed hour. On rising he took a cup (indefinite cups) of tea, but no solid food. The early hours were devoted to preparation for his lectures, which in his earlier years occupied four or five hours, but subsequently only two. At seven o’clock precisely, or eight, as the case might be, he entered his lecture-room. Lectures ended, at nine or ten, he returned to his study, and applied himself to preparing his books for the press. Edition: current; Page: [xlv] He worked thus without interruption until one o’clock, the hour for dinner. This was his only meal, and he liked to have pleasant company, and to prolong the meal (ducere cœnam) with lively, sometimes brilliant conversation, for three or four hours. Kant had no Boswell, and nothing is preserved of these conversations, in which he is said to have often thrown out profound and suggestive remarks with extraordinary richness. 1 Until his sixty-third year, not having a house of his own, he dined at a public restaurant, which, however, he occasionally found it necessary to change, in consequence of persons coming for the purpose of discussing philosophical questions with him. He considered that meal-time ought to be a time of perfect mental relaxation, and was not disposed to turn the dinner table into a lecture pulpit. His afternoons were, however, often spent at the houses of his friends, where he enjoyed meeting foreign merchants, sea captains, and travelled scholars, from whom he might learn much about foreign nations and countries. His instructive and entertaining conversation, flavoured with mild satiric humour, made him a welcome guest, and even with the children he was a favourite. After he became famous he declined invitations if he thought he was to be made a lion of.

Edition: current; Page: [xlvi]

When he had a house of his own, he had every day a few friends to dine with him. He liked to have a mixed company—merchants, professional men, and especially a few younger men. After dinner followed regularly his daily walk for an hour or more, along what was from him named “The Philosopher’s Walk,” until he was driven from it by the number of beggars whom his habit of almsgiving had attracted there. 1 Even the severest weather did not interfere with this daily walk, in which in his earlier years he usually had companions; after sixty years of age he walked alone, for the reason already mentioned.

He had on one occasion a narrow escape from assassination. A lunatic, who had made up his mind to kill some one, waylaid Kant for the purpose, and followed him for three miles, but on reflection, thinking it a pity to kill an old professor who must have so many sins on his head, the unfortunate madman killed a child instead.

The evening was devoted to lighter reading and meditation. He would read over and over again such books as Don Quixote, Hudibras, Swift’s Tale of a Tub, Juvenal, and Horace. In his later years he was especially fond of reading books on physical science, and books of travel. Purely speculative works he cared little for, but liked to read Locke, Hutcheson, Pope, Hume, Montaigne, Rousseau.

How unwilling Kant was to depart from his regular routine appears from a characteristic anecdote. One day as he was returning from his walk, a nobleman Edition: current; Page: [xlvii] who was driving came up with him, and politely invited him to take a drive with him as the evening was fine. Kant yielded to the first impulse of politeness, and consented. The Count, after driving over some of his property near the city, proposed to visit a friend some miles from the town, and Kant of course could not refuse. At last Kant was set down at his own door near ten o’clock, full of vexation at this violation of his regular habits. He thereupon made it a fixed rule never to get into a carriage that he had not hired himself, so that he could manage it as he pleased. When once he had made such a resolution, he was satisfied that he could not be taken by surprise, and nothing would make him depart from it.

So his life passed, says one of his biographers, like the most regular of regular verbs.

Punctual, however, as he was, his punctuality did not come up to the standard of his friend Green. One evening Kant had promised that he would accompany Green in a drive the next morning at eight. At a quarter before eight Green was walking up and down his room, watch in hand; at fifty minutes past seven he put on his coat, at fifty-five he took his stick, and at the first stroke of eight entered his carriage and drove off; and although he met Kant, who was a couple of minutes late, he would not stop for him, because this was against the agreement and against his rule. This gentleman, for whom Kant had a great esteem, served as the model for the description of the English character in the Anthropologie. Kant’s savings were invested with this Mr. Green, and allowed to accumulate at 6 per cent. interest.

Kant is said to have been on two occasions on the Edition: current; Page: [xlviii] point of marrying, or at least of making a proposal, but he took so long to calculate his incomings and outgoings with exactness, in order to see whether he could afford it, that the lady in the first case was married, and in the second had left Königsberg before he had made up his mind. When he was seventy years of age, an officious friend actually printed a dialogue on marriage, with a view to persuade the philosopher to marry. Kant reimbursed him for the expense of printing, but at that age, not unnaturally, thought the advice rather too late. How sensible he was to the charms of female society appears from the Essay On the Sublime and Beautiful, p. 426 ff, where he discusses the difference between the sublime and beautiful in the natural relations of the sexes.

Kant’s personal character is described, by those who knew him best, as truly childlike. He was kind-hearted and actively benevolent; of rare candour in estimating the abilities of other men, with high respect for every thing that was noble or deserving; always disposed to recognise the good rather than the bad in men’s characters. He was always ready with counsel and assistance for the young. His modesty towards scholars of great fame almost degenerated into shyness.

As may be supposed from the regularity of his habits, he never allowed himself to run into debt. When a student at the University, with very narrow means, his only coat had once become so shabby, that some friends subscribed a sum of money, which was offered to him in the most delicate manner possible for the purchase of a new one. Kant, however, preferred to retain his shabby coat rather than incur debt Edition: current; Page: [xlix] or lose his independence. 1 In his old age he boasted that he had never owed any man a penny, so that when a knock came to his door he was never afraid to say, “Come in.” When his means had increased (chiefly through the profits on his writings), he assisted such of his relatives as were in want in the most liberal manner. On the death of his brother, he assigned to the widow a pension of 200 thalers. Many poor persons also received a weekly allowance from him, and Wasianski, who in later years managed Kant’s affairs for him, states that his charitable expenses amounted to about 400 thalers annually.

His kindness was shown in his last will, in which he left an annual sum to a servant who had treated him shamefully, but who had served him (not indeed faithfully) for thirty years. Kant had dismissed him two years before, with a pension, on condition of his never setting foot inside the house again. After some other small legacies, the residue was left to the children of his brother and sisters. The whole amount was under four thousand pounds.

The principal questions on the Theory of Morals may, with sufficient accuracy for the present purpose, be said to be these: First, the purely speculative question, What is the essential nature of moral rightness? Secondly, the practical questions, What is to man the criterion of his duty? and what is the foundation of obligation? The additional question, By what faculty do we discern right and wrong? is properly a psychological one.

Edition: current; Page: [l]

If we had only to do with a being in whom Reason was irresistibly dominant, we should not need to raise any further questions; but having to treat of a being with affections and appetites distinct from Reason, and not of themselves dependent on it, we must answer the further question: How is Reason to maintain its authority in spite of these resisting forces? i.e. What is the Motive? Lastly, since we have to deal with a corrupt creature, a new question arises: How is such a creature to be reformed?

Now how does Kant deal with these questions? His categorical imperative—Act as if the maxim of thy action were to become by thy will a universal law of Nature—gives perhaps not the essence of virtue, but a property of it, which may indeed serve as a subjective criterion. That this criterion is formal only, and therefore empty, is hardly of itself a valid objection. The test of valid reasoning, the syllogism, is equally empty. The categorical imperative is, however, rather negative than positive, and it is far from being sufficiently clear as a test of the morality of actions. This appears even in the examples which Kant himself gives. For example, treating of Compassion, he supposes that if a man refuses aid to the distressed, it is out of selfishness, and then shows that if selfishness was the ruling principle, it would contradict itself. But why assume a motive for refusing help? What we want is a motive for giving help. There is nothing contradictory in willing that none should help others. So in the case of gratitude, there is no contradiction in willing that those who receive benefits should entertain no peculiar feeling toward their benefactor. It is true we should look Edition: current; Page: [li] for it ourselves, but this implies that such a feeling is natural to man, and that we approve it. Again, put the case of self-sacrifice of a man giving his life to save his friend; it would seem as easy on Kant’s principle to prove this a vice as a virtue.

Kant has in fact treated human nature too abstractly. In eliminating the “matter” he has eliminated that on which frequently the whole question turns. Indeed, in some of the instances he himself chooses, he elicits a contradiction only by bringing in a teleological consideration; e. g. as to suicide, he brings in the end for which self-love was given. The will to destroy one’s own life is not contradictory of the will to sustain it, unless the circumstances be supposed the same.

These remarks, however, only show that the formula is not a mechanical rule of conduct; they do not disprove its scientific value. In fact precisely similar objections have been alleged against the logical analysis of speculative reasoning, that it leaves untouched what in practice is the most difficult part of the problem. If all poisonous substances could be brought under a single chemical formula, the generalization would be of value both theoretically and practically, although its application to particular cases might be difficult and uncertain. Kant never attempted “to deduce a complete code of duty from a purely formal principle;” 1 he expressly states that Edition: current; Page: [lii] this is only a negative principle, and that the matter of practical maxims is to be derived from a different source (cf. the present work, p. 299). Nor is it to be supposed that Kant was not fully aware of the difficulty of applying his formula to the complex circumstances of actual life. In his Metaphysic of Morals he states a great number of questions of casuistry, which he leaves undecided, as puzzles or exercises to the reader. And indeed similar difficulties might be raised, from a speculative point of view, respecting the rule, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do unto them”—a rule of which we may nevertheless say that in practice it probably never misled anyone, for everyone sees that the essence of it is the elimination of self-partiality and inward dishonesty. The scientific basis of it is stated by Clarke in language nearly equivalent to Kant’s. The reason of it, says the former, is the same as that which forces us in speculation to affirm that if one line or number be equal to another, that other is equal to it. “Whatever relation or proportion one man in any case bears to another, the same that other, when put in like circumstances, bears to him. Whatever I judge reasonable or unreasonable for another to do for me, that, by the same judgment, I declare reasonable or unreasonable that I in the like case should do for him.” 1 Kant’s rule is a generalization of this, so as to include duties to ourselves as well as to others. As such it has a real scientific value. Practically, its value Edition: current; Page: [liii] consists, like that of the golden rule, in the elimination of inward dishonesty.

Mr. Mill’s criticism on Kant’s formula is, that when we speak of a maxim being “fit” to be a universal law, it is obvious that some test of fitness is required, and that Kant, in fact, tests the maxims by their consequences; as if the whole gist of Kant’s argument were not that the only test of this fitness is logical possibility; or as if this were not the one thing expressed in his formula. As to testing maxims by consequences, he does so in the same sense in which Euclid in indirect demonstrations tests a hypothesis by its consequences, and in no other, i. e. by the logical consequences, not the practical. Take the case of a promise. In Kant’s view, the argument against the law permitting unfaithfulness is not that it would be attended with consequences injurious to society, but that it would annihilate all promises (the present included), and therefore annihilate itself. Of inconvenience to society not a word is said or implied. Hence Kant’s objection rests wholly on the absolute universality of the supposed law, whereas the Utilitarian objection from practical consequences would be applicable in a proportionate degree to a law not supposed universal. Hence, also, Kant’s test would hold even if the present promise were never to be followed by another; nay, it would be of equal force even though it should be proved that it would be better for society that there should be no verbal promises.

It has been said 1 that in applying Kant’s formula Edition: current; Page: [liv] we must qualify it by introducing the consideration of the probability that our example or rule will be generally followed; and the instance of celibacy has been suggested, which, it is said, would be necessarily condemned as a crime if tested by Kant’s rule, pure and simple; for if all men practised celibacy there would be an end of the race, and, on the “greatest happiness” principle, to effect this would be the worst of crimes. Now, if a qualification were required, or admissible, Kant’s formula would be deprived of all scientific significance, and its application made dependent on private and uncertain opinion. As to the example of celibacy, Kant has himself indicated how he would dispose of it by the way in which he treats suicide. He does not show its unlawfulness by alleging that if everyone committed suicide the human race would come to an end, but by exposing the inconsistency in the principle of action which would lead to suicide. In every case it is the mental principle which is to be tested, not the mere external action. Bearing this in mind, we shall find no difficulty in the case of celibacy. It may proceed from motives which there would be no absurdity in supposing universal, because the circumstances which give them this particular direction could only be exceptional. But, suppose celibacy recommended on grounds which are in their own nature universal, e.g. as a condition of moral perfection, then Kant’s formula would properly Edition: current; Page: [lv] apply, for moral perfection is an end to be aimed at by all. One might just as well say that Kant’s rule would make all killing criminal, whereas Kant would obviously require us to take into account the motive, self-defence, or other. On the other hand, apply Mr. Sidgwick’s qualification, and what would result? Why, that we might innocently kill, provided the action were not likely to be generally imitated! If occasional celibacy is justified only because there exists a natural passion which is sure to be usually powerful enough to prevent the example being followed, then we may equally justify occasional violence or murder on the ground that fear or benevolence will naturally prevent the action from being extensively imitated.

Kant’s view of the source of obligation in the Autonomy of the will appears to require qualification if we would avoid a contradiction. A law must be above the nature to which it is a law, and which is subject to it. A being which gave itself the moral law, and whose freedom, therefore, is Autonomy, would not be conscious of obligation or duty, since the moral law would coincide with its will. Kant draws the apparently self-contradictory conclusion that we, though willing the law, yet resist it. Even if this be granted, it would follow, not that we should feel obliged, but that either no action at all would follow, or the more powerful side would prevail. That we condemn ourselves when we have violated the law is an important fact, on which Kant very strongly insists, but which his theory fails to explain. Is it not a far simpler and truer explanation to say that this self-condemnation, this humiliation in the presence of an unbending judge, is a proof that we have not given ourselves the law; Edition: current; Page: [lvi] that we are subjects of a higher power? 1 There is, indeed, a sense in which Autonomy may be truly vindicated to man. The moral law is not a mere precept imposed upon us from without, nor is it forced upon us by our sensitive nature; it is a law prescribed to us, or, more correctly speaking, revealed to us, by our own Reason. But Reason is not our own in the sense in which our appetites or sensations are our own; it is not under our own control; it bears the stamp of universality and authority. Thus it declares itself impersonal: in other words, what Reason reveals we regard as valid for all beings possessed of intelligence, equal or superior to our own. Hence, many ethical writers, both ancient and modern, have insisted as strongly as Kant that the moral law is common to man with all rational creatures. 2 And when Kant speaks of Autonomy, this is all that his argument requires. Accordingly, he sometimes speaks of rational creatures as the subjects of Reason, which is the supreme legislator.

As regards the sanctions of the moral law, which practically to imperfect creatures furnish the motive, these consist, according to Kant, in the happiness and misery which are the natural consequences of virtue Edition: current; Page: [lvii] and vice, and he thinks that when they are regarded as natural consequences, the dread of the misery will have more effect than if it were thought to be an arbitrary punishment. “The view into an illimitable future of happiness or misery is sufficient to serve as a motive to the virtuous to continue steadfast in well-doing, and to arouse in the vicious the condemning voice of conscience to check his evil course.” 1 In this Kant agrees with Cumberland. Kant’s argument for immortality is in substance that it is necessary for a continued indefinite approximation to the ideal of the moral law. But since, as he maintains, we have ourselves to blame for not having attained this ideal, what right have we to expect such an opportunity? Having missed the true moment in his argument, which led to the existence of a Supreme Lawgiver, he arrived at this fundamental truth by a roundabout way, through the conception of the summum bonum. But this introduces a quite heterogeneous notion, viz., that of happiness. Happiness belongs to a man as a sensible creature, and all that he has a right to say is, that if Practical Reason had happiness to confer, it would confer it on virtue. How much more direct and convincing is the argument suggested by Butler’s brief words: “Consciousness of a rule or guide of action, in creatures who are capable of considering it as given them by their Maker, not only raises immediately a sense of duty, but also a sense of security in following it, and of danger in deviating from it. A direction of the Author of Nature, given to creatures capable of looking upon it as such, is plainly a command from Edition: current; Page: [lviii] him; and a command from him necessarily includes in it at least an implicit promise in case of obedience, or threatening in case of disobedience;” and since “his method of government is to reward and punish actions, his having annexed to some actions an inseparable sense of good desert, and to others of ill, this surely amounts to declaring upon whom his punishments shall be inflicted, and his rewards bestowed.”

Kant sees no mode of reconciling morality with the law of Causality, except by his distinction of noumena and phenomena. When the law of Causality is rightly understood there is no inconsistency. For the cause which it demands is an efficient cause, and the idea of an efficient cause involves the idea of mind. 1 It is involved in the idea of matter, that it cannot originate (this Kant himself adopts as a first principle in his Metaphysics of Natural Philosophy); whereas it is the very idea of mind with will that it does originate. Edition: current; Page: [lix] When we seek the cause of motion we are satisfied when we trace it to a will. True, we may then ask for the motive; but the nature of motive and that of efficient cause are heterogeneous.

Kant’s view of Freedom, however, does not involve anything of caprice or indeterminateness. Freedom, according to him, is not independence on law which we can consciously follow, but independence on the physical relation of causality, the not being determined by physical or sensible causes. On this view the contradiction, which to Hobbes and others seemed to exist between the conception of freedom and that of the divine foreknowledge, would have little weight. A short consideration suffices to show that there is a fallacy involved in Hobbes’ argument. Suppose a being perfectly wise and good, and at the same time free, then we should only require perfect knowledge of the circumstances of a particular case in order to predict his conduct, and that infallibly. If he were not free we could not do so. And the more nearly a being approaches such perfection, the more certainly could we predict his actions. If his goodness were perfect, but his knowledge imperfect, and if we knew how far his knowledge extended, we could still predict. It would be absurd to say that this would be a contradiction.

It is worthy of notice that Cudworth’s conception of liberty corresponds closely with that of Kant. “The true liberty of a man, as it speaks pure perfection, is when by the right use of the faculty of free will, together with the assistance of Divine grace, he is habitually fixed in moral good;” “but when by the abuse of that faculty of free will men come to be Edition: current; Page: [lx] habitually fixed in evil and sinful inclinations, then are they, as Boëthius well expresses it, propriæ libertati captivi—made captive and brought into bondage by their own free will.” It may have been suggested to both of them by St. Paul, who represents sin as slavery, righteousness as freedom.

Kant is by no means happy in his treatment of the corruption of human nature. In order to escape the difficulty of reconciling responsibility with the innate corruption on which he so strongly dwells, he has recourse (as in the case of freedom) to the distinction between man noumenon and man phenomenon. The innate evil of human nature rests on an inversion of the natural order, the legislative will being subordinated to the sensibility. But how can this be reconciled with the self-given, and therefore self-willed law which makes good a duty? It is inconceivable that the pure supersensible essence could invest the sensational nature (the objects of which have for it no reality) with a preponderance over itself. A further contradiction appears to be involved in the relation of evil to freedom; for he states that freedom is as inseparably connected with the law of Practical Reason as the physical cause with the law of nature, so that freedom without the law of Practical Reason is a causality without law, which would be absurd; and yet, on the other hand, he regards freedom as an ability from which proceeds contradiction to the moral law.

A still more insuperable difficulty meets him when he attempts to answer the question, Is reformation possible? He replies: Yes; for it is a duty. You ought, therefore you can. How the return from evil Edition: current; Page: [lxi] to good is possible cannot indeed be comprehended, but the original fall from good to evil is equally incomprehensible, and yet is a fact. Now, freedom which belongs to the supersensible sphere (the sphere of noumena) cannot be determined by anything in the phenomenal world; consequently, if freedom has, apart from time, given the man a determination, then no event in time can produce a change. Nay, it would be a contradiction to suppose the removal of an act in the noumenal (supersensible) world by a succeeding act. Contrary or contradictory attributes cannot be attributed to the same subject except under the condition of time. If, therefore, the intelligent being is timeless, we cannot possibly attribute to it two decisions, of which one annuls the other. He is not even consistent, for he argues that it is not possible to destroy this radical corruption by human power, but only to overcome it. Why does he not conclude here, I ought to destroy it, therefore I can? Lastly, even if this “I can” were granted, it would be only a theoretical, not a practical possibility. If the man endowed with the faculties in their true subordination, with reason supreme, has yet not had strength or purity of will to remain so, what practical possibility is there that having this subordination perverted he can restore it? There is obviously an external aid necessary here. Not that anything wholly external could effect the change, which can only be produced by something operating on man’s own moral nature; but there must be a moral leverage, an external fulcrum, a πονˆ στωˆ. Such aid, such leverage are provided by the Christian religion. It has introduced a new motive, perfectly original and Edition: current; Page: [lxii] unique, the overpowering force of which has been proved in many crucial instances; and no more complete theoretical proof of the absolute necessity of some such revelation could be given than is supplied by the attempts of the profoundest philosopher of modern times to dispense with it.

Kant’s own position with respect to Christianity is that of a Rationalist. He accepts the whole moral and spiritual teaching of the New Testament, because he finds it in accordance with reason, and this being so, he judges that it is a matter of no practical consequence whether its introduction was supernatural or not. He did not deny that Divine aid was required to make reformation possible, but he thought that no intellectual belief or knowledge of ours could be a condition of this aid, and, therefore, that all historical questions were adiaphora. But this is to take for granted, that if God gives such aid at all, it must be in a particular way. Butler’s argument from analogy is conclusive against such assumptions. And, indeed, it is certain that the moral and the positive in Christianity cannot be thus kept apart. It is to the facts that the doctrines owe their life and motive power. It is these that supply the leverage, without which the most perfect moral teaching will fall dead on the ears at least of the masses of mankind.

Besides, as Butler shows, revealed facts may be the foundation of moral duties to those to whom the revelation has come.

It is remarkable that, although Kant was fond of reading English authors, and was influenced in his moral discussions by English moralists, Butler (who had written half a century before the publication of Edition: current; Page: [lxiii] the Kritik) was wholly unknown to him. What is more remarkable is, that Butler has remained equally unknown to German writers up to the present day. Whilst German historians of moral philosophy are careful to note the merits of even Wollaston and Ferguson, they pass over Butler’s name in silence. The reason of this silence, doubtless, is to be found in the title of his work. But although foreign philosophers could not be expected to look for a treatise on moral philosophy in a book called Fifteen Sermons, how is it that attention was not called to him by the notices in Mackintosh (who is largely cited, e. g. by I. H. Fichte), which showed the high estimation in which the work was held in England? It is certainly a curious and suggestive fact that writers, professedly and learnedly treating of English moral philosophers, should be wholly ignorant of the writer who holds by far the highest rank among them, whose work is the classical work, the text-book of the Universities, and with a wider circulation, probably, than the works of all the other moralists put together.

The most striking peculiarity of Kant’s moral theory is its connexion with his metaphysical system. It is in the moral law that he finds the means of establishing the existence, and to some extent the nature, of the supersensible reality. He has been charged with inconsistency in this. What he pulls down in the Critique of the Speculative Reason, he restores illogically, it is said, in that of the Practical Reason. The fact appears to be, that readers of the former work are apt to fall into two mistakes. First, they suppose that they have before them a complete system instead of a portion only; and secondly, they mistake Edition: current; Page: [lxiv] the attitude of suspense with regard to the supersensible reality for a dogmatic negation of all knowledge thereof. When they come to the Practical works, they find the impression thus formed respecting Kant’s attitude towards the supersensible contradicted. But the inconsistency is not between the two parts of Kant’s system, but between his system as a whole and the impression derived from a partial view of it. That he limits his affirmation of the supersensible to its practical aspect is quite in accordance with the spirit of his philosophy. Nor is this limitation so very unlike that of the common-sense philosopher, Locke, who, in speaking of the limits of our faculties, says that men have reason to be well satisfied, since God hath given them “whatever is necessary for the conveniences of life, and the information of virtue;” adding, “How short soever their knowledge may come of an universal or perfect comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great concernments, that they have light enough to lead them to the knowledge of their Maker, and the sight of their own duties.” (Essay, bk. 1. ch. i. § 5.)

Edition: current; Page: [1]

Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals


ANCIENT GREEK PHILOSOPHY was divided into three sciences: Physics, Ethics, and Logic. This division is perfectly suitable to the nature of the thing, and the only improvement that can be made in it is to add the principle on which it is based, so that we may both satisfy ourselves of its completeness, and also be able to determine correctly the necessary subdivisions.

All rational knowledge is either material or formal: the former considers some object, the latter is concerned only with the form of the understanding and of the reason itself, and with the universal laws of thought in general without distinction of its objects. Formal philosophy is called Logic. Material philosophy, however, which has to do with determinate objects and the laws to which they are subject, is again two-fold; for these laws are either laws of nature or of freedom. The science of the former is Physics, that of the latter, Ethics; they are also called natural philosophy and moral philosophy respectively.

Logic cannot have any empirical part; that is, a part in which the universal and necessary laws of thought should rest on grounds taken from experience; otherwise it would not be logic, i.e. a canon for the understanding or the reason, valid for all thought, and capable of demonstration Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [4]. Natural and Edition: current; Page: [2] moral philosophy, on the contrary, can each have their empirical part, since the former has to determine the laws of nature as an object of experience; the latter the laws of the human will, so far as it is affected by nature: the former, however, being laws according to which everything does happen; the latter, laws according to which everything ought to happen. 1 Ethics, however, must also consider the conditions under which what ought to happen frequently does not.

We may call all philosophy empirical, so far as it is based on grounds of experience: on the other hand, that which delivers its doctrines from à priori principles alone we may call pure philosophy. When the latter is merely formal it is logic; if it is restricted to definite objects of the understanding it is metaphysic.

In this way there arises the idea of a two-fold metaphysic—a metaphysic of nature and a metaphysic of morals. Physics will thus have an empirical and also a rational part. It is the same with Ethics; but here the empirical part might have the special name of practical anthropology, the name morality being appropriated to the rational part.

All trades, arts, and handiworks have gained by division of labour, namely, when, instead of one man doing everything, each confines himself to a certain kind of work distinct from others in the treatment it requires, so as to be able to perform it with greater facility and in the greatest perfection. Where the different kinds of work are not so distinguished and divided, where everyone is a jack-of-all-trades, there manufactures remain still in the greatest barbarism. It might deserve to be considered Edition: current; Page: [3] whether pure philosophy in all its parts does not require a man specially devoted to it, and whether it would not be better for the whole business of science if those who, to please the tastes of the public, are wont to blend the rational and empirical elements together, mixed in all sorts of proportions unknown to themselves Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [5], and who call themselves independent thinkers, giving the name of minute philosophers to those who apply themselves to the rational part only—if these, I say, were warned not to carry on two employments together which differ widely in the treatment they demand, for each of which perhaps a special talent is required, and the combination of which in one person only produces bunglers. But I only ask here whether the nature of science does not require that we should always carefully separate the empirical from the rational part, and prefix to Physics proper (or empirical physics) a metaphysic of nature, and to practical anthropology a metaphysic of morals, which must be carefully cleared of everything empirical, so that we may know how much can be accomplished by pure reason in both cases, and from what sources it draws this its à priori teaching, and that whether the latter inquiry is conducted by all moralists (whose name is legion), or only by some who feel a calling thereto.

As my concern here is with moral philosophy, I limit the question suggested to this: Whether it is not of the utmost necessity to construct a pure moral philosophy, perfectly cleared of everything which is only empirical, and which belongs to anthropology? for that such a philosophy must be possible is evident from the common idea of duty and of the moral laws. Everyone must admit that if a law is to have moral force, i. e. to be the basis of an obligation, it must carry with it absolute necessity; that, for example, the precept, ‘Thou shalt not lie,’ Edition: current; Page: [4] is not valid for men alone, as if other rational beings had no need to observe it; and so with all the other moral laws properly so called; that, therefore, the basis of obligation must not be sought in the nature of man, or in the circumstances in the world in which he is placed, but à priori simply in the conceptions of Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [6] pure reason; and although any other precept which is founded on principles of mere experience may be in certain respects universal, yet in as far as it rests even in the least degree on an empirical basis, perhaps only as to a motive, such a precept, while it may be a practical rule, can never be called a moral law.

Thus not only are moral laws with their principles essentially distinguished from every other kind of practical knowledge in which there is anything empirical, but all moral philosophy rests wholly on its pure part. When applied to man, it does not borrow the least thing from the knowledge of man himself (anthropology), but gives laws à priori to him as a rational being. No doubt these laws require a judgment sharpened by experience, in order on the one hand to distinguish in what cases they are applicable, and on the other to procure for them access to the will of the man, and effectual influence on conduct; since man is acted on by so many inclinations that, though capable of the idea of a practical pure reason, he is not so easily able to make it effective in concreto in his life.

A metaphysic of morals is therefore indispensably necessary, not merely for speculative reasons, in order to investigate the sources of the practical principles which are to be found à priori in our reason, but also because morals themselves are liable to all sorts of corruption, as long as we are without that clue and supreme canon by which to estimate them correctly. For in order that an action should be morally good, it is not enough Edition: current; Page: [5] that it conform to the moral law, but it must also be done for the sake of the law, otherwise that conformity is only very contingent and uncertain; since a principle which is not moral, although it may now and then produce actions conformable to the law, will also often produce actions which contradict it Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [7]. Now it is only in a pure philosophy that we can look for the moral law in its purity and genuineness (and, in a practical matter, this is of the utmost consequence): we must, therefore, begin with pure philosophy (metaphysic), and without it there cannot be any moral philosophy at all. That which mingles these pure principles with the empirical does not deserve the name of philosophy (for what distinguishes philosophy from common rational knowledge is, that it treats in separate sciences what the latter only comprehends confusedly); much less does it deserve that of moral philosophy, since by this confusion it even spoils the purity of morals themselves, and counteracts its own end.

Let it not be thought, however, that what is here demanded is already extant in the propædeutic prefixed by the celebrated Wolf 1 to his moral philosophy, namely, his so-called general practical philosophy, and that, therefore, we have not to strike into an entirely new field. Just because it was to be a general practical philosophy, it has not taken into consideration a will of any particular kind—say one which should be determined solely from à priori principles without any empirical motives, and which we might call a pure will, but volition in general, with all the actions and conditions which belong to it in this Edition: current; Page: [6] general signification. By this it is distinguished from a metaphysic of morals, just as general logic, which treats of the acts and canons of thought in general, is distinguished from transcendental philosophy, which treats of the particular acts and canons of pure thought, i.e. that whose cognitions are altogether à priori. For the metaphysic of morals has to examine the idea and the principles of a possible pure will, and not the acts and conditions of human volition generally, which for the most part are drawn from psychology Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [8]. It is true that moral laws and duty are spoken of in the general practical philosophy (contrary indeed to all fitness). But this is no objection, for in this respect also the authors of that science remain true to their idea of it; they do not distinguish the motives which are prescribed as such by reason alone altogether à priori, and which are properly moral, from the empirical motives which the understanding raises to general conceptions merely by comparison of experiences; but without noticing the difference of their sources, and looking on them all as homogeneous, they consider only their greater or less amount. It is in this way they frame their notion of obligation, which, though anything but moral, is all that can be asked for in a philosophy which passes no judgment at all on the origin of all possible practical concepts, whether they are à priori, or only à posteriori.

Intending to publish hereafter a metaphysic of morals, I issue in the first instance these fundamental principles. Indeed there is properly no other foundation for it than the critical examination of a pure practical reason; just as that of metaphysics is the critical examination of the pure speculative reason, already published. But in the first place the former is not so absolutely necessary as the latter, because in moral concerns human reason can easily be brought to a high degree of correctness Edition: current; Page: [7] and completeness, even in the commonest understanding, while on the contrary in its theoretic but pure use it is wholly dialectical; and in the second place if the critique of a pure practical reason is to be complete, it must be possible at the same time to show its identity with the speculative reason in a common principle, for it can ultimately be only one and the same reason which has to be distinguished merely in its application. I could not, however, bring it to such completeness here, without introducing considerations of a wholly different kind, which would be perplexing to the reader Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [9]. On this account I have adopted the title of Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals, instead of that of a Critical Examination of the pure practical Reason.

But in the third place, since a metaphysic of morals, in spite of the discouraging title, is yet capable of being presented in a popular form, and one adapted to the common understanding, I find it useful to separate from it this preliminary treatise on its fundamental principles, in order that I may not hereafter have need to introduce these necessarily subtle discussions into a book of a more simple character.

The present treatise is, however, nothing more than the investigation and establishment of the supreme principle of morality, and this alone constitutes a study complete in itself, and one which ought to be kept apart from every other moral investigation. No doubt my conclusions on this weighty question, which has hitherto been very unsatisfactorily examined, would receive much light from the application of the same principle to the whole system, and would be greatly confirmed by the adequacy which it exhibits throughout; but I must forego this advantage, which indeed would be after all more gratifying than useful, since the easy applicability of a principle and its apparent Edition: current; Page: [8] adequacy give no very certain proof of its soundness, but rather inspire a certain partiality, which prevents us from examining and estimating it strictly in itself, and without regard to consequences.

I have adopted in this work the method which I think most suitable, proceeding analytically from common knowledge to the determination of its ultimate principle, and again descending synthetically from the examination of this principle and its sources to the common knowledge in which we find it employed. The division will, therefore, be as follows Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [10]:—

  • 1. First section.—Transition from the common rational knowledge of morality to the philosophical.
  • 2. Second section.—Transition from popular moral philosophy to the metaphysic of morals.
  • 3. Third section.—Final step from the metaphysic of morals to the critique of the pure practical reason.
Edition: current; Page: [9]

FIRST SECTION.: transition from the common rational knowledge of morality to the philosophical.

Nothing can possibly be conceived in the world, or even out of it, which can be called good without qualification, except a Good Will. Intelligence, wit, judgment, and the other talents of the mind, however they may be named, or courage, resolution, perseverance, as qualities of temperament, are undoubtedly good and desirable in many respects; but these gifts of nature may also become extremely bad and mischievous if the will which is to make use of them, and which, therefore, constitutes what is called character, is not good. It is the same with the gifts of fortune. Power, riches, honour, even health, and the general well-being and contentment with one’s condition which is called happiness, inspire pride, and often presumption, if there is not a good will to correct the influence of these on the mind, and with this also to rectify the whole principle of acting, and adapt it to its end. The sight of a being who is not adorned with a single feature of a pure and good will, enjoying unbroken prosperity, can never give pleasure to an impartial rational spectator Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [12]. Thus a good will appears to constitute the indispensable condition even of being worthy of happiness.

There are even some qualities which are of service to this good will itself, and may facilitate its action, yet which have no intrinsic unconditional value, but always presuppose a good will, and this qualifies the esteem that we justly have for them, and does not permit us to regard them as absolutely good. Moderation in the affections and passions, self-control and calm deliberation are not only good in many respects, but even seem to constitute part of the intrinsic worth of the person; but they are far from deserving to be called good without qualification, Edition: current; Page: [10] although they have been so unconditionally praised by the ancients. For without the principles of a good will, they may become extremely bad, and the coolness of a villain not only makes him far more dangerous, but also directly makes him more abominable in our eyes than he would have been without it.

A good will is good not because of what it performs or effects, not by its aptness for the attainment of some proposed end, but simply by virtue of the volition, that is, it is good in itself, and considered by itself is to be esteemed much higher than all that can be brought about by it in favour of any inclination, nay, even of the sum total of all inclinations. Even if it should happen that, owing to special disfavour of fortune, or the niggardly provision of a step-motherly nature, this will should wholly lack power to accomplish its purpose, if with its greatest efforts it should yet achieve nothing, and there should remain only the good will (not, to be sure, a mere wish, but the summoning of all means in our power), then, like a jewel, it would still shine by its own light, as a thing which has its whole value in itself Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [13]. Its usefulness or fruitlessness can neither add to nor take away anything from this value. It would be, as it were, only the setting to enable us to handle it the more conveniently in common commerce, or to attract to it the attention of those who are not yet connoisseurs, but not to recommend it to true connoisseurs, or to determine its value.

There is, however, something so strange in this idea of the absolute value of the mere will, in which no account is taken of its utility, that notwithstanding the thorough assent of even common reason to the idea, yet a suspicion must arise that it may perhaps really be the product of mere high-flown fancy, and that we may have misunderstood the purpose of nature in assigning reason as the governor of our will. Therefore we will examine this idea from this point of view.

In the physical constitution of an organized being, that is, a being adapted suitably to the purposes of life, we assume it as a fundamental principle that no organ for any purpose will be found but what is also the fittest and best adapted for that Edition: current; Page: [11] purpose. Now in a being which has reason and a will, if the proper object of nature were its conservation, its welfare, in a word, its happiness, then nature would have hit upon a very bad arrangement in selecting the reason of the creature to carry out this purpose. For all the actions which the creature has to perform with a view to this purpose, and the whole rule of its conduct, would be far more surely prescribed to it by instinct, and that end would have been attained thereby much more certainly than it ever can be by reason. Should reason have been communicated to this favoured creature over and above, it must only have served it to contemplate the happy constitution of its nature Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [14], to admire it, to congratulate itself thereon, and to feel thankful for it to the beneficent cause, but not that it should subject its desires to that weak and delusive guidance, and meddle bunglingly with the purpose of nature. In a word, nature would have taken care that reason should not break forth into practical exercise, nor have the presumption, with its weak insight, to think out for itself the plan of happiness, and of the means of attaining it. Nature would not only have taken on herself the choice of the ends, but also of the means, and with wise foresight would have entrusted both to instinct.

And, in fact, we find that the more a cultivated reason applies itself with deliberate purpose to the enjoyment of life and happiness, so much the more does the man fail of true satisfaction. And from this circumstance there arises in many, if they are candid enough to confess it, a certain degree of misology, that is, hatred of reason, especially in the case of those who are most experienced in the use of it, because after calculating all the advantages they derive, I do not say from the invention of all the arts of common luxury, but even from the sciences (which seem to them to be after all only a luxury of the understanding), they find that they have, in fact, only brought more trouble on their shoulders, rather than gained in happiness; and they end by envying, rather than despising, the more common stamp of men who keep closer to the guidance of mere instinct, and do not allow their reason much influence on their conduct. And this we must admit, that the judgment of those who would very Edition: current; Page: [12] much lower the lofty eulogies of the advantages which reason gives us in regard to the happiness and satisfaction of life, or who would even reduce them below zero, is by no means morose or ungrateful to the goodness with which the world is governed, but that there lies at the root of these judgments the idea Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [15] that our existence has a different and far nobler end, for which, and not for happiness, reason is properly intended, and which must, therefore, be regarded as the supreme condition to which the private ends of man must, for the most part, be postponed.

For as reason is not competent to guide the will with certainty in regard to its objects and the satisfaction of all our wants (which it to some extent even multiplies), this being an end to which an implanted instinct would have led with much greater certainty; and since, nevertheless, reason is imparted to us as a practical faculty, i.e. as one which is to have influence on the will, therefore, admitting that nature generally in the distribution of her capacities has adapted the means to the end, its true destination must be to produce a will, not merely good as a means to something else, but good in itself, for which reason was absolutely necessary. This will then, though not indeed the sole and complete good, must be the supreme good and the condition of every other, even of the desire of happiness. Under these circumstances, there is nothing inconsistent with the wisdom of nature in the fact that the cultivation of the reason, which is requisite for the first and unconditional purpose, does in many ways interfere, at least in this life, with the attainment of the second, which is always conditional, namely, happiness. Nay, it may even reduce it to nothing, without nature thereby failing of her purpose. For reason recognises the establishment of a good will as its highest practical destination, and in attaining this purpose is capable only of a satisfaction of its own proper kind, namely, that from the attainment of an end, which end again is determined by reason only, notwithstanding that this may involve many a disappointment to the ends of inclination Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [16].

We have then to develop the notion of a will which deserves to be highly esteemed for itself, and is good without a view to Edition: current; Page: [13] anything further, a notion which exists already in the sound natural understanding, requiring rather to be cleared up than to be taught, and which in estimating the value of our actions always takes the first place, and constitutes the condition of all the rest. In order to do this we will take the notion of duty, which includes that of a good will, although implying certain subjective restrictions and hindrances. These, however, far from concealing it, or rendering it unrecognisable, rather bring it out by contrast, and make it shine forth so much the brighter.

I omit here all actions which are already recognised as inconsistent with duty, although they may be useful for this or that purpose, for with these the question whether they are done from duty cannot arise at all, since they even conflict with it. I also set aside those actions which really conform to duty, but to which men have no direct inclination, performing them because they are impelled thereto by some other inclination. For in this case we can readily distinguish whether the action which agrees with duty is done from duty, or from a selfish view. It is much harder to make this distinction when the action accords with duty, and the subject has besides a direct inclination to it. For example, it is always a matter of duty that a dealer should not overcharge an inexperienced purchaser, and wherever there is much commerce the prudent tradesman does not overcharge, but keeps a fixed price for everyone, so that a child buys of him as well as any other. Men are thus honestly served; but this is not enough to make us believe that the tradesman has so acted from duty and from principles of honesty: his own advantage required it; it is out of the question in this case to suppose that he might besides have a direct inclination in favour of the buyers, so that Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [17], as it were, from love he should give no advantage to one over another. Accordingly the action was done neither from duty nor from direct inclination, but merely with a selfish view.

On the other hand, it is a duty to maintain one’s life; and, in addition, every one has also a direct inclination to do so. But on this account the often anxious care which most men take for Edition: current; Page: [14] it has no intrinsic worth, and their maxim has no moral import. They preserve their life as duty requires, no doubt, but not because duty requires. On the other hand, if adversity and hopeless sorrow have completely taken away the relish for life; if the unfortunate one, strong in mind, indignant at his fate rather than desponding or dejected, wishes for death, and yet preserves his life without loving it—not from inclination or fear, but from duty—then his maxim has a moral worth.

To be beneficent when we can is a duty; and besides this, there are many minds so sympathetically constituted that, without any other motive of vanity or self-interest, they find a pleasure in spreading joy around them, and can take delight in the satisfaction of others so far as it is their own work. But I maintain that in such a case an action of this kind, however proper, however amiable it may be, has nevertheless no true moral worth, but is on a level with other inclinations, e. g. the inclination to honour, which, if it is happily directed to that which is in fact of public utility and accordant with duty, and consequently honourable, deserves praise and encouragement, but not esteem. For the maxim lacks the moral import, namely, that such actions be done from duty, not from inclination. Put the case that the mind of that philanthropist were clouded by sorrow of his own Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [18], extinguishing all sympathy with the lot of others, and that while he still has the power to benefit others in distress, he is not touched by their trouble because he is absorbed with his own; and now suppose that he tears himself out of this dead insensibility, and performs the action without any inclination to it, but simply from duty, then first has his action its genuine moral worth. Further still; if nature has put little sympathy in the heart of this or that man; if he, supposed to be an upright man, is by temperament cold and indifferent to the sufferings of others, perhaps because in respect of his own he is provided with the special gift of patience and fortitude, and supposes, or even requires, that others should have the same—and such a man would certainly not be the meanest product of nature—but if nature had not specially framed him for a philanthropist, would he not still find in himself a source Edition: current; Page: [15] from whence to give himself a far higher worth than that of a good-natured temperament could be? Unquestionably. It is just in this that the moral worth of the character is brought out which is incomparably the highest of all, namely, that he is beneficent, not from inclination, but from duty.

To secure one’s own happiness is a duty, at least indirectly; for discontent with one’s condition, under a pressure of many anxieties and amidst unsatisfied wants, might easily become a great temptation to transgression of duty. But here again, without looking to duty, all men have already the strongest and most intimate inclination to happiness, because it is just in this idea that all inclinations are combined in one total. But the precept of happiness is often of such a sort that it greatly interferes with some inclinations, and yet a man cannot form any definite and certain conception of the sum of satisfaction of all of them which is called happiness Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [19]. It is not then to be wondered at that a single inclination, definite both as to what it promises and as to the time within which it can be gratified, is often able to overcome such a fluctuating idea, and that a gouty patient, for instance, can choose to enjoy what he likes, and to suffer what he may, since, according to his calculation, on this occasion at least, he has [only] not sacrificed the enjoyment of the present moment to a possibly mistaken expectation of a happiness which is supposed to be found in health. But even in this case, if the general desire for happiness did not influence his will, and supposing that in his particular case health was not a necessary element in this calculation, there yet remains in this, as in all other cases, this law, namely, that he should promote his happiness not from inclination but from duty, and by this would his conduct first acquire true moral worth.

It is in this manner, undoubtedly, that we are to understand those passages of Scripture also in which we are commanded to love our neighbour, even our enemy. For love, as an affection, cannot be commanded, but beneficence for duty’s sake may; even though we are not impelled to it by any inclination—nay, are even repelled by a natural and unconquerable aversion. This is practical love, and not pathological—a love which is seated in Edition: current; Page: [16] the will, and not in the propensions of sense—in principles of action and not of tender sympathy; and it is this love alone which can be commanded.

The second 1 proposition is: That an action done from duty derives its moral worth, not from the purpose which is to be attained by it, but from the maxim by which it is determined, and therefore does not depend on the realization of the object of the action, but merely on the principle of volition by which the action has taken place, without regard to any object of desire Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [20]. It is clear from what precedes that the purposes which we may have in view in our actions, or their effects regarded as ends and springs of the will, cannot give to actions any unconditional or moral worth. In what, then, can their worth lie, if it is not to consist in the will and in reference to its expected effect? It cannot lie anywhere but in the principle of the will without regard to the ends which can be attained by the action. For the will stands between its à priori principle, which is formal, and its à posteriori spring, which is material, as between two roads, and as it must be determined by something, it follows that it must be determined by the formal principle of volition when an action is done from duty, in which case every material principle has been withdrawn from it.

The third proposition, which is a consequence of the two preceding, I would express thus: Duty is the necessity of acting from respect for the law. I may have inclination for an object as the effect of my proposed action, but I cannot have respect for it, just for this reason, that it is an effect and not an energy of will. Similarly, I cannot have respect for inclination, whether my own or another’s; I can at most, if my own, approve it; if another’s, sometimes even love it; i. e. look on it as favourable to my own interest. It is only what is connected with my will as a principle, by no means as an effect—what does not subserve my inclination, but overpowers it, or at least in case of choice excludes it from its calculation—in other words, simply the law Edition: current; Page: [17] of itself, which can be an object of respect, and hence a command. Now an action done from duty must wholly exclude the influence of inclination, and with it every object of the will, so that nothing remains which can determine the will except objectively the law, and subjectively pure respect Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [21] for this practical law, and consequently the maxim 1 that I should follow this law even to the thwarting of all my inclinations.

Thus the moral worth of an action does not lie in the effect expected from it, nor in any principle of action which requires to borrow its motive from this expected effect. For all these effects—agreeableness of one’s condition, and even the promotion of the happiness of others—could have been also brought about by other causes, so that for this there would have been no need of the will of a rational being; whereas it is in this alone that the supreme and unconditional good can be found. The pre-eminent good which we call moral can therefore consist in nothing else than the conception of law in itself, which certainly is only possible in a rational being, in so far as this conception, and not the expected effect, determines the will. This is a good which is already present in the person who acts accordingly, and we have not to wait for it to appear first in the result 2 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [22].

But what sort of law can that be, the conception of which must determine the will, even without paying any regard to the effect expected from it, in order that this will may be called Edition: current; Page: [18] good absolutely and without qualification? As I have deprived the will of every impulse which could arise to it from obedience to any law, there remains nothing but the universal conformity of its actions to law in general, which alone is to serve the will as a principle, i. e. I am never to act otherwise than so that I could also will that my maxim should become a universal law. Here now, it is the simple conformity to law in general, without assuming any particular law applicable to certain actions, that serves the will as its principle, and must so serve it, if duty is not to be a vain delusion and a chimerical notion. The common reason of men in its practical judgments perfectly coincides with this, and always has in view the principle here suggested. Let the question be, for example: May I when in distress make a promise with the intention not to keep it? I readily distinguish here between the two significations which the question may have: Whether it is prudent Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [23], or whether it is right, to make a false promise. The former may undoubtedly often be the case. I see clearly indeed that it is not enough to extricate myself from a present difficulty by means of this subterfuge, but it must be well considered whether there may not hereafter spring from this lie much greater inconvenience than that from which I now free myself, and as, with all my supposed cunning, the consequences cannot be so easily foreseen but that credit Edition: current; Page: [19] once lost may be much more injurious to me than any mischief which I seek to avoid at present, it should be considered whether it would not be more prudent to act herein according to a universal maxim, and to make it a habit to promise nothing except with the intention of keeping it. But it is soon clear to me that such a maxim will still only be based on the fear of consequences. Now it is a wholly different thing to be truthful from duty, and to be so from apprehension of injurious consequences. In the first case, the very notion of the action already implies a law for me; in the second case, I must first look about elsewhere to see what results may be combined with it which would affect myself. For to deviate from the principle of duty is beyond all doubt wicked; but to be unfaithful to my maxim of prudence may often be very advantageous to me, although to abide by it is certainly safer. The shortest way, however, and an unerring one, to discover the answer to this question whether a lying promise is consistent with duty, is to ask myself, Should I be content that my maxim (to extricate myself from difficulty by a false promise) should hold good as a universal law, for myself as well as for others? and should I be able to say to myself, “Every one may make a deceitful promise when he finds himself in a difficulty from which he cannot otherwise extricate himself”? Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [24] Then I presently become aware that while I can will the lie, I can by no means will that lying should be a universal law. For with such a law there would be no promises at all, since it would be in vain to allege my intention in regard to my future actions to those who would not believe this allegation, or if they over-hastily did so would pay me back in my own coin. Hence my maxim, as soon as it should be made a universal law, would necessarily destory itself.

I do not, therefore, need any far-reaching penetration to discern what I have to do in order that my will may be morally good. Inexperienced in the course of the world, incapable of being prepared for all its contingencies, I only ask myself: Canst thou also will that thy maxim should be a universal law? If not, then it must be rejected, and that not because of a disadvantage accruing from it to myself or even to others, but Edition: current; Page: [20] because it cannot enter as a principle into a possible universal legislation, and reason extorts from me immediate respect for such legislation. I do not indeed as yet discern on what this respect is based (this the philosopher may inquire), but at least I understand this, that it is an estimation of the worth which far outweighs all worth of what is recommended by inclination, and that the necessity of acting from pure respect for the practical law is what constitutes duty, to which every other motive must give place, because it is the condition of a will being good in itself, and the worth of such a will is above everything.

Thus, then, without quitting the moral knowledge of common human reason, we have arrived at its principle. And although, no doubt, common men do not conceive it in such an abstract and universal form, yet they always have it really before their eyes, and use it as the standard of their decision. Here it would be easy to show how, with this compass in hand Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [25], men are well able to distinguish, in every case that occurs, what is good, what bad, conformably to duty or inconsistent with it, if, without in the least teaching them anything new, we only, like Socrates, direct their attention to the principle they themselves employ; and that therefore we do not need science and philosophy to know what we should do to be honest and good, yea, even wise and virtuous. Indeed we might well have conjectured beforehand that the knowledge of what every man is bound to do, and therefore also to know, would be within the reach of every man, even the commonest. 1 Here we cannot forbear admiration when we see how great an advantage the practical judgment has over the theoretical in the common understanding of men. In the latter, if common reason ventures to depart from the laws of experience and from the perceptions of the senses it falls into mere inconceivabilities and self-contradictions, at least into a chaos of uncertainty, obscurity, and instability. But in the practical sphere it is just when the Edition: current; Page: [21] common understanding excludes all sensible springs from practical laws that its power of judgment begins to show itself to advantage. It then becomes even subtle, whether it be that it chicanes with its own conscience or with other claims respecting what is to be called right, or whether it desires for its own instruction to determine honestly the worth of actions; and, in the latter case, it may even have as good a hope of hitting the mark as any philosopher whatever can promise himself. Nay, it is almost more sure of doing so, because the philosopher cannot have any other principle, while he may easily perplex his judgment by a multitude of considerations foreign to the matter, and so turn aside from the right way. Would it not therefore be wiser in moral concerns to acquiesce in the judgment of common reason Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [26], or at most only to call in philosophy for the purpose of rendering the system of morals more complete and intelligible, and its rules more convenient for use (especially for disputation), but not so as to draw off the common understanding from its happy simplicity, or to bring it by means of philosophy into a new path of inquiry and instruction?

Innocence is indeed a glorious thing, only, on the other hand, it is very sad that it cannot well maintain itself, and is easily seduced. On this account even wisdom—which otherwise consists more in conduct than in knowledge—yet has need of science, not in order to learn from it, but to secure for its precepts admission and permanence. Against all the commands of duty which reason represents to man as so deserving of repect, he feels in himself a powerful counterpoise in his wants and inclinations, the entire satisfaction of which he sums up under the name of happiness. Now reason issues its commands unyieldingly, without promising anything to the inclinations, and, as it were, with disregard and contempt for these claims, which are so impetuous, and at the same time so plausible, and which will not allow themselves to be suppressed by any command. Hence there arises a natural dialectic, i. e. a disposition, to argue against these strict laws of duty and to question their validity, or at least their purity and strictness; and, if possible, to make them more accordant with our wishes and inclinations, Edition: current; Page: [22] that is to say, to corrupt them at their very source, and entirely to destroy their worth—a thing which even common practical reason cannot ultimately call good.

