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Immanuel Kant, The Metaphysics of Ethics [1796]

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Immanuel Kant, The Metaphysics of Ethics by Immanuel Kant, trans. J.W. Semple, ed. with Iintroduction by Rev. Henry Calderwood (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1886) (3rd edition).

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About this Title:

A work which contains 4 major pieces on metaphysics and ethics: the Groundwork of a Metaphysic of Ethics, an Inquiry into the a priori Operation of the Will (an extract from the Critique of Practical Reason), an Introdcution to the Metaphysical Elements of Jurisprudence, and the Metaphysical Elements of the Doctrine of Virtue.

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Table of Contents:

Edition: current; Page: [i]
Edition: current; Page: [ii]


london, hamilton, adams, and co.
dublin, george herbert.
new york, scribner and welford.
Edition: current; Page: [iii]
BY IMMANUEL KANT, professor of logic and metaphysic in the university of königsberg.
Edited, with Introduction, by REV. HENRY CALDERWOOD, LL.D., professor of moral philosophy, university of edinburgh.
Edition: current; Page: [iv] Edition: current; Page: [v]


  • List of Kant’s Works, . . . . page vii
  • Preface to Third Edition, . . . . ix
  • Introduction, . . . . . xi
    • Chap. I. Transit from the Common Notions of Morality to the Philosophical, . . . . 3
    • Chap. II. Transit from Common Moral Philosophy to the Metaphysic of Ethics, . . . 18
    • Categorical Imperative, 29; Autonomy of Will, the Supreme Principle of Morality, 55.
    • Chap. III.

      Transit from the Metaphysic of Ethics to an Inquiry into the à priori Operations of the Will, . . . . . . 57

      The idea Freedom explains that of Autonomy, 57; Freedom must be postulated as a Property of the Will of every Intelligent whatsoever, 58; Of the Interest attaching to the idea of Morality, 59; How is a Categorical Imperative possible? 65; Of the extreme verge of all Practical Philosophy, 68; Conclusion of the Groundwork, 77.

  • BOOK II.


    (Extracted from theCritik of Practical Reason.”)

    • Chap. I.

      Analytic of the Principles of Practical Reason, . . . . . . 81

      Edition: current; Page: [vi]

      Sec. 1. Exposition of the notions, Principle, Rule, Maxim, Law, 81; Sec. 2. Position 1. Every material principle whatsoever is à posteriori, and so can beget no practical law, 84; Sec. 3. Position 2. All material practical principles how different soever, agree in this, that they belong to one and the same system, whether distinguished or disguised by the names of Epicureanism, Eudaimonism, Benthamry, or Utilitarianism, and rest on self-love, 85; Sec. 4. Position 3. Under what condition maxims and laws stand, 92; Sec. 5. Problem 1. The Will’s Freedom demonstrated, 94; Sec. 6. Problem 2. On the hypothesis that a Will is free, to assign a Formula for the law regulating its causality, 94; Sec. 7. Fundamental Law of Reason, 97; Sec. 8. Position 4. Wherein the Ethical Nature of Man consists, 99.

    • Chap. II. On the à priori Spring of the Will, . 109
    • Chap. III. Further Explanation of the Will’s causal Freedom, . . . . . 130
    • Preface, . . . . . . 153
    • Introduction, . . . . . 158

      1. Of the Relation subsisting betwixt the Powers of the Human Mind and the Moral Law, 158; 2. On the Idea and the Necessity of having a Metaphysic of Ethics, 162; 3. Of the Division of a System of the Metaphysic of Ethics, 166; 4. Preliminary Ideas entering into the Metaphysic of Ethics, 169.

      Edition: current; Page: [vii]
      • Sec. A. What the Science of Law is, . . . 177
      • Sec. B. What is Law? . . . . 177
      • Sec. C. Supreme principle of Law, . . . 178
      • Sec. D. Law carries with it a title of Co-action, . 179
      • Sec. E. Law defined as that by which mutual Co-action is made consistent with Universal Freedom, 180
      • 1. Equity, . . . . . . 182
      • 2. Necessity, . . . . . 183
      • A. Division of Juridical Offices, . . . 184
      • B. Division of Rights, . . . . 185
  • BOOK IV.


    The notion “Virtue,” 193; The notion of an End which is at the same time a Duty, 197; The ground upon which Man represents to himself an End which is at the same time a Duty, 200; What Ends they are, the very essence whereof it is to be Duties, 201; Explanation of these two notions, 201; Morals contain no Law for Actions, 204; Moral Duty is of Indeterminate Obligation, but the Juridical Offices are strict, 206; Exposition of the Moral Duties as Duties of Indeterminate Obligation, 208; What a Moral Duty (or Virtuous Office) is, 211; The supreme principle of Law was Analytic—that of Morals is Synthetic, 213; Table of Moral Duties, 215; Prerequisites towards constituting Man a Moral Agent, 215; General principles of the Metaphysic of Ethics, 220; Of Edition: current; Page: [viii] Virtue in genere, 222; Of the principle distinguishing betwixt Morals and Law, 224; Virtue, as it is based upon a principle of Inward Freedom, demands, first (positively), Man’s Self-command, 225; Virtue, as based on a principle of Inward Freedom, demands, second (negatively), Apathy, considered as Force of Will, 226; Of the Subdivision of Morals, 228; Twofold principle of Division, 230.

      • I.—on the duties owed by man to himself.
        • Introduction, . . . . . 232
        • Part I. Of the Duties of Perfect and Determinate Obligation, . . . . . 237
          • Chap. I. Of the Vices opposed to the Duty owed by Man to himself as an Animal, . . . 237
          • Chap. II. Of the Vices opposed to the Duty owed by Man to himself as a Moral Being singly, . 244
          • Chap. III. Of the Duty owed by Man to himself as his own Judge, . . . . 254
        • Part II. Of the Indeterminate Moral Duties owed by Man to himself in regard of his End, . . 261
      • II.—of the duties owed to others.
        • Chap. I. Of the Duty owed to others considered simply as Men, . . . . . 266
          • Part I. Of the Offices of Charity, . . 266
          • Of the Vices contrary to Charity, . 277
          • Part II. Of the Duty of Reverence, . . 281
        • Conclusion.—Of the Union of Love with Reverence in Friendship, . . . . . 288
        • Appendix.—Of the Social Virtues, . . . 293
      • Part I. Ethical Didactics, . . . . 295
      • Part II. The Ascetic Exercise of Ethics, . . 303
      • Conclusion of the Metaphysic of Ethics, . . 306
Edition: current; Page: [ix]


I. Critik der reinen Vernunft; that is, Inquiry into the Reach and Extent of the à priori Operations of the Human Understanding: first published at Riga in 1781.

II. In 1783 Kant published a defence of the Critik, entitled Metaphysical Prolegomena. At the same time the first part of the Ethics appeared, under the title of Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten; i.e., Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Ethics. Both works have been translated into English: the first by Mr. Richardson, in 1819; the second by an anonymous writer, who published two miscellaneous volumes in 1799, under the title of Kant’s Essays. The work of Mr. Richardson is to be had at any bookseller’s. The Essays are apparently rendered by a foreigner, and printed abroad, although graced with a London title-page. The only copy of this Miscellany I have been ever able to procure, is the copy in the Advocates’ Library. No translation of any other part of Kant’s Philosophy has hitherto been attempted in this country.

III. In 1786, The Metaphysic of Physics. This expounds the metaphysical foundations of natural philosophy.

IV. In 1788, Critik der Praktischen Vernunft; that is, Inquiry into the à priori Functions and Operations of the Will, or, as we might say, a Dissertation on the Active and Moral Powers of Man. This is the superstructure reared upon the groundwork. It treats of the Causality and Spring of the Will, and of the Summum Bonum. Three chapters in this work will be found in the following sheets, under the title of “Inquiry into the à priori Operations of the Will.”

Edition: current; Page: [x]

V. Critik der Urtheilskraft, at Berlin, in 1790; which is a Dissertation on the Emotions of Beauty and Sublimity, and on the Adaptation of the Material Universe to itself, and to the Logical Functions of the Human Intellect.

VI. In 1796-97 there appeared the Metaphysic of Ethics—a work which bears evident traces of the great age of the author. He died seven years afterwards, at the advanced age of eighty. In translating this book, I have derived great assistance from the Latin translation of König, 1799, and from the French version of M. Tissot, 1833.

These six works constitute all that, in strict propriety of speech, can be called Kant’s System of Philosophy.

In intimate connection with this system, however, stand—

VII. His Theory of Religion. Religion innerhalb der Gränzen der reinen Vernunft, Königsberg, 1793.

VIII. Der Streit der Facultäten, Königsberg, 1798.

These two works contain the germ of the Rationalism of Germany.


IX. Anthropologie, 1799.

The extreme abstruseness and difficulty of Kant’s speculations afforded ample room for the ingenuity of commentators, who with various success have alternately elucidated and darkened the text. Some comments are mere catchpennies and barefaced impositions on the public. Others may be consulted with great advantage. The best expositions are those of Beck, Kiesewetter, and Buhle.1 To their labours I have been much indebted in preparing the Synopsis of the Critik prefixed to this version of the Ethic. I have taken from them, without scruple, whatever seemed needful for my purpose.—Tr.

Edition: current; Page: [xi]


A Third Edition of Kant’s Metaphysic of Ethics being called for within two years from the publication of the former, opportunity has been taken to make the book increasingly suitable for students.

Mr. Semple’s translation is given as before, with only slight verbal alterations, his lengthy Introduction and his Appendix being withheld as formerly.

The brief Introduction here supplied has been recast, to admit of the insertion of an outline of the intellectual system of Kant, and also of a Plan of Study. Other parts have been abbreviated to secure space for these additions.

Throughout the text, leading terms have been printed in capitals, and also the more important propositions.

Finally, a series of notes has been given, to facilitate the work of the student in instituting a careful comparison of passages.

H. C.
University of Edinburgh,
Edition: current; Page: [xii] Edition: current; Page: [xiii]


THE special value of the writings of Kant is so fully acknowledged, that there is no need to insist upon it here. In the literature of Moral Philosophy there is certainly nothing more important than the contributions which Kant has made to Ethical Science. Even those who hold a Utilitarian theory of morals, must wish to see the works of the great upholder of Intuitionalism placed within the reach of students. This may be readily believed when a leading representative, Mr. John S. Mill, allows that Kant “has become one of the turning-points in the history of Philosophy.”

The chief significance of the ethical writings of Kant is found in the prominence given to these two positions:—the à priori source of Moral Law,—and Freedom of Will, as essential to morality.

In making such a work as the present accessible to students, a few introductory observations, explanatory of Kant’s system, may be desirable, for the guidance of those who are just beginning the study of Moral Philosophy.


Kant’s Philosophy is known as critical and transcendental. The former designation has reference to the method; the latter applies to the matter or materials of the system. As he insists that philosophy must proceed by a critique of the mental Edition: current; Page: [xiv] powers, the result is a critical philosophy; and as, in prosecuting this critique, he finds everywhere certain elements superior to experience which constitute the main features of his philosophy, it is denominated transcendental. Thus, in the terminology of Kant, the transcendental is that which transcends experience, being à priori in origin, in contrast to empirical.

When from these general features we pass to a more minute examination of the philosophic system, there is a marked distinction between the Intellectual, or theoretic part, and the Moral, or practical part. The system is not a unity, which must be wholly accepted or entirely rejected. If one part of the system fall, the whole is not thereby laid in ruins. In this will be found the permanent gain to philosophy which attends upon the use of the critical method, in contrast to the dialectic. The speculative or theoretic part of Kant’s philosophy, full as it is of the most valuable contributions to mental philosophy, ends in a negative result. The moral or practical part takes a form altogether different, and ends in high positive results, affording to the Kantian system the only deliverance from scepticism. Nothing more than a bare outline of the intellectual system can be given here.

The main feature of Kant’s philosophy is the affirmation of the presence of an à priori element in all knowledge. He holds that while all knowledge begins with experience, it always includes what is superior to experience. Knowledge thus involves two elements, the one empirical, the other pure or à priori,—the one the matter, the other the form. Knowledge is obtained through the senses, through the understanding, or through the reason; and there is an à priori element connected with all the three. The product of the sensory is intuition; of the understanding, conception; of the reason, idea. The à priori form belonging to the senses are the intuitions of space and time; the à priori element belonging to the understanding consists in pure conceptions, which are the categories; and highest of all are the ideas of pure reason. Edition: current; Page: [xv] Beginning, then, with the lowest, the senses give us empirical knowledge, but this they do only under the à priori forms of time and space provided by the intellect. Rising above this, we come to judgments, among which there is an essential distinction between analytic and synthetic judgments. Analytic judgments may be described as identical judgments, gained by explication or analysis of a knowledge already possessed, as all body is extended, the notion body clearly involving the notion extended. Synthetical judgments are such as add to our knowledge, and are either à posteriori or à priori, that is to say, they are obtained either from a wider experience, e.g., some body is heavy, or from the pure reason, e.g., the law of causality. In all this it is apparent to what admirable purpose Kant has employed the critical method.

When, however, we consider the bearing of this theory on the grand question as to the certainty of our knowledge, the negative and sceptical result is painfully evident. Holding that knowledge cannot be obtained except under the forms which reason supplies, Kant accounts this as proving that knowledge is only what appears to us as beings subjected to these conditions, that is, knowledge is only of the phenomenal. What we regard as objects of our experience have no existence apart from our experience. Consequently, we can have no knowledge of things-in-themselves (noumena). Even the à priori discoveries of pure reason are only regulative of thought, not assertive of reality. Essential as they are for the exercise of human intellect, they lead into a series of paralogisms and antinomies from which there is no escape. These are the avowed negative results of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.

From this Critique, Kant passes to another, the Critique of Practical Reason, by means of which he reaches a certainty unattained in the earlier. Practical Reason reveals the Moral Law as a categorical imperative, discovering the dignity of man as a Person. From this Categorical Imperative, by transcendental deduction, and not as a thing known in conscious Edition: current; Page: [xvi] ness, he reaches the Freedom of the Will. In this relation it is discovered that man is both phenomenon and noumenon,—he belongs at once to the sensible state, and to the supersensible or cogitable,—in the former he is necessitated, in the latter he is free,—a moral being,—a personality. In all this we have a philosophy rich in critical results, and full of the most suggestive thought, though not cleared of the evil influence of those negative elements which cling to the preceding intellectual system. Into this Practical Philosophy of Kant, the student is here introduced.


The tone of Kant’s ethical writings is of the loftiest kind. A perusal of the present volume may explain how it should have happened, that in his own country he was charged with writing in a manner too abstruse, and at the same time developing a system of morals too lofty and stern. The general character of his Moral Philosophy may be inferred from such affirmations as these:—A good will is the only thing which is absolutely and altogether good. Nothing is dutifully done which is not done under a regard to duty. The moral law is a categorical imperative, leaving no option to the will. The moral law has no exceptions. The moral law makes self-esteem dependent on morality; it elevates our worth as intelligences, and yet derogates infinitely from self-conceit, inevitably humbling every man.

The fundamental positions of Kant’s Moral Philosophy may be stated in these three propositions:—First, Goodness of Will is the only absolute good on earth; Second, Practical Reason, as the revealer of moral law, is the governor of will to constitute it good; Third, Will is essentially free in order to goodness. From these positions it will be seen, that with Kant freedom of will is the grand essential for morality.

Edition: current; Page: [xvii]


The work now reprinted under the name of Metaphysic of Ethics was not published by Kant in the form in which the translator presented it to English readers. The first part, Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Ethics (Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten, Sämmtliche Werke, Rosencranz, Th. viii.), was published in 1785. The second portion of the book, that on the Will, constitutes part of the Critique of Practical Reason (Kritik der Praktischen Vernunft, Sämmtliche Werke, Rosencranz, Th. viii.), published in 1788. The third part is the Introduction to the Metaphysical Elements of Jurisprudence (Metaphysische Anfangsgründe der Rechtslehre, S. W. Rosencranz, Th. ix.) published in 1797. The last portion is the Metaphysical Elements of the Doctrine of Virtue (Metaphysische Anfansgründe der Tugundlehre, S. W. Rosencranz, Th. ix.), also published in 1797.

As a consequence of gathering into one volume portions of the writings of Kant, published so far apart from each other, there will be found at times a repetition of arguments and doctrines. This, which is apt to be disagreeable to a mere reader, will not prove unsatisfactory to students who wish to compare different statements made by the same author on the same questions.

The translation is reprinted as it at first appeared, with the exception of slight verbal alterations.


The position of Kant in the history of philosophy may be briefly indicated.

In the seventeenth century Hobbes had reduced morality to political expediency, and Locke, despite the valuable labours of Descartes, regarded all knowledge as empirical. On the other hand, Malebranche, stimulated by the writings of Descartes, was developing a higher philosophy, in which work Edition: current; Page: [xviii] he was followed by Leibnitz, who rejected the philosophy of Locke. The systems of Malebranche and Leibnitz were, however, burdened with hypotheses which ensured their downfall.

In the early part of the eighteenth century the philosophy of Locke was triumphant in Britain. Condillac was promulgating the same philosophy in France; while Leibnitz, under serious and self-created difficulties, was supporting in Germany a philosophy of a different type. In Britain, Shaftesbury, Butler, and Hutcheson maintained a Moral Philosophy based on a foundation antagonistic to the psychology of Locke. But the writings of these philosophers contained little more than a protest from the ethical side of mental science, against the results of Locke’s system. Then it was that Hume appeared to apply sceptical tests to the popular philosophy. Hume’s success occasioned temporary dismay. Scepticism proved potent to raze the Sensational Philosophy to its foundations. Occasioning thus, however, a demand for something more durable, it prepared the way for the most important contributions to mental science of which recent times can boast. Reid set himself in a plain, common-sense way to meet the claim. With philosophical caution, high ability, and much sagacity, to which the criticisms of Kant hardly do justice, he performed his task, though within a limited area, and in a manner singularly unsystematic. Kant, according to his own express acknowledgment, was awakened from dogmatic slumber by Hume’s criticism of the common philosophic faith. Thus awakened, he gave himself to profound thought, the results of which were poured from the press with amazing rapidity. In a series of volumes, wonderful for their rigidly philosophic style, and far-reaching insight, Kant has given us at once more to be rejected, and more to be retained, both in method and in doctrine, than any other thinker of modern times.

In the line of antagonism to a philosophy based exclusively on experience, there have followed, Stewart, Hamilton, and Edition: current; Page: [xix] Cousin,—Stewart expounding and amplifying the teaching of Reid; Hamilton blending the doctrines of Reid and Kant, there by complicating the discussion, as by independent research he has cleared it; Cousin supporting Reid, and at one time criticising, at another time upholding, both Kant and Hamilton. In the line taken by Kant in his speculative writings as to the relation of the subjective and objective, and specially as to the absolute, there have followed him in Germany, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. The theories of these philosophers come directly and visibly as developments out of the speculative philosophy of Kant. In these successive theories, as I venture to think, philosophy runs itself out, by running up to abstractions in the effort to attain a philosophy of real existence. Germany, in order to make a fresh start in philosophy, must return upon the way by which she has recently advanced, and abandon the dialectic method of Hegel, notwithstanding the splendid combinations which the Hegelian Logic presents. From Hegel, we must, I think, still return upon Kant, seeking fresh hope for Philosophy in a continued use of the critical method.


The leading questions which the student of Kant’s works must endeavour to answer are these:—How far has Kant, in the Critique of Pure Reason, been successful in seeking a philosophy capable of resisting the assaults of scepticism? In the search for a Moral Philosophy, how far has he escaped the negative result of his intellectual system? Is Practical Reason not also Pure Reason; and if it be, how does the ethical theory of Kant stand related to the speculative? (v. pp. 130-132.) If Freedom of Will is by Kant set in its proper place in Moral Philosophy, is the doctrine legitimately established by him? And, as fundamental to all, what is the true doctrine of Consciousness? Such questions as these remain to be answered by the student, who may set to Edition: current; Page: [xx] work on the writings of Kant, with the assurance of being amply repaid for all the labour required in subjecting them to rigid scrutiny.


For explanation of terms, and general guidance towards an accurate understanding of the author, the student may turn first to the Introduction to the Metaphysical Elements of the Doctrine of Virtue, from page 158 to page 176; and, in conjunction with this, to the Prerequisites of a Moral Nature, from page 215 to page 220. In the last-named passage, special attention should be given to the explanation of the nature of Moral Sense and of Conscience.

After these preliminary portions have been taken, the main points in the theoretic part of the work are the Categorical Imperative, or the Moral Law; and the Freedom of the Will, as the essential feature of a moral nature. These are to be studied as developed first in the Groundwork, Book I.; next in the extract from the Critique of Practical Reason, Book II.; and lastly, in the Metaphysical Elements of the Doctrine of Virtue, Book IV., 193-231. These should be taken successively in the order named; and, as they were published at different dates, it will be of consequence to compare carefully the statements bearing on the leading features of the theory.

After these parts, with the addition of the portion treating of Law and Jurisprudence, the more simple and popular division of the book, dealing with Applied Ethics, under the heads Elementology and Methodology, will be found very valuable, not in only itself, but as throwing fresh light on the more abstruse theoretical dissertations.

H. C.
Edition: current; Page: [1]


Edition: current; Page: [2] Edition: current; Page: [3]


THERE is nothing in the world which can be termed absolutely and altogether good, a good will alone excepted. Intellectual endowments, wit, and extent of fancy, as also courage, determination, and constancy in adhering to purposes once formed, are undeniably good in many points of view; but they are so far from being absolutely good, that they are qualities capable of being rendered bad and hurtful, when the will, under whose control they stand, is not itself absolutely good. With the bounties of fortune it is no otherwise: power, wealth, honours, even health, and those various elements which go to constitute what is called happiness, are occasionally seen to fill the mind with arrogance, and to beget a lordly and assuming spirit, when there is not a good will to control their influence, and to subordinate them, by stable maxims of conduct, to the final scope and end of reasonable agents. Nay, so paramount is the value of a good will, that it ought not to escape without notice, that an Edition: current; Page: [4] impartial spectator cannot be expected to share any emotion of delight from contemplating the uninterrupted prosperity of a being whom no trait of a good will adorns. And thus it would appear, that reason being judge, a good will constitutes a prior condition, without which no one is deemed worthy to be happy.

There are qualities which greatly aid and strengthen a good will; but they have not any inward worth of their own, and will be found always to presuppose a good will, which limits the praise they deservedly carry, and prevents us from regarding them as absolutely and in every respect good. Temperance, self-command, and calm consideration are not only good for many things, but even seem to compose part of the worth of personal character. There is, however, much awanting to enable us to designate them altogether good, notwithstanding the encomiums passed upon them by the ancients. For, apart from the maxims of a good will, they may be perverted; and a calm, resolute, calculating villain is rendered at once more dangerous and more detestable by possessing such qualities.

1st, A good will is esteemed to be so, not by the effects which it produces, nor by its fitness for accomplishing any given end, but by its mere good volition, i.e., it is good in itself; and is therefore to be prized incomparably higher for its own sake, than anything whatsoever which can be produced at the call of appetite or inclination. Even if it should happen that, owing to an unhappy conjuncture of events, this good will were deprived of power to execute its benign intent, still this good will (by which is not meant a wish) would, like a diamond, shine in itself, and by virtue of its native lustre. Utility or uselessness could neither enhance nor prejudice this internal splendour: they resemble the setting of a gem, whereby the brilliant is more easily taken in the hand, and offered to the attention of those not otherwise Edition: current; Page: [5] judges, but which would not be required by any skilled lapidary to enable him to form his opinion of its worth.

Still this idea of an absolutely good will, and the statement just advanced of its unconditioned worth, quite irrespective of any considerations of its expediency or conduciveness to use, startles the mind a little, and gives birth to the suspicion that these opinions may be founded only on some fantastic conceit; and that we mistake the end proposed by nature, when we imagine that reason is given to man as the governor of his will,* by its sway to constitute it altogether good.

To make this matter as clear as possible, let it be remembered that it is a fundamental position in all philosophy, that no means are employed except those only most appropriate and conducive to the end and aim proposed. If, then, the final aim of nature in the constitution of man (i.e., a being endowed with intelligence and will) had been merely his general welfare and felicity, then we must hold her to have taken very bad steps indeed in selecting reason for the conduct of his life; for the whole rule and line of action necessary to procure happiness would have been more securely gained by instinct than we observe it to be by reason. And should her favoured creature have received reason over and above, and in superaddition to its instincts, such gift could only have answered the purpose of enabling it to observe, admire, and feel grateful for the fortunate arrangement and disposition of the parts of its system, but never of subjecting the appetitive faculties to the weak and uncertain guidance of the contemplative. In a single word, nature would have taken care to guard against reason’s straying into any practical department, and would have prevented it from daring with its scanty insights, to project any schemes of happiness, and to sketch plans for attaining them. Both end and means behoved, on this supposition, to have been determined exclusively Edition: current; Page: [6] by nature, and to have been intrusted to instinctive impulses implanted by herself.

So far is this, however, from what is in fact observed, that the more a man of refined and cultivated mind addicts himself to the enjoyment of life and his own studied gratification, the farther he is observed to depart from true contentment; and this holds true to so great an extent, that some have acknowledged they felt a certain hatred of reason, because they could not conceal from themselves, that upon a deliberate calculation of the advantages arising from the most exquisite luxuries, not of the sensory merely, but likewise of the understanding (for in many cases science is no more than an intellectual luxury), they had rather increased their sources of uneasiness than really made progress in satisfactory enjoyment, and felt inclined rather to envy than think lightly of those inferior conditions of life, where man comes nearer to the tutelage of instinct, and is not much embarrassed by suggestions of reason as to what ought to be pursued or avoided,—a circumstance furnishing us with a key to explain the sentiments of those who state at zero the pretences of reason to afford satisfaction and enjoyment, and enabling us to understand that they do so, not out of spite or ingratitude towards the benign Governor of the world, but that there lies at the bottom of so rigid and severe a reckoning, the idea of a far higher and nobler end aimed at in man’s existence; and that this it is, not happiness, for which reason is bestowed, and in exchange for which all private ends are to be renounced.

For, since Reason is insufficient to guide the Will so as to obtain adequate objects of enjoyment and the satisfaction of all our wants, and innate instinct would have reached this end more effectually, and yet Reason2 is bestowed on man as Edition: current; Page: [7] a practical faculty of action, i.e., such a faculty as influences his will and choice, it remains that the true end for which reason is implanted, is to produce a will good, not as a mean toward some ulterior end, but good in itself.* This will is to be considered, not the only and whole good, but as the highest good, and the condition limiting every other good, even happiness; and in this case it quite coincides with the intentions of nature, that a high cultivation of reason should fail in producing happiness, this last being under the condition, i.e., subordinated to the production, of the first, viz., a good will, which is the absolute and unconditional scope and end of man; and yet, that in so failing, there should be no inconsistency in the general plan of nature, because reason, recognising its destined use to consist in the foundation of a good will, is only susceptible of a peculiar satisfaction, viz., the satisfaction resulting from the attainment of a final end, given alone by reason, and given independently and without respect to the objects proposed by inclination. In order to explain the conception of a good will, so highly to be prized in and for itself (and it is a notion common to the most uncultivated understanding), which it is alone that makes actions of any worth, we shall analyse the notion duty;—a notion comprehending under it that of a good will, considered, however, as affected by certain inward hindrances. But these last, so far from obscuring the radical goodness of the volition, render it more conspicuous by the contrast.

In proceeding to examine the cognate notion Duty, I omit all actions confessedly at variance with it, how expedient soever, and useful, and conducive to this or that end; for, with regard to them, no question can be made, whether they have been performed out of duty, it being already admitted that they collide with it. I also leave out of this investigation Edition: current; Page: [8] actions which are in accordance with duty, but are performed from some by-views or oblique incentives of appetite and inclination: the difference cannot be overlooked when an action is performed upon motives of private interest, and when upon a disinterested principle of duty; but the difference is not so easily detected when an action is in harmony with the requirements of duty, and the agent is likewise at the same time strongly biassed by the constitution of his nature to its performance. Thus it is consonant to duty that a merchant do not overcharge his customers; and wherever trade flourishes, every prudent trader has one fixed price, and a child can buy as cheaply as any other person. In this way the public are honestly dealt by; but that does not entitle us to hold that the trader so acted out of duty, and from maxims of honesty,—his own private advantage called for this line of conduct; and it were too much to suppose that he was so charitable as to deal fairly with all comers out of pure benevolence: in which case his conduct resulted neither from a principle of duty, nor from affection towards his customers, but from self-love and a view to his own advantage.

Again, to preserve one’s life is a duty; and independently of this, every man is, by the constitution of his system, strongly inclined to do so; and upon this very account, that anxious care shown by most men for their own safety is void of any internal worth; and the maxim from which such care arises is destitute of any moral import (i.e., has no ethic content). Men in so far preserve their lives conformably to what is duty, but they do it not because it is so; whereas, when distress and secret sorrow deprive a man of all relish for life, and the sufferer, strong in soul, and rather indignant at his destiny than dejected or timorous, would fain seek death, and yet eschews it, neither biassed by inclination nor by fear, but swayed by duty only, then his maxim of conduct Edition: current; Page: [9] possesses genuine ethic content. To be beneficent when in one’s power is a duty; and besides this, some few are so sympathetically constituted, that they, apart from any motives of vanity or self-interest, take a serene pleasure in spreading joy around them, and find a reflex delight in that satisfaction which they observe to spring from their kindness. I maintain, however, that in such a case the action, how lovely soever, and outwardly coincident with the call of duty, is entirely devoid of true moral worth, and rises no higher than actions founded on other affections, e.g., a thirst for glory, which, happening to concur with public advantage and a man’s own duty, entitles certainly to praise and high encouragement, but not to ethic admiration. For the inward maxims of the man are void of ethical content, viz., the inward cast and bent of the volition to act and to perform these, not from inclination, but from duty only. Again, to take a further case, let us suppose the mind of some one clouded by sorrow, so as to extinguish sympathy,—and that though it still remained in his power to assist others, yet that he were not moved by the consideration of foreign distress, his mind being wholly occupied by his own,—and that in this condition he, with no appetite as an incentive, should rouse himself from this insensibility, and act beneficently purely out of duty,—then would such action have real moral worth; and yet, further, had nature given this or that man little of sympathy in his temperament, leaving him callous to the miseries of others, but instead endowed him with force of mind to support his own sorrows, and so induced him to consider himself entitled to presuppose the same qualities in others, would it not be possible for such a man to give himself a far higher worth than that of mere good nature? Certainly it would; for just at this point all worth of character begins which is moral and the highest, viz., to act beneficently, irrespective of inclination, because it is a duty.

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To secure one’s own happiness is indirectly a duty; for dissatisfaction with one’s lot, and exposure to want and penury, might easily become occasions of temptation to overstep the limits prescribed by duty; but, prior to and apart from all considerations of duty, mankind have a strong and powerful appetency to their own happiness (happiness being in fact the gratification of all the appetites whatsoever), only the access to this happiness is so rugged and toilsome, that in passing along it, many appetites, with their gratifications, have to be surrendered; and the sum total of the gratification of all the appetites called happiness is a notion so vague and indeterminate, that we cannot wonder how one definite and given appetite should, at such time as its inebriate gratification is possible, entirely outweigh a faint conception (of happiness) only obscurely depicted in the mind. Hence we understand why a patient with gout chooses to satiate his appetite, and then to suffer as he best can; for in his general estimate the present enjoyment appears equal to his expectation (perhaps groundless) of some general happiness called health. But even in such a case as this, where the bent of inclination does not excite to secure happiness as consisting mainly in health, still the command of reason remains to promote one’s own health, not because man likes it, but because it is his duty; in which last case alone his actions have any moral worth.

It is thus, without all question, that we are to understand those passages of Scripture where it is ordained that we love our neighbour, even our enemy; for, as an affection, love cannot be commanded or enforced, but to act kindly from a principle of duty can, not only where there is no natural desire, but also where aversion irresistibly thrusts itself upon the mind; and this would be a practical love, not a pathological liking,* and would consist in the original volition, and Edition: current; Page: [11] not in any sensation or emotion of the sensory;—a practical love, resulting from maxims of practical conduct, and not from ebullitions and overflowings of the heart.

2nd, The second position is, that an action done out of duty has its moral worth, not from any purpose it may subserve, but from the maxim according to which it is determined on; it depends not on the effecting any given end, but on the principle of volition singly. That the end aimed at in a given action cannot impart to it absolute moral worth, is, from the foregoing, plain. Wherein, then, consists this value, if it is not to be placed in the relation of the will to its effected action? It can consist only in the relation betwixt the will and the principle or maxim according to which the volition was constructed, and this apart from all regard had to any ends attainable by the action, for the will lies in the midst betwixt its formal principle à priori, and the material appetites à posteriori;* and since the choice must be determined by something, the principle à priori alone remains, all à posteriori considerations being taken away when actions are to be performed from duty only.

3rd, The third position results from the two preceding. Duty is the necessity of an act, out of reverence felt for law. Towards an object, as effect of my own will, I may have inclination, but never reverence; for it is an effect, not an activity of will. Nay, I cannot venerate any inclination, whether my own or another’s. At the utmost, I can approve or like. That alone which is the basis and not the effect of my will can I revere; and what subserves not my inclinations, but altogether outweighs them, i.e., the law alone, is an object of reverence, and so fitted to be a commandment. Now, an action performed out of (propter) duty has to be done irrespective of all appetite whatsoever; and hence there remains nothing present to the will, except objectively Edition: current; Page: [12] law, and subjectively pure reverence* for it, inducing man to adopt this unchanging maxim to yield obedience to the law, renouncing all excitements and emotions to the contrary.

The moral worth of an action consists, therefore, not in the effect resulting from it, and consequently in no principle of acting taken from such effect; for since all these effects (e.g., amenity of life, and advancing the welfare of our fellow-men) might have been produced by other causes, there were no sufficient reason calling for the intervention of the will of a reasonable agent, wherein, however, alone is to be found the chief and unconditional good. It is therefore nothing else than the representation of the law itself— Edition: current; Page: [13] a thing possible singly by Intelligents—which, and not the expected effect, determining the will, constitutes that especial good, we call moral, which resides in the person, and is not waited for until the action follow.

But the question now presents itself, What kind of law is that, the representation of which must alone determine the will, if this last is to be denominated absolutely and altogether good? Since I have deprived the will of every spring resulting from obedience to any one given particular law, there remains nothing except the form of law in general which can serve as the mobile of the will; which ideal legality reduced to words, is couched in the following formula:—“Act from a maxim at all times fit for law universal.” Here nothing is expressed except general legality (dispensing with any particular law pointing to any given act), which serves the will for its determining principle, and which must in truth do so, unless the whole notion of duty is to be abandoned as chimerical and absurd. The above position is in entire unison with the notices of the most untutored reason; and the principle of universal fitness is, however darkly, ever present to the mind. A few examples will set this beyond doubt.

Let the question be put, if, when in difficulty, I may not promise, although determined to act otherwise than I say,—and every one will at once see the vast distinction betwixt an inquiry, whether or no it be prudent, and whether it be right (i.e., conformable to laws of duty), to promise deceitfully. That it were cleverly done is quite conceivable; nay, it would require much adroitness, since it were not enough by this evasion to secure for once my by-ends and interests, but it would be requisite to ponder the posterior disadvantages, and to study whether the consequences of this deceit might not issue in depriving mankind of all confidence in me,—an evil perhaps greater than that from which I proposed Edition: current; Page: [14] rescuing myself. So that it might be needful to consider if it were not, even in point of prudence, better to act from a maxim possessed of universal fitness, which could serve me for ever, and to adopt the principle never to promise apart from the intention to perform. But still, in this latter event, it is obvious that the maxim were based on an apprehension of the troublesome consequences attendant on deception; and it is quite different to adhere to truth out of a principle of duty, and to adhere to it from an apprehension of unpleasant sequents. In the former case, the very notion of speaking truth involves in it its own law, commanding how to act; the second compels me to look beyond the action, to ascertain how I may be affected by it. For when I swerve from the principle of duty, I know for certain my action to be evil; but if a maxim of prudence (expediency) only be departed from, I cannot tell whether the result may not fall out highly conducive to my advantage, although the safer plan were to abide by it. Now, in order to know whether a deceitful promise consists with duty, I put the question, Can I will my maxim (to free myself from embarrassment by a false promise) law, in a code or system of universal moral legislation? and the answer is, that the thing is impossible; for it were then vain for any one to say what he would do, others not believing the declaration, and repaying one another after the same fashion; consequently my maxim, if elevated to the rank of law, would become self-destructive and inconsistent, i.e., unfit for law universal.

What, therefore, I have to do in order that my volition be morally good, requires no great acuteness. How inexperienced soever in the course of external nature, I only ask, Canst thou will thy maxim to become law universal? If not, it is to be rejected, and that not on account of any disadvantages emerging to thyself and others, but because it is unfit for law in a system of universal moral legislation. Edition: current; Page: [15] For this potential legislation, reason forces me to entertain immediate disinterested reverence. And though we do not yet descry on what this emotion is founded, still we understand thus much of it, that it is the representing a worth far transcending the value of whatever is addressed to appetite and inclination; and that the necessity of an act out of pure reverence for the law is that which constitutes duty, before the representation of which law every other mobile recedes,—that being the condition of a will good in itself, the worth of which is above all.

And now we have evolved the principle whereon depend the common ethic notices we find mankind generally possessed of; a principle not of course cogitated in this abstract form, but which is notwithstanding, how darkly soever, always at hand, and made use of daily by all mankind in their common practical opinions and judgments. The task were easy to show how, with the aid of this principle for a compass, reason can in every instance steer for good and evil, and all this without teaching mankind anything new or unknown, provided only, as Socrates did, we made reason attentive to her own latent operations; and consequently, how we stand in no need of science or philosophy to know what it behoves us to do that we may become honest and good, nay, even wise and virtuous. This might have been surmised from the nature of the case, that an acquaintance with what was to be done, which for that reason it concerned every man to know, would have lain at the door of the most common person. Nor can we sufficiently admire how the practical and active powers of man are so much more easily exercised than we find the same powers to be in their theoretic and speculative use; for whenever untutored reason ventures upon this last, and quits the field of experience and observation, she gets involved on the instant in the incomprehensible, and becomes entangled in her own operations, Edition: current; Page: [16] or, however, errs through a labyrinth of inextricable doubt and uncertainty. But as soon as man has, for a practical end, excluded all à posteriori motives (every mobile taken from experience and observation) from the action of the moral law, then it is that his reason, all untutored as it may be, shows itself in the greatest vigour; it becomes even subtle, and chicanes with its own conscience as to the demands of duty, or sometimes may seek for its own instruction to determine accurately the worth of actions, and, what is the point to be observed, may expect to do so as successfully as any sage,—nay, may solve such practical questions better; for the philosopher can, after all, have no other principles to proceed on than what the unlettered and vulgar have; and his decision stands in hazard of being biassed by a multitude of foreign considerations, and so of deflecting from the right road to truth. And this leads us again to the further question, if, since all this is so, it were not better to leave these ethic notions unphilosophized upon,—at least to bring in the aid of science only to make the system more complete, or to assign rules for the purpose of polemical debate, but not to employ it for any practical behoof, and so distort the common sense of mankind from its native innocence and simplicity.

Innocence is indeed invaluable, but then it does not know how to defend itself, and is easily seduced. Hence it comes that even wisdom (which consists not in knowledge, so much as in what man practically pursues and avoids) stands in need of aid from science, not to learn anything, but to procure an inlet and stable foundation for her decrees. Man feels within him a mighty counterpoise against those edicts of duty which reason represents to be so highly august and venerable;—a counterpoise arising from his physical wants and instincts, the aggregate gratification of all which he calls happiness. Reason, however, unremittingly issues her inexorable Edition: current; Page: [17] command, and holds out to the appetencies no prospect or promise of any sort; and so seems to disregard and hold for nought their tumultuous and yet plausible claims, although these are not put to silence by the law. From this there results a dialectic within a man’s own self, i.e., a propensity or proneness to quibble away these rigid laws of duty,—at least to raise doubts as to their extent and severity, and to shape them, if possible, into a form coinciding with man’s appetites and wants; that is, in other words, to corrupt at the source the fountain of duty, and to tarnish and cloud all its dignity, which, however, again reason comes to revolt at, and disapproves.

We see, then, how it happens that even unlettered and vulgar reason is forced to step from home, and enter the fields of practical philosophy; not certainly to satisfy a speculation (by no fit of which the reason of the vulgar, so long as he is sane, is at any time invaded), but in order to be resolved as to her practical doubts, and to gain information there as to the origin and foundation of our own principles, and to be enabled to fix their weight and importance, when contrasted with those other maxims which rest singly on appetite and want, and so to be extricated from the double embarrass caused by these twofold claims, and shun the hazard of making peril of genuine ethic principles. And as reason, in its speculative use, fell into a dialectic with itself, in the same way we find that the practical reason, even of the unlettered, arrives unawares at the same antagonism with itself. Nor can either the one or other hope to attain security and repose, except by instituting an accurate inquiry into the reach and extent of their own à priori functions and operations.

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HITHERTO we have investigated the notion Duty, as we found it occurring in everyday practice; but it must not on that account be fancied that we have been occupied with a mere à posteriori notion. On the contrary, when we attend to what experience teaches of the conduct of mankind, we hear many complaints, the justice of which we must admit, that no certain instance can be adduced of actions flowing from the inward bent of the will, to act singly out of regard to duty; since, even in the cases where an action is quite in accordance with what duty would demand, experience and observation leave it entirely in doubt how far the action emanated from a principle of duty, and so possessed any moral worth. Accordingly, philosophers have at all times been found who denied the real existence of such inward dutiful intent, and who have insisted on ascribing all to self-love; not that they called in question the accuracy of the idea of morality, but regretted rather the frailty and improbity of human nature, which, while so noble as to start from the contemplation of so highly reverent an idea, was at the same time too weak to keep moving in its track, and employed reason, the legislator and governor of the will, to no other end than to adjust and settle the discordant claims of appetite and passion.

So little, in fact, is this notion borrowed from experience and observation, that it is utterly impossible to assign any Edition: current; Page: [19] instance where the maxims of an action outwardly conformable to duty rested singly upon moral grounds, and flowed directly from the representation of its law; and although there are unquestionably cases where, after the severest self-examination, we can discover nothing but the ethic sway of duty sufficiently mighty to have moved the will to this or that action, and to such vast self-denials, still we are unable to conclude that self-love may not have co-operated with the law, or that, somewhat assuming the place and likeness of duty, may not, after all, have been the real determining ground of acting; whereupon we falsely ascribe to ourselves the nobler motive, although, in point of fact, the most sifting scrutiny cannot carry us into those secret springs: since, where question is made of the moral worth of a person, the question turns not on what we see, but on the inward principle regulating the causality of the will; and to this no experience and observation can extend.

It is impossible to do a greater service to those who laugh to scorn the idea of absolute morality as fantastical and absurd, than to admit that duty and its cognate notions are à posteriori, and taken from observation and experience (a position extended by some, out of sheer indolence, to all perceptions whatsoever); for then we prepare for them a certain triumph. I am ready to grant that the major part of our actions coincide with duty: on examining, however, the aim and designs of mankind, self is generally found predominant, and actions spring from self, not from the stern law, which in most cases ordains self-denial. Nor need he be deemed an enemy to virtue, but a calm observer simply—not inclined to mistake his good hopes of mankind for the reality he wishes—who may at times be led to doubt whether genuine virtue is anywhere to be found throughout the world; and in such a state of things, nowhat can guard against our total apostasy from the idea Duty, and uphold in our soul reverence Edition: current; Page: [20] for its law, except the clear insight, that even although there never yet were actions emanating from this pure source, that cannot affect the question: since we do not now inquire what phenomena may in fact happen, but whether or not reason, irrespective of all phenomena, legislate for herself, and ordain what ought to happen? i.e., whether reason do not unremittingly call for conduct, whereof perhaps the world never yet saw an example, and the practicability of which would be doubted or denied by those who advance singly on experience and observation?—and the consequent conviction, that disinterested friendship (for example) is not the less justly expected from mankind, although possibly there may never yet have been any moral friends; friendship being a duty indicated as such, independently of and prior to all experience, and given with the idea of a will determined à priori upon grounds of reason.*

Again, when it is added, that unless where morality is totally denied, no one doubts that its law is figured to be of catholic extent, and valid, not adventitiously or contingently, but absolutely and necessarily, and that not merely for man, but for every intelligent nature, such universality and necessity reminds us at once, that no experiment or observation could even suggest to us the possibility of thinking such an apodictic legislation. Nor could we have any right to bring into unlimited reverence, as an edict addressed to every Rational, a law dependent on the particular and accidental structure of humanity; nor could we hold laws determining our will, for laws determining all wills, regarding them in fact on this last account alone as likewise laws for us, were their origin in experience and observation, and were they not entirely originated by the pure à priori spontaneity of practical reason.

Nor can morality fall into the hands of worse defenders than when it happens into the hands of those who attempt Edition: current; Page: [21] to found it on examples; for every example given to me of it must first be compared with the principle and standard of morality, to know if it be worthy of being elevated to the rank of an archetype or pattern, and so of course cannot originate in us the notion. Even the Holy One in the gospel is only recognised to be so when compared with our ideal of moral excellence. So much is this the case, that He Himself said, Why call ye me (whom ye see) good? there is none good (the archetype of it), but God only (whom ye do not see). Whence this idea God, as the supreme archetypal good? Singly from that idea of ethical perfection, evolved by reason à priori, and connected by it indissolubly to the notion of a free will. Imitation has no place in morals. Examples serve only to encourage to moral practice—to put beyond doubt the possibility of performing those duties unremittingly commanded by the law,—and to exhibit to sense, in a tangible and outward substance, what the legislation of reason expresses only in the abstract and general; but their use is perverted when their original in reason is overlooked, and conduct regulated upon the model of the example.

If there be no genuine and supreme principle of morality given apart from all observation and experience, and resting upon reason only, then I think it were idle so much as to inquire if it were good to treat these à priori notions, and to deliver their principles in the abstract; unless indeed we merely wished to separate betwixt the common ethic notions of the unlettered, and a system of them which might aspire to be called philosophical. And yet in the present age this last may well be necessary; for were we to collect voices as to whether a popular practical philosophy or metaphysic of ethics (i.e., rational cognition divested of every à posteriori part)* were more eligible, I know full well on which side I should find most votes.

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To accommodate a science to the common conceptions of the people is highly laudable, when once the science has been established on first principles; and that, in the present case, would amount to founding ethics on their true basis, metaphysics; after which a popular dress may carry and spread the science more widely: but to attempt such a thing in a first investigation is folly. Not only would such procedure have no claim to the signal and rare merit of true philosophic popularity, but it would lie open to the objection of amounting to no more than an odious and revolting mixture of random remarks, crude and half-fledged opinions,—a mad attempt, which would furnish the shallow with materials to talk of and quote in conversation, but which could only embarrass the more profound, who, dissatisfied, avert their eyes, and remain unaided; although those who see through the illusion are little listened to when they insist on the abandonment of a futile popularity, in order to become then only popular when clear and definite insight has been attained.

To illustrate this remark, it were only requisite to examine popular modern treatises which have been got up in this taste, and we find at one time the destiny of man, which is particular, at another, the idea of an intelligent nature, which is general,—here perfection, there happiness,—then somewhat of the moral sense, and of the fear of God,—all mixed up in one huge heterogeneous mass. But nowhere do the authors seem to have impinged upon the cardinal question, whether principles of morality were to be sought for in the psychology of human nature? (which we know only from experience and observation,)—or whether, if this be not the case, they are not to be met with wholly à priori in pure ideas of reason, and nowhere else? Nor did it ever occur to them, in this last event, to commence an investigation of these first principles, as a particular and separate department Edition: current; Page: [23] of philosophic science, called, if I may be allowed the expression, “metaphysic* of ethics,”—to isolate and keep it by itself, in order to exhaust and complete its entire circuit and extent,—diverting in the meantime a public impatient for popularity till the issue and conclusion of the investigation.

Such a system of metaphysic ethics, isolated and cleared of all theology, anthropology, physics, hyperphysics, and occult qualities, which I may call hypophysics, is not merely a substratum indispensable for all theoretic knowledge in the department of duty, but is likewise a main desideratum towards the actual fulfilment of its law; for the naked representation Duty, unadulterated with any foreign charms,—in short, the moral law itself,—is so much stronger a mobile to the will than any other motive, that reason first learns by this method her own causal-force and independency on every sensitive determinator; until at length, awaking fully to the consciousness of her own supremacy and dignity, she scorns to act from any such, and comes in the sequel to be able to control and to command them: which things a system of ethics, not distinguished from the emotions of the sensory, cannot effect; for there the mind is at once perturbed by opposing causes, and is forced to waver betwixt feelings and ideas which cannot be reduced to any common principle, and is accordingly, owing to its instability and uncertainty, led sometimes wrong, sometimes right.

From the above it is clear that all ethical ideas have their origin and seat altogether à priori in reason (in the reason of Edition: current; Page: [24] the unlettered, of course, as much as in that of the most finished sage); that they are not susceptible of explanation upon any à posteriori system; that in this high priori source consists their dignity and title to be supreme practical principles of life; that the addition of any posteriori motive lessens their native force upon the will, and destroys to that extent the absolute unconditioned worth of the action; and that it is absolutely necessary, in adjusting the speculative theory of ethics, as well as of the last practical importance in the conduct of life, to deduce the laws and ideas of morality from naked reason, to deliver these pure and unmixed, and to examine and exhaust the whole circuit of this originary science of reason (i.e., to investigate the à priori functions and operations of reason, as a practical faculty of action): in which investigation we cannot, as in speculative philosophy, examine the particular operations of the human reason, but are forced to examine reason as such, abstractedly and apart from the nature of man; the moral law having ethical virtue to oblige all will whatsoever, and so demanding a deduction from the abstract notion of intelligent existence. And in this way alone can ethics (which in their application to man stand in need of anthropology) be fully cleared and purged of this last, rendered a pure philosophy, and so fit to be prelected on as an entire metaphysic science; bearing the while well in mind, that, apart from possessing such metaphysic, not only is it vain to attempt to detect speculatively the ethical part of given actions, but that it is impossible, in ethical instruction (i.e., in the most common practical case), to base morality on its true foundation, to effectuate genuine moral sentiments, and determine the mind, by the idea of the summum bonum, to exert itself onwards toward the advancement of the general welfare of humanity.

Now, to advance in this investigation from the common opinions—which are highly venerable—to the philosophical, Edition: current; Page: [25] as was done in the former chapter, and from that popular tentative philosophy which I have just denounced, up to a system of metaphysics containing no à posteriori part, and rising in its course even to ideas where all examples fall away, it is needful to pursue reason in its active function, from its general law of determination up to that point where the notion Duty is evolved.

Everything in the world acts according to law; an Intelligent alone has the prerogative of acting according to the representation of laws, i.e., has a will: and since, to deduce actions from laws, reason is required, it follows that will is nothing else than practical reason.3* When reason invariably determines the will, then the agent’s actions which are recognised as objectively necessary, are subjectively necessary too; that is, the will is then a faculty to choose that only which reason, independently on appetite, recognises to be practically necessary, i.e., good. But if reason do not itself alone determine the will, and the will be subjected to inward impediments and stimuli not always in unison with the law,—in one word, if reason and the will do not exactly tally (as is the case with man),—then are the actions recognised as objectively necessary, subjectively contingent; and the determination of such a will, conformably to objective laws, is necessitation; that is, the relation obtaining betwixt objective laws and a will not altogether good is represented as the determining an Intelligent’s will upon grounds of reason, but to which the will is not by its nature necessarily conformed.

The representation of an objective principle, so far as it necessitates the will, is called a commandment (of reason); and a formula expressing such is called an imperative.