Thus is the common reason of man compelled to go out of its sphere, and to take a step into the field of a practical philosophy, not to satisfy any speculative want (which never occurs to it as long as it is content to be mere sound reason), but even on practical grounds Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [27], in order to attain in it information and clear instruction respecting the source of its principle, and the correct determination of it in opposition to the maxims which are based on wants and inclinations, so that it may escape from the perplexity of opposite claims, and not run the risk of losing all genuine moral principles through the equivocation into which it easily falls. Thus, when practical reason cultivates itself, there insensibly arises in it a dialectic which forces it to seek aid in philosophy, just as happens to it in its theoretic use; and in this case, therefore, as well as in the other, it will find rest nowhere but in a thorough critical examination of our reason.

Edition: current; Page: [23]

SECOND SECTION.: transition from popular moral philosophy to the metaphysic of morals.

If we have hitherto drawn our notion of duty from the common use of our practical reason, it is by no means to be inferred that we have treated it as an empirical notion. On the contrary, if we attend to the experience of men’s conduct, we meet frequent and, as we ourselves allow, just complaints that one cannot find a single certain example of the disposition to act from pure duty. Although many things are done in conformity with what duty prescribes, it is nevertheless always doubtful whether they are done strictly from duty, so as to have a moral worth. Hence there have, at all times, been philosophers who have altogether denied that this disposition actually exists at all in human actions, and have ascribed everything to a more or less refined self-love. Not that they have on that account questioned the soundness of the conception of morality; on the contrary, they spoke with sincere regret of the frailty and corruption of human nature, which though noble enough to take as its rule an idea so worthy of respect, is yet too weak to follow it, and employs reason, which ought to give it the law Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [29] only for the purpose of providing for the interest of the inclinations, whether singly or at the best in the greatest possible harmony with one another.

In fact, it is absolutely impossible to make out by experience with complete certainty a single case in which the maxim of an action, however right in itself, rested simply on moral grounds and on the conception of duty. Sometimes it happens that with the sharpest self-examination we can find nothing beside the moral principle of duty which could have been powerful enough to move us to this or that action and to Edition: current; Page: [24] so great a sacrifice; yet we cannot from this infer with certainty that it was not really some secret impulse of self-love, under the false appearance of duty, that was the actual determining cause of the will. We like then to flatter ourselves by falsely taking credit for a more noble motive; whereas in fact we can never, even by the strictest examination, get completely behind the secret springs of action; since when the question is of moral worth, it is not with the actions which we see that we are concerned, but with those inward principles of them which we do not see.

Moreover, we cannot better serve the wishes of those who ridicule all morality as a mere chimera of human imagination overstepping itself from vanity, than by conceding to them that notions of duty must be drawn only from experience (as from indolence, people are ready to think is also the case with all other notions); for this is to prepare for them a certain triumph. I am willing to admit out of love of humanity that even most of our actions are correct, but if we look closer at them we everywhere come upon the dear self which is always prominent, and it is this they have in view, and not the strict command of duty which would often require self-denial Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [30]. Without being an enemy of virtue, a cool observer, one that does not mistake the wish for good, however lively, for its reality, may sometimes doubt whether true virtue is actually found anywhere in the world, and this especially as years increase and the judgment is partly made wiser by experience, and partly also more acute in observation. This being so, nothing can secure us from falling away altogether from our ideas of duty, or maintain in the soul a well-grounded respect for its law, but the clear conviction that although there should never have been actions which really sprang from such pure sources, yet whether this or that takes place is not at all the question; but that reason of itself, independent on all experience, ordains what ought to take place, that accordingly actions of which perhaps the world has hitherto never given an example, the feasibility even of which might be very much doubted by one who founds everything on experience, are nevertheless inflexibly commanded by reason; that, ex. gr. even though there might never yet have been a sincere Edition: current; Page: [25] friend, yet not a whit the less is pure sincerity in friendship required of every man, because, prior to all experience, this duty is involved as duty in the idea of a reason determining the will by à priori principles.

When we add further that, unless we deny that the notion of morality has any truth or reference to any possible object, we must admit that its law must be valid, not merely for men, but for all rational creatures generally, not merely under certain contingent conditions or with exceptions, but with absolute necessity, then it is clear that no experience could enable us to infer even the possibility of such apodictic laws Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [31]. For with what right could we bring into unbounded respect as a universal precept for every rational nature that which perhaps holds only under the contingent conditions of humanity? Or how could laws of the determination of our will be regarded as laws of the determination of the will of rational beings generally, and for us only as such, if they were merely empirical, and did not take their origin wholly à priori from pure but practical reason?

Nor could anything be more fatal to morality than that we should wish to derive it from examples. For every example of it that is set before me must be first itself tested by principles of morality, whether it is worthy to serve as an original example, i. e. as a pattern, but by no means can it authoritatively furnish the conception of morality. Even the Holy One of the Gospels must first be compared with our ideal of moral perfection before we can recognise Him as such; and so He says of Himself, “Why call ye Me (whom you see) good; none is good (the model of good) but God only (whom ye do not see)?” But whence have we the conception of God as the supreme good? Simply from the idea of moral perfection, which reason frames à priori, and connects inseparably with the notion of a free-will. Imitation finds no place at all in morality, and examples serve only for encouragement, i. e. they put beyond doubt the feasibility of what the law commands, they make visible that which the practical rule expresses more generally, but they can never authorize us to set aside the true original which lies in reason, and to guide ourselves by examples.

Edition: current; Page: [26]

If then there is no genuine supreme principle of morality but what must rest simply on pure reason, independent on all experience, I think it is not necessary even to put the question, whether it is good Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [32] to exhibit these concepts in their generality (in abstracto) as they are established à priori along with the principles belonging to them, if our knowledge is to be distinguished from the vulgar, and to be called philosophical. In our times indeed this might perhaps be necessary; for if we collected votes, whether pure rational knowledge separated from everything empirical, that is to say, metaphysic of morals, or whether popular practical philosophy is to be preferred, it is easy to guess which side would preponderate.

This descending to popular notions is certainly very commendable, if the ascent to the principles of pure reason has first taken place and been satisfactorily accomplished. This implies that we first found Ethics on Metaphysics, and then, when it is firmly established, procure a hearing for it by giving it a popular character. But it is quite absurd to try to be popular in the first inquiry, on which the soundness of the principles depends. It is not only that this proceeding can never lay claim to the very rare merit of a true philosophical popularity, since there is no art in being intelligible if one renounces all thoroughness of insight; but also it produces a disgusting medley of compiled observations and half-reasoned principles. Shallow pates enjoy this because it can be used for every-day chat, but the sagacious find in it only confusion, and being unsatisfied and unable to help themselves, they turn away their eyes, while philosophers, who see quite well through this delusion, are little listened to when they call men off for a time from this pretended popularity, in order that they might be rightfully popular after they have attained a definite insight.

We need only look at the attempts of moralists in that favourite fashion, and we shall find at one time the special constitution of human nature Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [33] (including, however, the idea of a rational nature generally), at one time perfection, at another happiness, here moral sense, there fear of God, a little of this, and a little of that, in marvellous mixture without its Edition: current; Page: [27] occurring to them to ask whether the principles of morality are to be sought in the knowledge of human nature at all (which we can have only from experience); and, if this is not so, if these principles are to be found altogether à priori free from everything empirical, in pure rational concepts only, and nowhere else, not even in the smallest degree; then rather to adopt the method of making this a separate inquiry, as pure practical philosophy, or (if one may use a name so decried) as metaphysic of morals, 1 to bring it by itself to completeness, and to require the public, which wishes for popular treatment, to await the issue of this undertaking.

Such a metaphysic of morals, completely isolated, not mixed with any anthropology, theology, physics, or hyperphysics, and still less with occult qualities (which we might call hypophysical), is not only an indispensable substratum of all sound theoretical knowledge of duties, but is at the same time a desideratum of the highest importance to the actual fulfilment of their precepts. For the pure conception of duty, unmixed with any foreign addition of empirical attractions Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [34], and, in a word, the conception of the moral law, exercises on the human heart, by way of reason alone (which first becomes aware with this that it can of itself be practical), an influence so much more powerful than all other springs 2 which may be derived from the field of experience, that in the consciousness of its worth, it despises the latter, and can by degrees become their master; whereas a mixed ethics, compounded partly of motives drawn from feelings and inclinations, and partly also of conceptions of reason, must Edition: current; Page: [28] make the mind waver between motives which cannot be brought under any principle, which lead to good only by mere accident, and very often also to evil.

From what has been said, it is clear that all moral conceptions have their seat and origin completely à priori in the reason, and that, moreover, in the commonest reason just as truly as in that which is in the highest degree speculative; that they cannot be obtained by abstraction from any empirical, and therefore merely contingent knowledge; that it is just this purity of their origin that makes them worthy to serve as our supreme practical principle Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [35], and that just in proportion as we add anything empirical, we detract from their genuine influence, and from the absolute value of actions; that it is not only of the greatest necessity, in a purely speculative point of view, but is also of the greatest practical importance to derive these notions and laws from pure reason, to present them pure and unmixed, and even to determine the compass of this practical or pure rational knowledge, i. e. to determine the whole faculty of pure practical reason; and, in doing so, we must not make its principles dependent on the particular nature of human reason, though in speculative philosophy this may be permitted, or may even at times be necessary; but since moral laws ought to hold good for every rational creature, we must derive them from the general concept of a rational being. In this way, although for its application to man morality has need of anthropology, yet, in the first instance, we must treat it independently as pure philosophy, Edition: current; Page: [29] i. e. as metaphysic, complete in itself (a thing which in such distinct branches of science is easily done); knowing well that unless we are in possession of this, it would not only be vain to determine the moral element of duty in right actions for purposes of speculative criticism, but it would be impossible to base morals on their genuine principles, even for common practical purposes, especially of moral instruction, so as to produce pure moral dispositions, and to engraft them on men’s minds to the promotion of the greatest possible good in the world.

But in order that in this study we may not merely advance by the natural steps from the common moral judgment (in this case very worthy of respect) to the philosophical, as has been already done, but also from a popular philosophy, which goes no further than it can reach by groping with the help of examples, to metaphysic (which does not allow itself to be checked by anything empirical Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [36], and as it must measure the whole extent of this kind of rational knowledge, goes as far as ideal conceptions, where even examples fail us), we must follow and clearly describe the practical faculty of reason, from the general rules of its determination to the point where the notion of duty springs from it.

Everything in nature works according to laws. Rational beings alone have the faculty of acting according to the conception of laws, that is according to principles, i. e. have a will. Since the deduction of actions from principles requires reason, the will is nothing but practical reason. If reason infallibly determines the will, then the actions of such a being which are recognised as objectively necessary are subjectively necessary also, i. e. the will is a faculty to choose that only which reason independent on inclination recognises as practically necessary, i. e. as good. But if reason of itself does not sufficiently determine the will, if the latter is subject also to subjective conditions (particular impulses) which do not always coincide with the objective conditions; in a word, if the will does not in itself completely accord with reason (which is actually the case with men), then the actions which objectively are recognised as necessary are subjectively contingent, and the determination of such a will Edition: current; Page: [30] according to objective laws is obligation, that is to say, the relation of the objective laws to a will that is not thoroughly good is conceived as the determination of the will of a rational being by principles of reason, but which the will from its nature does not of necessity follow.

The conception of an objective principle, in so far as it is obligatory for a will, is called a command (of reason), and the formula of the command is called an Imperative.

All imperatives are expressed by the word ought [or shall], and thereby indicate the relation of an objective law Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [37] of reason to a will, which from its subjective constitution is not necessarily determined by it (an obligation). They say that something would be good to do or to forbear, but they say it to a will which does not always do a thing because it is conceived to be good to do it. That is practically good, however, which determines the will by means of the conceptions of reason, and consequently not from subjective causes, but objectively, that is on principles which are valid for every rational being as such. It is distinguished from the pleasant, as that which influences the will only by means of sensation from merely subjective causes, valid only for the sense of this or that one, and not as a principle of reason, which holds for every one. 1

Edition: current; Page: [31]

A perfectly good will would therefore be equally subject to objective laws (viz. laws of good), but could not be conceived as obliged thereby to act lawfully, because of itself from its subjective constitution it can only be determined by the conception of good Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [38]. Therefore no imperatives hold for the Divine will, or in general for a holy will; ought is here out of place, because the volition is already of itself necessarily in unison with the law. Therefore imperatives are only formulæ to express the relation of objective laws of all volition to the subjective imperfection of the will of this or that rational being, e. g. the human will.

Now all imperatives command either hypothetically or categorically. The former represent the practical necessity of a possible action as means to something else that is willed (or at least which one might possibly will). The categorical imperative would be that which represented an action as necessary of itself without reference to another end, i.e. as objectively necessary.

Since every practical law represents a possible action as good, and on this account, for a subject who is practically determinable by reason, necessary, all imperatives are formulæ determining an action which is necessary according to the principle of a will good in some respects. If now the action is good only as a means to something else, then the imperative is hypothetical; if it is conceived as good in itself and consequently as being necessarily the principle of a will which of itself conforms to reason, then it is categorical.

Thus the imperative declares what action possible by me would be good, and presents the practical rule in relation to a will which does not forthwith perform an action simply because it is good, whether because the subject does not always know that it is good, or because, even if it know this, yet its maxims might be opposed to the objective principles of practical reason.

Accordingly the hypothetical imperative only says that the action is good for some purpose, possible or actual Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [39]. In the first case it is a Problematical, in the second an Assertorial Edition: current; Page: [32] practical principle. The categorical imperative which declares an action to be objectively necessary in itself without reference to any purpose, i.e. without any other end, is valid as an Apodictic (practical) principle.

Whatever is possible only by the power of some rational being may also be conceived as a possible purpose of some will; and therefore the principles of action as regards the means necessary to attain some possible purpose are in fact infinitely numerous. All sciences have a practical part, consisting of problems expressing that some end is possible for us, and of imperatives directing how it may be attained. These may, therefore, be called in general imperatives of Skill. Here there is no question whether the end is rational and good, but only what one must do in order to attain it. The precepts for the physician to make his patient thoroughly healthy, and for a poisoner to ensure certain death, are of equal value in this respect, that each serves to effect its purpose perfectly. Since in early youth it cannot be known what ends are likely to occur to us in the course of life, parents seek to have their children taught a great many things, and provide for their skill in the use of means for all sorts of arbitrary ends, of none of which can they determine whether it may not perhaps hereafter be an object to their pupil, but which it is at all events possible that he might aim at; and this anxiety is so great that they commonly neglect to form and correct their judgment on the value of the things which may be chosen as ends Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [40].

There is one end, however, which may be assumed to be actually such to all rational beings (so far as imperatives apply to them, viz. as dependent beings), and therefore, one purpose which they not merely may have, but which we may with certainty assume that they all actually have by a natural necessity, and this is happiness. The hypothetical imperative which expresses the practical necessity of an action as means to the advancement of happiness is Assertorial. We are not to present it as necessary for an uncertain and merely possible purpose, but for a purpose which we may presuppose with certainty and à priori in every man, because it belongs to his being. Now Edition: current; Page: [33] skill in the choice of means to his own greatest well-being may be called prudence, 1 in the narrowest sense. And thus the imperative which refers to the choice of means to one’s own happiness, i. e. the precept of prudence, is still always hypothetical; the action is not commanded absolutely, but only as means to another purpose.

Finally, there is an imperative which commands a certain conduct immediately, without having as its condition any other purpose to be attained by it. This imperative is Categorical. It concerns not the matter of the action, or its intended result, but its form and the principle of which it is itself a result Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [41]; and what is essentially good in it consists in the mental disposition, let the consequence be what it may. This imperative may be called that of Morality.

There is a marked distinction also between the volitions on these three sorts of principles in the dissimilarity of the obligation of the will. In order to mark this difference more clearly, I think they would be most suitably named in their order if we said they are either rules of skill, or counsels of prudence, or commands (laws) of morality. For it is law only that involves the conception of an unconditional and objective necessity, which is consequently universally valid; and commands are laws which must be obeyed, that is, must be followed, even in opposition to inclination. Counsels, indeed, involve necessity, but one which can only hold under a contingent subjective condition, viz. they depend on whether this or that man reckons this or that as part of his happiness; the categorical imperative, on Edition: current; Page: [34] the contrary, is not limited by any condition, and as being absolutely, although practically, necessary, may be quite properly called a command. We might also call the first kind of imperatives technical (belonging to art), the second pragmatic 1 (to welfare), the third moral (belonging to free conduct generally, that is, to morals).

Now arises the question, how are all these imperatives possible? This question does not seek to know how we can conceive the accomplishment of the action which the imperative ordains, but merely how we can conceive the obligation of the will Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [42] which the imperative expresses. No special explanation is needed to show how an imperative of skill is possible. Whoever wills the end, wills also (so far as reason decides his conduct) the means in his power which are indispensably necessary thereto. This proposition is, as regards the volition, analytical; for, in willing an object as my effect, there is already thought the causality of myself as an acting cause, that is to say, the use of the means; and the imperative educes from the conception of volition of an end the conception of actions necessary to this end. Synthetical propositions must no doubt be employed in defining the means to a proposed end; but they do not concern the principle, the act of the will, but the object and its realization. Ex. gr., that in order to bisect a line on an unerring principle I must draw from its extremities two interesecting ares; this no doubt is taught by mathematics only in synthetical propositions; but if I know that it is only by this process that the intended operation can be performed, then to say that if I fully will the operation, I also will the action required for it, is an analytical proposition; for it is one and the same thing to conceive something as an effect which I can Edition: current; Page: [35] produce in a certain way, and to conceive myself as acting in this way.

If it were only equally easy to give a definite conception of happiness, the imperatives of prudence would correspond exactly with those of skill, and would likewise be analytical. For in this case as in that, it could be said, whoever wills the end, wills also (according to the dictate of reason necessarily) the indispensable means thereto which are in his power. But, unfortunately, the notion of happiness is so indefinite that although every man wishes to attain it, yet he never can say definitely and consistently what it is that he really wishes and wills Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [43]. The reason of this is that all the elements which belong to the notion of happiness are altogether empirical, i.e. they must be borrowed from experience, and nevertheless the idea of happiness requires an absolute whole, a maximum of welfare in my present and all future circumstances. Now it is impossible that the most clear-sighted, and at the same time most powerful being (supposed finite) should frame to himself a definite conception of what he really wills in this. Does he will riches, how much anxiety, envy, and snares might he not thereby draw upon his shoulders? Does he will knowledge and discernment, perhaps it might prove to be only an eye so much the sharper to show him so much the more fearfully the evils that are now concealed from him, and that cannot be avoided, or to impose more wants on his desires, which already give him concern enough. Would he have long life, who guarantees to him that it would not be a long misery? would he at least have health? how often has uneasiness of the body restrained from excesses into which perfect health would have allowed one to fall? and so on. In short he is unable, on any principle, to determine with certainty what would make him truly happy; because to do so he would need to be omniscient. We cannot therefore act on any definite principles to secure happiness, but only on empirical counsels, ex. gr. of regimen, frugality, courtesy, reserve, &c., which experience teaches do, on the average, most promote well-being. Hence it follows that the imperatives of prudence do not, strictly speaking, command Edition: current; Page: [36] at all, that is, they cannot present actions objectively as practically necessary; that they are rather to be regarded as counsels (consilia) than precepts (præcepta) of reason, that the problem to determine certainly and universally Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [44] what action would promote the happiness of a rational being is completely insoluble, and consequently no imperative respecting it is possible which should, in the strict sense, command to do what makes happy; because happiness is not an ideal of reason but of imagination, resting solely on empirical grounds, and it is vain to expect that these should define an action by which one could attain the totality of a series of consequences which is really endless. This imperative of prudence would however be an analytical proposition if we assume that the means to happiness could be certainly assigned; for it is distinguished from the imperative of skill only by this, that in the latter the end is merely possible, in the former it is given; as however both only ordain the means to that which we suppose to be willed as an end, it follows that the imperative which ordains the willing of the means to him who wills the end is in both cases analytical. Thus there is no difficulty in regard to the possibility of an imperative of this kind either.

On the other hand the question, how the imperative of morality is possible, is undoubtedly one, the only one, demanding a solution, as this is not at all hypothetical, and the objective necessity which it presents cannot rest on any hypothesis, as is the case with the hypothetical imperatives. Only here we must never leave out of consideration that we cannot make out by any example, in other words empirically, whether there is such an imperative at all; but it is rather to be feared that all those which seem to be categorical may yet be at bottom hypothetical. For instance, when the precept is: Thou shalt not promise deceitfully; and it is assumed that the necessity of this is not a mere counsel to avoid some other evil, so that it should mean: thou shalt not make a lying promise, lest if it become known thou shouldst destroy thy credit Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [45], but that an action of this kind must be regarded as evil in itself, so that the imperative of the prohibition is categorical; then we cannot Edition: current; Page: [37] show with certainty in any example that the will was determined merely by the law, without any other spring of action, although it may appear to be so. For it is always possible that fear of disgrace, perhaps also obscure dread of other dangers, may have a secret influence on the will. Who can prove by experience the non-existence of a cause when all that experience tells us is that we do not perceive it? But in such a case the so-called moral imperative, which as such appears to be categorical and unconditional, would in reality be only a pragmatic precept, drawing our attention to our own interests, and merely teaching us to take these into consideration.

We shall therefore have to investigate à priori the possibility of a categorical imperative, as we have not in this case the advantage of its reality being given in experience, so that [the elucidation of] its possibility should be requisite only for its explanation, not for its establishment. In the meantime it may be discerned beforehand that the categorical imperative alone has the purport of a practical law: all the rest may indeed be called principles of the will but not laws, since whatever is only necessary for the attainment of some arbitrary purpose may be considered as in itself contingent, and we can at any time be free from the precept if we give up the purpose: on the contrary, the unconditional command leaves the will no liberty to choose the opposite; consequently it alone carries with it that necessity which we require in a law.

Secondly, in the case of this categorical imperative or law of morality, the difficulty (of discerning its possibility) is a very profound one Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [46]. It is an à priori synthetical practical proposition; 1 and as there is so much difficulty in discerning the possibility Edition: current; Page: [38] of speculative propositions of this kind, it may readily be supposed that the difficulty will be no less with the practical.

In this problem we will first inquire whether the mere conception of a categorical imperative may not perhaps supply us also with the formula of it, containing the proposition which alone can be a categorical imperative; for even if we know the tenor of such an absolute command, yet how it is possible will require further special and laborious study, which we postpone to the last section.

When I conceive a hypothetical imperative in general I do not know beforehand what it will contain until I am given the condition. But when I conceive a categorical imperative I know at once what it contains. For as the imperative contains besides the law only the necessity that the maxims 1 shall conform to this law, while the law contains no conditions restricting it, there remains nothing but the general statement that the maxim of the action should conform to a universal law Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [47], and it is this conformity alone that the imperative properly represents as necessary. 2

There is therefore but one categorical imperative, namely this: Act only on that maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will that it should become a universal law.

Now if all imperatives of duty can be deduced from this one imperative as from their principle, then, although it should remain undecided whether what is called duty is not merely a Edition: current; Page: [39] vain notion, yet at least we shall be able to show what we understand by it and what this notion means.

Since the universality of the law according to which effects are produced constitutes what is properly called nature in the most general sense (as to form), that is the existence of things so far as it is determined by general laws, the imperative of duty may be expressed thus: Act as if the maxim of thy action were to become by thy will a Universal Law of Nature.

We will now enumerate a few duties, adopting the usual division of them into duties to ourselves and to others, and into perfect and imperfect duties. 1 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [48].

1. A man reduced to despair by a series of misfortunes feels wearied of life, but is still so far in possession of his reason that he can ask himself whether it would not be contrary to his duty to himself to take his own life. Now he inquires whether the maxim of his action could become a universal law of nature. His maxim is: From self-love I adopt it as a principle to shorten my life when its longer duration is likely to bring more evil than satisfaction. It is asked then simply whether this principle founded on self-love can become a universal law of nature. Now we see at once that a system of nature of which it should be a law to destroy life by means of the very feeling whose special nature it is to impel to the improvement of life would contradict itself, and therefore could not exist as a system of nature; hence that maxim cannot possibly exist as a universal law of nature, and consequently Edition: current; Page: [40] would be wholly inconsistent with the supreme principle of all duty. 1

2. Another finds himself forced by necessity to borrow money. He knows that he will not be able to repay it, but sees also that nothing will be lent to him, unless he promises stoutly to repay it in a definite time. He desires to make this promise, but he has still so much conscience as to ask himself: Is it not unlawful and inconsistent with duty to get out of a difficulty in this way? Suppose however that he resolves to do so, then the maxim of his action would be expressed thus: When I think myself in want of money, I will borrow money and promise to repay it, although I know that I never can do so. Now this principle of self-love or of one’s own advantage may perhaps be consistent with my whole future welfare; but the question now is, Is it right? I change then the suggestion of self-love into a universal law, and state the question thus Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [49]: How would it be if my maxim were a universal law? Then I see at once that it could never hold as a universal law of nature, but would necessarily contradict itself. For supposing it to be a universal law that everyone when he thinks himself in a difficulty should be able to promise whatever he pleases, with the purpose of not keeping his promise, the promise itself would become impossible, as well as the end that one might have in view in it, since no one would consider that anything was promised to him, but would ridicule all such statements as vain pretences.

3. A third finds in himself a talent which with the help of some culture might make him a useful man in many respects. But he finds himself in comfortable circumstances, and prefers to indulge in pleasure rather than to take pains in enlarging and improving his happy natural capacities. He asks, however, whether his maxim of neglect of his natural gifts, besides agreeing with his inclination to indulgence, agrees also with what is called duty. He sees then that a system of nature could indeed subsist with such a universal law although men Edition: current; Page: [41] (like the South Sea islanders) should let their talents rust, and resolve to devote their lives merely to idleness, amusement, and propagation of their species—in a word, to enjoyment; but he cannot possibly will that this should be a universal law of nature, or be implanted in us as such by a natural instinct. For, as a rational being, he necessarily wills that his faculties be developed, since they serve him, and have been given him, for all sorts of possible purposes.

4. A fourth, who is in prosperity, while he sees that others have to contend with great wretchedness and that he could help them, thinks: What concern is it of mine? Let everyone be as happy Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [50] as heaven pleases, or as he can make himself; I will take nothing from him nor even envy him, only I do not wish to contribute anything to his welfare or to his assistance in distress! Now no doubt if such a mode of thinking were a universal law, the human race might very well subsist, and doubtless even better than in a state in which everyone talks of sympathy and good-will, or even takes care occasionally to put it into practice, but on the other side, also cheats when he can, betrays the rights of men, or otherwise violates them. But although it is possible that a universal law of nature might exist in accordance with that maxim, it is impossible to will that such a principle should have the universal validity of a law of nature. For a will which resolved this would contradict itself, inasmuch as many cases might occur in which one would have need of the love and sympathy of others, and in which, by such a law of nature, sprung from his own will, he would deprive himself of all hope of the aid he desires.

These are a few of the many actual duties, or at least what we regard as such, which obviously fall into two classes on the one principle that we have laid down. We must be able to will that a maxim of our action should be a universal law. This is the canon of the moral appreciation of the action generally. Some actions are of such a character that their maxim cannot without contradiction be even conceived as a universal law of nature, far from it being possible that we should will that it should be so. In others this intrinsic impossibility is not Edition: current; Page: [42] found, but still it is impossible to will that their maxim should be raised to the universality of a law of nature, since such a will would contradict itself. It is easily seen that the former violate strict or rigorous (inflexible) duty Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [51]; the latter only laxer (meritorious) duty. Thus it has been completely shown by these examples how all duties depend as regards the nature of the obligation (not the object of the action) on the same principle.

If now we attend to ourselves on occasion of any transgression of duty, we shall find that we in fact do not will that our maxim should be a universal law, for that is impossible for us; on the contrary we will that the opposite should remain a universal law, only we assume the liberty of making an exception in our own favour or (just for this time only) in favour of our inclination. Consequently if we considered all cases from one and the same point of view, namely, that of reason, we should find a contradiction in our own will, namely, that a certain principle should be objectively necessary as a universal law, and yet subjectively should not be universal, but admit of exceptions. As however we at one moment regard our action from the point of view of a will wholly conformed to reason, and then again look at the same action from the point of view of a will affected by inclination, there is not really any contradiction, but an antagonism of inclination to the precept of reason, whereby the universality of the principle is changed into a mere generality, so that the practical principle of reason shall meet the maxim half way. Now, although this cannot be justified in our own impartial judgment, yet it proves that we do really recognise the validity of the categorical imperative and (with all respect for it) only allow ourselves a few exceptions, which we think unimportant and forced from us.

We have thus established at least this much, that if duty is a conception which is to have any import and real legislative authority for our actions Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [52], it can only be expressed in categorical, and not at all in hypothetical imperatives. We have also, which is of great importance, exhibited clearly and definitely for every practical application the content of the categorical imperative, which must contain the principle of all Edition: current; Page: [43] duty if there is such a thing at all. We have not yet, however, advanced so far as to prove à priori that there actually is such an imperative, that there is a practical law which commands absolutely of itself, and without any other impulse, and that the following of this law is duty.

With the view of attaining to this it is of extreme importance to remember that we must not allow ourselves to think of deducing the reality of this principle from the particular attributes of human nature. For duty is to be a practical, unconditional necessity of action; it must therefore hold for all rational beings (to whom an imperative can apply at all) and for this reason only be also a law for all human wills. On the contrary, whatever is deduced from the particular natural characteristics of humanity, from certain feelings and propensions, 1 nay even, if possible, from any particular tendency proper to human reason, and which need not necessarily hold for the will of every rational being; this may indeed supply us with a maxim, but not with a law; with a subjective principle on which we may have a propension and inclination to act, but not with an objective principle on which we should be enjoined to act, even though all our propensions, inclinations, and natural dispositions were opposed to it. In fact the sublimity and intrinsic dignity of the command in duty are so much the more evident, the less the subjective impulses favour it and the more they oppose it, without being able in the slighest degree to weaken the obligation of the law or to diminish its validity Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [53].

Here then we see philosophy brought to a critical position, since it has to be firmly fixed, notwithstanding that it has nothing to support it either in heaven or earth. Here it must show its purity as absolute dictator of its own laws, not the Edition: current; Page: [44] herald of those which are whispered to it by an implanted sense or who knows what tutelary nature. Although these may be better than nothing, yet they can never afford principles dictated by reason, which must have their source wholly à priori and thence their commanding authority, expecting everything from the supremacy of the law and the due respect for it, nothing from inclination, or else condemning the man to self-contempt and inward abhorrence.

Thus every empirical element is not only quite incapable of being an aid to the principle of morality, but is even highly prejudicial to the purity of morals, for the proper and inestimable worth of an absolutely good will consists just in this, that the principle of action is free from all influence of contingent grounds, which alone experience can furnish. We cannot too much or too often repeat our warning against this lax and even mean habit of thought which seeks for its principle amongst empirical motives and laws; for human reason in its weariness is glad to rest on this pillow, and in a dream of sweet illusions (in which, instead of Juno, it embraces a cloud) it substitutes for morality a bastard patched up from limbs of various derivation, which looks like anything one chooses to see in it; only not like virtue to one who has once beheld her in her true form. 1

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [54] The question then is this: Is it a necessary law for all rational beings that they should always judge of their actions by maxims of which they can themselves will that they should serve as universal laws? If it is so, then it must be connected (altogether à priori) with the very conception of the will of a rational being generally. But in order to discover this connexion we must, however reluctantly, take a step into metaphysic, although into a domain of it which is distinct from speculative philosophy, namely, the metaphysic of morals. In Edition: current; Page: [45] a practical philosophy, where it is not the reasons of what happens that we have to ascertain, but the laws of what ought to happen, even although it never does, i. e. objective practical laws, there it is not necessary to inquire into the reasons why anything pleases or displeases, how the pleasure of mere sensation differs from taste, and whether the latter is distinct from a general satisfaction of reason; on what the feeling of pleasure or pain rests, and how from it desires and inclinations arise, and from these again maxims by the co-operation of reason: for all this belongs to an empirical psychology, which would constitute the second part of physics, if we regard physics as the philosophy of nature, so far as it is based on empirical laws. But here we are concerned with objective practical laws, and consequently with the relation of the will to itself so far as it is determined by reason alone, in which case whatever has reference to anything empirical is necessarily excluded; since if reason of itself alone determines the conduct Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [55] (and it is the possibility of this that we are now investigating), it must necessarily do so à priori.

The will is conceived as a faculty of determining oneself to action in accordance with the conception of certain laws. And such a faculty can be found only in rational beings. Now that which serves the will as the objective ground of its self-determination is the end, and if this is assigned by reason alone, it must hold for all rational beings. On the other hand, that which merely contains the ground of possibility of the action of which the effect is the end, this is called the means. The subjective ground of the desire is the spring, the objective ground of the volition is the motive; hence the distinction between subjective ends which rest on springs, and objective ends which depend on motives valid for every rational being. Practical principles are formal when they abstract from all subjective ends, they are material when they assume these, and therefore particular springs of action. The ends which a rational being proposes to himself at pleasure as effects of his actions (material ends) are all only relative, for it is only their relation to the particular desires of the subject that gives them their worth, Edition: current; Page: [46] which therefore cannot furnish principles universal and necessary for all rational beings and for every volition, that is to say practical laws. Hence all these relative ends can give rise only to hypothetical imperatives.

Supposing, however, that there were something whose existence has in itself an absolute worth, something which, being an end in itself, could be a source of definite laws, then in this and this alone would lie the source of a possible categorical imperative, i.e. a practical law Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [56].

Now I say: man and generally any rational being exists as an end in himself, not merely as a means to be arbitrarily used by this or that will, but in all his actions, whether they concern himself or other rational beings, must be always regarded at the same time as an end. All objects of the inclinations have only a conditional worth, for if the inclinations and the wants founded on them did not exist, then their object would be without value. But the inclinations themselves being sources of want, are so far from having an absolute worth for which they should be desired, that on the contrary it must be the universal wish of every rational being to be wholly free from them. Thus the worth of any object which is to be acquired by our action is always conditional. Beings whose existence depends not on our will but on nature’s, have nevertheless, if they are irrational beings, only a relative value as means, and are therefore called things; rational beings, on the contrary, are called persons, because their very nature points them out as ends in themselves, that is as something which must not be used merely as means, and so far therefore restricts freedom of action (and is an object of respect). These, therefore, are not merely subjective ends whose existence has a worth for us as an effect of our action, but objective ends, that is things whose existence is an end in itself: an end moreover for which no other can be substituted, which they should subserve merely as means, for otherwise nothing whatever would possess absolute worth; but if all worth were conditioned and therefore contingent, then there would be no supreme practical principle of reason whatever.

If then there is a supreme practical principle or, in respect of Edition: current; Page: [47] the human will, a categorical imperative, it must be one which Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [57], being drawn from the conception of that which is necessarily an end for every one because it is an end in itself, constitutes an objective principle of will, and can therefore serve as a universal practical law. The foundation of this principle is: rational nature exists as an end in itself. Man necessarily conceives his own existence as being so: so far then this is a subjective principle of human actions. But every other rational being regards its existence similarly, just on the same rational principle that holds for me: 1 so that it is at the same time an objective principle, from which as a supreme practical law all laws of the will must be capable of being deduced. Accordingly the practical imperative will be as follows: So act as to treat humanity, whether in thine own person or in that of any other, in every case as an end withal, never as means only. We will now inquire whether this can be practically carried out.

To abide by the previous examples:

Firstly, under the head of necessary duty to oneself: He who contemplates suicide should ask himself whether his action can be consistent with the idea of humanity as an end in itself. If he destroys himself in order to escape from painful circumstances, he uses a person merely as a mean to maintain a tolerable condition up to the end of life. But a man is not a thing, that is to say, something which can be used merely as means, but must in all his actions be always considered as an end in himself. I cannot, therefore, dispose in any way of a man in my own person so as to mutilate him, to damage or kill him Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [58]. (It belongs to ethics proper to define this principle more precisely so as to avoid all misunderstanding, e.g. as to the amputation of the limbs in order to preserve myself; as to exposing my life to danger with a view to preserve it, &c. This question is therefore omitted here.)

Secondly, as regards necessary duties, or those of strict obligation, towards others; he who is thinking of making a lying Edition: current; Page: [48] promise to others will see at once that he would be using another man merely as a mean, without the latter containing at the same time the end in himself. For he whom I propose by such a promise to use for my own purposes cannot possibly assent to my mode of acting towards him, and therefore cannot himself contain the end of this action. This violation of the principle of humanity in other men is more obvious if we take in examples of attacks on the freedom and property of others. For then it is clear that he who transgresses the rights of men, intends to use the person of others merely as means, without considering that as rational beings they ought always to be esteemed also as ends, that is, as beings who must be capable of containing in themselves the end of the very same action. 1

Thirdly, as regards contingent (meritorious) duties to oneself; is not enough that the action does not violate humanity in our own person as an end in itself, it must also harmonise with it Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [59]. Now there are in humanity capacities of greater perfection, which belong to the end that nature has in view in regard to humanity in ourselves as the subject: to neglect these might perhaps be consistent with the maintenance of humanity as an end in itself, but not with the advancement of this end.

Fourthly, as regards meritorious duties towards others: the natural end which all men have is their own happiness. Now humanity might indeed subsist, although no one should contribute anything to the happiness of others, provided he did not intentionally withdraw anything from it; but after all this would only harmonise negatively not positively with humanity Edition: current; Page: [49] as an end in itself, if every one does not also endeavour, as far as in him lies, to forward the ends of others. For the ends of any subject which is an end in himself, ought as far as possible to be my ends also, if that conception is to have its full effect with me.

This principle, that humanity and generally every rational nature is an end in itself (which is the supreme limiting condition of every man’s freedom of action), is not borrowed from experience, firstly, because it is universal, applying as it does to all rational beings whatever, and experience is not capable of determining anything about them; secondly, because it does not present humanity as an end to men (subjectively), that is as an object which men do of themselves actually adopt as an end; but as an objective end, which must as a law constitute the supreme limiting condition of all our subjective ends, let them be what we will; it must therefore spring from pure reason. In fact the objective principle of all practical legislation lies (according to the first principle) in the rule and its form of universality which makes it capable of being a law (say, e. g., a law of nature); but the subjective principle is in the end; now by the second principle the subject of all ends is each rational being Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [60], inasmuch as it is an end in itself. Hence follows the third practical principle of the will, which is the ultimate condition of its harmony with the universal practical reason, viz.: the idea of the will of every rational being as a universally legislative will.

On this principle all maxims are rejected which are inconsistent with the will being itself universal legislator. Thus the will is not subject simply to the law, but so subject that it must be regarded as itself giving the law, and on this ground only, subject to the law (of which it can regard itself as the author).

In the previous imperatives, namely, that based on the conception of the conformity of actions to general laws, as in a physical system of nature, and that based on the universal prerogative of rational beings as ends in themselves—these imperatives just because they were conceived as categorical, excluded Edition: current; Page: [50] from any share in their authority all admixture of any interest as a spring of action; they were however only assumed to be categorical, because such an assumption was necessary to explain the conception of duty. But we could not prove independently that there are practical propositions which command categorically, nor can it be proved in this section; one thing however could be done, namely, to indicate in the imperative itself by some determinate expression, that in the case of volition from duty all interest is renounced, which is the specific criterion of categorical as distinguished from hypothetical imperatives. This is done in the present (third) formula of the principle, namely, in the idea of the will of every rational being as a universally legislating will.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [61] For although a will which is subject to laws may be attached to this law by means of an interest, yet a will which is itself a supreme lawgiver so far as it is such cannot possibly depend on any interest, since a will so dependent would itself still need another law restricting the interest of its self-love by the condition that it should be valid as universal law.

Thus the principle that every human will is a will which in all its maxims gives universal laws 1 , provided it be otherwise justified, would be very well adapted to be the categorical imperative, in this respect, namely, that just because of the idea of universal legislation it is not based on any interest, and therefore it alone among all possible imperatives can be unconditional. Or still better, converting the proposition, if there is a categorical imperative (i. e., a law for the will of every rational being), it can only command that everything be done from maxims of one’s will regarded as a will which could at the same time will that it should itself give universal laws, for in that case only the practical principle and the imperative which it obeys are unconditional, since they cannot be based on any interest.

Edition: current; Page: [51]

Looking back now on all previous attempts to discover the principle of morality, we need not wonder why they all failed. It was seen that man was bound to laws by duty, but it was not observed that the laws to which he is subject are only those of his own giving, though at the same time they are universal Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [62], and that he is only bound to act in conformity with his own will; a will, however, which is designed by nature to give universal laws. For when one has conceived man only as subject to a law (no matter what), then this law required some interest, either by way of attraction or constraint, since it did not originate as a law from his own will, but this will was according to a law obliged by something else to act in a certain manner. Now by this necessary consequence all the labour spent in finding a supreme principle of duty was irrevocably lost. For men never elicited duty, but only a necessity of acting from a certain interest. Whether this interest was private or otherwise, in any case the imperative must be conditional, and could not by any means be capable of being a moral command. I will therefore call this the principle of Autonomy of the will, in contrast with every other which I accordingly reckon as Heteronomy. 1

The conception of every rational being as one which must consider itself as giving in all the maxims of its will universal laws, so as to judge itself and its actions from this point of view—this conception leads to another which depends on it and is very fruitful, namely, that of a kingdom of ends.

By a kingdom I understand the union of different rational beings in a system by common laws. Now since it is by laws that ends are determined as regards their universal validity, hence, if we abstract from the personal differences of rational beings, and likewise from all the content of their private ends, we shall be able to conceive all ends combined in a systematic whole (including both rational beings as ends in themselves, and also the special ends which each may propose to himself), that is Edition: current; Page: [52] to say, we can conceive a kingdom of ends, which on the preceding principles is possible.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [63] For all rational beings come under the law that each of them must treat itself and all others never merely as means, but in every case at the same time as ends in themselves. Hence results a systematic union of rational beings by common objective laws, i.e., a kingdom which may be called a kingdom of ends, since what these laws have in view is just the relation of these beings to one another as ends and means. It is certainly only an ideal.

A rational being belongs as a member to the kingdom of ends when, although giving universal laws in it, he is also himself subject to these laws. He belongs to it as sovereign when, while giving laws, he is not subject to the will of any other.

A rational being must always regard himself as giving laws either as member or as sovereign in a kingdom of ends which is rendered possible by the freedom of will. He cannot, however, maintain the latter position merely by the maxims of his will, but only in case he is a completely independent being without wants and with unrestricted power adequate to his will.

Morality consists then in the reference of all action to the legislation which alone can render a kingdom of ends possible. This legislation must be capable of existing in every rational being, and of emanating from his will, so that the principle of this will is, never to act on any maxim which could not without contradiction be also a universal law, and accordingly always so to act that the will could at the same time regard itself as giving in its maxims universal laws. If now the maxims of rational beings are not by their own nature coincident with this objective principle, then the necessity of acting on it is called practical necessitation Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [64], i.e., duty. Duty does not apply to the sovereign in the kingdom of ends, but it does to every member of it and to all in the same degree.

The practical necessity of acting on this principle, i.e., duty, does not rest at all on feelings, impulses, or inclinations, but solely on the relation of rational beings to one another, a relation in which the will of a rational being must always be regarded as legislative, since otherwise it could not be conceived Edition: current; Page: [53] as an end in itself. Reason then refers every maxim of the will, regarding it as legislating universally, to every other will and also to every action towards oneself; and this not on account of any other practical motive or any future advantage, but from the idea of the dignity of a rational being, obeying no law but that which he himself also gives.

In the kingdom of ends everything has either Value or Dignity. Whatever has a value can be replaced by something else which is equivalent; whatever, on the other hand, is above all value, and therefore admits of no equivalent, has a dignity.

Whatever has reference to the general inclinations and wants of mankind has a market value; whatever, without presupposing a want, corresponds to a certain taste, that is to a satisfaction in the mere purposeless play of our faculties, has a fancy value; but that which constitutes the condition under which alone anything can be an end in itself, this has not merely a relative worth, i.e., value, but an intrinsic worth, that is dignity.

Now morality is the condition under which alone a rational being can be an end in himself, since by this alone is it possible that he should be a legislating member in the kingdom of ends. Thus morality, and humanity as capable of it, is that which alone has dignity Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [65]. Skill and diligence in labour have a market value; wit, lively imagination, and humour, have fancy value; on the other hand, fidelity to promises, benevolence from principle (not from instinct), have an intrinsic worth. Neither nature nor art contains anything which in default of these it could put in their place, for their worth consists not in the effects which spring from them, not in the use and advantage which they secure, but in the disposition of mind, that is, the maxims of the will which are ready to manifest themselves in such actions, even though they should not have the desired effect. These actions also need no recommendation from any subjective taste or sentiment, that they may be looked on with immediate favour and satisfaction: they need no immediate propension or feeling for them; they exhibit the will that performs them as an object of an immediate respect, Edition: current; Page: [54] and nothing but reason is required to impose them on the will; not to flatter it into them, which, in the case of duties, would be a contradiction. This estimation therefore shows that the worth of such a disposition is dignity, and places it infinitely above all value, with which it cannot for a moment be brought into comparison or competition without as it were violating its sanctity.

What then is it which justifies virtue or the morally good disposition, in making such lofty claims? It is nothing less than the privilege it secures to the rational being of participating in the giving of universal laws, by which it qualifies him to be a member of a possible kingdom of ends, a privilege to which he was already destined by his own nature as being an end in himself, and on that account legislating in the kingdom of ends; free as regards all laws of physical nature, and obeying those only which he himself gives, and by which his maxims can belong to a system of universal law, to which at the same time he submits himself. For nothing has any worth except Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [66] what the law assigns it. Now the legislation itself which assigns the worth of everything, must for that very reason possess dignity, that is an unconditional incomparable worth, and the word respect alone supplies a becoming expression for the esteem which a rational being must have for it. Autonomy then is the basis of the dignity of human and of every rational nature.

The three modes of presenting the principle of morality that have been adduced are at bottom only so many formulæ of the very same law, and each of itself involves the other two. There is, however, a difference in them, but it is rather subjectively than objectively practical, intended namely to bring an idea of the reason nearer to intuition (by means of a certain analogy), and thereby nearer to feeling. All maxims, in fact, have—

1. A form, consisting in universality; and in this view the formula of the moral imperative is expressed thus, that the maxims must be so chosen as if they were to serve as universal laws of nature.

Edition: current; Page: [55]

2. A matter, 1 namely, an end, and here the formula says that the rational being, as it is an end by its own nature and therefore an end in itself, must in every maxim serve as the condition limiting all merely relative and arbitrary ends.

3. A complete characterisation of all maxims by means of that formula, namely, that all maxims ought by their own legislation to harmonise with a possible kingdom of ends as with a kingdom of nature 2 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [67]. There is a progress here in the order of the categories of unity of the form of the will (its universality), plurality of the matter (the objects, i.e., the ends), and totality of the system of these. In forming our moral judgment of actions it is better to proceed always on the strict method, and start from the general formula of the categorical imperative: Act according to a maxim which can at the same time make itself a universal law. If, however, we wish to gain an entrance for the moral law, it is very useful to bring one and the same action under the three specified conceptions, and thereby as far as possible to bring it nearer to intuition.

We can now end where we started at the beginning, namely, with the conception of a will unconditionally good. That will is absolutely good which cannot be evil, in other words, whose maxim, if made a universal law, could never contradict itself. This principle then is its supreme law: Act always on such a maxim as thou canst at the same time will to be a universal law; this is the sole condition under which a will can never contradict itself; and such an imperative is categorical. Since the validity of the will as a universal law for possible actions is analogous to the universal connexion of the existence of things by general laws, which is the formal notion of nature in general, Edition: current; Page: [56] the categorical imperative can also be expressed thus: Act on maxims which can at the same time have for their object themselves as universal laws of nature. Such then is the formula of an absolutely good will.

Rational nature is distinguished from the rest of nature by this, that it sets before itself an end. This end would be the matter of every good will Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [68]. But since in the idea of a will that is absolutely good without being limited by any condition (of attaining this or that end) we must abstract wholly from every end to be effected (since this would make every will only relatively good), it follows that in this case the end must be conceived, not as an end to be effected, but as an independently existing end. Consequently it is conceived only negatively, i. e., as that which we must never act against, and which, therefore, must never be regarded merely as means, but must in every volition be esteemed as an end likewise. Now this end can be nothing but the subject of all possible ends, since this is also the subject of a possible absolutely good will; for such a will cannot without contradiction be postponed to any other object. The principle: So act in regard to every rational being (thyself and others), that he may always have place in thy maxim as an end in himself, is accordingly essentially identical with this other: Act upon a maxim which, at the same time, involves its own universal validity for every rational being. For that in using means for every end I should limit my maxim by the condition of its holding good as a law for every subject, this comes to the same thing as that the fundamental principle of all maxims of action must be that the subject of all ends, i.e., the rational being himself, be never employed merely as means, but as the supreme condition restricting the use of all means, that is in every case as an end likewise.

It follows incontestably that, to whatever laws any rational being may be subject, he being an end in himself must be able to regard himself as also legislating universally in respect of these same laws, since it is just this fitness of his maxims for universal legislation that distinguishes him as an end in himself; Edition: current; Page: [57] also it follows that this implies his dignity (prerogative) above all mere physical beings, that he must always take his Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [69] maxims from the point of view which regards himself, and likewise every other rational being, as lawgiving beings (on which account they are called persons). In this way a world of rational beings (mundus intelligibilis) is possible as a kingdom of ends, and this by virtue of the legislation proper to all persons as members. Therefore every rational being must so act as if he were by his maxims in every case a legislating member in the universal kingdom of ends. The formal principle of these maxims is: So act as if thy maxim were to serve likewise as the universal law (of all rational beings). A kingdom of ends is thus only possible on the analogy of a kingdom of nature, the former however only by maxims, that is self-imposed rules, the latter only by the laws of efficient causes acting under necessitation from without. Nevertheless, although the system of nature is looked upon as a machine, yet so far as it has reference to rational beings as its ends, it is given on this account the name of a kingdom of nature. Now such a kingdom of ends would be actually realised by means of maxims conforming to the canon which the categorical imperative prescribes to all rational beings, if they were universally followed. But although a rational being, even if he punctually follows this maxim himself, cannot reckon upon all others being therefore true to the same, nor expect that the kingdom of nature and its orderly arrangements shall be in harmony with him as a fitting member, so as to form a kingdom of ends to which he himself contributes, that is to say, that it shall favour his expectation of happiness, still that law: Act according to the maxims of a member of a merely possible kingdom of ends legislating in it universally, remains in its full force, inasmuch as it commands categorically. And it is just in this that the paradox lies; that the mere dignity of man as a rational creature Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [70], without any other end or advantage to be attained thereby, in other words, respect for a mere idea, should yet serve as an inflexible precept of the will, and that it is precisely in this independence of the maxim on all such springs of Edition: current; Page: [58] action that its sublimity consists; and it is this that makes every rational subject worthy to be a legislative member in the kingdom of ends: for otherwise he would have to be conceived only as subject to the physical law of his wants. And although we should suppose the kingdom of nature and the kingdom of ends to be united under one sovereign, so that the latter kingdom thereby ceased to be a mere idea and acquired true reality, then it would no doubt gain the accession of a strong spring, but by no means any increase of its intrinsic worth. For this sole absolute lawgiver must, notwithstanding this, be always conceived as estimating the worth of rational beings only by their disinterested behaviour, as prescribed to themselves from that idea [the dignity of man] alone. The essence of things is not altered by their external relations, and that which abstracting from these, alone constitutes the absolute worth of man, is also that by which he must be judged, whoever the judge may be, and even by the Supreme Being. Morality then is the relation of actions to the autonomy of the will, that is, to the potential universal legislation by its maxims. An action that is consistent with the autonomy of the will is permitted; one that does not agree therewith is forbidden. A will whose maxims necessarily coincide with the laws of autonomy is a holy will, good absolutely. The dependence of a will not absolutely good on the principle of autonomy (moral necessitation) is obligation. This then cannot be applied to a holy being. The objective necessity of actions from obligation is called duty.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [71] From what has just been said, it is easy to see how it happens that although the conception of duty implies subjection to the law, we yet ascribe a certain dignity and sublimity to the person who fulfils all his duties. There is not, indeed, any sublimity in him, so far as he is subject to the moral law; but inasmuch as in regard to that very law he is likewise a legislator, and on that account alone subject to it, he has sublimity. We have also shown above that neither fear nor inclination, but simply respect for the law, is the spring which can give actions a moral worth. Our own will, so far as we suppose Edition: current; Page: [59] it to act only under the condition that its maxims are potentially universal laws, this ideal will which is possible to us is the proper object of respect, and the dignity of humanity consists just in this capacity of being universally legislative, though with the condition that it is itself subject to this same legislation.