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All imperatives are expressed by the words “shall or ought,” and thus denote the relation obtaining betwixt an objective law of reason, and a will so constituted as not to be necessarily determined by it (necessitation). They say that somewhat were good to be pursued or avoided, but they say so to a will not always acting because it is represented to him that somewhat is good. That is practically good which determines the will by the intervention of a representation of reason; i.e., not by force of subjective stimulants, but objectively, i.e., upon grounds valid for every Intelligent as such. In this respect the good differs from the agreeable;* which last affects the will by means of subjective sensations, valid for the particular taste of individuals only,—not like a principle of reason, which is possessed of universal validity.

A perfectly good will would, equally with a defective one, come to stand under objective laws (of good); but with this difference, that it cannot be regarded as necessitated by the law to the legal action,—its very nature being such as to render it capable of determination only by the representation of what is good. Hence no imperative is valid for the Divine Will, nor indeed for any will figured to be Holy. Thou shalt Edition: current; Page: [27] were misapplied to such a will,—the will being already spontaneously in harmony with the law. An imperative is then no more than a formula, expressing the relation betwixt objective laws of volition and the subjective imperfection of particular wills (e.g., the human).

An imperative commands either hypothetically or categorically. The former expresses that an action is necessary as a mean toward somewhat further; but the latter is such an imperative as represents an action to be in itself necessary, and without regard to anywhat out of and beyond it, i.e., objectively necessary.

Because every practical law represents some action or another as good, it represents it to a being determinable by reason, as in so far necessary; and hence, upon this account, an imperative may be further explained to be a formula potentially determining an action deemed necessary by a will good in any sort of way. If the action be good only for somewhat else, i.e., as a mean, then the imperative is hypothetical; but if represented as good in itself, i.e., necessary according to the principles of a will self-conformed to its own reason, then it is categorical.

An imperative, then, declares, which of the actions I may have it in my power to perform is good; and it presents to view a practical rule taken in connection with a will, not constantly choosing an action because it is good, and this for two reasons: in part, that it often does not know what action is good; and also in part, because, when it knows this, its maxims militate against the law objected to the mind by reason.

A hypothetical imperative expresses merely the relative goodness of an act, viz., as good for some ulterior end, regarded either as in posse or in esse. In the prior case it is a problematic, in the latter an assertive, position. But the categorical imperative which propounds an act as in itself Edition: current; Page: [28] objectively necessary, independently of every further end or aim, is an apodictic practical position.

But as it may be needful to investigate more in detail the nature and constitution of these three kinds of imperatives, I observe—

First, We may consider whatever the power of an agent may accomplish as the potential end of his will; whence there spring as many principles of action as ends, which the being may regard as necessary in order to gain some given purposes. Even the sciences have a practical part, consisting of problems demanding a solution, and of imperatives announcing how such solution (the end) is to be effected; and imperatives of this kind are imperatives of art. Whether the end be good or rational is no element of the investigation, but simply this: what it is requisite to do in order to reach it. The recipe of a physician for thoroughly re-establishing his patient, and that of an assassin for poisoning him, have this value in common, viz., that of teaching surely how each may gain his end; and since mankind do not know what ends may occur in life, youth is taught as many things as possible, and care is taken to advance his skill and accomplishments so as to facilitate the practice of various ends, though no end can yet be fixed on as the fit choice of the youth himself,—among which ends he is left to choose, since it may be presumed that some one of them will be his. Nay, this care is frequently so great, that mankind neglect to instruct their youth how to estimate the worth of those things they have ultimately to accept or decline as ends.

Secondly, There is, however, one end, which we conclude that every finite being has, and that by the physical necessity of his nature, viz., the end and aim called happiness. The hypothetical imperative announcing the practical necessity of an act as a mean for advancing one’s own happiness is assertive. The imperative is necessary, not for any vague, Edition: current; Page: [29] indefinite, unknown end, but for one which we can certainly presuppose in the case of every man, such end being engrafted into his very being. Now, adroitness in choosing the means conducing to the greatest amount of one’s personal happiness is prudence (in the limited sense of that term); whence it follows that the imperative of prudence, referring to the choice of such means, is hypothetical, i.e., the action is ordained, not absolutely on its own account, but as a mean toward somewhat ulterior.

Lastly, There is an imperative, which, irrespective of every ulterior end or aim, commands categorically. Such imperative concerns not the matter of action, nor that which may flow from it, but its form and principle; and the act’s essential goodness consists in the formality of its intent, be the result what it may. This last imperative may be called one of morality.

The difference of the volition in these threefold imperatives is perceptible when we attend to the dissimilar grades of necessitation expressed by the imperative; and in this point of view they might, I think, be fitly called, 1. Rules of art; 2. Dictates of prudence; 3. Laws (commandments) of morality: for law alone involves the conception of an unconditionate, and objective, and universally valid necessity; and a commandment is a law to which, even with violence to inclination, obedience must be yielded. A dictate expresses likewise a necessity, but then it is no more than a subjective and conditioned one; whereas the categorical imperative is restrained to no condition, and it can alone, as absolutely necessary, be a commandment. The first sort are technical, the second pragmatic, the third ethical imperatives.

This brings us to the question, how all these imperatives are possible,—a question which asks, not how they may be reduced to practice, but how the necessitation expressed in each imperative can be depicted to the mind. How an imperative Edition: current; Page: [30] of art is possible, requires no further explanation. Whoso wills the end aimed at, wills also the means indispensably requisite for attaining it. This position is analytic, for in willing an object as my own effect, I represent my own causality as employing the means toward it; and the imperative merely develops the conception of acts necessary to this end, out of the conception “willing that end itself.” To determine the means requisite for attaining the end, may no doubt be difficult, and will require synthetic propositions; but these do not concern the ground, the originary act of will, but respect singly the act of realization of its object. That in order to bisect a line with certainty I must describe from its extremities segments of intersecting circles, is taught in the mathematics by synthetic propositions only; but when I know that these steps must take place in order to that end, then it is an analytic proposition to say, that when I will the end, I will also the intervening steps; for to represent somewhat as an effect possible by me in a given way, and to represent myself as acting in that way toward the effect, are quite identical.

The imperatives of prudence would stand exactly in the same situation with those of art, were it alike easy to frame a definite conception of what is happiness; and in either case we should say, he who wills the end, wills likewise all the means toward it which are within his power. But unfortunately the conception Happiness is so vague, that although all wish to attain it, yet no one is ever able to state distinctly to himself what the object willed is; the reason whereof is, that the elements constituting the conception happiness are cognisable à posteriori only, and must be inferred inductively from experience and observation; while at the same time, as an ideal of imagination, happiness demands an absolute whole, i.e., a maximum of well-being, both in my present and every future state; and what this may in real fact and event amount Edition: current; Page: [31] to, no finite Intelligent can explain, nor can he tell what it is he chooses in such a volition. Is wealth the object of his desire? how much envy and detraction may that not entail upon him? in what perturbations may that not involve him? Are superior parts and vast learning the object of his choice? Such advantages might prove but a sad eminence whence to descry evils at present hidden from his sight, or they might become a source of new and previously unknown wants; and he who should increase in knowledge might eminently increase in sorrow. Does he choose long life? what if it should turn out a long misery? Or even if health were his chosen object, must he not admit that indisposition has often guarded from excess and screened from temptations, into which exuberant health might have misled him? In short, it is quite beyond man’s power to determine with certainty what would make him happy. Omniscience alone could solve this question for him. In these circumstances, man can fix on no determinate principles of conduct issuing in happiness, but is forced to adopt such dictates of prudence, i.e., such maxims of economy, politeness, and reserve, as experience and observation show on an average to promote the greatest quantum of well-being. From all which we infer that, strictly speaking, imperatives of prudence do not command, actions not being represented by them as objectively necessary; and that they are rather to be regarded as suggestions (consilia) than as decrees of reason. The question, what action would infallibly promote the happiness of a reasonable agent, is altogether unanswerable; and there can consequently be no imperative at all with regard to it. However, if the mean toward happiness could be successfully assigned, the imperative of prudence would, like the technical, be an analytic proposition; for it differs from the imperative of art in this singly, that in the latter the end is potential, in the former, given,—both enjoining merely the means necessary for reaching somewhat Edition: current; Page: [32] already willed as end; but where this is done, the position is analytic: there can therefore be no difficulty in comprehending how this imperative is possible.

But how the imperative of morality comes to be possible, is beyond doubt a very difficult question, and is in fact the only problem requiring a solution; the imperative not being hypothetic, and its objective, absolute necessity, not admitting any explanation from suppositions. Neither can we in this investigation aid ourselves by examples; for experience and observation would always leave us in doubt whether the imperative were not hypothetic, although appearing apodictic: thus, when it is said, “Thou shalt not make any false promise,” and the necessity announced in such an imperative is understood to be unconditional, so that it could not have been expressed thus, “Make no false promise, lest thou destroy thy credit,” then it is plain that no example can make exhibitive such categoric determination of will; for the example cannot satisfy us that every other mobile was excluded from the will, and that the law was itself alone, abstracted from all other considerations, the only spring of action; and it is quite conceivable that some secret fear of shame, or apprehension of other evils, may have co-operated with it. Nor can we establish the non-existence of such motive causes by any experience, this showing nowhat further than that we have not observed them; and should this turn out to be the case with our example, then the ethic imperative, while apparently categorical and unconditional, would be at bottom no more than a dictate of expediency, making us attentive to our own advantage, and teaching how to keep it in view.

The possibility of a categorical imperative must therefore be investigated altogether à priori, its reality not being susceptible of illustration by examples;—a circumstance rendering the theory of its possibility requisite, not only Edition: current; Page: [33] for its explanation, but a preliminary indispensable for its establishment. This, however, is plain, that the categorical imperative alone announces itself as law; the other imperatives may be principles, but they never can be laws of volition; and what is necessary to attain some given end may yet in itself be contingent, and man may detach himself from the imperative whenever he renounces the end it rests upon, whereas the unconditioned command leaves no option to the will, and has alone that necessity which is of the essence of a law.

Again, the ground of the difficulty of comprehending the possibility of the categorical imperative, i.e., of the moral law, is very great: the imperative is a synthetical proposition à priori; and as we felt so much difficulty in comprehending the possibility of this kind of proposition in speculative metaphysics, we may presume the difficulty will be no less in the practical.

In this inquiry we shall examine whether or not the mere conception of a categorical imperative may not involve in it a general formula, furnishing us with that expression which can alone be valid as a categorical imperative; for how such an absolute commandment can be possible, even after we know its tenor, will demand a peculiar and laborious disquisition, which we defer till the third chapter.

When I represent to myself a hypothetical imperative, I do not know beforehand what it contains, till the ulterior condition on which it rests is put in my possession; but with the very conception of a categorical imperative is given also its contents, for the imperative can in this case contain only the law ordaining the necessity of a maxim to be conformed to this law; and since the law is attached to no condition which could particularize it, there remains nowhat except the form of law in genere, to which the maxim of an act is to be conformed; and this conformity is, properly speaking, what the imperative represents as necessary.

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The categorical imperative is therefore single and one: “Act from that maxim only which thou canst will law universal.”

If, then, we are in a condition, from this single imperative, to derive all imperatives of duty, then we have ascertained the import and content of the idea, and understand what it is we think of when we name it; although we still, for the present, leave undecided whether duty may not, after all, turn out an imaginary and blank idea.

Because the unvariedness of the laws by which events take place is the formal notion of what is called Nature, i.e., an order of things determined according to an unvaried, universal law, the formula of the ethical imperative might be expressed thus: “Act as if the maxim of thy will were to become, by thy adopting it, a universal law of nature.”

In illustration of this last formula, I shall take a few examples, according to the popular and received division of duties into that of duties of determinate and indeterminate obligation toward ourselves and others.*

1. An individual harassed by a series of evils, and sickened with the tedium of life, proposes to commit self-murder; but first inquires within himself to know if the maxim regulating such an act would be fit for law universal. His intended maxim would be, to deprive himself of life whenever existence promised more of misery than of pleasure; and the question is, Can such a principle of self-love be regarded as fit for a universal law of nature? and it is instantly observable, that an order of things whose law it were to destroy life, by force Edition: current; Page: [35] of the sensation intended for its continuance, could not be upheld, but must return to chaos. Whence it results that such maxim cannot possibly be regarded as fit for an unvaried law of nature, but is repugnant to the supreme principle of duty.

2. A second finds himself under the necessity of borrowing money. He knows he cannot repay; but he foresees that nothing will be lent to him if he do not stoutly promise to repay within a given time. He intends giving such a promise, but has so much conscience left as to put the question, whether it be not inconsistent with his duty to have recourse to such shifts for his relief? Suppose, however, that he notwithstanding adopts this resolution, then his maxim would sound as follows: “As soon as I fancy myself in want of money, I will borrow it upon a promise to repay, although I well know I never will or can.” Such a principle of self-love may be easily brought into accommodation with one’s other desires and wishes. But when the question is put as to the integrity of such conduct, I convert my maxim into law universal, and inquire how it would suit if such a principle were everywhere adopted? Whereupon I immediately observe, that it is quite unfit for a universal law of nature, and would become contradictory to itself, and self-destructive, if made so; for a uniform practice, by which every one should be entitled to promise what he liked, and not to keep it, would defeat the intent and end for which such promises might be made—these becoming by such a law incredible, and not possible to be acted on.

3. A third finds himself possessed of certain powers of mind, which, with some slight culture, might render him a highly useful member of society; but he is in easy circumstances, and prefers amusement to the thankless toil of cultivating his understanding and perfecting his nature. But suppose him to put the question, whether this sluggish maxim, Edition: current; Page: [36] so much in harmony with his appetite for pleasure, harmonize equally with duty; and he observes that an order of things might continue to exist under a law enjoining men to let their talents rust, and to devote their lives to amusement. But it is impossible for any one to will that such should become a universal law of nature, or were by an instinct implanted in his system; for he, as Intelligent, of necessity wills all his faculties to become developed, such being given him in order that they may subserve his various and manifold ends and purposes.

4. A fourth, possessing wealth, observes others struggling with difficulties; and though he might easily assist them, he says, What concern is it of mine? Let every one be as happy as he can. I neither hinder nor envy any one; nor can I take the trouble to exert myself to advance his welfare, nor to redress his sorrows. Now, unquestionably, were such sentiments constituted universal laws of nature, our species might still continue to exist, and in fact might advance better than when people merely talk of sympathy and charity, or even than when they exercise such virtues, but at the same time, and by the by, deceive and otherways invade the rights of man. Now, although an order of things might subsist under such a universal law, yet reason cannot will that this should be the case; for a will ordaining such would contradict itself, when, in the course of events, it would willingly avail itself of the compassion and kindness of others, and yet would see itself deprived of these by the harsh law emanating from its own maxim.

These are some few of what man deems his duties, evolved clearly from the foregoing formula. An Intelligent must be able to will his maxims of conduct laws of catholic extent. Such is the canon of ethical volition. Some actions are of such a stamp that they cannot be presented to the mind even in thought, without their unfitness for law being Edition: current; Page: [37] flagrant; and in other cases, where no such internal impropriety existed, it was out of the question that an Intelligent should will his maxim to become a universal law of nature. The first kind of duties are those of strict and determinate obligation, the second those which are indeterminate, and admit a certain latitude; whence we see that all kinds of duties are exhibited by the above examples in their connection and dependence on the single principle previously stated.

When we attend to what passes in our own minds when we overstep the bounds of duty, we find that we do not really will our maxim to become a law of catholic extent; for that is impossible, and the contrary is inevitably willed: however, we sometimes assume the licence, for a single time as we think, to make an exception from this universality. And were we to examine things singly from the vantage-ground of reason, we should descry contradiction in our own will in not adhering to duty, viz., that a certain principle should be regarded as a law objectively necessary and of catholic extent, and yet at the same time as subjectively not of universal validity, but admitting exceptions; the reason whereof is, that in the one case reason guides our choice, in the other our will is biassed by an appetite; so that in truth there is no contradiction in the mind itself, but only an opposition from the part of inclination against the dictates of reason: by all which the universality of the law is frittered down to a mere generality, and reason constrained to meet the appetites half way. But, on impartial self-examination, we cannot justify to ourselves this departure; which shows that the mind does in fact recognise and acknowledge the categorical imperative as possessing ethical virtue to oblige its will; and it is in spite of all our reverence for it that we allow ourselves a few occasional exceptions.

We have pursued this investigation so far as to establish, that if duty be a conception of any import, and contain laws Edition: current; Page: [38] applicable to human conduct, these laws are expressed in categorical imperatives, not in hypothetical. We have likewise, which is no small matter, determined the expression of the formula of the categorical imperative, which ought to be susceptible of expansion in terms applicable to every duty (if there be at all any such). But we have not yet been able to show à priori that there is any such imperative, that there is a practical law commanding absolutely and independently of every sensitive determinator, and that the observance of this law is duty.

In prosecuting our attempt to achieve such a demonstration, it is of the last moment to bear constantly in mind that the reality of this law cannot be deduced from any peculiarities incident to human nature; for duty is to be the unconditionate necessity of an act, and must have force to oblige all Intelligents whatsoever, and upon this account alone, therefore, also man. But whatever is derived from the particular structure of human nature—from given feelings or emotions, or from any bias adhering to our reason, but not essentially biassing all wills whatever—may be a maxim for conduct, but never can be a law, i.e., may be a subjective principle we like to follow, but never can be an objective law, ordaining how to act, even although appetite, the vis inertiæ of our constitution, and an original bias in the will itself, were all thwarting its behest; which opposing circumstances would in fact only show the high supremacy and internal dignity of the law of duty, the less they proved able to effect any diminution of its ethical necessitation.

And now philosophy seems placed in a very perilous situation, since she is allowed no peg either in heaven or in earth from which to suspend her principles. Now she has to show her integrity, as self-upholder of her own laws, not as the herald of those which some innate sense or guardian nature had whispered in her ear, and which, though better than Edition: current; Page: [39] nothing, never afford statutes of conduct, ordained by reason from a source altogether à priori: statutes which have thence alone their authority to command mankind, to expect nowhat from the solicitations of his sensory, but all from the supremacy of the law and the reverence he owes it, or, if he fail to do so, to hand him over to his own contempt and inward detestation.

Any à posteriori part, added to the principle of morality, is not only no improvement, but is in fact highly detrimental to the purity of morals; for the proper worth of an absolutely good will consists just in this, that the principles of action are thoroughly abstracted from every admixture of foreign and adventitious grounds. Nor can I sufficiently warn against the sluggishness, or, I would even say, low cast of thinking, which seeks its motives of action à posteriori, whereon reason, when fatigued, willingly reclines, and substitutes to morality a changeling bastard, which looks like anything you please, except virtue, in the eye of him who has once beheld her in her true form.*

The question amounts, then, to this: Is it a law incumbent upon every rational nature whatsoever, to order and arrange its actions conformably to such maxims as it could will elevated to the rank of law in a system of general moral legislation? If this be so, then such a law must needs be inseparably connected à priori with the very idea of the will of a reasonable agent; but to obtain a view of this connection, we must enter the domain of metaphysic reason, and, quitting speculative philosophy, betake ourselves to a disquisition in the metaphysic of ethics. In practical philosophy we have not to do with that which happens, nor Edition: current; Page: [40] to take our principles from it, but with an objective practical law, announcing what ought and should happen, although in fact and event it may never be so. Accordingly we do not here inquire why something pleases or displeases, as in the case of taste, nor yet whether this satisfaction may differ from a complacency of reason; neither do we investigate on what the feeling of pleasure and pain may depend, nor how desire and its concurring with reason may give birth to maxims; for these all belong to psychology, and are à posteriori, and to be solved by an induction. But we are going to inquire of objective necessary laws, i.e., regarding the relation of the will to itself, in so far as it is determined by reason, and where everything relating to experience and observation is overlooked; because, if reason of itself determine the practical conduct of life, it must needs do so altogether à priori, the possibility whereof we now set ourselves to examine.

The will is cogitated as a faculty to determine itself to act conformably to the representation of given laws; and such a power can be met with in reasonable agents only. Now what serves the will for the ground of its self-determination is called the end; and such end, if presented by reason only, must extend equally to every reasonable being.4 What, on the other hand, contains no more than the ground of the possibility of an act, the ulterior effect of which last is the end, is called the mean. The subjective ground of desire is a spring, the objective ground of volition is law: hence the distinction betwixt subjective ends which rest upon springs, and objective ones which attach themselves to laws, and are valid for every Intelligent whatsoever. Practical Edition: current; Page: [41] principles are formal when they abstract from all subjective ends; they are material when they presuppose these last and their springs. The ends which an Intelligent may regard as the product of his own activity, and which it is in his option to pursue or to decline, are not absolute ends, but relative and adventitious merely; for their value depends upon the relation obtaining betwixt them and the appetitive faculty of the thinking subject, and so they cannot found necessary principles of volition, nor laws of catholic extent: thus relative ends can be the ground of hypothetical imperatives singly.

Let there, however, be granted somewhat whose existence has in itself an absolute worth, and which, as in itself an end, is itself the ground of its own given laws. Then herein, and here alone, would lie the ground of the possibility of a categorical imperative, i.e., of a practical law.

Now I say that man and every reasonable agent exists as an end in himself, and not as a mere mean or instrumental to be employed by any will whatsoever, not even by his own, but must in every action regard his existence, and that of every other Intelligent, as an end in itself. Objects of appetite and inclination have a conditioned value only; for, apart from the appetite, and the want felt as springing from it, its object would be regarded as entirely worthless; and appetite itself, so far from possessing any absolute worth to make it desirable, is, on the contrary, as the source of all our wants, what every Intelligent must wish to be freed from. Upon this account the value of everything produced by our own exertions is conditioned. Even those external things whereof the existence rests not on our will, but depends on nature, have, as irrationals, a relative value only, and are used as means and instruments for our behoof, and are therefore called things; whereas an Intelligent is called a person, he being by the constitution of his system distinguished as an Edition: current; Page: [42] end in himself, i.e., as somewhat which may not be used as a mere mean, and as restraining to this extent the arbitrary use which other wills might make of him, and becoming, by force of such restraint, an object of reverence. Persons are therefore not subjective ends, whose existence is valued by us as an effect resulting from our active exertion; but are objective ends, whose very existence is itself an end, and that too of so eminent a sort, that no other end can be assigned to which they could be subordinated as means. For if this were not the case, then were no absolute and unconditioned value given; and if all value were merely hypothetic and fortuitous, it would be impossible to discover any supreme practical position on which to ground the operations of reason.

Thus it is seen, that if there is to be a supreme practical position, and in respect of the human will a categorical imperative, it must be such a principle as may constitute a law by the bare representation of that which is an end for every man because it is an end in itself; the ground of the principle is, “Every intelligent nature exists as an end in itself.”* All mankind must of necessity thus figure to themselves their own existence, and to this extent it is a subjective principle of conduct. Again, in the very same way, all other rationals thus cogitate their own existence, by force of the same grounds of reason which determine man to think so; wherefore the above is likewise an objective principle, and from it, as the supreme practical position, all laws of the will must be capable of being deduced. In this way the practical imperative may sound as follows: “So act that humanity, both in thy own person and that of others, be used as an end in itself, and never as a mere mean.”

This formula we shall now illustrate, to see how it holds, Edition: current; Page: [43] and whether it tallies with the former. We shall instance again in the above examples.

First, In the case of duty owed toward ourselves. He who proposes to commit suicide, has to ask himself if his action be consistent with the idea of humanity as an end in itself. The man who destroys his organic system to escape from sorrow and distress, makes use of his person as a mean toward the supporting himself in a state of comfort and ease until the end of life. But humanity is not a thing, i.e., is not that which can be dealt with as a mean singly, but is that which must at all times be regarded as an end in itself. I am therefore not at liberty to dispose of that humanity which constitutes my person, either by killing, maiming, or mutilating it.

Second, In reference to the duty owed to others. He who intends to promise deceitfully, must at once perceive that he makes use of his neighbour as a mere mean, not regarding him as an end in himself (not making him, at the same time, the end and aim of his conduct); for he who is thus misused to a private and by-end, cannot possibly approve of such a line of conduct, nor can be contain in himself the end of such a promise. This repugnancy to the position that humanity is its own end, comes out more prominently when we take examples of inroads made on personal freedom or property. In such cases it is palpable that the violator of the rights of man serves himself of the personality of his fellow as a mere mean, not taking into account that an Intelligent must, if a mean, be notwithstanding the end of any given action (i.e., be regarded as such a mean as may also be the end of the action).

Thirdly, In respect of the indeterminate duties we owe to ourselves it is not enough that the action do not subvert one’s own humanity; it must coincide with it, so as to advance it as its own end. Now, every person possesses sundry Edition: current; Page: [44] dispositions and endowments capable of being indefinitely perfected, and which obviously belong and conduce to the end aimed at by nature, in constituting the humanity of our person: to disregard these indications might no doubt consist with the physical preservation of mankind, but not with its advancement as an end.

Fourthly, With regard to the indeterminate obligations due from us to others, the physical end which all men have is happiness. Now, it cannot be doubted that humanity could consist, although each man left indifferent the happiness of his fellow, and was concerned merely not to offer to it any detriment; but then this would be a mere negative, and no positive coincidence of actions with humanity as an end in itself, so long as no one endeavoured to advance the ends and interests of others; for the ends of that subject who is in himself an end, must of necessity be my ends too if the representation of humanity as an end in itself is the all-effective mobile of my will.

This position, that humanity and every Intelligent is an end in itself, is not established by any observation or experience, as is seen, first, from the generality by which we have extended it to every rational whatsoever; and, second, because humanity was exhibited, not as a subjective end of mankind (i.e., not as an object which it stood in their option to pursue or to decline), but as their objective end, which, whatever other ends mankind may have, does, as law, constitute the supreme limiting condition of such subjective ends, and which must consequently take its rise from reason à priori. Now, the ground of all practical legislation lies objectively in the rule, and its form of universality, whereby it is fitted for law, agreeably to the first formula. But subjectively in the end; and the subject of all ends is each Intelligent himself, as an ultimate or last end, according to the second formula; from which two, when combined, there emerges a third expression, Edition: current; Page: [45] which comprises at once the form and the matter of the supreme practical law, and presents us with the idea of the will of every Intelligent as universally legislative.

Agreeably to this formula, all maxims are objectionable which do not harmonize with the universal legislation of man’s own will. His will is therefore to be regarded as not subjected to the law simply, but so subjected as to be self-legislative, and, upon this account alone, subjected to the law of which himself is the author.

The imperative, as above represented, viz., as importing a uniform sequence of actions similar to the uniformity of events in the physic system, or as founded on that prerogative of an Intelligent whereby he is an end in himself, excluded from its authority the co-operation of any interest as a spring; an exclusion understood from the very categorical exhibition of it. The imperative was postulated as categorical, since without this the idea Duty could not be explained; but that there really are practical principles à priori, containing a categorical commandment, could not yet be proved, nor can we attempt it in this chapter; but this one thing still remained to be done, to show that (self-detachment from interest) disinterestedness is, in a duteous volition, that which constitutes the specific difference betwixt a categorical and hypothetical imperative, a notion which ought to be denoted by the imperative itself; and this is now done in the last formula, viz., the idea of the will of every Intelligent as a will universally legislative.5

For when we figure to ourselves a will supremely legislative, it is clear that it cannot be dependent upon any interest (although a will subjected to a law simply may be attached to it by the intervention of an interest); for then the will Edition: current; Page: [46] universally legislative, and yet dependent, would require a further law, restricting its private interest to the condition of being fit for law in a system of universal moral legislation.

It is now obvious that the position of a will, universally legislative by all its maxims (supposing such a thing were established), would suit very well for a categorical imperative; because, being rested on the idea of a universal legislation, it is not founded on any interest; and thus, amidst many imperatives, is the only unconditioned one. Or, by converting the proposition, if there be a categorical imperative, it can only ordain to act according to that maxim of a will which could at the same time regard itself as universally legislative; for then the practical principle and imperative which it obeys are unconditional, being founded upon no interest.

And now we may cease to wonder how all former attempts to investigate the ultimate principle of morals should have proved unsuccessful. The inquirers saw that man was bound to law by the idea Duty; but it did not occur to them that he was bound singly by his own law universal, the prerogative of his nature fitting him for a universal legislator, and so subjecting him to the law emanating from his own will. For, as soon as we regard him subjected to law simply (no matter of what sort), then this law must have carried some interest, whereby either to allure or to co-act; for, not springing from his own will, the will was legally necessitated by somewhat else to act in a given manner. This inevitable conclusion rendered fruitless and abortive every attempt to establish a supreme principle of duty; for there resulted, never duty, but the necessity of an action conformably to some given interest. This might be either a proper or a foreign interest, but in either case the imperative was conditioned; and this, we have seen, is invalid for a moral law. I shall therefore Edition: current; Page: [47] call this fundamental position the principle of the autonomy of the will, in contradistinction to every other, which I call heteronomy.

This principle, that every Intelligent ought to regard himself as legislating (by his maxims) throughout the universe of Intelligents, in order, from this vantage-ground, to pass judgment upon himself and his own actions, leads to this very important and fruitful consideration,—the representation of all things whatsoever, under this character of ends, constituting one vast whole of ends, which, from its analogy to what we call “the realm of nature,” may be styled “the realm of ends.”

By a realm I understand the systematic conjunction of all intelligent nature under a uniform and common law. But since the law admits those ends singly which be valid universally as ends for all, we shall have, by abstracting from the personal difference which may exist between Intelligents, and also from their peculiar and personal ends, an aggregate of ends (comprising both the Intelligents as ends in themselves, and likewise their own further ends) in systematic union; that is, a realm of ends is cogitable, and is, by virtue of the foregoing principles, possible.

For Intelligents stand one and all under this common law: “Never to employ himself or others as a mean, but always as an end in himself.” But from this common objective law arises a systematic conjunction of Intelligents, i.e., a realm, which, though extant in idea only, may, because these laws regard the relation of Intelligents to one another as means and ends, be called “the realm of ends.”

An Intelligent is a member of the realm of ends, when he is, in addition to being universally legislative, himself subjected to these laws. But he belongs to it as its sovereign, when, in legislating, he is not subjected to the will of any other.

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Every Intelligent must therefore at all times regard himself as legislating in a potential realm of ends, realizable by his freedom of will, and that too either as its member or as its sovereign; but the room of this last he cannot occupy merely by force of the maxims of his will, but only then, when he is altogether independent, exempt from wants, and endowed with power commensurate to his will.

Morality, therefore, consists in referring all action to that legislation whereby the realm of ends is possible. This legislation, however, must be met with in every Intelligent, and take its rise from his will whose principle is, never to act from any maxim which it could not will a universal law; or this, always so to act that the will may regard itself as enouncing its maxim a universal law, i.e., as universally legislative. When an Intelligent’s maxims are not, by the constitution of his system, necessarily conformed to this principle, then is the necessity of acting agreeably to this principle, practical necessitation, i.e., duty. Duty cannot be predicated of the sovereign in the realm of ends; but it can of every member, and of all equally in degree.

The practical necessity of acting conformably to this principle, i.e., duty, rests not on feelings, interests, or inclination, but singly on the relation betwixt Intelligents, where the will of each must be regarded as universally legislative, apart from which he could not be figured as an end in himself. Reason applies every maxim of will as universally legislative to every other will, and also to every action whereby it is affected; and this not out of any regard had to its own future advantage, or to any other private end, but singly on account of its idea of the dignity of an Intelligent, obeying no law except that which itself originates.

Everything in the realm of ends has either a “price” or a “dignity.” That has a price in the room of which something as an equivalent may be put; but that which is above all Edition: current; Page: [49] price, and admits not substitution by an equivalent, has a dignity.

What is subservient to human wants and wishes has a market-price; and what, when there is no want, serves only to gratify a taste (i.e., a complacency in stimulating the aimless play of fancy), has a fancy-price. But that which constitutes the condition, under which alone anywhat can be an end in itself, has not merely a relative value, i.e., a price, but has an inward worth, i.e., a dignity.

Now, morality is the condition under which alone an Intelligent can be figured as an end in himself, since by it alone can he become a legislator in the realm of ends. Wherefore morality, and humanity in so far as it is susceptible of that morality, is alone that which has the dignity. Diligence, attention, and adroitness have their market-price; wit, gaiety, and good temper have a price of affection; but incorruptible justice, charity, and unbroken faith have an inward worth. Neither nature nor art contain, in their vast domain, what, if those were awanting, could be brought to supply the void; for their worth consists not in their conduciveness to any end, not in their profit or advantage, but in the sentiments, i.e., in the maxims of the will in which they are causally inseated, although opportunity should now prevent such will from stepping forth to act. Actions of this sort need no recommendation from the part of taste, nor do they require any propensity or sense to cause them to be beheld with inward favour and approbation, nor do they address themselves to any adventitious whim or caprice: they exhibit the will giving them birth as the object of an immediate reverence, and are actions to which reason summons up, demanding them from the will,—whereto she invites, by no flattery or blandishment, which last militate with the very idea of a duty. Such reverence enables us to estimate the inward worth of such a frame of mind as a dignity, as incomputably Edition: current; Page: [50] advanced above all price; nor can we compare or liken it to such barter without in a manner violating its sanctity.

What, then, is it which entitles the morally good sentiment, i.e., virtue, to make a claim so lofty? It is nothing else than the share imparted thereby to the Intelligent in the universal legislation, making him fit to become a member of the realm of ends, for which indeed the constitution of his nature destined him, making him an end in himself, and upon that account a legislator in that realm—absolved from every physical law, and obedient to those only which he gives himself—by which laws also his maxims may pertain to that universal legislation, whereunto at the same time he subjects himself; for nothing has any worth except that assigned to it by the law. But that law which determines, and is the standard of all worth, must upon that account have a dignity, i.e., an unconditioned, incomparable worth; and reverence is the only beseeming expression whereby to state that estimation in which an Intelligent ought to hold it. Autonomy is therefore the ground of the dignity of humanity, and also of every other intelligent nature whatsoever.

The three expressions just adopted, enouncing the principle of morality, are no more than three formulæ of one and the same law, each involving in it the other two; and any difference is subjectively, not objectively, practical. They vary by giving a sensible delineation, according to different analogies, to an idea of reason, approaching it thereby to the mental vision and its feelings. Accordingly all maxims have—

I. A form, consisting in their universality; and here the tenor of the categorical imperative was, “All maxims shall be such only as are fit for law universal.”

II. A matter, i.e., an end; where the formula ordained Edition: current; Page: [51] that each Intelligent, being by his nature an end in himself, should subordinate to this end the maxims of all his causal and arbitrary ends.

III. An aggregate determination, by the formula that all maxims of the self-legislative will must be totally subordinated to and resolved into the potential idea of the realm of ends, like as if it were the realm of nature. The three formulæ advance in the order of the categories, from the unity of the form of the will (i.e., its universality) to the plurality of its matter (i.e., of the objects willed—the ends), and thence to the aggregate or totality of the system of its ends. It is better, however, to adhere to the stricter formula of the categorical imperative: “Act according to that maxim which thou couldst at the same time will an universal law.” But when the law has to be conveyed into the mind, it is extremely useful to avail one’s self of these different expressions.

And now we have arrived at the point from which we first set out,—namely, the conception of a good will. That, we now know, is a good will whose maxim, if made law universal, would not be repugnant to itself. This principle is its supreme law: “Act according to that maxim whose universality, as law, thou canst at the same time will.” This is the sole condition upon which a will can never contradict itself; and this imperative is categoric. And since such a will, if considered as realizing its maxims, is analogous to that uniform and systematic order of events in the physical system which we call nature, the categorical imperative might be couched thus: “Act from maxims fit to be regarded as universal laws of nature.” These are the formulæ indicating what an absolutely good will is.

An Intelligent has this prerogative over every other being, that he can assign to himself and fix his own end. Such end would be the matter chosen by every good will; but since, Edition: current; Page: [52] in the idea of a will absolutely and unconditionally good, we must abstract from all ends to be effectuated (which ends could make a will relatively good only), this end must be cogitated, not as one to be effected, but as an independent self-subsisting end, that is, negatively only; in other words, as an end against which no action dare militate, and which must, in every volition, be stated, not as a bare instrumental or means, but always as an end. This, however, can be nothing else than the subject of all possible ends himself; he being likewise the potential subject of an absolutely good will, which will cannot be postponed to any other object without an inconsistency. And the position, “So act in reference to all Intelligents (thyself and others), that they may enter as ends into the constitution of thy maxim,” is virtually identic with the former, “Act according to a maxim possessed of universal validity for all Intelligents;” for that I ought, when employing means to any end, so to limit and condition my maxim that it may be valid to oblige as law every thinking subject, says exactly the same thing with this, that the subject of all ends, i.e., the Intelligent himself, may never be employed as a means, but must, as the supreme condition limiting all use of means, enter as end into the constitution of all maxims of acting.

From all this we infer that every Intelligent must, as end in himself, be able to regard himself as universally legislative, in respect of all laws to which he may at the same time be subjected,—this fitness of his maxims for law universal being exactly that which indicates him to be an end in himself; and we infer further, that this his dignity and excellency above every other creature forces him to construct his maxims, from the consideration of himself and other Intelligents as legislators (called upon this account persons). In this way, a world of Intelligents (mundus intelligibilis) may be cogitated,—and that ideal, which we have denominated Edition: current; Page: [53] “the realm of ends,” is possible by the self-legislation of all its members. Consequently, every Intelligent ought so to act as if he were by his maxims a person legislating for the universal empire of ends in themselves. The formal principle of these maxims is, “Act as if thy maxim were to become law universal” (for a universe of Intelligents). The realm of ends can only be figured as possible from its analogy to the realm of nature,—that proceeding upon maxims, i.e., self-imposed laws, this by virtue of the law of the necessary-nexus; and yet this physical system itself, although, so far as we know, a mere machine, is, when viewed in its connection with Intelligents, as the end why it is there, called, upon this very account, the realm of nature. The realm of ends would likewise really come into existence were every Intelligent to adhere to the maxims dictated by the categorical imperative; and although an Intelligent cannot infer that, even were he punctually to adhere to the categoric maxims, all others would do so too; nor yet, that the realm of nature, and the uniformity of its sequences, might be so found in harmony with his endeavours to realize the realm of ends, as to answer his expectation of happiness: the law does nevertheless ordain with undiminished force, for the command is categorical, “Act agreeably to the maxims of a person ordaining law universal in the realm of ends.” Nor can this paradox cease to astonish us, that the mere dignity of humanity as an Intelligent entity, abstracted from all by-views or ulterior considerations, that is, in other words, that reverence for a bare idea, should furnish the will with an unchanging and inexorable law, and that just in this independency of the will’s maxim on all such outward motives should consist its majesty and augustness, and the worthiness of every thinking subject to occupy the station of a legislator in the realm of ends,—since, apart from this independency, the Intelligent must needs be subjected to the mechanic law Edition: current; Page: [54] of his physical wants. And even if we were to figure to ourselves the realms of nature brought into union with the realms of ends under the sovereignty of a Supreme Head, whereby the latter state would cease to be a mere idea, but would become reality, then would the idea Dignity gain force from the addition of so strong a spring, but it could receive no augmentation of its intrinsic worth; for, notwithstanding all this, the Sovereign Lawgiver must Himself be cogitated as judging of the worth of Intelligents only according to their disinterested adherence to the line of conduct prescribed to them by that idea. The essence of things cannot be altered by any external circumstance; and that which, independently of this last, constitutes the absolute worth of man, must serve as the standard by which to judge him. Morality is, then, the relation obtaining betwixt action and the autonomy of the will: actions in harmony with autonomy of will are allowed and lawful; what actions are incompatible with it are disallowed and unlawful. A will whose maxims coincide of necessity with the laws of autonomy, is a Holy Will, or an absolutely good will; the dependency of a will not altogether good, on the principle of autonomy, is ethical necessitation, and is called obligation. Obligation cannot, upon this account, be predicated of a Holy Will; the objective necessity of an action, on account of this obligation, is what is called duty.

These observations enable us to understand how, while the idea Duty imports subordination to law, we yet conceive a certain elevation and dignity to belong to that Intelligent who discharges all his duties; for to this extent there is no ground of elevation that the will is subjected to law; but herein consists the elevation, that the person is himself the legislator, and on this account alone bound to subject himself to it. We likewise explained above, how neither fear, nor inclination, but only reverence for Edition: current; Page: [55] the law, could be the spring conferring on any action moral worth. Our own will, in so far as it acts only under the condition required to fit its maxims for law universal—such potential state of will—is, I say, the proper object of reverence; and the dignity of man just consists in the ability to be universally legislative, although upon this condition to be at the same time subjected to his own legislation.

Autonomy of Will is the Supreme Principle of Morality.

Autonomy of Will is that quality of will by which a will (independently of any object willed) is a law to itself.* The principle of autonomy, therefore, is to choose such maxims singly as may be willed law universal. That this practical rule is an imperative—i.e., that the will of every Intelligent is necessarily attached to this condition—cannot be evinced by merely analyzing the notions contained in the position, for it is a synthetic à priori proposition. We must, in short, pass from the investigation of the object to an investigation of the subject—i.e., to an inquiry into the functions of practical reason itself; for this synthetic position, which commands apodictically, must be cognisable altogether à priori. But this inquiry is not within the limits of the present chapter. However, that this principle of autonomy is the alone principle of ethics, can be sufficiently evinced from a bare analysis of the current notions regarding morality; and we found that its supreme principle must needs be a categorical imperative, and that the imperative again ordained just this autonomy. How such a synthetic practical position à priori is possible, and why it is necessary, is a problem beyond the limits of the Metaphysic of Ethics. However, whoso admits morality to be anywhat, and not a mere fantastical conceit, must admit at the same time the above principle. But that morality is Edition: current; Page: [56] no chimera, will follow, then, when the categorical imperative, and the autonomy it enjoins, is true, and absolutely necessary as a position à priori. But this requires a potential synthetic use of practical reason à priori,—an assertion we cannot hazard, without first premising an inquiry into the causal functions of that faculty, which we shall now do in the next chapter, at least so far as to satisfy this purpose.

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The Idea Freedom explains that of Autonomy of Will.

WILL* is that kind of causality attributed to living agents, in so far as they are possessed of reason; and freedom is such a property of that causality as enables them to originate events, independently of foreign determining causes; as, on the other hand (mechanical), necessity is that property of the causality of irrationals, whereby their activity is excited and determined by the influence of foreign causes.

This explanation of freedom is negative, and therefore unavailing to aid our insight into its essence and nature; but there emerges from it a positive idea of freedom, much more fruitful: for since causality brings with it the notion of law, conformably to which an antecedent gives of necessity the existence of somewhat else, its sequent; the idea freedom, though unconnected with mechanic laws, is not cogitated for that reason as altogether devoid of law, but merely as a causality different in kind, and carrying with it laws suited to that generic difference; for if otherwise, a free will were a chimera.6 The mechanical necessity observed in Edition: current; Page: [58] the physical system is heteronomy in causation, where each event happens only by virtue of somewhat else foreign to the cause determining its efficiency. On the contrary, freedom of will is autonomy, i.e., that property of will by which it determines its own causality, and gives itself its own law. But the position, the will is in every action a law to itself, is equivalent to the position that it acts from no maxim unfit to be objectively regarded as law universal. This, however, tallies with the formula of the categorical imperative, i.e., with the supreme principle of morality. Whence it results that a free will, and a will subjected to the moral law, are one and identic.

Upon the hypothesis, then, of freedom of will, morality and its formula are arrived at by a mere analysis of the idea. The formula is, however, a pure synthetic proposition à priori, viz., a good will is one whose maxim can always be regarded as law universal; and no analysis of the notion Good Will can guide to this further one of that property of the maxim. Such synthetic propositions are alone possible when there is a common and middle term combining the extremes which meet in the synthesis. The positive idea Freedom is this middle term, which cannot, as in physic causes, be any part of the system presented to the sensory. Now, what this is to which freedom points, and of which we have an idea à priori, requires elucidation; and to make comprehensible the deduction of the idea Freedom, together with the grounds of the possibility of freedom and a categorical Imperative, requires still a little preparation.

Freedom must be postulated as a Property of the Will of every Intelligent whatsoever.

It is not enough to attribute freedom to our will, unless we have sufficient grounds to ascribe it likewise to every reasonable being; for, since morality is our law, only in so Edition: current; Page: [59] far as we are Intelligents, it must be so also for every other being endowed with reason: and since it can be evolved only from the idea Freedom, freedom must be represented as the property of every Intelligent’s will whatsoever. It is not enough to deduce it from experience of human nature (although this is impossible, for it demands an investigation à priori); but it must be evinced as indissolubly attached to the energy of all beings possessed of reason and will. Now, I say that every being who can only act under the idea Freedom, is for that reason to all practical ends really free; i.e., all laws bind him, which go hand in hand with the idea Freedom, just as much as if his will had been in speculative philosophy ascertained to be free; and I assert further, that we must ascribe to every Intelligent possessed of will the idea Freedom, under which idea he can alone act. For in such Intelligent we figure to ourselves a reason which is practical, i.e., has causality in respect of its objects. Now, it is impossible to figure to ourselves any reason conscious of receiving any foreign bias in constituting its judgments and notions; for then the person would ascribe the determination of his judgments, not to his reason, but to an extraneous impulse. Reason must therefore regard herself as the author of her own principles, independently of foreign influences: consequently she has a practical reason, i.e., as will of an Intelligent, to regard herself as free; that is to say, the will of an Intelligent can be his own will only by presupposing freedom; and this must therefore, for a practical behoof, be ascribed to all Intelligents whatsoever.

Of the Interest indissolubly connected with the Idea of Morality.

We have now reduced the idea of morality to that of freedom of will; but we have not yet shown such freedom to exist as real in human nature. We only saw Edition: current; Page: [60] that we must presuppose freedom when we try to figure to ourselves an Intelligent conscious of its own causality with reference to its own actions, i.e., endowed with will. Upon the same grounds, it was requisite to attribute to every agent endowed with intelligence and will a property of determining its own agency by virtue of the idea of its own freedom.

Upon the presupposition of those ideas, there resulted further the consciousness of a law making it imperative how to act, viz., that the subjective rules of conduct ought always to be so constituted as to be objectively, i.e., universally valid, and so fit for proper catholic legislation. But still a question may be raised, Why am i bound to subject myself to this principle? and that too so sheerly as Intelligent, that every other Intelligent must be figured as standing in the same situation. I admit that no interest urges to this subjection; otherwise the categorical imperative were abrogated. Still I cannot be devoid of all interest to do so, nor without interest to comprehend on what such interest is based; for this word shall denotes properly a state of will valid for all Intelligents, which would alone obtain, if reason, unimpeded, were the alone actor. For beings like ourselves, affected by sensitive excitements, totally different in kind from the causal laws of reason, and whose actions fall out, vastly discrepant from what naked unimpeded reason would have done, such abstract necessity of acting is spoken of as what one should or ought, and the subjective is distinguished from the objective necessity.

It looks very like as if we set out with the idea Freedom for a vehicle to the moral law, and the principle of the autonomy of the will, but could not, apart from this presupposition, prove the law’s reality and proper objective necessity. However, even were it so, we should gain a very considerable end, viz., the fixing more closely than heretofore Edition: current; Page: [61] the true foundation of morality, even although we should not yet have succeeded in establishing its validity, and the practical necessity incumbent on man to subject himself to it. And this really has been done, although we should never be able to answer satisfactorily the question why the universal validity of our maxims for laws should be a condition limitary of our conduct; nor yet be able to tell whereon we base that worth, figured to attach to this mode of conduct, and which is alleged to run so high, that no higher interest is at all conceivable; nor whence it happens that man in these circumstances alone learns to feel his personal worth, in exchange with which a painful or a happy state shrinks equally to nothing.

It is found, indeed, that mankind are susceptible of an interest in a personal property, unconnected with any pleasurable state, provided such personal qualification may make us capable of the latter, in the event of a reason coming to distribute it; i.e., that the mere worthiness to become happy has an interest abstracted from any regard had to such happiness itself. But then this judgment and this susceptibility is itself a product of the admitted weight and importance of the moral law (when we, by force of the idea Freedom, detach ourselves from every sensitive excitement and emotion); but how we are at all able thus to detach ourselves, i.e., to cogitate ourselves as free, and why, in doing so, we ought to find an increased worth in our personality, requiting us for every loss we otherwise undergo, i.e., upon what grounds the moral law has virtue to oblige, cannot be comprehended by dint of the foregoing remarks.

It seems, I confess, as if the whole argument moved in a circle, from which there is no escaping. We assume ourselves free to explain our subjection to the moral law, and then we figure ourselves subjected to this law, because we have attributed to ourselves this property of freedom; for Edition: current; Page: [62] freedom and self-legislation issue both in autonomy of will, and so are convertible ideas; from which cause it comes that the one cannot be used to explain the other, nor can be assigned as its ground, but at the furthest may be put to the logical use of reducing seemingly different representations of the same object to one single notion (as in the mathematics, fractions equal, but with different denominators, are reduced to similar expressions by their common measure).

Only one escape remains to us from this labyrinth, namely, to inquire if we do not occupy an entirely different station, when we regard ourselves, as by means of freedom, spontaneous á priori causes, from that station which we hold when we represent to ourselves our actions as events in the system we see presented to our senses.

It is a remark, not calling for much subtle penetration, but one made from yore by the most common understanding, that the representations we are possessed of through the intervention of the sensory, never teach knowledge of objects otherwise than how they affect us; and so, what they are in themselves remains latent and undiscovered: consequently that, notwithstanding the greatest efforts of the understanding with regard to such representations, we arrive at knowledge of the appearances of things only, and can attain none of things in themselves. So soon as this distinction has been made (even did it merely spring from the observed difference between the representations given us from without, and in receiving which we are passive, and those which we produce entirely within ourselves, and exert our own self-activity upon them), it follows at once that something must be assumed, lying at the bottom of phenomena, which cannot itself again be a phenomenon, viz., the thing itself, although we are at the same time perfectly aware that, since we never can know it further than how we are affected by it, we can come no nearer to it, nor detect its real nature Edition: current; Page: [63] and being. This may be the first separation made by man betwixt a cogitable world and the world presented to his senses, which sensible system may differ continually with the differing sensories of different percipients, although the supersensible system, its groundwork, remain unaltered and the same.* Nay, even what man knows of his own nature and constitution by his inward senses, is an appearance only, and no acquaintance with what he is in himself; for his perception of himself coming through the sensory is a mere phenomenon in nature, and can only take notice of the mode in which his consciousness is affected; and yet at the same time he must of necessity pass from this phenomenal composition of himself to that which lies at the bottom of it, viz., his I, figured as a thing in itself. This man, in regard of his sensory and receptive faculties, deems himself a part of the sensible system; but in regard of that within him, which may be his own pure spontaneity (i.e., that which is immediately present to consciousness, without any modification of the sensory), he deems himself likewise a member of a cogitable and unseen system, of which he has, however, no knowledge.

This conclusion must follow and hold with regard to everything presenting itself to man: probably it obtains to some extent in every human understanding; for the most untutored have always been inclined to figure to themselves an invisible and unknown at the back of the objects impinging on the sensory, and have expected to find there, somewhat self-active; but then they immediately ruin this discovery by giving this invisible an external and tangible configuration, and so halt on the threshold of discovery.

Now, in point of fact, man finds himself endowed with a function, by which he distinguishes himself from all other objects, nay, even from himself, in so far as he is Edition: current; Page: [64] affectable through the sensory; and this function or power is reason.* This, as pure self-activity, transcends in excellence even the faculty of understanding; for though this last is likewise self-activity, and does not, like the sensory, contain mere representations which result from its reaction, when impressed by things, yet it begets no conceptions, excepting only such as serve to regulate and order the impressions of the sensory, and so to combine them in the identity of self-consciousness, without which union and combination of perceptibles the intellect could furnish no thought. Whereas reason, in supplying the ideas, shows so original and high a power of pure spontaneity, that it passes altogether beyond the field of the sensory, and has for its most principal and chief function, to separate and disjoin the sensible and cogitable system; and, by assigning the limits and boundaries of these respectively, to fix at the same time those laws beyond which the understanding cannot pass.

Hence it happens, that a reasonable agent must, as Intelligent, cogitate himself a member, not so much of the sensible, but rather of the supersensible system. He has therefore two stations from which to regard himself, and a twofold set of laws regulating the conduct and exercise of his powers. The one kind of laws import heteronomy, and subjection to the mechanism and necessity of the physical system. The second connect him with a cogitable system, are quite independent on mechanic influences, and have their grounds in nowise in the physical system, but in reason only.

As Intelligent, and member of a cogitable world, man can represent to himself his proper causality only by force of the idea Freedom; for independence on the determining causes of the physical system (which independency reason Edition: current; Page: [65] must always attribute to itself) is freedom; but to the idea Freedom that of autonomy is indissolubly attached; and with this last there goes hand in hand the principle of morality, which does in idea lie at the bottom of the actions of every rational, in exactly the same way as laws of nature lie at the bottom and are the groundwork of all phenomena.

And now the suspicion previously stated is removed, as if there were a latent and vicious circle in our concluding from freedom upon autonomy, and from autonomy upon the moral law; as if we set out with the idea Freedom merely for the sake of the moral law, and in order to deduce this law from it, and so could give no account, and could assign no grounds for this idea, but had begged it merely as a principle, which the charitable might kindly grant us, but which could never be set up as a position resting on its own independent grounds. For now we see that, cogitated as free, we transplant ourselves into a supersensible system, whereof we recognise the law of autonomy, and its sequel morality; but that again, when we figure ourselves obliged or beholden to an act, we regard ourselves as members at once both of the sensible and of the cogitable systems.

How is a Categorical Imperative possible?

Every reasonable being reckons himself on the one hand as Intelligent in a cogitable system; and merely as an efficient in this system does he call his causality a will. On the other hand, he is conscious that he is a part of the physical or sensible system into which actions step forth, as the mere appearances or phenomena of that causality, the possibility of which, however, cannot be understood, as they have a descent from sources we know nothing of; but which appearances must, on the contrary, be regarded as determined by other and antecedent phenomena, namely, appetites and desires obtaining in the physical system. Regarded purely Edition: current; Page: [66] as an inhabitant of the cogitable world, all man’s actions would exactly tally with the autonomy of a pure will; while, again, regarded as a mere link in the chain of causes and events, all human actions are locked up under mechanic laws (heteronomy), and would ensue exactly according to the physical impulses given by instincts and solicitations in the sensory. But because the world of Noumena contains within it the last ground, not only of the world of Phenomena, but also of this last’s laws, I, as Intelligent, though likewise a phenomenon, must recognise myself as immediately attached to the intellectual law of the first, i.e., of reason, which by the idea Freedom gives a law, and ordains autonomy of will; from which it follows, that the laws of the cogitable and noumenal world are immediate and categorical imperatives; and the actions flowing from these principles it behoves me to judge of as duties.

Thus categorical imperatives are seen and comprehended to be possible, the idea Freedom making me an inhabitant of a cogitable system; where, were I such alone, my every action would fall out in harmony with autonomy of will, and, so far as I am likewise connected with a different but dependent system, ought and should so harmonize; which categorical “should,” expresses a synthetic proposition à priori; the constitution and origin of which synthesis is understood and comprehended, when we understand, that over and above my consciousness* of a will, stimulated by sensitive instincts and wants, there is superadded an idea of the very same will, but figured to be in a cogitable system, as pure self-active will, which likewise contains in it the last grounds and supreme conditions of the other,—pretty much as where, over and above the intuitions of the sensory, there are superadded notions of the understanding, which notions are in themselves nothing but legislative forms, and yet constitute, by the conjunction, synthetic propositions Edition: current; Page: [67] à priori, on which all knowledge of physics and of the laws of nature rests.

The practical use of the plainest understanding corroborates the accuracy of this investigation. No one, not even the most hardened ruffian, can fail to wish a change of state and character, when he has laid before his mental vision examples of sincerity and plain dealing, of unwavering steadfastness in adhering to good resolutions, of active sympathy, of inward good will, and universal benevolence. Such he too would willingly become; but he finds he cannot, in consequence of appetites and perturbations obtaining in his sensory; and this forces from him the further wish that he were disenthralled from the bondage of a servitude now felt to be intolerable. He therefore demonstrates that he, by force of the idea of a will separated from the perturbations of the sensory, does in thought waft himself into an order of things where none such intrude, and where he expects no real or imaginary gratification, but expects singly an advancement of the inward worth of his personality. This better person, however, man figures himself to be, when he regards himself, in his station, as an inhabitant of the cogitable system, whitherwards the idea Freedom (i.e., independency on the determinators of the physical system) must of necessity transplant him. There he is conscious of a good will,7 and recognises it as the law and standard for his wayward and phenomenal one. What he therefore morally should and ought, he sees to be his own proper necessary will, as member of a cogitable world; and he speaks of this his necessary will under the term shall, when, recognising its authority, he considers himself at the same time as residing in the system presented to his senses.

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Of the Extreme Verge of all Practical Philosophy.

All men regard themselves, quoad their wills, as free:* hence come those judgments passed with regard to actions, that they ought to have happened, although in fact and event they happen not. This freedom is no conception taken from experience and observation, for it remains unaltered, even while all experience exhibits the very contrary of what, according to laws of freedom, ought to be; and yet, on the other hand, it is equally necessary to think of every event as inevitably determined by laws of nature. And this necessity in the physical sequences is no conception either, borrowed from observation and experience; for it is the notion of a necessity, and is part of knowledge à priori. Now this conception of a necessary-nexus in the physical system is substantiated by experience, nay, behoved to be presupposed if experience and observation (i.e., regular and uniform knowledge of the objects of sense) are to be possible. Hence freedom is only an idea of reason, and the objective reality of it is doubtful, but the mechanic nexus is a notion of the understanding, and proves its reality in experience and observation, and must prove it.*

Thus reason finds itself involved in a dialectic, for the freedom attributed to it seems to collide with the necessity obtaining in the physical system. And although, in this dilemma, reason, for speculative purposes, finds the path of mechanical necessity much smoother, and more unimpeded, yet, for all practical ends, she finds the narrow path of freedom the alone and single, along which she can exert herself in action. Hence the most subtle philosophy and the plainest understanding have both found it alike impossible to quibble themselves out of freedom: they have therefore been both conscious at bottom, that there was no Edition: current; Page: [69] real contradiction betwixt freedom and the laws of nature, considered both as regulating human actions; for reason can no more give up the notion of nature, than she can divest herself of the idea of freedom.

But at any rate, the appearance of contradiction must be removed, although how freedom is possible remains totally incomprehensible;* for if the idea Freedom be repugnant to itself, or the causal laws of nature, which are just as necessary, it must be abandoned for the sake of the latter.

But this contradiction cannot be avoided, unless the subject attributing to itself freedom thinks itself under different relations, when it at one time calls itself free, and yet regards the same action as fixed and subjected to the causal mechanic law determining phenomena. The problem is one which cannot be declined by reason, at least to show that the deceptive appearance of contradiction consists in this, that we cogitate mankind in a totally different point of view when we deem him free from what we regard him in when, as a phenomenon in space of time, we deem him subjected to their laws. Nay, to show further, that these two are not only consistent, but must of necessity be combined in the same subject, since we could not otherwise assign a ground why reason is to be embarrassed with an idea, not perhaps giving the lie direct to an old and well-established notion, but which idea exposes her to a very unnecessary and needless dilemma. This duty is incumbent on speculative philosophy, that it may prepare the way for the practical: there is therefore no option left to the philosopher, whether he will solve this seeming enigma, or leave it uninvestigated; for if he do this last, he leaves the theory concerning freedom a bonum vacans, which the first coming fatalist may seize on as unoccupied, and expels morals, as usurping grounds to which she can show no title.

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However, it is not here the outer verge and border of practical philosophy is descried, for the difficulty just mentioned does not fall under its province, but is for speculative reason to make an end of, that it may warrant to practical reason secure and easy possession against all assailants of the domain on which she intends to erect her seat.

The legal title on which reason claims her freedom of will is grounded on the consciousness* and admitted presupposition of reason’s independency on merely subjectively determined causes, which aggregately compose whatever is of the nature of sensation, and passes under the general name of sensory. Man, considered as thus independent and intelligent, wafts himself, when he does so, into another order of things, and into a relationship with determining grounds of quite another kind (as intelligence endowed with will, i.e., causality) from those with which he is connected when he perceives himself a phenomenon objected to his senses (which likewise he most certainly is), and finds his causality subjected to foreign determinators, according to mechanic laws. Now he immediately becomes aware that both states may co-exist, nay, that in point of fact they must do so; for that a thing as it appears, and as part of sensible phenomena, is affected by certain laws, on which it, the same thing, not as appearance, but as a real, actual thing in itself, is independent, is in nowise a contradiction; and that man must reflect of himself in this twofold light, rests first on his consciousness of his being an object in the sensible system, and then, second, on his consciousness of himself as Intelligent, i.e., as in his originary use of reason, independent on sensitive impressions, i.e., detached from them, and in a cogitable state.*

Hence also it happens that man deems himself the potential possessor of a will which tramples under foot whatever Edition: current; Page: [71] is the mere progeny of appetite and want, and represents actions to be by it not only possible, but necessary, which can alone be performed by casting behind-back and discarding every inclination and excitement of the sensory. This will’s causality resides within him as Intelligent, and has its origin and seat in the laws of a cogitable world; of which world, however, man knows nothing further than that therein reason, naked reason, i.e., reason separated from every perturbation of the sensory, has alone the sway; and since it is there alone that, as Intelligent, man is properly himself (whereas here he is but an appearance of that self), that sway and dominion of reason concern him immediately and categorically. Nor can the whole stimulants in the phenomenal system affect or impair in any way the laws of his intellectual will; so much so, that he counts not these stimulants as his, but acquits himself of them as irresponsible. These he imputes not to his proper self, i.e., his will; but to himself alone any indulgence whereby he may incline to them, and allow them any influence derogatory to the authority of the law presented by reason to his will.*

Nor does reason overstep her bounds, in cogitating herself into a supersensible state; but she would then, when she pretended to feel herself into it, or by intuition to envisage herself there. Such supersensible is a mere idea, negative of the sensible world, which gives no laws to determine reason; and is in this point alone positive, that freedom, although a negative quality, carries with it a positive function and causality of reason called will, enabling man so to act that the principle of his conduct may tally with the essential constitution of all causal reasons; i.e., the condition, that a reasonable agent’s maxims of conduct should be at all times fit for law universal. But when reason attempts to draw down an object of will from the cogitable world, then she Edition: current; Page: [72] oversteps her limits, and affects a knowledge where she knows nothing. The notion of a cogitable system is a mere station which reason needs for a fulerum to lift itself out of the mass of appearances, and cogitate itself as suiactive. This, however, mankind could not at all do, if sensitive excitements necessarily determined the human will; but which he must inevitably do, unless self-consciousness, as intelligent and spontaneous reason, is to be denied.* This conception leads, no doubt, to the idea of a different order of things, and of a legislation totally diverse from laws obtaining over the mechanic events in nature, and renders the representation of a cogitable world (i.e., the aggregate of Intelligents as things-in-themselves) necessary and inevitable. But all this takes place without the smallest pretence to know anything of the laws obtaining there, excepting only the formal condition of them, viz., the potential universality of the maxims of their wills for law—that is, their autonomy, which alone can consist with freedom; whereas all laws whatsoever grounded on an object beget heteronomy, and can take place singly in mechanic nexus and a physical system.

But reason would indeed overstep all bounds and limits were she to undertake an explanation, how pure reason can be spontaneous and self-practical? — a problem perfectly identic with this one, to explain how freedom of will is possible.

For we can explain nothing which we cannot reduce to laws, the object of which is given, or at least may be given, in observation and experience; whereas freedom is a bare idea, and its objective reality cannot be exhibited or explained by laws of the physical system, i.e., is nowhere found in observation and experience; and since no example or analogy can be supplied to it, its reality can never become either Edition: current; Page: [73] comprehended or understood. It is valid merely as a necessary hypothesis for that reason which believes itself possessed of will, i.e., of a function superior to mere powers of desire;* namely, a function to determine itself to act as pure intelligence upon grounds of reason, and independently on physical instincts. Now, where events cease to be regulated by physic laws, there explanation is at end; and all that remains is to defend our possession of the idea, that is, to repel the attacks of those who pretend to see further into the nature of things than others, and who boldly pronounce freedom an absurdity. And we can show them, that the contradiction they imagine they have found out lies only in their refusing to regard man in his twofold character; and that when, in order to support the unvariedness of the causal law in respect of human actions, they consider man of necessity as a phenomenon in the physical system, and are then further required to figure to themselves man as Intelligent, and not as an appearance, but a thing in itself, they still persist in regarding him as in space and time: in which case, indeed, to separate his causality (i.e., his will) from the laws obtaining there, is impossible, and an absurdity; which difficulty vanishes entirely if they would bethink themselves, as reason calls on them to do, that beyond phenomena must needs be things-in-themselves, although latent,—the laws of which last cannot be expected to turn out identic with the laws under which their appearances rank.

This subjective impossibility to explain the freedom of the will is identic with the impossibility to investigate or explain the interest mankind takes in the moral law; and although Edition: current; Page: [74] he has such interest, the groundwork of which is called the moral sense, no further account of it can be given. The feeling itself has been falsely declared to be the standard and guide of our ethical judgments, whereas it is the inward effect exercised by the law upon the will, the objective grounds of which reside in reason.

In order to will what reason ordains* that man ought and should, this last must have a function enabling it to beget a feeling of amenity, in the carrying its law into execution—in other words, in discharging duty; consequently, reason must have a causality of its own, adapted for determining the sensory according to its own principles. It is, however, altogether impossible to comprehend how a naked thought, containing in it nothing of the sensory, can bring forth an emotion of pleasure or pain; for it is a peculiar kind of causality, and of it, like every other kind of causality, we can predicate nothing à priori, but see ourselves compelled to interrogate experience. Observation and experience, however, teach no other relation betwixt cause and effect, than the relation obtaining betwixt one phenomenon and another; and in the case we are considering, reason is, by its ideas (which no experience reaches), the cause of an effect, which last alone lies within observation and experience; whence we see that an explanation, how and why the universal validity of a maxim for law (i.e., morality) should interest Edition: current; Page: [75] mankind, is quite unattainable. Only thus much is certain, that morality is not valid for man because it interests him (for that were heteronomy and dependency of the will on sense), but that it interests because it has validity for man—because its law springs from our very intellectual being, and from what is man’s proper self: now, whatever (e.g., the interest) is among the appearances, must needs be subordinated by reason to the essential constitution of the thing itself.

The question, how a categorical imperative is possible, may therefore be thus far replied to, that we can assign the alone hypothesis on which such imperative can be founded, viz., freedom; and it is replied to, in so far as we can comprehend the necessity of this postulate freedom, which is sufficient for the practical conduct of reason, i.e., to a practical conviction of the authority and validity of the imperative, that is, generally of the moral law. But how the hypothesis itself comes to be possible, is what no human reason can comprehend. Upon the hypothesis of freedom of will, autonomy, the formal condition of its determination was inferred as a necessary sequel; to postulate which freedom of will, is not only possible, but is unconditionally necessary, for a being conscious of its intellectual causality, that is, of a will, which it distinguishes from its desires;* which postulate it must likewise apply to the practical use of every voluntary action. But how naked reason, independently of every other spring, can be itself active and spontaneous, i.e., how the mere principle of the validity of its maxims for universal laws, independently on every object man may be interested in, can be itself a spring to action, and beget an interest which is purely ethical; to explain this, I say, how reason can be thus practical, is quite beyond the reach and grasp of all human thought, and the labour and toil bestowed on any such inquiry is fruitless, and thrown away.

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An inquiry instituted to this effect would be just the same as if I were to try to fathom how freedom is, as a causality of will, possible; for I then quit all philosophic grounds of explanation, and have none other. I might no doubt give my fancy reins, and let it run riot through a cogitable region which still remains. But though I have a well-grounded idea of such a state, I have no knowledge of it whatever, and can acquire none by any stretch of thought. The idea denotes a mere somewhat (cogitable) which remains when every sensitive excitement is excluded from the will; and this exclusion is had recourse to, in order to show that the sensible system is not all in all, but that beyond lies somewhat ulterior. But this ulterior is a vast unknown and blank. When reason thinks of such an ideal state, and abstracts from all known objects, there remains nothing except the form (of reason itself), viz., the law of the universal validity of its maxims; and in harmony with this, reason, as therein an agent, i.e., a cause determining volition. Every spring is here awanting and abstracted from, unless indeed the idea of this cogitable state be itself the spring, i.e., that in which reason takes its original interest; but to make this comprehensible, is just the problem we have declared insoluble.

Here, then, is the utmost verge of all ethical inquiry, to fix the just bounds and limits of which is of very great importance; for it provides reason with a guard against seeking in the sensible system for its last determinator, and finding there, to the utter ruin of all morality, a physical and comprehensible interest; and it likewise furnishes a guard whereby reason is prevented from impotently flapping its wings and attempting to soar in the blank void of impossible ideas, and, without moving from the spot, disorienting itself amid chimeras. The idea of a pure cogitable world, as an aggregate of reasonable beings, to which ourselves belong Edition: current; Page: [77] (although still parts in a physical system), is a most fertile and allowed idea for the behoof of a reasonable faith, all knowledge falling short on this side of it. Nor can the august ideal of a universal kingdom of ends in themselves fail to excite in man a lively interest in the moral law, since mankind can only then figure themselves its inhabitants, when they most industriously adhere to the imperatives of freedom, as if they were necessary laws of the physical system.

Conclusion of the Groundwork.

Speculative reason, when examining the physical system, arrived at the idea of an absolute necessity contained in some last and supreme cause of the world. Practical reason, reflecting on its actions, arrives also at an absolute necessity (in freedom),—a necessity extending no farther than to the laws of the actions of a reasonable being considered as such. Now it is a fundamental principle of all use of reason, to carry back all knowledge to a consciousness of its necessity (and where this is not done, the knowledge does not rest on grounds of reason); and yet it is a limit as invariably put to it, that it cannot comprehend this necessity, either of what happens, or of what ought to happen, unless it is able to assign some condition as a ground upon which somewhat either is or ought to be. In this way, by continually requiring further and further conditions, the insight and satisfaction of reason is postponed. In this restless state reason is driven on the unconditionally necessary, and is forced upon it, although it cannot by any means comprehend such unconditionate necessity, and deems itself happy when it impinges on an idea able to support the load of such a hypothesis. It is therefore no fault of this deduction and inquiry into the supreme and last principle of morality, but an objection which it behoved to make to human reason itself, that it cannot make comprehensible the absolute necessity of an unconditioned Edition: current; Page: [78] practical law, which unconditionate necessity the categorical imperative must have; for that reason refuses to explain it by adopting the further condition of an interest attaching to it, can be no reproach to reason, since in such event the imperative would cease to be a moral, i.e., supreme law of freedom, and so we cannot comprehend the unconditionate practical necessity of the ethical imperative, but we comprehend why it is incomprehensible; and this is as much as can be reasonably demanded from a system of philosophy which has for its object to investigate the reach and extent of the faculty of reason.

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(Extracted from theCritik of Practical Reason.”)


PRACTICAL principles are propositions containing different rules, subordinate to them, which may be grounds of determining the Will. They are either subjective, and are called maxims, when the rule is considered as of force only in reference to the thinking subject himself; or they are objective, and are called laws, when reason pronounces the rule to have an ethical virtue of obliging all reasonable beings.*


If it be admitted that reason contains in itself practical grounds sufficient for determining the will, then there are practical laws; but if otherwise, then are there no more than practical maxims. Where a will is pathologically affected, there a collision of maxims is conceivable; nay, they may even militate against laws which the thinking subject himself Edition: current; Page: [82] admits to be presented to his will by reason. Thus, an individual may adopt the maxim to let no injury pass unavenged, and at the same time he may see very clearly that that principle is no law, but simply a maxim of his own; and that if such a maxim were raised to the rank of a law in a general code or system of moral legislation, it would become self-destructory, and inconsistent with itself. In natural philosophy, principles regulating what happens (events) (e.g., the principle of the equality of action and reaction in communicating motion) are also laws of nature; for in physics the use of reason is theoretic, and determined by the nature of the object. But in moral philosophy, where determinators of volition are alone inquired into, the rules or principles which a person may adopt to regulate what happens (actions) are not in any sense laws inevitably put upon him; for reason is here practical, and has to do with the appetitive faculty of the subject, according to the nature and qualities of which, the rule may be variously modified. Every practical rule is a product of reason, for it prescribes an act as a mean toward an end, which is intended. But such a rule is, in the case of a being whose reason is not the sole determinator of his choice, an imperative, i.e., a rule expressed by the word shall or ought, and it denotes the objective necessity of an action, and implies that, if the will were guided by reason singly, the action would follow according to the rule. Imperatives have therefore an objective import, and so differ totally from maxims, which are subjective singly. They determine the causality of an agent either in regard of the effect or purpose to be reached, or they determine the causality simpliciter. In the first case, the imperatives are hypothetical, and are no more than rules of art; but, in the second, they are categoric and absolute, and these alone are practical laws regulating conduct. While, then, maxims may be regarded as rules, they never can be considered as imperatives. Edition: current; Page: [83] Even imperatives, when no more than conditional determinators of the will, i.e., when they determine the will, not as such simply, but as a mean toward some desired effect, are not laws, but practical precepts only. Laws must determine the will, as will, and do not even depend on the question whether the subject possess the power requisite for some desired end: they are equally independent of the particular line of conduct conducive to it, i.e., they are categoric; and if they were not so, they would not be laws, being deficient in necessity,—a practical necessity, being only possible to be conceived where the will is separated thoroughly from all pathological and contingent circumstances which may attach to it. When it is said that a man must exert himself in youth, and be thrifty, that he may not starve when he is old, a true and important rule of conduct is advanced; but what is to be observed with regard to this rule is, that the will is referred to somewhat out of and beyond itself, of which it is presumed it makes a choice; and it must be left to the individual himself whether he so choose or no; whether he may expect funds from other sources than his own industry; whether he think he may live to old age; or whether he may keep himself by stealing when he comes to want. Reason, from which alone a rule expressive of necessity can emanate, lends a necessity to the foregoing precept (for, apart from its necessity, it were no imperative); but such necessity is subjectively conditional, and cannot be supposed of all thinking beings equally. But for a legislation of reason, nothing further can be required than that it presuppose itself, since in this event alone can a rule be objectively and universally valid, no subjective contingent circumstances being introduced distinguishing one reasonable being from another. Now, let it be said that none ought to promise deceitfully, and we have a rule which respects the will singly, and takes no cognisance of any ulterior aim or intention which a man may have, and Edition: current; Page: [84] is hence independent of the consideration of any such aim being attainable or not. It is the naked volition which is given as determined à priori by the rule. Again, suppose that the above rule be correct and true, then it is law; for the imperative it expresses is categoric. All practical laws refer to will, quite irrespective of any effects which its causality may produce, whence abstracting from “those,” we may consider “this” as it is à priori.

Sec. 2.—: Position I.

All practical principles which presuppose an object, or matter chosen, as a determinator of the will, are one and all of them taken from experience and observation, and, being à posteriori, cannot supply a law of acting.


By the matter of a choice, I understand an object, the existence of which is desired. When the desire of this object goes before the practical rule, and is the condition determining it, then I say, first, such rule is always à posteriori; for the determinator of choice is then the representation of an object, and the relation subsisting between the representation and the subject, whereby the choice is determined to realise the object. This relation, however, is called pleasure in the existence of the object. This pleasure must therefore be presupposed as a condition precedent to the possibility of such determination of the choice. Now, it is impossible to know à priori, in any case, whether the representation of an object is to be accompanied with pleasure or not; whence it follows that the determinator of the choice is à posteriori in such event, as is likewise the material principle of acting which rests on it as a condition.

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Again, I say, secondly, that since a principle which is based on the susceptibility of an individual for pleasure or pain is known only by an induction à posteriori, and cannot be extended to other agents perhaps not endowed with any similar or the same capacity, it may become a maxim, but can never be law, not even for this individual; for it is devoid of objective necessity, which is always à priori. A material principle can therefore never yield a practical law regulating conduct.

Sec. 3.—: Position II.

All material practical principles, however different, agree in this, that they belong to one general system of Eudaimonism, and rest on self-love.

The pleasure arising from the representation of the existence of a thing, when a determinator of the choice towards that thing, rests on the susceptibility of the individual, and depends on the existence of the thing, and belongs for this reason to the sensory and not to the understanding, because this last refers a representation to the object by the intervention of a notion, and does not refer it to the subject by the intervention of a feeling. The pleasure is consequently only in so far practical, as the agreeable sensation expected by the individual from the object determines his choice. But the consciousness of agreeable sensations, regarded as uninterrupted through the whole course of life, constitutes happiness; and the ruling principle to make regard to one’s own happiness the supreme and single determination to action, is the principle which is justly called self-love: consequently all Edition: current; Page: [86] material principles which put the determinator of choice in the pleasure or pain resulting from the existence of an object, are to this extent all of the same kind—that they belong to a system of Eudaimonism, and rest on one’s own self-love.

Corollary.—Every material rule assigns a determination of choice taken from the lower powers of desire singly; and were there no formal law of the will sufficient to determine it, it would needs follow that there existed no superior power of desire at all.

Remark I.

It is quite surprising that men, otherwise acute, should have imagined that they had detected the difference betwixt the higher and inferior powers of desire, by observing whether the representation productive of pleasure sprang from the sensory, or from the understanding; for when inquiry is made as to the determinator of a choice, and the grounds of that determination be put in the agreeable sensation expected from an object, it is of no moment from what faculty the representation springs, but this alone is to be considered, how much the representation pleases or delights. If a representation, which may have its seat in the understanding, is only able to determine the choice by presupposing a pleasurable sensation in the subject, then it is clear that the determination depends on the peculiar constitution of the sensory, and its susceptibility for an emotion of delight. It is of no consequence to insist that the representations of objects are widely different, according as they are of the understanding, of reason, or of the sensory; for the feeling of pleasure, by which the will is put into motion, is in either of these three cases exactly of the same Edition: current; Page: [87] kind, both by being known only à posteriori, and by its stimulating the same vital function. The different agreeable sensations which may therefore determine the will, differ merely in degree; and if this were not so, it were impossible that any man could compare different representations, springing from different faculties, so as to prefer one before the other; and yet an individual may throw aside a useful book not to neglect a hunting match; the very same man may quit listening to a most pathetic harangue, not to be too late for dinner, or leave a most interesting party, and for whom he has the highest esteem, to adjourn to a gaming table; nay, a benevolent man, otherwise fond of giving alms, may turn away a poor object because he has just so much money in his pocket as will pay his entrance into the theatre. If the motive determining the will turn on the pleasure or pain expected from a representation, it must be quite indifferent to the individual what kind of representation affects him; his sole concern in determining his choice must be how intense, how durable, how easily acquired and repeated, may be the gratification,—just as it is indifferent to the man who is about to pay away his money, whether the gold of which his coin consists has been dug out of a mine or washed from the sand, provided it pass current in either case for the same value. A man, therefore, whose concern rises no further than to pass happily through life, is perfectly indifferent whether a representation of the sensory or of the understanding delight him, provided the enjoyment be equally great and equally durable in both cases. But, clear though this be, those who deny the power of reason to determine by itself the will, have continually embarrassed this matter by their bad definitions,—first holding certain sensations to be pleasures, and then pronouncing them somewhat totally diverse. Thus they observe that sustained exertion, that consciousness of force of will in overcoming Edition: current; Page: [88] great obstacles presented to the execution of our resolves, that the culture of the mind, impart high degrees of gratification; and that mankind deem them more refined, because they are more in our own power, do not wear out by usage, but rather strengthen our susceptibility for such enjoyment, and so expand the mind while they delight it: upon these grounds, they conclude that such pleasures determine the will in a totally different manner from the pleasure of the senses, and support themselves in this belief by inventing a peculiar sense (a moral sense, or sense of taste) for their vehicle;—a style this of arguing, which reminds one of those metaphysic quacks who keep cogitating at matter till it becomes so fine and suprafine, that they at length fancy it subtilized into spirit. If, like Epicurus, we rest virtue on the pleasure it may promise us, it is quite inconsistent to tax that philosopher with sottishness when he holds the pleasures of virtue as exactly the same in kind with the coarsest sensual enjoyment. And it is mistaking his system altogether to say, that the representations by which he expected to be delighted have their origin alone in the organs of the body. On the contrary, so far as we can understand him, he placed many pleasures in the culture and use of the intellectual powers; but this ought not, and did not, hinder him from regarding pleasures, when stimulating the will, as exactly alike and the same in nature. To be rigidly consistent, is the highest duty of a philosopher; and of this we find better examples in the old Greek schools than nowadays, when the most discordant systems are often forced, by the shallowness of their abettors, into a disgraceful coalition, in the hope of pleasing the public by giving them a little of everything. A system the principles of which turn on one’s own happiness, no matter how intellectually soever the understanding may be employed on it, can never furnish any further motive than such as excite and stimulate the Edition: current; Page: [89] inferior powers of desire. Either, then, a superior power of desire is to be abandoned, or else reason must itself be a practical or active faculty; i.e., such a one as can by the bare form of its rule determine a volition, and that abstracted from all feelings of the agreeable or disagreeable which may follow or compose the matter of a choice. And if reason be such a faculty, then it is not in anywise in the service of the sensory, but does itself alone determine a volition, and is a superior or supreme power of desire, generically distinct from the lower, and claiming the supremacy over it. To adulterate the legislation of reason with motives borrowed from the sensory, is to impair its strength, and derogate from its pre-eminence, in the same way as a geometric demonstration would be ruined if attempted to be assisted by an induction; for instead of being supported, it would lose its certainty and self-evidencing power.

Reason determines the will simpliciter by its law,* and not indirectly by the intervention of an emotion,—not even by means of pleasure felt in the contemplation of the law itself; and it is only because reason is an active faculty, that it is possible for it to legislate over the will.

Remark II.

To be happy, is a desire entertained of necessity by every finite intelligence, and is therefore inevitably a determinator of choice. Contentment with our state of existence is no birthright of man. If it were, it would be fitly termed blessedness, and would consist in the consciousness of man’s all-sufficiency and independent self-contentment. On the contrary, happiness is a problem urged upon man’s notice by the wants and insufficiency of his finite nature. These wants point to the matter of desire, i.e., to something affecting man’s subjective feelings of pleasure and pain; and these feelings Edition: current; Page: [90] determine what a man considers wanting for his happiness and contentment with his situation. But because such a material determinator is subjective singly, and known only by observation and experience, it is impossible to regard this question of happiness as founding any law or obligation; a law being, as we have seen, objective, and containing a determinator of will, valid for all cases and for all intelligents whatever. And though the notion Happiness establishes a connection and relation betwixt objects and the powers of desire, still happiness is only a general denomination for all subjective determinators, and nothing is fixed by it specifically, which, however, is indispensable towards the solution of any problem, and therefore also toward the solution of the question of happiness. What different individuals may find conducive to their happiness, depends entirely on their peculiar tastes and feelings; and even in the same individual his conceptions of happiness vary and alter with circumstances, and with the emotions stimulating his sensory. So that such subjective laws (although necessary as parts of the physical system) are subjectively contingent (considered as practical principles of conduct), and unfit for law universal, in so far as the appetite for happiness disregards entirely the formal fitness, and considers singly the material fitness of an action to produce the greatest amount of pleasure. Principles of self-love contain general rules for adapting means to an end, and so are merely theoretic or technical principles; e.g., how he who would like to eat bread has to construct a mill. But no practical principle founded on them can be necessary, or of catholic extent; for when the will acts from maxims or self-love, the determinator of choice is based on feelings in the sensory; and it is uncertain that these feelings are universal, not even certain that they are unalterable in respect of the same external objects.

But even supposing that finite Intelligents were at one as Edition: current; Page: [91] to their opinions of the agreeable and unpleasant, and that they coincided as to the lines of conduct expedient to be taken in order to compass the one and avoid the other, still the principle of self-love could not be announced as a law for practical conduct; for this uniformity would itself be contingent; the determinator of choice would be given and known from observation and experience singly, and could not contain that necessity which is of the essence of law, i.e., a necessity presented to the mind by reason à priori: at least, if such principles were called laws, their necessity must be understood to mean, not a practical, but a physical necessitation, and would import that human actions followed on the appetites and passions by a determinate and fixed mechanism of our frame. But, rather than take refuge in such a baseless absurdity, it would be more judicious to maintain that there were no practical laws at all; for the utilitarian position elevates subjective principles to the rank of objective laws: in which case, however, their objective necessity behoved to be understood from grounds of reason à priori. Even in the physical system, the uniform sequences of its phenomena are alone called laws, because seen to be so à priori; or when, as in chemistry, they are postulated as such, because it is presumed they should be so recognised if our faculties reached further. But in the case of principles taken from the conceptions of self-love (one’s own happiness), no such hypothesis or postulate is admissible, since it is of the very essence of the theory that it rests on subjective and not on objective conditions: consequently, that the principles it yields can never be more than maxims, and are not, without contradiction, cogitable as laws. This may seem to a hasty reader a mere subtilizing upon words; however, it concerns the assigning in terms an exact formula for the most important distinction which enters into the consideration of ethical philosophy.

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Sec. 4.—: Position III.

If an Intelligent cogitate his maxims as practical laws of catholic extent, he can do so singly when his maxim is, not by its matter, but by its form, the determinator of volition.

The matter of any practical principle is the object or end willed; and this end either determines the will, or it does not. If the matter chosen regulate the choice, then the rule depends on the relation subsisting betwixt the feelings of pleasure and pain, and the end represented, i.e., on a à posteriori condition; and so the rule is unfit for a practical law. But when the matter of a law is taken away, there remains nothing except the form of law in general: therefore an Intelligent either cannot in any event cogitate his maxims as fit for laws in a code of general moral legislation, or he must figure to himself that the bare form of law by which his maxims fit and are suited for catholic legislation, is what can alone render them practical laws.


What kind of maxim is fit for law universal, and what not, is plain to the most untutored understanding: for instance, a man resolves (i.e., adopts as maxim) to augment his income in every secure way. He holds in his hands a deposit intrusted to him by one who has just died intestate; and he proposes to apply his maxim to the sum in his trust. I now put the question, and ask if such maxim would be valid for a law of catholic extent, i.e., if his maxim can be announced in the form of a law; and it is directly perceptible that a law, ordaining every one to detain sums committed to his trust, when he safely can do so, is absurd and self-destructory; Edition: current; Page: [93] for it would tend to this issue, that no deposit would at any time be made, and so the law to break trust would effect its own avoidance. What reason recognises as a practical law, however, must be fit for law universal (for all agents). The proposition is identic, and cannot be made plainer. So that, if the will be subjected to a practical law, the depository cannot found on his appetite for hoarding as a determinator of choice fit for law universal. For, so far from being fit for that, it was seen, when considered under the form of a universal law, to be incompatible with itself, and self-annihilating.

Although the tendency to happiness is universal, as is also the maxim by which that tendency is made a determinator of choice, yet it is surprising that men of understanding should for that reason announce this want, as a foundation for a universal practical law. For while every other law effects uniformity as its result, the law taken from a maxim to make one’s self happy would not only exhibit the veriest counterpart of such harmony, but would annihilate the maxim itself, and frustrate the end designed, in making it a law. In the case of utilitarian (greatest happiness) principles, all wills have not the same end, but each will has its own (its own welfare), which may perhaps accord with others, perhaps not, but which at any rate gives no certain determinate law, the possible exceptions being innumerable; and that sort of harmony might emerge which a satiric poet describes as the concord of spouses who mutually ruin one another by their extravagance—

  • “How wonderful their harmony!
  • For what he wills, that wills eke she;”

or that sort expressed by the message from Francis I. to Charles V.: “Whatever my brother Charles chooses (Lombardy), that assure him I choose also.” In short, principles Edition: current; Page: [94] founded on observation and experience never can become the groundwork of any law; for, to invent one capable of reducing to harmony all the appetites and by-ends of mankind, and at the same time founded on them, is altogether impossible.

Sec. 5.—: Problem I.

Upon the hypothesis that a maxim is, by its legislative form singly, the alone valid determinator of choice,—to find the nature of a will so determinable.

Since the abstract form of law in genere is cogitable by the force of reason singly, it is nowhat presented to the senses, and so no phenomenon occurring in space and time; and the idea of it, considered as a determinator of will, is wholly different in kind, from the determinators of phenomena in the physical system, because in this last the determinator of a phenomenon is, by the law of the causal-nexus, itself also always a phenomenon. Again, since by hypothesis no determinator of will was valid as law, except the universal legislative form, it follows that such a will is quite independent of the causal law by which phenomena are regulated. But to be independent of the law of cause and effect, and of the mechanism of the physical system, is freedom, in the strictest sense of the word. A will, therefore, whose alone law is the legislative form of its maxims, is a free will.

Sec. 6.—: Problem II.

Conversely: Upon the hypothesis that a will is free, to find the law, alone fit for its necessary determinator.

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Since the matter of any practical law (i.e., the object of a maxim) can only be given à posteriori, and the will is, by the supposition, unaffected by any conditions à posteriori, and free, and yet cannot be cogitated as devoid of all law, it remains that a free will must find in the law somewhat fit for its regulation, irrespective of the matter of the law. But when the matter of a law is taken away, there remains nothing except its legislative form. The legislative form, therefore, contained in a maxim, is that which can alone determine a free will.


Freedom, and an imperative practical law, reciprocally point to one another. I do not here raise the question if they really differ, or if the unconditioned law is not identically the same with self-consciousness of pure practical reason, and this last again identic with the positive idea Freedom; but I only examine from what our knowledge of an unconditioned practical necessity takes its rise,—if from the idea Freedom, or from the law. That it should begin from the former is impossible; for we are conscious of it not immediately, as is seen by our first conception of it being negative only.* Neither do we know our freedom from observation and experience, experience teaching only that mechanic law of the causal-nexus which is the veriest anti-part of freedom. It is therefore from the moral law alone that its original is to be deduced; for of it we are instantly conscious, as soon as we adopt maxims or resolutions of conduct;* and reason, by representing this as a determinator, far outweighing all sensitive considerations, and totally unconnected and independent of them, leads to the idea Freedom. And if the question is further put, How do we arrive at the Edition: current; Page: [96] consciousness of the moral law? the answer is the same as in the case of any other proposition à priori,—that we are conscious of a practical law à priori, as we are conscious of theoretic ones, by attending to the necessity with which reason obtrudes them on the mind; and by separating from them all à posteriori conditions, we arrive, from the first, at the idea of a pure will, as, from the last, at the notion of a pure understanding. That this is indeed the order in which these ideas are ushered into the mind, and that morality first reveals to man his inward freedom, and that practical reason first proposes to speculative reason its insoluble problems, is plain from this, that since no phenomenon can be explained by help of the idea Freedom, and since speculative reason was lost in the embarrass arising from its Antinomies, no one could have hazarded the introduction of such an idea into science, had not the moral law obtruded and flung it before the mind. This opinion is further strengthened by its consistency with what experience teaches; for let any one allege that his sexual appetite is so strong as to be quite ungovernable, and put the case to him, whether he could not refuse to give his passions vent if he knew he were to be led to instant execution if he did so, and there can be no doubt as to what his love of life would prompt him to answer; but ask him further, if his sovereign were to order him, upon pain of the same death, falsely to swear away the life of an obnoxious noble, whether his love of life would induce him to do so, or if he thought he could disobey the unjust mandate. Whether he would do so or not, he might not have confidence in himself to assert, but that he could, must be admitted by him without hesitation; that is, man judges it possible for him to do an act because he is conscious that he ought to do it; and so recognises his inward freedom, which, apart from the moral law, would have remained latent and undiscovered.

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Sec. 7.—: Fundamental law of Reason.

So act that thy maxims of will might become law in a system of universal moral legislation.


Geometry begins with postulates concerning the drawing of lines and the fixing of points, and these are practical propositions, containing nothing further than the supposition that an operation may be performed when science requires it; and they are the sole propositions of the mathematics which refer to the existence or non-existence of a phenomenon. They are therefore practical positions, standing under a problematic state of will. But in Ethics the practical rule is absolute, and ordains somewhat to be done, whereby the will is objectively determined. Pure self-active (spontaneous) reason being immediately legislative, the will is cogitated as independent on conditions à posteriori; i.e., as pure will determinable by the bare form of law. The fact is startling, and without any parallel; for the à priori idea of a potential legislation is unconditionally announced as law, without having its possibility established from any observation or experience, or supported by the fiat of any foreign or exterior will.

Our consciousness of this fundamental law is an ultimate fact of reason, for it issues from no preceding data, e.g., the consciousness of freedom, but is thrust upon the mind directly as a synthetic à priori proposition, and is bottomed on no intuition whatsoever, whether à priori or à posteriori. But if the idea Freedom were given, then would the law be analytic. But the idea is in the first instance negative singly; and if it were positive, would require an intellectual intuition, as to which there can be no question. Lastly, Edition: current; Page: [98] when it is said that this law is given, I beg it may be understood that it is not known by observation and experience, but that it is the single isolated fact of practical reason, announcing itself as originally legislative. Sic volo, sic jubeo.

Corollary.—Reason is spontaneously practical, and gives that universal law (to man) which is called the moral law.


This fact is undoubted. One needs only to analyze the judgments passed by mankind on the lawfulness of their own actions, in order to become aware with what unchanging necessity reason contrasts every maxim of conduct with the idea of a pure will, i.e., holds up, as a standard, itself represented as à priori causal. The above principle of morality is authentically announced by reason as law for all Intelligents, i.e., for all who have a faculty of determining their own causality by the representation of a rule, i.e., in so far as they are susceptible of actions upon system, and so susceptible of practical principles à priori; which last have alone that necessity which reason demands in an ultimate position. The moral law is therefore not confined to man, but extends over all, even to the Most High and Supreme Himself; but, in the former case, the law is expressed in the formula of an imperative; for although man is cogitated as the possessor of a pure will, yet, since he is susceptible of emotions and wants, inseparable from his finite state, he has by no means a holy will, i.e., a will incapable of adopting maxims incompatible with the law. The moral law is hence to finite Intelligents an imperative, expressing a categoric command.

The relation of such a will to the law is called obligation, which signifies necessitation by reason to an act, which act, again, is called duty. A will pathologically affected is in the Edition: current; Page: [99] state of wish, a state springing from subjective emotions, and therefore often not in harmony with the objective determinator, and so requires an inward intellectual co-action, i.e., moral necessitation. In the case, however, of the Most High and Supreme, His will is rightly cogitated as incapable of any maxim not fit for law universal. And the idea Holiness, which therefore becomes His attribute, excludes all limitary or negative laws, and so exalts Him far beyond the conceptions of obligation and duty. This Holiness of Will is, however, nothing more than a practical idea,—an infinite approximation towards which is all that is possible for man or any other finite being, and which ideal standard is constantly held up to man by the Moral Law, called for that reason itself Holy. Steadfastness in this continual advancement, and Hope in the unchangeableness of a man’s resolves to do so, or, in one word, virtue, is the utmost a finite reason can accomplish; and since this practical power is developed by exercise, and known by observation and experience, it can never be fully attained or secured, and the confident over-persuasion of such would militate to the prejudice of morality.

Sec. 8.—: Position IV.

Autonomy of will is the alone foundation of morality, and of the duties springing from it; and every other principle whatsoever, not only cannot found laws of necessary obligation and catholic extent, but is in fact subversive of morality. In being independent of the matter of any law (a desired object), and being determinable by the legislative form of his own maxims, consists the ethical nature of man, and that which renders him a subject for morality; that independence is freedom negatively, while Edition: current; Page: [100] this self-legislation is freedom positively. The moral law expresses, therefore, nothing else than just the autonomy of reason, i.e., of a man’s freedom or spontaneity;* and this autonomy or freedom is a condition which must qualify every maxim, if these last are to harmonize with the moral law itself. On the contrary, when the matter of a volition, which can be nothing else than the object of a desire, is made of the practical law, and represented as a condition prerequisite to its possibility, then Heteronomy (a false principle of morals) results; and the will ceases to prescribe to itself its own law, and is left exposed to laws taken from pathological phenomena. In this case, however, the maxim adopted by the will is formally unfit for law universal, and not only founds no obligation, but goes to subvert the principles of practical reason itself, and so militates against genuine moral sentiments, even while the actions emanating from such heteronomy are not wanting in conformity to the law.

Remark I.

Practical rules, based on accidental and contingent circumstances, can never be regarded as laws for conduct. The will’s proper law wafts it from this visible system into another order of things; and that necessity it expresses, having no common part with the mechanic necessity expressed by laws of nature, can consist alone in the formal conditions requisite to the possibility of law in general. The matter of every practical rule depends on subjective facts not extending to all agents whatsoever, and hinges on the principle of one’s own happiness. And although it cannot be questioned that Edition: current; Page: [101] every volition has an end aimed at (i.e., a matter), yet that by no means warrants the conclusion that such matter is the condition and determinator of the maxim; for if so, then maxims could not be elevated to the rank of law in a system of universal moral legislation, as they would rest on accidental, and not on necessary circumstances. Thus it is quite possible that the happiness of others may be the object of the will of an Intelligent; but if regarded as the determinator of the maxim, then it must be supposed that we not merely feel a secret gratification on perceiving the happiness of others, but that we are stimulated by a physical want or appetite to act towards it, as in the case of compassion; and so there would be no law of benevolence, that physical feeling not reaching all persons whatever (e.g., God). However, there may be a law enjoining universal love, and the matter of benevolent maxims may remain, provided it is not figured as their prerequisite condition; and it is the form of law which, by moulding the matter chosen, is the ground of adding such matter to the will. To make this as clear as may be, let the object-matter of my choice be my own happiness, then a maxim expressing such volition can only be fit for law universal (i.e., be moral), when I involve in it the happiness of every other Intelligent throughout the universe. And a law ordaining me to promote universal happiness is therefore quite independent of the supposition that happiness is the choice of all wills, and rests singly on its own formal universality. This satisfies the demands of reason, and gives to what would else be a mere selfish maxim, a qualification fitting it for law. In this way it is observable that a pure will is not determined by a desire of happiness, but is so singly by the form of legality; this form again—adapting the maxim founded on the appetite for happiness for law universal—is that alone which allows me to act upon it, for on no other condition can this appetite be brought into harmony Edition: current; Page: [102] with the requisitions of reason. On this is based the obligation to extend my private selfish choice of happiness, so as to include at the same time that of others.

Remark II.

The antipart of this principle of morality is that of self-love, on which, I have already shown, every system must be based, when the determinator regulating the choice is sought for elsewhere than in the legislative form of the maxim; and this contrariety is not logical merely, but practical, and would infallibly overthrow all morality, were not the voice of reason at all times too audible, and its native force to determine the will too strong to be affected by dark and deceitful subtleties of the schools, as may be made palpable by the following examples:—

If a person were to attempt to justify his having borne false witness, by alleging to his friend the sacred obligation he lay under of consulting his own happiness, by enumerating the profits and advantages accruing from this falsehood; and if he were, in conclusion, to point out the extreme cunning he had employed in the whole matter, to fortify himself against detection, and to add, that although he now intrusted to his friend this secret, yet he was ready to deny it stoutly at any future occasion, and that in all this he was discharging a humane and reasonable duty,—certainly his friend must either laugh him to scorn, or turn from him with disgust; although, if maxims are to be constructed singly with respect to one’s own advantage, nothing of moment can be urged against such a line of conduct. Or, however, to take a second case, if somebody were to recommend an overseer or factor to you, and were to say that he was an exceedingly clever man,—most restlessly active in securing his own interest, quite unembarrassed by any scruples as to any mode conducive to this end, and perfectly indifferent whether the Edition: current; Page: [103] money he had occasion to disburse was his own or another’s,—you would either conclude that there was an attempt to make a fool of you, or that the person who could give such a recommendation had lost his understanding. Thus widely separated are the confines of self-love from those of morality. A gulf impassable lies betwixt their maxims. Self-love (prudence) advises by its maxims, but the moral law commands; and the difference is unspeakably great betwixt what is expedient and what is imperative to be done.

The action called for by autonomy is always known and undoubted, but that demanded by a heteronomous principle is uncertain, and requires extended experience and acquaintance with the world; in other words, every man knows within himself what is “duty;” but what is to found one’s prosperity and happiness is matter of inextricable doubt, and it demands extreme dexterity, even to apply such selfish rules to the conduct of life, for the exceptions they make upon one another are endless. The moral law has no exceptions, but demands from every one punctual observance, and must therefore be so plain and obvious in its requirements, that the most common understanding can advance along it, without any study of the intricate ways of the world.

To obey the categorical law of morals, is at all times in every one’s power; but it is not practicable for all to act upon dictates of expediency: the reason is, that the first demands singly a pure and unadulterated will (maxim), but the latter calls further for ability and physical power to gain the end aimed at. A law to pursue one’s own happiness were absurd; for it is superfluous to ordain any one to choose what the constitution of his nature inevitably forces him to will, and it were more fit to instruct him as to those measures calculated to carry his choice into effect. But to command morality and the name of duty is quite rational, for we do not willingly yield obedience to its law; and as to the steps Edition: current; Page: [104] requisite to be taken in order to adhere to it, that is explained in the methodology of ethics. What is here wanted, is alone the original bent or cast of the volition to do so; for whenever any one wills, that also gives him the power to carry the law into effect, i.e., to act upon it.

To carry as far as may be this difference between principles of utilitarianism and morality, I observe further:

He who has lost at play may be vexed at his imprudence and want of skill; but he who is conscious within himself of having cheated, must despise himself as soon as he compares his conduct with the moral law, and that too, although he have won treasures. The moral law must therefore be somewhat widely distinct from principles of self-aggrandizement. And for any one to be obliged to say to himself, I am worthless and a villain, though wealthy, and to say, I am clever and cunning, for I have amassed riches, are judgments founded on standards of conduct totally imcompatible.

Again, the idea of blameworthiness and punishment, which reason invariably attaches to that of guilt, makes a singular contrast with the Eudaimonistic system; for although he who appoints a punishment may do so with a view to the ulterior happiness of the delinquent, yet punishment, as actual pain or evil added to the offender, must be justified as such, so as to constrain even the guilty to acknowledge that the severity is just, and that his evil lot answers to his ill desert. Every punishment must be rigidly just, for justice is of the very essence of this idea. Benignity is not contrary to justice, and may in union with justice deal out punishment; but for kindness or mercy, the blameworthy has no claim: and so it is clear that punishment is a physical evil, which it behoved should be annexed to moral evil (according to the ethical legislation of reason), even if it were not already so. If, then, every crime is a fit object of punishment, and infers to some extent a forfeiture of happiness, Edition: current; Page: [105] it is a contradiction and absurdity to say that a crime requires punishment, because the transgressor has injured his own happiness; for this is the whole conception of crime according to the Utilitarian System; for then physical evil, i.e., punishment, would be the ground and reason of considering any action as a transgression, and justice would come to consist in avoiding all pains and penalties (threatened by law), and in preventing those which come of themselves, which, when fully done, there would cease to be any evil in an action,—those evils consequent on a bad action, and which alone make it so, being henceforward removed. It were idle to examine the statement that rewards and punishments are stimulant forces applied by a supreme power to man, in order to lead him towards true felicity; the fancy of such mechanism of will being quite destructory of all freedom.