The Autonomy of the Will as the Supreme Principle of Morality.

Autonomy of the will is that property of it by which it is a law to itself (independently on any property of the objects of volition). The principle of autonomy then is: Always so to choose that the same volition shall comprehend the maxims of our choice as a universal law. We cannot prove that this practical rule is an imperative, i.e., that the will of every rational being is necessarily bound to it as a condition, by a mere analysis of the conceptions which occur in it, since it is a synthetical proposition Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [72]; we must advance beyond the cognition of the objects to a critical examination of the subject, that is of the pure practical reason, for this synthetic proposition which commands apodictically must be capable of being cognised wholly à priori. This matter, however, does not belong to the present section. But that the principle of autonomy in question is the sole principle of morals can be readily shown by mere analysis of the conceptions of morality. For by this analysis we find that its principle must be a categorical imperative, and that what this commands is neither more nor less than this very autonomy.

Heteronomy of the Will as the Source of all spurious Principles of Morality.

If the will seeks the law which is to determine it anywhere else than in the fitness of its maxims to be universal laws of its own dictation, consequently if it goes out of itself and seeks this law in the character of any of its objects, there always results heteronomy. The will in that case does not give itself the law, but it is given by the object through its relation to the will. This relation whether it rests on inclination or on conceptions of Edition: current; Page: [60] reason only admits of hypothetical imperatives: I ought to do something because I wish for something else. On the contrary, the moral, and therefore categorical, imperative says: I ought to do so and so, even though I should not wish for anything else. Ex. gr., the former says: I ought not to lie if I would retain my reputation; the latter says: I ought not to lie although it should not bring me the least discredit. The latter therefore must so far abstract from all objects that they shall have no influence on the will, in order that practical reason (will) may not be restricted to administering an interest not belonging to it Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [73], but may simply show its own commanding authority as the supreme legislation. Thus, ex. gr., I ought to endeavour to promote the happiness of others, not as if its realization involved any concern of mine (whether by immediate inclination or by any satisfaction indirectly gained through reason), but simply because a maxim which excludes it cannot be comprehended as a universal law 1 in one and the same volition.

classification Of all Principles of Morality which can be founded on the Conception of Heteronomy.

Here as elsewhere human reason in its pure use, so long as it was not critically examined, has first tried all possible wrong ways before it succeeded in finding the one true way.

All principles which can be taken from this point of view are either empirical or rational. The former, drawn from the principle of happiness, are built on physical or moral feelings; the latter, drawn from the principle of perfection, are built either on the rational conception of perfection as a possible effect, or on that of an independent perfection (the will of God) as the determining cause of our will.

Empirical principles are wholly incapable of serving as a foundation for moral laws. For the universality with which Edition: current; Page: [61] these should hold for all rational beings without distinction, the unconditional practical necessity which is thereby imposed on them is lost when their foundation is taken from the particular constitution of human nature, or the accidental Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [74] circumstances in which it is placed. The principle of private happiness, however, is the most objectionable, not merely because it is false, and experience contradicts the supposition that prosperity is always proportioned to good conduct, nor yet merely because it contributes nothing to the establishment of morality—since it is quite a different thing to make a prosperous man and a good man, or to make one prudent and sharp-sighted for his own interests, and to make him virtuous—but because the springs it provides for morality are such as rather undermine it and destroy its sublimity, since they put the motives to virtue and to vice in the same class, and only teach us to make a better calculation, the specific difference between virtue and vice being entirely extinguished. On the other hand, as to moral feeling, this supposed special sense, 1 the appeal to it is indeed superficial when those who cannot think believe that feeling will help them out, even in what concerns general laws: and besides, feelings which naturally differ infinitely in degree cannot furnish a uniform standard of good and evil, nor has any one a right to form judgments for others by his own feelings: nevertheless this moral feeling is nearer to morality and its dignity in this respect, that it pays virtue the honour of ascribing to her immediately the satisfaction and esteem we have for her, and does not, as it were, tell her to her face that we are not attached to her by her beauty but by profit.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [75] Amongst the rational principles of morality, the ontological conception of perfection, notwithstanding its defects, is better than the theological conception which derives morality Edition: current; Page: [62] from a Divine absolutely perfect will. The former is, no doubt, empty and indefinite, and consequently useless for finding in the boundless field of possible reality the greatest amount suitable for us; moreover, in attempting to distinguish specifically the reality of which we are now speaking from every other, it inevitably tends to turn in a circle, and cannot avoid tacitly presupposing the morality which it is to explain; it is nevertheless preferable to the theological view, first, because we have no intuition of the Divine perfection, and can only deduce it from our own conceptions, the most important of which is that of morality, and our explanation would thus be involved in a gross circle; and, in the next place, if we avoid this, the only notion of the Divine will remaining to us is a conception made up of the attributes of desire of glory and dominion, combined with the awful conceptions of might and vengeance, and any system of morals erected on this foundation would be directly opposed to morality.

However, if I had to choose between the notion of the moral sense and that of perfection in general (two systems which at least do not weaken morality, although they are totally incapable of serving as its foundation), then I should decide for the latter, because it at least withdraws the decision of the question from the sensibility and brings it to the court of pure reason; and although even here it decides nothing, it at all events preserves the indefinite idea (of a will good in itself) free from corruption, until it shall be more precisely defined.

For the rest I think I may be excused here from a detailed refutation of all these doctrines; that would only be superfluous labour, since it is so easy, and is probably so well seen even by those whose office requires them to decide for one of these theories (because their hearers would not tolerate suspension of judgment) Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [76]. But what interests us more here is to know that the prime foundation of morality laid down by all these principles is nothing but heteronomy of the will, and for this reason they must necessarily miss their aim.

In every case where an object of the will has to be supposed, in order that the rule may be prescribed which is to Edition: current; Page: [63] determine the will, there the rule is simply heteronomy; the imperative is conditional, namely, if or because one wishes for this object, one should act so and so: hence it can never command morally, that is categorically. Whether the object determines the will by means of inclination, as in the principle of private happiness, or by means of reason directed to objects of our possible volition generally, as in the principle of perfection, in either case the will never determines itself immediately by the conception of the action, but only by the influence which the foreseen effect of the action has on the will; I ought to do something, on this account, because I wish for something else; and here there must be yet another law assumed in me as its subject, by which I necessarily will this other thing, and this law again requires an imperative to restrict this maxim. For the influence which the conception of an object within the reach of our faculties can exercise on the will of the subject in consequence of its natural properties, depends on the nature of the subject, either the sensibility (inclination and taste), or the understanding and reason, the employment of which is by the peculiar constitution of their nature attended with satisfaction. It follows that the law would be, properly speaking, given by nature, and as such, it must be known and proved by experience, and would consequently be contingent, and therefore incapable of being an apodictic practical rule, such as the moral rule must be. Not only so, but it is inevitably only heteronomy Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [77]; the will does not give itself the law, but it is given by a foreign impulse by means of a particular natural constitution of the subject adapted to receive it. An absolutely good will then, the principle of which must be a categorical imperative, will be indeterminate as regards all objects, and will contain merely the form of volition generally, and that as autonomy, that is to say, the capability of the maxims of every good will to make themselves a universal law, is itself the only law which the will of every rational being imposes on itself, without needing to assume any spring or interest as a foundation.

How such a synthetical practical à priori proposition is possible Edition: current; Page: [64] and why it is necessary, is a problem whose solution does not lie within the bounds of the metaphysic of morals; and we have not here affirmed its truth, much less professed to have a proof of it in our power. We simply showed by the development of the universally received notion of morality that an autonomy of the will is inevitably connected with it, or rather is its foundation. Whoever then holds morality to be anything real, and not a chimerical idea without any truth, must likewise admit the principle of it that is here assigned. This section then, like the first, was merely analytical. Now to prove that morality is no creation of the brain, which it cannot be if the categorical imperative and with it the autonomy of the will is true, and as an à priori principle absolutely necessary, this supposes the possibility of a synthetic use of pure practical reason, which however we cannot venture on without first giving a critical examination of this faculty of reason. In the concluding section we shall give the principal outlines of this critical examination as far as is sufficient for our purpose.

Edition: current; Page: [65]

THIRD SECTION.: transition from the metaphysic of morals to the critique of pure practical reason.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [78]

The Concept of Freedom is the Key that explains the Autonomy of the Will.

The will is a kind of causality belonging to living beings in so far as they are rational, and freedom would be this property of such causality that it can be efficient, independently on foreign causes determining it; just as physical necessity is the property that the causality of all irrational beings has of being determined to activity by the influence of foreign causes.

The preceding definition of freedom is negative, and therefore unfruitful for the discovery of its essence; but it leads to a positive conception which is so much the more full and fruitful. Since the conception of causality involves that of laws, according to which, by something that we call cause, something else, namely, the effect, must be produced [laid down]; 1 hence, although freedom is not a property of the will depending on physical laws, yet it is not for that reason lawless; on the contrary it must be a causality acting according to immutable laws, but of a peculiar kind; otherwise a free will would be an absurdity. Physical necessity Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [79] is a heteronomy of the efficient causes, for every effect is possible only according to this law, that something else determines the efficient cause to exert its causality. What else then can freedom of the will be but autonomy, that is the property of the will to be a law to Edition: current; Page: [66] itself? But the proposition: The will is in every action a law to itself, only expresses the principle, to act on no other maxim than that which can also have as an object itself as a universal law. Now this is precisely the formula of the categorical imperative and is the principle of morality, so that a free will and a will subject to moral laws are one and the same.

On the hypothesis then of freedom of the will, morality together with its principle follows from it by mere analysis of the conception. However the latter is still a synthetic proposition; viz., an absolutely good will is that whose maxim can always include itself regarded as a universal law; for this property of its maxim can never be discovered by analysing the conception of an absolutely good will. Now such synthetic propositions are only possible in this way: that the two cognitions are connected together by their union with a third in which they are both to be found. The positive concept of freedom furnishes this third cognition, which cannot, as with physical causes, be the nature of the sensible world (in the concept of which we find conjoined the concept of something in relation as cause to something else as effect). We cannot now at once show what this third is to which freedom points us, and of which we have an idea à priori, nor can we make intelligible how the concept of freedom is shown to be legitimate from principles of pure practical reason, and with it the possibility of a categorical imperative; but some further preparation is required.

freedom Must be presupposed as a Property of the Will of all Rational Beings.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [80]

It is not enough to predicate freedom of our own will, from whatever reason, if we have not sufficient grounds for predicating the same of all rational beings. For as morality serves as a law for us only because we are rational beings, it must also hold for all rational beings; and as it must be deduced simply from the property of freedom, it must be shown that freedom also is a property of all rational beings. It is not enough then Edition: current; Page: [67] to prove it from certain supposed experiences of human nature (which indeed is quite impossible, and it can only be shown à priori), but we must show that it belongs to the activity of all rational beings endowed with a will. Now I say every being that cannot act except under the idea of freedom is just for that reason in a practical point of view really free, that is to say, all laws which are inseparably connected with freedom have the same force for him as if his will had been shown to be free in itself by a proof theoretically conclusive. 1 Now I affirm that we must attribute to every rational being Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [81] which has a will that it has also the idea of freedom and acts entirely under this idea. For in such a being we conceive a reason that is practical, that is, has causality in reference to its objects. Now we cannot possibly conceive a reason consciously receiving a bias from any other quarter with respect to its judgments, for then the subject would ascribe the determination of its judgment not to its own reason, but to an impulse. It must regard itself as the author of its principles independent on foreign influences. Consequently as practical reason or as the will of a rational being it must regard itself as free, that is to say, the will of such a being cannot be a will of its own except under the idea of freedom. This idea must therefore in a practical point of view be ascribed to every rational being.

Of the Interest attaching to the Ideas of Morality.

We have finally reduced the definite conception of morality to the idea of freedom. This latter, however, we could not prove to be actually a property of ourselves or of human nature; Edition: current; Page: [68] only we saw that it must be presupposed if we would conceive a being as rational and conscious of its causality in respect of its actions, i. e., as endowed with a will; and so we find that on just the same grounds we must ascribe to every being endowed with reason and will this attribute of determining itself to action under the idea of its freedom.

Now it resulted also from the presupposition of this idea that we became aware of a law that the subjective principles of action, i. e., maxims, must always be so assumed that they can also hold as objective Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [82], that is, universal principles, and so serve as universal laws of our own dictation. But why then should I subject myself to this principle and that simply as a rational being, thus also subjecting to it all other beings endowed with reason? I will allow that no interest urges me to this, for that would not give a categorical imperative, but I must take an interest in it and discern how this comes to pass; for this “I ought” is properly an “I would,” valid for every rational being, provided only that reason determined his actions without any hindrance. But for beings that are in addition affected as we are by springs of a different kind, namely, sensibility, and in whose case that is not always done which reason alone would do, for these that necessity is expressed only as an “ought,” and the subjective necessity is different from the objective.

It seems then as if the moral law, that is, the principle of autonomy of the will, were properly speaking only presupposed in the idea of freedom, and as if we could not prove its reality and objective necessity independently. In that case we should still have gained something considerable by at least determining the true principle more exactly than had previously been done; but as regards its validity and the practical necessity of subjecting oneself to it, we should not have advanced a step. For if we were asked why the universal validity of our maxim as a law must be the condition restricting our actions, and on what we ground the worth which we assign to this manner of acting—a worth so great that there cannot be any higher interest; and if we were asked further how it happens that it is by Edition: current; Page: [69] this alone a man believes he feels his own personal worth, in comparison with which that of an agreeable or disagreeable condition is to be regarded as nothing, to these questions we could give no satisfactory answer.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [83] We find indeed sometimes that we can take an interest 1 in a personal quality which does not involve any interest of external condition, provided this quality makes us capable of participating in the condition in case reason were to effect the allotment; that is to say, the mere being worthy of happiness can interest of itself even without the motive of participating in this happiness. This judgment, however, is in fact only the effect of the importance of the moral law which we before presupposed (when by the idea of freedom we detach ourselves from every empirical interest); but that we ought to detach ourselves from these interests, i.e., to consider ourselves as free in action and yet as subject to certain laws, so as to find a worth simply in our own person which can compensate us for the loss of everything that gives worth to our condition; this we are not yet able to discern in this way, nor do we see how it is possible so to act—in other words, whence the moral law derives its obligation.

It must be freely admitted that there is a sort of circle here from which it seems impossible to escape. In the order of efficient causes we assume ourselves free, in order that in the order of ends we may conceive ourselves as subject to moral laws: and we afterwards conceive ourselves as subject to these laws, because we have attributed to ourselves freedom of will: for freedom and self-legislation of will are both autonomy, and therefore are reciprocal conceptions, and for this very reason one must not be used to explain the other or give the reason of it, but at most only for logical purposes to reduce apparently different notions of the same object to one single concept (as we reduce different fractions of the same value to the lowest terms).

One resource remains to us, namely, to inquire whether we do not occupy different points of view when by means of Edition: current; Page: [70] freedom Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [84] we think ourselves as causes efficient à priori, and when we form our conception of ourselves from our actions as effects which we see before our eyes.

It is a remark which needs no subtle reflection to make, but which we may assume that even the commonest understanding can make, although it be after its fashion by an obscure discernment of judgment which it calls feeling, that all the “ideas” 1 that come to us involuntarily (as those of the senses) do not enable us to know objects otherwise than as they affect us; so that what they may be in themselves remains unknown to us, and consequently that as regards “ideas” of this kind even with the closest attention and clearness that the understanding can apply to them, we can by them only attain to the knowledge of appearances, never to that of things in themselves. As soon as this distinction has once been made (perhaps merely in consequence of the difference observed between the ideas given us from without, and in which we are passive, and those that we produce simply from ourselves, and in which we show our own activity), then it follows of itself that we must admit and assume behind the appearance something else that is not an appearance, namely, the things in themselves; although we must admit that as they can never be known to us except as they affect us, we can come no nearer to them, nor can we ever know what they are in themselves. This must furnish a distinction, however crude, between a world of sense and the world of understanding, of which the former may be different according to the difference of the sensuous impressions in various observers, while the second which is its basis always remains the same. Even as to himself, a man cannot pretend to know what he is in himself from the knowledge he has by internal sensation Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [85]. For as he does not as it were create himself, and does not come by the conception of himself à priori but empirically, it naturally follows that he can obtain his knowledge even of himself only by the inner sense, and consequently Edition: current; Page: [71] only through the appearances of his nature and the way in which his consciousness is affected. At the same time beyond these characteristics of his own subject, made up of mere appearances, he must necessarily suppose something else as their basis, namely, his ego, whatever its characteristics in itself may be. Thus in respect to mere perception and receptivity of sensations he must reckon himself as belonging to the world of sense, but in respect of whatever there may be of pure activity in him (that which reaches consciousness immediately and not through affecting the senses) he must reckon himself as belonging to the intellectual world, of which however he has no further knowledge. To such a conclusion the reflecting man must come with respect to all the things which can be presented to him: it is probably to be met with even in persons of the commonest understanding, who, as is well known, are very much inclined to suppose behind the objects of the senses something else invisible and acting of itself. They spoil it however by presently sensualizing this invisible again; that is to say, wanting to make it an object of intuition, so that they do not become a whit the wiser.

Now man really finds in himself a faculty by which he distinguishes himself from everything else, even from himself as affected by objects, and that is Reason. This being pure spontaneity is even elevated above the understanding. For although the latter is a spontaneity and does not, like sense, merely contain intuitions that arise when we are affected by things (and are therefore passive), yet it cannot produce from its activity any other conceptions than those which merely serve to bring the intuitions of sense under rules Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [86], and thereby to unite them in one consciousness, and without this use of the sensibility it could not think at all; whereas, on the contrary, Reason shows so pure a spontaneity in the case of what I call Ideas [Ideal Conceptions] that it thereby far transcends everything that the sensibility can give it, and exhibits its most important function in distinguishing the world of sense from that of understanding, and thereby prescribing the limits of the understanding itself.

Edition: current; Page: [72]

For this reason a rational being must regard himself qua intelligence (not from the side of his lower faculties) as belonging not to the world of sense, but to that of understanding; hence he has two points of view from which he can regard himself, and recognise laws of the exercise of his faculties, and consequently of all his actions: first, so far as he belongs to the world of sense, he finds himself subject to laws of nature (heteronomy); secondly, as belonging to the intelligible world, under laws which being independent on nature have their foundation not in experience but in reason alone.

As a rational being, and consequently belonging to the intelligible world, man can never conceive the causality of his own will otherwise than on condition of the idea of freedom, for independence on the determining causes of the sensible world (an independence which Reason must always ascribe to itself) is freedom. Now the idea of freedom is inseparably connected with the conception of autonomy, and this again with the universal principle of morality which is ideally the foundation of all actions of rational beings, just as the law of nature is of all phenomena.

Now the suspicion is removed which we raised above, that there was a latent circle involved in our reasoning from freedom to autonomy, and from this to the moral law, viz.: that we laid down the idea of freedom because of the moral law only that we might afterwards in turn infer the latter from freedom Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [87], and that consequently we could assign no reason at all for this law, but could only [present] 1 it as a petitio principii which well disposed minds would gladly concede to us, but which we could never put forward as a provable proposition. For now we see that when we conceive ourselves as free we transfer ourselves into the world of understanding as members of it, and recognise the autonomy of the will with its consequence, morality; whereas, if we conceive ourselves as under obligation we consider ourselves as belonging to the world of sense, and at the same time to the world of understanding.

Edition: current; Page: [73]

How is a Categorical Imperative Possible?

Every rational being reckons himself qua intelligence as belonging to the world of understanding, and it is simply as an efficient cause belonging to that world that he calls his causality a will. On the other side he is also conscious of himself as a part of the world of sense in which his actions which are mere appearances [phenomena] of that causality are displayed; we cannot however discern how they are possible from this causality which we do not know; but instead of that, these actions as belonging to the sensible world must be viewed as determined by other phenomena, namely, desires and inclinations. If therefore I were only a member of the world of understanding, then all my actions would perfectly conform to the principle of autonomy of the pure will; if I were only a part of the world of sense they would necessarily be assumed to conform wholly to the natural law of desires and inclinations, in other words, to the heteronomy of nature. (The former would rest on morality as the supreme principle, the latter on happiness.) Since however the world of understanding contains the foundation of the world of sense, and consequently of its laws also, and accordingly gives the law to my will (which belongs wholly to the world of understanding) directly Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [88], and must be conceived as doing so, it follows that, although on the one side I must regard myself as a being belonging to the world of sense, yet on the other side I must recognise myself as subject as an intelligence to the law of the world of understanding, i.e., to reason, which contains this law in the idea of freedom, and therefore as subject to the autonomy of the will: consequently I must regard the laws of the world of understanding as imperatives for me, and the actions which conform to them as duties.

And thus what makes categorical imperatives possible is this, that the idea of freedom makes me a member of an intelligible world, in consequence of which if I were nothing else all my actions would always conform to the autonomy of the will; but as I at the same time intuite myself as a member of the world Edition: current; Page: [74] of sense, they ought so to conform, and this categorical “ought” implies a synthetic à priori proposition, inasmuch as besides my will as affected by sensible desires there is added further the idea of the same will but as belonging to the world of the understanding, pure and practical of itself, which contains the supreme condition according to Reason of the former will; precisely as to the intuitions of sense there are added concepts of the understanding which of themselves signify nothing but regular form in general, and in this way synthetic à priori propositions become possible, on which all knowledge of physical nature rests.

The practical use of common human reason confirms this reasoning. There is no one, not even the most consummate villain, provided only that he is otherwise accustomed to the use of reason, who, when we set before him examples of honesty of purpose, of steadfastness in following good maxims, of sympathy and general benevolence (even combined with great sacrifices of advantages and comfort), does not wish that he might also possess these qualities. Only on account of his inclinations and impulses he cannot attain this in himself Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [89], but at the same time he wishes to be free from such inclinations which are bundensome to himself. He proves by this that he transfers himself in thought with a will free from the impulses of the sensibility into an order of things wholly different from that of his desires in the field of the sensibility; since he cannot expect to obtain by that wish any gratification of his desires, nor any position which would satisfy any of his actual or supposable inclinations (for this would destroy the pre-eminence of the very idea which wrests that wish from him): he can only expect a greater intrinsic worth of his own person. This better person, however, he imagines himself to be when he transfers himself to the point of view of a member of the world of the understanding, to which he is involuntarily forced by the idea of freedom, i.e., of independence on determining causes of the world of sense; and from this point of view he is conscious of a good will, which by his own confession constitutes the law for the bad will that he possesses as a member of the world of sense—a law whose authority he Edition: current; Page: [75] recognises while transgressing it. What he morally “ought” is then what he necessarily “would” as a member of the world of the understanding, and is conceived by him as an “ought” only inasmuch as he likewise considers himself as a member of the world of sense.

On the Extreme Limits of all Practical Philosophy.

All men attribute to themselves freedom of will. Hence come all judgments upon actions as being such as ought to have been done, although they have not been done. However this freedom is not a conception of experience, nor can it be so, since it still remains Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [90], even though experience shows the contrary of what on supposition of freedom are conceived as its necessary consequences. On the other side it is equally necessary that everything that takes place should be fixedly determined according to laws of nature. This necessity of nature is likewise not an empirical conception, just for this reason, that it involves the motion of necessity and consequently of à priori cognition. But this conception of a system of nature is confirmed by experience, and it must even be inevitably presupposed if experience itself is to be possible, that is, a connected knowledge of the objects of sense resting on general laws. Therefore freedom is only an Idea [Ideal Conception] of Reason, and its objective reality in itself is doubtful, while nature is a concept of the understanding which proves, and must necessarily prove, its reality in examples of experience.

There arises from this a dialectic of Reason, since the freedom attributed to the will appears to contradict the necessity of nature, and placed between these two ways Reason for speculative purposes finds the road of physical necessity much more beaten and more appropriate than that of freedom; yet for practical purposes the narrow footpath of freedom is the only one on which it is possible to make use of reason in our conduct; hence it is just as impossible for the subtlest philosophy as for the commonest reason of men to argue away freedom. Philosophy must then assume that no real contradiction will be found between freedom and physical necessity of the same human Edition: current; Page: [76] actions, for it cannot give up the conception of nature any more than that of freedom.

Nevertheless, even though we should never be able to comprehend how freedom is possible, we must at least remove this apparent contradiction in a convincing manner. For if the thought of freedom contradicts either itself or nature, which is equally necessary Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [91], it must in competition with physical necessity be entirely given up.

It would, however, be impossible to escape this contradiction if the thinking subject, which seems to itself free, conceived itself in the same sense or in the very same relation when it calls itself free as when in respect of the same action it assumes itself to be subject to the law of nature. Hence it is an indispensable problem of speculative philosophy to show that its illusion respecting the contradiction rests on this, that we think of man in a different sense and relation when we call him free, and when we regard him as subject to the laws of nature as being part and parcel of nature. It must therefore show that not only can both these very well co-exist, but that both must be thought as necessarily united in the same subject, since otherwise no reason could be given why we should burden reason with an idea which, though it may possibly without contradiction be reconciled with another that is sufficiently established, yet entangles us in a perplexity which sorely embarrasses Reason in its theoretic employment. This duty, however, belongs only to speculative philosophy, in order that it may clear the way for practical philosophy. The philosopher then has no option whether he will remove the apparent contradiction or leave it untouched; for in the latter case the theory respecting this would be bonum vacans into the possession of which the fatalist would have a right to enter, and chase all morality out of its supposed domain as occupying it without title.

We cannot, however, as yet say that we are touching the bounds of practical philosophy. For the settlement of that controversy does not belong to it; it only demands from speculative reason that it should put an end to the discord in which it entangles itself in theoretical questions, so that Edition: current; Page: [77] practical reason may have rest and security from external attacks Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [92] which might make the ground debatable on which it desires to build.

The claims to freedom of will made even by common reason are founded on the consciousness and the admitted supposition that reason is independent on merely subjectively determined causes which together constitute what belongs to sensation only, and which consequently come under the general designation of sensibility. Man considering himself in this way as an intelligence, places himself thereby in a different order of things and in a relation to determining grounds of a wholly different kind when on the one hand he thinks of himself as an intelligence endowed with a will, and consequently with causality, and when on the other he perceives himself as a phenomenon in the world of sense (as he really is also), and affirms that his causality is subject to external determination according to laws of nature. 1 Now he soon becomes aware that both can hold good, nay, must hold good at the same time. For there is not the smallest contradiction in saying that a thing in appearance (belonging to the world of sense) is subject to certain laws, on which the very same as a thing or being in itself is independent; and that he must conceive and think of himself in this two-fold way, rests as to the first on the consciousness of himself as an object affected through the senses, and as to the second on the consciousness of himself as an intelligence, i. e., as independent on sensible impressions in the employment of his reason (in other words as belonging to the world of understanding).

Hence it comes to pass that man claims the possession of a will which takes no account of anything that comes under the head of desires and inclinations, and on the contrary conceives actions as possible to him, nay, even as necessary, which can only be done by disregarding all desires and sensible inclinations. Edition: current; Page: [78] The causality of such actions 1 lies in him as an intelligence and in the laws of effects and actions [which depend] on the principles Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [93] of an intelligible world, of which indeed he knows nothing more than that in it pure reason alone independent on sensibility gives the law; moreover since it is only in that world, as an intelligence, that he is his proper self (being as man only the appearance of himself) those laws apply to him directly and categorically, so that the incitements of inclinations and appetites (in other words the whole nature of the world of sense) cannot impair the laws of his volition as an intelligence. Nay, he does not even hold himself responsible for the former or ascribe them to his proper self, i. e., his will: he only ascribes to his will any indulgence which he might yield them if he allowed them to influence his maxims to the prejudice of the rational laws of the will.

When practical Reason thinks itself into a world of understanding it does not thereby transcend its own limits, as it would if it tried to enter it by intuition or sensation. The former is only a negative thought in respect of the world of sense, which does not give any laws to reason in determining the will, and is positive only in this single point that this freedom as a negative characteristic is at the same time conjoined with a (positive) faculty and even with a causality of reason, which we designate a will, namely, a faculty of so acting that the principle of the actions shall conform to the essential character of a rational motive, i. e., the condition that the maxim have universal validity as a law. But were it to borrow an object of will, that is, a motive, from the world of understanding, then it would overstep its bounds and pretend to be acquainted with something of which it knows nothing. The conception of a world of the understanding is then only a point of view which Reason finds itself compelled to take outside the appearances in order to conceive itself as practical, which would not be possible if the influences of the sensibility had a Edition: current; Page: [79] determining power on man Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [94], but which is necessary unless he is to be denied the consciousness of himself as an intelligence, and consequently as a rational cause, energizing by reason, that is, operating freely. This thought certainly involves the idea of an order and a system of laws different from that of the mechanism of nature which belongs to the sensible world, and it makes the conception of an intelligible world necessary (that is to say, the whole system of rational beings as things in themselves). But it does not in the least authorize us to think of it further than as to its formal condition only, that is, the universality of the maxims of the will as laws, and consequently the autonomy of the latter, which alone is consistent with its freedom; whereas, on the contrary, all laws that refer to a definite object give heteronomy, which only belongs to laws of nature, and can only apply to the sensible world.

But Reason would overstep all its bounds if it undertook to explain how pure reason can be practical, which would be exactly the same problem as to explain how freedom is possible.

For we can explain nothing but that which we can reduce to laws, the object of which can be given in some possible experience. But freedom is a mere Idea [Ideal Conception], the objective reality of which can in no wise be shown according to laws of nature, and consequently not in any possible experience; and for this reason it can never be comprehended or understood, because we cannot support it by any sort of example or analogy. It holds good only as a necessary hypothesis of reason in a being that believes itself conscious of a will, that is, of a faculty distinct from mere desire (namely a faculty of determining itself to action as an intelligence, in other words, by laws of reason independently on natural instincts) Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [95]. Now where determination according to laws of nature ceases, there all explanation ceases also, and nothing remains but defence, i. e., the removal of the objections of those who pretend to have seen deeper into the nature of things, and thereupon boldly declare freedom impossible. We can only point out to them that the Edition: current; Page: [80] supposed contradiction that they have discovered in it arises only from this, that in order to be able to apply the law of nature to human actions, they must necessarily consider man as an appearance: then when we demand of them that they should also think of him qua intelligence as a thing in itself, they still persist in considering him in this respect also as an appearance. In this view it would no doubt be a contradiction to suppose the causality of the same subject (that is, his will) to be withdrawn from all the natural laws of the sensible world. But this contradiction disappears, if they would only bethink themselves and admit, as is reasonable, that behind the appearances there must also lie at their root (although hidden) the things in themselves, and that we cannot expect the laws of these to be the same as those that govern their appearances.

The subjective impossibility of explaining the freedom of the will is identical with the impossibility of discovering and explaining an interest 1 which Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [96] man can take in the moral law. Nevertheless he does actually take an interest in it, the basis of which in us we call the moral feeling, which some have falsely assigned as the standard of our moral judgment, whereas it must rather be viewed as the subjective effect that the law exercises on the will, the objective principle of which is furnished by Reason alone.

In order indeed that a rational being who is also affected through the senses should will what Reason alone directs such Edition: current; Page: [81] beings that they ought to will, it is no doubt requisite that reason should have a power to infuse a feeling of pleasure or satisfaction in the fulfilment of duty, that is to say, that it should have a causality by which it determines the sensibility according to its own principles. But it is quite impossible to discern, i. e. to make it intelligible à priori, how a mere thought, which itself contains nothing sensible, can itself produce a sensation of pleasure or pain; for this is a particular kind of causality of which as of every other causality we can determine nothing whatever à priori; we must only consult experience about it. But as this cannot supply us with any relation of cause and effect except between two objects of experience, whereas in this case, although indeed the effect produced lies within experience, yet the cause is supposed to be pure reason acting through mere ideas which offer no object to experience, it follows that for us men it is quite impossible to explain how and why the universality of the maxim as a law, that is, morality, interests. This only is certain, that it is not because it interests us that it has validity for us (for that would be heteronomy and dependence of practical reason on sensibility, namely, on a feeling as its principle, in which case it could never give moral laws) Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [97], but that it interests us because it is valid for us as men, inasmuch as it had its source in our will as intelligences, in other words in our proper self, and what belongs to mere appearance is necessarily subordinated by reason to the nature of the thing in itself.

The question then: How a categorical imperative is possible can be answered to this extent that we can assign the only hypothesis on which it is possible, namely, the idea of freedom; and we can also discern the necessity of this hypothesis, and this is sufficient for the practical exercise of reason, that is, for the conviction of the validity of this imperative, and hence of the moral law; but how this hypothesis itself is possible can never be discerned by any human reason. On the hypothesis, however, that the will of an intelligence is free, its autonomy, as the essential formal condition of its determination, is a necessary consequence. Moreover, this freedom of will is not merely quite Edition: current; Page: [82] possible as a hypothesis (not involving any contradiction to the principle of physical necessity in the connexion of the phenomena of the sensible world) as speculative philosophy can show: but further, a rational being who is conscious of a causality 1 through reason, that is to say, of a will (distinct from desires), must of necessity make it practically, that is, in idea, the condition of all his voluntary actions. But to explain how pure reason can be of itself practical without the aid of any spring of action that could be derived from any other source, i. e. how the mere principle of the universal validity of all its maxims as laws (which would certainly be the form of a pure practical reason) can of itself supply a spring, without any matter (object) of the will in which one could antecedently take any interest Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [98]; and how it can produce an interest which would be called purely moral; or in other words, how pure reason can be practical—to explain this is beyond the power of human reason, and all the labour and pains of seeking an explanation of it are lost.

It is just the same as if I sought to find out how freedom itself is possible as the causality of a will. For then I quit the ground of philosophical explanation, and I have no other to go upon. I might indeed revel in the world of intelligences which still remains to me, but although I have an idea of it which is well founded, yet I have not the least knowledge of it, nor can I ever attain to such knowledge with all the efforts of my natural faculty of reason. It signifies only a something that remains over when I have eliminated everything belonging to the world of sense from the actuating principles of my will, serving merely to keep in bounds the principle of motives taken from the field of sensibility; fixing its limits and showing that it does not contain all in all within itself, but that there is more beyond it; but this something more I know no further. Of pure reason which frames this ideal, there remains after the abstraction of all matter, i. e. knowledge of objects, nothing but the form, namely, the practical law of the universality of the Edition: current; Page: [83] maxims, and in conformity with this the conception of reason in reference to a pure world of understanding as a possible efficient cause, that is a cause determining the will. There must here be a total absence of springs; unless this idea of an intelligible world is itself the spring, or that in which reason primarily takes an interest; but to make this intelligible is precisely the problem that we cannot solve.

Here now is the extreme limit of all moral inquiry Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [99], and it is of great importance to determine it even on this account, in order that reason may not on the one hand, to the prejudice of morals, seek about in the world of sense for the supreme motive and an interest comprehensible but empirical; and on the other hand, that it may not impotently flap its wings without being able to move in the (for it) empty space of transcendent concepts which we call the intelligible world, and so lose itself amidst chimeras. For the rest, the idea of a pure world of understanding as a system of all intelligences, and to which we ourselves as rational beings belong (although we are likewise on the other side members of the sensible world), this remains always a useful and legitimate idea for the purposes of rational belief, although all knowledge stops at its threshold, useful, namely, to produce in us a lively interest in the moral law by means of the noble ideal of a universal kingdom of ends in themselves (rational beings), to which we can belong as members then only when we carefully conduct ourselves according to the maxims of freedom as if they were laws of nature.

Concluding Remark.

The speculative employment of reason with respect to nature leads to the absolute necessity of some supreme cause of the world: the practical employment of reason with a view to freedom leads also to absolute necessity, but only of the laws of the actions of a rational being as such. Now it is an essential principle of reason, however employed, to push its knowledge to a consciousness of its necessity (without which it would not be rational knowledge). It is however an equally essential restriction of the same reason that it can neither discern the Edition: current; Page: [84] necessity Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [100] of what is or what happens, nor of what ought to happen, unless a condition is supposed on which it is or happens or ought to happen. In this way, however, by the constant inquiry for the condition, the satisfaction of reason is only further and further postponed. Hence it unceasingly seeks the unconditionally necessary, and finds itself forced to assume it, although without any means of making it comprehensible to itself, happy enough if only it can discover a conception which agrees with this assumption. It is therefore no fault in our deduction of the supreme principle of morality, but an objection that should be made to human reason in general, that it cannot enable us to conceive the absolute necessity of an unconditional practical law (such as the categorical imperative must be). It cannot be blamed for refusing to explain this necessity by a condition, that is to say, by means of some interest assumed as a basis, since the law would then cease to be a moral law, i. e. a supreme law of freedom. And thus while we do not comprehend the practical unconditional necessity of the moral imperative, we yet comprehend its incomprehensibility, and this is all that can be fairly demanded of a philosophy which strives to carry its principles up to the very limit of human reason.

Edition: current; Page: [85]


Edition: current; Page: [86] Edition: current; Page: [87]


THIS WORK is called the “Critical Examination of Practical Reason,” not of the pure practical reason, although its parallelism with the speculative critique would seem to require the latter term. The reason of this appears sufficiently from the treatise itself. Its business is to show that there is pure practical reason, and for this purpose it criticises the entire practical faculty of reason. If it succeeds in this it has no need to criticise the pure faculty itself in order to see whether reason in making such a claim does not presumptuously overstep itself (as is the case with the speculative reason). For if, as pure reason, it is actually practical, it proves its own reality and that of its concepts by fact, and all disputation against the possibility of its being real is futile.

With this faculty, transcendental freedom is also established; freedom, namely, in that absolute sense in which speculative reason required it in its use of the concept of causality in order to escape the antinomy into which it inevitably falls, when in the chain of cause and effect it tries to think the unconditioned. Speculative reason could only exhibit this concept (of freedom) problematically as not impossible to thought, without assuring it any objective reality, and merely lest the supposed impossibility of what it must at least allow to be thinkable Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [106] Edition: current; Page: [88] should endanger its very being and plunge it into an abyss of scepticism.

Inasmuch as the reality of the concept of freedom is proved by an apodictic law of practical reason, it is the keystone of the whole system of pure reason, even the speculative, and all other concepts (those of God and immortality) which, as being mere ideas, remain in it unsupported, now attach themselves to this concept, and by it obtain consistence and objective reality; that is to say, their possibility is proved by the fact that freedom actually exists, for this idea is revealed by the moral law.

Freedom, however, is the only one of all the ideas of the speculative reason of which we know the possibility à priori (without, however, understanding it), because it is the condition of the moral law which we know. 1 The ideas of God and Immortality, however, are not conditions of the moral law, but only conditions of the necessary object of a will determined by this law: that is to say, conditions of the practical use of our pure reason. Hence with respect to these ideas we cannot affirm that we know and understand, I will not say the actuality, but even the possibility of them. However they are the conditions of the application of the morally Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [107] determined will to its object, which is given to Edition: current; Page: [89] it à priori, viz. the summum bonum. Consequently in this practical point of view their possibility must be assumed, although we cannot theoretically know and understand it. To justify this assumption it is sufficient, in a practical point of view, that they contain no intrinsio impossibility (contradiction). Here we have what, as far as speculative Reason is concerned, is a merely subjective principle of assent, which, however, is objectively valid for a Reason equally pure but practical, and this principle, by means of the concept of freedom, assures objective reality and authority to the ideas of God and Immortality. Nay, there is a subjective necessity (a need of pure reason) to assume them. Nevertheless the theoretical knowledge of reason is not hereby enlarged, but only the possibility is given, which heretofore was merely a problem, and now becomes assertion, and thus the practical use of reason is connected with the elements of theoretical reason. And this need is not a merely hypothetical one for the arbitrary purposes of speculation, that we must assume something if we wish in speculation to carry reason to its utmost limits, but it is a need which has the force of law to assume something without which that cannot be which we must inevitably set before us as the aim of our action.

It would certainly be more satisfactory to our speculative reason if it could solve these problems for itself without this circuit, and preserve the solution for practical use as a thing to be referred to, but in fact our faculty of speculation is not so well provided. Those who boast of such high knowledge ought not to keep it back, but to exhibit it publicly that it may be tested and appreciated. They want to prove: very good, let them prove; and the critical philosophy lays its arms at their feet as the victors. “Quid statis? Nolint. Edition: current; Page: [90] Atqui licet esse beatis.” As they then do not in fact choose to do so, probably because Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [108] they cannot, we must take up these arms again in order to seek in the mortal use of reason, and to base on this, the notions of God, freedom, and immortality, the possibility of which speculation cannot adequately prove.

Here first is explained the enigma of the oritical philosophy, viz. how we deny objective reality to the supersensible use of the categories in speculation, and yet admit this reality with respect to the objects of pure practical reason. This must at first seem inconsistent as long as this practical use is only nominally known. But when, by a thorough analysis of it, one becomes aware that the reality spoken of does not imply any theoretical determination of the categories, and extension of our knowledge to the supersensible; but that what is meant is that in this respect an object belongs to them, because either they are contained in the necessary determination of the will à priori, or are inseparably connected with its object; then this inconsistency disappears, because the use we make of these concepts is different from what speculative reason requires. On the other hand, there now appears an unexpected and very satisfactory proof of the consistency of the speculative critical philosophy. For whereas it insisted that the objects of experience as such, including our own subject, have only the value of phenomena, while at the same time things in themselves must be supposed as their basis, so that not everything supersensible was to be regarded as a fiction and its concepts as empty; so now practical reason itself, without any concert with the speculative, assures reality to a supersensible object of the category of causality, viz. Freedom, although (as becomes a practical concept) Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [109] only Edition: current; Page: [91] for practical use; and this establishes on the evidence of a fact that which in the former case could only be conceived. By this the strange but certain doctrine of the speculative critical philosophy, that the thinking subject is to itself in internal intuition only a phenomenon, obtains in the critical examination of the practical reason its full confirmation, and that so thoroughly that we should be compelled to adopt this doctrine, even if the former had never proved it at all. 1

By this also I can understand why the most considerable objections which I have as yet met with against the Critique turn about these two points, namely, on the one side, the objective reality of the categories as applied to noumena, which is in the theoretical department of knowledge denied, in the practical affirmed; and on the other side, the paradoxical demand to regard oneself quâ subject of freedom as a noumenon, and at the same time from the point of view of physical nature as a phenomenon in one’s own empirical consciousness; for as long as one has formed no definite notions of morality and freedom, one could not conjecture on the one side what was intended to be the noumenon, the basis of the alleged phenomenon, and on the other side it seemed doubtful whether it was at all possible to form any notion of it, seeing that we had previously assigned all the notions of the pure understanding in its theoretical use exclusively to phenomena. Nothing but a detailed criticism of the practical reason can remove all this Edition: current; Page: [92] misapprehension, and set in a clear light the consistency which constitutes its greatest merit.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [110] So much by way of justification of the proceeding by which, in this work, the notions and principles of pure speculative reason which have already undergone their special critical examination, are, now and then, again subjected to examination. This would not in other cases be in accordance with the systematic process by which a science is established, since matters which have been decided ought only to be cited and not again discussed. In this case, however, it was not only allowable but necessary, because Reason is here considered in transition to a different use of these concepts from what it had made of them before. Such a transition necessitates a comparison of the old and the new usage, in order to distinguish well the new path from the old one, and, at the same time, to allow their connexion to be observed. Accordingly considerations of this kind, including those which are once more directed to the concept of freedom in the practical use of the pure reason, must not be regarded as an interpolation serving only to fill up the gaps in the critical system of speculative reason (for this is for its own purpose complete), or like the props and buttresses which in a hastily constructed building are often added afterwards; but as true members which make the connexion of the system plain, and show us concepts, here presented as real, which there could only be presented problematically. This remark applies especially to the concept of freedom, respecting which one cannot but observe with surprise, that so many boast of being able to understand it quite well, and to explain its possibility, while they regard it only psychologically, whereas if they had studied it in a transcendental point of view, they must Edition: current; Page: [93] have recognised that it is not only indispensable as a problematical concept, in the complete use of speculative reason, but also quite incomprehensible Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [111]; and if they afterwards came to consider its practical use, they must needs have come to the very mode of determining the principles of this, to which they are now so loth to assent. The concept of freedom is the stone of stumbling for all empiricists, but at the same time the key to the loftiest practical principles for critical moralists, who perceive by its means that they must necessarily proceed by a rational method. For this reason I beg the reader not to pass lightly over what is said of this concept at the end of the Analytic.

I must leave it to those who are acquainted with works of this kind to judge whether such a system as that of the practical reason, which is here developed from the critical examination of it, has cost much or little trouble, especially in seeking not to miss the true point of view from which the whole can be rightly sketched. It presupposes, indeed, the Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals, but only in so far as this gives a preliminary acquaintance with the principle of duty, and assigns and justifies a definite formula thereof; in other respects it is independent. 1 It results from the nature of this practical faculty itself that Edition: current; Page: [94] the complete classification of all practical sciences cannot be added, as in the critique of the speculative reason Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [112]. For it is not possible to define duties specially, as human duties, with a view to their classification, until the subject of this definition (viz. man) is known according to his actual nature, at least so far as is necessary with respect to duty; this, however, does not belong to a critical examination of the practical reason, the business of which is only to assign in a complete manner the principles of its possibility, extent, and limits, without special reference to human nature. The classification then belongs to the system of science, not to the system of criticism.

In the second part of the Analytic I have given, as I trust, a sufficient answer to the objection of a truth-loving and acute critic 1 of the Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals—a critic always worthy of respect—the objection, namely, that the notion of good was not established before the moral principle, as he thinks it ought to have been 2 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [113]. Edition: current; Page: [95] I have also had regard to many of the objections which have reached me from men who show that they have at heart the discovery of the truth, and I shall continue to do so (for those who have only their old system before their eyes, and who have already settled what is to be approved or disapproved, do not desire any explanation which might stand in the way of their own private opinion).

When we have to study a particular faculty of the human mind in its sources, its content, and its limits; then from the nature of human knowledge we must begin with its parts, with an accurate and complete exposition of them; complete, namely, so far as is possible in the present state of our knowledge of its elements. But there is another thing to be attended to which is of a more philosophical and architectonic character, namely, to grasp correctly the idea of the whole, and from thence to get a view of all those parts as mutually related by the aid of pure reason, and by means of their derivation from the concept of the whole Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [114]. This is only Edition: current; Page: [96] possible through the most intimate acquaintance with the system; and those who find the first inquiry too troublesome, and do not think it worth their while to attain such an acquaintance, cannot reach the second stage, namely, the general view, which is a synthetical return to that which had previously been given analytically. It is no wonder then if they find inconsistencies everywhere, although the gaps which these indicate are not in the system itself, but in their own incoherent train of thought.

I have no fear, as regards this treatise, of the reproach that I wish to introduce a new language, since the sort of knowledge here in question has itself somewhat of an everyday character. Nor even in the case of the former critique could this reproach occur to any one who had thought it through, and not merely turned over the leaves. To invent new words where the language has no lack of expressions for given notions is a childish effort to distinguish oneself from the crowd, if not by new and true thoughts, yet by new patches on the old garment. If, therefore, the readers of that work know any more familiar expressions which are as suitable to the thought as those seem to me to be, or if they think they can show the futility of these thoughts themselves, and hence that of the expression, they would, in the first case, very much oblige me, for I only desire to be understood; and, in the second case, they would deserve well of philosophy. But, as long as these thoughts stand, I very much doubt that suitable, and yet more common, expressions for them can be found. 1

Edition: current; Page: [97]

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [115] In this manner then the à priori principles of two faculties of the mind, the faculty of cognition and Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [116] that of desire, would be found and determined as to the conditions, extent, and limits of their use, and thus a sure foundation be laid for a scientific system of philosophy, both theoretic and practical.

Nothing worse could happen to these labourers than that anyone should make the unexpected discovery that there neither is, nor can be, any à priori knowledge at all. But there is no danger of this. This would be the same thing as if one sought to prove by Reason that there is no Reason. For we only say that we know something by Reason, when we are conscious that we could have known it, even if it had not been given to us in experience; hence rational knowledge and knowledge à priori are one and the same. It is a clear contradiction to try to extract necessity from a principle of experience (ex pumice aquam), and to try by this to give a judgment true universality (without which there is no rational inference, not even inference from analogy, which is at least a presumed universality and objective necessity). To substitute subjective necessity, that is, custom, for objective, which exists only in à priori judgments, is to deny to Reason the power of judging about the object, i.e. of knowing it, and what belongs to it. It implies, for example, that we must not say of something which often or always follows a certain antecedent state, that we can conclude from this to that (for this would imply objective necessity and the notion of an à priori connexion), but only that we may expect Edition: current; Page: [98] similar cases (just as animals do), that is, that we reject the notion of cause altogether as false and a mere delusion. As to attempting to remedy this want of objective, and consequent universal, validity by saying that we can see no ground Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [117] for attributing any other sort of knowledge to other rational beings, if this reasoning were valid, our ignorance would do more for the enlargement of our knowledge than all our meditation. For, then, on this very ground that we have no knowledge of any other rational beings besides man, we should have a right to suppose them to be of the same nature as we know ourselves to be: that is, we should really know them. I omit to mention that universal assent does not prove the objective validity of a judgment (i.e. its validity as a cognition), and although this universal assent should accidentally happen, it could furnish no proof of agreement with the object; on the contrary, it is the objective validity which alone constitutes the basis of a necessary universal consent.

Edition: current; Page: [99]

Hume would be quite satisfied with this system of universal empiricism, for, as is well known, he desired nothing more than that instead of ascribing any objective meaning to the necessity in the concept of cause, a merely subjective one should be assumed, viz. custom, in order to deny that reason could judge about God, freedom, and immortality; and if once his principles were granted he was certainly well able to deduce his conclusions therefrom, with all logical coherence. But even Hume did not make his empiricism so universal as to include mathematics. He holds the principles of mathematics to be analytical, and if this were correct they would certainly be apodictic also; but we could not infer from this that reason has the faculty of forming apodictic judgments in philosophy also—that is to say, those which are synthetical judgments, like the judgment of causality. But if we adopt a universal empiricism, then mathematics will be included.

Now if this science is in contradiction with a reason that Edition: current; Page: [100] admits only empirical principles Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [118], as it inevitably is in the antinomy in which mathematics prove the infinite divisibility of space, which empiricism cannot admit; then the greatest possible evidence of demonstration is in manifest contradiction with the alleged conclusions from experience, and we are driven to ask, like Cheselden’s blind patient, “Which deceives me, sight or touch?” (for empiricism is based on a necessity felt, rationalism on a necessity seen). And thus universal empiricism reveals itself as absolute scepticism. It is erroneous to attribute this in such an unqualified sense to Hume, 1 since he left at least one certain touchstone of experience, namely, mathematics; whereas thorough scepticism admits no such touchstone (which can only be found in à priori principles), although experience consists not only of feelings, but also of judgments.

However, as in this philosophical and critical age such empiricism can scarcely be serious, and it is probably put forward only as an intellectual exercise, and for the purpose of putting in a clearer light, by contrast, the necessity of rational à priori principles, we can only be grateful to those who employ themselves in this otherwise uninstructive labour.

Edition: current; Page: [101]


THE theoretical use of reason was concerned with objects of the cognitive faculty only, and a critical examination of it with reference to this use applied properly only to the pure faculty of cognition; because this raised the suspicion, which was afterwards confirmed, that it might easily pass beyond its limits, and be lost among unattainable objects, or even contradictory notions. It is quite different with the practical use of reason. In this, reason is concerned with the grounds of determination of the will, which is a faculty either to produce objects corresponding to ideas, or to determine ourselves to the effecting of such objects (whether the physical power is sufficient or not); that is, to determine our causality. For here, reason can at least attain so far as to determine the will, and has always objective reality in so far as it is the volition only that is in question. The first question here then is, whether pure reason of itself alone suffices to determine the will, or whether it can be a ground of determination only as dependent on empirical conditions Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [120]. Now, here there comes in a notion of causality justified by the critique of the pure reason, although not capable of being presented empirically, viz. that of freedom; and if we can now discover means of proving that this property does in fact belong to the human will (and so to the will of all rational beings), then it will not only be shown that pure reason can be practical, but that it alone, and not reason empirically limited, is indubitably practical; consequently, we shall have to make a critical examination, not of pure practical reason, but Edition: current; Page: [102] only of practical reason generally. For when once pure reason is shown to exist it needs no critical examination. For reason itself contains the standard for the critical examination of every use of it. The critique, then, of practical reason generally is bound to prevent the empirically conditioned reason from claiming exclusively to furnish the ground of determination of the will. If it is proved that there is a [practical] 1 reason, its employment is alone immanent; the empirically conditioned use, which claims supremacy, is on the contrary transcendent, and expresses itself in demands and precepts which go quite beyond its sphere. This is just the opposite of what might be said of pure reason in its speculative employment.

However, as it is still pure reason, the knowledge of which is here the foundation of its practical employment, the general outline of the classification of a critique of practical reason must be arranged in accordance with that of the speculative. We must then have the Elements and the Methodology of it; and in the former an Analytic as the rule of truth, and a Dialectic as the exposition and dissolution of the illusion in the judgments of practical reason Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [121]. But the order in the subdivision of the Analytic will be the reverse of that in the critique of the pure speculative reason. For, in the present case, we shall commence with the principles and proceed to the concepts, and only then, if possible, to the senses; whereas in the case of the speculative reason we began with the senses, and had to end with the principles. The reason of this lies again in this: that now we have to do with a will, and have to consider reason, not in its relation to objects, but to this will and its causality. We must, then, begin with the principles of a causality not empirically conditioned, after which the attempt can be made to establish our notions of the determining grounds of such a will, of their application to objects, and finally to the subject and its sense faculty. We necessarily begin with the law of causality from freedom, that is, with a pure practical principle, and this determines the objects to which alone it can be applied.

Edition: current; Page: [103]


Edition: current; Page: [104] Edition: current; Page: [105]


CHAPTER I.: of the principles of pure practical reason.

§ I. —: Definition.

PRACTICAL PRINCIPLES are propositions which contain a general determination of the will, having under it several practical rules. They are subjective, or Maxims, when the condition is regarded by the subject as valid only for his own will, but are objective, or practical laws, when the condition is recognised as objective, that is, valid for the will of every rational being.


Supposing that pure reason contains in itself a practical motive Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [126], that is, one adequate to determine the will, then there are practical laws; otherwise all practical principles will be mere maxims. In case the will of a rational being is pathologically affected, there may occur a conflict of the maxims with the practical laws recognised by itself. For example, one may make it his maxim to let no injury pass unrevenged, and yet he may see that this is not a practical law, but only his own maxim; that, on the contrary, regarded as being in one and the same maxim a rule for the will of every rational being, it must contradict itself. In natural philosophy the principles of what happens (e.g. Edition: current; Page: [106] the principle of equality of action and reaction in the communication of motion) are at the same time laws of nature; for the use of reason there is theoretical, and determined by the nature of the object. In practical philosophy, i.e. that which has to do only with the grounds of determination of the will, the principles which a man makes for himself are not laws by which one is inevitably bound; because reason in practical matters has to do with the subject, namely, with the faculty of desire, the special character of which may occasion variety in the rule. The practical rule is always a product of reason, because it prescribes action as a means to the effect. But in the case of a being with whom reason does not of itself determine the will, this rule is an imperative, i. e. a rule characterised by “shall,” which expresses the objective necessitation of the action, and signifies that if reason completely determined the will, the action would inevitably take place according to this rule. Imperatives, therefore, are objectively valid, and are quite distinct from maxims, which are subjective principles. The former either determine the conditions of the causality of the rational being as an efficient cause, i. e. merely in reference to the effect and the means of attaining it; or they determine the will only, whether it is adequate to the effect or not Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [127]. The former would be hypothetical imperatives, and contain mere precepts of skill; the latter, on the contrary, would be categorical, and would alone be practical laws. Thus maxims are principles, but not imperatives. Imperatives themselves, however, when they are conditional (i. e. do not determine the will simply as will, but only in respect to a desired effect, that is, when they are hypothetical imperatives), are practical precepts but not laws. Laws must be sufficient to determine the will as will, even before I ask whether I have power sufficient for a desired effect, or the means necessary to produce it; hence they are categorical: otherwise they are not laws at all, because the necessity is wanting, which, if it is to be practical, must be independent on conditions which are pathological, and are therefore only contingently connected with the will. Tell a Edition: current; Page: [107] man, for example, that he must be industrious and thrifty in youth, in order that he may not want in old age; this is a correct and important practical precept of the will. But it is easy to see that in this case the will is directed to something else which it is presupposed that it desires; and as to this desire, we must leave it to the actor himself whether he looks forward to other resources than those of his own acquisition, or does not expect to be old, or thinks that in case of future necessity he will be able to make shift with little. Reason, from which alone can spring a rule involving necessity, does, indeed, give necessity to this precept (else it would not be an imperative), but this is a necessity dependent on subjective conditions, and cannot be supposed in the same degree in all subjects. But that reason may give laws it is necessary that it should only need to presuppose itself, because rules are objectively and universally valid only when they hold without any contingent subjective conditions, which distinguish one rational being from another. Now tell a man that he should never make a deceitful promise, this is a rule which only concerns his will, whether the purposes he may have can be attained thereby or not Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [128]; it is the volition only which is to be determined à priori by that rule. If now it is found that this rule is practically right, then it is a law, because it is a categorical imperative. Thus, practical laws refer to the will only, without considering what is attained by its causality, and we may disregard this latter (as belonging to the world of sense) in order to have them quite pure.

§ II. —: Theorem I.

All practical principles which presuppose an object (matter) of the faculty of desire as the ground of determination of the will are empirical, and can furnish no practical laws.

By the matter of the faculty of desire I mean an object the realization of which is desired. Now, if the desire for this object precedes the practical rule, and is the condition of our making it a principle, then I say (in the first place) this principle Edition: current; Page: [108] is in that case wholly empirical, for then what determines the choice is the idea of an object, and that relation of this idea to the subject by which its faculty of desire is determined to its realization. Such a relation to the subject is called the pleasure in the realization of an object. This, then, must be presupposed as a condition of the possibility of determination of the will. But it is impossible to know à priori of any idea of an object whether it will be connected with pleasure or pain, or be indifferent. In such cases, therefore, the determining principle of the choice must be empirical, and, therefore, also the practical material principle which presupposes it as a condition.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [129] In the second place, since susceptibility to a pleasure or pain can be known only empirically, and cannot hold in the same degree for all rational beings, a principle which is based on this subjective condition may serve indeed as a maxim for the subject which possesses this susceptibility, but not as a law even to him (because it is wanting in objective necessity, which must be recognised à priori); it follows, therefore, that such a principle can never furnish a practical law.

§ III. —: Theorem II.

All material practical principles as such are of one and the same kind, and come under the general principle of self-love or private happiness.

Pleasure arising from the idea of the existence of a thing, in so far as it is to determine the desire of this thing, is founded on the susceptibility of the subject, since it depends on the presence of an object; hence it belongs to sense (feeling), and not to understanding, which expresses a relation of the idea to an object according to concepts, not to the subject according to feelings. It is then practical only in so far as the faculty of desire is determined by the sensation of agreeableness which the subject expects from the actual existence of the object. Now, a rational being’s consciousness of the pleasantness of life uninterruptedly accompanying his whole existence is happiness, and the principle which makes this the supreme ground Edition: current; Page: [109] of determination of the will is the principle of self-love. All material principles, then, which place the determining ground of the will in the pleasure or pain to be received from the existence of any object are all of the same kind Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [130], inasmuch as they all belong to the principle of self-love or private happiness.


All material practical rules place the determining principle of the will in the lower desires, and if there were no purely formal laws of the will adequate to determine it, then we could not admit any higher desire at all.

remark i.

It is surprising that men, otherwise acute, can think it possible to distinguish between higher and lower desires, according as the ideas which are connected with the feeling of pleasure have their origin in the senses or in the understanding; for when we inquire what are the determining grounds of desire, and place them in some expected pleasantness, it is of no consequence whence the idea of this pleasing object is derived, but only how much it pleases. Whether an idea has its seat and source in the understanding or not, if it can only determine the choice by presupposing a feeling of pleasure in the subject, it follows that its capability of determining the choice depends altogether on the nature of the inner sense, namely, that this can be agreeably affected by it. However dissimilar ideas of objects may be, though they be ideas of the understanding, or even of the reason in contrast to ideas of sense, yet the feeling of pleasure, by means of which they constitute the determining principle of the will (the expected satisfaction which impels the activity to the production of the object) Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [131], is of one and the same kind, not only inasmuch as it can be only known empirically, but also inasmuch as it affects one and the same vital force which manifests itself in the faculty of desire, and in this respect can only differ in degree from every other ground of determination. Otherwise, how could we compare in respect of Edition: current; Page: [110] magnitude two principles of determination, the ideas of which depend upon different faculties, so as to prefer that which affects the faculty of desire in the highest degree. The same man may return unread an instructive book which he cannot again obtain, in order not to miss a hunt; he may depart in the midst of a fine speech, in order not to be late for dinner; he may leave a rational conversation, such as he otherwise values highly, to take his place at the gaming-table; he may even repulse a poor man whom he at other times takes pleasure in benefiting, because he has only just enough money in his pocket to pay for his admission to the theatre. If the determination of his will rests on the feeling of the agreeableness or disagreeableness that he expects from any cause, it is all the same to him by what sort of ideas he will be affected. The only thing that concerns him, in order to decide his choice, is, how great, how long continued, how easily obtained, and how often repeated, this agreeableness is. Just as to the man who wants money to spend, it is all the same whether the gold was dug out of the mountain or washed out of the sand, provided it is everywhere accepted at the same value; so the man who cares only for the enjoyment of life does not ask whether the ideas are of the understanding or the senses, but only how much and how great pleasure they will give for the longest time. It is only those that would gladly deny to pure reason the power of determining the will, without the presupposition of any feeling, who could deviate so far from their own exposition as to describe as quite heterogeneous what they have themselves previously brought under one and the same principle Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [132]. Thus, for example, it is observed that we can find pleasure in the mere exercise of power, in the consciousness of our strength of mind in overcoming obstacles which are opposed to our designs, in the culture of our mental talents, etc.; and we justly call these more refined pleasures and enjoyments, because they are more in our power than others; they do not wear out, but rather increase the capacity for further enjoyment of them, and while they delight they at the same time cultivate. But to say on this account that they determine the will in a different way, and not through Edition: current; Page: [111] sense, whereas the possibility of the pleasure presupposes a feeling for it implanted in us, which is the first condition of this satisfaction; this is just as when ignorant persons that like to dabble in metaphysics imagine matter so subtle, so super-subtle, that they almost make themselves giddy with it, and then think that in this way they have conceived it as a spiritual and yet extended being. If with Epicurus we make virtue determine the will only by means of the pleasure it promises, we cannot afterwards blame him for holding that this pleasure is of the same kind as those of the coarsest senses. For we have no reason whatever to charge him with holding that the ideas by which this feeling is excited in us belong merely to the bodily senses. As far as can be conjectured, he sought the source of many of them in the use of the higher cognitive faculty; but this did not prevent him, and could not prevent him, from holding on the principle above stated, that the pleasure itself which those intellectual ideas give us, and by which alone they can determine the will, is just of the same kind. Consistency is the highest obligation of a philosopher, and yet the most rarely found. The ancient Greek schools give us more examples of it than we find in our syncretistic age, in which a certain shallow and dishonest system of compromise of contradictory principles is devised, because it commends itself better to a public Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [133] which is content to know something of everything and nothing thoroughly, so as to please every party. 1

The principle of private happiness, however much understanding and reason may be used in it, cannot contain any other determining principles for the will than those which belong to the lower desires; and either there are no [higher] 2 desires at all, or pure reason must of itself alone be practical: that is, it must be able to determine the will by the mere form of the practical rule without supposing any feeling, and consequently without any idea of the pleasant or unpleasant, which Edition: current; Page: [112] is the matter of the desire, and which is always an empirical condition of the principles. Then only, when reason of itself determines the will (not as the servant of the inclination), it is really a higher desire to which that which is pathologically determined is subordinate, and is really, and even specifically, distinct from the latter, so that even the slightest admixture of the motives of the latter impairs its strength and superiority; just as in a mathematical demonstration the least empirical condition would degrade and destroy its force and value. Reason, with its practical law, determines the will immediately, not by means of an intervening feeling of pleasure or pain, not even of pleasure in the law itself, and it is only because it can, as pure reason, be practical, that it is possible for it to be legislative.

remark ii.

To be happy is necessarily the wish of every finite rational being, and this, therefore, is inevitably a determining principle of its faculty of desire. For we are not in possession originally of satisfaction with our whole existence—a bliss which would imply a consciousness of our own independent self-sufficiency—this is a problem imposed upon us by our own finite nature, because we have wants, and these wants regard Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [134] the matter of our desires, that is, something that is relative to a subjective feeling of pleasure or pain, which determines what we need in order to be satisfied with our condition. But just because this material principle of determination can only be empirically known by the subject, it is impossible to regard this problem as a law; for a law being objective must contain the very same principle of determination of the will in all cases and for all rational beings. For, although the notion of happiness is in every case the foundation of the practical relation of the objects to the desires, yet it is only a general name for the subjective determining principles, and determines nothing specifically; whereas this is what alone we are concerned with in this practical problem, which cannot be solved at all without such specific determination. For it is every man’s own special feeling of Edition: current; Page: [113] pleasure and pain that decides in what he is to place his happiness, and even in the same subject this will vary with the difference of his wants according as this feeling changes, and thus a law which is subjectively necessary (as a law of nature) is objectively a very contingent practical principle, which can and must be very different in different subjects, and therefore can never furnish a law; since, in the desire for happiness it is not the form of conformity to law that is decisive, but simply the matter, namely, whether I am to expect pleasure in following the law, and how much. Principles of self-love may, indeed, contain universal precepts of skill (how to find means to accomplish one’s purposes), but in that case they are merely theoretical principles; 1 as, for example, how he who would like to eat bread Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [135] should contrive a mill; but practical precepts founded on them can never be universal, for the determining principle of the desire is based on the feeling of pleasure and pain, which can never be supposed to be universally directed to the same objects.

Even supposing, however, that all finite rational beings were thoroughly agreed as to what were the objects of their feelings of pleasure and pain, and also as to the means which they must employ to attain the one and avoid the other; still, they could by no means set up the principle of self-love as a practical law, for this unanimity itself would be only contingent. The principle of determination would still be only subjectively valid and merely empirical, and would not possess the necessity which is conceived in every law, namely, an objective necessity arising from à priori grounds; unless, indeed, we hold this necessity to be not at all practical, but merely physical, viz. that our action is as inevitably determined by our inclination, as yawning when we see others yawn. It would be better Edition: current; Page: [114] to maintain that there are no practical laws at all, but only counsels for the service of our desires, than to raise merely subjective principles to the rank of practical laws, which have objective necessity, and not merely subjective, and which must be known by reason à priori, not by experience (however empirically universal this may be). Even the rules of corresponding phenomena are only called laws of nature (e. g. the mechanical laws), when we either know them really à priori, or (as in the case of chemical laws) suppose that they would be known à priori from objective grounds if our insight reached further. But in the case of merely subjective practical principles, it is expressly made a condition Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [136] that they rest not on objective but on subjective conditions of choice, and hence that they must always be represented as mere maxims; never as practical laws. This second remark seems at first sight to be mere verbal refinement, but it defines 1 the terms of the most important distinction which can come into consideration in practical investigations.

§ IV. —: Theorem III.

A rational being cannot regard his maxims as practical universal laws, unless he conceives them as principles which determine the will, not by their matter, but by their form only.

By the matter of a practical principle I mean the object of the will. This object is either the determining ground of the will or it is not. In the former case the rule of the will is subjected to an empirical condition (viz. the relation of the determining idea to the feeling of pleasure and pain), consequently it cannot be a practical law. Now, when we abstract from a law all matter, i. e. every object of the will (as a determining principle), nothing is left but the mere form of a universal legislation. Therefore, either a rational being cannot conceive his subjective practical principles, that is, his maxims, as being Edition: current; Page: [115] at the same time universal laws, or he must suppose that their mere form, by which they are fitted for universal legislation, is alone what makes them practical laws.


Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [137]

The commonest understanding can distinguish without instruction what form of maxim is adapted for universal legislation, and what is not. Suppose, for example, that I have made it my maxim to increase my fortune by every safe means. Now, I have a deposit in my hands, the owner of which is dead and has left no writing about it. This is just the case for my maxim. I desire then to know whether that maxim can also hold good as a universal practical law. I apply it, therefore, to the present case, and ask whether it could take the form of a law, and consequently whether I can by my maxim at the same time give such a law as this, that everyone may deny a deposit of which no one can produce a proof. I at once become aware that such a principle, viewed as a law, would annihilate itself, because the result would be that there would be no deposits. A practical law which I recognize as such must be qualified for universal legislation; this is an identical proposition, and therefore self-evident. Now, if I say that my will is subject to a practical law, I cannot adduce my inclination (e. g. in the present case my avarice) as a principle of determination fitted to be a universal practical law; for this is so far from being fitted for a universal legislation that, if put in the form of a universal law, it would destroy itself.

It is, therefore, surprising that intelligent men could have thought of calling the desire of happiness a universal practical law on the ground that the desire is universal, and, therefore, also the maxim by which everyone makes this desire determine his will. For whereas in other cases a universal law of nature makes everything harmonious; here, on the contrary, if we attribute to the maxim the universality of a law, the extreme opposite of harmony will follow, the greatest opposition, and the complete Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [138] destruction of the maxim itself, and its Edition: current; Page: [116] purpose. For, in that case, the will of all has not one and the same object, but everyone has his own (his private welfare), which may accidentally accord with the purposes of others which are equally selfish, but it is far from sufficing for a law; because the occasional exceptions which one is permitted to make are endless, and cannot be definitely embraced in one universal rule. In this manner, then, results a harmony like that which a certain satirical poem depicts as existing between a married couple bent on going to ruin, “O, marvellous harmony, what he wishes, she wishes also;” or like what is said of the pledge of Francis I. to the emperor Charles V., “What my brother Charles wishes that I wish also” (viz. Milan). Empirical principles of determination are not fit for any universal external legislation, but just as little for internal; for each man makes his own subject the foundation of his inclination, and in the same subject sometimes one inclination, sometimes another, has the preponderance. To discover a law which would govern them all under this condition, namely, bringing them all into harmony, is quite impossible.

§ V. —: Problem I.

Supposing that the mere legislative form of maxims is alone the sufficient determining principle of a will, to find the nature of the will which can be determined by it alone.

Since the bare form of the law can only be conceived by reason, and is, therefore, not an object of the senses, and consequently does not belong to the class of phenomena, it follows that the idea of it Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [139], which determines the will, is distinct from all the principles that determine events in nature according to the law of causality, because in their case the determining principles must themselves be phenomena. Now, if no other determining principle can serve as a law for the will except that universal legislative form, such a will must be conceived as quite independent on the natural law of phenomena in their mutual relation, namely, the law of causality; such independence is called freedom in the strictest, that is in the transcendental Edition: current; Page: [117] sense; consequently, a will which can have its law in nothing but the mere legislative form of the maxim is a free will.

§ VI. —: Problem II.

Supposing that a will is free, to find the law which alone is competent to determine it necessarily.

Since the matter of the practical law, i. e. an object of the maxim, can never be given otherwise than empirically, and the free will is independent on empirical conditions (that is, conditions belonging to the world of sense) and yet is determinable, consequently a free will must find its principle of determination in the law, and yet independently of the matter of the law. But, besides the matter of the law, nothing is contained in it except the legislative form. It is the legislative form, then, contained in the maxim, which can alone constitute a principle of determination of the [free] will.


Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [140]

Thus freedom and an unconditional practical law reciprocally imply each other. Now I do not ask here whether they are in fact distinct, or whether an unconditioned law is not rather merely the consciousness of a pure practical reason, and the latter identical with the positive concept of freedom; I only ask, whence begins our knowledge of the unconditionally practical, whether it is from freedom or from the practical law? Now it cannot begin from freedom, for of this we cannot be immediately conscious, since the first concept of it is negative; nor can we infer it from experience, for experience gives us the knowledge only of the law of phenomena, and hence of the mechanism of nature, the direct opposite of freedom. It is therefore the moral law, of which we become directly conscious (as soon as we trace for ourselves maxims of the will), that first presents itself to us, and leads directly to the concept of freedom, inasmuch as reason presents it as a principle of determination Edition: current; Page: [118] not to be outweighed by any sensible conditions, nay, wholly independent of them. But how is the consciousness of that moral law possible? We can become conscious of pure practical laws just as we are conscious of pure theoretical principles, by attending to the necessity with which reason prescribes them, and to the elimination of all empirical conditions, which it directs. The concept of a pure will arises out of the former, as that of a pure understanding arises out of the latter. That this is the true subordination of our concepts, and that it is morality that first discovers to us the notion of freedom, hence that it is practical reason which, with this concept, first proposes to speculative reason the most insoluble problem, thereby placing it in the greatest perplexity, is evident from the following consideration:—Since nothing in phenomena can be explained by the concept of freedom, but the mechanism of nature must constitute the only clue Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [141]; moreover, when pure reason tries to ascend in the series of causes to the unconditioned, it falls into an antinomy which is entangled in incomprehensibilities on the one side as much as the other; whilst the latter (namely, mechanism) is at least useful in the explanation of phenomena, therefore no one would ever have been so rash as to introduce freedom into science, had not the moral law, and with it practical reason, come in and forced this notion upon us. Experience, however, confirms this order of notions. Suppose some one asserts of his lustful appetite that, when the desired object and the opportunity are present, it is quite irresistible. [Ask him]—if a gallows were erected before the house where he finds this opportunity, in order that he should be hanged thereon immediately after the gratification of his lust, whether he could not then control his passion; we need not be long in doubt what he would reply. Ask him, however—if his sovereign ordered him, on pain of the same immediate execution, to bear false witness against an honourable man, whom the prince might wish to destroy under a plausible pretext, would he consider it possible in that case to overcome his love of life, however great it may be. He would perhaps not venture to affirm whether he would do so or not, but he must unhesitatingly admit that it is possible Edition: current; Page: [119] to do so. He judges, therefore, that he can do a certain thing because he is conscious that he ought, and he recognizes that he is free, a fact which but for the moral law he would never have known.

§ VII. —: Fundamental Law of the Pure Practical Reason.

Act so that the maxim of thy will can always at the same time hold good as a principle of universal legislation.


Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [142]

Pure geometry has postulates which are practical propositions, but contain nothing further than the assumption that we can do something if it is required that we should do it, and these are the only geometrical propositions that concern actual existence. They are, then, practical rules under a problematical condition of the will; but here the rule says:—We absolutely must proceed in a certain manner. The practical rule is, therefore, unconditional, and hence it is conceived à priori as a categorically practical proposition by which the will is objectively determined absolutely and immediately (by the practical rule itself, which thus is in this case a law); for pure reason practical of itself is here directly legislative. The will is thought as independent on empirical conditions, and, therefore, as pure will determined by the mere form of the law, and this principle of determination is regarded as the supreme condition of all maxims. The thing is strange enough, and has no parallel in all the rest of our practical knowledge. For the à priori thought of a possible universal legislation which is therefore merely problematical, is unconditionally commanded as a law without borrowing anything from experience or from any external will. This, however, is not a precept to do something by which some desired effect can be attained (for then the will would depend on physical conditions), but a rule that determines the will à priori only so far as regards the forms of its maxims; and thus it is at least not impossible to conceive that Edition: current; Page: [120] a law, which only applies to the subjective form of principles, yet serves as a principle of determination by means of the objective form of law in general. We may call the consciousness of this fundamental law a fact of reason, because we cannot reason it out from antecedent data of reason, e. g. the consciousness of freedom (for this is not antecedently given), but it forces itself on us as a synthetic à priori proposition Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [143], which is not based on any intuition, either pure or empirical. It would, indeed, be analytical if the freedom of the will were presupposed, but to presuppose freedom as a positive concept would require an intellectual intuition, which cannot here be assumed; however, when we regard this law as given, it must be observed, in order not to fall into any misconception that it is not an empirical fact, but the sole fact of the pure reason, which thereby announces itself as originally legislative (sic volo, sic jubeo).


Pure reason is practical of itself alone, and gives (to man) a universal law which we call the Moral Law.


The fact just mentioned is undeniable. It is only necessary to analyse the judgment that men pass on the lawfulness of their actions, in order to find that, whatever inclination may say to the contrary, reason, incorruptible and self-constrained, always confronts the maxim of the will in any action with the pure will, that is, with itself, considering itself as à priori practical. Now this principle of morality, just on account of the universality of the legislation which makes it the formal supreme determining principle of the will, without regard to any subjective differences, is declared by the reason to be a law for all rational beings, in so far as they have a will, that is, a power to determine their causality by the conception of rules; and, therefore, so far as they are capable of acting according to principles, and consequently also according to Edition: current; Page: [121] practical à priori principles (for these alone have the necessity that reason requires in a principle). It is, therefore, not limited to men only, but applies to all finite beings that possess reason and will Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [144]; nay, it even includes the Infinite Being as the supreme intelligence. In the former case, however, the law has the form of an imperative, because in them, as rational beings, we can suppose a pure will, but being creatures affected with wants and physical motives, not a holy will, that is, one which would be incapable of any maxim conflicting with the moral law. In their case, therefore, the moral law is an imperative, which commands categorically, because the law is unconditioned; the relation of such a will to this law is dependence under the name of obligation, which implies a constraint to an action, though only by reason and its objective law; and this action is called duty, because an elective will, subject to pathological affections (though not determined by them, and therefore still free), implies a wish that arises from subjective causes, and therefore may often be opposed to the pure objective determining principle; whence it requires the moral constraint of a resistance of the practical reason, which may be called an internal, but intellectual compulsion. In the supreme intelligence the elective will is rightly conceived as incapable of any maxim which could not at the same time be objectively a law; and the notion of holiness, which on that account belongs to it, places it, not indeed above all practical laws, but above all pratically restrictive laws, and consequently above obligation and duty. This holiness of will is, however, a practical idea, which must necessarily serve as a type to which finite rational beings can only approximate indefinitely, and which the pure moral law, which is itself on this account called holy, constantly and rightly holds before their eyes. The utmost that finite practical reason can effect is to be certain of this indefinite progress of one’s maxims, and of their steady disposition to advance. This is virtue, and virtue, at least as a naturally acquired faculty, can never be perfect, because assurance in such a case never becomes apodictic certainty, and when it only amounts to persuasion is very dangerous.

Edition: current; Page: [122]

§ VIII. —: Theorem IV.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [145]

The autonomy of the will is the sole principle of all moral laws, and of all duties which conform to them; on the other hand, heteronomy of the elective will not only cannot be the basis of any obligation, but is, on the contrary, opposed to the principle thereof, and to the morality of the will.

In fact the sole principle of morality consists in the independence on all matter of the law (namely, a desired object), and in the determination of the elective will by the mere universal legislative form of which its maxim must be capable. Now this independence is freedom in the negative sense, and this self-legislation of the pure, and, therefore, practical reason, is freedom in the positive sense. Thus the moral law expresses nothing else than the autonomy of the pure practical reason; that is, freedom; and this is itself the formal condition of all maxims, and on this condition only can they agree with the supreme practical law. If therefore the matter of the volition, which can be nothing else than the object of a desire that is connected with the law, enters into the practical law, as the condition of its possibility, there results heteronomy of the elective will, namely, dependence on the physical law that we should follow some impulse or inclination. In that case the will does not give itself the law, but only the precept how rationally to follow pathological law; and the maxim which, in such a case, never contains the universally legislative form, not only produces no obligation, but is itself opposed to the principle of a pure practical reason, and, therefore, also to the moral disposition, even though the resulting action may be conformable to the law.

remark i.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [146]

Hence a practical precept, which contains a material (and therefore empirical) condition, must never be reckoned a practical law. For the law of the pure will, which is free, brings the will into a sphere quite different from the empirical; and as the necessity involved in the law is not a physical necessity, it Edition: current; Page: [123] can only consist in the formal conditions of the possibility of a law in general. All the matter of practical rules rests on subjective conditions, which give them only a conditional universality (in case I desire this or that, what I must do in order to obtain it), and they all turn on the principle of private happiness. Now, it is indeed undeniable that every volition must have an object, and therefore a matter; but it does not follow that this is the determining principle, and the condition of the maxim; for, if it is so, then this cannot be exhibited in a universally legislative form, since in that case the expectation of the existence of the object would be the determining cause of the choice, and the volition must presuppose the dependence of the faculty of desire on the existence of something; but this dependence can only be sought in empirical conditions, and therefore can never furnish a foundation for a necessary and universal rule. Thus, the happiness of others may be the object of the will of a rational being. But if it were the determining principle of the maxim, we must assume that we find not only a rational satisfaction in the welfare of others, but also a want such as the sympathetic disposition in some men occasions. But I cannot assume the existence of this want in every rational being (not at all in God). The matter then of the maxim may remain, but it must not be the condition of it, else the maxim could not be fit for a law. Hence, the mere form of law, which limits the matter, must also be a reason Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [147] for adding this matter to the will, not for presupposing it. For example, let the matter be my own happiness. This (rule), if I attribute it to everyone (as, in fact, I may, in the case of every finite being), can become an objective practical law only if I include the happiness of others. Therefore, the law that we should promote the happiness of others does not arise from the assumption that this is an object of everyone’s choice, but merely from this, that the form of universality which reason requires as the condition of giving to a maxim of self-love the objective validity of a law, is the principle that determines the will. Therefore it was not the object (the happiness of others) that determined the pure will, but it was the form of law only, by which I restricted my Edition: current; Page: [124] maxim, founded on inclination, so as to give it the universality of a law, and thus to adapt it to the practical reason; and it is this restriction alone, and not the adddition of an external spring, that can give rise to the notion of the obligation to extend the maxim of my self-love to the happiness of others.

remark ii.

The direct opposite of the principle of morality is, when the principle of private happiness is made the determining principle of the will, and with this is to be reckoned, as I have shown above, everything that places the determining principle which is to serve as a law anywhere but in the legislative form of the maxim. This contradiction, however, is not merely logical, like that which would arise between rules empirically conditioned, if they were raised to the rank of necessary principles of cognition, but is practical, and would ruin morality altogether were not the voice of reason in reference to the will so clear, so irrepressible, so distinctly audible even, to the commonest men. It can only, indeed, be maintained in the perplexing Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [148] speculations of the schools, which are bold enough to shut their ears against that heavenly voice, in order to support a theory that costs no trouble.

Suppose that an acquaintance whom you otherwise liked were to attempt to justify himself to you for having borne false witness, first by alleging the, in his view, sacred duty of consulting his own happiness; then by enumerating the advantages which he had gained thereby, pointing out the prudence he had shown in securing himself against detection, even by yourself, to whom he now reveals the secret, only in order that he may be able to deny it at any time; and suppose he were then to affirm, in all seriousness, that he has fulfilled a true human duty; you would either laugh in his face, or shrink back from him with disgust; and yet, if a man has regulated his principles of action solely with a view to his own advantage, you would have nothing whatever to object against this mode of proceeding. Or suppose some one recommends you a Edition: current; Page: [125] man as steward, as a man to whom you can blindly trust all your affairs; and, in order to inspire you with confidence, extols him as a prudent man who thoroughly understands his own interest, and is so indefatigably active that he lets slip no opportunity of advancing it; lastly, lest you should be afraid of finding a vulgar selfishness in him, praises the good taste with which he lives; not seeking his pleasure in money-making, or in coarse wantonness, but in the enlargement of his knowledge, in instructive intercourse with a select circle, and even in relieving the needy; while as to the means (which, of course, derive all their value from the end) he is not particular, and is ready to use other people’s money for the purpose as if it were his own, provided only he knows that he can do so safely, and without discovery; you would either believe that the recommender was mocking you, or that he had lost his senses. So sharply and clearly marked are the boundaries of morality and self-love that even the commonest eye Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [149] cannot fail to distinguish whether a thing belongs to the one or the other. The few remarks that follow may appear superfluous where the truth is so plain, but at least they may serve to give a little more distinctness to the judgment of common sense.

The principle of happiness may, indeed, furnish maxims, but never such as would be competent to be laws of the will, even if universal happiness were made the object. For since the knowledge of this rests on mere empirical data, since every man’s judgment on it depends very much on his particular point of view, which is itself moreover very variable, it can supply only general rules, not universal; that is, it can give rules which on the average will most frequently fit, but not rules which must hold good always and necessarily; hence, no practical laws can be founded on it. Just because in this case an object of choice is the foundation of the rule, and must therefore precede it; the rule can refer to nothing but what is [felt] 1 , and therefore it refers to experience and is founded on it, and then the variety of judgment must be endless. This Edition: current; Page: [126] principle, therefore, does not prescribe the same practical rules to all rational beings, although the rules are all included under a common title, namely, that of happiness. The moral law, however, is conceived as objectively necessary, only because it holds for everyone that has reason and will.

The maxim of self-love (prudence) only advises; the law of morality commands. Now there is a great difference between that which we are advised to do and that to which we are obliged.

The commonest intelligence can easily and without hesitation see what, on the principle of autonomy of the will, requires to be done; but on supposition of heteronomy of the will, it is hard and requires knowledge of the world to see what is to be done. That is to say, what duty is, in plain of itself to everyone; but what is to bring true durable advantage, such as will extend to the whole of one’s existence Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [150], is always veiled in impenetrable obscurity; and much prudence is required to adapt the practical rule founded on it to the ends of life, even tolerably, by making proper exceptions. But the moral law commands the most punctual obedience from everyone; it must, therefore, not be so difficult to judge what it requires to be done, that the commonest unpractised understanding, even without worldly prudence, should fail to apply it rightly.

It is always in everyone’s power to satisfy the categorical command of morality; whereas it is but seldom possible, and by no means so to everyone, to satisfy the empirically conditioned precept of happiness, even with regard to a single purpose. The reason is, that in the former case there is question only of the maxim, which must be genuine and pure; but in the latter case there is question also of one’s capacity and physical power to realise a desired object. A command that everyone should try to make himself happy would be foolish, for one never commands anyone to do what he of himself infallibly wishes to do. We must only command the means, or rather supply them, since he cannot do everything that he wishes. But to command morality under the name of duty is quite rational; for, in the first place, not everyone is willing Edition: current; Page: [127] to obey its precepts if they oppose his inclinations; and as to the means of obeying this law, these need not in this case be taught, for in this respect whatever he wishes to do he can do.

He who has lost at play may be vexed at himself and his folly, but if he is conscious of having cheated at play (although he has gained thereby), he must despise himself as soon as he compares himself with the moral law. This must, therefore, be something different from the principle of private happiness. For a man must have a different criterion when he is compelled to say to himself: I am a worthless fellow, though I have filled my purse; and when he approves himself Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [151], and says: I am a prudent man, for I have enriched my treasure.

Finally, there is something further in the idea of our practical reason, which accompanies the transgression of a moral law—namely, its ill desert. Now the notion of punishment, as such, cannot be united with that of becoming a partaker of happiness; for although he who inflicts the punishment may at the same time have the benevolent purpose of directing this punishment to this end, yet it must first be justified in itself as punishment, i. e. as mere harm, so that if it stopped there, and the person punished could get no glimpse of kindness hidden behind this harshness, he must yet admit that justice was done him, and that his reward was perfectly suitable to his conduct. In every punishment, as such, there must first be justice, and this constitutes the essence of the notion. Benevolence may, indeed, be united with it, but the man who has deserved punishment has not the least reason to reckon upon this. Punishment, then, is a physical evil, which, though it be not connected with moral evil as a natural consequence, ought to be connected with it as a consequence by the principles of a moral legislation. Now, if every crime, even without regarding the physical consequence with respect to the actor, is in itself punishable, that is, forfeits happiness (at least partially), it is obviously absurd to say that the crime consisted just in this, that he has drawn punishment on himself, thereby injuring his private happiness (which, on the principle of self-love, must be the proper notion of all crime). According to this view the punishment would Edition: current; Page: [128] be the reason for calling anything a crime, and justice would, on the contrary, consist in omitting all punishment, and even preventing that which naturally follows; for, if this were done, there would no longer be any evil in the action, since the harm which otherwise followed it, and on account of which alone the action was called evil, would now be prevented. To look, however, on all rewards and punishments as merely the machinery in the hand Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [152] of a higher power, which is to serve only to set rational creatures striving after their final end (happiness), this is to reduce the will to a mechanism destructive of freedom; this is so evident that it need not detain us.

More refined, though equally false, is the theory of those who suppose a certain special moral sense, which sense and not reason determines the moral law, and in consequence of which the consciousness of virtue is supposed to be directly connected with contentment and pleasure; that of vice, with mental dissatisfaction and pain; thus reducing the whole to the desire of private happiness. Without repeating what has been said above, I will here only remark the fallacy they fall into. In order to imagine the vicious man as tormented with mental dissatisfaction by the consciousness of his transgressions, they must first represent him as in the main basis of his character, at least in some degree, morally good; just as he who is pleased with the consciousness of right conduct must be conceived as already virtuous. The notion of morality and duty must, therefore, have preceded any regard to this satisfaction, and cannot be derived from it. A man must first appreciate the importance of what we call duty, the authority of the moral law, and the immediate dignity which the following of it gives to the person in his own eyes, in order to feel that satisfaction in the consciousness of his conformity to it, and the bitter remorse that accompanies the consciousness of its transgression. It is, therefore, impossible to feel this satisfaction or dissatisfaction prior to the knowledge of obligation, or to make it the basis of the latter. A man must be at least half honest in order even to be able to form a conception of these feelings. I do not deny that as the human will is, by virtue of liberty Edition: current; Page: [129] capable of being immediately determined by the moral law, so frequent practice in accordance with this principle of determination can, at last, produce subjectively a feeling of satisfaction Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [153]; on the contrary, it is a duty to establish and to cultivate this, which alone deserves to be called properly the moral feeling; but the notion of duty cannot be derived from it, else we should have to suppose a feeling for the law as such, and thus make that an object of sensation which can only be thought by the reason; and this, if it is not to be a flat contradiction, would destroy all notion of duty, and put in its place a mere mechanical play of refined inclinations sometimes contending with the coarser.

If now we compare our formal supreme principle of pure practical reason (that of autonomy of the will) with all previous material principles or morality, we can exhibit them all in a table in which all possible cases are exhausted, except the one formal principle; and thus we can show visibly that it is vain to look for any other principle than that now proposed. In fact all possible principles of determination of the will are either merely subjective, and therefore empirical, or are also objective and rational; and both are either external or internal.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [154] Practical Material Principles of Determination taken as the Foundation of Morality, are:

Education. Physical feeling. Perfection. Will of God.
(Montaigne). (Epicurus). (Wolf and the Stoics). (Crusius and other theological Moralists).
The civil Constitution Moral feeling.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [155] Those at the left hand are all empirical, and evidently incapable of furnishing the universal principle of morality; but those on the right hand are based on reason (for perfection as a quality of things, and the highest perfection conceived as substance, that is, God, can only be thought by means of rational concepts). But the former notion, namely, that of perfection, Edition: current; Page: [130] may either be taken in a theoretic signification, and then it means nothing but the completeness of each thing in its own kind (transcendental), or that of a thing, merely as a thing (metaphysical); and with that we are not concerned here. But the notion of perfection in a practical sense is the fitness or sufficiency of a thing for all sorts of purposes. This perfection, as a quality of man, and consequently internal, is nothing but talent, and, what strengthens or completes this, skill. Supreme perfection conceived as substance, that is God, and consequently external (considered practically), is the sufficiency of this being for all ends. Ends then must first be given, relatively to which only can the notion of perfection (whether internal in ourselves or external in God) be the determining principle of the will. But an end—being an object which must precede the determination of the will by a practical rule, and contain the ground of the possibility of this determination, and therefore contain also the matter of the will, taken as its determining principle—such an end is always empirical, and, therefore, may serve for the Epicurean principle of the happiness theory, but not for the pure rational principle of morality and duty. Thus, talents and the improvement of them, because they contribute to the advantages of life; or the will of God, if agreement with it be taken as the object of the will, without any antecedent independent practical principle, can be motives only by reason of the happiness expected therefrom. Hence it follows, first, that all the principles here stated are material; secondly, that they include all possible material principles Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [156]; and, finally, the conclusion, that since material principles are quite incapable of furnishing the supreme moral law (as has been shown), the formal practical principle of the pure reason (according to which the mere form of a universal legislation must constitute the supreme and immediate determining principle of the will) is the only one possible which is adequate to furnish categorical imperatives; that is, practical laws (which make actions a duty); and in general to serve as the principle of morality, both in criticising conduct and also in its application to the human will to determine it.

Edition: current; Page: [131]

I.: —Of the Deduction of the Fundamental Principles of the Pure Practical Reason.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [157]

This Analytic shows that pure reason can be practical, that is, can of itself determine the will independently of anything empirical; and this it proves by a fact in which pure reason in us proves itself actually practical, namely, the autonomy shown in the fundamental principle of morality, by which reason determines the will to action.

It shows at the same time that this fact is inseparably connected with the consciousness of freedom of the will; nay, is identical with it; and by this the will of a rational being, although as belonging to the world of sense, it recognises itself as necessarily subject to the laws of causality like other efficient causes; yet, at the same time, on another side, namely, as a being in itself, is conscious of existing in and being determined by an intelligible order of things; conscious not Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [157] by virtue of a specal intuition of itself, but by virtue of certain dynamical laws which determine its causality in the sensible world; for it has been elsewhere proved that if freedom is predicated of us, it transports us into an intelligible order of things.

Now, if we compare with this the analytical part of the critique of pure speculative reason, we shall see a remarkable contrast. There it was not fundamental principles, but pure, sensible intuition (space and time), that was the first datum that made à priori knowledge possible, though only of objects of the senses. Synthetical principles could not be derived from mere concepts without intuition; on the contrary, they could only exist with reference to this intuition, and therefore to objects of possible experience, since it is the concepts of the understanding, united with this intuition, which alone make that knowledge possible which we call experience. Beyond objects of experience, and therefore with regard to things as noumena, all positive knowledge was rightly disclaimed for speculative reason. This reason, however, went so far as to establish with certainty the concept of noumena; that is, the possibility, nay Edition: current; Page: [132] the necessity, of thinking them; for example, it showed against all objections that the supposition of freedom, negatively considered, was quite consistent with those principles and limitations of pure theoretic reason. But it could not give us any definite enlargement of our knowledge with respect to such objects, but, on the contrary, cut off all view of them altogether.

On the other hand, the moral law, although it gives no view, yet gives us a fact absolutely inexplicable from any data of the sensible world, and the whole compass of our theoretical use of reason, a fact which points to a pure world of the understanding Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [158], nay, even defines it positively, and enables us to know something of it, namely, a law.

This law (as far as rational beings are concerned) gives to the world of sense, which is a sensible system of nature, the form of a world of the understanding, that is, of a supersensible system of nature, without interfering with its mechanism. Now, a system of nature, in the most general sense, is the existence of things under laws. The sensible nature of rational beings in general is their existence under laws empirically conditioned, which, from the point of view of reason, is heteronomy. The supersensible nature of the same beings, on the other hand, is their existence according to laws which are independent on every empirical condition, and therefore belong to the autonomy of pure reason. And, since the laws by which the existence of things depends on cognition are practical, supersensible nature, so far as we can form any notion of it, is nothing else than a system of nature under the autonomy of pure practical reason. Now, the law of this autonomy is the moral law, which, therefore, is the fundamental law of a supersensible nature, and of a pure world of understanding, whose counterpart must exist in the world of sense, but without interfering with its laws. We might call the former the archetypal world (natura archetypa), which we only know in the reason; and the latter the ectypal world (natura ectypa), because it contains the possible effect of the idea of the former which is the determining principle of the will. For the moral law, in fact, transfers Edition: current; Page: [133] us ideally into a system in which pure reason, if it were accompanied with adequate physical power, would produce the summum bonum, and it determines our will to give the sensible world the form of a system of rational beings. 1

The least attention to oneself proves that this idea really serves as the model for the determinations of our will.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [159] When the maxim which I am disposed to follow in giving testimony is tested by the practical reason, I always consider what it would be if it were to hold as a universal law of nature. It is manifest that in this view it would oblige everyone to speak the truth. For it cannot hold as a universal law of nature that statements should be allowed to have the force of proof, and yet to be purposely untrue. Similarly, the maxim which I adopt with respect to disposing freely of my life is at once determined, when I ask myself what it should be, in order that a system, of which it is the law, should maintain itself. It is obvious that in such a system no one could arbitrarily put an end to his own life, for such an arrangement would not be a permanent order of things. And so in all similar cases. Now, in nature, as it actually is an object of experience, the free will is not of itself determined to maxims which could of themselves be the foundation of a natural system of universal laws, or which could even be adapted to a system so constituted; on the contrary, its maxims are private inclinations which constitute, indeed, a natural whole in conformity with pathological (physical) laws, but could not form part of a system of nature, which would only be possible through our will acting in accordance with pure practical laws. Yet we are, through reason, conscious of a law to which all our maxims are subject, as though a natural order must be originated from our will. This law, therefore, must be the idea of a natural system not given in experience, and yet possible through freedom; a system, therefore, which is supersensible, and to which we give objective reality, at least in a practical point of view, since we look on it as an object of our will as pure rational beings.

Edition: current; Page: [134]

Hence the distinction between the laws of a natural system to which the will is subject, and of a natural system which is subject to a will (as far as its relation to its free actions is concerned) Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [160] rests on this, that in the former the objects must be causes of the ideas which determine the will; whereas in the latter the will is the cause of the objects; so that its causality has its determining principle solely in the pure faculty of reason, which may therefore be called a pure practical reason.

There are therefore two very distinct problems: how, on the one side, pure reason can cognise objects à priori, and how on the other side it can be an immediate determining principle of the will, that is, of the causality of the rational being with respect to the reality of objects (through the mere thought of the universal validity of its own maxims as laws).

The former, which belongs to the critique of the pure speculative reason, requires a previous explanation, how intuitions, without which no object can be given, and, therefore, none known synthetically, are possible à priori; and its solution turns out to be that these are all only sensible, and therefore do not render possible any speculative knowledge which goes further than possible experience reaches; and that therefore all the principles of that pure speculative 1 reason avail only to make experience possible; either experience of given objects or of those that may be given ad infinitum, but never are completely given.

The latter, which belongs to the critique of practical reason, requires no explanation how the objects of the faculty of desire are possible, for that being a problem of the theoretical knowledge of nature, is left to the critique of the speculative reason, but only how reason can determine the maxims of the will; whether this takes place only by means of empirical ideas as principles of determination, or whether pure reason can be practical and be the law of a possible order of nature, which is not empirically knowable Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [161]. The possibility of such a supersensible system of nature, the conception of which can Edition: current; Page: [135] also be the ground of its reality through our own free will, does not require any à priori intuition (of an intelligible world) which, being in this case supersensible, would be impossible for us. For the question is only as to the determining principle of volition in its maxims, namely, whether it is empirical, or is a conception of the pure reason (having the legal character belonging to it in general), and how it can be the latter. It is left to the theoretic principles of reason to decide whether the causality of the will suffices for the realization of the objects or not, this being an inquiry into the possibility of the objects of the volition. Intuition of these objects is therefore of no importance to the practical problem. We are here concerned only with the determination of the will and the determining principles of its maxims as a free will, not at all with the result. For, provided only that the will conforms to the law of pure reason, then let its power in execution be what it may, whether according to these maxims of legislation of a possible system of nature any such system really results or not, this is no concern of the critique, which only inquires whether, and in what way, pure reason can be practical, that is, directly determine the will.

In this inquiry criticism may and must begin with pure practical laws and their reality. But instead of intuition it takes as their foundation the conception of their existence in the intelligible world, namely, the concept of freedom. For this concept has no other meaning, and these laws are only possible in relation to freedom of the will; but freedom being supposed, they are necessary; or conversely, freedom is necessary because those laws are necessary, being practical postulates. It cannot be further explained how this consciousness of the moral law, or, what is the same thing, of freedom, is possible; but that it is admissible is well established in the theoretical critique.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [162] The Exposition of the supreme principle of practical reason is now finished; that is to say, it has been shown first, what it contains, that it subsists for itself quite à priori and independent on empirical principles; and next, in what it is Edition: current; Page: [136] distinguished from all other practical principles. With the deduction, that is, the justification of its objective and universal validity, and the discernment of the possibility of such a synthetical proposition à priori, we cannot expect to succeed so well as in the case of the principles of pure theoretical reason. For these referred to objects of possible experience, namely, to phenomena, and we could prove that these phenomena could be known as objects of experience only by being brought under the categories in accordance with these laws; and consequently that all possible experience must conform to these laws. But I could not proceed in this way with the deduction of the moral law. For this does not concern the knowledge of the properties of objects, which may be given to the reason from some other source; but a knowledge which can itself be the ground of the existence of the objects, and by which reason in a rational being has causality, i. e. pure reason, which can be regarded as a faculty immediately determining the will.

Now all our human insight is at an end as soon as we have arrived at fundamental powers or faculties, for the possibility of these cannot be understood by any means, and just as little should it be arbitrarily invented and assumed. Therefore, in the theoretic use of reason, it is experience alone that can justify us in assuming them. But this expedient of adducing empirical proofs, instead of a deduction from à priori sources of knowledge, is denied us here in respect to the pure practical faculty of reason Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [163]. For whatever requires to draw the proof of its reality from experience must depend for the grounds of its possibility on principles of experience; and pure, yet practical, reason by its very notion cannot be regarded as such. Further, the moral law is given as a fact of pure reason of which we are à priori conscious, and which is apodictically certain, though it be granted that in experience no example of its exact fulfilment can be found. Hence, the objective reality of the moral law cannot be proved by any deduction by any efforts of theoretical reason, whether speculative or empirically supported, and therefore, even if we renounced its apodictic Edition: current; Page: [137] certainty, it could not be proved à posteriori by experience, and yet it is firmly established of itself.

But instead of this vainly sought deduction of the moral principle, something else is found which was quite unexpected, namely, that this moral principle serves conversely as the principle of the deduction of an inscrutable faculty which no experience could prove, but of which speculative reason was compelled at least to assume the possibility (in order to find amongst its cosmological ideas the unconditioned in the chain of causality, so as not to contradict itself)—I mean the faculty of freedom. The moral law, which itself does not require a justification, proves not merely the possibility of freedom, but that it really belongs to beings who recognise this law as binding on themselves. The moral law is in fact a law of the causality of free agents, and therefore of the possibility of a supersensible system of nature, just as the metaphysical law of events in the world of sense was a law of causality of the sensible system of nature; and it therefore determines what speculative philosophy was compelled to leave undetermined, namely, the law for a causality, the concept of which in the latter was only negative; and therefore for the first time gives this concept objective reality.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [164] This sort of credential of the moral law, viz. that it is set forth as a principle of the deduction of freedom, which is a causality of pure reason, is a sufficient substitute for all à priori justification, since theoretic reason was compelled to assume at least the possibility of freedom, in order to satisfy a want of its own. For the moral law proves its reality, so as even to satisfy the critique of the speculative reason, by the fact that it adds a positive definition to a causality previously conceived only negatively, the possibility of which was incomprehensible to speculative reason, which yet was compelled to suppose it. For it adds the notion of a reason that directly determines the will (by imposing on its maxims the condition of a universal legislative form); and thus it is able for the first time to give objective, though only practical, reality to reason, which always became transcendent when it sought to proceed speculatively Edition: current; Page: [138] with its ideas. It thus changes the transcendent use of reason into an immanent 1 use (so that reason is itself, by means of ideas, an efficient cause in the field of experience).