The intervention of a moral sense, as a foundation for ethic science, is a somewhat more refined theory, but as untrue as the former; for it alleges that this feeling, not reason, promulgates the moral law; and further, since the consciousness of virtue is immediately connected, owing to this feeling, with enjoyment and pleasure, and that of vice with uneasiness and pain, it virtually runs up into a suifelicity or greatest-happiness system. Not to insist again on those objections which are amply set forth in former paragraphs, I merely stop to point out a mistake which pervades the whole theory. Before we can figure to ourselves the vicious as haunted with an uneasy recollection of his misdeeds, he must be cogitated as already in some degree morally good; as must likewise he who is to be gratified from reflecting on the integrity of his conduct. So that the ideas of morality and duty are presupposed to explain the existence of such a feeling, and cannot be derived from it. It is absolutely necessary that a person have estimated the high Edition: current; Page: [106] importance of duty, the authority of the moral law, and the immediate unconditioned worth which the observance of it imparts to man in his own eyes, antecedently to his being able to feel that contentment springing from the consciousness of a moral character, or that bitter reproach springing from the conviction of the want of it. This moral felicity cannot precede the idea Obligation, much less found it; and it is requisite that an individual have some notions of morality and honour before he can ever figure to himself what is meant by such emotions. This, however, is so far from inclining me to deny that a standing determination to act upon the representation of the moral law, and unswerving constancy in doing so, will eventually establish this feeling of self-contentment, that I rather deem it a duty to cultivate such a state of mind, which state alone ought rigidly to be termed “a moral sense.” However, to deduce thence the idea Duty is impossible, for we would require a feeling of the law as such, so as to make that an object of sensation which can be represented to the mind by reason singly; a statement which, if not a downright contradiction, goes to substitute in the room of duty a mechanic play of refined and more subtilized emotions, sometimes thwarting, sometimes harmonizing with the coarser feelings of our system.

We are now in a condition to exhibit and contrast our formal position, the autonomy of the will, with every other material principle of morals hitherto advanced, and so to make it evident from a glance that these, and through them every other conceivable foundation, are exhausted, and that henceforth the attempt must be fruitless to base morality on any other ground than the one on which it has been now rested. Every possible determinator of the will is either subjective, and borrowed from observation and experience, or else objective, and based on reason; and these, again, whether rational or inductive, are either external or internal.

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Material Determinators in Ethical Systems are
External. Internal. Internal. External.
Education as founding Morality. Montaigne. Civil Polity. Mandeville. Physical feeling. Epicurus. Moral feeling. Hutcheson. Perfection. Wolf and the Stoics. Will of God. Crusius and Theological Moralists.

Those on the left are all inductive, and plainly unfit for founding laws of catholic extent. Those on the right hand, however, have their origin and seat in reason (for perfection as a quality, and supreme perfection cogitated in substance, i.e., God, can only be figured to the mind by reason). But the first notion can mean only either perfection in a theoretic or in a practical sense: in the first it signifies completeness (i.e., quantitative perfectness), which can have no reference to what we are here talking of; or else it signifies (qualitative perfection) the practical fitness of man for accomplishing all possible variety of ends. Such an inward perfection is talent; and whatever adds to or serves as complement to that is called skill.

Supreme perfection hypostatized, or in substance (i.e., God), consequently external perfection considered practically, is the all-sufficiency of the Supreme Being for every end whatsoever.

Now, if ends must be given in order to fix the notion of perfection, so that the representation of a perfection in ourselves, or an external perfection in God, may determine a volition towards them; then, since such matter of choice precedes the volition, and is the condition of its practical rule, it follows that the will is determined as on the Epicurean system. For the notion Perfection determines the will by the gratification expected from our own accomplishments; and the will of God, when harmony with it is chosen, apart from any prior investigation of what is a perfect and absolutely Edition: current; Page: [108] good will, can only move the will by an expectation of happiness awaited from Him.

Therefore, 1st, All principles in this schedule are material; 2ndly, they represent all such conceivable principles whatsoever; and, 3rdly, because material principles are quite unfit for law universal, it results that the formal practical principle of reason (according to which the bare form of a potential legislation served for the supreme and immediate determinator of choice) is the alone possible which can found categorical imperatives, i.e., practical laws, and is thus at once the sole standard for estimating deportment, and the sole ethical determinator of the will.

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THE essence of all moral worth in acting consists in this, that the moral law be the immediate determinator of the will. If the will be determined so as to be in harmony with the law, but only mediately, and by the intervention of an emotion or feeling, no matter of what kind soever this last may be, which emotion must be presupposed before the law becomes the sufficient determinator; i.e., when the determination is not out of single reverence for the law, then the action is possessed of legality, but it contains no morality. Further, if by a spring is meant the subjective determinator of the will of an Intelligent, who is not of necessity conformed to the objective law, then, from such explanation we conclude, first, that to a divine will no springs can be figured as attached; and, second, that in the case of the human, or of any other being, these can be none other than the moral law itself, i.e., that the objective determinator must be also at the same time the always and single subjectively-sufficient determinator of an act,—if the act is to fulfil, not the bare letter, but likewise the spirit of the law.*

Since, then, no further spring is to be sought for as a medium to the moral law, in procuring it control and purchase on the will, which would be a dispensing with and supplanting Edition: current; Page: [110] of the moral law, and could produce nothing but an unstable hypocrisy,—nay, since it were even hazardous to call on any other spring for aid (e.g., utilitarian incitements), to work alongside of and co-operate with the law,—we can have no further task than carefully to inquire, how the ethical law acts as spring? and what changes of state happen in the mind and man’s powers of desire, as effects of its determining causality? For how a law should be itself the alone and immediate determinator of the will (wherein the essence of all morality consists), is a problem not solvable by human reason, and quite identic with the question, how a free will is possible? What we therefore have to show à priori, is not the ground, by force of which the moral law is a spring, but merely, when it is so, what it effects, and indeed must effect, upon the mind.

The essence of all determination of will by the moral law lies in this, that it, as free will, be determined, not only without any co-operations from sensitive excitements, but that it even cast all such behind-back, and discard them, in so far as they may infringe upon the law, and be determined by it singly. Thus far the action of the moral law, as a spring, is no more than negative, and is known as such à priori. For every appetite and every sensitive excitement is based on feeling, and the negative action of the law on the sensory (when casting out all appetitive stimuli) is again itself a feeling. Consequently we understand à priori, that the moral law, the ground determining the will, must produce a feeling when it circumscribes and discards the solicitations of the sensory. This feeling may be called pain, and is the first, probably the only case, where we have been able to assign upon grounds à priori, the relation obtaining betwixt knowledge (here of pure practical reason) and a feeling of pleasure or pain. The aggregate of the appetites (which easily admit of being brought into a very tolerable Edition: current; Page: [111] system, and whereof the gratification is then one’s own happiness) make up and compose what is called selfishness or solipsism; and this selfishness is either that of self-love or that of self-conceit: the solipsism of the first resides in overstrained fondness and good will to a man’s own self, and is sometimes called vanity; the solipsism of the other is an extravagant self-complacency, and is particularized by the name of arrogance or vainglory.* Practical reason circumscribes the claims of self-love, but allows them to be plausible, as they are astir in the mind even before the law itself; and limits them to the condition of being in harmony with the law, after which self-love is equitable; but the high thoughts of self-conceit it overthrows entirely, and declares all pretensions to self-esteem, prior to conformity with the law, void and empty; because the certain consciousness of being so conformed is the supreme condition fixing all moral worth of the person; and all assumption of any—where there is not yet such conformity—is false and illegal. Now, the propensity to esteem one’s self is one of those appetitive instincts infringed upon by reason to this extent, that it makes self-esteem depend upon morality. Thus the moral law casts down all self-conceit; but since the law is in fact somewhat positive,—namely, the form of an intellectual causality, i.e., of freedom,—it becomes, by contrast with the appetites it weakens and invades, an object of reverence; and in so far as it altogether prostrates self-conceit—i.e., humbles—an object of the most awful reverence, that is, that it is the ground of a positive feeling, not begotten by anywhat sensitive, and which can be recognised à priori. Reverence for the moral law is therefore a feeling of emotion, caused by an intellectual ground, and is the only feeling capable of being recognised à priori, and the necessity of which we are able to comprehend.

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In the former chapter* it was shown that everything which could be presented as an object to the will before the moral law, was excluded by that law from the grounds determining a will which is to be unconditionally good; and that nothing but the naked practical form, which consists in the fitness of maxims for law universal, establishes what is in itself absolutely good, and founds maxims of a will good at all points. But we now find that our system is so constituted, that the matter of desire first obtrudes itself on the sensory; and our pathological à posteriori self, although its maxims are quite unfit for law universal, immediately endeavours, as if it were our whole and proper self, to make its claim valid, as the originary and prior. This deflective tendency to make a man’s subjective self the objective terminator of his will, may be called self-love; and when dominant and elevated to the rank of an unconditional practical law, may be styled self-conceit. The moral law excludes, as the alone true objective law, the influence of self-love from any share in the legislation, and derogates infinitely from self-conceit, when it announces the subjective conditions of the other as laws; but whatsoever does diminution in man’s own eyes to his self-conceit, humbles. The moral law, therefore, inevitably humbles every man, when he compares with it the deflective tendency of his sensitive system; again, that which, when represented as the determinator of the will, humbles man in his own consciousness, does, in so far as it is positive, and a determinator, beget for itself reverence. The moral law is therefore subjectively the ground of reverence; and since all the parts of self-love belong and refer to appetite and inclination, and these latter rest on feeling, and anything Edition: current; Page: [113] which curbs and reins up the impetuosity of self-love must, by doing so, of necessity take effect upon the feelings, we thoroughly comprehend how it is that we know à priori that the moral law exercises an effect on the sensory, by excluding appetite, and the bias to elevate it to the rank of a supreme practical condition; which effect, in one point of view, is negative only (humility); but in another, and when regard is had to the limitary ground—pure spontaneity of reason—is positive (reverence); and this effect does not admit or require us to assume any particular kind of feeling under the name of a practical or moral or internal sense, as if it were antecedent to the moral law, and the groundwork of it.

The negative effect wrought upon the sensory (displacency) is, like every other action on the feelings, and indeed, as is also every feeling, pathological. Considered, however, as the effect springing from the consciousness of the moral law, i.e., considered in reference to its intellectual cause—a personality of pure practical reason as supreme legislatrix—this feeling of a reasonable subject, perturbed by appetite and inclination, is called, no doubt, humility: but again, when referred to its positive ground—the law—it is called reverence felt toward it; which law itself cannot be felt indeed; but when impediments in the sensory, which hindered the law from being carried into effect, are cleared out of the way, Reason deems the removal of such obstacle tantamount to a positive advancement of her causality; and hence this feeling may be further called a feeling or emotion of reverence toward the law, and, upon both these grounds together, may be called the moral sense.

Hence, as the moral law is at once the formal determinator of an act by pure practical reason, and is likewise the material and yet objective determinator of the object-matter of an act as good or evil, so it becomes at the same time the subjective determinator to such an act, by operating upon Edition: current; Page: [114] the morality of the subject, and effectuating an emotion which advances the force of the law upon the will. But in all this there is no antecedent feeling given in the subject himself, pointing to morality; which last hypothesis is a downright impossibility, every feeling being of the sensory; whereas the spring of ethical volitions must be quite abstracted from every sensitive condition. Nay, that sensitive state—feeling—which lies at the bottom of all appetite and emotion, is the condition of that specific state of mind we have called reverence; but the cause of such state lies in pure practical reason; and the emotion in this respect, and on account of whence it has its origin, cannot be regarded as a pathognomonic, but ought to be regarded as a practical or active emotion; an emotion practically effectuated, when the representation of the law, having curbed the licentiousness of self-love, and beaten down the overweenings of self-conceit, takes away the hindrance obstructing the action of pure practical reason, and exhibits the superiority of her objective law to the solicitations of the sensory, and so gives, in the scales of reason, weight to the former, by removing the counterpoise pressing upon the will from the latter. Reverence toward the law is therefore not a spring advancing morality, but is morality itself considered subjectively as a spring; i.e., in so far as in this state of mind the appetencies of the sensory are silenced, and an inlet is afforded for advancing the authority of the law. To all which is to be added, that since such reverence is an effect wrought upon the sensory, it involves the supposition of the sensitive, and so of the finite nature of those Intelligents whom the moral law thus inspires with reverence; but in the case of a Supreme Intelligent, or even of one not percipient by the intervention of a sensory—where, therefore, no obstacle is presented to practical reason—no reverence can exist.

This feeling (called the Moral Sense) is the pure product Edition: current; Page: [115] and effect of reason. It is of no service in judging of conduct, nor yet in founding the moral law, but is a mere spring, making the law man’s practical maxim in life; nor is there any name more appropriate for so strange a feeling, which has no analogy to any pathological emotion, but is entirely of its own kind, and seems to stand at the command of pure practical reason only.

Reverence is bestowed on Persons only, never on Things. The latter may be objects of affection; and when they are animals, may awaken in us even love or fear. Volcanoes and the ocean may be regarded with dread, but cannot with reverence. What approaches nearer to this last, is wonder, which, when impassioned, may rise to admiration, astonishment, or amazement; as when we contemplate the summits of lofty mountains, storms, the extent of the firmament, the strength and velocity of some animals, etc., and so of the rest; but all this is not reverence. A man may be an object of my love, my fear, or my admiration, up to the highest grade of wonder, and still he may be no object of reverence. His jocose humour, his strength and courage, his power and authority, from the rank he has, may give me such emotions, but they all fall short of reverence. Fontelle says, “It is my body, not my mind, which bows to my superior.” I may add, that to any plain man in whom I may discover probity of manners in a grade superior to my own, my mind must bow whether I will or not. To what is this owing? His example presents to me a law which casts down my self-conceit when it is compared with my own deportment; the execution of which law—that is, its practicability—I see proved to me by real fact and event. Nay, even if I were conscious of like honesty to his, my reverence for him would continue; the reason whereof is, that all good in man being defective, the law, made exhibitive by an example, prostrates my conceit, which exemplar is furnished by a person whose Edition: current; Page: [116] imperfections—which must still attach to him—I do not know as I do my own, and who therefore appears to me in a better light. Reverence is a tribute which cannot be refused to merit, whether we choose or not. We may decline outwardly to express it, but we cannot avoid inwardly to feel it.

So far is reverence from being a pleasurable feeling, that we entertain it unwillingly toward any man, and begin instantly to cast about for some fault which may lighten us from its burden, and give indemnity against the humiliation otherwise put upon us by his example. Even the dead, especially when their example seems to surpass all power of imitation, are not exempt from this sifting scrutiny. Nay, the moral law itself, in its solemn majesty, is open to this endeavour to screen one’s self from the reverence owed it; or do we think that it is upon some other account that mankind would fain have the law frittered down to an object of his love, and that it is upon quite different and contrary grounds that he exerts himself to find in it nothing more than the amiable precepts of his own well-understood advantage; and not upon this single and only one, that he would willingly be rid of that deterring reverence which unremittingly shows him his own unworthiness? And yet there is in reverence so little of dislike or disinclination, that when once mankind has laid aside his self-conceit, and allowed that reverence to take its practical effect, he cannot become sated with contemplating the glory of the law, and his soul believes itself exalted in proportion as he sees the holy law advanced above him and the frailty of his system. Unquestionably great talents, when accompanied by commensurate and suitable activity, beget reverence, or a feeling bearing a strong likeness to it; and it is in truth quite becoming and decorous to show them such; and here it would seem that wonder and reverence were the same. But, on stricter analysis, it is observed, that since we do not know how much innate force Edition: current; Page: [117] of talent, and how much study and industrious self-culture, conduce to the effect wondered at and admired, reason represents this last as probably the fruit of study, i.e., as a kind of merit which strikes directly at one’s own self-conceit, hands the bystander over to his own reproach, or imposes on him an obligation to follow such example. This reverence or admiration is, then, not mere wonder, but is reverence toward the person (or, properly speaking, toward the law exhibited in his example). A matter confirmed by this, that when the general mass of admirers discover, from some quarter or another, the depravity of their admired’s morals (e.g., Voltaire), all reverence for him is immediately abandoned. But one who is a member of the literary republic continues to feel some regard still when weighing his talents, because he finds himself engaged in a profession and calling which makes it imperative upon him to imitate in some respect his example.

Reverence toward the moral law is, then, the only and undoubted ethic spring, and is an emotion directed to no object except upon grounds of the law. First, the moral law determines objectively and immediately the will. Freedom, whose causality is alone determinable by the law, consists in this very matter, that all appetite and emotion, and so also the affection of self-esteem, is restrained by it to the prior condition of having executed its pure law. This control takes effect upon the sensory, and produces there a feeling of pain or displacency, which can be recognised à priori, when eyed from the vantage-ground of the moral law. But since this is a negative effect only, resulting from the agency of reason (i.e., the spontaneity of the person when he withstands the solicitations of his sensory, and strips off the overweening fancy of his personal worth, which, where there is no harmony with the law, shrinks at once to zero), such action of the law begets no more than a feeling of humility, Edition: current; Page: [118] which we comprehend à priori; but in this we do not see wherein consists the force of the pure practical law as spring, but only its withstanding the springs of the sensory. But, second, since this same law is further objectively (i.e., according to the representation of pure reason) an immediate determinator of will, and this humiliation is effected only relatively to the purity of the law, it follows that this depression of man’s claim to his own ethical reverence (i.e., his humiliation from the part of his sentient economy) is an exaltation (from his intelligent part) of the ethical, i.e., practical reverence for the law itself,—in other words, is just that reverence itself; consequently a positive feeling considered with respect to its intellectual ground, which feeling also is cognisable à priori. For every diminution of the obstacles opposed to an activity is in plain fact an advancement of that activity itself. The acknowledgment of the moral law, however, is the consciousness of an activity of pure reason from objective grounds: which activity does not always pass into action, merely because subjective causes stop and hinder it. Reverence for the moral law must therefore be regarded as the law’s positive though indirect effect upon the sensory, when it weakens the impeding forces of appetite and inclination, by casting down all self-conceit; that is, reverence is the subjective ground of such activity, or, in other words, is the spring towards the executing of the law, and the ground of adopting maxims of conduct which harmonize with its requirements. Upon this notion of a spring rests this further one of an interest, which cannot be attributed to any being not endowed with reason; and it denotes a spring towards volition, in so far as that spring is begotten by reason only. Again, because the law must be the spring where the will is morally good, the ethical interest is a pure insensitive interest of naked practical reason. Upon this notion of an interest rests Edition: current; Page: [119] again that of a maxim; and this is only truly genuine when it is based on the naked interest taken by man in the execution of the law. These three notions, however—spring, interest, and maxim—are applicable only to finite beings; they all presuppose bounds and limits put to the nature of the person, and intimate that the subjective structure of his choice does not spontaneously and of its own accord harmonize with the objective law of practical reason, and imply a need to be urged by somewhat to activity, that activity being obstructed by an inward hindrance.

There is somewhat so strange in this unbounded reverence for the pure moral law, divested of all by-views of advantage or expediency, and exhibited as practical reason holds it up to mankind for his execution, whose voice makes the most daring scoffer tremble, and forces him to hide himself from his own view, that one ought not to be surprised at finding this energy of a naked intellectual idea upon the sensory quite uninvestigable by reason, and that man must content himself with comprehending à priori thus much, that such a feeling attaches inseparably to the representation of the law by every finite Intelligent. Were this emotion of reverence pathologic, and bottomed to the internal sense of pleasure, then were it vain to attempt to track out the alliance obtaining betwixt it and an idea à priori. But an emotion pointed only to a practical end, and attached to the bare, formal representation of a law, quite abstractedly from any object, and which therefore pertains neither to pleasure nor pain, and yet establishes an interest in that law’s execution, is what we properly call a moral one; and the susceptibility to take such an interest in the law—in other words, to have reverence for the moral law itself—is what we, properly speaking, call the moral sense.

The consciousness of man’s free submission of his will to the law, going, however, hand in hand with a necessary Edition: current; Page: [120] control and constraint put by reason on every appetite and inclination, is reverence toward the law.* The law, which at once calls for and inspires this reverence, is, as we have seen, no other than the moral, no other law excluding appetite and inclination from the immediateness of its own action on the will. An act objectively incumbent to be done in conformity with this law, and with the postponement of every appetitive determinator, is what is called duty, and involves in the very conception of it, on account of this postponement, practical necessitation, i.e., determination to an act, how unwillingly soever,—the emotion arising from the consciousness of this co-action or necessitation is not pathological (is unlike those effected by an object of sense), but is practical, i.e., is only possible by an antecedent causality of reason and objective determination of will. It contains, therefore, as subordination to law (i.e., a commandment which announces restraint to a person affected by a sensory), no pleasure, but rather dislike to that extent to the act itself; while yet, on the other hand, since this restraint is enforced singly by the legislation of man’s own reason, it brings with it exaltation; and the subjective effect upon the sensory, when pure practical reason produces it, can be called no more than self-approbation in respect of such exaltation, mankind disinterestedly recognising himself destined by the law to such subordination, and becoming then aware of a new and another interest purely practical and free; to take which disinterested interest in acts of duty no appetite invites, but reason, by its practical law, imperatively ordains, and also produces, upon which accounts the interest bears a quite peculiar name—that of Reverence.

Upon these accounts, therefore, the notion Duty demands, in the act, objectively, Conformity to the Law, and subjectively, in the maxim, from which it flows, Reverence for Edition: current; Page: [121] the Law, such being the only method of determining the will by it; and on this rests the difference betwixt those states of consciousness,—that of acting in harmony with what is duty, and doing so from a principle of duty, i.e., out of reverence for the law. The first case (legality) is possible when mere appetites determine to volition; but the second (morality), the moral worth, can be placed in this only, that the act has been performed out of duty, i.e., out of naked regard had to the law.

It is of the greatest consequence, in all ethical judgments, to attend with most scrupulous exactness to the subjective principle of the maxims, in order that the whole morality of an act be put in the necessity of it, out of duty and out of reverence for the law, not in love and inclination towards what may be consequent upon the act: for man and every created Intelligent, the ethical necessity is necessitation, i.e., obligation, and every act proceeding thereupon is duty, and cannot be represented as a way of conduct already near to us; or which may in time become endeared to us, as if man could at any time ever get the length of dispensing with reverence towards the law (which emotion is attended always with dread, or at least with active apprehension, lest he transgress); and so, like the independent Godhead, find himself—as it were, by force of an unchanging harmony of will with the law, now at length grown into a second nature—in possession of a holy will; which would be the case, the law having ceased to be a commandment, when man could be no longer tempted to prove untrue to it.

The moral law is, for the will of the Supreme Being, a law of holiness; but for the will of every finite Intelligent, a law of duty, a law of ethical constraint and determination of his actions by reverence toward the law, and out of awe for what is duty. No other subjective principle can be assumed as a spring; for while the act then Edition: current; Page: [122] falls out as the law requires, and is outwardly in conformity with the law, yet it is not done out of duty; the bent and ply of the mind is not moral, which, however, is of the essence of this legislation.

It is very well to show kindness to mankind from love and compassionate benevolence, as it is likewise to act justly from a love of order and method; but such cannot be the genuine ethic principles regulating man’s deportment: nor is it quite congruous and suited to our station among the ranks of Intelligents as men, when we presume to propose ourselves as volunteers, and set ourselves loftily above the idea Duty; and when, as if mankind were independent on the law, he proposes to do out of his own good pleasure what he needs no commandment to enjoin. Man stands, however, under a discipline and probation of reason, and ought never to forget his subjection to its authority,—never to withdraw anywhat from it, or impair the supremacy of the law (although announced by his own reason), by the fond and vain imagination that he can put the ground determining his will elsewhere than in the law and reverence toward it. Duty, and what we owe, are the only denominations under which to state our relation to the moral law. We are, no doubt, legislative members of an ethical kingdom, realizable by freedom of will, and held up by practical reason to our reverence; but in it we are subjects, not the sovereign; and to mistake our lower rank as creatures, and to back our self-conceit against the authority of the holy law, is already to swerve from its spirit, even while its letter is not unfulfilled.

With all this the commandment is in perfect unison. Love God above all, and thy neighbour as thyself; for, being a commandment, it calls for reverence toward a law enjoining love, and leaves man no option whether or not to make such love a principle of active conduct. Love to God, however, Edition: current; Page: [123] as an affection (pathognomic liking), is an impossibility, God being no object of sense; and although, in the case of mankind, such pathological excitement is possible, yet it cannot be commanded, for it stands in no one’s power to love upon command. It is, therefore, practical benevolence alone which is intended in that sum of all commandments. Understood in this signification, to love God means cheerfully to obey His law; to love our neighbour, to perform willingly all duties towards him. The commandment, however, establishing such a rule cannot enjoin us to have this sentiment in discharging our incumbent duties, but can enjoin only to endeavour after it; for a commandment to do anywhat willingly is self-contradictory: for if we are once let know what is suitable for us to do, and are conscious we should like to do so, a commandment to such effect would be superfluous; and do we the act notwithstanding, but only unwillingly and out of reverence toward the law, a commandment making such reverence the spring of the will, would thereby subvert and overturn the desiderated sentiment love. That summary of the moral law does therefore, like every other precept in the Gospel, represent the perfection of the moral sentiment in an ideal of holiness not attainable by any creature, but which is the archetype toward which it behoves us to approximate, and to exert ourselves onward thitherward in an unbroken and perpetual progression. Could at any time any intelligent creature ever attain this point of discharging willingly all moral laws, then that would imply that he felt no longer within himself the possibility of a desire seducing him to swerve from them (for the overcoming any such incentive always costs the subject some sacrifice, and stands in need of self-constraint, i.e., inward necessitation toward somewhat done not altogether willingly). But this grade of ethic sentiment no creature can at any time attain; for, being a creature, and so dependent in regard of what he wants to Edition: current; Page: [124] make him thoroughly contented with his situation, he can never be fully disenthralled from appetite and want, which rest on physical causes not always harmonizing with the moral law; the physical and moral system proceeding on causalities of different kinds,—a circumstance making it always necessary to establish the posture of a man’s maxims with regard to the former, upon ethical constraint, not upon free-willed devotedness,—upon reference calling for the execution of the law, how unwillingly soever, not upon love, which apprehends no inward demurring of the will against the law, although this last, the mere love of the law (which would then cease to be a commandment, and morality, now subjectively transformed into holiness, would cease to be virtue), is to be the unremitting although unattainable aim of exertion; for toward that which we ethically admire, and yet (upon account of the consciousness of our defects) partly dread, such reverential dread passes, with the increasing ease whereby we become conformed to the standard dreaded, into affection, and the reverence into love; at least this would be the completent of a sentiment fully devoted to the law, if to attain it were at any time possible for any creature.

These remarks are not intended so much to explain the above precept of the Gospel, with a view to guard against religious fanaticism upon the question of the love of God, but rather to fix exactly the moral sentiments with which we ought to discharge our duties toward our fellow-men, and to guard against, and if possible cut up by the roots, a kind of ethical fanaticism, wherewith the heads of many are besotted. The grade on the ethic scale where mankind finds himself (as is also the case with every created Intelligent, so far as we can comprehend) is that of reverence toward the law. The sentiment incumbent upon him to entertain in obeying, is to do so out of regard to duty; not, as a volunteer, from affection, to go through uncommanded and spontaneously Edition: current; Page: [125] undertaken tasks; and his moral state, wherein he always must be found, is virtue, i.e., the moral sentiment militant, not holiness, where he would be in possession of full purity in the sentiment of his will. It is nothing but downright ethical fanaticism, and an advancement of self-conceit, when the mind is spirited on to actions as were they noble, sublime, or magnanimous, whereby men fall into the imagination that it is not duty (whose yoke, which, though easy, because put upon us by our own reason, must be borne, however unwillingly) that claims to be the ground determinative of conduct, and which, even while they obey, always humbles, but that actions are expected from them, not out of duty, but as parts of merit. For, not to insist on this, that by imitating such deeds, i.e., performing them upon such a principle, no satisfaction is given to the spirit of the law, which consists in the subordinating of the will to the law, and not in the legality of the act, when the act proceeds upon other grounds (be these what they may), this fanaticism does, by putting the spring of action pathologically in sympathy or solipsism, and not ethically in the law, beget in this way a windy, overweening, and fantastical cast of thought, which flatters itself with having so spontaneously good-natured a temperament, as to require neither spur nor rein, and to be able to dispense altogether with a commandment; by all which, duty is lost sight of, although it ought to be more thought upon than merit should. Other people’s actions, when performed with great sacrifices, and out of naked reverence for duty, may very fitly be praised as noble and exalted deeds; which, however, can only be done in so far as there is no ground to think that they flowed from any fits and starts of sensitive excitement, but proceeded singly from reverence for duty; and if these deeds are to be held up to any one as exemplars to be followed, reverence for duty, as the alone genuine moral emotion, must indispensably be Edition: current; Page: [126] employed as the spring. The solemn holy precept does not allow our frivolous self-love to toy with pathognomic excitement, which may bear some likeness to morality, and to plume ourselves upon meritorious worth. Very little investigation will suffice to find for any praiseworthy action a law of duty which commands, and takes away all option, whether it fall in with our propensities or not; this is the only method of exhibition capable of giving an ethic training to the soul, it being alone capable of fixed and rigidly defined maxims.

Fanaticism, in its most extensive sense, may be defined an overstepping, upon system, of the limits and barriers of human reason; and if this be so, then ethical fanaticism will be the overstepping of those limits put by pure practical reason to humanity, when she forbids man to place the subjective determinator of his will, i.e., the ethical spring to dutiful actions, anywhere else than in the law, or to entertain sentiments in his maxims other than reverence toward this law: consequently ordaining man not to forget to make duty his supreme practical principle of conduct,—a conception which at once dashes both arrogance and self-love.

Upon this same account, not only novel-writers and sentimental pedagogues (however these last declaim at sentimentalism), but even philosophers, nay, the most rigid of all the Stoic sages, have helped to introduce ethical fanaticism instead of a sober and wise gymnastic discipline of ethics; nor can we here regard this distinction, that the fanaticism of these sages was heroic, whereas that of the others was of a more effeminate and shallow kind; and it can be affirmed without the least hypocrisy, that the moral precepts of the Gospel were what first introduced purity of moral principle, and that they did at the same time, by their adaptation and fitness to the limits of finite beings, in placing all good conduct in man’s subordination and subjection of his will to the Edition: current; Page: [127] discipline and training of a duty laid before his mental vision, first prevent him from fanatically disorienting himself among imagined moral excellences; and did, by thus putting a stop to ethical fanaticism, first assign limits of humility (i.e., of self-knowledge), equally to self-love and to self-conceit, both of which are apt to overstep their barriers.

Duty! Thou great, thou exalted name! Wondrou thought, that workest neither by fond insinuation, flattery, nor by any threat, but merely by holding up thy naked law in the soul, and so extorting for thyself always reverence, if not always obedience,—before whom all appetites are dumb, however secretly they rebel,—whence thy original? and where find we the root of thy august descent, thus loftily disclaiming all kindred with appetite and want? to be in like manner descended from which root, is the unchanging condition of that worth which mankind can alone impart to themselves?

Verily it can be nothing less than what advances man, as part of the physical system, above himself,—connecting him with an order of things unapproached by sense, into which the force of reason can alone pierce; which supersensible has beneath it the phenomenal system, wherewith man has only a fortuitous and contingent connection, and so along with it the whole of his adventitiously determinable existence in space and time. It is in fact nothing else than personality, i.e., freedom and independency on the mechanism of the whole physical system,—always, however, considered as the property of a being subjected to peculiar laws emerging from his own reason, where the person, as belonging to the sensitive system, has imposed on him his own personality, in so far as this last is figured to reside in a cogitable system; upon which account we need not wonder how man, an inhabitant of both systems, cannot fail to venerate his higher nature, and to regard its laws with the greatest reverence.

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On this celestial descent are founded many expressions denoting the worth of the objects of ethical ideas. The moral law is holy. Man no doubt is unholy enough, but the humanity inhabiting his person must be holy. In the whole creation everything may be used as a mean, man alone excepted. He is alone an end-in-himself. He is the subject of the moral law, by force of the autonomy of his freedom, which law is holy. Upon the same account, every will, nay, every person’s will when referring merely to himself, is restrained to the condition of its coincidence with the autonomy of an Intelligent Being, viz., that it be subjected to no end not possible under a law fit to emanate from the will of the subject himself, consequently to the condition of never using himself as a mean, but always as an end. Such a condition is ascribed even to the divine will in respect of the Intelligents in this world, who are His creatures, in so far as that condition rests on their personality, by force of which alone they are ends-in-themselves.

This reverence-arousing idea of Personality, showing us the august and sublime of our natural destiny, but showing us also the want of the adaptation of our deportment to it, and so casting down all self-conceit, is natural, and thrusts itself upon the most untutored reason, and is easily observable. Every tolerably honest man must at some time or another have felt that he eschewed a harmless untruth, singly not to despise himself in his own eyes, although that lie might have produced signal advantages to a dear and well-deserving friend; and in the extremest exigencies of life, an upright, straightforward man, conscience sustains, by telling him that he declined to avoid these miseries by bartering his duty, that he never prostituted his humanity, that he honoured the inhabitancy of reason in his own person, so that he needs not to blush before himself, and has no cause to shun his own inward self-examination. This consolation Edition: current; Page: [129] is not happiness,—is nothing like happiness,—and no one would wish to be so situated, nor for a life in such conjunctures. But so long as man lives, he cannot endure to be in his own eyes unworthy of life. This inward peace is therefore merely negative, and contains nowhat positive to make life happy; it is merely a defence, warding off the danger man runs of sinking in the worth of his person, long after he has been despoiled of all worth in situation. This peace is the effect of reverence for somewhat quite different from life, in comparison and contrast with which, life, with all its amenities, has no value. Man in such case continues to live singly out of duty, not because he has the least taste for life.

Thus does the genuine spring of pure practical reason act. The spring is no other than the law itself letting us have a vista of the loftiness of our own supersensible existence, and so subjectively effecting in man, who is conscious of his sensitively affected and dependent nature, reverence for his higher destiny. Along with this spring may no doubt be combined so many graces and amenities of life, that, for the sake of these last alone, the most prudent choice of a judicious Epicurean might be given in favour of ethical deportment. And it may be advisable to combine the prospect of enjoying life with that other and prior and singly sufficient determinator of the will: and yet, merely in order to counterbalance the incentives which vice ceases not to offer, not to use it as a spring, no, not in any wise, when question is made as to duty; for if otherwise, then is the moral sentiment polluted in its source. The awe of duty has nowhat in common with the enjoyment of life; and although they were to be taken and well shaken, and so handed mixed as an opiate for the sick soul, yet they would soon separate; or were this last not to happen, the former part would take no effect; and while man’s physical existence might gain in force, his ethical would without stop fade away.

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BY the critical dilucidation of a science, or of a portion of it, I understand the inquiring and showing why it must assume precisely this and no other form when contrasted with some other system based on a like power of knowledge. Now the Practical Reason and Speculative are at bottom identic, in so far as both are pure reason; whence it will result, that the difference obtaining betwixt their systematic forms will be found, as to its last ground, by comparing them both together.

The analytic of pure Theoretic Reason was conversant with the knowledge of objects given to the understanding, and so began at the intuitions; and since intuition is always sensitive, it started with the sensory, and arrived next at the notions (of the objects of intuition), and so, after premising both, ended with the principles. But since, on the contrary, Practical Reason is not occupied about the knowledge of objects, but about her own power to make such objects real, i.e., with a will, which is a cause so far forth as reason contains in itself the ground of its determination, and so has consequently to treat of no object of intuition, but of a law (because it is of the very essence of the notion causality to refer to law, fixing and determining the relative existence of the multifarious), a Critique of Practical Reason has, upon these grounds (if it is to be a practical reason at all), to set out with the possibility of practical principles à priori. Edition: current; Page: [131] Thence we descended to notions of the objects of a practical reason, viz., to the notions of the good and evil,* in order to assign them conformably to those principles (for it is impossible, prior to such principles, to fix by any power of knowledge what is good or evil); and then, only then, could the last chapter conclude by investigating the relation obtaining betwixt pure practical reason and the sensory, and the necessary effect, cognisable à priori thereon, which effect we called the moral sense. Thus the analytic of pure practical reason is divided quite analogously to the theoretical, throughout the whole extent of the conditions of its use, but in a reverse order. The analytic of pure theoretic reason was divided into Æsthetics and Logic; that of practical, again, invertedly into Logic and Æsthetics of Pure Practical Reason, if I may be allowed to misapply these words, merely for the sake of the analogy: there, Logic branched out into the analytic of notions and then of principles; but here, into that of principles and then of notions. There Æsthetics had two parts, owing to the twofold sorts of sensitive intuition; here the sensory is not regarded as the intuitive faculty, but as a bare feeling (fit to become the subjective ground of desire), which, however, is not susceptible of any further subdivision.

Further, that this division into two under-parts (as might have been expected, from the instance of the former Critique) was not attempted by me in this work, arose from this special ground. For since it is practical reason we are talking of, which begins with a principle à priori, and not with experimental determinators, it follows that the division of the analytic of pure practical reason will be like that of a syllogism, viz., first, the universal in the major (the moral principle); second, a subsumption in the minor, of possible acts, as good or bad; and then, lastly, the conclusion, when we Edition: current; Page: [132] advance to the subjective determinator of the will (an interest in the practically-possible good, and the maxim based on such interest). Such comparisons will infallibly gratify those who are convinced of the truth of the position laid down in the analytic; for they nourish the expectation that we may one day attain a thorough insight into the unity of the whole rational faculty, and be able to deduce it all from one principle, an unavoidable demand made by human reason, which finds only in a completely systematic unity of its knowledge, rest and satisfaction.

If now we consider further the content of the knowledge we possess, either concerning, or by means of pure practical reason, as just expounded in the analytic, then there are observable, notwithstanding the marvellous analogy obtaining betwixt them, no less extraordinary and signal differences. Theoretic reason was able to exhibit the power of pure rational knowledge à priori, easily and evidently by examples of the sciences; but that pure reason, without any admixture of experimental grounds, could be for itself practical, behoved to be exhibited by the common practical use of every man’s reason, whereby to authenticate the supreme practical principle, as one which every common reason recognised as quite à priori, independent on any sensitive data, and the supreme law of the will. It was necessary to this end, first to establish and evince this principle, quoad the purity of its origin, by the judgment of the most common reason, before science could receive it, or make any use of it; just like a fact, antecedent to all quibbling about its possibility, or about the results possible to be extracted from it. This circumstance, however, could easily be explained from what has been just alleged, since practical reason must of necessity begin with principles, which, as data, were to lie at the bottom of all science, and so could not be derived from it; and the justification of the moral principles, as Edition: current; Page: [133] positions of pure reason, could very well be managed by an appeal to the judgment of mankind’s common sense; because everything experimental, which could insinuate itself as a determinator into our maxims, becomes forthwith perceptible by the feeling of pleasure or pain, inevitably attaching to it, so far forth as it excites desire; whereas that pure practical principle directly counterworks all such, and refuses to adopt any feeling, as a condition, into its principle. The dissimilarity of the determinators (experimental or rational) is pointed out so prominently, and in such relief—when this antagonism of a practically-legislative reason withstands every appetite—by a peculiar kind of sensation, not antecedent to the legislation of practical reason, but rather effectuated alone by it, viz., the feeling of reverence, the which no man has for any appetite, be they of what kind they may, but has invariably for law, that no one of the most common understanding can fail, on the instant, to become aware, in any example, that he may indeed be advised to follow an experimental stimulant of volition, but that it cannot be expected he should be required to obey anywhat except reason’s pure practical law.

To distinguish betwixt utilitarianism and morality, where experimental principles are the foundation of the first, and no part at all of the foundation of the second, is the prime and the weighty business of the analytic of pure practical reason, and imposes on the author a procedure as punctual and painful as is the method in geometry. And here the philosopher stands in pretty much the same situation as the chemist, for he institutes at all times an experiment with every man’s practical reason, in order to separate the pure (moral) determinator from the experimental. Suppose that he superadd to the will of one sensitively affected (who would like to lie, because somewhat may be earned by it), the moral law. Then it is as when the experimenter adds an alkali to a solution of muriate of lime: the acid deserts the Edition: current; Page: [134] lime, combines with the alkali, and the earth is precipitated. In like manner, present to an honest man the moral law, by which standard he observes the vileness of a liar, and his practical reason deserts straightway the prospect of advantage, and combines itself with that which upholds for him the reverence for his own person.

But this distinction betwixt utility and morality is not in anywise their contrariety; and pure practical reason does not by any means demand that the claim to happiness be abandoned, but only, whenever question is made as to duty, that then no account at all be made of it. Nay, it in some cases may be a duty to look sharp after one’s own happiness, partly because the elements of happiness (skill, health, wealth) contain means toward the execution of duty, partly because the want of them (e.g., poverty) may present temptations to transgress the law. However, to study one’s own happiness never can be dutiful directly and still less a principle of duty. Again, since every determinator of will, except the single moral law, is experimental, and as such pertains to the utilitarian system, it results that all these must be detached from the supreme ethical principle, and never welded up with it as a condition; since this would destroy all moral worth, just as any tentative experimenting with geometric theorems would annihilate their self-evidencing certainty—the chief pre-eminency (according to Plato) which the mathematics have; an excellency to be prized higher than any utility to which geometry may accidentally conduce.

Out of and beyond a deduction of the supreme principle of pure practical reason, i.e., the explanation of the possibility of such à priori knowledge, nothing further could be done except to state, that if we could comprehend the possibility of the freedom of an active cause, then we should comprehend not only the possibility, but likewise the very necessity of the moral law, i.e., of the supreme practical law of Intelligents, Edition: current; Page: [135] to whom freedom of causality of will is ascribed; both notions being so inseparably linked together, that freedom might be defined by saying that it is independency on everything except the moral law itself. But the freedom of an active cause, especially of a cause acting in upon the world of phenomena, cannot be comprehended, even as to its possibility; and we must deem ourselves happy that its impossibility cannot be evinced, and that we are necessitated by the law which postulates this freedom, and so entitled, to assume it.* But as there are some who still think they can explain this freedom by help of observation and experience, like any other physical energy, and regard it as a mere psychological quality, whereof the exposition rests singly on a more sifting scrutiny into the springs of will, not as the unconditioned and supersensible predicate of the causality of an agent appertaining at the same time to the sensible world (on which last it alone depends); and since these philosophasters do by such assumption cut short the vista gloriously afforded us by pure practical reason, through the intervention of the moral law (viz., the vista into a cogitable world,—alone realizing to us the otherwise transcendent notion Freedom, and by consequence the moral law itself), it will be requisite to adduce a few remarks, as a guard against this quackery, and to show it up in its full nakedness and deformity.

The notion Causality, considered as involving that of necessary mechanism, and contradistinguished from the same notion as that of freedom, concerns only the existence of things, so far forth as they are determinable in time, i.e., as phenomena, and so is different from their causation, as things-in-themselves; so that if now we mistake (as is most commonly done) the determinations of the existence of things-in-time, for determinations of the existence of things-in-themselves, then the necessity cogitated in the causal-nexus can Edition: current; Page: [136] never be brought into harmony with freedom, but they remain stated the one contrary to the other; for from the first can be inferred, that every event, and therefore every action, exhibitive in time, is necessary, under the conditions of what happened in some prior time: and since time elapsed, and its contents are no longer within my power, it will follow that every action which I perform is necessary by force of determining grounds no longer within my power, i.e., I am, at any point of time wherein I act, never free. Nay, even were I to assume my whole existence, as independent on any foreign grounds (e.g., God), so that the determinators of my causality, and even of my whole existence, did not lie out of and beyond myself, still all this could not transmute the mechanical necessity of the physical system into freedom. For at each point of time I should always stand under the necessity of being determined to act, by somewhat no longer within my power, and the à parte priori infinite series of events would still be a standing chain of natural sequents which I could only continue, not commence; and so my causality never would be free.

If, then, we ascribe to an Intelligent, whose existence is determined in time, freedom, still we cannot upon that account exempt him from the law of physical necessity regulating all events in his existence, and so also all his actions, for that would be to hand them over to blind chance; but since this law infallibly refers to all causality of things, so far as their existence is determinable in time, it would follow that freedom behoved to be rejected as a blank and impossible idea, were this the mode according to which we had to cogitate the existence of these things-in-themselves. Are we then seriously intent on rescuing this freedom, there remains this only mode, to attribute to the existence of things-in-time, i.e., to the phenomenon, a causality according to the law of the mechanic-nexus, and to attribute to it freedom as a thing-in-itself; and this is our inevitable ultimatum, if we wish to Edition: current; Page: [137] preserve the two contrary notions; although even then there present themselves very formidable difficulties, when we try to explain how they can be combined in one and the same action; nay, difficulties so great as would seem to lead us to infer that any such combination must be impracticable.*

If I say of any man who has just perpetrated a theft, that the act was a necessary result, from determinators contained in the antecedent time, according to the law of the causal-nexus, then it was impossible that the act should not have happened; how then can any judgment, according to the moral law, change this opinion, and beget the supposition that the act might nevertheless have been left undone, simply because the law says it ought so to have been avoided? i.e., how can any man, at the very same point of time, and with regard to the same action, be quite free, when he is under an inevitable necessity of nature? To seek an evasion in this, by fitting on a comparative notion of freedom to the mode in which man’s causality is determined by the laws of nature, is a wretched subterfuge, by which, however, some still suffer themselves to be deluded; and an intricate problem, at whose solution centuries have laboured, is not to be figured as solved by a mere jargon of words, since it is not likely, in any event, that the solution lies so near the surface. The inquiry after that freedom, which lies at the bottom of the moral law, and of our accountability, does not depend on this,—whether the causality governed by a law of nature be determined by grounds within or without the person? nor yet on this, whether—on the former supposition—the determination be necessary by force of instinct or of reason? so long as, agreeably to the confession of such supposers, these determining representations have the ground of their existence in time, and in its elapsed state, and so backwards to prior and antecedent states of time. For, be Edition: current; Page: [138] those determinations ever so inward, and be their causality called ever so psychological instead of mechanical, i.e., though such causality produce its act by dint of perceptions, and not by motion or matter, still such are determinations of the causality of an agent, so far forth as his existence is determinable in time: consequently, determinations rendered necessary by conditions contained in prior times, which are therefore, when the subject comes to act, no longer in his power; and such psychological freedom is in nowise to be distinguished from physical necessity. No room is left for transcendental freedom, which must be cogitated as independency on the whole physical system, whether as object of the internal senses merely in time, or as also object of the external senses both in space and time at once; apart from which freedom, which alone is à priori practical, no moral law and no responsibility can be supported. On these accounts, the necessity of events in time, agreeably to the law of the causal-nexus, is part of the mechanism of nature, although we do not assert that the things affected by such necessary nexus are material machines. Regard is in such denomination had only to the sequences of events in time, whether the subject in which such flux occur be automaton materiale, or, as Leibnitz had it, spirituale, impelled by perceptions; for, in truth, were the freedom of our will of this comparative and psychological sort only, then it were no more than the freedom of a turnspit, which, once wound up, continues of itself in motion.

Now, to clear up this seeming antagonism between the mechanism of nature, and freedom in one and the same given action, we must refer to what was advanced in the Critique of Pure Reason, or what at least is a corollary from it, viz., that that necessity of nature, which may not consort with the freedom of the subject, attaches singly to the modifications of a thing standing under Edition: current; Page: [139] conditions of time, i.e., to the modifications of the acting subject as phenomenon; and that, therefore, so far (i.e., as phenomenon) the determinators of each act lie in the foregoing elapsed time, and are quite beyond his power (part of which are the actions man has already performed, and the phenomenal character he has given himself in his own eyes), yet, e contra, the self-same subject, being self-conscious of itself as a thing in itself, considers its existence as somewhat, detached from conditions of time, and itself, so far forth, as only determinable by laws given it by its own reason; and in this existence nothing precedes its own voluntary act, every action, and generally every determination of its being, changing conformably to its internal sense; nay, the entire series of its existence as a sensible being, is, in its consciousness of an intelligible cogitable existence, nothing but a mere sequent of its causality, never its determinator, as noumenon.* Under this aspect, an Intelligent may rightly say of every illegal act he perpetrates, he could very well have omitted it, although such act is as phenomenon sufficiently determined by the elapsed in time, and so far forth infallibly necessary; for this act, together with all prior ones, belong to one single phenomenon, his character, which character he has begotten for himself, and by force of which he, as a cause, independent on all sense, imputes to himself the causality of these phenomena.

In accordance with this are the decrees of that marvellous power within us which we call Conscience. A man may try never so much to paint some immoral conduct, which memory reminds him of, as unpremeditated accident, as a mere incaution, never at all times to be avoided, and so as somewhat where he was hurried forward by the stream of necessity, and wherein by consequence he was guiltless; but still, notwithstanding, he finds that the advocate who pleads in his Edition: current; Page: [140] behalf can by no means bring his inward accuser into silence, so long as he is conscious that at the time when he perpetrated the injustice he was master of his senses (i.e., free): although he even then explains to himself his crime from sundry bad habits entailed through want of active attention to himself,—habits which he had suffered to augment up to that degree that he can regard the act as their natural result, without being able thereby to escape the self-reproach and blame he is forced to put upon himself. On this part of our nature is bottomed the contrition felt for a long-committed deed, on every recollection of it; which compunction is a painful feeling, begotten by the moral sentiment, and is so far practically void, as it cannot serve to make the done undone, and would even be absurd (as Priestley, like a consistent fatalist, has asserted), were it not that it, as pain, is quite legitimate,—reason knowing no relations of time, when question is made as to the law (moral) of our cogitable existence, but inquiring singly if the event belongs to me as my act, and then connecting with it ethically just the same sensation whether it happened now or long ago. For a man’s sentient existence is, in respect of his intelligible consciousness of existence (freedom), the absolute unity of one phenomenon, which, so far forth as it contains what are only phenomena of his sentiments, he judges of, not according to that necessity he is fettered by, as a part of the physical system, but according to the absolute spontaneity of his freedom. It may therefore be very well admitted, that could we have so deep an insight into a man’s cast of thinking, as it exhibits itself in inward and outward act,—that could we know every the smallest spring, and at the same time every external circumstance impinging upon such spring, — that then we could calculate a man’s future conduct with the same exactness with which we now compute eclipses, and still affirm that such man was free.

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Were we capable of an intellectual intuition of this self-same subject, we should then observe, that this whole chain of appearances, so far forth as the moral law is concerned, emanates from the spontaneity of the subject, as a thing-in-himself, of whose determinations no physical explanation is at all possible. In default, however, of such intuition, the moral law assures us of the actuality of this distinction, when we refer our acts as phenomena to the sensitive existence of the subject, and when, on the other hand, we refer the sensitive itself to the cogitable substratum within us. A reference to this distinction which is natural to reason, although quite inexplicable, enables us to justify opinions uttered with the greatest conscientiousness, and which yet, at their first appearance, seem repugnant to all equity. There are cases where individuals from youth up, notwithstanding an education whereby others have been benefited, show so early a wickedness, and persist in it up to man’s estate, that one may be led to deem them innate villains, and declare their whole cast of thinking unsusceptible of any amelioration; and yet, at the same time, so condemn them in everything they compass or avoid, as if they continued as responsible as any other person, notwithstanding that hopeless quality of mind attributed to them. But this could not happen, did we not suppose that everything arising from man’s choice depended on a free causality at bottom, which causality impresses, from youth up, its character upon the phenomena: these phenomena do by their uniformity make a sequence in the physical system visible, but do not make the wicked quality of will necessary, but rather such sequence follows the freely adopted evil and unchanging maxims, which do therefore make him the more reprobate and the more blameworthy.

But another difficulty attends freedom, so far as it is to be regarded as combined in harmony with the mechanism Edition: current; Page: [142] of the physical system, in the person of a being who is himself a part of that system; a difficulty so great, as even, when all the foregoing is admitted, threatens freedom with its entire destruction. But, notwithstanding this danger, there is a circumstance which gives hope of an exit issuing in favour of freedom, viz., the circumstance that the same difficulty presses upon every other, nay, as we shall soon see, presses alone upon that theory which takes the entities in time and space for existences of things in themselves; and so we need not depart from our main theory regarding the ideality of time as a mere form of sensitive intuition, i.e., as a mere mode of perceiving, peculiar to a person who is part of a sensible world, but need only to unite the idea Freedom with this other part of the theory.