The determination of the causality of beings in the world of sense, as such, can never be unconditioned; and yet for every series of conditions there must be something unconditioned, and therefore there must be a causality which is determined wholly by itself. Hence, the idea of freedom as a faculty of absolute spontaneity was not found to be a want, but as far as its possibility is concerned, an analytic principle of pure speculative reason. But as it is absolutely impossible to find in experience any example in accordance with this idea, because amongst the causes of things as phenomena, it would be impossible to meet with any absolutely unconditioned determination of causality, we were only able to defend our supposition that a freely acting cause might be a being in the world of sense, in so far as it is considered in the other point of view as a noumenon Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [165], showing that there is no contradiction in regarding all its actions as subject to physical conditions so far as they are phenomena, and yet regarding its causality as physically unconditioned, in so far as the acting being belongs to the world of understanding, 2 and in thus making the concept of freedom the regulative principle of reason. By this principle I do not indeed learn what the object is to which that sort of causality is attributed; but I remove the difficulty; for, on the one side, in the explanation of events in the world, and consequently also of the actions of rational beings, I leave to the mechanism of physical necessity the right of ascending from conditioned to condition ad infinitum, while on the other side I keep open for speculative reason the place which for it is vacant, namely, the intelligible, in order to transfer the unconditioned Edition: current; Page: [139] thither. But I was not able to verify this supposition; that is, to change it into the knowledge of a being so acting, not even into the knowledge of the possibility of such a being. This vacant place is now filled by pure practical reason with a definite law of causality in an intelligible world (causality with freedom), namely, the moral law. Speculative reason does not hereby gain anything as regards its insight, but only as regards the certainty of its problematical notion of freedom, which here obtains objective reality, which, though only practical, is nevertheless undoubted. Even the notion of causality—the application, and consequently the signification of which holds properly only in relation to phenomena, so as to connect them into experiences (as is shown by the critique of pure reason)—is not so enlarged as to extend its use beyond these limits. For if reason sought to do this it would have to show how the logical relation of principle and consequence can be used synthetically in a different sort of intuition from the sensible; that is how a causa noumenon is possible Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [166]. This it can never do; and, as practical reason, it does not even concern itself with it, since it only places the determining principle of causality of man as a sensible creature (which is given) in pure reason (which is therefore called practical); and therefore it employs the notion of cause, not in order to know objects, but to determine causality in relation to objects in general. It can abstract altogether from the application of this notion to objects with a view to theoretical knowledge (since this concept is always found à priori in the understanding, even independently on any intuition). Reason then employs it only for a practical purpose, and hence we can transfer the determining principle of the will into the intelligible order of things, admitting, at the same time, that we cannot understand how the notion of cause can determine the knowledge of these things. But reason must cognise causality with respect to the actions of the will in the sensible world in a definite manner; otherwise, practical reason could not really produce any action. But as to the notion which it forms of its own causality as noumenon, it need not determine it theoretically with a view to the cognition of its Edition: current; Page: [140] supersensible existence, so as to give it significance in this way. For it acquires significance apart from this, though only for practical use, namely, through the moral law. Theoretically viewed, it remains always a pure à priori concept of the understanding, which can be applied to objects whether they have been given sensibly or not, although in the latter case it has no definite theoretical significance or application, but is only a formal, though essential, conception of the understanding relating to an object in general. The significance which reason gives it through the moral law is merely practical, inasmuch as the idea of the law of causality (of the will) has self causality, or is its determining principle.

II.: —Of the right that Pure Reason in its practical use has to an extension which is not possible to it in its speculative use.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [167]

We have in the moral principle set forth a law of causality, the determining principle of which is set above all the conditions of the sensible world; we have it conceived how the will, as belonging to the intelligible world, is determinable, and therefore we have its subject (man) not merely conceived as belonging to a world of pure understanding, and in this respect unknown (which the critique of speculative reason enabled us to do), but also defined as regards his causality by means of a law which cannot be reduced to any physical law of the sensible world; and therefore our knowledge is extended beyond the limits of that world, a pretension which the critique of the pure reason declared to be futile in all speculation. Now, how is the practical use of pure reason here to be reconciled with the theoretical, as to the determination of the limits of its faculty?

David Hume, of whom we may say that he commenced the assault on the claims of pure reason, which made a thorough investigation of it necessary, argued thus: the notion of cause is a notion that involves the necessity of the connexion of the existence of different things, and that, in so far as they are different, so that, given A, I know that something quite distinct therefrom, namely B, must necessarily also exist Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [168]. Edition: current; Page: [141] Now necessity can be attributed to a connexion, only in so far as it is known à priori, for experience would only enable us to know of such a connexion that it exists, not that it necessarily exists. Now, it is impossible, says he, to know à priori and as necessary the connexion between one thing and another (or between one attribute and another quite distinct) when they have not been given in experience. Therefore the notion of a cause is fictitious and delusive, and, to speak in the mildest way, is an illusion, only excusable inasmuch as the custom (a subjective necessity) of perceiving certain things, or their attributes as often associated in existence along with or in succession to one another, is insensibly taken for an objective necessity of supposing such a connexion in the objects themselves, and thus the notion of a cause has been acquired surreptitiously and not legitimately; nay, it can never be so acquired or authenticated, since it demands a connexion in itself vain, chimerical, and untenable in presence of reason, and to which no object can ever correspond. In this way was empiricism first introduced as the sole source of principles, as far as all knowledge of the existence of things is concerned (mathematics therefore remaining excepted); and with empiricism the most thorough scepticism, even with regard to the whole science of nature (as philosophy). For on such principles we can never conclude from giving attributes of things as existing to a consequence (for this would require the notion of cause, which involves the necessity of such a connexion); we can only, guided by imagination, except similar cases—an expectation which is never certain, however often it has been fulfilled. Of no event could we say: a certain thing must have preceded it Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [169], on which it necessarily followed; that is, it must have a cause; and therefore, however frequent the cases we have known in which there was such an antecedent, so that a rule could be derived from them, yet we never could suppose it as always and necessarily so happening; we should, therefore, be obliged to leave its share to blind chance, with which all use of reason comes to an end; and this firmly establishes scepticism in reference to arguments ascending from effects to causes, and makes it impregnable.

Edition: current; Page: [142]

Mathematics escaped well, so far, because Hume thought that its propositions were analytical; that is, proceeded from one property to another, by virtue of identity, and consequently according to the principle of contradiction. This, however, is not the case, since, on the contrary, they are synthetical; and although geometry, for example, has not to do with the existence of things, but only with their à priori properties in a possible intuition, yet it proceeds just as in the case of the causal notion, from one property (A) to another wholly distinct (B), as necessarily connected with the former. Nevertheless, mathematical science, so highly vaunted for its apodictic certainty, must at last fall under this empiricism for the same reason for which Hume put custom in the place of objective necessity in the notion of cause, and in spite of all its pride must consent to lower its bold pretention of claiming assent à priori, and depend for assent to the universality of its propositions on the kindness of observers, who, when called as witnesses, would surely not hesitate to admit that what the geometer propounds as a theorem they have always perceived to be the fact, and, consequently, although it be not necessarily true, yet they would permit us to expect it to be true in the future. In this manner Hume’s empiricism leads inevitably to scepticism, even with regard Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [170] to mathematics, and consequently in every scientific theoretical use of reason (for this belongs either to philosophy or mathematics). Whether with such a terrible overthrow of the chief branches of knowledge common reason will escape better, and will not rather become irrecoverably involved in this destruction of all knowledge, so that from the same principles a universal scepticism should follow (affecting, indeed, only the learned), this I will leave everyone to judge for himself.

As regards my own labours in the critical examination of pure reason, which were occasioned by Hume’s sceptical teaching, but went much farther, and embraced the whole field of pure theoretical reason in its synthetic use, and, consequently, the field of what is called metaphysics in general; I proceeded in the following manner with respect to the doubts raised by Edition: current; Page: [143] the Scottish philosopher touching the notion of causality. If Hume took the objects of experience for things in themselves (as is almost always done), he was quite right in declaring the notion of cause to be a deception and false illusion; for as to things in themselves, and their attributes as such, it is impossible to see why because A is given, B, which is different, must necessarily be also given, and therefore he could by no means admit such an à priori knowledge of things in themselves. Still less could this acute writer allow an empirical origin of this concept, since this is directly contradictory to the necessity of connexion which constitutes the essence of the notion of causality; hence the notion was proscribed, and in its place was put custom in the observation of the course of perceptions.

It resulted, however, from my inquiries, that the objects with which we have to do in experience Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [171] are by no means things in themselves, but merely phenomena; and that although in the case of things in themselves it is impossible to see how, if A is supposed, it should be contradictory that B, which is quite different from A, should not also be supposed (i. e. to see the necessity of the connexion between A as cause and B as effect); yet it can very well be conceived that, as phenomena, they may be necessarily connected in one experience in a certain way (e. g. with regard to time-relations); so that they could not be separated without contradicting that connexion, by means of which this experience is possible in which they are objects, and in which alone they are cognisable by us. And so it was found to be in fact; so that I was able not only to prove the objective reality of the concept of cause in regard to objects of experience, but also to deduce it as an à priori concept by reason of the necessity of the connexion it implied; that is, to show the possibility of its origin from pure understanding without any empirical sources; and thus, after removing the source of empiricism, I was able also to overthrow the inevitable consequence of this, namely, scepticism, first with regard to physical science, and then with regard to mathematics (in which empiricism has just the same grounds), both Edition: current; Page: [144] being sciences which have reference to objects of possible experience; herewith overthrowing the thorough doubt of whatever theoretic reason professes to discern.

But how is it with the application of this category of causality (and all the others; for without them there can be no knowledge of anything existing) to things which are not objects of possible experience, but lie beyond its bounds? For I was able to deduce the objective reality of these concepts only with regard to objects of possible experience Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [172]. But even this very fact, that I have saved them, only in case I have proved that objects may by means of them be thought, though not determined à priori; this it is that gives them a place in the pure understanding, by which they are referred to objects in general (sensible or not sensible). If anything is still wanting, it is that which is the condition of the application of these categories, and especially that of causality, to objects, namely, intuition; for where this is not given, the application with a view to theoretic knowledge of the object, as a noumenon, is impossible; and therefore if anyone ventures on it, is (as in the critique of the pure reason) absolutely forbidden. Still, the objective reality of the concept (of causality) remains, and it can be used even of noumena, but without our being able in the least to define the concept theoretically so as to produce knowledge. For that this concept, even in reference to an object, contains nothing impossible, was shown by this, that even while applied to objects of sense, its seat was certainly fixed in the pure understanding; and although, when referred to things in themselves (which cannot be objects of experience), it is not capable of being determined so as to represent a definite object for the purpose of theoretic knowledge; yet for any other purpose (for instance a practical) it might be capable of being determined so as to have such application. This could not be the case if, as Hume maintained, this concept of causality contained something absolutely impossible to be thought.

In order now to discover this condition of the application of the said concept to noumena, we need only recall why we are not content with its application to objects of experience, but Edition: current; Page: [145] desire also to apply it to things in themselves. It will appear, then, that it is not a theoretic but a practical purpose Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [173] that makes this a necessity. In speculation, even if we were successful in it, we should not really gain anything in the knowledge of nature, or generally with regard to such objects as are given, but we should make a wide step from the sensibly conditioned (in which we have already enough to do to maintain ourselves, and to follow carefully the chain of causes) to the supersensible, in order to complete our knowledge of principles and to fix its limits: whereas there always remains an infinite chasm unfilled between those limits and what we know: and we should have hearkened to a vain curiosity rather than a solid desire of knowledge.

But, besides the relation in which the understanding stands to objects (in theoretical knowledge), it has also a relation to the faculty of desire, which is therefore called the will, and the pure will, inasmuch as pure understanding (in this case called reason) is practical through the mere conception of a law. The objective reality of a pure will, or, what is the same thing, of a pure practical reason, is given in the moral law à priori, as it were, by a fact, for so we may name a determination of the will which is inevitable, although it does not rest on empirical principles. Now, in the notion of a will the notion of causality is already contained, and hence the notion of a pure will contains that of a causality accompanied with freedom, that is, one which is not determinable by physical laws, and consequently is not capable of any empirical intuition in proof of its reality, but, nevertheless, completely justifies its objective reality à priori in the pure practical law; not, indeed (as is easily seen) for the purposes of the theoretical, but of the practical use of reason. Now the notion of a being that has free will is the notion of a causa noumenon, and that this notion involves no contradiction Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [174] we are already assured by the fact—that inasmuch as the concept of cause has arisen wholly from pure understanding, and has its objective reality assured by the Deduction, as it is moreover in its origin independent on any sensible conditions, it is, therefore, not restricted to phenomena (unless we wanted Edition: current; Page: [146] to make a definite theoretic use of it), but can be applied equally to things that are objects of the pure understanding. But, since this application cannot rest on any intuition (for intuition can only be sensible), therefore, causa noumenon, as regards the theoretic use of reason, although a possible and thinkable, is yet an empty notion. Now, I do not desire by means of this to understand theoretically the nature of a being, in so far as it has a pure will; it is enough for me to have thereby designated it as such, and hence to combine the notion of causality with that of freedom (and what is inseparable from it, the moral law, as its determining principle). Now this right I certainly have by virtue of the pure, not-empirical, origin of the notion of cause, since I do not consider myself entitled to make any use of it except in reference to the moral law which determines its reality, that is, only a practical use.

If, with Hume, I had denied to the notion of causality all objective reality in its [theoretic 1 ] use, not merely with regard to things in themselves the (supersensible), but also with regard to the objects of the senses, it would have lost all significance, and being a theoretically impossible notion would have been declared to be quite useless; and since what is nothing cannot be made any use of, the practical use of a concept theoretically null would have been absurd. But, as it is, the concept of a causality free from empirical conditions, although empty (i. e. without any appropriate intuition), is yet theoretically possible Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [175], and refers to an indeterminate object, but in compensation significance is given to it in the moral law, and consequently in a practical sense. I have, indeed, no intuition which should determine its objective theoretic reality, but not the less it has a real application, which is exhibited in concreto in intentions or maxims; that is, it has a practical reality which can be specified, and this is sufficient to justify it even with a view to noumena.

Now, this objective reality of a pure concept of the understanding in the sphere of the supersensible, once brought in, Edition: current; Page: [147] gives an objective reality also to all the other categories, although only so far as they stand in necessary connexion with the determining principle of the will (the moral law); a reality only of practical application, which has not the least effect in enlarging our theoretical knowledge of these objects, or the discernment of their nature by pure reason. So we shall find also in the sequel that these categories refer only to beings as intelligences, and in them only to the relation of reason to the will; consequently, always only to the practical, and beyond this cannot pretend to any knowledge of these beings; and whatever other properties belonging to the theoretical representation of supersensible things may be brought into connexion with these categories, this is not to be reckoned as knowledge, but only as a right (in a practical point of view, however, it is a necessity) to admit and assume such beings, even in the case where we [conceive 1 ] supersensible beings (e. g. God) according to analogy, that is, a purely rational relation, of which we make a practical use with reference to what is sensible; and thus the application to the supersensible solely in a practical point of view does not give pure theoretic reason the least encouragement to run riot into the transcendent.

Edition: current; Page: [148]

CHAPTER II.: of the concept of an object of pure practical reason.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [176]

By a concept of the practical reason I understand the idea of an object as an effect possible to be produced through freedom. To be an object of practical knowledge, as such, signifies, therefore, only the relation of the will to the action by which the object or its opposite would be realized; and to decide whether something is an object of pure practical reason or not, is only to discern the possibility or impossibility of willing the action by which, if we had the required power (about which experience must decide), a certain object would be realized. If the object be taken as the determining principle of our desire, it must first be known whether it is physically possible by the free use of our powers, before we decide whether it is an object of practical reason or not. On the other hand, if the law can be considered à priori as the determining principle of the action, and the latter therefore as determined by pure practical reason; the judgment, whether a thing Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [177] is an object of pure practical reason or not does not depend at all on the comparison with our physical power; and the question is only whether we should will an action that is directed to the existence of an object, if the object were in our power; hence the previous question is only as to the moral possibility of the action, for in this case it is not the object, but the law of the will, that is the determining principle of the action. The only objects of practical reason are therefore those of good and evil. For by the former is meant an object necessarily desired according to a principle of reason; by the latter one necessarily shunned, also according to a principle of reason.

If the notion of good is not to be derived from an antecedent Edition: current; Page: [149] practical law, but, on the contrary, is to serve as its foundation, it can only be the notion of something whose existence promises pleasure, and thus determines the causality of the subject to produce it, that is to say, determines the faculty of desire. Now, since it is impossible to discern à priori what idea will be accompanied with pleasure, and what with pain, it will depend on experience alone to find out what is primarily 1 good or evil. The property of the subject, with reference to which alone this experiment can be made, is the feeling of pleasure and pain, a receptivity belonging to the internal sense; thus that only would be primarily good with which the sensation of pleasure is immediately connected, and that simply evil which immediately excites pain. Since, however, this is opposed even to the usage of language, which distinguishes the pleasant from the good, the unpleasant from the evil, and requires that good and evil shall always be judged by reason, and, therefore, by concepts which can be communicated to everyone, and not by mere sensation, which is limited to individual subjects 2 and their susceptibility Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [178]; and, since nevertheless, pleasure or pain cannot be connected with any idea of an object à priori, the philosopher who thought himself obliged to make a feeling of pleasure the foundation of his practical judgments would call that good which is a means to the pleasant, and evil what is a cause of unpleasantness and pain; for the judgment on the relation of means to ends certainly belongs to reason. But, although reason is alone capable of discerning the connexion of means with their ends (so that the will might even be defined as the faculty of ends, since these are always determining principles of the desires), yet the practical maxims which would follow from the aforesaid principle of the good being merely a means, would never contain as the object of the will anything good in itself, but only something good for something; the good would always be merely the useful, and that for which it is Edition: current; Page: [150] useful must always lie outside the will, in sensation. Now if this as a pleasant sensation were to be distinguished from the notion of good, then there would be nothing primarily good at all, but the good would have to be sought only in the means to something else, namely, some pleasantness.

It is an old formula of the schools: Nihil appetimus nisi sub ratione boni; Nihil aversamur nisi sub ratione mali, and it is used often correctly, but often also in a manner injurious to philosophy, because the expressions boni and mali are ambiguous, owing to the poverty of language, in consequence of which they admit a double sense, and, therefore, inevitably bring the practical laws into ambiguity; and philosophy, which in employing them becomes aware of the different meanings in the same word, but can find no special expressions for them, is driven to subtile distinctions about which there is subsequently no unanimity, because the distinction Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [179] could not be directly marked by any suitable expression. 1

The German language has the good fortune to possess expressions which do not allow this difference to be overlooked. It possesses two very distinct concepts, and especially distinct expressions, for that which the Latins express by a single word, bonum. For bonum it has “das Gute” [good], and “das Wohl” [well, weal], for malum “das Böse” [evil], and “das Übel” [ill, bad], or “das Weh” [woe]. So that we express two quite distinct judgments when we consider in an action the good and evil of it, or our weal and woe (ill). Hence it already follows that the above quoted psychological proposition is at least very doubtful if it is translated; “we desire nothing except with a view to our weal or woe”; on the other hand, if Edition: current; Page: [151] we render it thus: “under the direction of reason we desire nothing except so far as we esteem it good or evil,” it is indubitably certain, and at the same time quite clearly expressed. 1

Well or ill always implies only a reference to our condition, as pleasant or unpleasant, as one of pleasure or pain, and if we desire or avoid an object on this account, it is only so far as it is referred to our sensibility and to the feeling of pleasure or pain that it produces. But good or evil always implies a reference to the will, as determined by the law of reason, to make something its object Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [180]; for it is never determined directly by the object and the idea of it, but is a faculty of taking a rule of reason for the motive of an action (by which an object may be realized). Good and evil therefore are properly referred to actions, not to the sensations of the person, and if anything is to be good or evil absolutely (i. e. in every respect and without any further condition), or is to be so esteemed, it can only be the manner of acting, the maxim of the will, and consequently the acting person himself as a good or evil man that can be so called, and not a thing.

However, then, men may laugh at the Stoic, who in the severest paroxysms of gout cried out: Pain, however thou tormentest me, I will never admit that thou art an evil (κακόν, malum): he was right. A bad thing it certainly was, and his cry betrayed that; but that any evil attached to him thereby, this he had no reason whatever to admit, for pain did not in the least diminish the worth of his person, but only that of his condition. If he had been conscious of a single lie it would Edition: current; Page: [152] have lowered his pride, but pain served only to raise it, when he was conscious that he had not deserved it by any unrighteous action by which he had rendered himself worthy of punishment.

What we call good must be an object of desire in the judgment of every rational man, and evil an object of aversion in the eyes of everyone; therefore, in addition to sense, this judgment requires reason. So it is with truthfulness, as opposed to lying; so with justice, as opposed to violence, &c. But we may call a thing a bad [or ill] thing, which yet everyone must at the same time acknowledge to be good, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [181]. The man who submits to a surgical operation feels it no doubt as a bad [ill] thing, but by their reason he and everyone acknowledge it to be good. If a man who delights in annoying and vexing peaceable people at last receives a right good beating, this is no doubt a bad [ill] thing, but everyone approves it and regards it as a good thing, even though nothing else resulted from it; nay, even the man who receives it must in his reason acknowledge that he has met justice, because he sees the proportion between good conduct and good fortune, which reason inevitably places before him, here put into practice.

No doubt our weal and woe are of very great importance in the estimation of our practical reason, and as far as our nature as sensible beings is concerned, our happiness is the only thing of consequence, provided it is estimated as reason especially requires, not by the transitory sensation, but by the influence that this has on our whole existence, and on our satisfaction therewith; but it is not absolutely the only thing of consequence. Man is a being who, as belonging to the world of sense, has wants, and so far his reason has an office which it cannot refuse, namely, to attend to the interest of his sensible nature, and to form practical maxims, even with a view to the happiness of this life, and if possible even to that of a future. But he is not so completely an animal as to be indifferent to what reason says on its own account, and to use it merely as an instrument for the satisfaction of his wants as a sensible being. Edition: current; Page: [153] For the possession of reason would not raise his worth above that of the brutes, if it is observe serve him only for the same purpose that instinct serves in them; it would in that case be only a particular method which nature had employed to equip man for the same ends Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [182] for which it has qualified brutes, without qualifying him for any higher purpose. No doubt once this arrangement of nature has been made for him he requires reason in order to take into consideration his weal and woe, but besides this he possesses it for a higher purpose also, namely, not only to take into consideration what is good or evil in itself, about which only pure reason, uninfluenced by any sensible interest, can judge, but also to distinguish this estimate thoroughly from the former, and to make it the supreme condition thereof.

In estimating what is good or evil in itself, as distinguished from what can be so called only relatively, the following points are to be considered. Either a rational principle is already conceived, as of itself the determining principle of the will, without regard to possible objects of desire (and therefore by the mere legislative form of the maxim), and in that case that principle is a practical à priori law, and pure reason is supposed to be practical of itself. The law in that case determines the will directly; the action conformed to it is good in itself; a will whose maxim always conforms to this law is good absolutely in every respect, and is the supreme condition of all good. Or the maxim of the will is consequent on a determining principle of desire which presupposes an object of pleasure or pain, something therefore that pleases or displeases, and the maxim of reason that we should pursue the former and avoid the latter determines our actions as good relatively to our inclination, that is, good indirectly (i. e. relatively to a different end to which they are means), and in that case these maxims can never be called laws, but may be called rational practical precepts. The end itself, the pleasure that we seek, is in the latter case not a good but a welfare; not a concept of reason Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [183], but an empirical concept of an object of sensation; but the use of the means thereto, that is, the action, is nevertheless called good (because rational deliberation is required for it), not however Edition: current; Page: [154] good absolutely, but only relatively to our sensuous nature, with regard to its feelings of pleasure and displeasure; but the will whose maxim is affected thereby is not a pure will; this is directed only to that in which pure reason by itself can be practical.

This is the proper place to explain the paradox of method in a critique of Practical Reason, namely, that the concept of good and evil must not be determined before the moral law (of which it seems as if it must be the foundation), but only after it and by means of it. In fact even if we did not know that the principle of morality is a pure à priori law determining the will, yet, that we may not assume principles quite gratuitously, we must, at least at first, leave it undecided, whether the will has merely empirical principles of determination, or whether it has not also pure à priori principles; for it is contrary to all rules of philosophical method to assume as decided that which is the very point in question. Supposing that we wished to begin with the concept of good, in order to deduce from it the laws of the will, then this concept of an object (as a good) would at the same time assign to us this object as the sole determining principle of the will. Now, since this concept had not any practical à priori law for its standard, the criterion of good or evil could not be placed in anything but the agreement of the object with our feeling of pleasure or pain; and the use of reason could only consist in determining in the first place this pleasure or pain in connexion with all the sensations of my existence, and in the second place the means of securing to myself the object of the pleasure Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [184]. Now, as experience alone can decide what conforms to the feeling of pleasure, and by hypothesis the practical law is to be based on this as a condition, it follows that the possibility of à priori practical laws would be at once excluded, because it was imagined to be necessary first of all to find an object the concept of which, as a good, should constitute the universal though empirical principle of determination of the will. But what it was necessary to inquire first of all was whether there is not an à priori determining principle of the will (and this could never be found anywhere but in a pure Edition: current; Page: [155] practical law, in so far as this law prescribes to maxims merely their form without regard to an object). Since, however, we laid the foundation of all practical law in an object determined by our conceptions of good and evil, whereas without a previous law that object could only be conceived by empirical concepts, we have deprived ourselves beforehand of the possibility of even conceiving a pure practical law. On the other hand, if we had first investigated the latter analytically, we should have found that it is not the concept of good as an object that determines the moral law, and makes it possible, but that, on the contrary, it is the moral law that first determines the concept of good, and makes it possible, so far as it deserves the name of good absolutely.

This remark, which only concerns the method of ultimate Ethical inquiries, is of importance. It explains at once the occasion of all the mistakes of philosophers with respect to the supreme principle of morals. For they sought for an object of the will which they could make the matter and principle of a law (which consequently could not determine the will directly but by means of that object referred to the feeling of pleasure or pain Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [185]; whereas they ought first to have searched for a law that would determine the will à priori and directly, and afterwards determine the object in accordance with the will). Now, whether they placed this object of pleasure, which was to supply the supreme conception of goodness, in happiness, in perfection, in moral [feeling 1 ], or in the will of God, their principle in every case implied heteronomy, and they must inevitably come upon empirical conditions of a moral law, since their object, which was to be the immediate principle of the will, could not be called good or bad except in its immediate relation to feeling, which is always empirical. It is only a formal law—that is, one which prescribes to reason nothing more than the form of its universal legislation as the supreme condition of its maxims—that can be à priori a determining Edition: current; Page: [156] principle of practical reason. The ancients avowed this error without concealment by directing all their moral inquiries to the determination of the notion of the summum bonum, which they intended afterwards to make the determining principle of the will in the moral law; whereas it is only far later, when the moral law has been first established for itself, and shown to be the direct determining principle of the will, that this object can be presented to the will, whose form is now determined à priori; and this we shall undertake in the Dialectic of the pure practical reason. The moderns, with whom the question of the summum bonum has gone out of fashion, or at least seems to have become a secondary matter, hide the same error under vague expressions (as in many other cases). It shows itself, nevertheless, in their systems, as it always produces heteronomy of practical reason; and from this can never be derived a moral law giving universal commands.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [186] Now, since the notions of good and evil, as consequences of the à priori determination of the will, imply also a pure practical principle, and therefore a causality of pure reason; hence they do not originally refer to objects (so as to be, for instance, special modes of the synthetic unity of the manifold of given intuitions in one consciousness 1 ) like the pure concepts of the understanding or categories of reason in its theoretic employment; on the contrary, they presuppose that objects are given; but they are all modes (modi) of a single category, namely, that of causality, the determining principle of which consists in the rational conception of a law, which as a law of freedom reason gives to itself, thereby à priori proving itself practical. However, as the actions on the one side come under a law which is not a physical law, but a law of freedom, and consequently belong to the conduct of beings in the world of intelligence, yet on the other side as events in the world of sense they belong to phenomena; hence the determinations of a practical reason are only possible in Edition: current; Page: [157] reference to the latter, and therefore in accordance with the categories of the understanding; not indeed with a view to any theoretic employment of it, i.e. so as to bring the manifold of (sensible) intuition under one consciousness à priori; but only to subject the manifold of desires to the unity of consciousness of a practical reason, giving it commands in the moral law, i. e. to a pure will à priori.

These categories of freedom—for so we choose to call them in contrast to those theoretic categories which are categories of physical nature—have an obvious advantage over the latter, inasmuch as the latter are only forms of thought which designate objects in an indefinite manner by means of universal concepts for every possible intuition; the former, on the contrary, refer to the determination of a free elective will (to which indeed no exactly corresponding intuition can be assigned Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [187], but which has as its foundation a pure practical à priori law, which is not the case with any concepts belonging to the theoretic use of our cognitive faculties); hence, instead of the form of intuition (space and time), which does not lie in reason itself, but has to be drawn from another source, namely, the sensibility, these being elementary practical concepts have as their foundation the form of a pure will, which is given in reason, and therefore in the thinking faculty itself. From this it happens that as all precepts of pure practical reason have to do only with the determination of the will, not with the physical conditions (of practical ability) of the execution of one’s purpose, the practical à priori principles in relation to the supreme principle of freedom are at once cognitions, and have not to wait for intuitions in order to acquire significance, and that for this remarkable reason, because they themselves produce the reality of that to which they refer (the intention of the will), which is not the case with theoretical concepts. Only we must be careful to observe that these categories only apply to the practical reason; and thus they proceed in order from those which are as yet subject to sensible conditions and morally indeterminate to those which are free from sensible conditions, and determined merely by the moral law.

Edition: current; Page: [158]
  • Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [188] Table of the Categories of Freedom relatively to the Notions of Good and Evil.


    Subjective, according to maxims (practical opinions of the individual).

    Objective, according to principles (precepts).

    A priori both objective and subjective principles of freedom (laws).


    Practical rules of action (præceptivæ).

    Practical rules of omission (prohibitivæ).

    Practical rules of exceptions (exceptivæ).


    To personality.

    To the condition of the person.

    Reciprocal, of one person to the condition of the others.


    The permitted and the forbidden.

    Duty and the contrary to duty.

    Perfect and imperfect duty.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [189] It will at once be observed that in this table freedom is considered as a sort of causality not subject to empirical principles of determination, in regard to actions possible by it, which are phenomena in the world of sense, and that consequently it is referred to the categories which concern its physical possibility, whilst yet each category is taken so universally that the determining principle of that causality can be placed outside the world of sense in freedom as a property of a being in the world of intelligence; and finally the categories of modality introduce the transition from practical principles generally to those of morality, but only problematically. These can be established dogmatically only by the moral law.

I add nothing further here in explanation of the present table, since it is intelligible enough of itself. A division of this kind based on principles is very useful in any science, both for the sake of thoroughness and intelligibility. Thus, for instance, we know from the preceding table and its first number what we Edition: current; Page: [159] must begin from in practical inquiries, namely, from the maxims which everyone founds on his own inclinations; the precepts which hold for a species of rational beings so far as they agree in certain inclinations; and finally the law which holds for all without regard to their inclinations, &c. In this way we survey the whole plan of what has to be done, every question of practical philosophy that has to be answered, and also the order that is to be followed.

Of the Typic of the Pure Practical Judgment.

It is the notions of good and evil that first determine an object of the will. They themselves, however Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [190], are subject to a practical rule of reason, which, if it is pure reason, determines the will à priori relatively to its object. Now, whether an action which is possible to us in the world of sense, comes under the rule or not, is a question to be decided by the practical Judgment, by which what is said in the rule universally (in abstracto) is applied to an action in concreto. But since a practical rule of pure reason in the first place as practical concerns the existence of an object, and in the second place as a practical rule of pure reason, implies necessity as regards the existence of the action, and therefore is a practical law, not a physical law depending on empirical principles of determination, but a law of freedom by which the will is to be determined independently on anything empirical (merely by the conception of a law and its form), whereas all instances that can occur of possible actions can only be empirical, that is, belong to the experience of physical nature; hence, it seems absurd to expect to find in the world of sense a case which, while as such it depends only on the law of nature, yet admits of the application to it of a law of freedom, and to which we can apply the supersensible idea of the morally good which is to be exhibited in it in concreto. Thus, the Judgment of the pure practical reason is subject to the same difficulties as that of the pure theoretical reason. The latter, however, had means at hand of escaping from these difficulties, because, in regard to the theoretical Edition: current; Page: [160] employment, intuitions were required to which pure concepts of the understanding could be applied, and such intuitions (though only of objects of the senses) can be given à priori, and therefore, as far as regards the union of the manifold in them, conforming to the pure à priori concepts of the understanding as schemata. On the other hand, the morally good is something whose object is supersensible; for which, therefore, nothing corresponding can be found in any sensible intuition Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [191]. Judgment depending on laws of pure practical reason seems, therefore, to be subject to special difficulties arising from this, that a law of freedom is to be applied to actions, which are events taking place in the world of sense, and which, so far, belong to physical nature.

But here again is opened a favourable prospect for the pure practical Judgment. When I subsume under a pure practical law an action possible to me in the world of sense, I am not concerned with the possibility of the action as an event in the world of sense. This is a matter that belongs to the decision of reason in its theoretic use according to the law of causality, which is a pure concept of the understanding, for which reason has a schema in the sensible intution. Physical causality, or the condition under which it takes place, belongs to the physical concepts, the schema of which is sketched by transcendental imagination. Here, however, we have to do, not with the schema of a case that occurs according to laws, but with the schema of a law itself (if the word is allowable here), since the fact that the will (not the action relatively to its effect) is determined by the law alone without any other principle, connects the notion of causality with quite different conditions from those which constitute physical connexion.

The physical law being a law to which the objects of sensible intuition, as such, are subject, must have a schema corresponding to it—that is, a general procedure of the imagination (by which it exhibits à priori to the senses the pure concept of the understanding which the law determines). But the law of freedom (that is, of a causality not subject to sensible conditions), and consequently the concept of the unconditionally Edition: current; Page: [161] good, cannot have any intuition, nor consequently any schema supplied to it for the purpose of its application in concreto. Consequently the moral law has no faculty Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [192] but the understanding to aid its application to physical objects (not the imagination); and the understanding for the purposes of the Judgment can provide for an idea of the reason, not a schema of the sensibility, but a law, though only as to its form as law; such a law, however, as can be exhibited in concreto in objects of the senses, and therefore a law of nature. We can therefore call this law the Type of the moral law.

The rule of the Judgment according to laws of pure practical reason is this: ask yourself whether, if the action you propose were to take place by a law of the system of nature of which you were yourself a part, you could regard it as possible by your own will. Everyone does, in fact, decide by this rule whether actions are morally good or evil. Thus, people say: If everyone permitted himself to deceive, when he thought it to his advantage; or thought himself justified in shortening his life as soon as he was thoroughly weary of it; or looked with perfect indifference on the necessity of others; and if you belonged to such an order of things, would you do so with the assent of your own will? Now everyone knows well that if he secretly allows himself to deceive, it does not follow that everyone else does so; or if, unobserved, he is destitute of compassion, others would not necessarily be so to him; hence, this comparison of the maxim of his actions with a universal law of nature is not the determining principle of his will. Such a law is, nevertheless, a type of the estimation of the maxim on moral principles. If the maxim of the action is not such as to stand the test of the form of a universal law of nature, then it is morally impossible. This is the judgment even of common sense; for its ordinary judgments, even those of experience, are always based on the law of nature. It has it therefore always at hand, only that in cases Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [193] where causality from freedom is to be criticised, it makes that law of nature only the type of a law of freedom, because without something which it could use as an example in a case of experience, it could not Edition: current; Page: [162] give the law of a pure practical reason its proper use in practice.

It is therefore allowable to use the system of the world of sense as the type of a supersensible system of things, provided I do not transfer to the latter the intuitions, and what depends on them, but merely apply to it the form of law in general (the notion of which occurs even in the [commonest] 1 use of reason, but cannot be definitely known à priori for any other purpose than the pure practical use of reason); for laws, as such, are so far identical, no matter from what they derive their determining principles.

Further, since of all the supersensible absolutely nothing [is known] except freedom (through the moral law), and this only so far as it is inseparably implied in that law, and moreover all supersensible objects to which reason might lead us, following the guidance of that law, have still no reality for us, except for the purpose of that law, and for the use of mere practical reason; and as Reason is authorized and even compelled to use physical nature (in its pure form as an object of the understanding) as the type of the Judgment; hence, the present remark will serve to guard against reckoning amongst concepts themselves that which belongs only to the typic of concepts. This, namely, as a typic of the Judgment, guards against the empiricism of practical reason, which founds the practical notions of good and evil merely on experienced consequences (so called happiness). No doubt happiness and the infinite advantages which would result from a will determined by self-love, if this will at the same time erected itself into a universal law of nature Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [194], may certainly serve as a perfectly suitable type for the morally Good, but it is not identical with it. The same typic guards also against the mysticism of practical reason, which turns what served only as a symbol into a schema, that is, proposes to provide for the moral concepts actual intuitions, which, however, are not sensible (intuitions of an invisible Kingdom of God), and thus plunges into the transcendent. Edition: current; Page: [163] What is befitting the use of the moral concepts is only the rationalism of the Judgment, which takes from the sensible system of nature only what pure reason can also conceive of itself, that is, conformity to law, and transfers into the supersensible nothing but what can conversely be actually exhibited by actions in the world of sense according to the formal rule of a law of nature. However, the caution against empiricism of practical reason is much more important; for 1 mysticism is quite reconcilable with the purity and sublimity of the moral law, and, besides, it is not very natural or agreeable to common habits of thought to strain one’s imagination to supersensible intuitions; and hence the danger on this side is not so general. Empiricism, on the contrary, cuts up at the roots the morality of intentions (in which, and not in actions only, consists the high worth that men can and ought to give to themselves), and substitutes for duty something quite different, namely, an empirical interest, with which the inclinations generally are secretly leagued; and empiricism, moreover, being on this account allied with all the inclinations which (no matter what fashion they put on) degrade humanity when they are raised to the dignity of a supreme practical principle; and as these nevertheless are so favourable to everyone’s feelings, it is for that reason much more dangerous than mysticism, which can never constitute a lasting condition of any great number of persons.

Edition: current; Page: [164]

CHAPTER III.: of the motives of pure practical reason.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [195]

What is essential in the moral worth of actions is that the moral law should directly determine the will. If the determination of the will takes place in conformity indeed to the moral law, but only by means of a feeling, no matter of what kind, which has to be presupposed in order that the law may be sufficient to determine the will, and therefore not for the sake of the law, then the action will possess legality but not morality. Now, if we understand by motive [or spring] (elater animi) the subjective ground of determination of the will of a being whose Reason does not necessarily conform to the objective law, by virtue of its own nature, then it will follow, first, that no motives can be attributed to the Divine will, and that the motives of the human will (as well as that of every created rational being) can never be anything else than the moral law, and consequently that the objective principle of determination must always and alone be also the subjectively sufficient determining principle of the action Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [196], if this is not merely to fulfil the letter of the law, without containing its spirit. 1

Since, then, for the purpose of giving the moral law influence over the will, we must not seek for any other motives that might enable us to dispense with the motive of the law itself, because that would produce mere hypocrisy, without consistency; and it is even dangerous to allow other motives (for instance, that of interest) even to co-operate along with the moral law; hence nothing is left us but to determine carefully Edition: current; Page: [165] in what way the moral law becomes a motive, and what effect this has upon the faculty of desire. For as to the question how a law can be directly and of itself a determining principle of the will (which is the essence of morality), this is, for human reason, an insoluble problem and identical with the question: how a free will is possible. Therefore what we have to show à priori is, not why the moral law in itself supplies a motive, but what effect it, as such, produces (or, more correctly speaking, must produce) on the mind.

The essential point in every determination of the will by the moral law is that being a free will it is determined simply by the moral law, not only without the co-operation of sensible impulses, but even to the rejection of all such, and to the checking of all inclinations so far as they might be opposed to that law. So far, then, the effect of the moral law as a motive is only negative, and this motive can be known à priori to be such. For all inclination and every sensible impulse is founded on feeling, and the negative effect Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [197] produced on feeling (by the check on the inclinations) is itself feeling; consequently, we can see à priori that the moral law, as a determining principle of the will, must by thwarting all our inclinations produce a feeling which may be called pain; and in this we have the first, perhaps the only instance, in which we are able from à priori considerations to determine the relation of a cognition (in this case of pure practical reason) to the feeling of pleasure or displeasure. All the inclinations together (which can be reduced to a tolerable system, in which case their satisfaction is called happiness) constitute self-regard (solipsismus). This is either the self-love that consists in an excessive fondness for oneself (philautia), or satisfaction with oneself (arrogantia). The former is called particularly selfishness; the latter self-conceit. Pure practical reason only checks selfishness, looking on it as natural and active in us even prior to the moral law, so far as to limit it to the condition of agreement with this law, and then it is called rational self-love. But self-conceit Reason strikes down altogether, since all claims to self-esteem which precede agreement with the moral law are vain and unjustifiable, Edition: current; Page: [166] for the certainty of a state of mind that coincides with this law is the first condition of personal worth (as we shall presently show more clearly), and prior to this conformity any pretension to worth is false and unlawful. Now the propensity to self-esteem is one of the inclinations which the moral law checks, inasmuch as that esteem rests only on morality. Therefore the moral law breaks down self-conceit. But as this law is something positive in itself, namely, the form of an intellectual causality, that is, of freedom, it must be an object of respect; for by opposing the subjective antagonism of the inclinations Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [198] it weakens self-conceit; and since it even breaks down, that is, humiliates this conceit, it is an object of the highest respect, and consequently is the foundation of a positive feeling which is not of empirical origin, but is known à priori. Therefore respect for the moral law is a feeling which is produced by an intellectual cause, and this feeling is the only one that we know quite à priori, and the necessity of which we can perceive.

In the preceding chapter we have seen that everything that presents itself as an object of the will prior to the moral law is by that law itself, which is the supreme condition of practical reason, excluded from the determining principles of the will which we have called the unconditionally good; and that the mere practical form which consists in the adaptation of the maxims to universal legislation first determines what is good in itself and absolutely, and is the basis of the maxims of a pure will, which alone is good in every respect. However, we find that our nature as sensible beings is such that the matter of desire (objects of inclination, whether (of hope or fear) first presents itself to us; and our pathologically affected self, although it is in its maxims quite unfit for universal legislation; yet, just as if it constituted our entire self, strives to put its pretensions forward first, and to have them acknowledged as the first and original. This propensity to make ourselves in the subjective determining principles of our choice serve as the objective determining principle of the will generally may be called self-love; and if this pretends to be legislative as an Edition: current; Page: [167] unconditional practical principle it may be called self-conceit. Now the moral law, which alone is truly objective (namely, in every respect), entirely excludes the influence of self-love on the supreme practical principle, and indefinitely checks the self-conceit that prescribes the subjective conditions of the former as laws Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [199]. Now whatever checks our self-conceit in our own judgment humiliates; therefore the moral law inevitably humbles every man when he compares with it the physical propensities of his nature. That, the idea of which as a determining principle of our will humbles us in our self-consciousness, awakes respect for itself, so far as it is itself positive, and a determining principle. Therefore the moral law is even subjectively a cause of respect. Now since everything that enters into self-love belongs to inclination, and all inclination rests on feelings, and consequently whatever checks all the feelings together in self-love has necessarily, by this very circumstance, an influence on feeling; hence we comprehend how it is possible to perceive à priori that the moral law can produce an effect on feeling, in that it excludes the inclinations and the propensity to make them the supreme practical condition, i. e. self-love, from all participation in the supreme legislation. This effect is on one side merely negative, but on the other side, relatively to the restricting principle of pure practical reason, it is positive. No special kind of feeling need be assumed for this under the name of a practical or moral feeling as antecedent to the moral law, and serving as its foundation.

The negative effect on feeling (unpleasantness) is pathological, like every influence on feeling, and like every feeling generally. But as an effect of the consciousness of the moral law, and consequently in relation to a supersensible cause, namely, the subject of pure practical reason which is the supreme lawgiver, this feeling of a rational being affected by inclinations is called humiliation (intellectual self-depreciation); but with reference to the positive source of this humiliation, the law, it is respect for it. There is indeed no feeling for this law Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [200]; but inasmuch as it removes the resistance out of the way, this removal of an obstacle is, in the judgment of reason Edition: current; Page: [168] esteemed equivalent to a positive help to its causality. Therefore this feeling may also be called a feeling of respect for the moral law, and for both reasons together a moral feeling.

While the moral law, therefore, is a formal determining principle of action by practical pure reason, and is moreover a material though only objective determining principle of the objects of action as called good and evil, it is also a subjective determining principle, that is, a motive to this action, inasmuch as it has influence on the morality of the subject, and produces a feeling conducive to the influence of the law on the will. There is here in the subject no antecedent feeling tending to morality. For this is impossible, since every feeling is sensible, and the motive of moral intention must be free from all sensible conditions. On the contrary, while the sensible feeling which is at the bottom of all our inclinations is the condition of that impression which we call respect, the cause that determines it lies in the pure practical reason; and this impression therefore, on account of its origin, must be called, not a pathological, but a practical effect. For by the fact that the conception of the moral law deprives self-love of its influence, and self-conceit of its allusion, it lessons the obstacle to pure practical reason, and produces the conception of the superiority of its objective law to the impulses of the sensibility; and thus, by removing the counterpoise, it gives relatively greater weight to the law in the judgment of reason (in the case of a will affected by the aforesaid impulses). Thus the respect for the law is not a motive to morality, but is morality itself subjectively considered as a motive, inasmuch as pure practical reason Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [201], by rejecting all the rival pretensions of self-love, gives authority to the law which now alone has influence. Now it is to be observed that as respect is an effect on feeling, and therefore on the sensibility, of a rational being, it presupposes this sensibility, and therefore also the finiteness of such beings on whom the moral law imposes respect; and that respect for the law cannot be attributed to a supreme being, or to any being free from all sensibility, and in whom, therefore, this sensibility cannot be an obstacle to practical reason.

Edition: current; Page: [169]

This feeling [sentiment] (which we call the moral feeling) is therefore produced simply by reason. It does not serve for the estimation of actions nor for the foundation of the objective moral law itself, but merely as a motive to make this of itself a maxim. But what name could we more suitably apply to this singular feeling which cannot be compared to any pathological feeling? It is of such a peculiar kind that it seems to be at the disposal of reason only, and that pure practical reason.

Respect applies always to persons only—not to things. The latter may arouse inclination, and if they are animals (e. g. horses, dogs, &c.), even love or fear, like the sea, a volcano, a beast of prey; but never respect. Something that comes nearer to this feeling is admiration, and this, as an affection, astonishment, can apply to things also, e. g. lofty mountains, the magnitude, number, and distance of the heavenly bodies, the strength and swiftness of many animals, &c. But all this is not respect. A man also may be an object to me of love, fear, or admiration, even to astonishment, and yet not be an object of respect. His jocose humour, his courage and strength, his power from the rank he has amongst others Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [202], may inspire me with sentiments of this kind, but still inner respect for him is wanting. Fontenelle says, “I bow before a great man, but my mind does not bow.” I would add, before an humble, plain man, in whom I perceive uprightness of character in a higher degree than I am conscious of in myself, my mind bows whether I choose it or not, and though I bear my head never so high that he may not forget my superior rank. Why is this? Because his example exhibits to me a law that humbles my self-conceit when I compare it with my conduct: a law, the practicability of obedience to which I see proved by fact before my eyes. Now, I may even be conscious of a like degree of uprightness, and yet the respect remains. For since in man all good is defective, the law made visible by an example still humbles my pride, my standard being furnished by a man whose imperfections, whatever they may be, are not known to me as my own are, and who therefore appears to me in a more favourable light. Respect is a tribute which we cannot refuse Edition: current; Page: [170] to merit, whether we will or not; we may indeed outwardly withhold it, but we cannot help feeling it inwardly.

Respect is so far from being a feeling of pleasure that we only reluctantly give way to it as regards a man. We try to find out something that may lighten the burden of it, some fault to compensate us for the humiliation which such an example causes. Even the dead are not always secure from this criticism, especially if their example appears inimitable. Even the moral law itself in its solemn majesty is exposed to this endeavour to save oneself from yielding it respect Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [203]. Can it be thought that it is for any other reason that we are so ready to reduce it to the level of our familiar inclination, or that it is for any other reason that we all take such trouble to make it out to be the chosen precept of our own interest well understood, but that we want to be free from the deterrent respect which shows us our own unworthiness with such severity? Nevertheless, on the other hand, so little is there pain in it that if once one has laid aside self-conceit and allowed practical influence to that respect, he can never be satisfied with contemplating the majesty of this law, and the soul believes itself elevated in proportion as it sees the holy law elevated above it and its frail nature. No doubt great talents and activity proportioned to them may also occasion respect or an analogous feeling. It is very proper to yield it to them, and then it appears as if this sentiment were the same thing as admiration. But if we look closer we shall observe that it is always uncertain how much of the ability is due to native talent, and how much to diligence in cultivating it. Reason represents it to us as probably the fruit of cultivation, and therefore as meritorious, and this notably reduces our self-conceit, and either casts a reproach on us or urges us to follow such an example in the way that is suitable to us. This respect then which we show to such a person (properly speaking, to the law that his example exhibits) is not mere admiration; and this is confirmed also by the fact, that when the common run of admirers think they have learned from any source the badness of such a man’s character (for instance Voltaire’s) they give up all respect for him; whereas Edition: current; Page: [171] the true scholar still feels it at least with regard to his talents, because he is himself engaged in a business and a vocation Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [204] which make imitation of such a man in some degree a law.

Respect for the moral law is therefore the only and the undoubted moral motive, and this feeling is directed to no object, except on the ground of this law. The moral law first determines the will objectively and directly in the judgment of reason; and freedom, whose causality can be determined only by the law, consists just in this, that it restricts all inclinations, and consequently self-esteem, by the condition of obedience to its pure law. This restriction now has an effect on feeling, and produces the impression of displeasure which can be known à priori from the moral law. Since it is so far only a negative effect which, arising from the influence of pure practical reason, checks the activity of the subject, so far as it is determined by inclinations, and hence checks the opinion of his personal worth (which, in the absence of agreement with the moral law, is reduced to nothing); hence, the effect of this law on feeling is merely humiliation. We can, therefore, perceive this à priori, but cannot know by it the force of the pure practical law as a motive, but only the resistance to motives of the sensibility. But since the same law is objectively, that is, in the conception of pure reason, an immediate principle of determination of the will, and consequently this humiliation takes place only relatively to the purity of the law; hence, the lowering of the pretensions of moral self-esteem, that is, humiliation on the sensible side, is an elevation of the moral, i. e. practical, esteem for the law itself on the intellectual side; in a word, it is respect for the law, and therefore, as its cause is intellectual, a positive feeling which can be known à priori. For whatever diminishes the obstacles to an activity, furthers this activity itself Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [205]. Now the recognition of the moral law is the consciousness of an activity of practical reason from objective principles, which only fails to reveal its effect in actions because subjective (pathological) causes hinder it. Respect for the moral law then must be regarded as a positive, though indirect effect of Edition: current; Page: [172] it on feeling, inasmuch as this respect 1 weakens the impeding influence of inclinations by humiliating self-esteem; and hence also as a subjective principle of activity, that is, as a motive to obedience to the law, and as a principle of the maxims of a life conformable to it. From the notion of a motive arises that of an interest, which can never be attributed to any being unless it possesses reason, and which signifies a motive of the will in so far as it is conceived by the reason. Since in a morally good will the law itself must be the motive, the moral interest is a pure interest of practical reason alone, independent on sense. On the notion of an interest is based that of a maxim. This, therefore, is morally good only in case it rests simply on the interest taken in obedience to the law. All three notions, however, that of a motive, of an interest, and of a maxim, can be applied only to finite beings. For they all suppose a limitation of the nature of the being, in that the subjective character of his choice does not of itself agree with the objective law of a practical reason; they suppose that the being requires to be impelled to action by something, because an internal obstacle opposes itself. Therefore they cannot be applied to the Divine will.

There is something so singular in the unbounded esteem for the pure moral law, apart from all advantage, as it is presented for our obedience by practical reason, the voice of which makes even the boldest sinner tremble, and compels him to hide himself from it Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [206], that we cannot wonder if we find this influence of a mere intellectual idea on the feelings quite incomprehensible to speculative reason, and have to be satisfied with seeing so much of this à priori, that such a feeling is inseparably connected with the conception of the moral law in every finite rational being. If this feeling of respect were pathological, and therefore were a feeling of pleasure based on the inner sense, it would be in vain to try to discover a connexion of it Edition: current; Page: [173] with any idea à priori. But [it 1 ] is a feeling that applies merely to what is practical, and depends on the conception of a law, simply as to its form, not on account of any object, and therefore cannot be reckoned either as pleasure or pain, and yet produces an interest in obedience to the law, which we call the moral interest, just as the capacity of taking such an interest in the law (or respect for the moral law itself) is properly the moral feeling [or sentiment].

The consciousness of a free submission of the will to the law, yet combined with an inevitable constraint put upon all inclinations, though only by our own reason, is respect for the law. The law that demands this respect and inspires it is clearly no other than the moral (for no other precludes all inclinations from exercising any direct influence on the will). An action which is objectively practical according to this law, to the exclusion of every determining principle of inclination, is duty, and this by reason of that exclusion includes in its concept practical obligation, that is, a determination to actions, however reluctantly they may be done. The feeling that arises from the consciousness of this obligation is not pathological, as would be a feeling produced by an object of the senses, but practical only, that is, it is made possible by a preceding Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [207] (objective) determination of the will and a causality of the reason. As submission to the law, therefore, that is, as a command (announcing constraint for the sensibly affected subject), it contains in it no pleasure, but on the contrary, so far, pain in the action. On the other hand, however, as this constraint is exercised merely by the legislation of our own reason, it also contains something elevating, and this subjective effect on feeling, inasmuch as pure practical reason is the sole cause of it, may be called in this respect self-approbation, since we recognize ourselves as determined thereto solely by the law without any interest, and are now conscious of a quite different interest subjectively produced thereby, and which is purely practical and Edition: current; Page: [174] free; and our taking this interest in an action of duty is not suggested by any inclination, but is commanded and actually brought about by reason through the practical law; whence this feeling obtains a special name, that of respect.

The notion of duty, therefore, requires in the action, objectively, agreement with the law, and, subjectively in its maxim, that respect for the law shall be the sole mode in which the will is determined thereby. And on this rests the distinction between the consciousness of having acted according to duty and from duty, that is, from respect for the law. The former (legality) is possible even if inclinations have been the determining principles of the will; but the latter (morality), moral worth, can be placed only in this, that the action is done from duty, that is, simply for the sake of the law. 1

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [208] It is of the greatest importance to attend with the utmost exactness in all moral judgments to the subjective principle of all maxims, that all the morality of actions may be placed in the necessity of acting from duty and from respect for the law, not from love and inclination for that which the actions are to produce. For men and all created rational beings moral necessity is constraint, that is obligation, and every action based on it is to be conceived as a duty, not as a proceeding previously pleasing, or likely to be pleasing to us of our own accord. As if indeed we could ever bring it about that without respect for the law, which implies fear, or at least apprehension of transgression, we of ourselves, like the independent Deity, could ever come into possession of holiness of will by the coincidence of our will with the pure moral law becoming as it were part of our nature, never to be shaken (in which case the Edition: current; Page: [175] law would cease to be a command for us, as we could never be tempted to be untrue to it).

The moral law is in fact for the will of a perfect being a law of holiness, but for the will of every finite rational being a law of duty, of moral constraint, and of the determination of its actions by respect for this law and reverence for its duty. No other subjective principle must be assumed as a motive, else while the action might chance to be such as the law prescribes, yet as it does not proceed from duty, the intention, which is the thing properly in question in this legislation, is not moral.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [209] It is a very beautiful thing to do good to men from love to them and from sympathetic good will, or to be just from love of order; but this is not yet the true moral maxim of our conduct which is suitable to our position amongst rational beings as men, when we pretend with fanciful pride to set ourselves above the thought of duty, like volunteers, and, as if we were independent on the command, to want to do of our own good pleasure what we think we need no command to do. We stand under a discipline of reason, and in all our maxims must not forget our subjection to it, nor withdraw anything therefrom, or by an egotistic presumption diminish aught of the authority of the law (although our own reason gives it) so as to set the determining principle of our will, even though the law be conformed to, anywhere else but in the law itself and in respect for this law. Duty and obligation are the only names that we must give to our relation to the moral law. We are indeed legislative members of a moral kingdom rendered possible by freedom, and presented to us by reason as an object of respect; but yet we are subjects in it, not the sovereign, and to mistake our inferior position as creatures and presumptuously to reject the authority of the moral law is already to revolt from it in spirit, even though the letter of it is fulfilled.

With this agrees very well the possibility of such a command as: Love God above everything, and thy neighbour as thyself 1 . For as a command it requires respect for a law Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [210] Edition: current; Page: [176] which commands love and does not leave it to our own arbitrary choice to make this our principle. Love to God, however, considered as an inclination (pathological love), is impossible, for He is not an object of the senses. The same affection towards men is possible no doubt, but cannot be commanded, for it is not in the power of any man to love anyone at command; therefore it is only practical love that is meant in that pith of all laws. To love God means, in this sense, to like to do His commandments; to love one’s neighbour means to like to practise all duties towards him. But the command that makes this a rule cannot command us to have this disposition in actions conformed to duty, but only to endeavour after it. For a command to like to do a thing is in itself contradictory, because if we already know of ourselves what we are bound to do, and if further we are conscious of liking to do it, a command would be quite needless; and if we do it not willingly, but only out of respect for the law, a command that makes this respect the motive of our maxim would directly counteract the disposition commanded. That law of all laws, therefore, like all the moral precepts of the Gospel, exhibits the moral disposition in all its perfection, in which, viewed as an Ideal of holiness, it is not attainable by any creature, but yet is the pattern which we should strive to approach, and in an uninterrupted but infinite progress become like to. In fact, if a rational creature could ever reach this point, that he thoroughly likes to do all moral laws, this would mean that there does not exist in him even the possibility of a desire that would tempt him to deviate from them; for to overcome such a desire always costs the subject some sacrifice, and therefore requires self-compulsion, that is, inward constraint to something that one does not quite like to do; and no creature can ever reach this stage of moral disposition Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [211]. For, being a creature, and therefore always dependent with respect to what he requires Edition: current; Page: [177] for complete satisfaction, he can never be quite free from desires and inclinations, and as these rest on physical causes, they can never of themselves coincide with the moral law, 1 the sources of which are quite different; and therefore they make it necessary to found the mental disposition of one’s maxims on moral obligation, not on ready inclination, but on respect, which demands obedience to the law, even though one may not like it; not on love, which apprehends no inward reluctance of the will towards the law. Nevertheless, this latter, namely, love to the law (which would then cease to be a command, and then morality, which would have passed subjectively into holiness, would cease to be virtue), must be the constant though unattainable goal of his endeavours. For in the case of what we highly esteem, but yet (on account of the consciousness of our weakness) dread, the increased facility of satisfying it changes the most reverential awe into inclination, and respect into love: at least this would be the perfection of a disposition devoted to the law, if it were possible for a creature to attain it. 2

Edition: current; Page: [178]

This reflection is intended not so much to clear up the evangelical command just cited, in order to prevent religious fanaticism in regard to love of God, but to define accurately the moral disposition with regard directly to our duties towards men, and to check, or if possible prevent, a merely moral fanaticism which infects many persons. The stage of morality on which man (and, as far as we can see, every rational creature) stands is respect for the moral law. The disposition that he ought to have in obeying this is to obey it from duty, not from spontaneous Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [212] inclination, or from an endeavour taken up from liking and unbidden; and this proper moral condition in which he can always be is virtue, that is, moral disposition militant, and not holiness in the fancied possession of a perfect purity of the disposition of the will. It is nothing but moral fanaticism and exaggerated self-conceit that is infused into the mind by exhortation to actions as noble, sublime, and magnanimous, by which men are led into the delusion that it is not duty, that is, respect for the law, whose yoke (an easy yoke, indeed, because reason itself imposes it on us) they must bear, whether they like it or not, that constitutes the determining principle of their actions, and which always humbles them while they obey it; fancying that those actions are expected from them, not from duty, but as pure merit. For not only would they, in imitating such deeds from such a principle not have fulfilled the spirit of the law in the least, which consists not in the legality of the action (without regard to principle), but in the subjection of the mind to the law; not only do they make the motives pathological (seated in sympathy or self-love), not moral (in the law), but they produce in this way a vain high-flying fantastic way of thinking, flattering themselves with a spontaneous goodness of heart that needs neither spur nor bridle, for which no command is needed, and thereby forgetting their obligation, which they ought to think of rather than merit. Indeed actions of others which are done with great sacrifice, and merely for the sake of duty, may be praised as noble and sublime, but only so far as there are traces which suggest that they were done wholly out of respect for duty Edition: current; Page: [179] and not from excited feelings Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [213]. If these, however, are set before anyone as examples to be imitated, respect for duty (which is the only true moral feeling) must be employed as the motive—this severe holy precept which never allows our vain self-love to dally with pathological impulses (however analogous they may be to morality) and to take a pride in meritorious worth. Now if we search we shall find for all actions that are worthy of praise a law of duty which commands, and does not leave us to choose what may be agreeable to our inclinations. This is the only way of representing things that can give a moral training to the soul, because it alone is capable of solid and accurately defined principles.

If fanaticism in its most general sense is a deliberate overstepping of the limits of human reason, then moral fanaticism is such an overstepping of the bounds that practical pure reason sets to mankind, in that it forbids us to place the subjective determining principle of correct actions, that is, their moral motive, in anything but the law itself, or to place the disposition which is thereby brought into the maxims in anything but respect for this law, and hence commands us to take as the supreme vital principle of all morality in men the thought of duty, which strikes down all arrogance as well as vain self-love.

If this is so, it is not only writers of romance or sentimental educators (although they may be zealous opponents of sentimentalism), but sometimes even philosophers; nay, even the severest of all, the Stoics, that have brought in moral fanaticism instead of a sober but wise moral discipline, although the fanaticism of the latter was more heroic, that of the former of an insipid, effeminate character; and we may, without hypocrisy, say of the moral teaching of the Gospel Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [214], that it first, by the purity of its moral principle, and at the same time by its suitability to the limitations of finite beings, brought all the good conduct of men under the discipline of a duty plainly set before their eyes, which does not permit them to indulge in dreams of imaginary moral perfections; and that it also set the bounds of humility (that is, self-knowledge) to self-conceit as well as to self-love, both which are ready to mistake their limits.

Edition: current; Page: [180]

Duty! Thou sublime and mighty name that dost embrace nothing charming or insinuating, but requirest submission, and yet seekest not to move the will by threatening aught that would arouse natural aversion or terror, but merely holdest forth a law which of itself finds entrance into the mind, and yet gains reluctant reverence (though not always obedience), a law before which all inclinations are dumb, even though they secretly counter-work it; what origin is there worthy of thee, and where is to be found the root of thy noble descent which proudly rejects all kindred with the inclinations; a root to be derived from which is the indispensable condition of the only worth which men can give themselves?

It can be nothing less than a power which elevates man above himself (as a part of the world of sense), a power which connects him with an order of things that only the understanding can conceive, with a world which at the same time commands the whole sensible world, and with it the empirically determinable existence of man in time, as well as the sum total of all ends (which totality alone suits such unconditional practical laws as the moral). This power is nothing but personality, that is, freedom and independence on the mechanism of nature, yet, regarded also as a faculty of a being which is subject to special laws, namely, pure practical laws given by its own reason Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [215]; so that the person as belonging to the sensible world is subject to his own personality as belonging to the intelligible [supersensible] world. It is then not to be wondered at that man, as belonging to both worlds, must regard his own nature in reference to its second and highest characteristic only with reverence, and its laws with the highest respect.

On this origin are founded many expressions which designate the worth of objects according to moral ideas. The moral law is holy (inviolable). Man is indeed unholy enough, but he must regard humanity in his own person as holy. In all creation every thing one chooses, and over which one has any power, may be used merely as means; man alone, and with him every rational creature, is an end in himself. By virtue of the autonomy of his freedom he is the subject of the moral law, which Edition: current; Page: [181] is holy. Just for this reason every will, even every person’s own individual will, in relation to itself, is restricted to the condition of agreement with the autonomy of the rational being, that is to say, that it is not to be subject to any purpose which cannot accord with a law which might arise from the will of the passive subject himself; the latter is, therefore, never to be employed merely as means, but as itself also, concurrently, an end. We justly attribute this condition even to the Divine will, with regard to the rational beings in the world, which are His creatures, since it rests on their personality, by which alone they are ends in themselves.

This respect-inspiring idea of personality which sets before our eyes the sublimity of our nature (in its higher aspect), while at the same time it shows us the want of accord of our conduct with it, and thereby strikes down self-conceit, is even natural to the commonest reason, and easily observed Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [216]. Has not every even moderately honourable man sometimes found that, where by an otherwise inoffensive lie he might either have withdrawn himself from an unpleasant business, or even have procured some advantages for a loved and well-deserving friend, he has avoided it solely lest he should despise himself secretly in his own eyes? When an upright man is in the greatest distress, which he might have avoided if he could only have disregarded duty, is he not sustained by the consciousness that he has maintained humanity in its proper dignity in his own person and honoured it, that he has no reason to be ashamed of himself in his own sight, or to dread the inward glance of self-examination? This consolation is not happiness, it is not even the smallest part of it, for no one would wish to have occasion for it, or would, perhaps, even desire a life in such circumstances. But he lives, and he cannot endure that he should be in his own eyes unworthy of life. This inward peace is therefore merely negative as regards what can make life pleasant; it is, in fact, only the escaping the danger of sinking in personal worth, after everything else that is valuable has been lost. It is the effect of a respect for something quite different from life, something in comparison and contrast with which life with all Edition: current; Page: [182] its enjoyment has no value. He still lives only because it is his duty, not because he finds anything pleasant in life.

Such is the nature of the true motive of pure practical reason; it is no other than the pure moral law itself, inasmuch as it makes us conscious of the sublimity of our own supersensible existence, and subjectively Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [217] produces respect for their higher nature in men who are also conscious of their sensible existence and of the consequent dependence of their pathologically very susceptible nature. Now with this motive may be combined so many charms and satisfactions of life, that even on this account alone the most prudent choice of a rational Epicurean reflecting on the greatest advantage of life would declare itself on the side of moral conduct, and it may even be advisable to join this prospect of a cheerful enjoyment of life with that supreme motive which is already sufficient of itself; but only as a counterpoise to the attractions which vice does not fail to exhibit on the opposite side, and not so as, even in the smallest degree, to place in this the proper moving power when duty is in question. For that would be just the same as to wish to taint the purity of the moral disposition in its source. The majesty of duty has nothing to do with enjoyment of life; it has its special law and its special tribunal, and though the two should be never so well shaken together to be given well mixed, like medicine, to the sick soul, yet they will soon separate of themselves, and if they do not the former will not act; and although physical life might gain somewhat in force, the moral life would fade away irrecoverably.

critical examination of the analytic of pure practical reason.

By the critical examination of a science, or of a portion of it, which constitutes a system by itself, I understand the inquiry and proof why it must have this and no other systematic form Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [218], when we compare it with another system which is based on a similar faculty of knowledge. Now practical and speculative reason are based on the same faculty, so far as both Edition: current; Page: [183] are pure reason. Therefore the difference in their systematic form must be determined by the comparison of both, and the ground of this must be assigned.

The Analytic of pure theoretic reason had to do with the knowledge of such objects as may have been given to the understanding, and was obliged therefore to begin from intuition, and consequently (as this is always sensible) from sensibility; and only after that could advance to concepts (of the objects of this intuition), and could only end with principles after both these had preceded. On the contrary, since practical reason has not to do with objects so as to know them, but with its own faculty of realizing them (in accordance with the knowledge of them), that is, with a will which is a causality, inasmuch as reason contains its determining principle; since consequently it has not to furnish an object of intuition, but as practical reason has to furnish only a law (because the notion of causality always implies the reference to a law which determines the existence of the many in relation to one another); hence a critical examination of the Analytic of reason, if this is to be practical reason (and this is properly the problem), must begin with the possibility of practical principles à priori. Only after that can it proceed to concepts of the objects of a practical reason, namely, those of absolute good and evil, in order to assign them in accordance with those principles (for prior to those principles they cannot possibly be given as good and evil by any faculty of knowledge, and only then could the section be concluded with the last chapter, that, namely, which treats of the relation of the pure practical reason to the sensibility Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [219] and of its necessary influence thereon, which is à priori cognisable, that is, of the moral sentiment. Thus the Analytic of the practical pure reason has the whole extent of the conditions of its use in common with the theoretical, but in reverse order. The Analytic of pure theoretic reason was divided into transcendental Aesthetic and transcendental Logic, that of the practical reversely into Logic and Aesthetic of pure practical reason (if I may, for the sake of analogy merely, use these designations, which are not quite suitable). This logic again was there Edition: current; Page: [184] divided into the Analytic of concepts and that of principles: here into that of principles and concepts. The Aesthetic also had in the former case two parts, on account of the two kinds of sensible intuition; here the sensibility is not considered as a capacity of intuition at all, but merely as feeling (which can be a subjective ground of desire), and in regard to it pure practical reason admits no further division.

It is also easy to see the reason why this division into two parts with its subdivision was not actually adopted here (as one might have been induced to attempt by the example of the former critique). For since it is pure reason that is here considered in its practical use, and consequently as proceeding from à priori principles, and not from empirical principles of determination, hence the division of the analytic of pure practical reason must resemble that of a syllogism, namely, proceeding from the universal in the major premiss (the moral principle), through a minor premiss containing a subsumption of possible actions (as good or evil) under the former, to the conclusion, namely, the subjective determination of the will (an interest in the possible practical good, and in the maxim founded on it). He who has been able to convince himself of the truth of the positions occurring in the Analytic Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [220] will take pleasure in such comparisons; for they justly suggest the expectation that we may perhaps some day be able to discern the unity of the whole faculty of reason (theoretical as well as practical), and be able to derive all from one principle, which is what human reason inevitably demands, as it finds complete satisfaction only in a perfectly systematic unity of its knowledge.

If now we consider also the contents of the knowledge that we can have of a pure practical reason, and by means of it, as shown by the Analytic, we find, along with a remarkable analogy between it and the theoretical, no less remarkable differences. As regards the theoretical, the faculty of a pure rational cognition à priori could be easily and evidently proved by examples from sciences (in which, as they put their principles to the test in so many ways by methodical use, there is not so much reason as in common knowledge to fear a secret Edition: current; Page: [185] mixture of empirical principles of cognition). But, that pure reason without the admixture of any empirical principle is practical of itself, this could only be shown from the commonest practical use of reason by verifying the fact, that every man’s natural reason acknowledges the supreme practical principle as the supreme law of his will, a law completely à priori, and not depending on any sensible data. It was necessary first to establish and verify the purity of its origin, even in the judgment of this common reason, before science could take it in hand to make use of it as a fact, that is, prior to all disputation about its possibility, and all the consequences that may be drawn from it. But this circumstance may be readily explained from what has just been said Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [221]; because practical pure reason must necessarily begin with principles, which therefore must be the first data, the foundation of all science, and cannot be derived from it. It was possible to effect this verification of moral principles as principles of a pure reason quite well, and with sufficient certainty, by a single appeal to the judgment of common sense, for this reason, that anything empirical which might slip into our maxims as a determining principle of the will can be detected at once by the feeling of pleasure or pain which necessarily attaches to it as exciting desire; whereas pure practical reason positively refuses to admit this feeling into its principle as a condition. The heterogeneity of the determining principles (the empirical and rational) is clearly detected by this resistance of a practically legislating reason against every admixture of inclination, and by a peculiar kind of sentiment, which, however, does not precede the legislation of the practical reason, but, on the contrary, is produced by this as a constraint, namely, by the feeling of a respect such as no man has for inclinations of whatever kind but for the law only; and it is detected in so marked and prominent a manner that even the most uninstructed cannot fail to see at once in an example presented to him, that empirical principles of volition may indeed urge him to follow their attractions, but that he can never be expected to obey anything but the pure practical law of reason alone.

The distinction between the doctrine of happiness and the Edition: current; Page: [186] doctrine of morality [ethics], in the former of which empirical principles constitute the entire foundation, while in the second they do not form the smallest part of it, is the first and most important office of the analytic of pure practical reason; and it must proceed in it with as much exactness Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [222] and, so to speak, scrupulousness, as any geometer in his work. The philosopher, however, has greater difficulties to contend with here (as always in rational cognition by means of concepts merely without construction), because he cannot take any intuition as a foundation (for a pure noumenon). He has, however, this advantage that, like the chemist, he can at any time make an experiment with every man’s practical reason for the purpose of distinguishing the moral (pure) principle of determination from the empirical, namely, by adding the moral law (as a determining principle) to the empirically affected will (e.g. that of the man who would be ready to lie because he can gain something thereby). It is as if the analyst added alkali to a solution of lime in hydrochloric acid, the acid at once forsakes the lime, combines with the alkali, and the lime is precipitated. Just in the same way, if to a man who is otherwise honest (or who for this occasion places himself only in thought in the position of an honest man), we present the moral law by which he recognizes the worthlessness of the liar, his practical reason (in forming a judgment of what ought to be done) at once forsakes the advantage, combines with that which maintains in him respect for his own person (truthfulness), and the advantage after it has been separated and washed from every particle of reason (which is altogether on the side of duty) is easily weighed by everyone, so that it can enter into combination with reason in other cases, only not where it could be opposed to the moral law, which reason never forsakes, but most closely unites itself with.

But it does not follow that this distinction between the principle of happiness and that of morality is an opposition between them, and pure practical reason does not require that we should renounce all claim to happiness, but only that the moment duty is in question we should take no account of happiness Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [223]. It may even in certain respects be a duty to provide for happiness; Edition: current; Page: [187] partly, because (including skill, wealth, riches) it contains means for the fulfilment of our duty; partly, because the absence of it (e. g. poverty) implies temptations to transgress our duty. But it can never be an immediate duty to promote our happiness, still less can it be the principle of all duty. Now, as all determining principles of the will, except the law of pure practical reason alone (the moral law), are all empirical, and therefore, as such, belong to the principle of happiness, they must all be kept apart from the supreme principle of morality, and never be incorporated with it as a condition; since this would be to destroy all moral worth just as much as any empirical admixture with geometrical principles would destroy the certainty of mathematical evidence, which in Plato’s opinion is the most excellent thing in mathematics, even surpassing their utility.

Instead, however, of the Deduction of the supreme principle of pure practical reason, that is, the explanation of the possibility of such a knowledge à priori, the utmost we were able to do was to show that if we saw the possibility of the freedom of an efficient cause, we should also see not merely the possibility, but even the necessity of the moral law as the supreme practical law of rational beings, to whom we attribute freedom of causality of their will; because both concepts are so inseparably united, that we might define practical freedom as independence of the will on anything but the moral law. But we cannot perceive the possibility of the freedom of an efficient cause, especially in the world of sense; we are fortunate if only we can be sufficiently assured that there is no proof of its impossibility, and are now by the moral law which postulates it compelled Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [224], and therefore authorized to assume it. However, there are still many who think that they can explain this freedom on empirical principles, like any other physical faculty, and treat it as a psychological property, the explanation of which only requires a more exact study of the nature of the soul and of the motives of the will, and not as a transcendental predicate of the causality of a being that belongs to the world of sense (which is really the point). They thus deprive us of the grand revelation which we obtain through practical reason by means of the Edition: current; Page: [188] moral law, the revelation, namely, of a supersensible world by the realization of the otherwise transcendent concept of freedom, and by this deprive us also of the moral law itself, which admits no empirical principle of determination. Therefore it will be necessary to add something here as a protection against this delusion, and to exhibit empiricism in its naked superficiality.

The notion of causality as physical necessity, in opposition to the same notion as freedom, concerns only the existence of things so far as it is determinable in time, and, consequently, as phenomena, in opposition to their causality as things in themselves. Now if we take the attributes of existence of things in time for attributes of things in themselves (which is the common view), then it is impossible to reconcile the necessity of the causal relation with freedom; they are contradictory. For from the former it follows that every event, and consequently every action that takes place at a certain point of time, is a necessary result of what existed in time preceding. Now as time past is no longer in my power, hence every action that I perform must be the necessary result of certain determining grounds which are not in my power, that is, at the moment in which I am acting I am never free Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [225]. Nay, even if I assume that my whole existence is independent on any foreign cause (for instance, God), so that the determining principles of my causality, and even of my whole existence, were not outside myself, yet this would not in the least transform that physical necessity into freedom. For at every moment of time I am still under the necessity of being determined to action by that which is not in my power, and the series of events infinite a parte priori which I only continue according to a pre-determined order, and could never begin of myself, would be a continuous physical chain, and therefore my causality would never be freedom.

If then we would attribute freedom to a being whose existence is determined in time, we cannot except him from the law of necessity as to all events in his existence, and consequently as to his actions also; for that would be to hand him over to blind chance. Now as this law inevitably applies to all the causality of things, so far as their existence is determinable in time, it Edition: current; Page: [189] follows that if this were the mode in which we had also to conceive the existence of these things in themselves, freedom must be rejected as a vain and impossible conception. Consequently, if we would still save it, no other way remains but to consider that the existence of a thing, so far as it is determinable in time, and therefore its causality, according to the law of physical necessity, belong to appearance, and to attribute freedom to the same being as a thing in itself. This is certainly inevitable, if we would retain both these contradictory concepts together; but in application when we try to explain their combination in one and the same action, great difficulties present themselves which seem to render such a combination impracticable.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [226] When I say of a man who commits a theft that, by the physical law of causality, this deed is a necessary result of the determining causes in preceding time, then it was impossible that it could not have happened; how then can the judgment, according to the moral law, make any change, and suppose that it could have been omitted, because the law says that it ought to have been omitted: that is, how can a man be called quite free at the same moment, and with respect to the same action in which he is subject to an inevitable physical necessity? Some try to evade this by saying that the causes that determine his causality are of such a kind as to agree with a comparative notion of freedom. According to this, that is sometimes called a free effect, the determining physical cause of which lies within in the acting thing itself, e.g. that which a projectile performs when it is in free motion, in which case we use the word freedom, because while it is in flight it is not urged by anything external; or as we call the motion of a clock a free motion, because it moves its hands itself, which therefore do not require to be pushed by external force; so although the actions of man are necessarily determined by causes which precede in time, we yet call them free, because these causes are ideas produced by our own faculties, whereby desires are evoked on occasion of circumstances, and hence actions are wrought according to our own pleasure. This is a wretched subterfuge with which some persons still let themselves be put off, and so think they have solved, Edition: current; Page: [190] with a petty word jugglery, that difficult problem, at the solution of which centuries have laboured in vain, and which can therefore scarcely be found so completely on the surface. In fact, in the question about the freedom which must be the foundation of all moral laws and the consequent responsibility Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [227], it does not matter whether the principles which necessarily determine causality by a physical law reside within the subject or without him, or in the former case whether these principles are instinctive or are conceived by reason, if, as is admitted by these men themselves, these determining ideas have the ground of their existence in time and in the antecedent state, and this again in an antecedent, &c. Then it matters not that these are internal; it matters not that they have a psychological and not a mechanical causality, that is, produce actions by means of ideas, and not by bodily movements; they are still determining principles of the causality of a being whose existence is determinable in time, and therefore under the necessitation of conditions of past time, which therefore, when the subject has to act, are no longer in his power. This may imply psychological freedom (if we choose to apply this term to a merely internal chain of ideas in the mind), but it involves physical necessity, and therefore leaves no room for transcendental freedom, which must be conceived as independence on everything empirical, and, consequently, on nature generally, whether it is an object of the internal sense considered in time only, or of the external in time and space. Without this freedom (in the latter and true sense), which alone is practical à priori, no moral law and no moral imputation are possible. Just for this reason the necessity of events in time, according to the physical law of causality, may be called the mechanism of nature, although we do not mean by this that things which are subject to it must be really material machines. We look here only to the necessity of the connexion of events in a timeseries as it is developed according to the physical law, whether the subject in which Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [228] this development takes place is called automaton materiale when the mechanical being is moved by matter, or with Leibnitz spirituale when it is impelled by Edition: current; Page: [191] ideas; and if the freedom of our will were no other than the latter (say the psychological and comparative, not also transcendental, that is, absolute), then it would at bottom be nothing better than the freedom of a turnspit, which, when once it is wound up, accomplishes its motions of itself.

Now, in order to remove in the supposed case the apparent contradiction between freedom and the mechanism of nature in one and the same action, we must remember what was said in the Critique of Pure Reason, or what follows therefrom, viz. that the necessity of nature, which cannot co-exist with the freedom of the subject, appertains only to the attributes of the thing that is subject to time-conditions, consequently only to those 1 of the acting subject as a phenomenon; that therefore in this respect the determining principles of every action of the same reside in what belongs to past time, and is no longer in his power (in which must be included his own past actions and the character that these may determine for him in his own eyes as a phenomenon). But the very same subject being on the other side conscious of himself as a thing in himself, considers his existence also in so far as it is not subject to time-conditions, and regards himself as only determinable by laws which he gives himself through reason; and in this his existence nothing is antecedent to the determination of his will, but every action, and in general every modification of his existence, varying according to his internal sense, even the whole series of his existence as a sensible being, is in the consciousness of his supersensible existence nothing but the result, and never to be regarded as the determining principle, of his causality as a noumenon. In this view now the rational being can justly say of every unlawful action that he performs Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [229], that he could very well have left it undone; although as appearance it is sufficiently determined in the past, and in this respect is absolutely necessary; for it, with all the past which determines it, belongs to the one single phenomenon of his character which he makes for himself, in consequence of which he Edition: current; Page: [192] imputes the causality of those appearances to himself as a cause independent on sensibility.

With this agree perfectly the judicial sentences of that wonderful faculty in us which we call conscience. 1 A man may use as much art as he likes in order to paint to himself an unlawful act that he remembers, as an unintentional error, a mere oversight, such as one can never altogether avoid, and therefore as something in which he was carried away by the stream of physical necessity, and thus to make himself out innocent, yet he finds that the advocate who speaks in his favour can by no means silence the accuser within, if only he is conscious that at the time when he did this wrong he was in his senses, that is, in possession of his freedom; and, nevertheless, he accounts for his error from some bad habits, which by gradual neglect of attention he has allowed to grow upon him to such a degree that he can regard his error as its natural consequence, although this cannot protect him from the blame and reproach which he casts upon himself. This is also the ground of repentance for a long past action at every recollection of it; a painful feeling produced by the moral sentiment, and which is practically void in so far as it cannot serve to undo what has been done. (Hence Priestley, as a true and consistent fatalist, declares it absurd, and he deserves to be commended for this candour more than those who, while they maintain the mechanism of the will in fact, and its freedom in words only Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [230], yet wish it to be thought that they include it in their system of compromise, although they do not explain the possibility of such moral imputation.) But the pain is quite legitimate, because when the law of our intelligible [supersensible] existence (the moral law) is in question, reason recognizes no distinction of time, and only asks whether the event belongs to me, as my act, and then always morally connects the same feeling with it, whether it has happened just now or long ago. For in reference to the supersensible consciousness of its existence (i. e. freedom) the life of sense is Edition: current; Page: [193] but a single phenomenon, which, inasmuch as it contains merely manifestations of the mental disposition with regard to the moral law (i. e. of the character), must be judged not according to the physical necessity that belongs to it as phenomenon, but according to the absolute spontaneity of freedom. It may therefore be admitted that if it were possible to have so profound an insight into a man’s mental character as shown by internal as well as external actions, as to know all its motives, even the smallest, and likewise all the external occasions that can influence them, we could calculate a man’s conduct for the future with as great certainty as a lunar or solar eclipse; and nevertheless we may maintain that the man is free. In fact, if we were capable of a further glance, namely, an intellectual intuition of the same subject (which indeed is not granted to us, and instead of it we have only the rational concept), then we should perceive that this whole chain of appearances in regard to all that concerns the moral laws depends on the spontaneity of the subject as a thing in itself, of the determination of which no physical explanation can be given. In default of this intuition the moral law assures us of this distinction between the relation of our actions Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [231] as appearances to our sensible nature, and the relation of this sensible nature to the supersensible substratum in us. In this view, which is natural to our reason, though inexplicable, we can also justify some judgments which we passed with all conscientiousness, and which yet at first sight seem quite opposed to all equity. There are cases in which men, even with the same education which has been profitable to others, yet show such early depravity, and so continue to progress in it to years of manhood, that they are thought to be born villains, and their character altogether incapable of improvement; and nevertheless they are judged for what they do or leave undone, they are reproached for their faults as guilty; nay, they themselves (the children) regard these reproaches as well founded, exactly as if in spite of the hopeless natural quality of mind ascribed to them, they remained just as responsible as any other man. This could not happen if we did not suppose that whatever springs from a Edition: current; Page: [194] man’s choice (as every action intentionally performed undoubtedly does) has as its foundation a free causality, which from early youth expresses its character in its manifestations (i. e. actions). These, on account of the uniformity of conduct, exhibit a natural connexion, which however does not make the vicious quality of the will necessary, but, on the contrary, is the consequence of the evil principles voluntarily adopted and unchangeable, which only make it so much the more culpable and deserving of punishment. There still remains a difficulty in the combination of freedom with the mechanism of nature in a being belonging to the world of sense: a difficulty which, even after all the foregoing is admitted, threatens freedom with complete destruction Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [232]. But with this danger there is also a circumstance that offers hope of an issue still favourable to freedom, namely, that the same difficulty presses much more strongly (in fact as we shall presently see, presses only) on the system that holds the existence determinable in time and space to be the existence of things in themselves; it does not therefore oblige us to give up 1 our capital supposition of the ideality of time as a mere form of sensible intuition, and consequently as a mere manner of representation which is proper to the subject as belonging to the world of sense; and therefore it only requires that this view be reconciled with this idea [of freedom].

The difficulty is as follows:—Even if it is admitted that the supersensible subject can be free with respect to a given action, although as a subject also belonging to the world of sense, he is under mechanical conditions with respect to the same action; still, as soon as we allow that God as universal first cause is also the cause of the existence of substance (a proposition which can never be given up without at the same time giving up the notion of God as the Being of all beings, and therewith giving up his all sufficiency, on which everything in theology depends), it seems as if we must admit that a man’s actions have their determining principle in something which is wholly out of his Edition: current; Page: [195] power, namely, in the causality of a Supreme Being distinct from himself, and on whom his own existence and the whole determination of his causality are absolutely dependent. In point of fact, if a man’s actions as belonging to his modifications in time were not merely modifications of him as appearance, but as a thing in itself, freedom could not be saved. Man would be a marionette or an automaton, like Vaucanson’s, 1 prepared and wound up by the Supreme Artist. Self-consciousness would indeed make him a thinking automaton; but the consciousness of his own spontaneity would be mere delusion if this were mistaken for freedom Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [233], and it would deserve this name only in a comparative sense, since, although the proximate determining causes of its motion, and a long series of their determining causes are internal, yet the last and highest is found in a foreign hand. Therefore I do not see how those who still insist on regarding time and space as attributes belonging to the existence of things in themselves, can avoid admitting the fatality of actions; or if (like the otherwise acute Mendelssohn) 2 they allow them to be conditions necessarily belonging to the existence of finite and derived beings, but not to that of the infinite Supreme Being, I do not see on what ground they can justify such a distinction, or, indeed, how they can avoid the contradiction that meets them, when they hold that existence in time is an attribute necessarily belonging to finite things in themselves, whereas God is the cause of this existence, but cannot be the cause of time (or space) itself (since this must [on this hypothesis] be presupposed as a necessary Edition: current; Page: [196] à priori condition of the existence of things); and consequently as regards the existence of these things his causality must be subject to conditions, and even to the condition of time; and this would inevitably bring in everything contradictory to the notions of his infinity and independence. On the other hand, it is quite easy for us to draw the distinction between the attribute of the divine existence of being independent on all time-conditions, and that of a being of the world of sense, the distinction being that between the existence of a being in itself and that of a thing in appearance. Hence, if this ideality of time and space is not adopted, nothing remains but Spinozism, in which space and time are essential attributes of the Supreme Being Himself, and the things dependent on Him (ourselves, therefore, included) are not substances, but merely accidents inhering in Him; since, if these things as his effects Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [234] exist in time only, this being the condition of their existence in themselves, then the actions of these beings must be simply his actions which he performs in some place and time. Thus, Spinozism, in spite of the absurdity of its fundamental idea, argues more consistently than the creation theory can, when beings assumed to be substances, and beings in themselves existing in time, are regarded as effects of a supreme cause, and yet as not [belonging] to Him and his action, but as separate substances.

The above-mentioned difficulty is resolved briefly and clearly as follows:—If existence in time is a mere sensible mode of representation belonging to thinking beings in the world, and consequently does not apply to them as things in themselves, then the creation of these beings is a creation of things in themselves, since the notion of creation does not belong to the sensible form of representation of existence or to causality, but can only be referred to noumena. Consequently, when I say of beings in the world of sense that they are created, I so far regard them as noumena. As it would be a contradiction, therefore, to say that God is a creator of appearances, so also it is a contradiction to say that as creator He is the cause of actions in the world of sense, and therefore as appearances, although He Edition: current; Page: [197] is the cause of the existence of the acting beings (which are noumena). If now it is possible to affirm freedom in spite of the natural mechanism of actions as appearances (by regarding existence in time as something that belongs only to appearances, not to things in themselves), then the circumstance that the acting beings are creatures cannot make the slightest difference, since creation concerns their supersensible and not their sensible existence, and therefore cannot be regarded as the determining principle of the appearances. It would be quite different if the beings in the world as things in themselves Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [235] existed in time, since in that case the creator of substance would be at the same time the author of the whole mechanism of this substance.

Of so great importance is the separation of time (as well as space) from the existence of things in themselves which was effected in the Critique of the Pure Speculative Reason.

It may be said that the solution here proposed involves great difficulty in itself, and is scarcely susceptible of a lucid exposition. But is any other solution that has been attempted, or that may be attempted, easier and more intelligible? Rather might we say that the dogmatic teachers of metaphysics have shown more shrewdness than candour in keeping this difficult point out of sight as much as possible, in the hope that if they said nothing about it, probably no one would think of it. If science is to be advanced, all difficulties must be laid open, and we must even search for those that are hidden, for every difficulty calls forth a remedy, which cannot be discovered without science gaining either in extent or in exactness; and thus even obstacles become means of increasing the thoroughness of science. On the other hand, if the difficulties are intentionally concealed, or merely removed by palliatives, then sooner or later they burst out into incurable mischiefs, which bring science to ruin in an absolute scepticism.

Since it is, properly speaking, the notion of freedom alone amongst all the ideas of pure speculative reason that so greatly enlarges our knowledge in the sphere of the supersensible Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [236], though only of our practical knowledge, I ask myself why it Edition: current; Page: [198] exclusively possesses so great fertility, whereas the others only designate the vacant space for possible beings of the pure understanding, but are unable by any means to define the concept of them. I presently find that as I cannot think anything without a category, I must first look for a category for the Rational Idea of freedom with which I am now concerned; and this is the category of causality; and although freedom, a concept of the reason, being a transcendent concept, cannot have any intuition corresponding to it, yet the concept of the understanding—for the synthesis of which the former 1 demands the unconditioned—(namely, the concept of causality) must have a sensible intuition given, by which first its objective reality is assured. Now, the categories are all divided into two classes—the mathematical, which concern the unity of synthesis in the conception of objects, and the dynamical, which refer to the unity of synthesis in the conception of the existence of objects. The former (those of magnitude and quality) always contain a synthesis of the homogeneous, and it is not possible to find in this the unconditioned antecedent to what is given in sensible intuition as conditioned in space and time, as this would itself have to belong to space and time, and therefore be again still conditioned. 2 Whence it resulted in the Dialectic of Pure Theoretic Reason that the opposite methods of attaining the unconditioned and the totality of the conditions were both wrong. The categories of the second class (those of causality and of the necessity of a thing) did not require this homogeneity (of the conditioned and the condition in synthesis), since here what we have to explain is not how the intuition is compounded from a Edition: current; Page: [199] manifold in it, but only how the existence of the conditioned object corresponding to it is added to the existence of the condition Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [237] (added, namely, in the understanding as connected therewith); and in that case it was allowable to suppose in the supersensible world the unconditioned antecedent to the altogether conditioned in the world of sense (both as regards the causal connexion and the contingent existence of things themselves), although this unconditioned remained indeterminate, and to make the synthesis transcendent. Hence, it was found in the dialectic of the pure speculative reason that the two apparently opposite methods of obtaining for the conditioned the unconditioned were not really contradictory, e. g. in the synthesis of causality to conceive for the conditioned in the series of causes and effects of the sensible world, a causality which has no sensible condition, and that the same action which, as belonging to the world of sense, is always sensibly conditioned, that is mechanically necessary, yet at the same time may be derived from a causality not sensibly conditioned—being the causality of the acting being as belonging to the supersensible world—and may consequently be conceived as free. Now, the only point in question was to change this may be into is; that is, that we should be able to show in an actual case, as it were by a fact, that certain actions imply such a causality (namely, the intellectual, sensibly unconditioned), whether they are actual or only commanded, that is, objectively necessary in a practical sense. We could not hope to find this connexion in actions actually given in experience as events of the sensible world, since causality with freedom must always be sought outside the world of sense in the world of intelligence. But things of sense are the only things offered to our perception and observation. Hence, nothing remained but to find an inconstestable objective principle of causality which excludes all sensible conditions: that is, a principle in which reason does not appeal further to something else as a determining ground of its causality Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [238], but contains this determining ground itself by means of that principle, and in which therefore it is itself as pure reason practical. Now, this principle had not to be Edition: current; Page: [200] searched for or discovered; it had long been in the reason of all men, and incorporated in their nature, and is the principle of morality. Therefore, that unconditioned causality, with the faculty of it, namely, freedom, is no longer merely indefinitely and problematically thought (this speculative reason could prove to be feasible), but is even as regards the law of its causality definitely and assertorially known; and with it the fact that a being (I myself) belonging to the world of sense, belongs also to the supersensible world, this is also positively known, and thus the reality of the supersensible world is established, and in practical respects definitely given, and this definiteness, which for theoretical purposes would be transcendent, is for practical purposes immanent. We could not, however, make a similar step as regards the second dynamical idea, namely, that of a necessary being. We could not rise to it from the sensible world without the aid of the first dynamical idea. For if we attempted to do so, we should have ventured to leave at a bound all that is given to us, and to leap to that of which nothing is given us that can help us to effect the connexion of such a supersensible being with the world of sense (since the necessary being would have to be known as given outside ourselves). On the other hand, it is now obvious that this connexion is quite possible in relation to our own subject, inasmuch as I know myself to be on the one side as an intelligible [supersensible] being determined by the moral law (by means of freedom), and on the other side as acting in the world of sense. It is the concept of freedom alone that enables us to find the unconditioned and intelligible [supersensible] for the conditioned and sensible without going out of ourselves Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [239]. For it is our own reason that by means of the supreme and unconditional practical law knows that itself, and the being that is conscious of this law (our own person) belongs to the pure world of understanding, and moreover defines the manner in which, as such, it can be active. In this way it can be understood why in the whole faculty of reason it is the practical reason only that can help us to pass beyond the world of sense, and give us knowledge of a supersensible order and connexion, which, however, Edition: current; Page: [201] for this very reason cannot be extended further than is necessary for pure practical purposes.

Let me be permitted on this occasion to make one more remark, namely, that every step that we make with pure reason, even in the practical sphere where no attention is paid to subtile speculation, nevertheless accords with all the material points of the Critique of the Theoretical Reason as closely and directly as if each step had been thought out with deliberate purpose to establish this confirmation. Such a thorough agreement, wholly unsought for, and quite obvious (as any one can convince himself, if he will only carry moral inquiries up to their principles) between the most important propositions of practical reason, and the often seemingly too subtile and needless remarks of the Critique of the Speculative Reason, occasions surprise and astonishment, and confirms the maxim already recognized and praised by others, namely, that in every scientific inquiry we should pursue our way steadily with all possible exactness and frankness, without caring for any objections that may be raised from outside its sphere, but, as far as we can, to carry out our inquiry truthfully and completely by itself. Frequent observation has convinced me that when such researches are concluded, that which in one part of them appeared to me very questionable Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [240], considered in relation to other extraneous doctrines, when I left this doubtfulness out of sight for a time, and only attended to the business in hand until it was completed, at last was unexpectedly found to agree perfectly with what had been discovered separately without the least regard to those doctrines, and without any partiality or prejudice for them. Authors would save themselves many errors and much labour lost (because spent on a delusion), if they could only resolve to go to work with more frankness.

Edition: current; Page: [202]


Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [241]

CHAPTER I.: of a dialectic of pure practical reason generally.

PURE reason always has its dialectic, whether it is considered in its speculative or its practical employment; for it requires the absolute totality of the conditions of what is given conditioned, and this can only be found in things in themselves. But as all conceptions of things in themselves must be referred to intuitions, and with us men these can never be other than sensible, and hence can never enable us to know objects as things in themselves but only as appearances, and since the unconditioned can never be found in this chain of appearances which consists only of conditioned and conditions; thus from applying this rational idea of the totality of the conditions (in other words of the unconditioned) to appearances there arises an inevitable illusion, as if these latter were things in themselves Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [242] (for in the absence of a warning critique they are always regarded as such). This illusion would never be noticed as delusive if it did not betray itself by a conflict of reason with itself, when it applies to appearances its fundamental principle of presupposing the unconditioned to everything conditioned. By this, however, reason is compelled to trace this illusion to its source, and search how it can be removed, and this can only be done by a complete critical examination of the whole pure faculty of reason; so that the Edition: current; Page: [203] antinomy of the pure reason which is manifest in its dialectic is in fact the most beneficial error into which human reason could never have fallen, since it at last drives us to search for the key to escape from this labyrinth; and when this key is found, it further discovers that which we did not seek but yet had need of, namely, a view into a higher and an immutable order of things, in which we even now are, and in which we are thereby enabled by definite precepts to continue to live according to the highest dictates of reason.

It may be seen in detail in the Critique of Pure Reason how in its speculative employment this natural dialectic is to be solved, and how the error which arises from a very natural illusion may be guarded against. But reason in its practical use is not a whit better off. As pure practical reason, it likewise seeks to find the unconditioned for the practically conditioned (which rests on inclinations and natural wants), and this not as the determining principle of the will, but even when this is given (in the moral law) it seeks the unconditioned totality of the object of pure practical reason under the name of the Summum Bonum.

To define this idea practically, i. e. sufficiently for the maxims of our rational conduct Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [243], is the business of practical wisdom [Weisheitslehre], and this again as a science is philosophy, in the sense in which the word was understood by the ancients, with whom it meant instruction in the conception in which the summum bonum was to be placed, and the conduct by which it was to be obtained. It would be well to leave this word in its ancient signification as a doctrine of the summum bonum, so far as reason endeavours to make this into a science. For on the one hand the restriction annexed would suit the Greek expression (which signifies the love of wisdom), and yet at the same time would be sufficient to embrace under the name of philosophy the love of science: that is to say, of all speculative rational knowledge, so far as it is serviceable to reason, both for that conception and also for the practical principle determining our conduct, without letting out of sight the main end, on account of which alone it can be called a doctrine of practical Edition: current; Page: [204] wisdom. On the other hand, it would be no harm to deter the self-conceit of one who ventures to claim the title of philosopher by holding before him in the very definition a standard of self-estimation which would very much lower his pretensions. For a teacher of wisdom would mean something more than a scholar who has not come so far as to guide himself, much less to guide others, with certain expectation of attaining so high an end: it would mean a master in the knowledge of wisdom, which implies more than a modest man would claim for himself. Thus philosophy as well as wisdom would always remain an ideal, which objectively is presented complete in reason alone, while subjectively for the person it is only the goal of his unceasing endeavours, and no one would be justified in professing to be in possession of it so as to assume the name of philosopher, who could not also show its infallible effects in his own person as an example Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [244] (in his self-mastery and the unquestioned interest that he takes pre-eminently in the general good), and this the ancients also required as a condition of deserving that honourable title.

We have another preliminary remark to make respecting the dialectic of the pure practical reason, on the point of the definition of the summum bonum (a successful solution of which dialectic would lead us to expect, as in case of that of the theoretical reason, the most beneficial effects, inasmuch as the self-contradictions of pure practical reason honestly stated, and not concealed, force us to undertake a complete critique of this faculty).

The moral law is the sole determining principle of a pure will. But since this is merely formal (viz. as prescribing only the form of the maxim as universally legislative), it abstracts as a determining principle from all matter—that is to say, from every object of volition. Hence, though the summum bonum may be the whole object of a pure practical reason, i. e. a pure will, yet it is not on that account to be regarded as its determining principle; and the moral law alone must be regarded as the principle on which that and its realization or promotion are aimed at. This remark is important in so delicate a case as the Edition: current; Page: [205] determination of moral principles, where the slightest misinterpretation perverts men’s minds. For it will have been seen from the Analytic, that if we assume any object under the name of a good as a determining principle of the will prior to the moral law, and then deduce from it the supreme practical principle, this would always introduce heteronomy, and crush out the moral principle.

It is, however, evident that if the notion of the summum bonum includes that of the moral law Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [245] as its supreme condition, then the summum bonum would not merely be an object, but the notion of it and the conception of its existence as possible by our own practical reason would likewise be the determining principle of the will, since in that case the will is in fact determined by the moral law which is already included in this conception, and by no other object, as the principle of autonomy requires. This order of the conceptions of determination of the will must not be lost sight of, as otherwise we should misunderstand ourselves, and think we had fallen into a contradiction, while everything remains in perfect harmony.

Edition: current; Page: [206]

CHAPTER II.: of the dialectic of pure reason in defining the conception of the “summum bonum.”

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [246]

The conception of the summum itself contains an ambiguity which might occasion needless disputes if we did not attend to it. The summum may mean either the supreme (supremum) or the perfect (consummatum). The former is that condition which is itself unconditioned, i. e. is not subordinate to any other (originarium); the second is that whole which is not a part of a greater whole of the same kind (perfectissimum). It has been shown in the Analytic that virtue (as worthiness to be happy) is the supreme condition of all that can appear to us desirable, and consequently of all our pursuit of happiness, and is therefore the supreme good. But it does not follow that it is the whole and perfect good as the object of the desires of rational finite beings; for this requires happiness also, and that not merely in the partial eyes of the person who makes himself an end, but even in the judgment of an impartial reason, which regards persons in general as ends in themselves. For to need happiness, to deserve it Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [247], and yet at the same time not to participate in it, cannot be consistent with the perfect volition of a rational being possessed at the same time of all power, if, for the sake of experiment, we conceive such a being. Now inasmuch as virtue and happiness together constitute the possession of the summum bonum in a person, and the distribution of happiness in exact proportion to morality (which is the worth of the person, and his worthiness to be happy) constitutes the summum bonum of a possible world; hence this summum bonum expresses the whole, the perfect good, in which, however, virtue as the condition is always the supreme good, since it has no condition above it; whereas happiness, while it is pleasant to the possessor of it, is not of itself absolutely and in all respects Edition: current; Page: [207] good, but always presupposes morally right behaviour as its condition.

When two elements are necessarily united in one concept they must be connected as reason and consequence, and this either so that their unity is considered as analytical (logical connexion), or as synthetical (real connexion)—the former following the law of identity, the latter that of causality. The connexion of virtue and happiness may therefore be understood in two ways: either the endeavour to be virtuous and the rational pursuit of happiness are not two distinct actions, but absolutely identical, in which case no maxim need be made the principle of the former, other than what serves for the latter; or the connexion consists in this, that virtue produces happiness as something distinct from the consciousness of virtue, as a cause produces an effect.

The ancient Greek schools were, properly speaking, only two, and in determining the conception of the summum bonum these followed in fact one and the same method, inasmuch as they did not allow virtue and happiness to be regarded as two distinct elements of the summum bonum, and consequently sought Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [248] the unity of the principle by the rule of identity; but they differed as to which of the two was to be taken as the fundamental notion. The Epicurean said: To be conscious that one’s maxims lead to happiness is virtue; the Stoic said: To be conscious of one’s virtue is happiness. With the former, Prudence was equivalent to morality; with the latter, who chose a higher designation for virtue, morality alone was true wisdom.

While we must admire the men who in such early times tried all imaginable ways of extending the domain of philosophy, we must at the same time lament that their acuteness was unfortunately misapplied in trying to trace out identity between two extremely heterogeneous notions, those of happiness and virtue. But it agreed with the dialectical spirit of their times (and subtle minds are even now sometimes misled in the same way) to get rid of irreconcilable differences in principle by seeking to change them into a mere contest about Edition: current; Page: [208] words, and thus apparently working out the identity of the notion under different names, and this usually occurs in cases where the combination of heterogeneous principles lies so deep or so high, or would require so complete a transformation of the doctrines assumed in the rest of the philosophical system, that men are afraid to penetrate deeply into the real difference, and prefer treating it as a difference in matters of form.

While both schools sought to trace out the identity of the practical principles of virtue and happiness, they were not agreed as to the way in which they tried to force this identity, but were separated infinitely from one another, the one placing its principle on the side of sense, the other on that of reason; the one in the consciousness of sensible wants, the other in the independence of practical reason Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [249] on all sensible grounds of determination. According to the Epicurean the notion of virtue was already involved in the maxim: To promote one’s own happiness; according to the Stoics, on the other hand, the feeling of happiness was already contained in the consciousness of virtue. Now whatever is contained in another notion is identical with part of the containing notion, but not with the whole, and moreover two wholes may be specifically distinct, although they consist of the same parts, namely, if the parts are united into a whole in totally different ways. The Stoic maintained that virtue was the whole summum bonum, and happiness only the consciousness of possessing it, as making part of the state of the subject. The Epicurean maintained that happiness was the whole summum bonum, and virtue only the form of the maxim for its pursuit, viz. the rational use of the means for attaining it.