When it is admitted that the intelligible person may, in regard of any given act, be free, even while he, as a person belonging in part to the world of sense, is mechanically conditioned, it still seems as if we must admit that the actions of mankind have their determining ground in somewhat entirely beyond their power, so soon as we admit that God, as the author of all things, is the cause of the existence of substance (a position which cannot be deserted without abandoning all theology). Here it would seem that all man’s actions have their last ground in the causality of a Supreme Being different from himself; and in truth, if the actions of man, which belong to his modifications in time, be not mere determinations of him as phenomena, but of him as a thing-in-itself, then freedom would irrecoverably be lost,—man would be an automaton, wound up and set agoing by some supreme artist. His self-consciousness would no doubt make him a thinking automaton, where, however, the consciousness of his spontaneity, if deemed freedom, were illusory, as it could only be called so, comparatively speaking, since the next determinators of his movements and their Edition: current; Page: [143] series up to their last cause would, it is true, be internal, but the last and highest would be met with in a different hand. In consequence of this, I cannot see how they who insist on regarding space and time as modes pertaining to the existence of the things in themselves, can escape the fatality of actions. Or if (as Mendelssohn did) they declare them requisite only to the existence of finite and derived beings, but no conditions of an Infinite and Illimitable Supreme, then, first, it is incomprehensible upon what title this distinction is asserted; and second, how they propose to escape the contradiction of making existence in time a necessary modification of Finites; God being the cause of their existence, while He yet cannot be the cause of the existence of time and space, these being, on this assumption, necessary à priori conditions of the existence of things themselves. And so His causality would be conditioned in regard of the existence of things; after which, all the objections to God’s Infinitude and Independency must again enter; whereas, on the contrary, the determining the Divine Existence as independent on any conditions of time, as contradistinguished from that of a being of the sensible world, is quite easy upon our theory, as it is just the discriminating betwixt the existence of a being-in-itself, and its existence phenomenally. So that if the Ideality of space and time be not admitted, Spinozism is the only alternative, where space and time are taken for essential modes of the Supreme Being; and the things which depend on Him (i.e., we ourselves) are not substances, but accidents inhering in Him, because, if these things exist only as His effects in time, which time conditions their existence-in-itself, then all actions of such a product would be just actions of this Supreme, which He performed somewhere and somewhen. Spinozism, therefore, notwithstanding the absurdity of its main idea, concludes more logically than the creationtheory can, when beings in time are stated as substances, Edition: current; Page: [144] and as effects of Supreme Cause, and yet denied to belong to God and His actions.

The solution of the said difficulty can be effected shortly and clearly as follows:—If existence-in-time is a mere sensitive kind of representing, appertaining to the thinking subjects in the world, and so quite unrelated to things-in-themselves, then the creating of these latter beings is a creating of things-in-themselves, because the notion of creation has nowhat to do with the sensitive representing of an entity, but refers to Noumena. When, then, I say of beings in the sensible world, “they are created,” so far I regard them as Noumena. And as it would import a contradiction to affirm that God is the originator of the Phenomena, so it is likewise a contradiction to affirm that He is, as Creator, cause of the actions which, as phenomena, are exhibited in the sensible world, although He is cause of the existence of the agent as a Noumenon. And if now it is possible to assert freedom without prejudice to the mechanism of the system of actions as phenomena, then it cannot make the least difference that the agent is regarded as created, since creation refers to intelligible, not to sensible existence, and so cannot be figured as a ground of the determination of phenomena; which result, however, would fall out the other way if the finite beings existed in time as things-in-themselves, since then the Creator of the substance would be the author of all the machinery attaching to the substance.

Of so vast importance is the separation of time from the existence of real entities, effected in the Critique.

The solution of this difficulty here advanced is exceedingly difficult itself, it will be said, and appears hardly susceptible of a lucid explanation; but is there any other which has been yet attempted more easy and more comprehensible? It would be better to say, and more true, Edition: current; Page: [145] that the dogmatic teachers of metaphysic rather showed their cunning than their sincerity, by removing this difficulty out of sight, in the hope that, if they said nothing of it, it would occur to nobody. But if effective aid is to be given to science, every difficulty must be exposed, and even sought for, if peradventure any lurk in secret; for every difficulty evokes a mean of help, which cannot be found without giving science an increase in extent or in precision; and so difficulties advance the groundworks of science. But when difficulties are disingenuously concealed, or obviated by palliatives, they burst out by and by into incurable evils, and science is lost in absolute scepticism.

Since it is, properly speaking, the idea Freedom which alone procures us (of all ideas of pure speculative reason) so great an extension in the fields of the supersensible, although only in order to a practical behoof, I ask how it has exclusively so great and signal a fertility, while the rest denote undoubtedly the vacant spot for possible objects of the understanding, but cannot determine by anywhat the notion of them. I soon comprehend that since I can think nothing without a category, this category must first of all be sought, even for the idea Freedom. Here it is the category Causality; and I am aware that I cannot give to the idea Freedom, as a transcendent one, any corresponding intuition, yet that to the representation Causality a sensible intuition must first of all be given, in order that objective reality may be secured to it. Again, all the categories fall into two classes—the mathematic, which tend only to the unity of the synthesis in the representing of objects, and the dynamic, which refer to the unity in the representing the existence of objects. The first kind, those of quantity and quality, contain always a synthesis of the homogeneous, where the unconditioned, belonging to the given conditioned in a sensible intuition in space and time, could not at Edition: current; Page: [146] all be found, as it behoved itself to belong to space and time, and so was always still conditioned. Hence, too, it came, that in this part of the dialectic of speculative reason, the antagonistic modes of finding the unconditionate, and the totality of their conditions, were both false. The categories of the second class (those of the causality and of the necessity of a thing) demanded not in their synthesis this homogeneousness of the conditioned and unconditionate, because here, not the intuition, and how it was originated and compounded out of the multifarious, behoves to be represented, but only how the existence of the conditioned object corresponding to the intuition was added to the existence of the condition; and there it was allowable to place the unconditioned of the every-way-conditioned in the sensible world (both in regard of the causality and the contingent existence of the things) in the cogitable world, and to make the synthesis transcendent: and so we found, in the dialectic of pure reason, that both the “seemingly” antagonist modes of finding the unconditioned for the conditioned—e.g., in the synthesis of causality for the conditioned sequences of causation and effect in the sensible world—did not contradict one another, when a causality was cogitated no longer sensitively conditioned, and that the very same action, which, as pertaining to the sensible world was always sensitively conditioned, i.e., mechanically necessary, could yet have at bottom a causality independent on the sensory, as causality of the actor, so far forth as he belonged to the intelligible world, and so be cogitated as free. All depended upon this, to change this can into existence, which, as it were, one could prove in some one instance by a fact, and to show that certain actions presupposed such a causality (viz., the intellectual, unconditioned by sense), whether such actions were actual or commanded, i.e., were objectively and practically necessary. In actually experienced and observed Edition: current; Page: [147] actions, as events in the sensible world, we never could hope to attain this connection, because the causality of freedom must be sought always beyond the sensible world, in the cogitable. But nowhat is presented to our perception, except sensible entities. There remained by consequence no alternative, except that an incontrovertible and objective law of the causality, secluding all sensitive conditions from its determinators, should be found; i.e., such a law, wherein reason appealed, to nowhat else and ulterior, as a determinator of causation, but which determinator reason herself contains by means of that law, and where she is accordingly as pure reason self-practical. But this principle needs no seeking and no finding, but is from days of yore interwoven with the reason and substance of all men, and this is the principle of morality. Consequently, an unconditioned causality, and our power of having it, freedom, and along with it, my being, belonging to the sensible world, and also at the same time to the cogitable, is not merely indefinitely and problematically thought, but is, in regard of the law of its causality, precisely and assertively known; and this fixes for us, and states, the reality of the cogitable world in a practical point of view; and this fixing, which in a theoretic point of view would be transcendent,* is, in a practical, immanent. But this step we could not take in reference to the second dynamical idea, viz., that of a Necessary Being; we could not arrive at him beyond the sensible world, without the intermediation of the first dynamic idea.8 For had we hazarded any such step, we must have quitted all data, and soared up to that, whereof nothing was given, Edition: current; Page: [148] by means of which we might make out the connection of such an intelligible person with the world of phenomena (since the Unoriginated and Necessary behoved to be known as given without us), while yet this was quite possible in regard of our own subject, so far as, on the one hand, it determines itself by the moral law as a cogitable being by means of freedom, and, on the other hand, recognises itself as acting in the sensible world, conformably to this destination, as indeed every day’s experience may prove.

The idea Freedom alone permits that we quit not the datum self, to find the unconditioned and cogitable for the conditioned and sensible. Yet it is our reason itself, which, by its supreme and unconditioned practical law, recognises itself, and the being conscious of this law (our own person), as pertaining to the cogitable system, and that too with a determination of the mode how it as such may be active. Thus we understand how it is the practical faculties alone which can help us beyond the sensible world, and procure us a knowledge of a supersensible order and combination of things; which knowledge can, however, be extended only so far as is just requisite for a pure practical purpose.

There is only one remark behind, viz., that every step taken by pure reason, even in a practical department where regard is not had to subtlety of speculation, does of itself most minutely coincide with the whole progress and march of the Critique of Pure Speculative Reason,—nay, as exactly as if each step were taken just to procure this establishment and confirmation. Such an unsought and self-presenting arrival of the most important passages of pure practical reason at the same goal, with the exceeding subtle and often needless-seeming remarks in the critique of pure speculative, surprises and corroborates and reinforces, the maxim already known and lauded by others, to prosecute with all frankness Edition: current; Page: [149] and exactness a man’s research in every scientific undertaking, without caring in the least against what extraneous matters it may offend or collide, but to go on to execute it completely by and for itself alone. Repeated observation has shown me, that when a work of this sort is ended, some things which in the middle of the investigation looked exceedingly doubtful, came, notwithstanding, to a final coincidence and harmony in the most unexpected manner, with dogmas obtained without any reference to these results, or any partiality or fondness for them. Writers might spare themselves many blunders, and much lost toil (since they aimed at a dazzling result), could they but resolve to go more openly to work.

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THE Metaphysic of Ethics was intended to follow the dissertation on the à priori operations of the will. It divides itself into the metaphysical elements of law and the metaphysical elements of morals (ethics in the stricter sense), and constitutes the anti-part to my previous work, the metaphysical elements of natural philosophy.

Jurisprudence is the first part of general ethics. The desideratum with regard to it, is to have a system evolved by pure reason from principles à priori, and such a system would be the metaphysic of law. But since law, although a pure notion, is intended to apply to cases presented in observation and experience, a metaphysic system of it must embrace the à posteriori diversities of such cases, to render it complete. Again, since no classification of what is merely à posteriori and contingent can be complete or certainly pronounced such, and an approximation only to systematic unity is possible, the à posteriori conceptions cannot be introduced as integral parts of the system, but can only be adduced by way of example in notes. This circumstance, however, induces me to term the first part of the Metaphysic of Ethics, the Metaphysical elements of Law only, because, in reference to such practical cases, no system, but merely an approximation to it, is to be looked for. I shall therefore here, as formerly in the Metaphysic Elements of Natural Philosophy, print in the text that part of law which is strictly systematic and à priori; and that part which regards given cases in Edition: current; Page: [154] experience, I shall discuss in notes, since otherwise it would not be clear what ought to be considered as metaphysics, and what as practical law.

I do not know how I can remove, or how better anticipate, the reproach of obscurity with which I am so often taunted, and not simply of obscurity, but of a studied and affected depth of thought, than by using the words of Professor Garve, a philosopher in the true sense of the word, in whose opinion I heartily concur, and whose rule I will endeavour to follow, in so far as the nature of my subject may permit.

Professor Garve desires (Vermischte Aufsätze, p. 352) that every philosophic doctrine be made capable of a popular exposition, otherwise the author is to be deemed chargeable with confusion in his own ideas. This I willingly admit, except with regard to an investigation into the reach and extent of the faculty of reason itself, and of such cognate inquiries as rest on the originary function and use of reason; for there the inquiry always turns on exactly discriminating betwixt the sensible and the supersensible, in so far as this last may be the product of reason. Distinctions like these can never be made popular, nor indeed any formal metaphysic, although the results and conclusions arrived at may be made quite apparent to every sound understanding. In such an investigation, popularity, i.e., talking to the people in their own language and way of thinking, is quite out of the question. Scholastic exactness is indispensable, for the author is talking in the Schools; and, without such rigid terminology, we cannot advance a step in an analysis of reason.

But when pedants have the effrontery to address the public from the pulpit or the chair, in technical phraseology, calculated singly for the school, that cannot be properly charged on any philosophic system, any more than the follies of a logodædalist are to be charged on grammar. The Edition: current; Page: [155] absurdity attaches to the individual, not to the science he perverts.

It is objected that it is extremely arrogant, egotistical, nay, contemptuous, to the followers of the old systems, to assert, that, previous to the publication of my own system, there was no metaphysic science. But, to give due weight to this plausible objection, I desire that it be considered, “Whether or no there can be more than one single system of metaphysic science.” There are no doubt different modes of philosophizing, and various ways of retracing the first principles of thought, upon which afterwards, with more or less success, systems are erected, all which prepare the way, and have contributed to the establishment, of my own. But since, in the nature of things, human reason is but one, there cannot be various systems of philosophy. In other words, there is in the nature of things only one true system possible, however different and contradictory the assertions may have been with regard to each proposition in it. In the same way, the moralist asserts, and with justice, there is but one virtue, and only one doctrine of it, i.e., a single and alone system, establishing all virtues on one common principle. In like manner, the chemist maintains that there is but one chemistry; the physician, there is one alone principle of classifying diseases (that according to Brown); and each of these, although excluding the prior and elder systems, does not deny the intrinsic merits of former moralists, chemists, and physicians,—since, without their discoveries and unsuccessful essays at system, no one could have arrived at a true principle, giving systematic unity to the whole philosophy. Whenever, therefore, any one announces a system of metaphysic as the result of his own excogitation, it is exactly the same thing as if he were to say, hitherto there has been no true system; for, were he to admit a second and true system, then would there be two systems of opinion on the same Edition: current; Page: [156] subject;—different and yet true propositions—which is a contradiction. So that, when the Kantic system announces itself as that before which there was no real true philosophy, it is merely in the situation of every new system, and pretends to no more than every person must in fact pretend to, who projects a system according to his own plan.

There is an objection of still less moment, and yet not entirely to be passed over, that one of the leading features of the Kantic system is not its own, but borrowed from some cognate system of philosophy (or mathematics); for such is the discovery proclaimed by the Tübingen reviewer concerning the author’s definition of philosophy, which he had proposed as his own, and as very important, but which, it seems, had been given long ago by another in almost the same words.* I must here leave it to the private judgment of each, whether or not the words intellectualis quædam constructio could have suggested my doctrine of Time and Space, by which I distinguish so broadly betwixt mathematics and philosophy. I am confident Hausen would himself have refused to acknowledge this interpretation of his words; for the possibility of intuitions à priori, and that space is such intuition, are positions he would willingly have avoided, as, in consequence, he would have felt himself entangled in labyrinthic questions of unknown and sight-outrunning extent and intricacy. A representation made, as it were, by the understanding, was intended by this learned mathematician to signify nothing else than the drawing of lines corresponding to the conception,—where the rule alone is attended to, and the trivial errors which must be made in the actual construction are totally abstracted from, as every Edition: current; Page: [157] one may understand who considers the making lines equal in geometry.

Least of all is that objection worthy of regard which attacks the spirit of my system, by considerations drawn from the confusion wrought by those who attempt to ape it, by using some of those peculiar words which are really not capable of being supplied by any others in more common use; for the using them in common conversation deserves high reprehension, and such castigation has been administered by Mr. Nicolai, although I cannot agree with his remark, that they are to be dispensed with even in their proper field, as being a mere disguise for poverty of thought. However, the unpopular pedant is a better object of sarcasm than an ignorant dogmatist; for, in truth, the metaphysician who is strictly wedded to his system, belongs to the latter class, even though he is willingly ignorant of everything not belonging to his own school. But if, according to Shaftesbury, it is no small test of truth, that a system, particularly a practical one, can hold out against the assaults of ridicule, then, I think, the time will come when the Kantic system may laugh in turn, and with the greater justice, when it beholds the fair but airy castles of its opponents crumble to pieces at its touch, and their defenders taking fright amidst the ruins,—a destiny which inevitably awaits them.

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THE power of desire, or appetitive faculty, is the power man has of becoming, by his representations, the cause of the existence of the object represented. The ability of any being to act conformably to its representations, is called life.

With desire or aversion is invariably connected, first, pleasure or dislike, the susceptibility for which is called feeling; but these last may be unattended by the former; for there are pleasures (e.g., of taste) independent of desire, originating from the bare representation, formed in the mind, of an object, while the percipient may be indifferent to its existence. Secondly, the liking or dislike of an object desired need not precede the desire, and cannot always be regarded as the cause, but must sometimes as the effect, of the appetition.

Pleasure or dislike accompanying a representation is, for this reason, called feeling, that it is merely subjective, and has no relation to an object so as to beget any knowledge of it, nay, not even a knowledge of our own state; whereas Edition: current; Page: [159] even sensations, when considered apart from the peculiar modifications of our own subject (as red, sweet, etc.), refer, as elements of knowledge, to an object. But the pleasure or dislike we have at red or sweet denotes nothing whatever with regard to the object,* but simply its relation to my own subject. This is also the reason why the phenomena, pleasure and dislike, admit of no further explanation; and the utmost that can be done is to register and classify the consequences they may produce, in order to apply these to use in practice.

That pleasure which is necessarily connected with desiring, may be called practical pleasure, irrespective of its being cause or effect of the desire. On the other hand, that pleasure which is not necessarily connected with the desire of the object represented, and which, therefore, is no pleasure in the existence of the object of the representation, but singly in the representation itself, may be called contemplative pleasure, or inactive complacency. A pleasurable feeling of this latter sort is called taste: this last is properly no part of a practical system, but may episodically be introduced. The practical pleasure, however, which, as a cause, precedes and determines the power of desire, is itself called desire in Edition: current; Page: [160] the strictest sense. A habitual desire is called appetite or inclination; and since the combination of pleasure with the power of desire is called (in so far as this conjunction is deemed by the understanding subjectively valid according to a general rule) interest, the practical pleasure is in such a case an appetitive interest. But, on the contrary, when pleasure is of such a sort as can follow solely upon a previous determination of the appetitive faculty, it is intellectual, and not sensitive; and the interest taken in the object represented is an interest of reason; for, were the interest sensitive, and did it not rest exclusively on principles of reason, then sensation must be connected with the pleasure, so as to determine the power of appetition. Further, although, when a pure interest of reason is granted, no appetitive interest is allowed to be surreptitiously introduced, yet we may, out of compliance with common parlance, speak of an inclination,—a habitual desire,—even towards that which can alone be an object of intellectual complacency: yet such habitual desire must not be mistaken for the cause, but must be taken for the effect, of the rational interest; in which case, the appetite is liberal and free, and is called a pure insensitive inclination.*

Concupiscence—or lusting after—is different from desiring, and is a stimulus tending to awaken it; it is always sensitive, but is a state of mind short of producing any act on the part of the appetitive faculty.

The power of desiring, conformably to intellectual representations, is, in so far as the grounds of the determination to act exist in the mind itself, and not in the object, called a power Edition: current; Page: [161] of optional pursuit or avoidance. When the appetitive faculty is combined with the consciousness of this ability of its own act to produce the object represented, it is called choice; if such consciousness is awanting, the act of the faculty is a mere wish. Appetition, when its inward ground of determination, consequently when the option, depends upon the reason of the subject himself, is called will.* Will is therefore the appetitive faculty, not so much in respect of the action (that was choice), as in respect of the ground determining the choice of the action; and it has itself no prior determinative, but is, in so far as it determines choice, practical reason itself.

Subordinate to Will, may be classed choice and wish, in so far as reason can determine the power of desire. Choice, when determined by pure reason, is a liberal, a free choice; whereas that determinable singly by sensitive excitement is a mechanical or brute choice. The human choice is one affected by such stimuli, but not determined by them, and is therefore in itself, although it may be determined to actions emanating from pure will, prior to such acquired facility, impure. Freedom of choice is the independency of its determination on sensitive stimulants. This is the negative conception of freedom; the positive, the power of pure reason to be itself practical or active. But this is no otherwise possible than by subordinating the maxim of every action to the condition of its fitness for law universal; and since the maxims of men do not always coincide with this requisition, reason can only prescribe this law by an imperative ordaining or forbidding.

This Law of Freedom is, in contradistinction to physical laws of nature, called moral. When directed to external actions and their legitimateness, it founds jurisprudence; but when this law is applied to human conduct, and is itself Edition: current; Page: [162] the ground determining an action, so as to ascertain and fix its inward, and therefore also its outward, conformity to the law, then the knowledge à priori resulting from this formal determination of the maxims of the will is the science of ethics; and this is what is meant when it is said that actions in harmony with the first are legal, while actions in harmony with the last are moral. The freedom regarded in the first is external, i.e., personal liberty, singly; but that freedom concerned in the last, embraces both a man’s external freedom (of body) and internal freedom (of choice), in so far as both his phenomenal and real freedom are subjected to a law of reason. Thus, in our inquiry into the reach and extent of the faculty of reason, we said objects of the external senses are in Space, but in Time, all whatever, whether of the internal or external senses, the representations of both being perceptions embraced under the conditions of the faculty of internal intuitions. In the same way may freedom be regarded as modifying the external or internal use of choice; but still its law, as a pure practical principle, must be always valid as its inward determinator, although not always contemplated in that particular point of view.


That a system of the metaphysical principles of natural philosophy is possible à priori, and that such a system should precede that mixed physics which is applied to observation and experience, has been shown elsewhere. But natural philosophy can receive many propositions, on the evidence of experience, as quite general, and admitting no exception, although such universality of extent ought strictly to be deduced from positions à priori. As an instance of this, Newton adopted, as founded on experience, the principle of Edition: current; Page: [163] the equality of action and reaction, and yet he extended it over the whole material universe. Chemistry goes still further, and founds its laws of combination and solution singly on experience, and yet relies on their universality and necessity so as to apprehend error impossible.

But with the laws of morals the case is different,—they are valid as laws only in so far as they are founded à priori, and are seen to be so; nay, our judgments and opinions of ourselves and our actions are quite devoid of ethic import if they contain singly what experience teaches of them; and if any one allowed himself to make anything taken from experience a moral rule of acting, he would be in danger of the most ruinous errors.

If Ethics were a mere doctrine of Eudaimonism, then it would be absurd to support it on principles à priori. For how plausible soever it may seem to say that reason could have investigated beforehand the means of attaining a permanent enjoyment of real happiness and of the amenities of life, still experience has shown that all theories à priori on that subject are either tautological, or void of foundation. Experience and observation alone show in what delight is taken. The natural instincts—the desire of rest—of motion—the love of fame—of knowledge—teach each individual separately what he is to look to for his chief gratification; and from these instincts he learns the means of reaching what he likes. All reasoning à priori towards founding a theory of general happiness is, when narrowly examined, no more than general observations founded on induction; and since generals are not universals, the propositions admit of so many exceptions in order to adapt the choice to each man’s likings that, after all, the individual is left to grow wise by experience of his own or his neighbour’s damage.

The constitution of the precepts of morals is totally different: they are laws for every one, and have no respect Edition: current; Page: [164] for his appetites or inclinations; and that simply because man is free, and reason is practical. The instruction given in its laws is not drawn from inductive observations of himself and his animal part—not from considering the causes of the physical system, or taking heed to that which happens and is acted. But reason commands how man is to act, although no example of such action could be adduced. It also disregards the advantage resulting from our conduct, which indeed experience can alone teach. For although reason allows and approves our seeking our advantage in every possible way, and does, moreover, supported by experience, lead us to hope, especially if we go hand in hand with prudence, upon the whole, for greater advantages than can probably be counted on from violating her laws; still the authority of her behests, as Law, does not depend on any such contingency, and she uses such facts merely as a counterpoise to weigh against the inducements leading to an opposite course, in order, by thus adjusting the equilibrium of an otherwise undue balance, to secure for herself the full weight of her à priori reason.

And since a system of à priori knowledge deduced from notions is called metaphysic,* Practical Philosophy, which treats not of the physical system, but of the cogitable, would require and presuppose a metaphysic of freedom, or of the moral system. To have such a system is therefore itself a duty; nor is any man destitute of this first Philosophy, however darkly conscious of it he may be to himself; for how could he, if destitute of à priori principles, fancy himself possessed of the ground of a law fit for all Intelligents? But as, in the metaphysic of the physical system, there were principles required for applying the supreme à priori positions to objects of experience; so, in the metaphysic of the moral system, the particular nature of man comes to be considered, Edition: current; Page: [165] which is known singly from experience, in order, on it, to indicate the conclusions resulting from the supreme moral law; by all which the purity of this last is noways affected, nor is its à priori original rendered at all doubtful: in other words, the metaphysic of ethics cannot rest on anthropology, but it must apply to it.

The anti-part of a metaphysic of ethics, as the second member of a division of practical philosophy in general, would be moral anthropology, which would contain the subjective obstacles or assistances the moral law might meet with in the human constitution. It would treat of the founding moral maxims in the individual; of propagating them, and strengthening their action among the people; and such other matters as rest on experience, and indeed cannot be dispensed with, but which must not precede the first elements, or be mixed up with them: since then great risk is run of extracting false or at least indulgent moral laws, which give out that to be unattainable which for this very reason is not attained, the law not being held up in its purity, in which alone its strength consists; or is not attained, because ungenuine and sophisticated motives towards good and duty are employed, which ultimately sap and overthrow morality. Moral Anthropology dare not, therefore, be employed as any standard of judging in morals, nor as a discipline for the mind in assisting it to discharge its duty. Here the law itself must be resorted to, as it emanates directly from pure reason.

With regard to the division, just mentioned, of philosophy into theoretical and practical, and that this last could be no other than moral science, I have elsewhere explained myself at length (Disquisition on the à priori Functions of the Judgment). Every practical investigation, teaching what may possibly be reached, by help of the physical system, is art, and depends singly on mechanic forces and their laws; only those practical investigations which rest on laws of freedom Edition: current; Page: [166] can have principles independent on any prior theory. For as to what transcends nature, there is no theory. Philosophy, therefore, can contain no technical, but singly a moral-practical part; and if the acquired facility of the choice, conformable to laws of freedom, should, in contradistinction to nature, be here called art, it would be such art as behoved to be establishable in a system of freedom analogous to that of nature; and, in truth, a divine art, were we always to exactly perform what reason enjoins, and to realize its Ideal.


To all legislation (which may prescribe inward or outward actions, and these either à priori by pure reason, or by the will of another), there are two things requisite: first, a Law representing the action as objectively necessary, i.e., making it a duty; secondly, a spring of action, which subjectively connects the determination of the choice with the representation of the law. By the first, the action is represented as duty, and is a mere theoretic acquaintance with a possible determination of choice; but, by the second, the obligation so to act is conjoined with a subjective ground of the determination of choice.

Every legislation, therefore (no matter whether the action Edition: current; Page: [167] prescribed be the same or not), may be divided, in respect of the spring of action employed. That legislation, constituting an action Duty, and making the representation Duty itself the spring, is ethical. But that legislation which does not include this last in the law, and admits of other springs than the naked idea Duty, is juridical. As to what such springs may be, it is quite obvious, that since they differ from the idea Duty, they must be taken from pathological inclinations and aversions bearing on the human choice, and more particularly from the latter, singly because the legislation necessitates, and does not persuade.

The coincidence of an action with the law, abstracted from any regard to the motive whence it sprang, is its legality. But such coincidence—when the idea Duty, founded on the law, is at the same time the inward spring—forms its morality.

The duties of forensic obligation are outward only; for the juridical legislation does not require that the idea Duty, which is inward, should become likewise the determinator of the choice of the agent; and yet, since a motive is required, adequate, and calculated to give purchase to the law, the motives to be combined with the law can, from the nature of the case, be external singly. The ethical legislation takes under its cognisance inward mental acts; but it comprehends also all outward ones, and so is extended over everything that can be called Duty. But, upon this very account, since ethical legislation includes in its law the inward spring of acting (viz. the idea Duty), a particular noway entering into any external legislation, it follows that ethical legislation cannot be external9 (not even that of a divine will), although it may adopt actions prescribed by other systems of legislation into its own, as duties, and make the consideration of them, as such, a spring of conduct.

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From this it is evident that all duties must fall under the head of Ethics, even while the law giving them birth may not. Thus ethic requires that I fulfil a promise, although the other party could not compel me to do so. Ethics adopts the law pacta sunt servanda, and adopts also the thence arising duty. It is therefore not in ethics, but in law, that the legislation enjoining fidelity to one’s promise is contained. Ethics only teaches that, even if the external coercion connected juridically with the action were awanting, the idea of its being duty were still sufficient as a spring; for, were it not so, and the legislation not juridical, and the duty not one of law, but one of conscience, then fidelity in adhering to engagements would come to be classed with duties of benevolence, which is very wide of truth. It is essentially a legal obligation to which a man can be externally compelled; yet it is a virtuous action (a proof of virtuous sentiments) to act in that manner, even when no force can be apprehended. Law and morals are therefore not so much distinguished by the duties they enjoin, as by the different genius of the legislation connecting this or the other motive with the injunction.

Ethical legislation is that which cannot be external, although the duties may be so. Juridical is that which can also be external. Thus it is an external duty to keep one’s promise; but the commandment to do so singly because it is duty, and disregarding every other motive, belongs simply to an inward legislation. It is therefore not as a particular act of duty (a peculiar kind of act, to which we are bound),—for, both in ethics and law, question is made of external duties,—but because in the given case the legislation is inward, and can have no external lawgiver, that therefore the obligation is deemed ethical. For the same reason, the duties of benevolence, in so far as they consist of external actions (or rather of obligations thereunto), are reckoned to Edition: current; Page: [169] belong to ethics,—the legislation being internal singly. Ethics has no doubt its peculiar duties, e.g., those towards one’s self; but it has also several in common with law, only the mode of the obligation is different; for to do actions barely because they are duties, and to make the principle of duty, no matter whence that duty spring, the all-sufficient spring of the will, is the peculiar characteristic of ethical obligation. Hence there are direct-ethical duties, but indirectly all others come to be so too.

(Philosophia practica universalis.)

The idea Freedom is a product of pure reason,* and, owing to that very circumstance, transcends the grasp of speculative philosophy; i.e., is such a conception as has no example in the course of experience and observation,—is therefore no object of theoretic knowledge: it is not a constitutive, but simply regulative, and, moreover, negative principle of speculative reason. But, in the use of reason as a practical or active faculty, the reality of this idea is evinced in practical propositions, which, being laws, point to a causality of reason, independent on any sensitive condition—determine the choice—and show a pure will, in which the moral ideas and laws have their seat.

Upon this idea of freedom, which is positive in so far as practice is concerned, are founded unconditional practical laws, called moral, which, in respect of us, who are affected by sensitive determinatives, and whose choice therefore swerves from pure will, are imperatives (categorical commands or prohibitions); and this it is which distinguishes them from mere technical rules, which last are valid on certain Edition: current; Page: [170] conditions singly. By these imperatives some actions are allowed or disallowed, i.e., are morally possible or impossible; others, again, are morally necessary, i.e., obligatory, whence arises the idea of duty, the adhering to or transgressing which is connected with a peculiar feeling of pain or pleasure (the moral sense): this feeling, however, since it is not the foundation of the practical laws, but only an effect produced in our mind when the choice is determined by them, which may be very different in different individuals, without affecting the truth of any moral judgment, cannot be taken notice of in a system treating of the mere practical laws of reason.

The following notions are common to both parts of ethics.

Obligation is the necessity of a free action, falling under a categorical imperative of reason.

An imperative is a practical rule, by which an action, in itself contingent, is rendered necessary, and differs in this point from a practical law, that whereas this last represents the necessity of an action, yet it does so irrespective of the consideration that such action may, of inward necessity, belong to an agent (e.g., a holy one), and yet, in the case of man, be merely fortuitous; for, where the action is already necessary, there no imperative can be expressed. An imperative is therefore a rule making necessary a subjectively contingent action, and thereby representing the subject affected by it as one who must necessitate his actions to harmonize with the rule. The categorical (i.e., absolute or unconditional) imperative is not one which commands mediately, or by the representation of any ulterior end whitherward the action might point, but is one which, by the bare representation of the act, cogitates it as immediately-incumbent, and makes it objectively-necessary. Imperatives of this sort, no practical doctrine, which treats of obligations, save Ethic singly, can present. All other imperatives are Edition: current; Page: [171] technical and conditioned. The ground of the possibility of categorical imperatives is this, that they rest on no determinator of choice, which would require an ulterior end to be had in view, but on its originary freedom singly.

An action is allowed which is not contrary to obligation; and this freedom, limited by no opposing imperative, is a moral title or faculty: from this is obvious what is disallowed.

Duty is that action to which a person is bound. Duty is hence the matter of obligation; and there may be one duty, in so far as the act is concerned, although different modes in which the obligation may be constituted, i.e., juridical or ethical.

The Categorical Imperative, expressing obligation in regard of a given action, is a moral practical law. But since obligation implies not merely practical necessity (that being expressed by all law), but necessitation, the imperative is either a command or a prohibition, as it may happen. An action neither commanded nor forbidden is allowed, merely because, with regard to it, there exists no law limiting the freedom of the subject, and therefore no duty: such an action is morally indifferent. A further question may be moved, If there are any such adiaphorous actions? and if so, is it open to any one to will or eschew them at pleasure, without a particular permissive law? Were this question answered negatively, then would the faculty of acting not respect an action indifferent, for to such, morally considered, no particular law can be required.

A deed or action is an event falling under the laws of obligation, i.e., it is called an act, when regard is had to its originator,—the freedom of the acting subject. The actor is considered the author of the event; and when he is supposed to know the law applying to his conduct, and by virtue Edition: current; Page: [172] of which law he is bound, both the act and its consequences can be imputed to him.

He to whom actions can be imputed is called person; moral personality, man’s independent individuality, is nothing else than the freedom of agent-intelligents, who rank under moral laws. Whence it is evident that a person is subjected to no law except such as he, either alone, or sometimes in conjunction with others, imposes on himself.

That is called a thing to which no event can be imputed as an action. Hence every object devoid of freedom is regarded as a thing.

Right, wrong, denote actions consistent or inconsistent with duty; and these terms are so applied in whatever way the duty may have been constituted: an act repugnant to duty is called transgression.

An unintentional transgression is called (for it is imputable) a fault; but a deliberate transgression (e.g., one accompanied with the consciousness of its being so) is a crime or sin: whatever coincides juridically with the external requirements of law is called just; what is not so, unjust.

A collision of duties would imply such a condition of ethical obligation, that one duty annihilated the other. But because duty and obligation are ideas involving the objective practical necessity of certain actions, and since two contradictory and inconsistent imperatives cannot both be necessary, it follows that a collision of duties is perfectly inconceivable. There may, however, be different grounds towards an obligation, one or other or all of which may be insufficient to beget a perfect obligation (rationes obligandi non obligantes), and one and the same individual may come to be affected by the rule prescribed by them, but duty is not established in such a case. Whence practical philosophers express themselves by saying, not that the major obligation retains its place, Edition: current; Page: [173] but the more extensive ground towards that obligation takes precedence of the less.

External Laws are understood to comprehend and include these obligations which are recognised by reason à priori; and although not promulgated, they are held to be so, and compose what is called the law of nature. Those, again, which, until promulgated, have no force, and which could not oblige but by reason of their proceeding from the legislator, are, in contradistinction, called positive or statutable law. An external legislation is therefore possible, containing simply the law of nature; but then this natural law must antecede and establish the authority of the lawgiver (i.e., his title to oblige).*

An ultimate principle of reason, binding us to certain actions, is a practical law. The rule an agent chooses himself to follow is his peculiar maxim of conduct, and of such maxims the variety is plainly endless.

The categorical imperative, which is merely a general formula expressing what obligation is, announced the necessity of adopting such maxims as might serve for common laws for all. Conduct is therefore to be examined so as to detect the private maxim from which it sprang; and whether it be a principle possessed of objective validity, can only be recognised by inquiring if reason can represent itself as pronouncing law universal by means of it.

The simplicity of this law, contrasted with the variety and gravity of the consequences following upon it, as also its majesty and supremacy, unattended by any visible sanctions, is at first exceedingly surprising. But when, in the midst of this admiration, the power of reason is pointed out to sway our choice by the idea of a formal law, and we are guided by it to the further cogitation of that property of will, its freedom, which no force of speculation, no train of experience, Edition: current; Page: [174] could have reached, we then observe how it is that this law should, like mathematic postulates, be indemonstrable, and yet most apodictically certain, and, like them, open up a vista into a long and spacious field of scientific practical propositions,—a field where, theoretically, reason found every avenue barred up, and saw the idea Freedom, together with every other idea of the supersensible, removed to a distance altogether inaccessible.

The harmony of an action with the Law of Duty is its legality; that of its maxim with the law is its morality. Maxim is the subjective principle of acting, and is made by the Subject his own rule, viz., how he wills to act; whereas, on the contrary, the Law of Duty commands objectively, viz., how he ought to act.

The supreme principle of ethics therefore is: Act upon a maxim at all times fit for law universal. Every maxim repugnant to the above is immoral.

The law proceeds from will, maxims from choice, which in mankind is free.* Will, with respect singly to the relation obtaining betwixt it and the law, is, properly speaking, neither free nor unfree, for it does not regard actions, but the ideal legislation itself, i.e., is itself practical reason. Choice alone is, strictly speaking, free.

Liberty of choice cannot be explained to be a power of adhering to or deserting the law, although, as phenomenon, this is often the fact; we only mean by liberty that negative property of our thinking frame not to be determined to act by physical excitements. What it is really, and how freedom positively co-acts the sensory, is beyond the bounds of Edition: current; Page: [175] human speculation; and the phenomenal observance or transgression of the law can never serve to give any insight into the nature and essence of a supersensible object.* It is one thing to note as true that experience has taught; another to make such experience and observation the principle of a definition, and the mark and general criterion by which to distinguish free and mechanic choice; for experience and observation do not inform us that the mark defined by, necessarily adheres to the notion, which, however, is essential for a sound and unerring criterion. Finally, liberty cogitated as an ability of acting on the representation of the law, is alone a power, and to swerve from the law is not a power, but weakness; and it is clearly absurd to explain the former by the latter,—a power by the want of it.

A law is a proposition enouncing a categorical imperative. He who commands by law is a lawgiver, and is the author of juridical obligation, although not necessarily the author of the law itself; for if he is, then it is a positive and arbitrary enactment. That law which imposes on us its unconditioned obligation à priori, may be cogitated as emanating from the will of a supreme lawgiver, i.e., of God (to whom rights are owed, but of whom no duty can be predicated); but this is merely the idea of a moral agent, whose will is law for all, and does not mean that he is the author of the law itself.

Imputation, in a moral sense, is that judgment whereby some one is stated to be the author of an event, which is then called his act or deed; and if such judgment is accompanied by legal sequents, then the imputation is judiciary. If no legal effects follow, then the judgment is no more than a private judgment, and the imputation is invalid or dijudicatory only. That person who has a title to pronounce judiciary imputation is called the judge or court (forum, tribunal).

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What any one does over and above what he can be compelled to, is meritorious, or of well-desert; what actions do no more than tally with the legal standard are of debt singly, and when they fall short of it are of demerit or ill-desert. The legal consequence of demerit or guilt is punishment; that of merit is reward, provided the reward promised in the law was the motive inciting to action. Conduct precisely exhaustive of what we were indebted to, is unattended by any judicial effect. Benignity or favour stands in no legal relationship to any action.

The good or evil results consequent on an indebted action, likewise the consequences of neglecting a meritorious, cannot be imputed to the agent. They may tell upon the actor, but cannot be deemed effects of the law.

The good springing from an action of well-desert, and the evil following on an unjust action, are imputable.

However, subjectively, the grade of the imputability of an action is to be estimated by the magnitude of the obstacles overcome. The greater hindrance from without, and the less the hindrance to duty from within, so much the higher rises the moral honesty and well-deservingness of the act; e.g., if I rescue from great wretchedness one who is a stranger and unknown to me, and that at great personal inconvenience to myself.

Conversely: The less the impediment is from without, and the greater the obstacles are within, so much greater is the demerit in the scale of guilt. The state of mind, therefore, in which a bad action is perpetrated, whether unagitated or inflamed, will greatly change the imputation both of the deed and its consequences.

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THE aggregate of those laws which may be externally promulgated is law (jus). If really so announced by a lawgiver, such legislation becomes real, and composes positive law (jus scriptum). He who knows this, is a jurisconsult; and is even jurisperitus when he can dexterously apply the law to occurring cases,—a skill which, if great, may even entitle a man to rank among the jurisprudents. When, however, we abstract from such jurisperitia and jurisprudentia, what remains is merely the scientific theory of law. By the science of law is meant the systematic knowledge of the principles of the law of nature (from which positive law takes its rise), which is for ever the same, and carries its sure and unchanging obligations over all nations and throughout all ages.


This is a question which may embarrass the lawyer as much as the celebrated question, “What is truth?” does the logician; for he must avoid tautology, and give a general Edition: current; Page: [178] explanation abstracted from the particular legislation obtaining in any one country. What the law in any instance is (quid sit juris), the jurisconsult can easily tell; but whether it is right or just that it should be so, is what he wants a criterion to determine. But this criterion can only then be found when, abandoning all posteriori principles, he ascends to the sources of reason, and discovers on what all legislation whatsoever can alone be based; in which analysis positive law is doubtless a great help and guide. But laws founded singly on experience, are like the mask in the fable, beautiful, but hollow.

The notion of law, in so far as it imports obligation—i.e., annexes the predicate, “forbidden” or “allowed,” to an action—regards, first, the external practical relation of person to person, in so far as the actions of one may affect or influence another; second, it does not regard the relation betwixt the choice of one and the wishes or wants of another, as in deeds of benevolence or severity, but merely respects the relationship of choice to choice; thirdly, in this reciprocal relationship of choices, no question is made as to the matter chosen. The form of the choice, i.e., the choice considered as free, is alone regarded, i.e., whether the action of one man is consistent with, and does not impair, the free choice of another.

Lawthe rule of right—is therefore the aggregate of those conditions, according to which personal choices may harmonize and not destroy one another by being subordinated to freedom’s law universal.


Every action is right and just, the maxim of which allows the agents freedom of choice to harmonize with the freedom of every other, according to a universal law.

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If, therefore, my deportment, or, generally, my condition is not inconsistent with the universal freedom of every other person, he does me a wrong who hinders such state, or obstructs my actions; for such obstruction is inconsistent with a universal law of liberty.

From this it follows, that no one is legally entitled to demand that I make this principle of universal legality the maxim or spring of my conduct. Another’s freedom may be indifferent to me,—nay, I may wish to evade it; but so long as I do it not, I am juridically just. That justice should be itself my maxim, belongs to the second part of Ethics.

The law or universal rule of right is, So act that the use of thy freedom may not circumscribe the freedom of any other (i.e. if thy act or maxim were made imperative on all),—a law imposing no doubt obligation, but which does not exact the determination of choice by the contemplation of the obligation. Reason singly announces, that it in idea so limits freedom, and that others may in real fact and event co-act such limitation; and this it announces as a postulate incapable of further proof. As we here treat not of offices of virtue, but explain what is just and right, it is impossible to represent this law as the spring moving us to action.


An obstacle opposed to that which hinders an effect, advances that effect, and tends to that end. But everything unjust is a hindrance to freedom, according to law universal. Again, co-action is a hindrance put upon freedom. Therefore, if a certain use of freedom is a hindrance to freedom universal, i.e., unjust and wrong, then co-action preventing such misuse of freedom goes to establish freedom according to a universal law, i.e., is just or right; and consequently law has in itself a right to co-act him who attempts to violate it.

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The purport of this sentence is, that Law is not to be regarded as made up of two parts, the one obligation, the other a title to co-act; but that the very notion of law consists in that of the possibility of combining universal mutual co-action with every person’s freedom.

For since law respects that only which is external and phenomenal in an action, strict law, i.e., law in which no ethical consideration is introduced, can require no internal, but merely external, determinators of choice, even although co-action be required to do so. All law whatever rests, it is true, on the consciousness of obligation under the moral law itself; but pure or strict law, in the sense now taken, does not expect that this consciousness should be the spring of conduct; but supports itself as a legislation for external actions, on its principle of co-action. When, therefore, it is said a creditor is entitled to demand payment from his debtor, that never implies that he may represent to the latter that his own reason imposes that obligation; but it signifies that external co-action physically forcing the payment of debt consists with universal freedom, and so even with the debtor’s. This position of reciprocal action and co-action throughout the whole system of Intelligents, gives, if I may so speak, a lively image of the notion Law in a sensible figure à priori, and carries us by analogy to the law of action and reaction in the communicating of external motion; and as by virtue of it the quantity of motion remained undiminished, so here, by virtue of this reciprocal co-active mechanism, the quantum of personal freedom is preserved undiminished throughout the system, in the intercourse and exchange of man with man.

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Again, as in the Mathematics, the truths of that science are not deduced from the naked notion, but by help of the configurations of space answering to the given notion; so it is not so much the notion Law, as that equal and mutual co-action corresponding to the idea, by means of which a deduction, and, as I may say, delineation of its truths are possible (i.e., the propositions are not taken from the originary moral idea of the law, but from this subjected mechanism). (Beck. Com. 107.) And because to this dynamic notion co-action three corresponds a formal one, taken from the Mathematics previously spoken of, it comes to pass, that what is right is cogitated and spoken of as we do of right lines, where “right,” the rectilineal, are opposed to “curves” and oblique lines. That kind of rightness which is opposed to “curve,” is that inward property of a line, whereby it is the only one possible betwixt two points; and that rightness opposed to obliquity takes place where, betwixt two intersecting segments, one only perpendicular can be drawn, inclining to neither segment, but dividing equally the enclosed space.

In like manner, law insists that there be rigidly and equally given to every man his own; a mathematical precision not exigible in the offices of virtue, these last often admitting a certain latitude of application. However, without wandering into the domain of Ethics, there are two cases demanding solution, but which no Œdipus seems willing to resolve, and look as if they belonged to the “Intermundia” of Epicurus. Such two stumbling blocks1 must forthwith be removed from the domain of jurisprudence proper, lest their uncertainties should be imagined to have any common part with the firm and stable principles of law.

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Law, strictly so called, always implies the power to co-act. But people have fancied to themselves law in some broader sense, where the title to co-act is indefinite, and quite indeterminable. Of this kind there have been usurped two sorts, equity and necessity: the former is alleged to be a law which has no co-action, but the latter is a co-action (necessity) which has no law; and the difficulty springs from this, that they are cases of opaque law, to decide which no judge can be constituted.


Equity, considered in itself, does not in any wise address itself to the ethical duty of another; for he who vindicates his property on this head, stands upon his own right; but he is unable to assign the data which would empower the judge to decide his cause: for example, a servant who has contracted with his superior for a certain hire, may, at the expiry of his service, come to receive wages in coin greatly depreciated, though nominally the same in value; and the same would occur in loans, or in any other money contract, where the debtor holds himself entitled to exact payment higher in proportion to the depreciation of the currency; but he has no claim in law, and sees himself forced to call on equity for aid, a mute goddess, who returns no response: and unless parties have guarded against contingencies by the specific stipulations of their contract, a judge can give no relief, for he cannot pronounce sentence upon vague and indefinite conditions.

Hence it follows, that a court of equity (in a question about the rights of man) is a contradiction and absurdity. Edition: current; Page: [183] There alone, where the proper rights of the judge are involved, ought he to give ear to the dictates of equity. Thus the Crown may equitably take upon itself the losses sustained by others on its behalf, and ought, when called upon to do so, to indemnify the subject; although, in point of law, the Crown might urge that the subject had, at his own risk singly, undertaken its defence.

The motto of equity is, Summum jus summa injuria, extreme law is extreme injustice; but this inconvenience cannot be remedied by law, although the claim is a claim of right. The other part of Ethic alone teaches, to deem the rights of man sacred and inviolable.


This alleged right is that title which a man is supposed to have, of killing another who has done him no harm, provided he cannot otherwise extricate himself from danger. And here it seems that law is repugnant to itself. For this is not the case of an assassin whom I am allowed to anticipate, by consigning him to death; but of alleged violence which I am entitled to use against another from whom I have received no wrong.

This assertion, it is plain, does not refer to any given law, but respects the sentence which judges must pronounce when such a case of necessity is carried before them; for there can be no law adjudging death to him who in a case of shipwreck knocks another from an oar, which is barely sufficient to save himself. The punishment threatened by the law cannot be made higher than the loss of life, already impending over him. A statute can, therefore, have no effect in such a crisis; for the punishment being uncertain, cannot outweigh the dread of death, which is instant and certain. The law sees itself in this way forced to consider violent self-preservation, not as devoid of blame, but as incapable of being Edition: current; Page: [184] punished. And this impunity, resulting entirely from the accidental nature of the case, has been constantly mistaken by jurists for an impunity founded in the nature of the law itself, i.e., the action has been regarded as just and blameless.

The motto of necessity is, Necessity has no law. However, there never can be any case, making the unjust and wrong justifiable before the law.



In this division we may follow Ulpian, by slightly modifying our understanding of his legal formulæ,—a meaning perhaps darkly present to his own mind, and which can be evolved from them with great ease and elegance.

1. Honeste vive—(be an honest man).—Juridical honesty or uprightness consists in upholding one’s personal worth, as a man, against all others,—an obligation capable of being expressed by the following formula:—“Suffer thyself not to become the bare mean of others; and if thou serve them, be also their end.” This obligation is afterwards explained, as founded on the rights of humanity in a man’s own person—(lex justi).

2. Neminem læde—(do no man wrong)—even though as a consequence thou must abandon all connections with others, and go out of society—(lex juridica.)

3. Suum cuique tribue—(give each man his own).—Understood literally, these words are void of meaning, for that cannot be given to another which he already has. The formula can therefore alone signify, Enter with thy fellow-men into that state—society—where each man’s own is defended from the violence of his neighbour—(lex justitiæ).

These three classical formulæ make up one entire division of the principles of law, and found a division of juridical obligation into internal—external—and that composite obligation, Edition: current; Page: [185] which is constituted by subsuming the second under the principle of the first.


A system of rights is called law, and is either natural, or statutable and positive. In the first case, law rests entirely on pure principles à priori; in the latter, it is considered as based on the will of a lawgiver.

2. Right is the ethical faculty or title of obliging another, and is the legal ground on which the latter sort of law is based; and of such right there are two kinds, originary and derived: the first is that birthright of man which subsists independently of any legal act; the second is that which is acquired to him by such an act.

The congenital mine and thine may be also called the inward or intrinsic right, for external right must always be acquired.

There is but one Birthright, Freedom.

Freedom is the alone unoriginated birthright of man, and belongs to him by force of his humanity; and is independence on the will and co-action of every other in so far as this consists with every other person’s freedom. Subordinate to this supreme idea, and included under it, are the rights,—1. of Equality, i.e., the title not to be held bound to others beyond what they are in their turn bound to; consequently the right of every one to be his own master (sui juris): 2. The right to be regarded as legally innocent and guiltless, in so far as no one has been injured by his use of his freedom: 3. Lastly, the right to do to every man whatever implies nothing derogatory to that other’s rights, as, for example, to exchange one’s ideas and opinions with another, to tell or promise somewhat, and that whether true or untrue, whether sincerely or insincerely; for it is the province Edition: current; Page: [186] of the other to believe or discredit what is said—to accept or decline what is promised.* The reason why this division, breaking up the conception Freedom into its subordinate parts, has obtained among systems of natural law, is this, that when a question arises as to any derived right, and the question arises on whom the burden lies to prove either the fact, or to establish the law of his case, the party who declines the obligation, and asserts it to be with the other, does in fact appeal to his birthright, and so declares, that to impute to him an obligation to prove, is inconsistent with some part or other (e.g., equality, innocence) of his character freedom; and this may be carried through all the different relations into which freedom can specifically enter.

Further, because this birthright is one and indivisible, the division of rights consists of two members of most unequal dimensions; and therefore this right is discussed now in the introduction, and the subdivisions of natural law restrained to the external rights of mine and thine.