Now it is clear from the Analytic that the maxims of virtue and those of private happiness are quite heterogeneous as to their supreme practical principle; and although they belong to one summum bonum which together they make possible, yet they are so far from coinciding that they restrict and check one another very much in the same subject. Thus the question, How is the summum bonum practically possible? still remains an unsolved problem, notwithstanding all the attempts at coalition Edition: current; Page: [209] that have hitherto been made. The Analytic has, however, shown what it is that makes the problem difficult to solve; namely, that happiness and morality are two specifically distinct elements of the summum bonum, and therefore their combination cannot be analytically cognised (as if the man that seeks his own happiness should find by mere analysis of his conception that in so acting he is virtuous, or as if the man that follows virtue should in the consciousness of such conduct find that he is already happy ipso facto) Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [250], but must be a synthesis of concepts. Now since this combination is recognised as à priori, and therefore as practically necessary, and consequently not as derived from experience, so that the possibility of the summum bonum does not rest on any empirical principle, it follows that the deduction [legitimation] of this concept must be transcendental. It is à priori (morally) necessary to produce the summum bonum by freedom of will: therefore the condition of its possibility must rest solely on à priori principles of cognition.

I.: —The Antinomy of Practical Reason.

In the summum bonum which is practical for us, i. e. to be realised by our will, virtue and happiness are thought as necessarily combined, so that the one cannot be assumed by pure practical reason without the other also being attached to it. Now this combination (like every other) is either analytical or synthetical. It has been shown that it cannot be analytical; it must then be synthetical, and, more particularly, must be conceived as the connexion of cause and effect, since it concerns a practical good, i. e. one that is possible by means of action; consequently either the desire of happiness must be the motive to maxims of virtue, or the maxim of virtue must be the efficient cause of happiness. The first is absolutely impossible, because (as was proved in the Analytic) maxims which place the determining principle Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [251] of the will in the desire of personal happiness are not moral at all, and no virtue can be founded on them. But the second is also impossible, because the practical connexion of causes and effects in the world, as the result of the determination of the will, does not Edition: current; Page: [210] depend upon the moral dispositions of the will, but on the knowledge of the laws of nature and the physical power to use them for one’s purposes; consequently we cannot expect in the world by the most punctilious observance of the moral laws any necessary connexion of happiness with virtue adequate to the summum bonum. Now as the promotion of this summum bonum, the conception of which contains this connexion, is à priori a necessary object of our will, and inseparably attached to the moral law, the impossibility of the former must prove the falsity of the latter. If then the supreme good is not possible by practical rules, then the moral law also which commands us to promote it is directed to vain imaginary ends, and must consequently be false.

II.: —Critical Solution of the Antinomy of Practical Reason.

The antinomy of pure speculative reason exhibits a similar conflict between freedom and physical necessity in the causality of events in the world. It was solved by showing that there is no real contradiction when the events and even the world in which they occur are regarded (as they ought to be) merely as appearances; since one and the same acting being, as an appearance (even to his own inner sense) Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [252] has a causality in the world of sense that always conforms to the mechanism of nature, but with respect to the same events, so far as the acting person regards himself at the same time as a noumenon (as pure intelligence in an existence not dependent on the condition of time), he can contain a principle by which that causality acting according to laws of nature is determined, but which is itself free from all laws of nature.

It is just the same with the foregoing antinomy of pure practical reason. The first of the two propositions—That the endeavour after happiness produces a virtuous mind, is absolutely false; but the second, That a virtuous mind necessarily produces happiness, is not absolutely false, but only in so far as virtue is considered as a form of causality in the sensible world, and consequently only if I suppose existence in it to be the only Edition: current; Page: [211] sort of existence of a rational being; it is then only conditionally false. But as I am not only justified in thinking that I exist also as a noumenon in a world of the understanding, but even have in the moral law a purely intellectual determining principle of my causality (in the sensible world), it is not impossible that morality of mind should have a connexion as cause with happiness (as an effect in the sensible world) if not immediate yet mediate (viz.: through an intelligent author of nature), and moreover necessary; while in a system of nature which is merely an object of the senses this combination could never occur except contingently, and therefore could not suffice for the summum bonum.

Thus, notwithstanding this seeming conflict of practical reason with itself, the summum bonum, which is the necessary supreme end of a will morally determined, is a true object thereof; for it is practically possible, and the maxims of the will which as regards their matter refer to it, have objective reality, which at first was threatened by the antinomy that appeared in the connexion Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [253] of morality with happiness by a general law; but this was merely from a misconception, because the relation between appearances was taken for a relation of the things in themselves to these appearances.

When we find ourselves obliged to go so far, namely, to the connexion with an intelligible world, to find the possibility of the summum bonum, which reason points out to all rational beings as the goal of all their moral wishes, it must seem strange that, nevertheless, the philosophers both of ancient and modern times have been able to find happiness in accurate proportion to virtue even in this life (in the sensible world), or have persuaded themselves that they were conscious thereof. For Epicurus as well as the Stoics extolled above everything the happiness that springs from the consciousness of living virtuously; and the former was not so base in his practical precepts as one might infer from the principles of his theory, which he used for explanation and not for action, or as they were interpreted by many who were misled by his using the term pleasure for contentment; on the contrary, he reckoned the most disinterested Edition: current; Page: [212] practice of good amongst the ways of enjoying the most intimate delight, and his scheme of pleasure (by which he meant constant cheerfulness of mind) included the moderation and control of the inclinations, such as the strictest moral philosopher might require. He differed from the Stoics chiefly in making this pleasure the motive, which they very rightly refused to do. For, on the one hand, the virtuous Epicurus, like many well-intentioned men of this day, who do not reflect deeply enough on their principles, fell into the error of pre-supposing the virtuous disposition in the persons for whom he wished to provide the springs to virtue (and indeed the upright man cannot be happy Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [254] if he is not first conscious of his uprightness; since with such a character the reproach that his habit of thought would oblige him to make against himself in case of transgression, and his moral self-condemnation would rob him of all enjoyment of the pleasantness which his condition might otherwise contain). But the question is, How is such a disposition possible in the first instance, and such a habit of thought in estimating the worth of one’s existence, since prior to it there can be in the subject no feeling at all for moral worth? If a man is virtuous without being conscious of his integrity in every action, he will certainly not enjoy life, however favourable fortune may be to him in its physical circumstances; but can we make him virtuous in the first instance, in other words, before he esteems the moral worth of his existence so highly, by praising to him the peace of mind that would result from the consciousness of an integrity for which he has no sense?

On the other hand, however, there is here an occasion of a vitium subreptionis, and as it were of an optical illusion, in the self-consciousness of what one does as distinguished from what one feels, an illusion which even the most experienced cannot altogether avoid. The moral disposition of mind is necessarily combined with a consciousness that the will is determined directly by the law. Now the consciousness of a determination of the faculty of desire is always the source of a satisfaction in the resulting action; but this pleasure, this satisfaction in oneself, is not the determining principle of the action; on the contrary, Edition: current; Page: [213] the determination of the will directly by reason is the source of the feeling of pleasure, and this remains a pure practical not sensible determination of the faculty of desire. Now as this determination has exactly the same effect within Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [255] in impelling to activity, that a feeling of the pleasure to be expected from the desired action would have had, we easily look on what we ourselves do as something which we merely passively feel, and take the moral spring for a sensible impulse, just as it happens in the so-called illusion of the senses (in this case the inner sense). It is a sublime thing in human nature to be determined to actions immediately by a purely rational law; sublime even is the illusion that regards the subjective side of this capacity of intellectual determination as something sensible, and the effect of a special sensible feeling (for an intellectual feeling would be a contradiction). It is also of great importance to attend to this property of our personality, and as much as possible to cultivate the effect of reason on this feeling. But we must beware lest by falsely extolling this moral determining principle as a spring, making its source lie in particular feelings of pleasure (which are in fact only results), we degrade and disfigure the true genuine spring, the law itself, by putting as it were a false foil upon it. Respect, not pleasure or enjoyment of happiness, is something for which it is not possible that reason should have any antecedent feeling as its foundation (for this would always be sensible and pathological); [and] 1 consciousness of immediate obligation of the will by the law is by no means analogous to the feeling of pleasure, although in relation to the faculty of desire it produces the same effect, but from different sources: it is only by this mode of conception, however, that we can attain what we are seeking, namely, that actions be done not merely in accordance with duty (as a result of pleasant feelings), but from duty, which must be the true end of all moral cultivation.

Edition: current; Page: [214]

Have we not, however, a word which does not express enjoyment, as happiness does Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [256], but indicates a satisfaction in one’s existence, an analogue of the happiness which must necessarily accompany the consciousness of virtue? Yes! this word is self-contentment, which in its proper signification always designates only a negative satisfaction in one’s existence, in which one is conscious of needing nothing. Freedom and the consciousness of it as a faculty of following the moral law with unyielding resolution is independence on inclinations, at least as motives determining (though not as affecting) our desire, and so far as I am conscious of this freedom in following my moral maxims, it is the only source of an unaltered contentment which is necessarily connected with it and rests on no special feeling. This may be called intellectual contentment. The sensible contentment (improperly so-called) which rests on the satisfaction of the inclinations, however delicate they may be imagined to be, can never be adequate to the conception of it. For the inclinations change, they grow with the indulgence shown them, and always leave behind a still greater void than we had thought to fill. Hence they are always burdensome to a rational being, and although he cannot lay them aside, they wrest from him the wish to be rid of them. Even an inclination to what is right (e. g. to beneficence), though it may much facilitate the efficacy of the moral maxims, cannot produce any. For in these all must be directed to the conception of the law as a determining principle, if the action is to contain morality and not merely legality. Inclination is blind and slavish whether it be of a good sort or not, and when morality is in question, reason must not play the part merely of guardian to inclination, but, disregarding it altogether, must attend simply to its own interest as pure practical reason Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [257]. This very feeling of compassion and tender sympathy, if it precedes the deliberation on the question of duty and becomes a determining principle, is even annoying to right-thinking persons, brings their deliberate maxims into confusion, and makes them wish to be delivered from it and to be subject to law-giving reason alone.

From this we can understand how the consciousness of this Edition: current; Page: [215] faculty of a pure practical reason produces by action (virtue) a consciousness of mastery over one’s inclinations, and therefore of independence on them, and consequently also on the discontent that always accompanies them, and thus a negative satisfaction with one’s state, i. e. contentment, which is primarily contentment with one’s own person. Freedom itself becomes in this way (namely indirectly) capable of an enjoyment which cannot be called happiness, because it does not depend on the positive concurrence of a feeling, nor is it, strictly speaking, bliss, since it does not include complete independence on inclinations and wants, but it resembles bliss in so far as the determination of one’s will at least can hold itself free from their influence; and thus, at least in its origin, this enjoyment is analogous to the self-sufficiency which we can ascribe only to the Supreme Being.

From this solution of the antinomy of pure practical reason it follows that in practical principles we may at least conceive as possible a natural and necessary connexion between the consciousness of morality and the expectation of a proportionate happiness as its result, though it does not follow that we can know or perceive this connexion; that, on the other hand, principles of the pursuit of happiness cannot possibly produce morality; that, therefore, morality is the supreme good (as the first condition of the summum bonum), while happiness constitutes its second element, but only in such a way that it is the morally conditioned, but necessary consequence of the former Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [258]. Only with this subordination is the summum bonum the whole object of pure practical reason, which must necessarily conceive it as possible, since it commands us to contribute to the utmost of our power to its realization. But since the possibility of such connexion of the conditioned with its condition belongs wholly to the supersensual relation of things, and cannot be given according to the laws of the world of sense, although the practical consequences of the idea belong to the world of sense, namely, the actions that aim at realizing the summum bonum; we will therefore endeavour to set forth the grounds of that possibility, first in respect of what is immediately Edition: current; Page: [216] in our power, and then secondly in that which is not in our power, but which reason presents to us as the supplement of our impotence, for the realization of the summum bonum (which by practical principles is necessary).

III.: —Of the Primacy of Pure Practical Reason in its Union with the Speculative Reason.

By primacy between two or more things connected by reason, I understand the prerogative belonging to one, of being the first determining principle in the connexion with all the rest. In a narrower practical sense it means the prerogative of the interest of one in so far as the interest of the other is subordinated to it, while it is not postponed to any other. To every faculty of the mind we can attribute an interest, that is a principle that contains the condition on which alone the former is called into exercise. Reason, as the faculty of principles, determines Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [260] the interest of all the powers of the mind, and is determined by its own. The interest of its speculative employment consists in the cognition of the object pushed to the highest à priori principles: that of its practical employment, in the determination of the will in respect of the final and complete end. As to what is necessary for the possibility of any employment of reason at all, namely, that its principles and affirmations should not contradict one another, this constitutes no part of its interest, but is the condition of having reason at all; it is only its development, not mere consistency with itself, that is reckoned as its interest.

If practical reason could not assume or think as given, anything further than what speculative reason of itself could offer it from its own insight, the latter would have the primacy. But supposing that it had of itself original à priori principles with which certain theoretical positions were inseparably connected, while these were withdrawn from any possible insight of speculative reason (which, however, they must not contradict); then the question is, which interest is the superior (not which must give way, for they are not necessarily conflicting), Edition: current; Page: [217] whether speculative reason, which knows nothing of all that the practical offers for its acceptance, should take up these propositions, and (although they transcend it) try to unite them with its own concepts as a foreign possession handed over to it, or whether it is justified in obstinately following its own separate interest, and according to the canonic of Epicurus rejecting as vain subtlety everything that cannot accredit its objective reality by manifest examples to be shown in experience, even though it should be never so much interwoven with the interest of the practical (pure) use of reason, and in itself not contradictory to the theoretical, merely because it infringes on the interest of the speculative reason to this extent Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [261], that it removes the bounds which this latter had set to itself, and gives it up to every nonsense or delusion of imagination?

In fact, so far as practical reason is taken as dependent on pathological conditions, that is, as merely regulating the inclinations under the sensible principle of happiness, we could not require speculative reason to take its principles from such a source. Mohammed’s paradise, or the absorption into the Deity of the theosophists and mystics, would press their monstrosities on the reason according to the taste of each, and one might as well have no reason as surrender it in such fashion to all sorts of dreams. But if pure reason of itself can be practical and is actually so, as the consciousness of the moral law proves, then it is still only one and the same reason which, whether in a theoretical or a practical point of view, judges according to à priori principles; and then it is clear that although it is in the first point of view incompetent to establish certain propositions positively, which, however, do not contradict it, then as soon as these propositions are inseparably attached to the practical interest of pure reason, then it must accept them, though it be as something offered to it from a foreign source, something that has not grown on its own ground, but yet is sufficiently authenticated; and it must try to compare and connect them with everything that it has in its power as speculative reason. It must remember, however, that these are not additions to its insight, but yet are extensions of its employment in another, Edition: current; Page: [218] namely, a practical aspect; and this is not in the least opposed to its interest, which consists in the restriction of wild speculation.

Thus, when pure speculative and pure practical reason are combined in one cognition, the latter has the primacy, provided namely, that this combination is not contingent and arbitrary, but founded à priori on reason itself and therefore necessary Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [262]. For without this subordination there would arise a conflict of reason with itself; since if they were merely co-ordinate, the former would close its boundaries strictly and admit nothing from the latter into its domain, while the latter would extend its bounds over everything, and when its needs required would seek to embrace the former within them. Nor could we reverse the order, and require pure practical reason to be subordinate to the speculative, since all interest is ultimately practical, and even that of speculative reason is conditional, and it is only in the practical employment of reason that it is complete.

IV.: —The Immortality of the Soul as a Postulate of Pure Practical Reason.

The realization of the summum bonum in the world is the necessary object of a will determinable by the moral law. But in this will the perfect accordance of the mind with the moral law is the supreme condition of the summum bonum. This then must be possible, as well as its object, since it is contained in the command to promote the latter. Now, the perfect accordance of the will with the moral law is holiness, a perfection of which no rational being of the sensible world is capable at any moment of his existence. Since, nevertheless, it is required as practically necessary, it can only be found in a progress in infinitum towards that perfect accordance, and on the principles of pure practical reason it is necessary Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [263] to assume such a practical progress as the real object of our will.

Now, this endless progress is only possible on the supposition of an endless duration of the existence and personality of the same rational being (which is called the immortality of the Edition: current; Page: [219] soul). The summum bonum, then, practically is only possible on the supposition of the immortality of the soul; consequently this immortality, being inseparably connected with the moral law, is a postulate of pure practical reason) by which I mean a theoretical proposition, not demonstrable as such, but which is an inseparable result of an unconditional à priori practical law). 1

This principle of the moral destination of our nature, namely, that it is only in an endless progress that we can attain perfect accordance with the moral law, is of the greatest use, not merely for the present purpose of supplementing the impotence of speculative reason, but also with respect to religion. In default of it, either the moral law is quite degraded from its holiness, being made out to be indulgent, and conformable to our convenience, or else men strain their notions of their vocation and their expectation to an unattainable goal, hoping to acquire complete holiness of will, and so they lose themselves in fanatical theosophic dreams, which wholly contradict self-knowledge. In both cases the unceasing effort to obey punctually and thoroughly a strict and inflexible command of reason, which yet is not ideal but real, is only hindered. For a rational but finite being, the only thing possible is an endless progress from the lower to higher degrees of moral perfection. The Infinite Being, to whom the condition of time is nothing Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [264], sees in this to us endless succession a whole of accordance with the moral law; and the holiness which His command inexorably requires, in order to be true to His justice in the share which He assigns to each in the summum bonum, is to be found in a single intellectual intuition of the whole existence of rational beings. All that can be expected of the creature in respect of the hope of this participation would be the consciousness of his tried character, by which, from the progress he has hitherto made from the worse to the morally better, and the immutability of purpose which has thus become known to him, he may hope for a further unbroken continuance of the Edition: current; Page: [220] same, however long his existence may last, even beyond this life, 1 and thus he may hope, not indeed here, nor at any imaginable point of his future existence, but only in the endlessness of his duration (which God alone can survey) Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [265] to be perfectly adequate to his will (without indulgence or excuse, which do not harmonize with justice).

V.: —The Existence of God as a Postulate of Pure Practical Reason.

In the foregoing analysis the moral law led to a practical problem which is prescribed by pure reason alone, without the aid of any sensible motives, namely, that of the necessary completeness of the first and principal element of the summum bonum, viz. Morality; and as this can be perfectly solved only in eternity, to the postulate of immortality. The same law must also lead us to affirm the possibility of the second element of the summum bonum, viz. Happiness proportioned to that morality, and this on grounds as disinterested as before, and Edition: current; Page: [221] solely from impartial reason; that is, it must lead to the supposition of the existence of a cause adequate to this effect; in other words, it must postulate the existence of God, as the necessary condition of the possibility of the summum bonum (an object of the will which is necessarily connected with the moral legislation of pure reason). We proceed to exhibit this connexion in a convincing manner.

Happiness is the condition of a rational being in the world with whom everything goes according to his wish and will; it rests, therefore, on the harmony of physical nature with his whole end, and likewise with the essential determining principle of his will. Now the moral law as a law of freedom commands by determining principles Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [266], which ought to be quite independent on nature and on its harmony with our faculty of desire (as springs). But the acting rational being in the world is not the cause of the world and of nature itself. There is not the least ground, therefore, in the moral law for a necessary connexion between morality and proportionate happiness in a being that belongs to the world as part of it, and therefore dependent on it, and which for that reason cannot by his will be a cause of this nature, nor by his own power make it thoroughly harmonize, as far as his happiness is concerned, with his practical principles. Nevertheless, in the practical problem of pure reason, i.e. the necessary pursuit of the summum bonum, such a connexion is postulated as necessary: we ought to endeavour to promote the summum bonum, which, therefore, must be possible. Accordingly, the existence of a cause of all nature, distinct from nature itself and containing the principle of this connexion, namely, of the exact harmony of happiness with morality, is also postulated. Now, this supreme cause must contain the principle of the harmony of nature, not merely with a law of the will of rational beings, but with the conception of this law, in so far as they make it the supreme determining principle of the will, and consequently not merely with the form of morals, but with their morality as their motive, that is, with their moral character. Therefore, the summum bonum is possible Edition: current; Page: [222] in the world only on the supposition of a supreme Being 1 having a causality corresponding to moral character. Now a being that is capable of acting on the conception of laws is an intelligence (a rational being), and the causality of such a being according to this conception of laws is his will; therefore the supreme cause of nature, which must be presupposed as a condition of the summum bonum Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [267], is a being which is the cause of nature by intelligence and will, consequently its author, that is God. It follows that the postulate of the possibility of the highest derived good (the best world) is likewise the postulate of the reality of a highest original good, that is to say, of the existence of God. Now it was seen to be a duty for us to promote the summum bonum; consequently it is not merely allowable, but it is a necessity connected with duty as a requisite, that we should presuppose the possibility of this summum bonum; and as this is possible only on condition of the existence of God, it inseparably connects the supposition of this with duty; that is, it is morally necessary to assume the existence of God.

It must be remarked here that this moral necessity is subjective, that is, it is a want, and not objective, that is, itself a duty, for there cannot be a duty to suppose the existence of anything (since this concerns only the theoretical employment of reason). Moreover it is not meant by this that it is necessary to suppose the existence of God as a basis of all obligation in general (for this rests, as has been sufficiently proved, simply on the autonomy of reason itself). What belongs to duty here is only the endeavour to realize and promote the summum bonum in the world, the possibility of which can therefore be postulated; and as our reason finds it not conceivable except on the supposition of a supreme intelligence, the admission of this existence is therefore connected with the consciousness of our Edition: current; Page: [223] duty, although the admission itself belongs to the domain of speculative reason. Considered in respect of this alone, as a principle of explanation, it may be called a hypothesis, but in reference to the intelligibility of an object given us by the moral law (the summum bonum), and consequently of a requirement for practical purposes, it may be called faith, that is to say a pure rational faith, since pure reason Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [268] (both in its theoretical and its practical use) is the sole source from which it springs.

From this deduction it is now intelligible why the Greek schools could never attain the solution of their problem of the practical possibility of the summum bonum, because they made the rule of the use which the will of man makes of his freedom the sole and sufficient ground of this possibility, thinking that they had no need for that purpose of the existence of God. No doubt they were so far right that they established the principle of morals of itself independently on this postulate, from the relation of reason only to the will, and consequently made it the supreme practical condition of the summum bonum; but it was not therefore the whole condition of its possibility. The Epicureans had indeed assumed as the supreme principle of morality a wholly false one, namely that of happiness, and had substituted for a law a maxim of arbitrary choice according to every man’s inclination; they proceeded, however, consistently enough in this, that they degraded their summum bonum likewise just in proportion to the meanness of their fundamental principle, and looked for no greater happiness than can be attained by human prudence (including temperance and moderation of the inclinations), and this as we know would be scanty enough and would be very different according to circumstances; not to mention the exceptions that their maxims must perpetually admit and which make them incapable of being laws. The Stoics, on the contrary, had chosen their supreme practical principle quite rightly, making virtue the condition of the summum bonum; but when they represented the degree of virtue required by its pure law as fully attainable in this life, they not only strained the moral powers of the man whom they called the wise Edition: current; Page: [224] beyond all the limits of his nature, and assumed Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [269] a thing that contradicts all our knowledge of men, but also and principally they would not allow the second element of the summum bonum, namely, happiness, to be properly a special object of human desire, but made their wise man, like a divinity in his consciousness of the excellence of his person, wholly independent on nature (as regards his own contentment); they exposed him indeed to the evils of life, but made him not subject to them (at the same time representing him also as free from moral evil). They thus in fact left out the second element of the summum bonum, namely, personal happiness, placing it solely in action and satisfaction with one’s own personal worth, thus including it in the consciousness of being morally minded, in which they might have been sufficiently refuted by the voice of their own nature.

The doctrine of Christianity, 1 even if we do not yet consider it as a religious doctrine, gives, touching this point Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [269], a conception of the summum bonum (the kingdom of God), which alone satisfies the strictest demand of practical reason. The moral law is holy (unyielding) and demands holiness of morals, Edition: current; Page: [225] although all the moral perfection to which man can attain is still only virtue, that is, a rightful disposition arising from respect for the law, implying consciousness of a constant propensity to transgression, or at least a want of purity, that is, a mixture of many spurious (not moral) motives of obedience to the law, consequently a self-esteem combined with humility. In respect then of the holiness which the Christian law requires, this leaves the creature nothing but a progress in infinitum, but for that very reason it justifies him in hoping for an endless duration of his existence. The worth of a character perfectly accordant with the moral law is infinite, since Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [270] the only restriction on all possible happiness in the judgment of a wise and all-powerful distributor of it is the absence of conformity of rational beings to their duty. But the moral law of itself does not promise any happiness, for according to our conceptions of an order of nature in general, this is not necessarily connected with obedience to the law. Now Christian morality supplies this defect (of the second indispensable element of the summum bonum) by representing the world, in which rational beings devote themselves with all their soul to the moral law, as a kingdom of God, in which nature and morality are brought into Edition: current; Page: [226] a harmony foreign to each of itself, by a holy Author who makes the derived summum bonum possible. Holiness of life is prescribed to them as a rule even in this life, while the welfare proportioned to it, namely, bliss, is represented as attainable only in an eternity; because the former must always be the pattern of their conduct in every state, and progress towards it is already possible and necessary in this life; while the latter, under the name of happiness, cannot be attained at all in this world (so far as our own power is concerned), and therefore is made simply an object of hope. Nevertheless, the Christian principle of morality itself is not theological (so as to be heteronomy) but is autonomy of pure practical reason, since it does not make the knowledge of God and his will the foundation of these laws, but only of the attainment of the summum bonum, on condition of following these laws, and it does not even place the proper spring of this obedience in the desired results, but solely in the conception of duty, as that of which the faithful observance alone constitutes the worthiness to obtain those happy consequences.

In this manner the moral laws lead through the conception of the summum bonum as the object and final end of pure practical reason to religion Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [271], that is, to the recognition of all duties as divine commands, not as sanctions, 1 that is to say, arbitrary ordinances of a foreign will and contingent in themselves, but as essential laws of every free will in itself, which, nevertheless, must be regarded as commands of the Supreme Being, because it is only from a morally perfect (holy and good) and at the same time all-powerful will, and consequently only through harmony with this will that we can hope to attain the summum bonum which the moral law makes it our duty to take as the object of our endeavours. Here again, then, all remains disinterested and founded merely on duty; neither fear nor hope being made the fundamental springs, which if taken as principles Edition: current; Page: [227] would destroy the whole moral worth of actions. The moral law commands me to make the highest possible good in a world the ultimate object of all my conduct. But I cannot hope to effect this otherwise than by the harmony of my will with that of a holy and good Author of the world; and although the conception of the summum bonum as a whole, in which the greatest happiness is conceived as combined in the most exact proportion with the highest degree of moral perfection (possible in creatures), includes my own happiness, yet it is not this that is the determining principle of the will which is enjoined to promote the summum bonum, but the moral law, which on the contrary limits by strict conditions my unbounded desire of happiness.

Hence also morality is not properly the doctrine how we should make ourselves happy, but how we should become worthy of happiness. It is only when religion is added that there also comes in the hope of participating some day in happiness in proportion as we have endeavoured to be not unworthy of it.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [272] A man is worthy to possess a thing or a state when his possession of it is in harmony with the summum bonum. We can now easily see that all worthiness depends on moral conduct, since in the conception of the summum bonum this constitutes the condition of the rest (which belongs to one’s state), namely, the participation of happiness. Now it follows from this that morality should never be treated as a doctrine of happiness, that is, an instruction how to become happy; for it has to do simply with the rational condition (conditio sine qua non) of happiness, not with the means of attaining it. But when morality has been completely expounded (which merely imposes duties instead of providing rules for selfish desires), then, first, after the moral desire to promote the summum bonum (to bring the kingdom of God to us) has been awakened, a desire founded on a law, and which could not previously arise in any selfish mind, and when for the behoof of this desire the step to religion has been taken, then this ethical doctrine may be also called a doctrine of happiness, because the hope of happiness first begins with religion only.

Edition: current; Page: [228]

We can also see from this that, when we ask what is God’s ultimate end in creating the world, we must not name the happiness of the rational beings in it, but the summum bonum, which adds a further condition to that wish of such beings, namely, the condition of being worthy of happiness, that is, the morality of these same rational beings, a condition which alone contains the rule by which only they can hope to share in the former at the hand of a wise Author. For as wisdom theoretically considered signifies the knowledge of the summum bonum, and practically the accordance of the will with the summum bonum, we cannot attribute to a supreme independent wisdom an end based merely on goodness Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [273]. For we cannot conceive the action of this goodness (in respect of the happiness of rational beings) as suitable to the highest original good, except under the restrictive conditions of harmony with the holiness 1 of his will. Therefore those who placed the end of creation in the glory of God (provided that this is not conceived anthropomorphically as a desire to be praised) have perhaps hit upon the best expression. For nothing glorifies God more than that which is the most estimable thing in the world, respect for His command, the observance of the holy duty that His law imposes on us, when there is added thereto His glorious plan of crowning such a beautiful order of things with corresponding happiness. If the latter (to speak humanly) makes Him worthy of Edition: current; Page: [229] love, by the former He is an object of adoration. Even men can never acquire respect by benevolence alone, though they may gain love, so that the greatest beneficence only procures them honour when it is regulated by worthiness.

That in the order of ends, man (and with him every rational being) is an end in himself, that is, that he can never be used merely as a means by any Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [274] (not even by God) without being at the same time an end also himself, that therefore humanity in our person must be holy to ourselves, this follows now of itself because he is the subject 1 of the moral law, in other words, of that which is holy in itself, and on account of which and in agreement with which alone can anything be termed holy. For this moral law is founded on the autonomy of his will, as a free will which by its universal laws must necessarily be able to agree with that to which it is to submit itself.

VI.: —Of the Postulates of Pure Practical Reason in General.

They all proceed from the principle of morality, which is not a postulate but a law, by which reason determines the will directly, which will, because it is so determined as a pure will, requires these necessary conditions of obedience to its precept. These postulates are not theoretical dogmas, but suppositions practically necessary; while then they do [not] 2 extend our speculative knowledge, they give objective reality to the ideas of speculative reason in general (by means of their reference to what is practical), and give it a right to concepts, the possibility even of which it could not otherwise venture to affirm.

These postulates are those of immortality, freedom positively considered (as the causality of a being so far as he belongs to Edition: current; Page: [230] the intelligible world), and the existence of God. The first results from the practically necessary condition of a duration Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [275] adequate to the complete fulfilment of the moral law; the second from the necessary supposition of independence on the sensible world, and of the faculty of determining one’s will according to the law of an intelligible world, that is, of freedom; the third from the necessary condition of the existence of the summum bonum in such an intelligible world, by the supposition of the supreme independent good, that is, the existence of God.

Thus the fact that respect for the moral law necessarily makes the summum bonum an object of our endeavours, and the supposition thence resulting of its objective reality, lead through the postulates of practical reason to conceptions which speculative reason might indeed present as problems, but could never solve. Thus it leads—1. To that one in the solution of which the latter could do nothing but commit paralogisms (namely, that of immortality), because it could not lay hold of the character of permanence, by which to complete the psychological conception of an ultimate subject necessarily ascribed to the soul in self-consciousness, so as to make it the real conception of a substance, a character which practical reason furnishes by the postulate of a duration required for accordance with the moral law in the summum bonum, which is the whole end of practical reason. 2. It leads to that of which speculative reason contained nothing but antinomy, the solution of which it could only found on a notion problematically conceivable indeed, but whose objective reality it could not prove or determine, namely, the cosmological idea of an intelligible world and the consciousness of our existence in it, by means of the postulate of freedom (the reality of which it lays down by virtue of the moral law), and with it likewise the law of an intelligible world, to which speculative reason could only point, but could not define its conception. 3. What speculative reason was able to think, but was obliged to leave undetermined as a mere transcendental ideal Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [276], viz. the theological conception of the first Being, to this it gives significance (in a practical view, that is, as a condition Edition: current; Page: [231] of the possibility of the object of a will determined by that law), namely, as the supreme principle of the summum bonum in an intelligible world, by means of moral legislation in it invested with sovereign power.

Is our knowledge, however, actually extended in this way by pure practical reason, and is that immanent in practical reason which for the speculative was only transcendent? Certainly, but only in a practical point of view. For we do not thereby take knowledge of the nature of our souls, nor of the intelligible world, nor of the Supreme Being, with respect to what they are in themselves, but we have merely combined the conceptions of them in the practical concept of the summum bonum as the object of our will, and this altogether à priori, but only by means of the moral law, and merely in reference to it, in respect of the object which it commands. But how freedom is possible, and how we are to conceive this kind of causality theoretically and positively, is not thereby discovered; but only that there is such a causality is postulated by the moral law and in its behoof. It is the same with the remaining ideas, the possibility of which no human intelligence will ever fathom, but the truth of which, on the other hand, no sophistry will ever wrest from the conviction even of the commonest man.

VII.: —How is it possible to conceive an extension of Pure Reason in a Practical point of view, without its Knowledge as Speculative being enlarged at the same time?

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [277]

In order not to be too abstract, we will answer this question at once in its application to the present case. In order to extend a pure cognition practically, there must be an à priori purpose given, that is, an end as object (of the will), which independently on all theological principle is presented as practically necessary by an imperative which determines the will directly (a categorical imperative), and in this case that is the summum bonum. This, however, is not possible without presupposing three theoretical conceptions (for which, because they are mere conceptions of pure reason, no corresponding intuition Edition: current; Page: [232] can be found, nor consequently by the path of theory any objective reality); namely, freedom, immortality, and God. Thus by the practical law which commands the existence of the highest good possible in a world, the possibility of those objects of pure speculative reason is postulated, and the objective reality which the latter could not assure them. By this the theoretical knowledge of pure reason does indeed obtain an accession; but it consists only in this, that those concepts which otherwise it had to look upon as problematical (merely thinkable) concepts, are now shown assertorially to be such as actually have objects; because practical reason indispensably requires their existence for the possibility of its object, the summum bonum, which practically is absolutely necessary, and this justifies theoretical reason in assuming them. But this extension of theoretical reason Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [278] is no extension of speculative, that is, we cannot make any positive use of it in a theoretical point of view. For as nothing is accomplished in this by practical reason, further than that these concepts are real and actually have their (possible) objects, and nothing in the way of intuition of them is given thereby (which indeed could not be demanded), hence the admission of this reality does not render any synthetical proposition possible. Consequently this discovery does not in the least help us to extend this knowledge of ours in a speculative point of view, although it does in respect of the practical employment of pure reason. The above three ideas of speculative reason are still in themselves not cognitions; they are however (transcendent) thoughts, in which there is nothing impossible. Now, by help of an apodictic practical law, being necessary conditions of that which it commands to be made an object, they acquire objective reality: that is, we learn from it that they have objects, without being able to point out how the conception of them is related to an object, and this, too, is still not a cognition of these objects; for we cannot thereby form any synthetical judgment about them, nor determine their application theoretically; consequently we can make no theoretical rational use of them at all, in which use all speculative knowledge of reason consists. Nevertheless, the Edition: current; Page: [233] theoretical knowledge, not indeed of these objects, but of reason generally, is so far enlarged by this, that by the practical postulates objects were given to those ideas, a merely problematical thought having by this means first acquired objective reality. There is therefore no extension of the knowledge of given supersensible objects, but an extension of theoretical reason and of its knowledge in respect of the supersensible generally; inasmuch as it is compelled to admit that there are such objects Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [279], although it is not able to define them more closely, so as itself to extend this knowledge of the objects (which have now been given it on practical grounds, and only for practical use). For this accession, then, pure theoretical reason, for which all those ideas are transcendent and without object, has simply to thank its practical faculty. In this they become immanent and constitutive, being the source of the possibility of realizing the necessary object of pure practical reason (the summum bonum); whereas apart from this they are transcendent, and merely regulative principles of speculative reason, which do not require it to assume a new object beyond experience, but only to bring its use in experience nearer to completeness. But when once reason is in possession of this accession, it will go to work with these ideas as speculative reason (properly only to assure the certainty of its practical use) in a negative manner: that is, not extending but clearing up its knowledge so as on one side to keep off anthropomorphism, as the source of superstition, or seeming extension of these conceptions by supposed experience; and on the other side fanaticism, which promises the same by means of supersensible intuition or feelings of the like kind. All these are hindrances to the practical use of pure reason, so that the removal of them may certainly be considered an extension of our knowledge in a practical point of view, without contradicting the admission that for speculative purposes reason has not in the least gained by this.

Every employment of reason in respect of an object requires pure concepts of the understanding (categories), without which no object can be conceived. These can be applied to the theoretical employment of reason, i. e. to that kind of knowledge, Edition: current; Page: [234] only in case an intuition (which is always sensible) is taken as a basis, and therefore merely in order Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [280] to conceive by means of them an object of possible experience. Now here what have to be thought by means of the categories, in order to be known, are ideas of reason, which cannot be given in any experience. Only we are not here concerned with the theoretical knowledge of the objects of these ideas, but only with this, whether they have objects at all. This reality is supplied by pure practical reason, and theoretical reason has nothing further to do in this but to think those objects by means of categories. This, as we have elsewhere clearly shown, can be done well enough without needing any intuition (either sensible or supersensible), because the categories have their seat and origin in the pure understanding, simply as the faculty of thought, before and independently on any intuition, and they always only signify an object in general, no matter in what way it may be given to us. Now when the categories are to be applied to these ideas, it is not possible to give them any object in intuition; but that such an object actually exists, and consequently that the category as a mere form of thought is here not empty but has significance, this is sufficiently assured them by an object which practical reason presents beyond doubt in the concept of the summum bonum, namely, the reality of the conceptions which are required for the possibility of the summum bonum, without, however, effecting by this accession the least extension of our knowledge on theoretical principles.

When these ideas of God, of an intelligible world (the kingdom of God), and of immortality are further determined by predicates taken from our own nature, we must not regard this determination as a sensualizing of those pure rational ideas Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [281] (anthropomorphism), nor as a transcendent knowledge of supersensible objects; for these predicates are no others than understanding and will, considered too in the relation to each other in which they must be conceived in the moral law, and therefore only so far as a pure practical use is made of them. As to all the rest that belongs to these conceptions psychologically, Edition: current; Page: [235] that is, so far as we observe these faculties of ours empirically in their exercise (e.g. that the understanding of man is discursive, and its notions therefore not intuitions but thoughts, that these follow one another in time, that his will has its satisfaction always dependent on the existence of its object, &c., which cannot be the case in the Supreme Being), from all this we abstract in that case, and then there remains of the notions by which we conceive a pure intelligence nothing more than just what is required for the possibility of conceiving a moral law. There is then a knowledge of God indeed, but only for practical purposes, and if we attempt to extend it to a theoretical knowledge we find an understanding that has intuitions, not thoughts, a will that is directed to objects on the existence of which its satisfaction does not in the least depend (not to mention the transcendental predicates, as, for example, a magnitude of existence, that is duration, which, however, is not in time, the only possible means we have of conceiving existence as magnitude). Now these are all attributes of which we can form no conception that would help to the knowledge of the object, and we learn from this that they can never be used for a theory of supersensible beings, so that on this side they are quite incapable of being the foundation of a speculative knowledge, and their use is limited simply to the practice of the moral law.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [282] This last is so obvious, and can be proved so clearly by fact, that we may confidently challenge all pretended natural theologians (a singular name) 1 to specify (over and above the Edition: current; Page: [236] merely ontological predicates) one single attribute, whether of the understanding or of the will, determining this object of theirs, of which we could not show incontrovertibly that if we abstract from it everything anthropomorphic, nothing would remain to us but the mere word, without our being able to connect with it the smallest notion by which we could hope for an extension of theoretical knowledge. But as to the practical, there still remains to us of the attributes of understanding and will the conception of a relation to which objective reality is given by the practical law (which determines à priori precisely this relation of the understanding to the will). When once this is done, then reality is given to the conception of the object of a will morally determined (the conception of the summum bonum), and with it to the conditions of its possibility, the ideas of God, freedom, and immortality, but always only relatively to the practice of the moral law (and not for any speculative purpose).

According to these remarks it is now easy to find the answer to the weighty question: whether the notion of God is one belonging to Physics (and therefore also to Metaphysics Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [283], which contains the pure à priori principles of the former in their universal import) or to morals. If we have recourse to God as the Author of all things, in order to explain the arrangements of nature or its changes, this is at least not a physical explanation, and is a complete confession that our philosophy has come to an end, since we are obliged to assume something of which in itself we have otherwise no conception, in order to be able to frame a conception of the possibility of what we see before our eyes. Metaphysics, however, cannot enable us to attain by certain inference from the knowledge of this world to the conception of God and to the proof of his existence, for this reason, that in order to say that this world could be produced only by a God (according to the conception implied by this word) we should know this world as the most perfect whole possible; and for this purpose should also know all possible worlds (in order to be able to compare them with this); in other words, we should be omniscient. It is absolutely impossible, however, to know the existence Edition: current; Page: [237] of this Being from mere concepts, because every existential proposition, that is every proposition that affirms the existence of a being of which I frame a concept, is a synthetic proposition, that is, one by which I go beyond that conception and affirm of it more than was thought in the conception itself, namely, that this concept in the understanding has an object corresponding to it outside the understanding, and this it is obviously impossible to elicit by any reasoning. There remains, therefore, only one single process possible for reason to attain this knowledge, namely, to start from the supreme principle of its pure practical use (which in every case is directed simply to the existence of something as a consequence of reason), and thus determine its object. Then its inevitable problem, namely, the necessary direction of the will to the summum bonum, discovers to us not only the necessity of assuming such a First Being Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [284] in reference to the possibility of this good in the world, but what is most remarkable, something which reason in its progress on the path of physical nature altogether failed to find, namely, an accurately defined conception of this First Being. As we can know only a small part of this world, and can still less compare it with all possible worlds, we may indeed from its order, design, and greatness, infer a wise, good, powerful, &c., Author of it, but not that He is all-wise, all-good, all-powerful, &c. It may indeed, very well be granted that we should be justified in supplying this inevitable defect by a legitimate and reasonable hypothesis, namely, that when wisdom, goodness, &c., are displayed in all the parts that offer themselves to our nearer knowledge, it is just the same in all the rest, and that it would therefore be reasonable to ascribe all possible perfections to the Author of the world, but these are not strict logical inferences in which we can pride ourselves on our insight, but only permitted conclusions in which we may be indulged, and which require further recommendation before we can make use of them. On the path of empirical inquiry then (physics) the conception of God remains always a conception of the perfection of the First Being not accurately enough determined to be held adequate to the conception of Deity. (With metaphysic Edition: current; Page: [238] in its transcendental part nothing whatever can be accomplished).

When I now try to test this conception by reference to the object of practical reason, I find that the moral principle admits as possible only the conception of an Author of the world possessed of the highest perfection. He must be omniscient, in order to know my conduct up to the inmost root of my mental state in all possible cases and into all future time; omnipotent, in order to allot to it its fitting consequences; similarly He must be omnipresent, eternal, &c. Thus the moral law, by means of the conception of the summum bonum Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [285] as the object of a pure practical reason, determines the concept of the First Being as the Supreme Being; a thing which the physical (and in its higher development the metaphysical); in other words, the whole speculative course of reason, was unable to effect. The conception of God, then, is one that belongs originally not to physics, i. e. to speculative reason, but to morals. The same may be said of the other conceptions of reason of which we have treated above as postulates of it in its practical use.

In the history of Grecian philosophy we find no distinct traces of a pure rational theology earlier than Anaxagoras, but this is not because the older philosophers had not intelligence or penetration enough to raise themselves to it by the path of speculation, at least with the aid of a thoroughly reasonable hypothesis. What could have been easier, what more natural, than the thought which of itself occurs to every one, to assume instead of several causes of the world, instead of an indeterminate degree of perfection, a single rational cause having all perfection? But the evils in the world seemed to them to be much too serious objections to allow them to feel themselves justified in such a hypothesis. They showed intelligence and penetration then in this very point, that they did not allow themselves to adopt it, but on the contrary looked about amongst natural causes to see if they could not find in them the qualities and power required for a First Being. But when this acute people had advanced so far in their investigations of nature as to treat even moral questions philosophically, on which other nations had never Edition: current; Page: [239] done anything but talk, then first they found a new and practical want, which did not fail to give definiteness to their conception of the First Being: and in this the speculative reason played the part of spectator, or at best had the merit of embellishing a conception that had not grown on its own ground, and of applying a series of confirmations Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [286] from the study of nature now brought forward for the first time, not indeed to strengthen the authority of this conception (which was already established), but rather to make a show with a supposed discovery of theoretical reason.

From these remarks the reader of the Critique of Pure Speculative Reason will be thoroughly convinced how highly necessary that laborious deduction of the categories was, and how fruitful for theology and morals. For if, on the one hand, we place them in the pure understanding, it is by this deduction alone that we can be prevented from regarding them, with Plato, as innate, and founding on them extravagant pretensions to theories of the supersensible, to which we can see no end, and by which we should make theology a magic lantern of chimera: on the other hand, if we regard them as acquired, this deduction saves us from restricting, with Epicurus, all and every use of them, even for practical purposes, to the objects and motives of the senses. But now that the Critique has shown by that deduction, first, that they are not of empirical origin, but have their seat and source à priori in the pure understanding; secondly, that as they refer to objects in general independently on the intuition of them, hence, although they cannot effect theoretical knowledge, except in application to empirical objects, yet when applied to an object given by pure practical reason they enable us to conceive the supersensible definitely, only so far, however, as it is defined by such predicates as are necessarily connected with the pure practical purpose given à priori and with its possibility. The speculative restriction of pure reason and its practical extension bring it into that Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [287] relation of equality in which reason in general can be employed suitably to its end, and this example proves better than any other that the path to wisdom, Edition: current; Page: [240] if it is to be made sure and not to be impassable or misleading, must with us men inevitably pass through science; but it is not till this is completed that we can be convinced that it leads to this goal.

VIII.: —Of Belief from a Requirement of Pure Reason.

A want or requirement of pure reason in its speculative use leads only to a hypothesis; that of pure practical reason to a postulate; for in the former case I ascend from the result as high as I please in the series of causes, not in order to give objective reality to the result (e. g. the causal connexion of things and changes in the world), but in order thoroughly to satisfy my inquiring reason in respect of it. Thus I see before me order and design in nature, and need not resort to speculation to assure myself of their reality, but to explain them I have to pre-suppose a Deity as their cause; and then since the inference from an effect to a definite cause is always uncertain and doubtful, especially to a cause so precise and so perfectly defined as we have to conceive in God, hence the highest degree of certainty to which this pre-supposition can be brought is, that it is the most rational opinion for us men 1 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [288]. On the other hand, a requirement of pure practical reason is based on a duty, that of making something (the summum bonum) the object of my will so as to promote it with all my powers; in which case I must suppose its possibility, and consequently also the conditions necessary Edition: current; Page: [241] thereto, namely, God, freedom, and immortality; since I cannot prove these by my speculative reason, although neither can I refute them. This duty is founded on something that is indeed quite independent on these suppositions, and is of itself apodictically certain, namely, the moral law; and so far it needs no further support by theoretical views as to the inner constitution of things, the secret final aim of the order of the world, or a presiding ruler thereof, in order to bind me in the most perfect manner to act in unconditional conformity to the law. But the subjective effect of this law, namely, the mental disposition conformed to it and made necessary by it, to promote the practically possible summum bonum, this pre-supposes at least that the latter is possible, for it would be practically impossible to strive after the object of a conception which at bottom was empty and had no object. Now the above-mentioned postulates concern only the physical or metaphysical conditions of the possibility of the summum bonum Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [289]; in a word, those which lie in the nature of things; not, however, for the sake of an arbitrary speculative purpose, but of a practically necessary end of a pure rational will, which in this case does not choose, but obeys an inexorable command of reason, the foundation of which is objective, in the constitution of things as they must be universally judged by pure reason, and is not based on inclination; for we are in nowise justified in assuming, on account of what we wish on merely subjective grounds, that the means thereto are possible or that its object is real. This then is an absolutely necessary requirement, and what it pre-supposes is not merely justified as an allowable hypothesis, but as a postulate in a practical point of view; and admitting that the pure moral law inexorably binds every man as a command (not as a rule of prudence), the righteous man may say: I will that there be a God, that my existence in this world be also an existence outside the chain of physical causes, and in a pure world of the understanding, and lastly, that my duration be endless; I firmly abide by this, and will not let this faith be taken from me; for in this instance alone my interest, because I must not relax anything of it, inevitably determines my judgment, without regarding sophistries, however unable I Edition: current; Page: [242] may be to answer them or to oppose them with others more plausible. 1

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [290] In order to prevent misconception in the use of a notion as yet so unusual as that of a faith of pure practical reason, let me be permitted to add one more remark. It might almost seem as if this rational faith were here announced as itself a command, namely, that we should assume the summum bonum as possible. But a faith that is commanded is nonsense. Let the preceding analysis, however, be remembered of what is required to be supposed in the conception of the summum bonum, and it will be seen that it cannot be commanded to assume this possibility, and no practical disposition of mind is required to admit it; but that speculative reason must concede it without being asked, for no one can affirm that it is impossible in itself that rational beings in the world should at the same time be worthy of happiness in conformity with the moral law, and also possess this happiness proportionately. Now in respect of the first element of the summum bonum, namely, that which concerns morality, the Edition: current; Page: [243] moral law gives merely a command, and to doubt the possibility of that element would be the same as to call in question the moral law itself Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [291]. But as regards the second element of that object, namely, happiness perfectly proportioned to that worthiness, it is true that there is no need of a command to admit its possibility in general, for theoretical reason has nothing to say against it; but the manner in which we have to conceive this harmony of the laws of nature with those of freedom has in it something in respect of which we have a choice, because theoretical reason decides nothing with apodictic certainty about it, and in respect of this there may be a moral interest which turns the scale.

I had said above that in a mere course of nature in the world an accurate correspondence between happiness and moral worth is not to be expected, and must be regarded as impossible, and that therefore the possibility of the summum bonum cannot be admitted from this side except on the supposition of a moral Author of the world. I purposely reserved the restriction of this judgment to the subjective conditions of our reason, in order not to make use of it until the manner of this belief should be defined more precisely. The fact is that the impossibility referred to is merely subjective, that is, our reason finds it impossible for it to render conceivable in the way of a mere course of nature a connexion so exactly proportioned and so thoroughly adapted to an end, between two sets of events happening according to such distinct laws; although, as with everything else in nature that is adapted to an end, it cannot prove, that is, show by sufficient objective reasons, that it is not possible by universal laws of nature.

Now, however, a deciding principle of a different kind comes into play to turn the scale in this uncertainty of speculative reason. The command to promote the summum bonum is established on an objective basis (in practical reason); the possibility of the same in general is likewise established on an objective basis Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [292] (in theoretical reason, which has nothing to say against it). But reason cannot decide objectively in what way we are to conceive this possibility; whether by universal Edition: current; Page: [244] laws of nature without a wise Author presiding over nature, or only on supposition of such an Author. Now here there comes in a subjective condition of reason; the only way theoretically possible for it, of conceiving the exact harmony of the kingdom of nature with the kingdom of morals, which is the condition of the possibility of the summum bonum; and at the same time the only one conducive to morality (which depends on an objective law of reason). Now since the promotion of this summum bonum, and therefore the supposition of its possibility, are objectively necessary (though only as a result of practical reason), while at the same time the manner in which we would conceive it rests with our own choice, and in this choice a free interest of pure practical reason decides for the assumption of a wise Author of the world; it is clear that the principle that herein determines our judgment, though as a want it is subjective, yet at the same time being the means of promoting what is objectively (practically) necessary, is the foundation of a maxim of belief in a moral point of view, that is, a faith of pure practical reason. This, then, is not commanded, but being a voluntary determination of our judgment, conducive to the moral (commanded) purpose, and moreover harmonizing with the theoretical requirement of reason, to assume that existence and to make it the foundation of our further employment of reason, it has itself sprung from the moral disposition of mind; it may therefore at times waver even in the well-disposed, but can never be reduced to unbelief.

IX.: —Of the Wise Adaptation of Man’s Cognitive Faculties to his Practical Destination.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [293]

If human nature is destined to endeavour after the summum bonum, we must suppose also that the measure of its cognitive faculties, and particularly their relation to one another, is suitable to this end. Now the Critique of Pure Speculative Reason proves that this is incapable of solving satisfactorily the most weighty problems that are proposed to it, although it does not ignore the natural and important hints received from the same reason, nor the great steps that it can make to approach to this great goal Edition: current; Page: [245] that is set before it, which, however, it can never reach of itself, even with the help of the greatest knowledge of nature. Nature then seems here to have provided us only in a step-motherly fashion with the faculty required for our end.