I. All obligations incumbent on man to fulfil, are either juridical, for which outward laws are admissible to co-act Edition: current; Page: [187] their observance, or ethical, where no such legislation is conceivable; and these ethical offices cannot fall under any outward co-active legislation, because such offices depend on certain ends and designs which it is the imperative duty of man to propose to himself. But no outward compulsion can give any person certain intentions, for these depend on himself alone; for even though outward actions can be extorted, tending to that end, still the subject himself may be disinclined to it.

II. Man, as a subject of obligation, is considered singly with reference to his freedom, which is supersensible, that is, his humanity, in which consists his personality, exempting him from every phenomenal determinator (homo noumenon), and requires to be contradistinguished from himself, as the same person subjected to the conditions of time and space (homo phenomenon); and these, when applied to those two kinds of offices, resting on the notions right and end, give birth to the following division of all moral science, and is a division founded on the relations subsisting betwixt the law and the matter of obligation.

Offices owed by man to himself. Offices of perfect or determinate obligation. Offices owed by man to others.
I. II.
The rights of humanity in a man’s own person. Juridical offices. The rights of man.
The ends of humanity in one’s own person. Ethical offices. The ends of other men.
Offices of indeterminate obligation.
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Besides the above division, the subjects mutually obliging one another may stand in different relations, and these relationships would afford the ground-plan of another division, according to the relation betwixt the obliger and the obliged.

i. ii.
The legal relation betwixt man and beings possessed neither of rights nor obligations. The legal relation of man to beings possessed both of rights and subjected to obligation.
vacat. adest.
For these are irrational beings, devoid of power to oblige, and towards whom no obligation can be constituted. For that is a relation betwixt man and man.
iii. iv.
The legal relation subsisting betwixt man and beings subjected to obligations, but devoid of rights. The relation betwixt man and that being who has rights, but is subjected to no duties.
vacat. vacat.
For these would be men devoid of personality (slaves). In a system of pure philosophy; for such a being is no object of possible experience.
Division of Ethic as a general System of Human Offices or Duties.
Elementology. Methodology.
Juridical offices. Ethical offices. Didactics. Ascetics.
Private law. Public law.

Where we have exhibited at once the materials and the architectonic form of the science.

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The law of nature ought not to be divided, as is often done, into natural and social, but into natural and civil or municipal: the first is called private, the second public law; for to the state of nature, not social institutions, but the civil or municipal, are to be opposed. In the state of nature, society need not be awanting, but only that civil society, securing by public institutions the rights of man; and that is the reason why the natural is called private law (jus privatum).*

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ETHICS signified of old the whole of Moral Philosophy in general, and this was also called the system of the offices (de officiis). But in modern times the name Ethics came to be confined to that part of Moral Philosophy which treats of duties not cognisable by an external and positive legislation. Whence it has come that the general system of the offices falls into Jurisprudence, treating of law external; and into Moral Philosophy, which is independent on any outward legislation.


The notion Duty implies, in the very essence of it, the further notion Necessitation, i.e., co-action exercised by the law upon the choice; and this co-action may be either foreign or proper (self-command). The ethical imperative announced, by its categorical behest (an absolutely unconditioned shall), this co-action, which, however, cannot be extended to all Intelligents whatsoever (for of these some may be “holy”); but is valid for mankind only, as physical beings endowed with reason, who are unholy* enough to be seduced Edition: current; Page: [194] into the transgression of the law, even while they recognise and acknowledge its authority, and, when they do obey it, obey unwillingly (i.e., by withstanding inclination); in which point indeed self co-action properly consists. But since man is at the same time a free (moral) agent, the notion “duty” can involve no more than self-co-action (i.e., by the naked representation of the law), at least when regard is had to the inward mobile of the will; for, if the case were otherwise, it would be impossible to reconcile any such co-action with man’s liberty of choice. But where the constraint is inward, the notion “duty” comes within the sphere of morals.

The instincts of man’s physical nature give birth to obstacles which hinder and impede him in the execution of his duty. They are in fact mighty opposing forces, which he has to go forth and encounter: these he must deem himself able to overcome by his reason, and that not at some future period, but even now,—not bit by bit, but to beat all down at one single blow. He must judge that he can do, what things soever the law ordains that he ought and should.

But the consciousness of the power, and the predeterminate resolve, to withstand a strong and unjust enemy, is valour; and, in regard of that which opposes the advancement of the moral sentiments within us, moral valour, i.e., virtue. Edition: current; Page: [195] Whence it has resulted, that the general system of the offices is, in that part which brings not the outward but the inward freedom under control, a doctrine or theory of virtue.

Jurisprudence treated singly of the formal conditions of man’s outward freedom (viz., that freedom should remain consistent with itself, in the event of its maxims being elevated to the rank of law universal), i.e., it investigated Law only. But Ethic presents matter to man’s free choice, an end given by pure reason for him to aim at, and which is represented as an objectively-necessary end, and so, consequently, as a “duty.” For since the appetites and instincts of the sensory mislead the will to ends subversive of morality, legislative reason can in no other manner guard against their inroad, than by presenting to the will an opposite and contrary and moral end, given independently of the sensory, and so à priori.*

An end is the object of the choice of a reasonable being; by the representation of which, the Intelligent is determined to an act tending to obtain and realize such object. Now, it is undoubted that I may be forced to act so as to be merely an instrument towards some ulterior and foreign end; but I never can in any event be constrained to propose to myself my end. I alone can assign and fix to myself the end I will to aim at. But, on the hypothesis that I stand under an obligation to constitute, as my end, somewhat presented by reason to my intellectual regards, that is, that I ought, over and above the formal determination of will (treated of in law), to superadd to it a material determinator, i.e., an end, contrary and opposed to the ends brought forth by sensitive excitement; then there emerges the notion of an end, which is in itself a ground of duty; and the doctrine of such an end cannot fall under the sphere of law, but it belongs to morals, which alone involve in their very notion that of self-co-action, according to ethic laws.

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Upon this account Ethics may, in this part, be defined to be the system of the ends of pure practical reason. Physical co-action and self-co-action mark or determine the boundary obtaining betwixt Law and Morals, the two grand stems of the science of Ethics; and that Ethics must comprehend duty, to observe which, no one can be constrained physically by others, is just a corollary from the position, that it is a doctrine of the ends of reason; it being absurd to talk of force, when question is made of the practical autonomy of the agent himself.

Again, that Ethics is a doctrine of the offices of virtue, results from the definition given above of virtue, taken in conjunction with that peculiar obligation, the nature of which has just been stated. In fact, there is no other determination of will, except the determination and design to adopt an end, which carries already in the very notion of it, that the person cannot be co-acted to it physically by the will of another. No doubt another person may force me to do what is contrary to my own design, and such deed may be a mere mean or instrumental toward gaining the ends of that other person; but this he cannot force me to, that I should make his ends my own; and it is clear that no end can be mine, unless I make it so by proposing it to myself. Indeed, an end imposed by any other would be a contradiction—an act of freedom devoid of liberty: but there is no contradiction in designing an end, to have which end is the person’s duty; for here I co-act myself, and this is quite consistent with my freedom.

But now the question arises, How is such an end possible? for the logical possibility of the notion of a thing is insufficient to enable us to conclude upon the objective reality of the thing itself.*

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The relation of an end to duty may be cogitated in a twofold manner,—either beginning with the end to assign the maxim of actions in harmony with duty, or beginning with the maxim to determine that end, which it is a duty incumbent on mankind to propose to himself. Jurisprudence advances by the first method. Every one is free to give his actions what end he will, but the principle regulating the causality of the will is fixed à priori, viz., that the freedom of the agent must be exercised in such a manner as to consist with the freedom of every other person, conformably to law universal.

But Moral Philosophy strikes into an opposite march: here we cannot commence with the ends man may design, and from them determine and statute the maxims he has to take, i.e., statute the duty he has to follow; for in this latter event the grounds of his maxims would be experimental, which we know beget no obligation, the idea Duty and its categorical imperative taking their rise in pure reason only. Nor could we indeed even talk of duty, were the will’s inward principles based on tentative and experimental ends, these being all selfish and egotistical. In this branch of Ethics, then, the idea Obligation must guide to ends which we ought to aim at, and constitute maxims pointing to those ends conformably to ethic laws.

Postponing for the present the investigation into what these ends are which man ought to propose to himself, and how such ends come to be possible, we must remark, that a material duty of this kind is called a moral duty or virtuous office; and it may be requisite to state upon what accounts it is so.

To every duty there corresponds a right, considered as a title in general; but every duty does not import that Edition: current; Page: [198] the other has a right (a legal title) juridically to co-act the execution of duty from the obliged; but where duties are coercible, they are, strictly speaking, legal duties (duty-in-law). Exactly in the same way, to every obligation there corresponds the notion Virtue; but every ethic duty is not upon that account one of the offices of virtue: that obligation, for instance, is not, which abstracts from all given ends, and regards the bare formal of the will’s determination, viz., that the incumbent action be performed out of regard had to duty. It is only in the case where an action is at once both an end and a duty, that a virtuous office can be constituted: of this latter sort there may be several, and so different virtues; whereas of the former, as there can be but one ethical obligement, so only one duty, i.e., one virtuous sentiment extending to all actions, of whatever kind.

Further, another essential distinction obtaining betwixt juridical and moral obligements is, that the former are coercible, whereas the latter depend singly upon free self-co-action. Further, for finite holy beings (incapable of being tempted to swerve from duty), there can be no Doctrine of Virtue, but a Science of Ethics singly, which is an autonomy of practical reason; whereas a system of virtues treats not only of the autonomy, but also, at the same time, of the autokraty of the will, i.e., is a doctrine of the force reason has to vanquish and beat down all the appetites which oppose the execution of the law. A force not, indeed, immediately given in an intuition, but rightly inferred from the categorical imperative. Whence it results, that man’s morality is, at its highest grade, nothing more than virtue, even admitting that such morality were altogether pure (i.e., separated thoroughly from every admixture of foreign springs); a state and tone of soul which fancy has impersonated in the character of the sage, an ideal whitherwards mankind ought in unremitting progression to advance.

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Nor can virtue be explained to be a habit, as Cochius has done in his prize essay, where he treats of it as an aptitude in morally good actions, acquired by long-continued custom; for when such use and wont is not effectuated by stable, firm, and ever more and more clarified first principles, then is the habitude—like any other mechanism brought about by technical reason—neither fortified against all assailants, nor has it any guard against the sudden fits and starts new enticements and unforeseen circumstances may occasion.

Remark.—Virtue = +a, is opposed to non-virtue (moral weakness) = 0, as its logical antipart; but to vice = -a, as its real antagonist. And it is a question not only devoid of meaning, but even offensive, to inquire if great crimes may not demand and display more strength of soul than even great virtues; for by strength of soul we understand the steadfastness of man’s will, as a being endowed with freedom, i.e., in so far as he is in a healthy state of intellect, and retains his command over himself. Great crimes are on the contrary paroxysms, at whose aspect the same part of mankind stand aghast. In fine, this sort of question may be compared to the question, whether a person may not have greater physical power in a fit of frenzy, than when in his right wits; and this question may be answered in the affirmative, without allowing him upon that account to be possessed of greater strength of soul: for as crimes take their rise from the inverted domination of the passions and appetites over reason, where no strength of soul is at all conceivable, this question is like asking if a man in a fever may not exhibit more strength than when in health, which may unhesitatingly be denied, because the want of health, which last consists in the due equilibrium and adjustment of all a man’s bodily powers, is a weakening of the system of his forces, according to which system only it is, however, that we can state any estimate of his absolute health.

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End is an object of free choice, which determines itself by the representation of this object to an action whereby this end is brought forth. Every action has consequently its own end; and since no one can design an end except by himself constituting the object chosen his end, it results that man’s aiming at any particular end is an act of his own freedom, and no effect operated by constitutional mechanism of his system. But because an act fixing an end is a practical principle, ordaining not a means (which were a hypothetical commandment), but the end itself (i.e., unconditionally), it follows that there is a categorical imperative of pure practical reason, connecting the idea Duty with that of an End in general.

That there must be such an end, and a categorical imperative corresponding to it, is apparent from this, that where there are free actions, there must also be ends, whitherwards they tend, as their object; and among these ends, there must be some, whereof it is of the very essence to be duties. For were none such given, then, because no action can be aimless, would every end be only valid in the eye of reason as a means instrumental and conducive towards some further end, and a categorical imperative would be impossible; a position which would overthrow all Ethics.

Accordingly we do not here treat of ends which mankind proposes to himself by force of the physical instincts of his system, but of such ends as he ought to aim at. The former might found a technical (subjective) doctrine of ends, and would contain the dictates of prudence in choosing one’s ends; but the latter must be called the ethical (objective) doctrine of ends,—a distinction which we do not insist upon, because the science of ethics is in its very notion contradistinguished Edition: current; Page: [201] from anthropology, the latter rising upon experimental principles, the former again, i.e., the ethical doctrine of ends, treating of duties founded upon à priori principles of pure practical reason.


Such ends are one’s own perfection,—our neighbour’s happiness.

These ends cannot be inverted, and we cannot state as such,—one’s own happiness,—our neighbour’s perfection.

For his own happiness is an end which all mankind has by force of the physical constitution of his system; consequently this end cannot be regarded as a duty, without stating a contradiction. What every one inevitably wills, cannot fall under the notion duty,—duty importing necessitation to an end unwillingly adopted. So that it is a contradiction to say a man is obliged to advance his own happiness with all his might.

And there is the like contradiction in saying that we ought to design the perfection of another, and to hold ourselves obliged to further it; for the perfectness of another, when considered as a person, consists in this, that he can impose upon himself his own end, agreeably to his own understanding of his duty; and it is a repugnancy to impose on me, as a duty, the doing that which singly the other person can accomplish.


(a.): One’s own Perfection.

The word perfection is open to many an interpretation. Thus, when used in ontology, perfection denotes the totality Edition: current; Page: [202] of the multifarious, which, taken together, do in the aggregate compose one thing. Then, again, when used in teleology, it is so understood as to signify the exact proportionateness of means to ends. Perfection, taken in the first sense, might be called quantitative, in the second qualitative (formal). The material and quantitative perfection is one only (for the total of the parts of anywhat is one whole); but of the formal there may be many sorts in the same thing, and it is of this last alone that we here treat.

When it is said that the perfecting of his nature is an end which it is man’s duty to propose to himself, this perfection must be placed in that which is the effect of his own activity, not any gift of nature, upon which account this duty can be nothing else than the culture of his natural faculties, the principal whereof is the understanding, as the power of dealing with notions and ideas, — among others, with the ideas of duty; and then, next, of his will to discharge all his duty.

It is, then, a duty incumbent upon mankind,—

I. To develop himself more and more from the animal characters stamped upon him by his brute nature, and to advance and evolve his humanity, which alone renders him capable of designing anywhat as his end. He ought to strip off his ignorance, by learning to correct and renounce his errors; and this is not a counsel given him by technically practical reason, but ethico-active reason ordains it unconditionally, in order that he may be worthy of the humanity he represents.

II. To clarify, and to carry the culture of his will to the purest grade of ethic sentiment, a state and tone of soul where the law itself is the immediate mobile of the will, and where duty is discharged because it is so. And this state and tone of soul is an inward ethical perfection, and is called the moral sense, because it is a feeling of the effect wrought Edition: current; Page: [203] by legislative reason upon man’s active power of conforming to the law. And although this feeling has been too often fanatically abused, as if it were a peculiar emotion astir in the mind antecedently to reason, and able (like the genius of Socrates) to dispense with her tardy determinations, it is notwithstanding an ethical accomplishment, enabling mankind to make every end his own, when that end is also his duty.

(b.): My Neighbour’s Happiness.

Happiness, i.e., contentment and satisfaction with one’s external lot, in so far as its permanence is secured, is the inevitable desire and wish of every human nature; but it is not upon that account an end affording the groundwork of any duty. Again, since a distinction has been made by some, betwixt what they term physical and moral happiness, whereof the former is stated to consist in man’s enjoyment and acquiescence in the goods and bounties bestowed on him, in free gift, by nature, but the latter in his own self-contentment and acquiescence in his own ethical deportment, it is needful for me to remark (omitting all censure of the misuse of such terms, which enclose a contradiction) that the latter kind of state belongs to the other head, that of perfection; for he who is to be happy in the bare consciousness of his honesty, possesses that very perfection treated of in the former title, as that end which it was man’s duty to pursue.

That happiness, then, which it is my end and my duty to further, can be the happiness of another singly, whose ends and interests I ought to make my own. What others may deem most conducive to their interests and happiness, rests upon their determination; it stands, however, always at my option to decline the pursuit of ends others would willingly obtain, if I hold them hurtful and pernicious. But to resist or evade this virtuous office of beneficence, by alleging a Edition: current; Page: [204] pretended obligation incumbent on me to study my own physical happiness, is in plain fact just to convert my private and subjective end into an objective one; and yet such pretended obligation has repeatedly been urged as an objection to the foregoing division of duties (No. IV.): the objection is merely plausible and apparent, and the following remark may serve to clear the matter up.

Grief, poverty, want, and pain, are unquestionably mighty temptations to the transgression of one’s duty; and hence it seems as if wealth, strength, health, which keep out the inroad of the first, were ends incumbent on mankind to pursue, i.e., it looks very like as if it were his duty to advance and study his own interests as much as those of others. But what is overlooked is this, that in such event a man’s general welfare is not the end aimed at, but is no more than a means allowed as instrumental towards removing the obstacles which might stand in the way of the person’s own morality; and this last it is which is the true and real end of his exertions, and must needs be permitted, no one having a right to demand that I should sacrifice for him my proper end. To acquire wealth is thence directly and in itself no duty; but indirectly it may become so, viz., in order to guard against poverty, and that wretchedness which might come accompanied by vice. But then it is not my happiness, but my morality, which, to uphold in its integrity, is at once my end and my duty.


The notion Duty relates immediately to Law, even when I abstract from every end which might become the matter of it. This indeed was indicated by the supreme formal Edition: current; Page: [205] principle of ethics expressed in the categorical imperative: “So act that the maxim of thy conduct might be announced as law universal.” But in this part of ethics this formula denotes the law of thy own special individual will, not the law emanating from will in genere; in which latter case there would be room for the will of some other person, and the duty resulting from it would be a juridical obligation, and so fall beyond the domain of morals. In this part of ethics the maxims are regarded as such subjective principles as are not unfit to be elevated to the rank of law in a system of universal moral legislation; but this gives them only a negative character,* viz., not to be repugnant to law in genere. The question, therefore, is, How can there be a law ordaining positive maxims of conduct?

The notion of an end in itself a duty—peculiar to this branch of ethics—is what founds a law commanding maxims of conduct, by subordinating the ends which all mankind have to the objective ends which all mankind ought to have. The imperative, Thou shalt make to thyself, this or that, thy end, points to the matter (the object) of choice; and since no free action is possible, where the agent does not design by it some end as the object chosen, a maxim tending to such end need only be fit for law universal; whereas, if that end be in itself a duty, such end-duty would found a law ordaining me to adopt the maxim taken from and belonging to it. For man’s practical maxims may be adopted arbitrarily, and it is always in his option to execute them or not, they being no otherwise fettered than by standing under the restrictive condition of being fit for law universal, this being the formal principle regulating the whole conduct of Edition: current; Page: [206] life. But a law takes away the whole optional part of action, and so differs widely from all expediential dictates, which counsel what means conduce best to certain ends.


This position is a corollary from the foregoing (No. VI.); for where the law ordains not the action, but its maxim only, that implies that it leaves to free choice a latitude in the execution of it, that is to say, that the law does not rigidly determine how much ought to be done toward the end which is our duty, but an indeterminate obligation must not be so understood as if it left a space open for exceptions from the maxim itself; it means only our title to limit one rule of duty by another (e.g., to limit the general social duty by the fraternal or filial), which virtually enlarges the field for the practical exercise of virtue. The more an obligation is extensive, the more indeterminate is the person’s obligement to act; nevertheless, the more he narrows the maxim of its observance, so as to make it approach to the nature of a strict and forensic obligation, the more complete is the virtue of his conduct.

Duties of indeterminate obligation are therefore the only offices of virtue. To discharge them is merit = +a; their transgression is not straightway guilt = -a, but simply moral unworth = 0. Unless, indeed, the person omitted upon system the observance of these duties. Steadfastness of purpose in carrying the first of these into action is what is properly styled virtue. Weakness in the second is not so much vice, as rather non-virtue, i.e., want of moral strength (defectus moralis). Every action repugnant to duty is transgression; but deliberate transgression, done upon system, is that only which properly is to be termed vice.

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Although the conformity of a man’s actions to the law is nothing meritorious, yet to observe one’s juridical obligations as duties is; i.e., reverence for the rights of mankind is meritorious, for hereby a person makes the rights of man his end, and so extends his notion of obligation beyond that of mere debt (officium debiti). Another may, in consequence of his rights, demand from me actions tallying with the law, but he cannot likewise insist that the representation of the law should itself be the ground determining my will to action. A similar remark holds good of that more general ethic precept, Act duteously out of regard had to duty. To engrave such a sentiment deep in one’s heart, and often to revivify its impression, is meritorious, for it goes beyond the mere act incumbent to be done, and makes the law itself the spring of conduct.

Upon the same account, those duties must be reckoned as of indeterminate obligation, which are observed to be attended by an inward ethical reward; or rather, to bring the parallel yet nearer to the case of forensic obligations,—followed by a susceptibility for such rewards according to the moral law; viz., a susceptibility for an ethical complacency, surpassing the mere simple self-approbation (which is only negative) consequent on the fulfilment of the law; and this complacency it is which is meant when it is said that virtue is by such a consciousness her own reward.

This merit, which a man may have in regard of his kind, by advancing their common and known ends, and so making their happiness constitute his, may be called a sweet merit, and the consciousness of it brings forth an ethical delight, at which ecstatic banquet others may even sympathetically feast. Whereas the bitter merit of advancing the true weal of the ignorant and unthankful has in general no such reaction, and brings forth no more than self-approbation, although this last is in such a case likely to be more pure and more exalted.

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1.: My own Perfection, as End and Duty.

A. Physical Perfection, i.e., culture of all our faculties in general, in order to attain the ends presented to us by reason. That this is our duty, and an end of our being, and that this culture rises on an unconditionate imperative, independently of any advantages to which such culture may perhaps conduce, may appear from what follows. The ability to propose to one’s self an end, is the characteristic of humanity, and distinguishes it from his brute nature. Along with the ends of the humanity subsisting in our person, goes hand in hand the rational will, and, together with that, the obligation to make one’s self well-deserving of mankind by general culture, in carrying to higher and higher degrees of perfection the powers intrusted to him, i.e., to develop the latent energies dormant in the unhewn substratum of his nature, whereby the brute animal is first of all changed and transformed into the man; all which is in itself an imperative duty.

But this duty is simply moral, i.e., of indeterminate obligation: how far any one ought to carry the improvement and the progression of his faculties, is left undetermined by reason. Besides, the difference of occasions and circumstances one may come into, renders quite arbitrary the choice of the kind of calling to which he will devote his talent; so that there can be no commandment of reason ordaining given actions, but ordaining only a maxim regulative of conduct; the tenor of which principle may be thus conceived: “Evolve betimes thy corporeal and mental faculties, that thou mayest be fitted for any kind of ends, it being uncertain which of them may come one day to be adopted by thee.”

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B. Ethical perfection. The highest grade of ethical perfection possible to be attained by man, is to discharge his duty because it is so,—where the law is at once the rule and the mobile of the will. Now, at first sight, it seems as if this were a strict obligation, and that the supreme principle of duty called, not only for the legality, but likewise for the morality of every act, and that it must do so with the whole rigour and severity of law. But in fact the law concerns itself only with the maxims of conduct, and ordains man to seek the ground of his practical maxims in the law itself, not in any sensitive instinct or by-views and ends of prejudice and advantage. No individual act, then, is specially ordained. Besides, it is impossible for any one so to behold or fathom the abysses of his heart as to become fully convinced of the purity of his moral intentions, and of his sincerity, even in one single act, however clear he may be as to its legality. Imbecility, oftener than any other cause, deters a man from the hardihood of crime, and so passes with him for virtue, which, however, implies a certain grade of strength. And how many may there be who have long lived lives blameless and unrebukable, who are, after all, only lucky in having escaped temptation? How much ethical content may belong to any action, cannot be explored even by themselves.

We infer, then, that the duty of estimating the worth of one’s actions, not legally simply, but likewise according to their morality, is one of indeterminate obligation; that, in other words, the law does not ordain any such inward mental act, but merely that it ought to be our maxim to endeavour, by unremitted assiduity, to make the consciousness of duty sufficient by itself to stir the will to action.

2.: My Neighbour’s Happiness as End and Duty.

A. Physical wellbeing. General benevolence may be unlimited, for in all this nothing need be done; but the case Edition: current; Page: [210] is different when we come to beneficence, more especially when actions have to be performed, not out of love to others, but out of duty, with the mortification and sacrifice of our own ends. That this beneficence is duty, results from this, 1st, That because our self-love goes inseparably linked hand in hand with the appetite to be loved by others, and, in case of need, to be assisted by them,—a state of things in which we make ourselves the end of others; and, 2nd, That since a maxim of this kind can only have ethical virtue to oblige the will of others, when it is potentially fitted for law universal: it follows that we must state others as the ends of our will, in adopting our maxims of practical conduct; i.e., the happiness of others is an end incumbent on us as a duty.

It is my duty, then, to yield a part of my wellbeing in sacrifice for others, without hoping any indemnity, because it is my duty; and it is impossible to assign indefinite boundaries, whither and how far this duty shall extend. Its extent will always rest on the peculiar wants of each, and these wants and needs each particular must determine for himself. Nor can it, in any event, be expected that I should abandon my own real happiness and proper needs, in order to study that of another; for a maxim containing such a rule would be found repugnant to itself, if elevated to the rank of law universal. This duty, then, is indeterminate only, and there is a latitude of doing more or less towards discharging it. The law embraces the maxim only,—it cannot be extended to special actions.

B. The moral welfare of our neighbour is no doubt an integral part of his general felicity (prosperity), and it is incumbent on us to promote it; but this obligation begets a negative duty only. The compunction a man feels from the stings of conscience is, although of ethical origin, yet physical in its results, just like grief, fear, and every other sickly Edition: current; Page: [211] habitude of mind. To take heed, that no one fall under his own contempt, cannot indeed be my duty, for that exclusively in his concern. However, I ought to do nothing which I know may, from the constitution of our nature, become a temptation, seducing others to deeds which conscience may afterwards condemn them for. There are, however, no limits assignable, within which our care of the moral tranquillity of our neighbour is to range; the obligation consequently is indeterminate.


Virtue is the strength of the human will in the execution of duty. All strength is ascertained singly by the obstacles it is able to overcome. Virtue has to combat against the physical instincts of our system, when these thwart and collide with man’s ethical resolves. And because it is the person himself who lays these impediments in the way of his own maxims, virtue is not only a self co-action (for then one physical instinct might wage war upon another), but a command conducted upon a principle of inward freedom; that is, a self co-action, by force of the naked idea Duty, and the law.

Every duty, of whatever kind, involves the notion of necessitation by law; and the moral, that necessitation which an inward legislation can alone effect; but the juridical, one possible also by an external and foreign legislation. Either kind imports the notion of a co-active power, and this co-action may be proper or foreign. The ethical force of the former is virtue; and the action rising upon such a sentiment (reverence for law) may be fitly termed an act of virtue, even although the law should announce a juridical duty only; for morals alone teach to keep inviolate the rights of mankind.

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But that, the practice whereof is virtue, is not upon that account one of the offices of virtue—in the proper sense of the words—the first referring to the formal of the maxims, the second to their matter, that is, to an end which is cogitated as duty. But because the ethical obligement to ends, whereof there may be several, is indefinite,—the law ordaining a rule of deportment only,—it results that there may be (differing with the nature of the legitimate ends they tend to) several different duties, which may all be called duties in morality, or offices of virtue, because they are subjected to voluntary self-co-action only, are unsusceptible of coercive measures from without, and spring from ends which are in themselves duties.

Virtue, considered as the will’s unshaken constancy in adhering to the decrees of duty, can, like every formal, be only one, identic, and always the same with itself; but in respect of the incumbent ends of action, i.e., the materials man has to work upon, there may be several virtues; and since the obligement to adopt maxims or rules of life, resting on such materials, was called a moral duty or virtuous office, it follows that the offices of virtue may be several and distinct.

The supreme principle of this division of Ethics therefore is, “Adopt such ends in thy maxims as may be made imperative on all mankind to design.” By force of this principle, each man is stated as his own and every other’s end; and it is now not enough to abstain from employing them or himself as means to his own end,—a case which would leave him quite indifferent to his fellows,—but he is beholden to make all mankind his end.

This position in morals admits, being a categorical imperative, of no proof; but some account may be given of it, i.e., a deduction from the nature of pure practical reason itself. What thing soever stands so related to humanity, one’s self Edition: current; Page: [213] or others, as possibly to be an end, must be declared an end, reason being judge, for practical reason is the power of designing ends; and to assert that reason were indifferent in regard of any such, i.e., to maintain that reason took no interest in them, is an absurdity; for then reason would miss of her function in determining the maxims and rules of life, which maxims rest always on an end; that is, in other words, would be no practical reason at all. But when pure reason announces any end à priori, it announces at the same time that end as a duty incumbent on all mankind; and this is the kind of duty termed a virtuous office or moral duty.


It was evinced in Law that the outward co-active power, so far forth as it withstands whatever would let and hinder the mutual freedom of the subject, could be made consistent with ends in general; and that this position holds good, results from the principle of contradiction. I need not quit the idea of Freedom, but need only to evolve the principle analytically out of it, while the end each person may propose to himself may be what it will: so then the supreme principle of law was analytical.

On the contrary, the principle of Morals goes out of and beyond the notion of external freedom, and conjoins with it, conformably to law universal, an end which it constitutes a duty; and this principle is synthetic: the possibility of the synthesis of the notions contained in it is explored in the deduction at the close of No. IX.

This extension of the notion Duty beyond that of outward liberty, and the limiting of this last to the bare formal condition of constantly harmonizing with every other person’s freedom, depends upon the fact that here ends are drawn Edition: current; Page: [214] into consideration from which Law altogether abstracts, and inward freedom put in room of outward co-action; and the power of self-command not by force of other instincts, but by force of pure practical reason, which disdains all such intermediaries.

To constitute the juridical imperative, the law, the power to execute it, and the will regulating the maxims, were the elements required. But whoso prescribes to himself a moral duty, has, over and above the notion of his self-co-action, the further notion of an end, not which he already has, but which he ought to have; which end, therefore, goes hand in hand with practical reason, whose last, chief, and unconditioned end (which, however, never ceases to be duty) consists in this, that virtue is its own end, and is, by its own good desert, its own reward. By all which, virtue so shines, that it seems even to eclipse the lustre of holiness itself, which cannot so much as be solicited to swerve from the law. This, however, is a deception, and arises in this manner, that, owing to our having no standard whereby to measure the grades of a strength except the magnitude of the obstacles (in us the appetites and instincts of the sensory) it has been able to subdue and overcome, we are led into the mistake of holding the subjective conditions, whereby we estimate a force, tantamount to the objective grounds of the force itself. But when virtue is compared with other human ends, each of which may have its own several obstacles to overcome, it is quite true that the inward worth of virtue as its own end far outweighs the value of all utilitarian and experimental ends, which last may notwithstanding go hand in hand with it.

It is quite a correct expression to say that man is under an obligement to virtue, as ethic strength; for although the power of mastering every opposing excitement of the sensory may, and indeed must, be absolutely postulated—the Edition: current; Page: [215] will’s causality being free—nevertheless this power is in its strength (robur) a matter of acquisition, viz., where the force of the ethical spring has been advanced by the contemplation of the dignity of our pure rational law, and at the same time by unremittingly carrying its decrees into execution.


A table of all moral duties may, agreeably to what has been just advanced, be drawn out in the following manner:—

Internal moral duty. The matter of moral duty. External moral duty.
I. II.
My own end, which is likewise my duty. Other’s ends, to advance which is my duty.
(The perfecting of my nature.) (My neighbour’s happiness.)
The law, which is likewise the mobile of action. The end, which is the determinator of the will to act.
Whereon depends all the morality Whereon depends all the legality
Of all free determination of will.
The formal of duty.


There are such ethical predispositions, that where a man has them not, neither can he be obliged to acquire them. These are—(1) the moral sense; (2) conscience; (3) love of our neighbour; and (4) reverence for one’s self. There can exist no obligation to endeavour to acquire these, because they are subjective conditions of man’s susceptibility for ethical conceptions, not objective grounds of morality. They Edition: current; Page: [216] are every one of them æsthetical, and given antecedently in the mind, as natural predispositions, fitting man for becoming a partaker of ethic notions,—predispositions given and subsisting in the substratum of his person, which therefore cannot be said to be any one’s duty to acquire; for it is first of all by these that he is rendered the subject of ethical obligement. Man’s consciousness of them is not originated by experience and observation, but they must be deemed the effects of the moral law itself upon the mind.

A. The moral sense. This feeling is the susceptibility for pleasure or displacency, upon the bare consciousness of the harmony or of the discrepancy of our actions with the law. All determination of choice whatsoever begins with the representation of the intended act, and passes through the feeling of pleasure or pain, by taking an interest in the act, or its ulterior end, and so becomes event; and this internal determination of the sensory (liking or disliking) is either a pathognomic or an ethical emotion: the former is that sensation of pleasure which may exist antecedently to the representation of the law; the latter is that complacency brought forth by its representation, and which can only follow after it.

Now there can be no duty either to have or to acquire any such feeling; for all consciousness of obligation presupposes it, and, apart from it, no man could feel the necessitation accompanying the idea Duty; and every one must, as a moral being, have such originarily within him: an obligement in regard to it can only ordain that this sensible effect of the law be cultivated and invigorated by the admiration of its unknown and inscrutable original, which can be effected by showing that this emotion, when separated from all admixture of pathognomic attractions, is then most enlivened by the naked energies of reason.

No man is destitute of this feeling; and were he deprived of all capacity for being thus affected, he would be ethically Edition: current; Page: [217] dead; and when, to speak in medical language, his moral vitality could no longer stimulate this feeling, then would his humanity be decomposed, and resolved into his animality, and he could not be distinguished from the common herd of brute natures. We have no specific and individual sense of moral good and evil, any more than we have a sense of truth, although such expressions are not unfrequently employed; but we have an original susceptibility for having our free choice impelled by pure practical reason and her law; and this it is which is termed the moral feeling.

B. Of conscience. Conscience is original, and no additamentum to our person; and there can be no duty to procure one; but every man has, as a moral being, a conscience. To be obliged to have a conscience, would be tantamount to saying, man stands under the obligation of acknowledging that he is obliged. Conscience is man’s practical reason, which does, in all circumstances, hold before him his law of duty, in order to absolve or to condemn him. It has accordingly no objective import; and refers only to the subject, affecting his moral sense by its own intrinsic action. The phenomenon of conscience is accordingly an inevitable event, and no obligement or duty; and when it is said in common parlance, that such a one has no conscience, that means merely that he disregards its dictates; for had he none in real fact, then he could impute to himself no action, as either conformable or repugnant to the law, and so would be unable to cogitate to himself the duty of having conscience.

Omitting all the various divisions of conscience, I remark merely that an erring conscience is a chimera; for although, in the objective judgment, whether or not anything be a duty, mankind may very easily go wrong,—yet, subjectively, whether I have compared an action with my practical (here judiciary) reason, for the behoof of such objective judgment, does not admit of any mistake; and if there were any, Edition: current; Page: [218] then would no practical judgment have been pronounced,—a case excluding alike the possibility of error or of truth. He who knows within himself that he has conducted himself agreeably to his conscience, has done all that can be demanded of him, relatively to guilt or innocence. His obligement can extend only to the illuminating his understanding as to what things are duty, what not. But when it comes to the act, or when a man has acted, conscience speaks inevitably. We cannot, for these reasons, say that man ought to obey his conscience; a case where he would require a supplemental conscience to control, and take cognisance of the acts of the first.

The only duty there is here room for, is to cultivate one’s conscience, and to quicken the attention due to the voice of a man’s inward monitor, and to strain every exertion (i.e., indirectly a duty) to procure obedience to what he says.

C. Love of our neighbour. Love is an affair of sentiment, not of will; and I cannot love when I will, and still less when I ought. A duty to love is therefore chimerical. Benevolence, however, considered as practical, may very well stand under a law of duty. Sometimes disinterested wishes for the good of our neighbour is called love; but this is improper. Sometimes even when the welfare of the other person is not concerned, but when we devotedly surrender all our ends to the ends of another (superhuman even), love is talked of, and said to be our duty; but all duty is necessitation, i.e., co-action, even where it is self-co-action, conformably to a law; but whatsoever is done by constraint and co-action, that is not performed out of love.

Acting beneficently to our fellows, according to our ability, is our duty, and that, too, whether we love them or not; and this duty loses nothing of its importance, even although we are forced to make the sad remark that our species is but Edition: current; Page: [219] little amiable when we come to know them better. Misanthropy is, however, at all times hateful, even when, shunning hostile actions, it merely induces the man-hater to isolate and separate himself from commerce with his kind. Beneficence is at all times incumbent upon us as a duty even toward a misanthrope, whom we cannot assuredly love, but towards whom we can deal kindly.

To hate the vices of other people is neither our duty nor the reverse, but simply the feeling of detestation for them; a sentiment unrelated, and standing in no connection to the will, and vice versa. Beneficence is a duty: he who is often engaged in the discharge of this duty, and beholds the success of his beneficent designs, comes in the end to love him whom he has benefited. When, therefore, it is said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, that is not to be understood, thou shalt first love thy neighbour, and then, by means of this love, act kindly towards him; but, contrariwise, do good to thy fellow-men, and this beneficence will work in thee philanthropy, i.e., a habitude or inclination to be beneficent.

Benevolent love is upon these accounts only indirectly a duty; but the love of complacency would be immediate and direct. To be constrained by duty to this is, however, a contradiction; for the pleasure of complacency is immediately attached to the perception of the existence of the beloved object; and to be obliged to be necessitated to this is absurd.

D. Of reverence. In like manner, reverence is somewhat altogether subjective, an emotion of its own kind,—no judgment referring to any object which might make it incumbent on us to produce and establish this emotion; for were this the case, such a duty could be represented only by the reverence felt towards it; and to say that it is our duty to have this reverence, would be tantamount to saying, we were obliged to an obligation. So that when it is said man ought to Edition: current; Page: [220] reverence himself, that is improperly said, and it should rather be thus couched, The law within him inevitably extorts reverence from him for his own being, and this peculiar and unique emotion, which is of its own kind, is the ground of certain duties, i.e., certain actions comporting with the duty owed by man to himself. But it is ill expressed to say, we have a duty of reverencing ourselves; for mankind must first of all revere the law, before he can so much as cogitate anything as his duty.


I. First: A single duty can rise upon only one ground of obligation; and when two or several arguments are adduced to support it, that indicates for certain, either that as yet no valid reason has been assigned, or else that they are several and distinct duties, which, by mistake, have come to be regarded as one.

For since every ethic argumentation is philosophical, it is a rational knowledge arising out of notions, and not as the mathematics are, raised upon the construction of notions. These last admit of several different demonstrations, because, in an à priori intuition, there may be given several determinations of the nature of an object, the whole of which carry the cogitation backwards to one and the same common ground. Put the case, that we wish to prove that veracity is a duty, and argue first from the detriment inflicted on others by the lie, and then support this argument by urging the internal vileness of the liar, and the violation of his own self-reverence,—and it is observable, that the first argument proves a duty of benevolence, not one of veracity, i.e., is no proof at all of the virtue desiderated. To flatter one’s self, that by adducing several bad arguments in support of one Edition: current; Page: [221] position, their number may make up what is wanting in their cogency, is a most unphilosophic stratagem, and betrays at once guile and dishonesty,—because a series of insufficient reasons, aggregated together, cannot eke out the certainty which each wants; nay, they do not even beget a probability amongst them,—and yet this is the common artifice of the rhetorician.

II. Secondly: The difference obtaining betwixt virtue and vice cannot be stated to consist in the grade of adhering to given maxims and rules of life; but must be sought for in their specific qualities, i.e., in their relation to the law: that is, in other words, the lauded principle of Aristotle is false: “Virtue is the mean betwixt extremes.” For instance, let frugality be taken as a mean betwixt the two vices, prodigality and avarice, and it is clear that its origin as a virtue cannot be explained by gradually decreasing and abating the first of these vices; neither can it by gradually enlarging the expenses of the miser,—these vices being incapable of being so taken, as if they came from diametrically opposite directions, and met in the point of frugality; but each vice has its own proper maxim, and these have qualities making them inconsistent with one another. Upon the same account, no vice can, generally speaking, be explained by saying that it is a practice carried to excess; as when it is said, Prodigality is excess in the consumption of wealth: nor yet, that it is a defect, or falling short in practice, Avarice is the failing to expend one’s wealth. For since the grade is here left undetermined, and yet everything is made to depend on this degree, whether conduct fall in with duty or otherwise, it is plain that such explanations can serve no purpose.

III. Thirdly: Duties are to be judged of, not by the power man attributes to himself of being able to fulfil them; but, contrariwise, his power is to be concluded upon Edition: current; Page: [222] from the law, which commands categorically; that is, we go, not by the experimental acquaintance taught us of mankind by observation, but by the intellectual apprehension we have of what we ought to be, as conformed to the idea of humanity. These three positions towards a scientific treatise on morals are pointed against these old apophthegms.

I. There is one only virtue, and one only vice.

II. Virtue is the keeping of the due mean betwixt extremes.

III. Virtue must, like prudence, be taught us by experience and observation.


Virtue signifies ethic strength of will; but this does not exhaust the whole notion of it: for a like strength may belong to a holy (superhuman) being, in whom no instinct reacts against the law, and who, therefore, executes the whole law willingly. Virtue is therefore the ethic strength of man in the fulfilment of his duty, a strength which is an ethical co-action, by force of one’s own legislative reason, so far forth as this last constitutes itself also at the same time the executive of the law. This ethico-active reason is not itself a duty, nor is it incumbent on us to procure it; but it announces its behest, and makes this commandment go hand in hand with an ethical co-action, possible according to laws of inward freedom; but because this co-action has to be irresistible, strength is indispensable, and the grade of this force can only be estimated by the magnitude of the obstacles springing from the person’s own appetites and instincts, and to which reason has to rise superior. Vice, the offspring of illicit passion, is the Hydra which man has to encounter and to overcome; upon which account this ethic strength, as valour (fortitudo moralis), constitutes the highest, and Edition: current; Page: [223] indeed the only martial glory of the brave; and this it is which has been rightly styled wisdom, because this wisdom makes her own the ends of man’s existence here below, and by possessing this alone, is any one rendered

Liber, pulcher, honoratus, Rex denique Regum,

and enabled to stand invincible against all assaults of chance or fate; because man cannot be shaken from his own self-possession, nor can the virtuous be stormed out of the inexpugnable fortress of his own virtue.

The encomiums passed upon the Ideal of Humanity in his ethical perfection are not in anywise invalidated by showing how contrary mankind are, have been, and very likely will be; nor can anthropology, which gives but a tentative and experimental knowledge of man, at all affect or impair that anthroponomy which is reared upon our unconditionately legislative reason; and although virtue may from time to time be well-deserving of our fellow-men (never in respect of the law), and may merit a reward, yet it ought to be considered, as it is, its own end, so also to be in itself its own reward.

Virtue represented in its entire perfection, is to be regarded as if it held possession of man, and not as if he had appropriated or were the proprietor of it; in which last case, it would seem as if man had the option to accept or to decline her, and so would need an interior virtue to induce him to make his election of the latter. To acknowledge several virtues, as we inevitably must, is merely to cogitate different moral objects, towards which the will is guided and led by the one and single principle of virtue; and the same remark holds of the contrary vices. Expressions which impersonate the one or other of them are æsthetic engines, which typify a moral import. An æsthetic of ethics is, by consequence, no part, but it is a subjective exposition, of the Edition: current; Page: [224] metaphysic of ethics; and such a Critique of moral taste would make sensible in outward delineation those emotions effected by the co-active force of the law upon the sensory. Horror, disgust, etc. etc., depict in lively and vivid colours the ethical antagonism of the will, and would aid in counteracting the false allurements of sensitive excitement.


This separation, obtaining betwixt the two main branches of Ethics, is grounded on this, that the idea Freedom, common to both these, renders necessary a distinction of duties into the offices of outward and those of inward liberty, whereof the latter alone are moral. Whence it results that we must now state some preparatory remarks on inward freedom as the condition precedent of all moral duty, exactly as we previously, in No. XII., held a preliminary discourse on conscience as the condition precedent of all obligement whatsoever.

Of Virtue according to the Principles of Inward Freedom.

Readiness or aptitude is a facility in acting in a particular way, and is a subjective perfection of choice; but every readiness of this sort is not necessarily a free or liberal facility; for when it degenerates into habit, i.e., when the uniformity of custom slides into mechanical necessity, by the too frequent iteration of an act, such inveterate aptitude is no product of freedom, and is by consequence no ethical facility; and this is the reason why virtue, as we have said, cannot be defined to be a readiness or facility in acting conformably to the law; although it might be so defined, were we to add that it was an aptitude of determining one’s self Edition: current; Page: [225] so to act by the representation of the law, for then the habitude would cease to be a quality of choice, and would become one of will, which is a function of desire, announcing law universal, by the maxims of conduct it adopts; and such a readiness alone can be deemed and taken for a part of a virtue.

This inward freedom demands two things: the first, that mankind, in any unforeseen emergency, remain master of himself; and, second, that he suffer not the empire of his own reason to be usurped by his appetites and passions. The state and tone of soul is, by such inward freedom, noble and erect; by the contrary, abject, servile.


Emotions and passions differ essentially: the former are seated in the sensory; and as these feelings are astir in the mind, prior to all thought and reflection, they hinder and obstruct the exercise of reason, or even render it for the time impossible. The emotions are often called transports or tempests of soul; and reason promulgates to us, by the idea Virtue, the law of self-command. However, imbecility in the exercise of reflection, coupled with the headlong impetuosity of emotion, is merely non-virtue. It is silly and childish, and is not inconsistent with a good will, and has this advantage peculiar to such a frame of mind, that the storm soon blows over: a propensity to an emotion, e.g., to wrath, is therefore not merely so much allied to vice as a passion and affection is. These last denote permanent states of desire; e.g., hatred, revenge, as contradistinguished from anger and wrath. The calm and composure wherewith mankind incline to those admit of reflection, forethought, Edition: current; Page: [226] and predetermination, and allow the mind to adopt maxims of conduct tending to the gratification of those affections; and so, by brooding over them, allow the hate to strike deep root; by all which, evil is deliberately determined on, which, as aggravated wickedness, is a true crime.

It results, therefore, that virtue, in so far as it depends upon man’s inward freedom, addresses to mankind an affirmative commandment, ordaining him to bring all his feelings and passions under the dominion and government of his reason—i.e., ordains self-command; and this it superadds to the prohibitive commandment the duty of apathy, whereby it ordains (negatively) man not to allow himself to have it lorded over him either by his appetites or instincts; for when reason does not take into her own hands the administration of self-government, those revolting, subject her to their thraldom.


The term apathy, as if it meant bluntness or want of feeling, i.e., listlessness or indifference in regard of the objects of choice, has fallen into bad repute. People have mistaken it for a weakness; a misunderstanding which may be obviated by denominating this dispassionateness, which has no common part with indifference, the ethic apathy, a freedom from passion, which takes place then only when the increasing reverence for the Law has so awed and ballasted the mind, that it ceases to tumble to and fro, and to be agitated by the storms and hurricane emotions which threaten to shipwreck its morality. It is but the seeming strength of one distempered, to allow one’s interest, even in what is good, to degenerate into passion. An affection of Edition: current; Page: [227] this kind is called enthusiasm, and so gives occasion for that just medium which is recommended even in the practice of virtue.

  • Insani Sapiens nomen ferat, æquus iniqui
  • Ultra quam satis est,” virtutem si petat ipsam.
  • Hor.

For it were ridiculous to fancy that any one could be too wise or too virtuous. An emotion is always of the sensory, by what object soever it may be excited. The true strength of virtue is the mind at tranquillity, established upon a well-pondered and steadfast determination to put the law into execution. This is the “health” of the ethic life. While, on the contrary, enthusiastic feelings, even when engendered by the representation of good, sparkle but with momentary lustre, and leave the mind chill and exhausted. He, again, might be called chimerically virtuous, who admits, in his system of morality, of no indifferent things, and who is beset at every step with duties strewed along his path, like spring-guns; and deems it of moment whether he dine on fish or fowl, whether he drink beer or wine, although they all agree alike well with his constitution. But if the doctrine of virtue were to deal with such infinitesimal duties, her empire would be transmuted to a tyranny.

Virtue is constantly progressive, and yet it has always to begin again, of new, from the beginning. The first part of this position results from this, that morality, considered objectively, is an ideal, and unattainable, although it is our incumbent duty to press with advancing footstep unremittingly toward it: the second, that virtue has always to start afresh, arises subjectively from its relation to the nature of man,—a nature ever lying so open to the perturbations of appetite and instinct, that virtue can, in its combat with them, never find a truce, but must infallibly, if she keep not herself in the van, and on the advance, be driven to the rear, and forced to retrograde: ethical maxims not being, like the Edition: current; Page: [228] technical, based on habit (which last refers to the physical part of voluntary determination)—so much so indeed, that were the exercise of virtue to become habit, the agent would thereby undergo the loss of freedom; which, however, is of the very essence of all actions performed out of duty.


The principle of subdividing ought to comprehend—

First, As to the formal of duty, all conditions serving to distinguish this part of general ethics from the science of law, a desideratum attained by the following: (1) That no moral duty admits of any outward legislation; (2) That while all duty, of whatever kind, must rest upon the law, yet, in morals, the commandment of duty ordains no given action, but only maxims and rules of life tending to given ends; (3) which follows from the second, That moral duty is of indeterminate, and never of strict obligation.

Second, As to its matter, Ethic has to be represented, not as a system of duties merely, but likewise as the system of the ends and scope of practical reason,—where man is shown as obliged to cogitate himself and all his fellow-men as his ends, which some moralists have talked of as duties of self-love, and of the love of our neighbour; but such expression is inaccurate, there being no direct obligation to “love” of any sort, although there are to such actions as state one’s self and others as their ends.

Thirdly, As for the distinction betwixt the form and the matter of morals (i.e., betwixt an action’s conformity to law and its conformity to its end), we have to remind the reader that not every ethical obligation is a moral duty; in other words, that reverence for law begets of itself no end which can be represented as a duty, this last alone being a moral duty. There is the one only ethical obligement, but Edition: current; Page: [229] several moral duties, there being many objects which for us are ends that we are obliged to propose to ourselves. There can, however, be but one ethical intent, as the inward ground of a man’s determination to fulfil his duty; an intention extending even to his juridical duties, though these last must not on this account be held or reputed moral duties. Every subdivision of morals will therefore have respect only to moral duties. The knowledge of the ground whereon the law has its ethical virtue to oblige the will, is the science of ethics itself, formally considered.

Remark.—But why, it will be asked, have I divided morals into an elementary and a methodic part, seeing this mode of division has been dispensed with in law? The reason is, because the former treats of duties of indeterminate obligation, the latter of those of strict; whence it happens, that the latter is in its nature rigid and precise, and requires, no more than the mathematics, general directions (a method) for judging, but shows its method to be true, by real fact and event. Moral Philosophy, on the contrary, on account of the latitude admissible in its duties of indeterminate obligation, conducts inevitably to questions, calling upon the judgment to determine what maxim ought to be applied in any given case; and this maxim may come attended by its secondary or subordinate maxim, of which last we equally demand a principle for applying it to different occurring cases. Thus morals fall into a sort of casuistry which law is quite ignorant of.

Casuistry is, then, neither a science nor a part of any science; for, were it scientific, it would be dogmatic: and it is not so much a method for finding truth, as a mere exercise of judgment in searching for it. Cases of casuistry are therefore interwoven, not systematically, but fragmentarily, into morals, and come in, under the form of scholia, as addenda to the system. But when it is no exercise of the judgment that engages us, but the exercise of reason itself, Edition: current; Page: [230] and that both in the theory and in the practice of her duty, then does this last belong appropriately to ethics, being the methodology of pure practical reason. Its methodic, in the first sort of exercise, viz., in the theory of its duty, is called didactics; and this last is either akroamatic or erotematic. The erotetic method is the art of interrogating out of the pupil the notions of duty he already is possessed of; and these his notions may be extracted by the question, either out of his memory or out of his reason: from his memory, when he has been previously taught how to answer, where the method is catechetic: from his reason, when it is fancied that what is asked him, lies, although latent, in his mind, and needs only to be developed; and this is the dialogic or socratic method.

To the didactics, as the method of theoretic exercise, corresponds, as antipart, the ascetic exercise, which is that part of the methodology, where it is taught not only how the notion Virtue, but likewise how man’s active and moral powers, his will, may be gymnasticized by the ascetic exercise, and cultivated.

Agreeably to these principles, we shall divide the whole system into two parts,—the Elementology and the Methodology of Ethics. Each part will have its chapters and divisions. In the former part, the order of the chapters will be regulated upon the diversity of the persons toward whom obligations may be constituted; in the second, upon the different ends reason ordains man to have, and according to his capacity for these ends.

XIX. The division established by practical reason toward an architectonic of the system of her ethical conceptions, may be regulated upon a twofold principle, either conjoined or separate: the one represents, materially, the subjective relation obtaining betwixt the obliged and the obligors; the Edition: current; Page: [231] other, formally, the objective relation obtaining betwixt ethic laws and the offices they enjoin. The first division proceeds upon that of the different living beings in relation to whom ethical obligement may be thought as subsisting; but the last would be the order of the conceptions of pure ethico-active reason, which conceptions correspond to each duty made imperative by reason, and belong to Ethics regarded barely as a science, and are therefore indispensable for the methodical contexture and arrangement of those propositions which the former division may throw into our hands.

The former division of morals, agreeably to difference of the persons, contains
Of man to mankind. Of man towards beings of another kind.
To himself. To others. Towards beings inferior to man. Towards superhuman beings.
The latter division of ethics, according to principles of a system of pure practical reason.
Elementology. Methodology.
Dogmatics. Casuistics. Didactics. Ascetics.

Which second division exhibits the form of the science, and must, as its ground-plan, go before the other.

Edition: current; Page: [232]



Sec. 1.—The Notion of a Duty owed by Mankind to himself appears at first sight to involve a contradiction.

WHEN the obligating “I” is taken in exactly the same sense with the “I” obliged, then undoubtedly duty owed to myself imports an absurdity: for the idea Duty brings along with it the notion of passive necessitation (I am obliged or beholden); whereas in a matter of debt owed to myself, I figure myself to be the obliger, that is, in a state of active necessitation (I, the very same person with the former, am the Obligor). And a position announcing a duty owed by mankind to himself (I ought to oblige myself), would state an obligement to become obliged, i.e., a passive obligation, which were, notwithstanding, at the same time and in the same terms, an active one; a statement repugnant to itself, and contradictory. The contradiction contained in such a proposition may be set under a yet clearer light, by showing that the author of the obligation could always grant a dispensation to the obliged from the obligement; that is, by consequence, when the Author and the Subject of the obligation are the same, then, in such case, the obliger would not be at all beholden to any duty Edition: current; Page: [233] imposed by him upon himself; and this, again, is just the contradiction above insisted on.

Sec. 2.—There are Duties owed by Man to himself.

For, put the case, that there were in effect no such self-incumbent duties, then would all other duties, even the outward ones, be abolished; for I only acknowledge myself beholden and obliged to others, so far forth as I at the same time, along with the other, put that obligation upon myself; the law, by dint whereof alone I can recognise myself to be obliged, emanating in every instance from my own practical reason. By this reason I am necessitated, and so am at the same time my own necessitator.*

Sec. 3.—Solution of this Apparent Antinomy.

Man regards himself, when conscious of a duty to himself, in a twofold capacity: first, as a sensible being, i.e., as a man, where he ranks only as one among other sorts of animals; but, second, he regards himself not only as an intelligent being, but as a very reason (for the theoretic function of reason may perhaps be a property of animated matter), resident in a region inscrutable to sense, and manifesting itself only in morally practical relations, where that amazing quality of man’s nature—freedom—is revealed by the influence reason exerts upon the determination of the will.

Mankind, then, as an intelligent physical being (homo phenomenon), is susceptible of voluntary determination to active conduct by the suggestions of his reason; but in all this the idea of obligation does not enter. The very same being, however, considered in respect of his personality (homo noumenon), i.e., cogitated as one invested with inward Edition: current; Page: [234] freedom, is a being capable of having obligation imposed upon him, and, in particular, of becoming obligated and beholden to himself, i.e., to the humanity subsisting in his person; and, so considered in this twofold character, mankind can acknowledge the obligations he stands under to himself, without incurring any contradiction, the notion man being now understood to be taken in a twofold sense.

Sec. 4.—On the Principle of subdividing the Duties owed by Man to himself.

This division can take place only according to the different objects incumbent on him, for there can be no room for it in respect of the self-obliging subject. The obliger and the obligated is always just one and the same person; and although we may theoretically distinguish betwixt man’s soul and his body, as distinct qualities of his system and known nature, yet it is quite disallowed to regard them as different substances, founding distinct obligations in respect of them, and so we cannot be entitled to divide our duties into those owed to the body, and those due to the soul. Neither experience nor the deductions of reason afford us any ground to hold that man has a soul (meaning by soul a spiritual substance dwelling in his material framework, distinct from the last, and independent of it); and we do not know whether life may or may not be a property of matter. However, even on the hypothesis that man had a soul, still a duty owed by man to his body (as the subject obliging) would be quite incogitable.

First. There can obtain, therefore, only one objective division, extending at once to the form and to the matter of the duties owed by man to himself,—the first whereof, the formal duties, are limitary or negative duties; the second, the material, are extensive and positive duties owed by man to himself. The former forbid mankind to act contrary to Edition: current; Page: [235] the ends and purposes of his being, and so concerns simply his ethical self-preservation; the latter ordain him to make a given object of choice his end, and command the perfecting of his own nature. Both these, as moral duties, are elements of virtue; the one as duties of omission (sustine et abstine), the other as duties of commission (viribus concessis utere). The first go to constitute man’s ethic health (ad esse), and to the preservation of the entireness of his system, both as objected to his exterior and to his interior senses (i.e., support his receptivity); the second constitute his ethic opulence (ad melius esse)—a wealth consisting in the possession of functions adapted for the realization of all ends, in so far as these powers and functions are matters of acquisition, and belong to self-culture as an active and attained perfection. The first principle of duty is couched in the adage, “Naturæ convenienter vive,i.e.,Maintain thyself in the original perfection of thy nature;” the second, in the position, “Perfice te ut finem, perfice te ut medium”—Study to perfect and advance thy being.

But second. There is, however, a subjective division of the duties owed by man to himself; that is, such a one, where mankind, the subject of the obligement, regards himself as an animal, though also at the same time moral being, or as a moral being singly.

Now, the instincts of man’s animal nature are threefold, viz. (1) the instinctive love of life, whereby nature preserves the individual; (2) that instinct whereby nature aims at the preservation of the kind; and (3), and lastly, those appetites of hunger and thirst which are intended for enlivening the frame,—keeping it fitted for its ends,—and at the same time for securing an agreeable, though only animal enjoyment of existence. The vices which are here subversive of the duty owed by man to himself, are (1) self-murder; (2) the unnatural use of the appetite for sex; (3) that excess in meat Edition: current; Page: [236] or drink which checks and lames the functions of the soul. As for the duty owed by man to himself as a moral being singly, it is formal, and consists in the coincidence of the maxims of his will with the dignity of the humanity subsisting in his person; by consequence, in the prohibition not to renounce the pre-eminence of his rank, which consists in his power of acting upon systematic principles and rules of life; that is, in the injunction not to despoil himself of his inward freedom,—that he become not thereby the toy and football of his own appetites and instincts, and so a mere thing. The vices subversive of this duty are lying, avarice, and spurious humility. These vices rest on maxims diametrically opposed, even already by their form, to the characters of mankind as a moral being; that is, they are formally repugnant to and subversive of the inborn dignity of man’s nature, his inward freedom, and make it, as it were, a man’s maxim to have none, and so no character; that is, to slattern himself down to zero, and so to sink beneath contempt. The virtue opposed to all these vices is self-reverence, and might be called the love of one’s own inward honour; a cast of thought having no common part with pride, which last is a love and ambition of outward honours, and may be, as it often is, abject and vile. This pride (superbia) is particularly treated of in the sequel, under this title, as a vice.

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Sec. 5.

The first if not chiefest duty incumbent upon mankind, in respect of his brute nature, is his self-conservation in his animal estate. The antipart of this obligation is the deliberate and forethought destruction of his animality; and this may be considered as either total or partial. The total we call self-murder; the partial, again, is either material or formal,—material, when a man bereaves himself of any integrant part or organ of his body, by demembration or mutilation; formal, when by excess man suffers himself to be bereft, for a while or for ever, of the use of the physical functions of his system, and so likewise indirectly of his ethic rationality, self-obstupefaction.

Sec. 6.—Of Self-murder.

The voluntary divestiture of man’s animal part can be called self-murder, only then when it is shown that such an act is criminal. A crime which may be perpetrated, either simply on our own person, or also at the same time and by consequence upon the person of another, e.g., as when one in pregnancy kills herself.

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Self-destruction is a crime—murder. Suicide may no doubt be considered as the transgression of the duty owed by any one to his fellow-men; as a violation of the conjugal obligations incumbent upon spouses; as a disregard of the duty owed by a subject to his government (the state); or, lastly, as a dereliction of one’s duty to God, the person quitting, without His permission, the post intrusted to him by God in the world. But none of these amount to the crime of murder; and the question at present to be considered is, whether or not deliberate self-destruction is a violation of man’s duty toward himself, even when abstraction is made from all those other considerations; that is, whether man ought to acknowledge himself beholden to the self-conservation of his animal part (nay, most strictly and exactly beholden so to act, and that too by force singly of his personality). That a man can injure himself, appears absurd (volenti non fit injuria); and this was the reason why the Stoics considered it to be a prerogative of the sage to walk with undisturbed soul out of life as out of a smoky room, not urged by any present or apprehended evils, but simply because he could no longer sustain with effect his part in life; and yet this very courage, this strength of soul to advance undauntedly to death, arguing his recognition of somewhat prized by him far higher than life, ought to have taught him not to despoil a being of existence possessing so mighty a mastery and control over the strongest forces in his physic system.

Mankind, so long as duty is at stake, cannot renounce his personality; that is, by consequence, never,—duty being always his incumbent debt; and it is a contradiction to hold that any one were entitled to withdraw himself from his obligations, and to act free, in such sense as to need no ground of warrant for his conduct. To abolish, then, in his own person the subject of morality, is tantamount to expunging Edition: current; Page: [239] with all his might the very being of morality from the world, which morality is, however, an end in itself. Whence we conclude, that to dispose of one’s life for some fancied end, is to degrade the humanity subsisting in his person (homo noumenon), and intrusted to him (homo phenomenon) to the end that he might uphold and preserve it.

For any one to deprive himself of an integral part of his frame, to dismember or mutilate his organs,—as when, for instance, any one sells or gifts a tooth to be transplanted into the jaw of another, or to submit to emasculation to gain an easier livelihood as a singer, and so on,—are acts of partial self-murder. The like observation, however, does not hold of the amputation of a decayed or mortified member, which it might be even dangerous to keep. Neither can we say that it is a violation of one’s person to remove what is a part and pertinent, but still no organ of the body, e.g., to cut one’s hair; but were this done with a view to making gain by the sale of one’s tresses, such an act could not be regarded as altogether devoid of blame.

Casuistics.—Is it self-murder to devote one’s self, like Curtius, to certain death for the liberation of his country? Is martyrdom—the deliberate offering of one’s self up for the benefit of mankind at large—capable of being regarded like the former, as a trait of a heroic character?

Is it allowed to anticipate an unjust sentence of death by suicide? Even were the sovereign to grant this permission, as Nero to Seneca?

Can we regard it as a crime, on the part of our late great monarch,* that he always bore about with him a poison, probably in order that if he should be taken in war, which he always carried on in person, he might not be compelled to accept conditions of ransom too burdensome to his country? Edition: current; Page: [240] A motive we are entitled to ascribe to him, as it is not likely he was impelled to it by mere arrogancy.

A patient, feeling decided symptoms of hydrophobia, after the bite of a mad dog, declared that as this complaint was incurable, he would destroy himself, lest, as he stated in his testament, he should, in a paroxysm of the disease, occasion some disaster to his fellow-men. It is demanded if he did wrong?

He who inoculates himself for smallpox, hazards his life on an uncertainty, even although he does so with a view to its more effectual preservation, and places himself in a much more ambiguous relation to the law, than the mariner, who does not excite the storm which he encounters, whereas this other is himself the cause of his running the risk of death. Is such inoculation lawful?

Sec. 7.—Of Self-defilement.

As the love of life is bestowed upon us for the preservation of our person, so the love of sex for the continuance of our kind. Either appetite is a last end purposed by nature; by end is to be understood that connection obtaining betwixt a cause and its effect, where the cause, although unintelligent, is nevertheless cogitated according to the analogy it bears to an understanding, that is, is spoken of and taken as if it intentionally and of design tended to the education of its own effect. In this way a question arises, if the power of propagating one’s species stands under a restrictive law; or if a person who exercises such a faculty may, without subverting any duty by doing so, overlook that end of nature, and employ his intersexual organs as the mere engine of brute pleasure.

In the elementary principles of law, we took occasion to show that mankind could not serve himself of the person of another, in order to this enjoyment, except subject to the Edition: current; Page: [241] limitary conditions of a particular legal contract (marriage), in which event two persons become mutually obliged to one another. But the question ethics undertakes is this, Whether there be or not a duty owed by man to himself, in respect of this appetite, the violation whereof attains (not merely degrades), the humanity inhabiting his person. The appetite itself is called lust, and the vice it gives birth to is called impurity. The virtue, again, raised upon this instinct of the sensory is termed chastity; and this chastity is now to be represented as a duty owed by man to himself. A lust is said to be unnatural, when a man is impelled to it, not by a real given matter objected to his sensory, but by the productive power of his imagination, depicting to him in fancy the object, contrary to the end aimed at by nature; for the power of appetition is then put into operation in such a manner as to evade or subvert the ends of nature; and, in truth, an end yet more important than the end proposed by nature in the instinctive love of life,—this tending only to the conservation of the individual, that to the upholding uninterrupted the succession of the species.

That this unnatural use (and so abuse) of one’s sexual organs is a violation, in the highest degree, of the duty owed by any to himself, is manifest to everybody; and is a thought so revolting, that even the naming this vice by its own name is regarded as a kind of immorality, which is not the case, however, with self-murder, which no one hesitates to detail in all its horrors, and publish to the world in specie facti; just as if mankind at large felt ashamed at knowing himself capable of an act sinking him so far beneath the brutes.

And yet, to prove upon grounds of reason the inadmissibility of that unnatural excess, and even the disallowedness of a mere irregular use of one’s sexual part, so far forth as they are violations (and in regard of the former, even in the highest possible degree) of the duty owed by man to himself, Edition: current; Page: [242] is a task of no slight or common difficulty. The ground of proving is to be sought, no doubt, in this, that man meanly abdicates his personality, when he attempts to employ himself as a bare means to satisfy a brutal lust. At the same time, the high and prodigious enormity of the violation perpetrated by man against the humanity subsisting in his person, by so unnatural and portentous a lust, which seems, as we have said, formally to transcend in magnitude the guilt of self-murder, remains unexplained upon this argument; unless, perhaps, it might be urged that the headlong obstinacy of the suicide, who casts away life as a burden, is no effeminate surrender to sensitive excitement, but shows valour, and so leaves ground for reverencing the humanity he represents; while this other resigns himself an abandoned outcast to brutality, enjoying his own self-abuse—that is, he makes himself an object of abomination, and stands bereft of all reverence of any kind.

Sec. 8.—Of Self-obstupefaction by Excessive Indulgence in Meats and Drinks.

The vice existing in this species of intemperance is not estimated by the prejudice or bodily pains mankind may entail upon himself as the sequents of his excess; for then we should regulate our judgment upon a principle of conveniency (i.e., on a system of eudaimonism), which, however, affords no ground of duty, but only of a dictate of expediency; at least such principle gives birth to no direct obligations.

The inordinate gratification of our bodily wants is that abuse of aliments which blunts the operations of the intellect: drunkenness and gluttony are the two vices falling under this head. The drunkard renounces, for the seductive goblet, that rationality which alone proclaims the superiority of his rank; and is, while in his state of intoxication, to be Edition: current; Page: [243] dealt with as a brute only, not as a person. The glutton, gorged with viands, blunts his powers for a while, and is incapacitated for such exercises as demand suppleness of body, or the reflections of the understanding. That the putting one’s self into such a situation is a grave violation of what a man owes to himself, is self-evident. The former state of degradation, abject even beneath the beasts, is commonly brought about by the excessive use of fermented liquors, or of stupefying drugs, such as opium, and other products of the vegetable kingdom; the betraying power whereof lies in this, that for a while a dreamy happiness, and freedom from solicitude, or perhaps a fancied fortitude, is begotten, which, after all, concludes in despondency and sadness, and so unawares, and by insensible and unsuspected steps, introduces the need and want to repeat and to augment the stupefying dose. Gluttony must be reputed still lower in the scale of animal enjoyment; for it is purely passive, and does not waken to life the energies of fancy,—a faculty susceptible for a long time of an active play of its perceptions during the obstupefaction of the former, upon which account gluttony is the more beastly vice.

Casuistics.—Can we, if not as the panegyrists, yet as the apologists of wine, accord to it a use bordering on intoxication, so far forth as it animates conversation, and combines the society by the frankness it produces? Can we, in any event, say of wine what Seneca has said when talking of Cato: Virtus ejus incaluit mero? But who is he who will assign a measure to one who stands on the brink of passing into a state, where all eyesight fails him to measure anything, nay, whose disposition is in full march to go beyond it? To employ opium or ardent spirits as instruments of one’s animal gratification, is very much akin to meanness; because these, by their soporific welfare, render the individual mute, reserved, and unsocial; upon which accounts it is that these Edition: current; Page: [244] are allowed only in medicine. Mahometanism has made but an injudicious selection, when it forbids wine, and allows the use of opium in its stead.

A banquet (Lord Mayor’s feast) is a formal invitation to a double intemperance in both kinds, although it has, over and above the stimulating of one’s physical existence, a reference to a moral end, viz., the advancing of man’s social intercourse with his species. Yet because, whenever the number of the guests exceeds, as Chesterfield says, the number of the muses, the very multitude obstructs the social exchange, and admits only the talking to one’s immediate neighbours,—i.e., since a feast is an institution subverting its own end,—it remains to be regarded only as a seduction to excess, i.e., to immorality, and to a violation of the duty owed by man to himself. To what extent is mankind ethically entitled to give ear to such invitations?


THIS duty is opposed to the vices of lying, avarice, and false humility.

Sec. 9.—Of Lying.

The highest violation of the duty owed by man to himself, considered as a moral being singly (owed to the humanity subsisting in his person), is a departure from truth, or lying. That every deliberate untruth in uttering one’s thoughts must bear this name in ethics, is of itself evident, although in law it was only styled fraud or falsehood when it violated Edition: current; Page: [245] the rights of others—ethics giving no title to vice on account of its harmlessness; for the dishonour (i.e., to be an object of ethical disdain) it entails, accompanies the liar like his shadow. A lie may be either external or internal: by means of the former he falls under the contempt of others; but by means of the latter, falls, which is much worse, under his own, and violates the dignity of humanity in his own person. We say nothing here of the damage he may occasion to other people, the damage being no characteristic of the vice; for it would then be turned into a violation of the duty owed to others: nor yet of the damage done by the liar to himself; for then the lie, as a mere error in prudence, would contradict only the hypothetical, not the categorical imperative, and could not be held as violating duty at all. A lie is the abandonment, and, as it were, the annihilation, of the dignity of a man. He who does not himself believe what he states to another person (were it but an ideal person), has a still less value than if he were a mere thing; for of the qualities of this last some use may be made, these being determinate and given; but for any one to communicate thoughts to another by words intended to convey the contrary of what the speaker really thinks, is an end subversive of the purpose and design for which nature endowed us with a faculty of interchanging thought, and is upon these accounts a renunciation of one’s personality, after which the liar goes about, not as truly a man, but as the deceptive appearance of one only. Veracity in one’s statements is called candour; if such statements contain promises, fidelity: both together make up what is called sincerity.

A lie, in the ethical signification of the word, considered as intentional falsehood, need not be prejudicial to others in order to be reprobated, for then it would be a violation of the rights of others. Levity, nay, even good-nature, may be its cause, or some good end may be aimed at by it. However, Edition: current; Page: [246] the giving way to such a thing is by its bare form a crime perpetrated by man against his own person, and a meanness, making a man contemptible in his own eyes.

The reality of many an inward lie, the guilt whereof man entails upon himself, is easily set forth; but to explain the possibility of such a thing is not so easy; and it looks like as if a second person were required, whom we intended to deceive, since deliberately to deceive one’s self sounds like a contradiction.

Man as a moral being (homo noumenon) cannot use himself as a physical being (homo phenomenon), as a mere instrument of speech, nowise connected with the internal end of communicating his thoughts; but he is bound to the condition, under his second point of view, of making his declaration harmonize with his inward man, and so is obliged to veracity towards himself. Mankind thus perverts himself, when he bubbles himself into the belief in a future judge, although he find none such within himself, in the persuasion that it can do no harm, but may, on the contrary, be of service, inwardly to confess such faith before the Searcher of his Heart, in order, in any event, to insinuate himself into His favour. Or otherwise, supposing him to entertain no doubts on this point, still he may flatter himself that he is an inward reverer of His law, although he knows no other incentive than the fear of hell.

Insincerity is just want of conscientiousness, i.e., of sincerity in a man’s avowals to his inward judge, cogitated as a person different from himself. To take this matter quite rigidly, this would be insincerity, to hold a wish framed by self-love for the deed, because the end aimed at by it is good; and the inward lie told by a man to himself, although a violation of his duty towards himself, commonly goes under the name of, and is taken for, a weakness, pretty much in the same way as the wish of a lover to find only good Edition: current; Page: [247] qualities in his adored, seals his eyes to her most glaring defects. However, this insincerity in the statements declared by man to himself, deserves the most serious reprehension; for, from this rotten spot (which seems to taint the vitals of humanity), the evil of insincerity spreads into one’s intercourse with one’s fellow-men, the maxim of truth being once broken up.

Remark.—It is exceedingly remarkable that holy writ dates the original of evil, not from the fratricide of Cain (against which nature revolts), but from the first lie; and states the author of all evil under the denomination of the Liar from the beginning, and the Father of lies; although reason can give no account of this proneness of mankind to hypocrisy; which deflective tendency must, however, have preceded man’s actual lapse, an act of freedom not admitting, as physical effects do, a deduction and explanation from the law of cause and effect, this last law referring singly to phenomena.

Casuistical Questions.—Are falsehoods out of pure politeness (the most obedient servant at the end of a letter), lying? No one is deceived by them. An author asks, “How do you like my new work?” Now the answer might be given illusorily, by jesting upon the captiousness of such a question; but who has wit enough always ready? The smallest tarrying in replying must of itself mortify the author. Is it, then, allowed to pay him compliments?

If I lie, in matters of importance, in the actual business of life, must I bear all the consequences resulting from my falsehood? One gives orders to his servant, if any call for him, to say he is not at home: the domestic does so, and becomes in this way the cause of his master’s finding opportunity to commit a crime, which would otherwise have been prevented by the messenger-at-arms, who came to execute his warrant. On whom, according to ethic principles, does the Edition: current; Page: [248] blame fall? Unquestionably, in part upon the servant, who violated by his lie a duty owed by him to himself, the consequences of which, also, will he imputed to him by his own conscience.

Sec. 10.—Of Avarice.

I understand in this chapter not rapacious avarice, the propensity to extend one’s gains beyond one’s needs, in order to sumptuous fare; but the avarice of hoarding, which, when sordid, makes a man a miser, not so much because it disregards the obligations of charity, as because it narrows and contracts the proper enjoyment of the goods of life within the measure of one’s real wants, and so is repugnant to the duty owed by man to himself.

It is in the exposition of this vice that we can best display the inaccuracy of all those accounts of virtue and vice which make them differ in “degree,” and show clearly at the same time the applicability of Aristotle’s famous principle, that virtue is the mean betwixt two extremes of vice.

Thus, when for instance I regard frugality as the mean betwixt prodigality and avarice, and state this medium as one of degree, then the one vice could not pass into its opposite and contrary (which, however, is not unfrequent), except by passing through the intermediate virtue, and in this way virtue would come to be a diminishing vice, i.e., a vice at its vanishing quantity; and the true inference from this would be, in the present instance, that the perfect point of moral duty would consist in making no use at all of the bounties of fortune.

Neither the measure nor the quantum of acting upon a maxim, but that maxim’s objective principle, is what constitutes the act a vice or a virtue. The maxim of the avaricious and rapacious prodigal is to accumulate wealth, in order that he may enjoy it; that of the sordidly avaricious, or Edition: current; Page: [249] miser, is, on the contrary, to acquire and to keep accumulated his wealth, where he makes the bare possession of it his end, and dispense with the enjoyment.

The peculiar characteristic of the miser is this, that he adopts the principle of hoarding up the means conducive to many ends, with the inward reservation, never to apply such means to their destined uses, and so to bereave himself of all the amenities and sweets of life; a maxim utterly subversive of the duty a man owes to himself. Profusion and hoarding, then, differ not in degree, but they are specifically distinct in respect of their contrary and inconsistent maxims.1

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Casuistical Question.—Since we treat here only of duties owed to one’s self, and rapacious avarice (insatiable cupidity of wealth), and the avarice of hoarding, rest on the common ground of self-love, and seem both objectionable, merely because they conclude in poverty, in the case of the former, issuing in unexpected, in that of the latter, in a voluntary indigence (by force of the determination to live in poverty)—since, I say, all this is the case, the question might be raised, if they are either of them at all vices, and not rather mere imprudences, and so not falling within the sphere of the duties owed by man to himself; but the sordid avarice is not a mere misunderstood economy,—it is an abject and servile enthralling of a man’s self to the dominion of money, and is a submitting to cease to be its master, which is a violation of the duty owed by man to himself: it is the opposite of that generous liberality of sentiment (not of munificent liberality, which is no more than a particular case of the former) which determines to shake itself free from every consideration whatever, the law alone excepted, and is a defraudation committed by man against himself. And yet, what kind of law is that, whereof the very inward legislator knows not the application? Ought I to retrench the outlays of my table, or the expenses of my dress? Should I in youth, or in my old age? Or is there, generally speaking, any such virtue as that of thrift?

Sec. 11.—Of False and Spurious Humility.

Man, as a part of the physical system (homo phenomenon, animal rationale), is an animal of very little moment, and has but a common value with beasts, and the other products of the soil. Even that he is superior to those by force of his understanding, gives him only a higher external value in exchange, when brought to the market along with other cattle, and sold as wares.

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But man considered as a person, i.e., as the subject of ethico-active reason, is exalted beyond all price; for as such (homo noumenon), he cannot be taken for a bare means, conducive either to his own or to other persons’ ends, but must be esteemed an end in himself; that is to say, he is invested with an internal dignity (an absolute worth), in name of which he extorts reverence for his person from every other finite Intelligent throughout the universe, and is entitled to compare himself with all such, and to deem himself their equal.

The humanity of our common nature is the object of that reverence exigible by each man from his fellow, which reverence, however, he must study not to forfeit. He may, and indeed he ought, to estimate himself by a measure at once great and small, according as he contemplates his physical existence as an animal, or his cogitable being, according to the ethical substratum of his nature. Again, since he has to consider himself not merely as a person, but also as a man, that is, as such a person as has imposed upon him duties put upon him by his own reason, his insignificance as an animal ought neither to impair nor affect his consciousness of his dignity as a rational, and he ought not to forget his ethical self-reverence springing from his latter nature; that is to say, he ought not to pursue those ends which are his duties servilely, or as if he sought for the favour of any other person: he ought not to renounce his dignity, but always to uphold, in its integrity, his consciousness of the loftiness of the ethical substratum of his nature; and this self-reverence is a duty owed by man to himself.

The consciousness and feeling of one’s little worth, when compared with the law, is ethical humility: the over-persuasion that a man has a great deal of moral worth, owing only to his neglecting to quadrate himself with the law, is ethical arrogancy, and might be called self-righteousness. Edition: current; Page: [252] But to renounce all claim to any moral worth, in the hope of thereby acquiring a borrowed and another, is false ethical humility, and may be called spiritual hypocrisy.

Humility, understood as a low opinion of one’s self, when compared with other persons, is no duty (nor, generally speaking, in comparison with any finite being, although a seraph): the active endeavour, in such comparison, to find one’s self equal or superior to others, in the imagination of thereby augmenting his inward worth, is ambition,—a vice diametrically opposed to the duty we owe to others; but the studied declinature of all one’s proper ethic worth, considered as a mean for ingratiating one’s self into the favour of another (be that other who he may), is false and counterfeit humility—(hypocrisy, flattery)—and a degradation of one’s personality, subverting the duty he owes to himself.

Upon an exact and sincere comparison of a man’s self with the moral law (its holiness and rigour), true humility must infallibly result; but from the very circumstance that we can know ourselves capable of such an inward legislation, and that the physical man finds himself compelled to stand in awe of the ethical man in his own person, there results also at the same time a feeling of exaltation, and the highest possible self-estimation, as the consciousness of one’s inward worth, by force of which he is raised far beyond all price, and sees himself invested with an inalienable dignity, inspiring him with reverence for himself.

Sec. 12.

This duty, in respect of the dignity of our humanity, can be rendered more sensible by such precepts as the following.

Become not the slaves of other men. Suffer not thy rights to be trampled under foot by others with impunity. Make no debts thou mayest be unable to discharge. Receive no Edition: current; Page: [253] favours thou canst dispense with, and be neither parasites nor flatterers nor—for they differ but in degree—beggars. Live, then, frugally, lest one day thou come to beggary. Howling and groaning, nay, a mere scream at a bodily pain, is beneath thy dignity as a man, more especially when conscious that thou hast thyself merited it. Hence the ennoblement of (averting of ignominy from) the death of a malefactor, by the constancy with which he meets his fate. To kneel or prostrate thyself upon the earth, in order to depicture in a more lively image to thy fancy thy adoration of celestial objects, derogates from thy dignity as a man; as does also the worshipping of them by images: for then thou humblest thyself, not before an ideal, the handiwork of thy reason, but beneath an idol, the workmanship of thy hands.

Casuistics.—Is not the elation of mind in self-reverence, considered as a consciousness of the lofty destiny of man, too much akin to arrogance, i.e., to self-conceit, to make it advisable to summon up to it, not only in respect of the moral law, but even in respect of other men? or would not self-denial in this particular invite others to despise our person, and so be a violation of what is due by man to himself? Fawning and scraping to another is in any event unworthy of a man.

Are not the different styles of address, and the especial marks of respect, denoting, with such painful anxiety, difference of rank in society,—all which differs widely from politeness, a thing indispensable for mutually reverencing one another,—the thou, he, they, your high wisdom, your reverence, etc. etc., in which pedantry the Germans go beyond all nations on the earth, the Indian castes alone excepted,—are not, I say, these proofs of a widely-spread tendency among mankind to false and spurious humility? (hæ nugæ in seria ducunt.)—However, he who first makes himself a worm, does not complain when he is trampled under foot.

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Sec. 13.

The idea Duty always involves and presents to the mind that of necessitation by law (law being an ethical imperative limiting our freedom), and belongs to our moral understanding which prescribes the rule. The inward imputation of an act, however, as of an event falling under the law, belongs to the judgment, which being the subjective principle of the imputation of an act, utters its verdict whether or not any given deed (i.e., act subsumible under law) has been done or not, after which reason pronounces sentence, i.e., connects the act with its legal consequences, and so absolves or condemns; all which is carried on before a court of justice, as if in the presence of an ethical person sitting to give effect to the law. The consciousness of an internal tribunal in man, before which his thoughts accuse or excuse him, is what is called Conscience.

Every man has Conscience, and finds himself inspected by an inward censor, by whom he is threatened and kept in awe (reverence mingled with dread); and this power watching over the law, is nothing arbitrarily (optionally) adopted by himself, but is interwoven with his substance. It follows him like his shadow, however he may try to flee from it. He may indeed deafen himself by pleasure or by business, or he may lull himself into a lethargy; but this is only for a while, and he must inevitably come now and then to himself: nor can he hinder himself from ever and anon awakening, whereupon he hears his dreadful and appalling voice. In the last stage of reprobation man may indeed have ceased to heed him, but not to hear him, is impossible.

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This originary intellectual and ethical (for it refers to duty) disposition of our nature, called conscience, has this peculiarity, that although this whole matter is an affair of man with himself, he notwithstanding finds his reason constrained to carry on the suit, as if it were at the instigation of another person; for the procedure is the conduct of a cause before a court. Now, that he who is the accused by his conscience should be figured to be just the same person as his judge, is an absurd representation of a tribunal; since in such event the accuser would always lose his suit. Conscience must therefore represent to itself always some one other than itself as judge, unless it is to arrive at a contradiction with itself. This other may be either a real—or an ideal person the product of reason.*

Such an ideal person, authorized to sit as judge in the court of conscience, must be a searcher of the heart, for the tribunal is erected in the interior of man. Further, he must hold all-obligatory power, i.e., be such a person, or Edition: current; Page: [256] at least be figured as if he were a person, in respect of whom all duty may be represented as his commandments, because conscience is judge over all free actions. Lastly, he must have all power (in heaven and in earth) to absolve and to condemn, these properties being of the very essence of the functions of a judge: apart from his being endowed wherewith, he could give no effect to the law. But since he who searches the heart, and, having all-obligatory power, is able to absolve and condemn, is called God, it follows that conscience must be regarded as a subjective principle implanted in the reason of man, calling for an account of every action before God. Nay, this notion of responsibility is at all times involved, however darkly, in every act of moral self-consciousness.

This is not by any means to say that man is entitled, and still less that he is bound, to believe in, as real, any such Supreme Being, answering to the idea, to which conscience inevitably points; for the idea is given him not objectively by speculative reason, but subjectively only, by practical reason obliging itself to act conformably to this representation. And mankind is, by means of this idea, but merely from its analogy to that of a sovereign lawgiver of the universe, led to figure to himself conscientiousness (in the old language of the empire, religio), as a responsibility owed to a most holy being, different from ourselves, and yet most intimately present to our substance (moral legislative reason), and to submit ourselves to His will as if it were a law of righteousness. The notion of religion in genere is therefore just this, that it is a principle of esteeming of all our duties as if they were divine commandments.

1. In an affair of conscience, man figures to himself a preadmonitory or warning conscience before he decides on acting; and here the minutest scruple, when it refers to an idea of duty (somewhat in itself moral), and over which conscience Edition: current; Page: [257] is the alone judge, is of weight, nor is it ever regarded as a trifle; nor can what would be a real transgression be declared, according to the saying of minima non curat prætor, a bagatelle or peccadillo, and so left for an arbitrary and random determination. Hence, having a large conscience is the same with having none.

2. As soon as an act is determined on and completed, the accuser immediately presents himself in the court of conscience, and along with him there appears a defender, and the suit is never decided amicably, but according to the rigour of the law. After which follows—

3. The sentence of conscience upon the man, either absolving or condemning, which concludes the cause. As to which final judgment, we remark that the former sentence never decrees a reward as the gaining of something which was not there before, but leaves room only for satisfaction at escaping condemnation. The bliss, therefore, announced by the consoling voice of conscience is not positive (as joy), but only negative (tranquillization after previous apprehension); a blessedness capable of being ascribed to virtue only, as a warfare with the influences of the evil principle in man.

Sec. 14.—The first commandment of all Duties owed by Man to himself.

This is, know thyself, not after thy physical perfection, but after thy ethical, in reference to thy duty. Search, try thy heart, whether it be good or evil, whether the springs of thy conduct be pure or impure; and how much, either as originally belonging to thy substance or as acquired by thee, may be imputable to thy account, and may go to make up thy moral state.

This self-examination, which seeks to fathom the scarcely penetrable abysses of the human heart, and the self-knowledge springing from it, is the beginning of all human wisdom. Edition: current; Page: [258] For this wisdom, which consists in the accordance of the will of an Intelligent with the last end of his existence, requires in man, first, that he disembarrass himself of an inward impediment (an evil will, nestled in his person); and second, the unremitted effort to develop his originary inamissible substratum for a good one. Only the Avernan descent of self-knowledge paves a way to self-apotheosis.

Sec. 15.

This ethical self-knowledge guards, first, against the fanatical detestation of one’s self as a man, and against a disdain of the whole human race in general. It is only by force of the glorious substratum for morality within us—which substratum it is that renders man venerable—that we are enabled to find any man despicable, or to hand ourselves over to our own contempt, when seen to fall short of this august standard; an ethical disregard attaching to this or that man singly, never to humanity in general. And then it guards, secondly, against the fond and fatal self-delusion of taking a bare wish, however ardent, for any index of a good heart; and obviates irregular self-estimation. Even prayer is no more than a wish, inwardly uttered in the presence of a Searcher of the Heart. Impartiality, in judging of ourselves, when compared with the law, and sincerity in a man’s own self-confession of his own inward ethical worth or unworth, are the duties owed by man to himself, immediately founded on this first commandment of self-knowledge.


Sec. 16.—Of an Amphiboly of the Reflex Moral Notions; whereby Mankind is led to regard what is only a Duty to wards himself, as if it were a Duty owed by him to others.

To judge on grounds of naked reason, man has no duties imposed upon him, except those owed by him to humanity Edition: current; Page: [259] in general (himself or others); for his obligement towards any person imports ethical necessitation by that person’s will. The necessitating (obliging) subject must then, in every instance, be, first, a person; and must, second, be a person presented to our knowledge in experience and observation; for, since man has to work towards the end of that person’s will, this is a relation possible only betwixt two given existing beings, no imaginary or barely cogitable persons becoming the final cause and scope of any one’s actions. But experience and observation teach a knowledge of no other being, except our fellow-men, capable of obligation, whether active or passive. Mankind can, therefore, have no duty toward any being other than his fellow-men, and when he figures to himself that there are such, this arises singly from an amphiboly of his reflex moral notions; and this fancied duty owed by him to others is no more than a duty to himself, he being misled to this misunderstanding by confounding what is duty to himself in regard of other beings, with a duty toward those others.

This fancied duty may extend, either to impersonals, or if to personal, yet to invisible beings, not presented to our sensory. The former will be either the physical matter of the universe, or else its organized but impercipient products; or, lastly, that part of nature which we see endowed with choice, motion, and perception (1. minerals, 2. plants, 3. animals). The latter will have a reference to superhuman beings, cogitated as spiritual substances (God, angels). And we now ask, does there obtain, betwixt these different kinds of beings and man, any relation of duty? and if so, what is the nature and extent of this obligation?

Sec. 17.

In regard of the beautiful but lifeless objects in nature, to indulge a propensity to destroy them, is subversive of the Edition: current; Page: [260] duty owed by man to himself. For this spirit of destruction lays waste that feeling in man, which, though not itself ethical, is yet akin to it, and aids and supports, or even prepares a way for a determination of the sensory, not unfavourable to morality, viz., the emotion of disinterested complacency in somewhat quite apart from any view of its utility, e.g., as when we find delight in contemplating a fine crystallization, or the unutterable beauties of the vegetable kingdom.

In regard of the animated but irrational part of the creation, it is undoubted that a savage and cruel treatment of them is yet more inly repugnant to what man owes to himself; for it blunts and obtunds our natural sympathy with their pangs, and so lays waste, gradually, the physical principle which is of service to morality, and assists greatly the discharge of our duty towards other men. But to kill them or to set them on work not beyond their strength (which labour man himself must undertake), is in nowise disallowed; although to torture them, with a view to recondite experiments subserving a mere speculation, which could be dispensed with, is detestable. Nay, gratitude for the services of an old horse or house-dog is indirectly, a duty, namely, an indirect duty in regard of these animals; for, directly, it is no more than what a man owes to himself.

Sec. 18.

In regard of a Being transcending all bounds of knowledge, but whose existence is notwithstanding given to us in idea, viz., the Godhead, we have in like manner a duty called religion, which is the duty of recognising all our duties as if they were divine commandments. But this is not the consciousness of a duty toward God. For since this idea rises singly upon our own reason, and is made by ourselves for the behoof of explaining theoretically the symmetry and fitness of means to ends observed in the fabric of the universe, Edition: current; Page: [261] or practically to give added force to the mainspring of action, it is manifest that we have nowhat given, toward whom an obligation could be constituted; and his reality would first need to be established by experience (or revealed). And the duty we have here is to apply this indispensable idea of reason to the moral law within us, where it proves of the greatest ethical fertility. In this practical sense it may be asserted, that to have religion is a duty owed by man to himself.


Sec. 19.—Of the Duty owed by him to himself of advancing his Physical Perfection.

The culture of all the different resources of mind, soul, and body, as means conducive to many ends, is a duty owed by man to himself. Man owes it to himself as a reasonable being, not to allow to go to rust and lie dormant the latent energies and native elements of his system, whereof his reason might one day make use. And even were he to rest contented with the measure of talent nature had endowed him with as his birthright, still it ought to be upon grounds of reason, that he should instruct such a remaining satisfied without so moderate a share of capacity; for, being a person capable of designing ends, or of proposing himself to others as an end, he ought to stand indebted for the development and amelioration of his powers, not to any physical instinct of his system, but to his own liberty, whereby he freely Edition: current; Page: [262] decides how far he will carry them. This duty, then, is altogether independent on any advantages the culture of his faculties as means to ends may procure to him,—for perhaps the advantage, according to Rousseau’s views, might lie in the uncultivated roughness of a savage life,—but is founded on a commandment of ethico-active reason, and a duty imposed on man by himself to advance and ameliorate the condition of his humanity, according to the diversity of the ends assigned him, and to make himself, in a practical point of view, adapted to the final destinies of his being.

Powers of mind we call those faculties whose exercise is possible by force of reason singly. They are creative, so far forth as their use is independent on experience and observation, and rests on principles à priori. Some of their products are, the mathematics, logic, and metaphysic of ethics, which two last fall under the head of philosophy, viz., the speculative philosophy, where this word is taken, not to signify wisdom, as it ought to do, but only science; which last, however, may be subservient to advancing the ends of practical wisdom.

Powers of soul, again, are those which stand at the command of the understanding, and of the rule this last prescribes in order to attain the end it designs, and so depend to a certain extent on observation and experience. Instances of such powers are, memory, imagination, and the like, from which learning, taste, the graces of outward and inward accomplishments take their rise, and which can be employed as instrumental to a vast variety of ends.

Lastly, the culture of our bodily powers (gymnastic properly so called) is the caring for the stuff and materials of the man, apart from which instrument and engine his ends could not be exerted into acts; consequently, the intentional and regular revivifying of man’s animal part is a duty owed by mankind to himself.

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Sec. 20.

Which of these natural perfections may be the more eligible, and in what proportion, when compared with the remainder, it may be his duty to design them as his ends, must be left to the private reflection of each individual, who will decide according to his taste for this or that kind of life, and according to the estimate he may make of his ability, whether he should follow some handicraft, or a mercantile employment, or become a member of a learned profession. Because, over and above the necessity man stands in of providing for his livelihood, a necessity which never can of itself beget any obligation, it is a duty owed by man to himself to make himself of use to the world; this belonging to the worth of the humanity he represents, and which, therefore, he ought not to degrade.

But this duty owed by man to himself in regard of his physical perfection, is only of indeterminate obligation. Because the law ordains only the maxims of the action, not the act itself; and, in regard of this last, determines neither its kind nor its degree, but leaves a vast latitude for man’s free choice to roam or settle in.

Sec. 21.—Of the Duty owed by Man to himself of advancing his Ethical Perfection.

This consists, first of all, subjectively, in the purity of his moral sentiments, where, freed from all admixture of sensitive excitement, the law is itself alone the spring of conduct; and actions are not only conformable to what is duty, but are performed because it is so, — Be ye holy is here the commandment; and, second, objectively, consists in attaining his whole and entire moral end, i.e., the execution of his whole duty, and the final reaching of the goal placed before him as his mark,—the commandment here is Edition: current; Page: [264] Be ye perfect. The endeavour after this end is, in the case of mankind, never more than an advancement from one grade of ethical perfection to another. If there be any virtue, if there be any praise, that study and pursue.

Sec. 22.

The duty towards one’s self is, in its quality, determinate and strict; but in degree it is of indeterminate obligation, and that on account of the frailty of human nature; for that perfection which it is our constant and incumbent duty to pursue, but never (at least in this life) to attain, and the obeying which can by consequence consist only in urging after it with an unfaltering and progressive step, is no doubt, in regard of the object (the idea to realize which is end), determinate, strict, and given; but in regard of the subject, is but a duty of indeterminate obligation owed by mankind to himself.

The depths of the human heart are inscrutable. Who has such an exact of self-knowledge as to be able to say, when he feels the impelling force of duty, that the mobile of his will is swayed singly by the naked idea of the law, and to declare that other sensitive excitements may not work alongside of it and pollute it,—such as by-views of advantage, or of avoiding harm?—considerations which on occasion might serve the turn of vice. Again, as for that perfection which concerns the accomplishment of one’s end, there can, it is true, be only one virtue objectively in idea,—the ethical strength of one’s practical principles; but subjectively, in point of real fact and event, a vast number of virtues, of the most heterogeneous nature, amongst which it is not impossible some vice may lurk, although it escapes observation, and is not so called, on account of the virtues in whose company it appears. But a sum of virtues, the completeness or defects of which no self-knowledge can accurately detect, can Edition: current; Page: [265] beget only an indeterminate obligation to perfect our moral nature.

Whence we conclude, that all the moral duties, in respect of the ends of the humanity subsisting in our person, are duties of indeterminate obligation only.

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Sec. 23.

THE principal division of these obligations may be made into such duties as oblige our fellow-men, when we discharge them; and second, into those which, when observed, entail upon the other no obligation of any sort. To fulfil the former is, in respect of others, meritorious; to fulfil the latter, of debt only. Love and reverence are the emotions which go hand in hand with our discharge of these two kinds of offices. These emotions may be considered separately, and in practice they may subsist, each for itself and apart from the other. Love of our neighbour may take place even while he deserves but little reverence; as, on the contrary, reverence is due to every man, although deemed hardly worth our love. But, properly speaking, they are at bottom inseparably united by the law, in every duty owed by us, to our neighbour; but this in such a manner, that sometimes the one emotion is the leading principle of the duty of the person, along with which the Edition: current; Page: [267] other follows as its accessory. Thus we regard ourselves obliged to benefit the poor; but because this favour would imply his dependence for his welfare on my generosity, a case which would be humiliating for the other, it becomes my further duty so to behave to him who accepts my gift, as to represent this benefit either as a bare incumbent duty upon my part, or as a trifling mark of friendship, and to spare the other such humiliation, and to uphold his self-reverence in its integrity.

Sec. 24.

When we speak, not of laws of nature, but of laws of duty as regulating the external relation of man to man, we then regard ourselves in a cogitable ethic world, where, by analogy to the physical system, the combination of Intelligents is figured to be effected by the joint action and reaction of attractive and repellant forces. By the principle of mutual love, they are destined for ever to approach, and by that of reverence, to preserve their due elongation from one another; and were either of these mighty moral principles to be suspended, the moral system could not be upheld, and, unable to sustain itself against its own fury, would retrovert to chaos.

Sec. 25.

But love must not be here understood to mean an emotion of complacency in the perfection of other people, there being no obligation to entertain feelings; but this love must be understood as the practical maxim of goodwill issuing in beneficence as its result.

The same remark holds of the reverence to be demonstrated towards others, which cannot be understood simply to mean a feeling emerging from contrasting our own worth with that of another,—such as a child may feel for its Edition: current; Page: [268] parents, a pupil for his ward, or an inferior for his superior in rank,—but must be taken to mean the practical maxim of circumscribing our own self-esteem, by the representation of the dignity of the humanity resident in the person of another—that is, a practical reverence.

This duty of the free reverence owed to other men is properly negative only, viz., not to exalt ourselves above others. It is in this way analogous to the juridical duty “to do no wrong,” and so might be taken for a strict and determinate obligation; but, regarded as a moral duty, and a branch of the offices of charity, it is a duty of indeterminate obligation.

The duty of loving my neighbour may be thus expressed,—that it is the duty of making my own the ends and interests of others, in so far as these ends are not immoral. The duty of reverencing my neighbour is expressed in the formula, to lower no man to be a bare means instrumental towards the attaining my own ends, i.e., not to expect from any man that he should abase himself to be the footstool of my views.

By discharging the former duty, I at the same time oblige the other; I make myself well-deserving of him. But by the observance of the latter, I oblige only myself, and keep myself within my own bounds, so as not to withdraw from the other any of that worth he is entitled as a man to put upon himself.

Sec. 26.—Of Philanthropy in general.

The love of our fellow-men must, because we understand by it practical benevolence, be understood, not as a love of complacency in our species, but as a maxim actively to befriend them. He who takes delight in the welfare of his fellows, considered merely as belonging to his own species, is a philanthropist,—a Friend of Mankind in general. He who alone finds delight in the misery and Edition: current; Page: [269] woes of his neighbour, is a misanthrope. An egotist is he who beholds with indifference the good or the bad fortunes of his neighbour. While that person who shuns society because he is unable to regard his fellows with complacency, although he wishes them all well, would be an æsthetic misanthrope; and his aversion from his kind might be called anthropophoby.

Sec. 27.

Whether mankind be found worthy of love or not, a practical principle of goodwill (active philanthropy) is a duty mutually owed by all men to one another, according to the ethical precept of perfection, Love thy neighbour as thyself; for every ethical relation obtaining between man and man is a relation subsisting in the representation of pure reason, i.e., is a relation of mankind’s free actions, according to maxims potentially fit for law universal, which maxims can therefore, in no event, be founded on an emotion of selfishness. The constitution of my nature forces me to desire and will every other person’s benevolence; wherefore, conversely, I am beholden to entertain goodwill towards others; but, again, because all others, except myself, are not all mankind, a maxim expressing my active goodwill towards all others would want the absolute universality whereby alone the law has ethical virtue to oblige; consequently the ethical law of benevolence must include my own person likewise with others, as the object of the commandment announced by practical reason;—which is not to say, that I thereby become obliged to love myself, such self-love obtaining of its own accord, and inevitably, but states, that legislative reason, which embraces in its idea of humanity the whole race (i.e., me likewise), includes in its universal legislation myself likewise, under the duty of reciprocal benevolence; and so renders it allowed for me to wish Edition: current; Page: [270] well to myself, under the condition that I cherish goodwill towards every other person; my maxim being thus alone fitted for law universal, whereon is based every law of duty whatsoever.

Sec. 28.

The goodwill expressed in universal philanthropy is extensively the greatest possible, but intensively (in degree) the most contracted; and to say of any one that he is interested in the welfare of his neighbour, as a general philanthropist is to say that the interest he takes in him is just the smallest possible,—he is merely not indifferent.