Suppose now that in this matter nature had conformed to our wish, and had given us that capacity of discernment or that enlightenment which we would gladly possess, or which some imagine they actually possess, what would in all probability be the consequence? Unless our whole nature were at the same time changed, our inclinations, which always have the first word, would first of all demand their own satisfaction, and, joined with rational reflection, the greatest possible and most lasting satisfaction, under the name of happiness; the moral law Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [294] would afterwards speak, in order to keep them within their proper bounds, and even to subject them all to a higher end, which has no regard to inclination. But instead of the conflict that the moral disposition has now to carry on with the inclinations, in which, though after some defeats, moral strength of mind may be gradually acquired, God and eternity with their awful majesty would stand unceasingly before our eyes (for what we can prove perfectly is to us as certain as that of which we are assured by the sight of our eyes). Transgression of the law would, no doubt, be avoided; what is commanded would be done; but the mental disposition, from which actions ought to proceed, cannot be infused by any command, and in this case the spur of action is ever active and external, so that reason has no need to exert itself in order to gather strength to resist the inclinations by a lively representation of the dignity of the law: hence most of the actions that conformed to the law would be done from fear, a few only from hope, and none at all from duty, and the moral worth of actions, on which alone in the eyes of supreme wisdom the worth of the person and even that of the world depends, would cease to exist. As long as the nature of man remains what it is, his conduct would thus be changed into mere mechanism, in which, as in a puppet show, everything would gesticulate well, but there would be no life in the figures. Now, when it is quite otherwise with Edition: current; Page: [246] us, when with all the effort of our reason we have only a very obscure and doubtful view into the future, when the Governor of the world allows us only to conjecture his existence and his majesty, not to behold them or prove them clearly; and on the other hand, the moral law within us, without promising or threatening anything with certainty, demands of us disinterested respect; and only when this respect has become active Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [295] and dominant does it allow us by means of it a prospect into the world of the supersensible, and then only with weak glances: all this being so, there is room for true moral disposition, immediately devoted to the law, and a rational creature can become worthy of sharing in the summum bonum that corresponds to the worth of his person and not merely to his actions. Thus what the study of nature and of man teaches us sufficiently elsewhere may well be true here also; that the unsearchable wisdom by which we exist is not less worthy of admiration in what it has denied than in what it has granted.

Edition: current; Page: [247]


Edition: current; Page: [248] Edition: current; Page: [249]


BY the methodology of pure practical reason we are not to understand the mode of proceeding with pure practical principles (whether in study or in exposition), with a view to a scientific knowledge of them, which alone is what is properly called method elsewhere in theoretical philosophy (for popular knowledge requires a manner, science a method, i. e. a process according to principles of reason by which alone the manifold of any branch of knowledge can become a system). On the contrary, by this methodology is understood the mode in which 1 we can give the laws of pure practical reason access to the human mind, and influence on its maxims, that is, by which we can make the objectively practical reason subjectively practical also.

Now it is clear enough that those determining principles of the will which alone make maxims properly moral and give them a moral worth, namely, the direct conception of the law and the objective necessity of obeying it as our duty, must be regarded as the proper springs of actions, since otherwise legality of actions might be produced, but not morality of character. But it is not so clear: on the contrary, it must at first sight seem to everyone very improbable that, even subjectively, that exhibition of pure virtue can have more power over the human mind, Edition: current; Page: [250] and supply a far stronger spring even for effecting that legality of actions, and can produce more powerful resolutions Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [300] to prefer the law, from pure respect for it, to every other consideration, than all the deceptive allurements of pleasure or of all that may be reckoned as happiness, or even than all threatenings of pain and misfortune. Nevertheless, this is actually the case, and if human nature were not so constituted, no mode of presenting the law by roundabout ways and indirect recommendations would ever produce morality of character. All would be simple hypocrisy; the law would be hated, or at least despised, while it was followed for the sake of one’s own advantage. The letter of the law (legality) would be found in our actions, but not the spirit of it in our minds (morality); and as with all our efforts we could not quite free ourselves from reason in our judgment, we must inevitably appear in our own eyes worthless, depraved men, even though we should seek to compensate ourselves for this mortification before the inner tribunal, by enjoying the pleasure that a supposed natural or divine law might be imagined to have connected with a sort of police machinery, regulating its operations by what was done without troubling itself about the motives for doing it.

It cannot indeed be denied that in order to bring an uncultivated or degraded mind into the track of moral goodness some preparatory guidance is necessary, to attract it by a view of its own advantage, or to alarm it by fear of loss; but as soon as this mechanical work, these leading-strings, have produced some effect, then we must bring before the mind the pure moral motive, which, not only because it is the only one that can be the foundation of a character (a practically consistent habit of mind with unchangeable maxims) Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [301], but also because it teaches a man to feel his own dignity, gives the mind a power unexpected even by himself, to tear himself from all sensible attachments so far as they would fain have the rule, and to find a rich compensation for the sacrifice he offers, in the independence of his rational nature and the greatness of soul to which he sees that he is destined. We will therefore show, by such observations as every one can make, that this property of our minds, this receptivity Edition: current; Page: [251] for a pure moral interest, and consequently the moving force of the pure conception of virtue, when it is properly applied to the human heart, is the most powerful spring, and, when a continued and punctual observance of moral maxims is in question, the only spring of good conduct. It must, however, be remembered that if these observations only prove the reality of such a feeling, but do not show any moral improvement brought about by it, this is no argument against the only method that exists of making the objectively practical laws of pure reason subjectively practical, through the mere force of the conception of duty; nor does it prove that this method is a vain delusion. For as it has never yet come into vogue, experience can say nothing of its results; one can only ask for proofs of the receptivity for such springs, and these I will now briefly present, and then sketch the method of founding and cultivating genuine moral dispositions.

When we attend to the course of conversation in mixed companies, consisting not merely of learned persons and subtle reasoners, but also of men of business or of women, we observe that, besides story-telling and jesting, another kind of entertainment finds a place in them, namely, argument; for stories, if they are to have novelty and interest, are soon exhausted, and jesting is likely to become insipid Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [302]. Now of all argument there is none in which persons are more ready to join who find any other subtle discussion tedious, none that brings more liveliness into the company, than that which concerns the moral worth of this or that action by which the character of some person is to be made out. Persons, to whom in other cases anything subtle and speculative in theoretical questions is dry and irksome, presently join in when the question is to make out the moral import of a good or bad action that has been related, and they display an exactness, a refinement, a subtlety, in excogitating everything that can lessen the purity of purpose, and consequently the degree of virtue in it, which we do not expect from them in any other kind of speculation. In these criticisms persons who are passing judgment on others often reveal their own character: some, in exercising their judicial office, especially Edition: current; Page: [252] upon the dead, seem inclined chiefly to defend the goodness that is related of this or that deed against all injurious charges of insincerity, and ultimately to defend the whole moral worth of the person against the reproach of dissimulation and secret wickedness; others, on the contrary, turn their thoughts more upon attacking this worth by accusation and fault-finding. We cannot always, however, attribute to these latter the intention of arguing away virtue altogether out of all human examples in order to make it an empty name; often, on the contrary, it is only well-meant strictness in determining the true moral import of actions according to an uncompromising law. Comparison with such a law, instead of with examples, lowers self-conceit in moral matters very much, and not merely teaches humility, but makes everyone feel it when he examines himself closely. Nevertheless, we can for the most part observe in those who defend the purity of purpose in giving examples, that where there is the presumption of uprightness Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [303] they are anxious to remove even the least spot, lest, if all examples had their truthfulness disputed, and if the purity of all human virtue were denied, it might in the end be regarded as a mere phantom, and so all effort to attain it be made light of as vain affectation and delusive conceit.

I do not know why the educators of youth have not long since made use of this propensity of reason to enter with pleasure upon the most subtle examination of the practical questions that are thrown up; and why they have not, after first laying the foundation of a purely moral catechism, searched through the biographies of ancient and modern times with the view of having at hand instances of the duties laid down, in which, especially by comparison of similar actions under different circumstances, they might exercise the critical judgment of their scholars in remarking their greater or less moral significance. This is a thing in which they would find that even early youth, which is still unripe for speculation of other kinds, would soon become very acute and not a little interested, because it feels the progress of its faculty of judgment; and what is most important, they could hope with confidence that the frequent practice of knowing and approving Edition: current; Page: [253] good conduct in all its purity, and on the other hand of remarking with regret or contempt the least deviation from it, although it may be pursued only as a sport in which children may compete with one another, yet will leave a lasting impression of esteem on the one hand and disgust on the other; and so, by the mere habit of looking on such actions as deserving approval or blame, a good foundation would be laid for uprightness in the future course of life Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [304]. Only I wish they would spare them the example of so-called noble (super-meritorious) actions in which our sentimental books so much abound, and would refer all to duty merely, and to the worth that a man can and must give himself in his own eyes by the consciousness of not having transgressed it, since whatever runs up into empty wishes and longings after inaccessible perfection produces mere heroes of romance, who, while they pique themselves on their feeling for transcendent greatness, release themselves in return from the observance of common and every-day obligations, which then seem to them petty and insignificant. 1

But if it is asked, what then is really pure morality, by which as a touchstone we must test the moral significance of every action, then I must admit that it is only philosophers that can make the decision of this question doubtful, for to common sense it has been decided long ago, not indeed by abstract general formulæ, but by habitual use, like the distinction between the right and left hand. We will then point out the criterion of pure virtue in an example first, and imagining that it is set Edition: current; Page: [254] before a boy of, say ten years old, for his judgment, we will see whether Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [305] he would necessarily judge so of himself without being guided by his teacher. Tell him the history of an honest man whom men want to persuade to join the calumniators of an innocent and powerless person (say Anne Boleyn, accused by Henry VIII. of England). He is offered advantages, great gifts, or high rank; he rejects them. This will excite mere approbation and applause in the mind of the hearer. Now begins the threatening of loss. Amongst these traducers are his best friends, who now renounce his friendship; near kinsfolk, who threaten to disinherit him (he being without fortune); powerful persons, who can persecute and harass him in all places and circumstances; a prince who threatens him with loss of freedom, yea, loss of life. Then to fill the measure of suffering, and that he may feel the pain that only the morally good heart can feel very deeply, let us conceive his family threatened with extreme distress and want, entreating him to yield; conceive himself, though upright, yet with feelings not hard or insensible either to compassion or to his own distress; conceive him, I say, at the moment when he wishes that he had never lived to see the day that exposed him to such unutterable anguish, yet remaining true to his uprightness of purpose, without wavering or even doubting; then will my youthful hearer be raised gradually from mere approval to admiration, from that to amazement, and finally to the greatest veneration, and a lively wish that he himself could be such a man (though certainly not in such circumstances). Yet virtue is here worth so much only because it costs so much, not because it brings any profit. All the admiration, and even the endeavour to resemble this character, rest wholly on the purity of the moral principle, which can only be strikingly shown Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [306] by removing from the springs of action everything that men may regard as part of happiness. Morality then must have the more power over the human heart the more purely it is exhibited. Whence it follows that if the law of morality and the image of holiness and virtue are to exercise any influence at all on our souls, they can do so only so far as they are laid to heart in their purity as motives, Edition: current; Page: [255] unmixed with any view to prosperity, for it is in suffering that they display themselves most nobly. Now that whose removal strengthens the effect of a moving force must have been a hindrance, consequently every admixture of motives taken from our own happiness is a hindrance to the influence of the moral law on the heart. I affirm further, that even in that admired action, if the motive from which it was done was a high regard for duty, then it is just this respect for the law that has the greatest influence on the mind of the spectator, not any pretension to a supposed inward greatness of mind or noble meritorious sentiments; consequently duty, not merit, must have not only the most definite, but, when it is represented in the true light of its inviolability, the most penetrating influence on the mind.

It is more necessary than ever to direct attention to this method in our times, when men hope to produce more effect on the mind with soft, tender feelings, or high-flown, puffing-up pretensions, which rather wither the heart than strengthen it, than by a plain and earnest representation of duty, which is more suited to human imperfection and to progress in goodness. To set before children, as a pattern, actions that are called noble, magnanimous, meritorious, with the notion of captivating them by infusing an enthusiam for such actions, is to defeat our end Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [307]. For as they are still so backward in the observance of the commonest duty, and even in the correct estimation of it, this means simply to make them fantastical romancers betimes. But, even with the instructed and experienced part of mankind, this supposed spring has, if not an injurious, at least no genuine moral effect on the heart, which, however, is what it was desired to produce.

All feelings, especially those that are to produce unwonted exertions, must accomplish their effect at the moment they are at their height, and before they calm down; otherwise they effect nothing; for as there was nothing to strengthen the heart, but only to excite it, it naturally returns to its normal moderate tone, and thus falls back into its previous languor. Principles must be built on conceptions; on any other basis there can only be paroxysms, which can give the person no moral worth, nay, Edition: current; Page: [256] not even confidence in himself, without which the highest good in man, consciousness of the morality of his mind and character, cannot exist. Now if these conceptions are to become subjectively practical, we must not rest satisfied with admiring the objective law of morality, and esteeming it highly in reference to humanity, but we must consider the conception of it in relation to man as an individual, and then this law appears in a form indeed that is highly deserving of respect, but not so pleasant as if it belonged to the element to which he is naturally accustomed, but on the contrary as often compelling him to quit this element, not without self-denial, and to betake himself to a higher, in which he can only maintain himself with trouble and with unceasing apprehension of a relapse. In a word, the moral law demands Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [308] obedience, from duty not from predilection, which cannot and ought not to be pre-supposed at all.

Let us now see in an example whether the conception of an action as a noble and magnanimous one, has more subjective moving power than if the action is conceived merely as duty in relation to the solemn law of morality. The action by which a man endeavours at the greatest peril of life to rescue people from shipwreck, at last losing his life in the attempt, is reckoned on one side as duty, but on the other and for the most part as a meritorious action, but our esteem for it is much weakened by the notion of duty to himself, which seems in this case to be somewhat infringed. More decisive is the magnanimous sacrifice of life for the safety of one’s country; and yet there still remains some scruple whether it is a perfect duty to devote one’s self to this purpose spontaneously and unbidden, and the action has not in itself the full force of a pattern and impulse to imitation. But if an indispensable duty be in question, the transgression of which violates the moral law itself, and without regard to the welfare of mankind, and as it were tramples on its holiness (such as are usually called duties to God, because in Him we conceive the ideal of holiness in substance), then we give our most perfect esteem to the pursuit of it at the sacrifice of all that can have any value for the dearest inclinations, and we find our soul strengthened and elevated by such an example, when we convince Edition: current; Page: [257] ourselves by contemplation of it that human nature is capable of so great an elevation above every motive that nature can oppose to it. Juvenal describes such an example in a climax which makes the reader feel vividly the force of the spring that is contained in the pure law of duty, as duty:

  • Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [309] Esto bonus miles, tutor bonus, arbiter idem
  • Integer; ambiguae si quando citabere testis
  • Incertaeque rei, Phalaris licet imperet ut sis
  • Falsus, et admoto dictet periuria tauro,
  • Summum crede nefas animam præferre pudori,
  • Et propter vitam vivendi perdere causas.

When we can bring any flattering thought of merit into our action, then the motive is already somewhat alloyed with self-love, and has therefore some assistance from the side of the sensibility. But to postpone everything to the holiness of duty alone, and to be conscious that we can because our own reason recognises this as its command and says that we ought to do it, this is, as it were, to raise ourselves altogether above the world of sense, and there is inseparably involved in the same a consciousness of the law, as a spring of a faculty that controls the sensibility; and although this is not always attended with effect, yet frequent engagement with this spring, and the at first minor attempts at using it, give hope that this effect may be wrought, and that by degrees the greatest, and that a purely moral interest in it may be produced in us.

The method then takes the following course. At first we are only concerned to make the judging of actions by moral laws a natural employment accompanying all our own free actions, as well as the observation of those of others, and to make it, as it were, a habit, and to sharpen this judgment, asking first whether the action conforms objectively to the moral law, and to what law; and we distinguish the law that merely furnishes a principle of obligation from that which is really obligatory (leges obligandi a legibus obligantibus); as for instance the law of what men’s wants require from me, as contrasted with that which their rights demand, the latter of which prescribes Edition: current; Page: [258] Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [310] essential, the former only non-essential duties; and thus we teach how to distinguish different kinds of duties which meet in the same action. The other point to which attention must be directed is the question whether the action was also (subjectively) done for the sake of the moral law, so that it not only is morally correct as a deed, but also by the maxim from which it is done has moral worth as a disposition. Now there is no doubt that this practice, and the resulting culture of our reason in judging merely of the practical, must gradually produce a certain interest even in the law of reason, and consequently in morally good actions. For we ultimately take a liking for a thing, the contemplation of which makes us feel that the use of our cognitive faculties is extended, and this extension is especially furthered by that in which we find moral correctness, since it is only in such an order of things that reason, with its faculty of determining à priori on principle what ought to be done, can find satisfaction. An observer of nature takes liking at last to objects that at first offended his senses, when he discovers in them the great adaptation of their organization to design, so that his reason finds food in its contemplation. So Leibnitz spared an insect that he had carefully examined with the microscope, and replaced it on its leaf, because he had found himself instructed by the view of it, and had as it were received a benefit from it.

But this employment of the faculty of judgment, which makes us feel our own cognitive powers, is not yet the interest in actions and in their morality itself. It merely causes us to take pleasure in engaging in such criticism, and it gives to virtue or the disposition that conforms to moral laws a form of beauty, which is admired, but not on that account sought after (laudatur et alget); as everything the contemplation of which produces a consciousness of the harmony Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [311] of our powers of conception, and in which we feel the whole of our faculty of knowledge (understanding and imagination) strengthened, produces a satisfaction, which may also be communicated to others, while nevertheless the existence of the object remains indifferent to us, being only regarded as the occasion of our becoming aware Edition: current; Page: [259] of the capacities in us which are elevated above mere animal nature. Now, however, the second exercise comes in, the living exhibition of morality of character by examples, in which attention is directed to purity of will, first only as a negative perfection, in so far as in an action done from duty no motives of inclination have any influence in determining it. By this the pupil’s attention is fixed upon the consciousness of his freedom, and although this renunciation at first excites a feeling of pain, nevertheless, by its withdrawing the pupil from the constraint of even real wants, there is proclaimed to him at the same time a deliverance from the manifold dissatisfaction in which all these wants entangle him, and the mind is made capable of receiving the sensation of satisfaction from other sources. The heart is freed and lightened of a burden that always secretly presses on it, when instances of pure moral resolutions reveal to the man an inner faculty of which otherwise he has no right knowledge, the inward freedom to release himself from the boisterous importunity of inclinations, to such a degree that none of them, not even the dearest, shall have any influence on a resolution, for which we are now to employ our reason. Suppose a case where I alone know that the wrong is on my side, and although a free confession of it and the offer of satisfaction are so strongly opposed by vanity, selfishness, and even an otherwise not illegitimate antipathy to the man whose rights are impaired by me, I am nevertheless able to discard all these considerations Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [312]; in this there is implied a consciousness of independence on inclinations and circumstances, and of the possibility of being sufficient for myself, which is salutary to me in general for other purposes also. And now the law of duty, in consequence of the positive worth which obedience to it makes us feel, finds easier access through the respect for ourselves in the consciousness of our freedom. When this is well established, when a man dreads nothing more than to find himself, on self-examination, worthless and contemptible in his own eyes, then every good moral disposition can be grafted on it, because this is the best, nay, the only guard that can keep off from the mind the pressure of ignoble and corrupting motives.

Edition: current; Page: [260]

I have only intended to point out the most general maxims of the methodology of moral cultivation and exercise. As the manifold variety of duties requires special rules for each kind, and this would be a prolix affair, I shall be readily excused if in a work like this, which is only preliminary, I content myself with these outlines.


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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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.

Edition: current; Page: [261]

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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [262] 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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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, 1 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.

Edition: current; Page: [263]


Edition: current; Page: [264] Edition: current; Page: [265]


I.: 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. 1 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 Edition: current; Page: [266] 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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [10], and have no relation to an object so as to contribute to the possible cognition of it 1 (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 Edition: current; Page: [267] 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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [268] 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. 1 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 Edition: current; Page: [269] 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) Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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.

Edition: current; Page: [270]

II.: of the conception and the necessity of a metaphysic of ethics.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [271] à priori is either tautological or assumed without any foundation. It is experience alone that can teach us what gives us pleasure Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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.

Edition: current; Page: [272]

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) Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [273] 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), 1 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 Edition: current; Page: [274] 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.

III.: of the subdivision of a metaphysic of morals. 1

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [18]

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 Edition: current; Page: [275] actions prescribed are the same or not: as, for instance, the actions might be in all cases external) Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [276] 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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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. Edition: current; Page: [277] Hence, while there are many directly ethical duties, the internal legislation makes all others indirectly ethical.

IV.: 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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [278] 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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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).

Edition: current; Page: [279]

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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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.

Edition: current; Page: [280]

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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).

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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, Edition: current; Page: [281] 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] 1 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.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [282] 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. Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [283] 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? Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [284] (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) Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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.

Edition: current; Page: [285]


Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [217]

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). 1

Edition: current; Page: [286]

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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?” Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [287] 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.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [288] 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; 1 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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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” 2 ), Edition: current; Page: [289] 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.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [222]

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.

Edition: current; Page: [290]

I.: —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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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. 1 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.

Edition: current; Page: [291]

Now the power and resolved purpose to resist a strong but unjust opponent is called fortitude (fortitudo) Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [292] 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. 1 But how is such an end possible? That is now the question. Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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).

II.: —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.

Edition: current; Page: [293]

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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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. Edition: current; Page: [294] 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), Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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) 1 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 Edition: current; Page: [295] 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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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.

III.: —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.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [296] 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.

IV.: —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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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.

V.: —Explanation of these two Notions.

(A.): —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 Edition: current; Page: [297] 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. Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [298] judgment of reason; but still it is a moral perfection, making every special end, which is also a duty, one’s own end. 1

(B.): —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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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, Edition: current; Page: [299] 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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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.

VI.: —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)” Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [300] 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).

VII.: —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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [301] 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). 1 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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [302] 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.

VIII.: —Exposition of the Duties of Virtue as Indeterminate Duties.

(1): 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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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.”

Edition: current; Page: [303]

(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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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.

(2): 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 Edition: current; Page: [304] 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) Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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. 1

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.

Edition: current; Page: [305]

IX.: —What is a Duty of Virtue?

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [241]

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. 1

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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [242], and the end is the matter (object) of elective will; hence there are many duties, differing Edition: current; Page: [306] 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] 1 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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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.

Edition: current; Page: [307]

X.: —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. 1 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) Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [308] ideal that to human perceptions it seems to cast in the shade even holiness itself, which is never tempted to transgression. 1 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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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.

Edition: current; Page: [309]

XI.: —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.

XII.: —Preliminary Notions of the Susceptibility of the Mind for Notions of Duty generally.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [246]

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 Edition: current; Page: [310] 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.

(A.): —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.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [311] 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.

(B.): —Of Conscience.

Similarly, conscience is not a thing to be acquired, and it is not a duty to acquire it Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [312] 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.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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. 1

(C.): —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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [250] nor the feeling on the will. Beneficence is a Edition: current; Page: [313] 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.

(D.): —Of Respect.

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.

XIII.: —General Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals in the treatment of Pure Ethics.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [251]

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 Edition: current; Page: [314] 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. Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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. 1 For instance, Edition: current; Page: [315] 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.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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. 1

Thirdly. Ethical virtue must not be estimated by the power we attribute to man of fulfilling the law; but conversely, the Edition: current; Page: [316] 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.

XIV.: —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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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). Edition: current; Page: [317] 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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [318] aversion in order to gain the precedence from the merely sensible incitement.

XV.: —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.

remarks. Of the Doctrine of Virtue on the Principle of Internal Freedom.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [256]

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).

Edition: current; Page: [319]

XVI.: —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) Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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.

XVII.: —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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [258]; it is supposed Edition: current; Page: [320] 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.”
  • Hor.

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.


Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [259]

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 Edition: current; Page: [321] 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.]

On Conscience.

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 Edition: current; Page: [322] 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. 1 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.

Edition: current; Page: [323]


Edition: current; Page: [324] Edition: current; Page: [325]


Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [19-20]

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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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.

Edition: current; Page: [326]

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 Edition: current; Page: [327] 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? Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [328] 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? Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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.

Edition: current; Page: [329]


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

Edition: current; Page: [330]

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [24] The answer given to the above question by the rigourists 1 is founded on the important consideration: Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [331] in respect of the moral law is never indifferent (is always one of the two, good or bad.)

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [332] 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. Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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.

I.: 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:—

  • 1. The capacities belonging to the animal nature of man as a living being.
  • 2. To his humanity as a living and at the same time rational being.
  • 3. To his personality as a rational and at the same time responsible being [capable of imputation]. 1
Edition: current; Page: [333]

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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, Edition: current; Page: [334] 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; Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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. Edition: current; Page: [335] 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.

II.: 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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [336] 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, Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [337] with this, the moral disposition is thereby corrupted in its root, and the man is therefore designated bad.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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; Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [338] 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); Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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).

Edition: current; Page: [339]

III.: 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, Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Navigator Edition: current; Page: [340] Islands, 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; Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [341] 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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [342] 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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [343] 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). Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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.

Edition: current; Page: [344]

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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. Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [345] 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, Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [346] 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

Edition: current; Page: [347]

IV.: on the origin of the evil in human nature.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [44]

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, Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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

Edition: current; Page: [348]

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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; Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [349] 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. Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [350] 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; Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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).

Edition: current; Page: [351]

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 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [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 Edition: current; Page: [352] 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,

General Remark. 1 on the restoration of the original capacity for good to its full power.

What man is or ought to be in a moral sense he must make or must have made himself. Both must be the effect of his free elective will, otherwise it could not be imputed to him, and, consequently, he would be morally neither good nor bad. When it is said he is created good, that can only mean that he is created for good, and the original constitution in man is good; Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [51] but this does not yet make the man himself good, but according as he does or does not adopt into his maxim the springs which this constitution contains (which must be left altogether to his own free choice), he makes himself become good or bad. Supposing that a supernatural co-operation is also necessary to make a man good or better, whether this consists only in the diminution of the obstacles or in a positive assistance, the man Edition: current; Page: [353] must previously make himself worthy to receive it and to accept this aid (which is no small thing), that is, to adopt into his maxim the positive increase of power, in which way alone it is possible that the good should be imputed to him, and that he should be recognised as a good man.

Now how it is possible that a man naturally bad should make himself a good man transcends all our conceptions; for how can a bad tree bring forth good fruit? But since it is already admitted that a tree originally good (as to its capacities) has brought forth bad fruit, 1 and the fall from good to bad (when it is considered that it arises from freedom) is not more conceivable than a rising again from bad to good, the possibility of the latter cannot be disputed. For notwithstanding that fall, the command “we ought to become better men,” resounds with undiminished force in our soul; consequently, we must be able to do so, even though what we ourselves can do should be insufficient of itself, and though we should thereby only make ourselves susceptible of an inscrutable higher assistance. It must, however, be presupposed that a germ of good has remained in its complete purity, which could not be destroyed or corrupted— Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [52] a germ that certainly cannot be self-love, 2 which, when taken as the principle of all our maxims, is in fact the source of all evil.

Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [53] The restoration of the original capacity for good in us is then not the acquisition of a lost spring towards good; for this, Edition: current; Page: [354] which consists in respect for the moral law, we could never lose, and, were it possible to do so, we could never recover it. It is then only the restoration of its purity, as the supreme principle of all our maxims, by which it is adopted into these not merely in combination with other springs or as subordinate to these (the inclinations) as conditions, but in its entire purity as a spring sufficient of itself to determine the elective will. The original good is holiness of maxims in following one’s duty, by which the man who adopts this purity into his maxims, although he is not himself as yet on that account holy (for there is still a long interval between maxim and act), nevertheless is on the way to approximate to holiness by an endless progress. Firmness of purpose in following duty, when it has become a habit, is called also virtue, as far as legality is concerned, which is its empirical character (virtus phenomenon). It has then the steady maxim of conformity of actions to the law, whatever may be the source of the spring required for this. Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [54] Hence virtue in this sense is gradually acquired, and is described by some as a long practice (in observing the law) by which a man has passed from the propensity to vice, by gradual reform of his conduct and Edition: current; Page: [355] strengthening of his maxims, into an opposite propensity. This does not require any change of heart, but only a change of morals. A man regards himself as virtuous when he feels himself confirmed in the maxims of observance of duty, although this be not from the supreme principle of all maxims; but the intemperate man, for instance, returns to temperance for the sake of health; the liar to truth for the sake of reputation; the unjust man to common fairness for the sake of peace or of gain, &c., all on the much-lauded principle of happiness. But that a man should become not merely a legally but a morally good (Godpleasing) man, that is, virtuous in his intelligible character (virtus noumenon), a man who, when he recognises a thing as his duty, needs no other spring than this conception of duty itself; this is not to be effected by gradual reform, as long as the principle of his maxims remains impure, but requires a revolution in the mind (a transition to the maxim of holiness of mind), and he can only become a new man by a kind of new birth, as it were by a new creation (Gospel of John, iii. 5, compared with Gen. i. 2) and a change of heart.

But if a man is corrupt in the very foundation of his Edition: current; Page: [356] maxims, how is it possible that he should effect this revolution by his own power and become a good man of himself? And yet duty commands it, and duty commands nothing that is not practicable for us. The only way this difficulty can be got over is, that a revolution is necessary for the mental disposition, but a gradual reform for the sensible temperament, which opposes obstacles to the former; and being necessary, must therefore be possible; that is, when a man reverses the ultimate principle of his maxims by which he is a bad man by a single immutable resolution Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [55] (and in so doing puts on a new man); then so far he is in principle and disposition a subject susceptible of good; but it is only in continued effort and growth that he is a good man, that is, he may hope with such purity of the principle that he has taken as the supreme maxim of his elective will, and by its stability, that he is on the good (though narrow) road of a constant progress from bad to better. In the eyes of one who penetrates the intelligible principle of the heart (of all maxims of elective will), and to whom therefore this endless progress is a unity, that is, in the eyes of God, this comes to the same as being actually a good man (pleasing to Him), and in so far this change may be considered as a revolution; but in the judgment of men, who can estimate themselves and the strength of their maxims only by the superiority which they gain over sensibility in time, it is only to be viewed as an ever continuing struggle for improvement; in other words, as a gradual reform of the perverse disposition, the propensity to evil.

Hence it follows that the moral culture of man must begin, not with improvement in morals, but with a transformation of the mind and the foundation of a character, although men usually proceed otherwise, and contend against vices singly, leaving the general root of them untouched. Now even a man of the most limited intellect is capable of the impression of an increased respect for an action conformable to duty, in proportion as he withdraws from it in thought all other springs which could have influenced the maxim of the action by means of self-love; and even children are capable of finding out even the Edition: current; Page: [357] least trace of a mixture of spurious springs of action, in which case the action instantly loses all moral worth in their eyes. This capacity for good is admirably cultivated by adducing the example of even good men (good as regards their conformity to law), and allowing one’s moral pupils to estimate the impurity of many maxims from the actual springs of their actions; Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [56] and it gradually passes over into the character, so that duty simply of itself commences to acquire considerable weight in their hearts. But to teach them to admire virtuous actions, however great the sacrifice they may cost, is not the right way to maintain the feeling of the pupil for moral good. For however virtuous anyone may be, all the good he can ever do is only duty; and to do his duty is no more than to do what is in the common moral order, and therefore does not deserve to be admired. On the contrary, this admiration is a lowering of our feeling for duty, as if obedience to it were something extraordinary and meritorious.

There is, however, one thing in our soul which, when we take a right view of it, we cannot cease to regard with the highest astonishment, and in regard to which admiration is right or even elevating, and that is the original moral capacity in us generally. What is that in us (we may ask ourselves) by which we, who are constantly dependent on nature by so many wants, are yet raised so far above it in the idea of an original capacity (in us) that we regard them all as nothing, and ourselves as unworthy of existence, if we were to indulge in their satisfaction in opposition to a law which our reason authoritatively prescribes; although it is this enjoyment alone that can make life desirable, while reason neither promises anything nor threatens. The importance of this question must be deeply felt by every man of the most ordinary ability, who has been previously instructed as to the holiness that lies in the idea of duty, but who has not yet ascended to the investigation of the notion of freedom, which first arises from this law; 1 Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [57] and even the incomprehensibility of this capacity, a capacity which proclaims a Edition: current; Page: [358] Divine origin, must rouse his spirit to enthusiasm, and strengthen it for any sacrifices which respect for this duty may impose on him. The frequent excitement of this feeling of the sublimity of a man’s moral constitution is especially to be recommended as a means of awaking moral sentiments, since it operates in direct opposition to the innate propensity to pervert the springs in the maxims of our elective will, Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [58] and tends to make unconditional respect for the law the ultimate condition of the admission of all maxims, and so restores the original moral subordination of the springs of action, and the capacity for good in the human heart in its primitive purity.

But is not this restoration by one’s own strength directly opposed to the thesis of the innate corruption of man for everything good? Undoubtedly, as far as conceivability is concerned, that is to say, our discernment of its possibility, just as with everything which has to be regarded as an event in time (change), and as such necessarily determined by laws of nature, whilst its opposite must yet be regarded as possible by freedom in accordance with moral laws; but it is not opposed to the possibility of this restoration itself. For if the moral law commands that we shall now be better men, it follows inevitably that we also can be better. The thesis of innate evil has no application in dogmatic morality; for its precepts contain the very same duties, and continue in the same force, whether there is in us an innate propensity Edition: current; Page: [359] to transgression or not. In the culture of morality this thesis has more significance, but still it means no more than this, that in the moral cultivation of the moral capacity for good created in us, we cannot begin from a natural state of innocence, but must start from the supposition of a depravity of the elective will in assuming maxims that are contrary to the original moral capacity, and, since the propensity thereto is ineradicable, with an unceasing effort against it. Now, as this only leads to a progress in infinitum from bad to better, it follows that the transformation of the disposition of a bad into that of a good man is to be placed in the change of the supreme inner principle of all his maxims, in accordance with the moral law, provided that this new principle (the new heart) be itself immutable. A man cannot, however, naturally attain the conviction [that it is immutable], either by immediate consciousness, Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [59] or by the proof derived from the course of life he has hitherto pursued, for the bottom of his heart (the subjective first principle of his maxims) is inscrutable to himself; but unto the path that leads to it, and which is pointed out to him by a fundamentally improved disposition, he must be able to hope to arrive by his own efforts, since he ought to become a good man and can only be esteemed morally good by virtue of that which can be imputed to him as done by himself.

Now reason, which is naturally disinclined to moral effort, Edition: current; Page: [360] opposes to this expectation of self-improvement all sorts of corrupt ideas of religion, under the pretext of natural impotence (among which is to be reckoned, attributing to God Himself the adoption of the principle of happiness as the supreme condition of His commands). Now we may divide all religions into two classes—favour-seeking religion (mere worship), and moral religion, that is, the religion of a good life. By the former a man either flatters himself that God can make him eternally happy (by remission of his demerits), without his having any need to become a better man, or if this does not seem possible to him, that God can make him a better man, without his having to do anything in the matter himself except to ask for it; which, as before an all-seeing being asking is no more than wishing, would in fact be doing nothing; for if the mere wish were sufficient, every man would be good. But in the moral religion (and amongst all the public religions that have ever existed the Christian alone is moral) it is a fundamental principle that everyone must do as much as lies in his power to become a better man, and that it is only when he has not buried his innate talent (Luke xix. 12-16), when he has used the original capacity for good so as to become a better man, that he can hope that what is not in his power will be supplied by a higher co-operation. But it is not absolutely necessary that man should know in what this co-operation consists; Edition: Rosenkranz; Page: [60] perhaps it is even inevitable that if the way in which it happens had been revealed at a certain time, different men at another time should form different conceptions of it, and that with all honesty. But then the principle holds good: “it is not essential, and therefore not necessary for everyone to know what God does or has done for his salvation,” but it is essential to know what he himself has to do in order to be worthy of this assistance. 1

Edition: current; Page: [361]



In the work called France, for the year 1797, Part VI. No. 1, on Political Reactions, by Benjamin Constant, the following passage occurs, p. 123:—

“The moral principle that it is one’s duty to speak the truth, if it were taken singly and unconditionally, would make all society impossible. We have the proof of this in the very direct consequences which have been drawn from this principle by a German philosopher, who goes so far as to affirm that to tell a falsehood to a murderer who asked us whether our friend, of whom he was in pursuit, had not taken refuge in our house, would be a crime.” 2

The French philosopher opposes this principle in the following manner, p. 124:—“It is a duty to tell the truth. The notion of duty is inseparable from the notion of right. A duty is what in one being corresponds to the right of another. Where there are no rights there are no duties. To tell the truth then is a duty, but only towards him who has a right to the truth. But no man has a right to a truth that injures others.” The πρωˆτον ψενˆδος here lies in the statement that “To tell the truth is a duty, but only towards him who has a right to the truth.

It is to be remarked, first, that the expression “to have a right to the truth” is unmeaning. We should rather say, a man has a right Edition: current; Page: [362] to his own truthfulness (veracitas), that is, to subjective truth in his own person. For to have a right objectively to truth would mean that, as in meum and tuum generally, it depends on his will whether a given statement shall be true or false, which would produce a singular logic.

Now, the first question is whether a man—in cases where he cannot avoid answering Yes or No—has the right to be untruthful. The second question is whether, in order to prevent a misdeed that threatens him or some one else, he is not actually bound to be untruthful in a certain statement to which an unjust compulsion forces him.

Truth in utterances that cannot be avoided is the formal duty of a man to everyone, 1 however great the disadvantage that may arise from it to him or any other; and although by making a false statement I do no wrong to him who unjustly compels me to speak, yet I do wrong to men in general in the most essential point of duty, so that it may be called a lie (though not in the jurist’s sense), that is, so far as in me lies I cause that declarations in general find no credit, and hence that all rights founded on contract should lose their force; and this is a wrong which is done to mankind.

If, then, we define a lie merely as an intentionally false declaration towards another man, we need not add that it must injure another; as the jurists think proper to put in their definition (mendacium est falsiloquium in præjudicium alterius). For it always injures another; if not another individual, yet mankind generally, since it vitiates the source of justice. This benevolent lie may, however, by accident (casus) become punishable even by civil laws; and that which escapes liability to punishment only by accident may be condemned as a wrong even by external laws. For instance, if you have by a lie hindered a man who is even now planning a murder, you are legally responsible for all the consequences. But if you have strictly adhered to the truth, public justice can find no fault with you, be the unforeseen consequence what it may. It is possible that whilst you have honestly answered Yes to the murderer’s question, whether his intended victim is in the house, the latter may have gone out unobserved, Edition: current; Page: [363] and so not have come in the way of the murderer, and the deed therefore have not been done; whereas, if you lied and said he was not in the house, and he had really gone out (though unknown to you) so that the murderer met him as he went, and executed his purpose on him, then you might with justice be accused as the cause of his death. For, if you had spoken the truth as well as you knew it, perhaps the murderer while seeking for his enemy in the house might have been caught by neighbours coming up and the deed been prevented. Whoever then tells a lie, however good his intentions may be, must answer for the consequences of it, even before the civil tribunal, and must pay the penalty for them, however unforeseen they may have been; because truthfulness is a duty that must be regarded as the basis of all duties founded on contract, the laws of which would be rendered uncertain and useless if even the least exception to them were admitted.

To be truthful (honest) in all declarations is therefore a sacred unconditional command of reason, and not to be limited by any expediency.

M. Constant makes a thoughtful and sound remark on the decrying of such strict principles, which it is alleged lose themselves in impracticable ideas, and are therefore to be rejected (p. 123):—“In every case in which a principle proved to be true seems to be inapplicable, it is because we do not know the middle principle which contains the medium of its application.” He adduces (p. 121) the doctrine of equality as the first link forming the social chain (p. 121); “namely, that no man can be bound by any laws except those to the formation of which he has contributed. In a very contracted society this principle may be directly applied and become the ordinary rule without requiring any middle principle. But in a very numerous society we must add a new principle to that which we here state. This middle principle is, that the individuals may contribute to the formation of the laws either in their own person or by representatives. Whoever would try to apply the first principle to a numerous society without taking in the middle principle would infallibly bring about its destruction. But this circumstance, which would only show the ignorance or incompetence of the lawgiver, would prove nothing against the principle itself.” He concludes (p. 125) thus: “A principle recognised as truth must, therefore, never be abandoned, however obviously danger may seem to be involved in it.” (And yet the good man himself abandoned the unconditional principle of veracity on account of the danger to society, because he could not discover any middle Edition: current; Page: [364] principle would serve to prevent this danger; and, in fact, no such principle is to be interpolated here.)

Retaining the names of the persons as they have been here brought forward, “the French philosopher” confounds the action by which one does harm (nocet) to another by telling the truth, the admission of which he cannot avoid, with the action by which he does him wrong (lædit). It was merely an accident (casus) that the truth of the statement did harm to the inhabitant of the house; it was not a free deed (in the juridicial sense). For to admit his right to require another to tell a lie for his benefit would be to admit a claim opposed to all law. Every man has not only a right, but the strictest duty to truthfulness in statements which he cannot avoid, whether they do harm to himself or others. He himself, properly speaking, does not do harm to him who suffers thereby; but this harm is caused by accident. For the man is not free to choose, since (if he must speak at all) veracity is an unconditional duty. The “German philosopher” will therefore not adopt as his principle the proposition (p. 124): “It is a duty to speak the truth, but only to him who has a right to the truth,” first on account of the obscurity of the expression, for truth is not a possession, the right to which can be granted to one, and refused to another; and next and chiefly, because the duty of veracity (of which alone we are speaking here) makes no distinction between persons towards whom we have this duty, and towards whom we may be free from it; but is an unconditional duty which holds in all circumstances.

Now, in order to proceed from a metaphysic of Right (which abstracts from all conditions of experience) to a principle of politics (which implies these notions to cases of experience), and by means of this to the solution of a problem of the latter in accordance with the general principle of right, the philosopher will enunciate:—1. An Axiom, that is, an apodictically certain proposition, which follows directly from the definition of external right (harmony of the freedom of each with the freedom of all by a universal law). 2. A Postulate of external public law as the united will of all on the principle of equality, without which there could not exist the freedom of all. 3. A problem; how it is to be arranged that harmony may be maintained in a society, however large, on principles of freedom and equality (namely by means of a representative system); and this will then become a principle of the political system, the establishment and arrangement of which will contain enactments which, drawn from practical knowledge Edition: current; Page: [365] of men, have in view only the mechanism of administration of justice, and how this is to be suitably carried out. Justice must never be accommodated to the political system, but always the political system to justice.

“A principle recognised as true (I add, recognised à priori, and therefore apodictic) must never be abandoned, however obviously danger may seem to be involved in it,” says the author. Only here we must not understand the danger of doing harm (accidentally), but of doing wrong; and this would happen if the duty of veracity, which is quite unconditional, and constitutes the supreme condition of justice in utterances, were made conditional and subordinate to other considerations; and, although by a certain lie I in fact do no wrong to any person, yet I infringe the principle of justice in regard to all indispensably necessary statements generally (I do wrong formally, though not materially; and this is much worse than to commit an injustice to any individual, because such a deed does not presuppose any principle leading to it in the subject. The man who, when asked whether in the statement he is about to make he intends to speak truth or not, does not receive the question with indignation at the suspicion thus expressed towards him that he might be a liar, but who asks permission first to consider possible exceptions, is already a liar (in potentia), since he shows that he does not recognize veracity as a duty in itself, but reserves exceptions from a rule which in its nature does not admit of exceptions, since to do so would be self-contradictory.

All practical principles of justice must contain strict truths, and the principles here called middle principles can only contain the closer definition of their application to actual cases (according to the rules of politics), and never exceptions from them, since exceptions destroy the universality, an account of which alone they bear the name of principles.


There is no casus necessitatis except in the case where an unconditional duty conflicts with a duty which, though perhaps great, is yet conditional; e. g. if the question is about preserving the State from disaster by betraying a person who stands towards another in a relation such as, for example, that of father and son. To save the Edition: current; Page: [366] State from harm is an unconditional duty; to save an individual is only a conditional duty, namely, provided he has not been guilty of a crime against the State. The information given to the authorities may be given with the greatest reluctance, but it is given under pressure, namely, moral necessity. But if a shipwrecked man thrusts another from his plank in order to save his own life, and it is said that he had the right of necessity (i. e. physical necessity) to do so, this is wholly false. For to maintain my own life is only a conditional duty (viz. if it can be done without crime), but it is an unconditional duty not to take the life of another who does not injure me, nay, does not even bring me into peril of losing it. However, the teachers of general civil right proceed quite consistently in admitting this right of necessity. For the sovereign power could not connect any punishment with the prohibition; for this punishment would necessarily be death, but it would be an absurd law that would threaten death to a man if when in danger he did not voluntarily submit to death.—From “Das mag in der Theorie richtig seyn, u. s. w.” (Rosenkr., vii., p. 211.)

[The two cases here considered were probably suggested by Cicero, who quotes them from Hecato, a disciple of Panætius.—De Off. iii. 23.]

Edition: current; Page: [367]

Printed by Ponsonby and Weldrick, Dublin.


I. e. “Religion, so far as it lies within the limits of Reason alone”; not “pure Reason,” as some German, and perhaps all English, writers on the history of philosophy have it. Kant himself, indeed, writes “reiner” in one place (p. 60, note); but this is, doubtless, a slip, if not a printer’s error. Slips of the same kind are frequent, us my foot-notes show.


So marked in Kan’s first edition.


The circumstances are worth recording here: This friend had fallen into a fever in consequence of being abandoned by her betrothed lover, to whom she was deeply attached. She could not be induced to swallow the nauseous draughts prescribed for her, and Kant’s mother, who nursed her, having failed in her attempt at persuasion, thought to succeed by setting the example of taking the medicine herself. When she had done so, she was seized with nausea and shivering, and at the same time observing spots on her friend’s body, which she took for fever-spots or petechiæ, her imagination was excited, thinking that she had caught the infection. She was seized with fever the same day, and died a few days after.


See an Essay by the present writer on the Theory of the Tides in the Philosophical Magazine, January, 1870; February, 1871; and January, 1872; and in the Quarterly Journal of Mathematics, March, 1872; and on the amount of the retardation, Hermathena, 1882. (These Essays have now been published in a volume.) Kant subsequently thought of another cause, which might operate in the opposite direction, viz. the condensation of the interior parts of the earth. He did not, however, publish the suggestion.


I do not suppose it likely that Laplace should have seen Kant’s anonymous book, but it must be remembered that Kant mentioned his theory in several publications, and probably referred to it in his lectures.


Kant assumed too hastily that Kepler’s third law applies to the particles of the ring, which amounts to supposing that their mutual disturbances are negligible. Yet, considering the form of the rings, this is not a violent hypothesis.


Phys. Geogr., p. 449.


Wright’s work was entitled, An Original Theory; or, a New Hypothesis of the Universe founded on the Laws of Nature. By Thomas Wright, of Durham. London, 1750. It is singular that the speculations of this ingenious and original writer have been saved from oblivion in his own country by Kant, who was indebted for his knowledge of them to a German periodical. Prof. De Morgan has described Wright’s work at some length in the Philosophical Magazine for April, 1848; but De Morgan’s attention was drawn to it by Arago’s notice in the Annuaire for 1842; and Arago, who had not seen the book, only knew it through Kant’s reference. There is an account of Wright in the Gentleman’s Magazine, p. 1793, vol. 63.


This suggestion of Kant’s anticipated Lambert’s similar suggestion by six years.


This conception is alluded to in the Critique of Practical Reason, p. 376. Humboldt erroneously identifies Kant’s view of the nebulæ with that of Lambert and Halley: Cosmos (Sabine’s transl.), vol. iii., p. 223.


Compare Bishop Butler’s second Sermon on the Love of God, where he speaks of viewing the scheme of the universe in the mind that projected it.


Quoted by Kant from a German translation.


This suggestion also has been lately developed in a popular manner, as a novelty.


In 1763 he repeated the substance of it in the treatise, Der einsig mogliche Beweisgrund zu einer Demonstration des Daseyns Gottes. He there mentions that the former work was comparatively little known, as it had been published anonymously. In 1791 he caused an extract from it (containing what he thought worth preserving) to be appended to Sommer’s translation of Herschel: “On the Structure of the Heavens.”


This conjecture also has been confirmed.


Philos. Trans., vol. xvi. A short time previously one Dr. Lister propounded the singular theory that the trade winds were caused by the breath of the marine plant Sargasso.—(Ibid., vol. xiv.)


Kant himself says that, as far as he knew, no previous writer had stated this principle, and he was well read in such subjects at that time. It had, however, been stated by Geo. Hadley (not “Sextant” Hadley) in 1735 (Phil. Trans., vol. xxxix., pub. 1738). But Hadley’s paper attracted no attention; and D’Alembert, in his Reflections on the Causes of the Winds (1747), which obtained the prize offered by the Berlin Academy, rejects the heat of the sun as a cause, and makes all the phenomena depend on the attraction of the sun and moon. In the French Encyclopédie (1765, nine years after Kant’s Paper, thirty after Hadley’s), this is combined with Halley’s theory, and it is suggested further that the monsoons may be due to the melting of snow, the exhalations from mountains, &c.


Not of Mathematics, as is sometimes stated. The Chair of Mathematics was offered to Kant, but Buck, the professor of Logic and Metaphysics, desired it, and Kant himself preferred the latter chair. Buck, therefore, became professor of Mathematics, and Kant took his place.


It may perhaps be interesting to note that both Berkeley and Hume produced their greatest philosophical works before the age of thirty. Fichte wrote his “Wissenschaftslehre” at thirty-three. On the other hand, Locke and Reid, whose object was, like Kant’s, to raise a barrier against scepticism, and to ascertain the extent and limits of the powers of the mind, both published their first philosophical treatises after fifty.


Translated by Mr. Bax, in Bohn’s Library, 1883.


Before reading this work of Kant’s, I had made a remark to the same effect in Sight and Touch, p. 76, with reference to the statement of Hamilton and others, that Sight is a modification of Touch. “Contact is usually understood to mean the approach of two bodies, so that no space intervenes between them; but in this sense there is probably no such thing as contact in nature. Physically speaking, bodies in contact are only at such a distance that there is a sensible resistance to nearer approach. Sensation by contact then is sensation by resistance; to say then that sight is a modification of touch, is to say that the antecedent of vision is the exercise or feeling of the same repulsive force, which is a physical hypothesis, and, considered as such, is in fact absurd. Between ponderable substances and light, contact, in the sense just specified, is either impossible or is the normal condition.”


Translated by Mr. Semple. Edinburgh, 1836. Re-issued 1869.


Luther’s translation.


An interesting account of “The Last Days of Kant,” taken from Wasianski, may be found in De Quincey’s works, vol. iii.


Five German feet would be less than five feet two inches English.


Afterwards included in the “Streit der Facultäten.” This essay has had a circulation of over 50,000 in Germany, and a new edition has lately appeared.


See an amusing book, by George Catlin, Shut your Mouth. London, 1869.


Some of his critical biographers thought he ate too much, forgetting that this was his only meal in the twenty-four hours. “It is believed,” says De Quincey, “that his critics ate their way ‘from morn to dewy eve,’ through the following course of meals:— 1st, Breakfast early in the morning; 2nd, Breakfast à la fourchette, about 10 a.m.; 3rd, Dinner at 1 or 2; 4th, Vesper Brod; 5th, Abend Brod; all which does seem a very fair allowance for a man who means to lecture on abstinence at night.”


Yet some of his biographers state that he never gave alms to beggars.


The reader will be reminded of the similar story of Dr. Johnson and the boots.


Sidgwick, Method of Ethics, page 181; 3rd ed., page 207. In his third edition, Mr. Sidgwick appeals, in defence of his view, to Kant’s statements in pp. 38-42 of the present book. The passage on p. 299 was, he remarks, written ten years later. But I think it will be found that in each of his hypothetical cases he does not deduce the maxim from the imperative. What he does is to test the maxim by the imperative, just as he might test an argument by the rules of syllogism.


Discourse on the Attributes, &c. Ed. 1728, p. 200.


Sidgwick, Method of Ethics, page 450; 3rd ed., page 482. Mr. Sidgwick’s argument involves the assumption, that the sum of human happiness is certainly known to exceed that of human misery. Even on his own statement, a man who doubted or disbelieved this would be justified in adopting celibacy. Nay, in the latter case, he might regard it as a duty.


Kant appears to recognise this in the passage quoted p. 322.


For instance, Cicero de Legibus argues that there is “communio juris inter deos et homines.” Dr. Adams (in his celebrated sermon On the Obligation of Virtue), like Kant, remarks that to found the obligation of virtue on any good affections, or on a moral sense (as this is generally understood), is to make its nature wholly precarious, to suppose that men might have been intelligent beings without such sentiments, or with the very reverse. So Clarke had insisted that the eternal relations of things, with their consequent fitnesses, must appear the same to the understandings of all intelligent beings. In fact, this is a commonplace of English moralists.


Religion, p. 80.


This has been recognised by philosophers of all peri