But of my fellows, one stands nearer to me than another; and, so far as goodwill is concerned, I am nearest to myself: how does this harmonize with the formula, “Love thy neighbour as thyself? If one is more my neighbour (nearer to me in the obligation of benevolence) than another, and I thus am bound to more benevolence toward one person than toward another, and am, moreover, nearer to myself than to any other person; then it would appear that it cannot without contradiction be asserted that I ought to love all others as myself,—this measure, self-love, admitting no difference of degree. The smallest reflection, however, shows that the benevolence here intended is not a bare wish, which last is properly an acquiescence in the happiness of my neighbour, while I myself contribute nothing towards it, according to the adage, “Every one for himself, God for us all;” but that we have to understand an active practical beneficence, which makes the welfare of others its end: and so in wishes I may have an equal kind intent to all, while actively the degree may be carried to any extent or measure, according to the difference of the beloved persons, some of whom may stand nearer to me than others, and all this without violating the absolute universality of the maxim.

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Sec. 29.

A.: Of the Duty of Beneficence.

To enjoy the bounties of fortune, so far as may be needful to find life agreeable, and to take care of one’s animal part, but short of effeminacy and luxury, is a duty incumbent on us to ourselves; the contrary of which would be, sottishly to deprive one’s self of the bounties of fortune,—either out of avarice, servilely, or out of an outrageous discipline of one’s natural appetities, fanatically,—things both of which are repugnant to the duty owed by mankind to himself.

But how comes it that, over and above the benevolent wish, which costs me nothing, my fellows are entitled to expect that this wish should become practical, and be exerted into action,—that is, how can we evince that beneficence is due to the necessitous, from him who is possessed of means empowering him to become kind? Benevolence or goodwill is the pleasure we take in the prosperity and happiness of our neighbour: beneficence, again, would be the maxim to make that happiness our end; and the duty to do so is necessitation by the subject’s own reason, to adopt this maxim as his universal law.

It is by no means evident that any such law is originated by reason; on the contrary, it would seem that the maxim, “Every one for himself, God for us all,” were far more natural.

Sec. 30.

To deal kindly toward our brethren of mankind who are in distress, without hoping for anything in return, and to aid them in extricating themselves out of it, is a mutual duty incumbent on us all.

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For every one who himself is in difficulties, desires to be aided by other men; but if, on the contrary, he were to make the rule general, not to succour others when distressed, then would every one refuse, or at least be entitled, when such a law were announced as of catholic extent, to refuse to him all assistance; that is, a selfish principle of this kind would, when elevated to the rank of law universal, be self-contradictory and self-destructive, that is, would be contrary to duty; whence, conversely, we hold the social principle of mutual and joint assistance to one another in case of need a universal duty owed by man to man; for, as fellow-beings, i.e., necessitous (by the finite constitution of their natures), they ought to consider themselves as stationed in this one dwelling to be fellow-workers to one another.

Sec. 31.

Beneficence, where a man is rich, i.e., enjoys the means of happiness to superfluity and beyond his own wants, is to be looked upon by the benefactor, not even as a meritorious duty, although his neighbour be obliged by it. The pleasure which he procures to himself, and which, after all, costs him no sacrifice, is a kind of moral luxury. He must, likewise, studiously avoid all appearance of intending to oblige the other by this means, because, otherwise, it would not be truly a benefit done to, but an obligation thrust upon his neighbour, to come under which must needs make the latter stand a grade lower in his own eyes. He ought rather so to carry himself, as if he were the obliged and honoured by his neighbour’s acceptance of his kindness; that is, he ought so to figure to himself, and so to represent the favour, as if it were of mere debt, and rather, when possible, exercise his good deeds quite in private. This virtue might deserve a yet greater name, when the ability to give benefits is curtailed, and the soul of the benefactor is so strong as to take Edition: current; Page: [273] upon himself, in silence, the evils which he spares the other from undergoing; a case where he must be deemed ethically wealthy.

Casuistics.—How far ought the outlay expended by any one in deeds of charity to be carried? Surely not till we ourselves came to stand in need of our friends’ generosity? What may a benefit be worth, offered to us by a dead hand in his testament? Does he who uses the right conferred upon him by the law of the land, of robbing some one of his freedom, and then making the other happy, according to his own notions of enjoyment,—can, I say, such a man be regarded as a benefactor, in consequence of the parental care he may take of his slave’s welfare? or is not the unrighteousness of bereaving any one of his freedom so grave a violation of the rights of man, that all the advantages his master could bestow would cease to deserve the name of kindness? or can he become so well-deserving of his slave by kindness, as to counteract and redeem the violation committed by him against his slave’s person? It is impossible that I can act kindly toward any other (infants and madmen excepted) by force of my idea of his happiness, but only by studying his ideas of welfare, to whom I wish to exhibit my affection, no kindness being truly shown when I thrust upon him a present without his will.

Sec. 32.

B.: Of the Duty of Gratitude.

Gratitude is the venerating of another on account of a benefit we have received from him: the sentiment or emotion which goes hand in hand with such a judgment is that of reverence toward the benefactor we are beholden to; whereas this other stands toward the receiver in the relationship of love. A mere heartfelt, generous goodwill toward another, for a kindness shown us, even apart from any Edition: current; Page: [274] demonstrated regard, deserves the name of a moral duty; and this would indicate a distinction betwixt an affectionate gratitude and an active thankfulness for a favour.

Gratitude is a duty, i.e., not a mere maxim of prudence, to engage my benefactor to yet greater degrees of kindness, by professing my obligation for what he has already done; for that would be to use him as a means toward my by-ends; but gratitude is immediately made necessary by the moral law, i.e., it is a duty.

But gratitude must be regarded still further as a sacred duty, i.e., as such a duty, which to violate, would be to extinguish the moral principles of benevolence, even in their source; for that ethical object is sacred and holy, in regard of whom the obligation can never be adequately acquitted and discharged (that is, where the person who is indebted must always stand under the obligation). All other is only ordinary and vulgar duty. But there is no retribution which can acquit a person of a conferred benefit, the benefactor having always the good desert of being first in the benevolence, an advantage which the receiver cannot take away However, even without any active returns, a bare cordial goodwill toward the benefactor is of itself a kind of gratitude; in this state of mind, we say that a person is grateful.

Sec. 33.

As for the extent of gratitude, it is not by any means confined to contemporaries, but goes back to our ancestors, even to those whom we cannot certainly name. And this is the reason why it is considered indecorous not to defend the ancients as much as possible against all attacks, invective, and slights—the ancients being here considered as our teachers; although it were a ridiculous opinion to grant to them any superiority over the moderns, merely on account of their antiquity, either in their talents or in their kind Edition: current; Page: [275] intentions toward humanity, and to disregard what is new, in comparison of what is old, as if the world were continually declining from its primitive perfection.

Sec. 34.

But as to the intensity of this duty, i.e., the degree in which we may be obliged to this virtue, that is to be estimated by the advantage we have derived from the benefit, and the disinterestedness which prompted the benefactor to bestow it on us, the least degree of gratitude would be, when our benefactor is alive, to repay to him the identic service performed for us, or, when he is no more, to show like services to others. In all which, we must take good heed not to regard the benefit as a burden we would willingly be rid of and discharge, but rather to hold and to accept of the occasion as an ethical advantage, i.e., as an opportunity afforded us to exercise and practise this virtue of gratitude, which does, by combining the ardour of benevolence with its tenderness (perpetual unremitted attention to the minutest shades of this duty), invigorate the growth of philanthropy.

C.: Of the Duty of Sympathy.

To have a fellow-feeling with the joys and sorrows of our friends, is no doubt a physical emotion only; and is an æsthetic susceptibility of pleasure or pain, on perceiving these states obtain in another. There arises, however, from this disposition of our nature, a particular, but only conditionate duty, called humanity, to cultivate and employ these physical springs as means of advancing an effective and rational benevolence. The duty is called humanity, man being now regarded, not as a reasonable being, but as an animal endowed with reason. This sympathy may be regarded either as seated in the will and the ability to communicate to one another what we feel, or as seated in that physical susceptibility, Edition: current; Page: [276] which nature has implanted in us, for feeling in common the delights or misery of our neighbour. The former is free or liberal, and depends on practical reason; the second is unfree and illiberal, as in pity, and may be called contagious,—like a susceptibility for heat or for distempers. The obligation extends to the former only.

It was a lofty cogitation of the Stoic sages when they said, I would wish I had a friend, not to assist me in poverty, sickness, captivity, and so on, but whom I might be able to assist and rescue; and yet this very Sage again thus speaks, when the case of his friend is gone past remedy—What concern is it of mine? i.e., he rejected pity.

And, in truth, when another suffers, and I allow myself to be infected by his sorrow, which, however, I cannot mitigate nor avert, then two persons suffer, although naturally the evil affects one singly; and it is quite inconceivable that it can be any one’s duty to augment the physical evils in the world; and consequently there can be no obligation to act kindly out of pity. There is likewise an offensive variety of this pity called mercy, by which is meant that kind of benevolence shown to the unworthy; but such an expression of benevolence ought never to take place betwixt man and man, no one being entitled to boast of his worthiness to be happy.

Sec. 35.

But although it is no direct duty to take a part in the joy or grief of others, yet to take an active part in their lot is; and so by consequence an indirect duty, to cultivate the sympathetic affections, and to make them serve as instruments enabling us to discharge the offices of a humane mind, upon ethical principles. Thus it is a duty not to avoid the receptacles of the poor, in order to save ourselves an unpleasant feeling, but rather to seek them out. Neither ought we to desert the chambers of the sick nor the cells of the debtor, Edition: current; Page: [277] in order to escape the painful sympathy we might be unable to repress, this emotion being a spring implanted in us by nature, prompting to the discharge of duties, which the naked representations of reason might be unable to accomplish.

Casuistical Question.—Would it not be better for the world if all morality and obligation were restricted to the forensic duties, and charity left among the adiaphora? It is not easy to foresee what effect such a rule might have on human happiness. But, in this event, the world would want its highest ethical decoration—charity—which does by itself alone, even abstractedly from all its advantages, represent the world as one fair moral whole.


Sec. 36.

These vices form the detestable family of envy, ingratitude, and malice; but the hate is in these vices not open and violent, but veiled and secret; and so, to the forgetfulness of one’s duty toward one’s neighbour, superadds meanness, that is, a violation of what a man owes to himself.

A. Envy is the propensity to perceive the welfare of our neighbour with a grudge, even though our own happiness does not suffer by it; and, when it rises to the extreme of tempting any one actively to diminish his neighbour’s happiness, is the highest and most aggravated kind of envy, although otherwise it is most commonly no more than jealousy, and is only indirectly a wicked sentiment, viz., an ill-will at finding our own happiness cast into the shade by the surpassing prosperity of our neighbour; and is a displeasure arising from not knowing how to estimate our own Edition: current; Page: [278] advantages by their own intrinsic worth, but singly by comparing them with those enjoyed by others: from hence come the expressions, the enviable concord and happiness of a married pair, or of a family, just as if these were cases where it were quite allowed to envy. The movements of envy are implanted in the human heart, and it is only their utterance which can raise it to the shocking and disgraceful spectacle of a peevish, self-tormenting passion, which aims, in its inward wish, at the destruction and ruin of the good fortune of another,—a vice alike contrary to what is due from us to our neighbour and to ourselves.

B. Ingratitude towards one’s benefactor is, according to the common judgment of mankind, one of the most odious and hateful vices; and yet our species is so notorious for it, that every one holds it for likely that he may create himself enemies by his benefits. The ground of the possibility of such a vice lies in the misunderstood duty owed to one’s self, not to come to need, or to summon up, others to assist us, which lays us under obligation to them; but rather to support alone the calamities of life, than to pester our friends with them, and so to stand in their debt, which places us to others in the relation of clients to a patron, a state subversive of a man’s proper self-estimation. And this is the reason why gratitude to those who have been by necessity before us and our antecessors, is always generously expressed,—but scantily to our contemporaries; or why even sometimes we invert the latter relation, and show the contrary of gratitude, to make insensible the unequal obligation. However, this is a vice at which humanity always revolts, not only on account of the prejudice which such an example must entail, by deterring mankind from benevolence (for this benevolence would, when the ethic sentiment is pure, be only so much the more worth, when disdaining even this hope of recompense), but because the duties of philanthropy are inverted, Edition: current; Page: [279] and the want of love is transmuted to a title to hate those by whom we have been first beloved.

C. Malice is the exact counterpart of sympathy, and denotes joy at the sorrow of another; nor is it any stranger to our frame; but it is only when it goes so far as to do ill, or to assist the miscreant in executing his nefarious designs, that it appears in all its horrors, and presents the finished form of misanthropy, or the hatred of our species. It is quite inevitable, by the laws of imagination, not to feel more vividly our own welfare or good deportment, when the miseries or the scandalous behaviour of others serve as a foil to set off the brighter hues of our own state; but to find immediate joy in the existence of such portentous disasters as subvert the general welfare of our kind, or to wish that such enormities should happen, is an inward hate of mankind, and the veriest antipart of the offices of charity which are incumbent on us. The insolence of some upon uninterrupted prosperity, and their arrogancy upon their good deportment (properly upon their good fortune to have escaped seduction to any public vice), both which advantages the selfish imputes to himself as his deserts, are the causes productive of this miserable joy on their reverse of fortune,—a joy quite opposed to the sympathetic maxim of honest Chremes: “I am a man, and I take an interest in all that relates to mankind.

Of this joy in the misery of another, there is a sort which is at once the sweetest, and which seems even to rest on some title of justice, nay, where it would appear that we stood under an obligation to pursue the misery of another as our end, abstracting from all views of our own advantage; and that is the case of the desire for vengeance.

Every act violating the rights of man deserves punishment, by which the sufferer is not only indemnified, but where the crime itself is avenged upon the transgressor. Punishment, however, is no act emanating from the private authority of Edition: current; Page: [280] the injured, but from that of a tribunal different from himself, which gives effect to the Laws of a Sovereign to whom all are subject; so that when we consider mankind as in a society (as Ethic demands of us) combined, not by civil laws, but by laws of reason singly, it remains that no one can be entitled to discern a punishment, and to avenge the insults received from mankind, except He who is the Supreme moral Lawgiver; and He alone, i.e., God, can say, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” Upon this account it is a moral duty, not only not to pursue with avenging hatred the aggressions of another, but even not to summon up the Judge of the World to Vengeance,—partly because man has himself so much guilt as to stand too much in need of pardon, and also partly and principally because no vengeance or punishment ought to be inflicted out of hatred. Placability is therefore a duty owed by man to man, which, however, is not to be confounded with a soft tolerance of injuries. This last consists in abstaining from employing rigorous means to obviate the continued provocations offered us by others; and would be an abandonment of one’s rights, and a violation of the duty owed by man to himself.

Remark.—All those vices which make human nature hateful when they are practised upon system, are objectively inhuman; but, subjectively, experience teaches us that they belong to our species. So that though some people may, from their extreme horror of them, have called such vices devilish, and the opposite virtues angelic, yet such notions express only a maximum, used as a standard in order to compare the particular grade of morality an action has, by assigning to man his place in heaven or in hell, without allowing a middle station betwixt either for him to occupy. Whether Haller has hit it better, when he speaks of man being an ambiguous mongrel betwixt angel and brute, I shall here leave undecided; but to halve or strike averages when Edition: current; Page: [281] comparing heterogeneous things, gives birth to no definite conception; and nothing can assist us in classifying beings according to the unknown differences of their ranks. The first division into angelic virtues and devilish vices is exaggerated,—the second is objectionable; for though mankind do, alas! sometimes fall into brutal vices, yet that is no ground for assigning to their vices a root peculiar to our species, as little as the stunting of some trees in the forest justifies us in taking them for a particular kind of shrub.


Moderation in one’s pretensions, i.e., the voluntary circumscription of a man’s own self-love by the self-love of others is modesty or discreetness. The want of this moderation in regard of the demands we make to be loved by others, is self-love; but this indiscreetness in pretending to the consideration of others, is self-conceit. The reverence I entertain toward any one, or that observance which another may demand from me, is the recognition and acknowledgment of a dignity in the person of another; i.e., of a worth exalted beyond all price, and admitting no equivalent, in exchange for which the object of my estimation could be bartered. The judgment that somewhat is possessed of no worth at all, is contempt.

Sec. 38.

Every man may justly pretend to be reverenced by his fellows, and he ought in turn to accord to them his. Humanity is itself a Dignity; for no man can be employed, Edition: current; Page: [282] neither by others nor by himself, as a mere instrument, but is always to be regarded as an end; in which point, in fact, his Dignity, i.e., his Personality, consists, and where he stands pre-eminent over all other creatures in the world,—not of his kind, and which yet may be used, and stand at his command. And as he cannot dispose of himself for any price (which would be subversive of his own self-reverence), neither is he at liberty to derogate from the equally necessary self-reverence of others as men, i.e., he is obliged practically to recognise the dignity of every other man’s Humanity, and so stands under a duty based on that reverential observance, which is necessarily to be demonstrated towards every other person.

Sec. 39.

To despise others, i.e., to refuse them that reverence we owe to mankind at large, is, in any event, contrary to duty: to think but little of them, when compared with others, is sometimes inevitable; but externally to demonstrate such disregard, is at all times offensive. What thing soever is dangerous is no object of disregard, and consequently the vicious is not so; and if my superiority to his attacks should authorize me to say I despise him, the only meaning such words can have is, that there is no danger to be apprehended from him, even though I take no precautions, because he shows himself in his full deformity. Nevertheless, I am not entitled to refuse, even to the vicious, all consideration in his capacity as a man, this last being inalienable, although the other make himself unworthy of it. Hence it comes that some punishments are to be reprobated, as dishonouring Humanity (such are drawing and quartering, to be devoured by wild beasts, demembration of the eyes and ears), which are often more grievous to the unhappy sufferer than the loss of goods and life, on account of the afflicting degradation they Edition: current; Page: [283] import (and impending his pretending to the reverence of others, which indeed every man must do); and they also make the spectator blush, to know that he belongs to a race which some dare to treat in such a manner.

Note.—Upon this is founded a duty of reverence for man, even in the logical use of reason; viz., not to reprehend his blunders under the name of absurdities, not to say that they are inept, but rather to suppose that there must be something true at bottom in them, and to endeavour to find out what this is; to which would be attached the still further duty of exerting ourselves to discover the false appearance by which the other was misled (i.e., the subjective of the judgment, which by mistake was taken for objective), and thus, by explaining to him the ground of his error, to uphold for him his reverence for his own understanding. And truly, when we deny all sense to an adversary, how can we expect to convince him that he is in the wrong? The same remark holds of the reproach of vice, which ought never to be allowed to rise to a complete contempt of the vicious, so as to refuse him all moral worth; this being a hypothesis according to which he never could redintegrate his moral character,—a statement repugnant to the very idea of a man, who being, as such, a moral being, can never lose the ordinary substratum for a good will.

Sec. 40.

Reverence for law, which subjectively was styled the moral sense, is identic with what is called the sense of duty; and this is the reason why the demonstration of reverence toward mankind as a moral agent (highly venerating the Law) is a duty owed by others towards him, and, in his case, a right which he cannot abdicate. The standing upon this right is called the love of honour, and the expression of it, in one’s external conduct, is decorum,—the infraction whereof is Edition: current; Page: [284] what is called “scandal,” and is a disregard of this right, which may be followed as an example by others, whence it is highly reprehensible to give any such; although, to take such scandal at what is merely paradoxical and a mere deviation from the common fashion, is a mere fantastic whim mistaking the uncommon for the disallowed, and an error highly prejudicial and perilous to virtue. For the reverence due to others, who display by their conduct an example, ought never to degenerate into a mere servile copying of their manners (which would be to raise a custom into the authority of a law), a tyranny of the popular use and wont, altogether subversive of the duty owed by man to himself.

Sec. 41.

To omit the offices of charity is merely non-virtue (a fault); but to neglect the duties founded on the incumbent reverence due to every man whatsoever, is a vice. When the first are disregarded, no one is offended; but by the breach of the latter, the just rights of mankind are affected: the one is merely negative of virtue; but that which not only is no moral acquisition, but which abolishes that worth which ought otherwise to belong to the subject, is vice. Upon this account, the duties owed toward one’s neighbour in respect of the reverence he is entitled to challenge, admit of a negative enunciation only; i.e., this moral duty is expressed indirectly, by forbidding its opposite.

Sec. 42.—Of the Vice subversive of the Reverence owed by us to others.

These Vices are: A. Pride; B. Backbiting; C. Sneering.

Pride (superbia), i.e., the thirst to be always uppermost, is a kind of ambition, where we impute to others that they will think meanly of themselves when contrasted with us, Edition: current; Page: [285] and is a vice subverting that reverence for which every man has a legal claim.

Pride differs entirely from “fierté,” considered as a love of honour, i.e., care to abate nothing of one’s dignity as a man when compared with others; and which fierté is on that account often spoken of as noble, for the proud demands from others a reverence which he refuses to return them. But this fierté becomes faulty, and even insulting, when it presumes that others will occupy themselves with its importance.

That pride is unjust is manifest of itself; for it is a courting of followers by the ambitious, whom he deems himself entitled to handle contemptuously, and so is repugnant to the reverence due to humanity in general. It is also folly, since it uses means to attain somewhat as an end, which is nowise worth being followed as such. Nay, it is even stupidity, i.e., an insult upon common sense, to use such means as must produce directly the contrary effect; since every man refuses his reverence to the proud, the more the haughty endeavours after it. But it is perhaps not quite so obvious that the proud is always, at the bottom of his soul, mean and abject; for he never could impute to others that they would think lightly of themselves in comparison with him, were he not inwardly conscious that, on a reverse of fortune, he would have no difficulty to sneak in his turn, and to renounce every pretension to be reverenced by others.

Sec. 43.—B. Detraction.

To speak evil of one’s neighbour, or backbiting,—by which I do not mean calumny, a verbal injury which might be prosecuted before a court of justice, but by which I understand the appetite (apart from any particular purpose) to spread about reports to the disparagement of the reverence due to others,—is contrary to the reverence owed to mankind in general; because every scandal we give weakens this Edition: current; Page: [286] reverence, on which emotion, however, depends the spring toward the moral good, and in fact tends to make people disbelieve in its existence.

The studied and wilful propagation of anywhat impeaching the honour of another (not made judicially before a court), even allowing it were quite true, diminishes the reverence due to mankind at large, and goes to throw upon our species a shadow of worthlessness, and tends finally to make misanthropy or contempt the ruling cast of thinking, which mankind entertain for one another, and blunts away the moral sense, by habituating the person to the contemplation of scenes and anecdotes of his neighbour’s vileness. It is, therefore, a duty, instead of a malignant joy, in exposing the faults of others, so as thereby to establish one’s self in the opinion of being as good, at least not worse than others, to cast, on the contrary, a veil of charity over the faults of others, not merely by softening our judgments, but by altogether suppressing them; because examples of reverence bestowed on others may excite the endeavour to deserve it. Upon this selfsame account, the spying and prying into the customs and manners of others is an insulting pretext to a knowledge of the world and of mankind, against which every man may justly set himself, as violating the reverence due him.

Sec. 44.—C. Scorn.

The propensity to exhibit others as objects of ridicule, sneering (persiflage), i.e., the making the faults of others the immediate object of one’s amusement, is wickedness, and quite different from jesting, where, amid familiar friends, certain peculiarities of one of their number are laughed at, but not to scorn; but to exhibit, as the object of ridicule, one’s real faults, or, still more, alleged faults, as were they real, with the intent of depriving any one of the reverence due to his person, and the propensity to do so by biting Edition: current; Page: [287] sarcasm, is a sort of diabolic pleasure, and is so much the graver violation of the duty of reverence owed toward other people.

Contradistinguished from this, is the jocose retortion, nay, even the sarcastic retortion, of the insolent attacks of an adversary, where the sneerer (or generally a malicious but impotent antagonist) is sneered down in return, and is a just defence of that reverence we are entitled to exact from the other. But when the topic is no object of wit, and one in which reason takes an ethical interest, then it is better, no matter how much soever the adversary may have sneered, and so have exposed many points for ridicule and sarcasm, and is also more conformable to the dignity of the matter, and to the reverence due toward humanity, either to make no defence at all against the attack, or otherwise to conduct it with dignity and seriousness.

Note.—It will be observed that in the foregoing chapter it is not virtues that are insisted on, but rather the contrary vices which have been represented; and this arises from the very notion of reverence, which, as we are bound to demonstrate it towards others, is but a negative duty singly: I am not obliged to revere others (regarded simply as men), i.e., to pay them positive veneration. The whole reverence to which I am naturally beholden is toward the law; to observe which law and its reverence, in my intercourse with my fellow-men, is a universal and unconditionate duty, although it is not to entertain positive reverence toward other men in general, nor to bestow upon them any such; whereas the other, viz., the negative, is the originary reverence owed to and challengeable from whomsoever. The reverence to be demonstrated to others according to their different qualities and various accidental relations, such as age, sex, descent, strength, or fragility, and those things which mainly rest on arbitrary institutions, cannot be expounded at length, nor Edition: current; Page: [288] classed in the metaphysic principles of ethics, since here we study singly the pure principles of reason.


Sec. 45.—Of the Ethical Duties owed by Mankind toward one another in regard of their State and Condition.

This chapter, consisting of a single paragraph, is omitted as immaterial.



Sec. 46.—Of the intimate Blending of Love with Reverence in Friendship.

Friendship, regarded in its perfection, is the union of two persons by mutual equal love and reverence. It is then an ideal of sympathy and of fellow-feeling, in weal or woe, betwixt the reciprocally united by their ethical goodwill; and if it do not effectuate the whole happiness of life, still the adopting such a double of goodwill into both their sentiments comprehends in it a worthiness to become so; whence it results, that to seek friendship is a duty.

But although friendship, as a maximum of reciprocal kind intent, is no vulgar and common, but an honourable duty, proposed to us by reason, still it is easy to see that an entire friendship is a naked although a practically necessary idea, and unattainable in any given circumstances. For how can any man exactly measure and adjust the due proportion Edition: current; Page: [289] obtaining between the duty of Reverence and that of Love toward his friend? For, should the one party become more fervent in love, then he must dread lest he sink upon that very account in the reverence of the other. How can it, then, be reasonably expected that both the friends should bring into a due equipoise that love and esteem which are required to constitute this virtue? The one principle is attractive, the other repellent; so that the former ordains approximation, while the latter demands that a decorous distance be maintained, a limitation of intimacy expressed in the well-known rule, “that even the very best friends must not make themselves too familiar;” and which conveys a maxim, valid not only for the superior towards the inferior, but also vice versa; for the superior finds his dignity encroached on unadvisedly, and might perhaps willingly wish the reverence of his inferior suspended for the instant, but never abrogated, which, if once injured, is irrecoverably gone for ever, even though the old ceremonial be re-established on the former footing.

Friendship, therefore, in its purity and entirety, figured to be attainable, as between Orestes and Pylades, Theseus and Pirithous, is the hobby of novel-writers; whereas Aristotle has said, “Alas! my friends, there is no friendship.” The following remarks may serve to point out the difficulties encumbering it.

Viewed ethically, it is doubtless a duty that one friend make the other aware of his faults, for that is for his good, and so is one of the offices of charity; but his other half discovers in this a want of reverence, and fears that he has already sunk in this esteem, or at least is apprehensive, since he is scrutinized and censured, that this danger is close at hand; nay, that he is watched and observed by his friend, appears to him already akin to insult.

A friend in need, how desirable is he not? that is, when he is an active friend, ready to help out of his own resources Edition: current; Page: [290] and exertion. It is, however, a grievous burden to be chained to the destiny of another, and to go laden with a foreign sorrow. Upon this account, friendship is not a union intended for mutual and reciprocal advantage; but this union must be purely moral; and the assistance either may count upon from the other in case of need, cannot be held the end and motive towards it, for then the one party would forfeit the reverence of the other: this help can only be understood to signify and denote the outward mark of their inward hearty goodwill, without ever suffering it to be put to trial, which is dangerous, — each friend magnanimously endeavouring to spare his counterpart any burden, and not only to support it all alone himself, but, further, altogether to hide and conceal it from his view, while he at the same time can always flatter himself that in an exigency he could confidently call for aid on the other. But when the one accepts a benefit from the other, then he may count on an equality in their love, but not in their reverence; for he plainly stands one grade lower, being indebted and unable to oblige in return.

Friendship is, on account of the sweetness of the sensation arising from the mutual possession of one another, approaching indeed almost to a melting together, somewhat so exceedingly tender, that when it is hung upon feelings, it is not secure a single instant from interruption, but demands for its guard that the mutual surrender and confidence be conducted upon principles or firm rules, circumscribing love by demands of reverence. Such interruptions are frequent among the uneducated, which yet do not produce any rupture (for biting and scratching is common folks’ wooing); they cannot let each other alone, and yet cannot bring themselves into harmony, the very rupture being wanted to sustain the intimacy, and give a relish to the sweetness of reconciliation. At all events, the love of friendship cannot be impassioned; for this is blind, and in the sequel evaporates.

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Sec. 47.

Moral friendship, as contradistinguished from the æsthetical, is the entire confidence of two people, who reciprocally impart to one another their private opinions and emotions, so far as such surrender can consist with the reverence due from one to the other.

Man is destined for society, although in part unsocial; and in his progress through life he feels the mighty need to confide himself to others, and that without having any further end in view. On the other hand he is warned to fear the misuse others might make of this disclosure of his sentiments, and so sees himself compelled to lock up within himself a good deal of the judgments he forms, particularly with regard to other men. He would fain converse with others relative to their opinions of the government, religion, and what they think of the society he mixes in; but he dare not hazard it, for others, by cautiously concealing their sentiments, might employ his to his disadvantage. he would willingly unbosom to another his wants, defects, errors, and faults; but he must dread that that other would conceal his, and that he might forfeit that other’s reverence, were he to disclose his situation candidly.

So that if he find a man who has good sentiments and understanding, and to whom he can open up his heart unreservedly, without apprehending that danger, and who generally falls in with his way of thinking, then he may give vent to his thoughts. He is no longer alone, imprisoned with his opinions, but goes forth to enjoy freedom, which he is precluded from, amidst the great mass of people. Every one has secrets, and dare not blindly intrust himself to others, partly owing to the ignoble cast of thinking of the most, who would abuse the secret against his interest, and partly owing to the want of understanding of many, i.e., Edition: current; Page: [292] their indiscretion, and being unable to discriminate betwixt what things are fit to be repeated, and what not. Now, it is exceedingly seldom we find those qualities together in the same Subject, especially since friendship demands that this intelligent and intimate friend deem himself obliged not to communicate the secret he has been intrusted with to any other, how trustworthy soever he may think him, at least without the consent of the other.

Notwithstanding all this, the pure moral friendship is no ideal, but is to be found extant here and there, in its perfection. But that intermeddling friendship which molests itself with the ends of other men, even though it does so out of love, can have neither the purity nor that entireness which is indispensable towards a defined maxim, and is only an ideal in wish, which, in cogitation, it is true, has no bounds, but must in observation and experience shrink within a very narrow compass.

A friend of man is he who takes an æsthetic participation in the welfare of his race, and who never will disturb it but with inward regret. This phrase, however, friend of man, is more limited than that of a philanthropist, for the friend cherishes the representation of the equality of his species, and has at least the idea of becoming indebted to them, even while he obliges them, where he figures to himself all mankind as brethren under a common Father, who wills their joint and common happiness. For the relation of protector, as benefactor, relatively to the protected, is no doubt one of love, but not of friendship, the reverence due from each to other not being alike. The duty to cherish goodwill to mankind as their friend (a necessary condescension), and the laying to heart of this duty, serves as a guard against pride, which is too apt to invade the prosperous, who possess the resources of good deeds.

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Sec. 48.—Of the Social Virtues.

It is a duty both to one’s self and to others to bring his ethical accomplishments into Society, and not to isolate himself,—to make, no doubt, himself still the immoveable centre of his own principles, but then he ought to regard this circle which he has drawn around him as capable of expansion, till it swell to the size of the most cosmopolitical spirit, not in order immediately to advance the end of the whole world, but only to advance the means which indirectly tend thitherwards, viz., urbanity of manners, sociability, affability, and decorum, and so to accompany the Graces with the Virtues; to establish which companionship, is itself one of the offices of virtue.

All these are, it is true, no more than mere by-work (parerga), or accessory virtues, giving a fair virtuous appearance. These, however, never deceive, as everybody knows for how much they are to pass current. They are valid only as small coin, and yet conduce to strengthen man’s virtuous sentiments, were it even merely by awakening the endeavour to bring this outward form as near as possible to a reality, in rendering us accessible, conversable, polite, hospitable, and engaging in our daily intercourse; which things, although one and all of them no more than a mere manner of behaviour, do, by being obligatory forms of sociability, at the same time oblige others, and promote the cause of virtue, by making it beloved.

A question may, however, be raised, whether we may venture to frequent the society of the wicked? But we cannot avoid meeting with them, unless by withdrawing from the world; and besides, our judgment as to their characters is incompetent. But whenever vice is a scandal, i.e., is an Edition: current; Page: [294] openly given example of unblushing contempt for strict laws of duty, and does therefore entail the infamy of dishonour, then all former intercourse must be broken up, or at least carried on as sparingly as possible, even should the law of the land annex no punishment to the crime; for, to continue in society with such a person, is to throw a stain on honour, and to prostitute the virtues of sociability, to whomsoever is rich enough to bribe his parasites with the voluptuousnesses of luxury.

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Sec. 49.

THAT virtue must be acquired, and is not innate, results from the very notion of it, and does not need that we should recur to what observation and experience teach in Anthropology; for the ethic strength were not virtue, unless it were brought forth by the firmness of man’s resolution when combating against such mighty withstanding appetites. It is the product of pure practical reason, so far forth as this last does, by the consciousness of her superiority in freedom, gain the mastery over those.

That Ethics therefore can, and needs must, be taught, is corollary only from the position, that it is not born with us. It is accordingly a Science (a doctrine, i.e., a demonstrated theory); but since, by the mere knowledge how we ought to behave, no power is gained of exerting that knowledge into act, the old Stoics were of opinion that virtue could not be taught hortatively by the naked representation Duty, but behoved to be cultivated by the ascetic exercise of encountering the inward enemy in man. For no man can straightway do anywhat he wills to do, unless he have first tried his powers, and practised them; to which, however, the determination must be taken all at once. And in the case of Edition: current; Page: [296] virtue, any intention to capitulate with vice, or parley as to the gradual evacuation of its territory, would be itself impure, and even vicious; and the product of such a sentiment could not be virtue, this last depending on one only principle.

Sec. 50.

Now, as to virtue’s scientific method,—and every scientific doctrine must be methodic if it is not to be tumultuary,—this method cannot be fragmentary, but must be systematic, if Ethics is to be represented as a science. But the treatment of it may be either acroamatic, or it may be erotematic. In the former case, those whom we address are auditors simply; in the latter, we interrogate the pupil. This erotematic method, again, is subdivided into the dialogical, where the science is questioned out of the pupil’s reason, and into the catechetic, where, out of his memory. When we intend to evolve anywhat out of the reason of another, it can be done only by the dialogue, the master and the disciple mutually interrogating and responding. The master conducts by his questions the pupil’s train of thinking, by merely laying before him certain select instances, adapted for starting the substratum of given notions. The disciple is thus aroused to the consciousness of his own ability to think, and even does, by his reinterrogation (called forth by the obscurity or the doubtfulness of his master’s tenets), teach the teacher how best to frame the dialogue: as the old proverb has it, docendo discimus.

Sec. 51.

The first and most necessary instrumental for conveying ethical information to the altogether untutored, would be an ethical catechism. It ought to go before the religious catechism, and to be taught separately, and quite independent of it, and not, as is too often done, taught along with it, and Edition: current; Page: [297] thrust into it, as it were, by parentheses; for it is singly on pure ethic principles that a transit can be made from virtue to religion; and when the case is otherwise, the confessions are insincere. Upon this account it is that our most celebrated theological dignitaries have hesitated to compose a catechism for the statutable faith (creed), and thereby to stand, as it were, surety for it; whereas, one might have thought that so scanty a service was the very least we were entitled to expect from the vast stores of their learning.

On the contrary, the composition of a pure moral catechism as a ground-sketch of the moral duties, does not lie open to the like scruple or to the same difficulty; the whole matter of it admitting of being evolved out of every person’s common sense, and its form only requiring adaptation to the didactic rules of an elementary instruction. The formal principle, however, of this kind of instruction does not admit of the dialogo-Socratic method, the pupil not yet knowing what he has to ask. The teacher, therefore, alone catechises; and the answers, which are to be methodically elicited from the reason of the pupil, should be drawn up in definite, unchanging terms, and then intrusted for conversation to his memory. In which latter point it is, that the catechetic method differs from the acroamatic, where the teacher alone speaks; as also from the dialogic, where the interrogatories are mutual.

Sec. 52.

The experimental mean, the technique of moral education, is the good example of the teacher himself, his own conduct being exemplary, and the warning one of others; for copying is what first starts the causality of the will of the unlearned, and induces him to project those maxims which, in the sequel, he adopts. Habit is the establishment Edition: current; Page: [298] of a continual and permanent appetite, apart from any maxim, and springs from abandonment to repeated gratification, and is merely a mechanism of the sensory, and not any principle of cogitation; and to wean one’s self from it, is usually more difficult than to bring it forth. But as to the power of examples (whether to good or to evil) offered to our propensity for copying, it is to be noted, that the conduct of no one can become the rule of ours, so as to found any maxims and principles of virtue; these consisting always just in the subjective autonomy of every man’s own practical reason, where no external behaviour but only the law is the standard whereon we regulate the determinations of our will. The instructor will, for this reason, never say to an ill-thriving pupil, Take an example from that good, orderly, studious boy; for the pupil can only take occasion to hate his model, from seeing himself placed by him in so disadvantageous a light. A good example ought not to be made a copy, but should be used to serve in showing the practicability of our duty. It is not a comparison with any other man “as he is,” but with the idea of humanity “as he ought to be,i.e., with the law, that must supply the preceptor with an infallible standard of education.



The preceptor questions out of the reason of his scholar what he wishes to teach him; and if, by hazard, this last cannot answer, then the other dexterously suggests to him the responses.

Preceptor. What is thy chief desire in life?

Scholar remains silent.

P. That everything should succeed and prosper with thee, Edition: current; Page: [299] according to thy whole heart and wish,—how is such a situation called?

S. is silent.

P. It is called happiness (welfare, comfort, entire felicity). Now, suppose that thou hadst confided to thee all the happiness which is at all possible,—wouldst thou keep it to thyself, or wouldst thou impart some of it to others?

S. I would share it with my fellows, that they also might be happy and contented.

P. Good: that says somewhat for thy heart. Let us now see how it stands with thy head. Wouldst thou give the sluggard cushions to while away his time in sloth? wouldst thou allow the drunkard wine, and the occasions of excess; or give the deceiver captivating form and manners, that he might entrap others? wouldst thou give the robber intrepidity and strength? These are some means, whereby each of the above hope to become happy after a manner.

S. Oh no; not at all.

P. So that if thou hadst at thy disposal all possible happiness, and hadst likewise the completely goodwill to bestow it, thou wouldst not unreflectingly confer it on the first comer, but wouldst previously inquire how far he might be worthy of such happiness as he aspired after? but as for thyself, thou wouldst probably, without hesitation, provide for thee whatever would conduce to thy welfare?

S. Yes.

P. But would not then the question occur to thee, to inquire if thou thyself wert altogether worthy of such happiness?

S. Yes, it would.

P. That within thee which pants for happiness, is appetite; that, again, which limits and restricts this appetite for happiness to the prior condition of thy being worthy of it, is thy reason and that thou by force of thy reason canst contain Edition: current; Page: [300] and conquer thy appetites, that is the freedom of thy will.* And in order to know what is to be done to partake of happiness, and at the same time not to become unworthy of it, the rule and the instruction lie all alone in thy reason; that is to say, it is not needful for thee to learn the rule of thy conduct from observation and experience, nor from others in education. Thy own reason teaches and commands thee forthwith what thou hast to do: e.g., suppose the case were put, that by a dexterous lie thou couldst extricate thyself or thy friend from some near embarrassment, and that without prejudice to any other,—what would thy reason say to such a matter?

S. Reason says that I ought not to lie, be the advantages of falsehood ever so great. Lying is mean, and makes man unworthy to be happy. Here is an unconditionate injunction of reason to be obeyed, in the face of which all appetite and inclination must be silent.

P. How dost thou call this absolute necessity of acting conformably to a law of reason?

S. Duty.

P. The observance, then, of a man’s duty is the only and the unchanging condition of his worthiness to be made happy; and these two are identic and the same. But admitting that thou wert conscious of such a good and effective will, whereby thou mightest deem thyself worthy, at least not unworthy, of felicity, canst thou ground upon that any certain hope of becoming one day happy?

S. No, not upon that alone; for it is neither in our own power to secure our welfare, nor is the course of nature so adjusted as to fall in with good desert; and the chances of life depend on events over which we have no control. Our happiness must remain a bare wish, and cannot even convert itself to hope, unless some foreign power undertake it for us.

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P. Has reason any grounds for believing in, as real, any such supreme power, dealing out happiness and misery according to desert and guilt, having sway over the whole physical system, and governing the world with the extremest wisdom; i.e., to hold that god is?

S. Yes; for we discover in those works of nature we can judge of, manifested, the traces of a wisdom so vast and profound, that we can account for it only by ascribing it to the unsearchable skill of a Creator,* from whom we deem ourselves entitled to expect a no less admirable adjustment of the world’s moral order, which latter is indeed its highest harmony; that is to say, we may one day hope to become partakers of happiness, if we do not, by our forgetfulness of duty, make ourselves unworthy of it.

Sec. 53.

In this catechism, which ought to go in detail over all the virtues and vices, it is of the most vital moment that the behests of duty be not based on any advantages or inconveniences springing from their observance, to the man who stands obliged by them, no, not even on the good results accruing to others; but that abstraction being made from all such, those behests be immediately grounded on the pure moral law itself, the others may indeed be mentioned, but only by-the-by and as superfluities. It is the shame and not the damage that goes hand in hand with vice, that is at all points to be insisted on. For when the dignity of virtue in action is not extolled beyond everything, then is the very idea Duty thawed down and resolved into a mere dictate of expediency. That which ennobles and gives state to man fades out of his consciousness, and he, despoiled of the enchantment that Edition: current; Page: [302] would have guided him unscathed through life, stands venal for any price his seductive appetites may bid for him.

When these instructions have been exactly and wisely evolved, from the reason of the pupil, according to the different stages of rank, age, or sex mankind may be presented in, then there remains yet somewhat which inly searches and shakes the soul to its foundation, and places man in a position where he can only behold himself, struck with unbounded admiration at the aspect of the originary substratum of his nature,—an impression no time can ever afterwards deface. When all his duties are briefly recapitulated to him in their order, and he is made observant at each one of them that no evils, nor tribulations, nor ills of life, no, not even imminent death, which may be threatened, if he adhere faithful to his duty, are able to lessen, or to take away his consciousness of being independent on all such, and their master: then the question lies very near him, What is that within thee that dare trust itself to go forth to encounter and to brave every vicissitude in the physical system, within thee and without thee; in the confident conviction that thou canst surmount the whole of them, if they come into collision with thy ethical resolves? When this question, which presents itself of its own accord, but which far transcends all ability of speculative reason to investigate or explore,—when this question, I say, is once laid properly to heart, then must even the incomprehensible of the might retected in this part of self-knowledge, fire the soul to unsheath a yet keener energy of reason, and prompt her to the more inly hallowing of her law, the more temptation solicits to forsake it.

In this ethic catechetical instruction, it would conduce not a little to facilitate the advancement of the pupil, to propose, at the analysis of each duty, a few questions in casuistry, and then let the whole scholars try their skill in disentangling themselves from the puzzle. Not alone because this manner Edition: current; Page: [303] of sharpening the judgment is the very best adapted to the capacity of beginners, but especially because it is man’s nature to acquire a liking and relish for studies he is at length well versant in, and has urged to the grade of science; and thus the pupil is unawares drawn over, by unsuspected steps, to the interests of morality.

But it is of the very last moment, in all education, not to mix up and amalgamate the religious with the moral catechism; and yet of higher, not to suffer that to precede this, but always to endeavour, with the greatest diligence and detail, to bring the understanding to the clearest insight in ethical topics; for, when the case is otherwise, religion slides imperceptibly, and in the sequel, into hypocrisy; and mankind is driven by fear, to lie in the face of his own conscience, an acknowledgment of duties in which his heart takes no share.


Sec. 54.

The rules for the exercise of virtue are intended to bring about and establish these two moods or frames of mind, viz., to make it (1) hardy and (2) cheerful in the discharge of duty. Virtue has to combat obstacles, for the vanquishing of which she has to rally all her forces; and is also sometimes summoned to quit and yield up the joys of life, the loss of which may well sadden the soul, and might even make it dark and sulky. But he who does not do what he has to do with alacrity, but renders the servile services of bondage, finds no inward worth in the obeying of the law, but dislikes it; and will shun as much as possible all occasions of observing it.

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The culture of virtue, i.e., the ethical ascetics, has, in regard of its first element, i.e., for the valiant, dauntless, indefatigable practice of virtue, no other than the old watchword of the Stoa (ἀνέχου και ἀπέχου, bear and forbear). Bear, endure the evils of life without complaint; forbear, abstain from its superfluous enjoyments. This is a kind of dietetics, enabling man to keep himself ethically in health. Health, however, is, after all, only a negative satisfaction, and is not itself capable of being made sensible. Something must be superadded (viz., the second element) to make us taste the sweet amenity of life, and which must still be only moral. This is the having a serene, gay, and ever-joyous heart, according to the sentiment of the virtuous Epicurus. And who indeed can have more reason to be contented with himself, and gay—nay, who so able, even to regard it as a duty owed by him to himself, to transplant himself into a serene and joyous frame of mind and to make it habitual—as he who is aware of no wilful transgression, and knows himself secured against a lapse (hic murus aheneus esto)? the antipart of all this, however, is the ascetic exercise of the monasteries,* which Edition: current; Page: [305] inspired by superstitious fear, and the hypocritical disesteem of a man’s own self, sets to work with self-reproaches, whimpering, compunction, and a torturing of the body, and is intended not to result in virtue, but to make expurgation for sins, where, by self-imposed punishment, the sinners expect to do penance, instead of ethically repenting of them (i.e., merely forsaking them by the undecaying energy of the representation of the law); but this custom of imposing and executing punishment upon a man’s own self (which encloses a contradiction—punishment demanding the sentence of another) cannot beget that hilarity which goes hand in hand with virtue, and would rather tend to engender a covert hatred of the behests of duty. All ethical gymnastic consists, therefore, singly in the subjugating the instincts and appetites of our physical system, in order that we remain their master in any and all circumstances hazardous to morality; a gymnastic exercise rendering the will hardy and robust, and which, by the consciousness of regained freedom, makes the heart glad. To feel compunction is inevitable on the remembrance of former sins,—it is even a duty not to suffer it to fade on such reminiscence; but this compunction, and the infliction of a penance, such as fasting, are totally distinct and disparate ethical operations, the latter whereof, understood not in a dietetical but pious sense, is cheerless, Edition: current; Page: [306] sad, and gloomy, makes virtue hateful, and scares away her supporters. The discipline exercised by man upon himself can only by its attendant hilarity and alacrity become welcome and exemplary.


Although the last result obtained in our inquiry into the reach and extent of the à priori operations of human understanding was, that speculative reason declared the existence of God problematical; yet the belief in God being here admitted, and it being further admitted that the doctrine of religion is an integral part of the general system of the offices,* the question now raised respects the determining the boundary of the science whereof it is part. Are we to regard it as belonging to morals (to law in no event, for the rights of man cannot comprehend it)? or is it to be considered as falling out of and beyond the domains of pure moral philosophy?

The formal of religion, explained to be “the aggregate of our duties, as if they were divine commandments,” belongs to the philosophy of morals; since it expresses singly the relation obtaining betwixt reason and that idea of God itself evolves, and the duty to have religion is not thereby made any duty owed by us toward God, as a being existing out of and beyond our own ideas; for we expressly abstract from such existence.* That all human duties must be cogitated agreeably to this form (by referring them to a divine à priori Will), rests on a ground subjectively logical only. We cannot Edition: current; Page: [307] easily depicture to ourselves in thought, obligation (ethical necessitation), except by figuring to ourselves another and His will—God, whose vicegerent is our universally legislative reason;* but this duty in relation to the Divinity (strictly in relation to the idea we frame to ourselves of such a Being), is a duty owed by mankind to himself; i.e., is not an objective duty to perform certain services to another, but a subjective obligation only, to strengthen the ethic springs of our own legislative reason.

As for the matter of religion, as a whole of duties toward God, and of the worship to be rendered Him, such obligations would be particular, not emanating from universally legislative reason. They could not upon this account be cognisable à priori, but could be known by experience and observation singly, that is, they would be duties of revealed religion, rested on divine commandments in the proper sense of the words; and such duties would require to set forth, not the bare idea of the Godhead for our practical behoof, but the existence of this Being as given mediately or immediately in observation and experience. A religion of this kind, however, how well founded soever it may be, can never constitute a part of pure moral philosophy.

Religion, therefore, considered as the doctrine of the duties owed toward God, falls far beyond all limits of pure ethics; and these remarks are subjoined here in justification of the present treatise, where the author has not, with a view to its completeness, inserted, as is usual, any religious duties.

There may undoubtedly be a doctrine of “religion within the limits of pure reason,” where it is not affirmed that the positions were originated at first by reason (for this might be too much presumption, p. 8, Vorrede Streit d. Facultäten, T.), but rest in part on historical documents and the tenets of a revelation, and where we treat only of the harmony of Edition: current; Page: [308] this last with what is taught by pure practical reason. But neither is this kind of doctrine of religion pure, but is mixed and applied to the Critique of a given document; and for this, ethics, as pure practical philosophy, can afford no room.

Remark.—All the ethical relations obtaining betwixt Intelligents, and involving a principle of the mutual harmony of their wills with one another, may be reduced and classed along with the emotions of love and reverence; and where the principle is practical, the will’s determination upon the former points to the end of the other person, but upon the latter to his right. If now there be such a Person as to have rights only, and no duties, toward others (God), and the others, conversely, owe merely duties and have no rights, then is the principle of the ethic relation betwixt them transcendent; whereas that of man to man, whose wills reciprocally limit one another, is immanent.

The end of the Godhead in creating, and His providence of man, we can only depicture to ourselves as an end of love, i.e., that He wills their happiness; but the principle of His will in regard of the reverence (awe) we owe Him, which limits the operations of the principle pointing to the end willed, i.e., the principle of His divine rights, can be no more than that of justice; we might, speaking as we must do after the fashion of men, lay down this position, that God created His intelligent universe that He might have somewhat to love or be loved by in turn. But then, again, as extensive, nay, more so (for the principle is restrictive, and conditions the end), is the demand, which, even our own reason tells us, divine justice, as punitive, may challenge. A reward cannot be expected, on the score of justice, from the Supreme Being, by Intelligents who have no rights, but only duties: they can only hope for it from His benignity and Love; for wages there can be no claim; and a remunerative justice is a contradiction in the relation of God to man.

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There is, however, in the idea of the judiciary function of a Being exalted beyond the possibility of any infraction of His ends, somewhat hard to be reconciled with the relation of man to God, viz., the idea of a lesion committed against the Sovereign Majesty of the Governor of the World, where the question is not of the violations of the rights of man, perpetrated by mankind upon one another, and which God might as Judge avenge; but of a lesion which, it would seem, affected the rights of God Himself; an idea altogether transcendent, i.e., which goes quite beyond the range of any punitive justice we as men can instance, and presents surd and impossible principles not capable of being brought to coincide with those employed in everyday life, and which, therefore, are for our reason blank and empty.

This idea of divine punitive justice has been personified. It is not a particular being who dispenses it, for then it would be found contrary to the principles of justice; but justice itself cogitated in substance (called eternal justice), which, like fate in the old poets, is even above Jupiter, announces her law with an iron indeflectible necessity, the grounds of which we are unable to explore.—Of this, examples. Punishment, according to Horace, never leaves out of her sight the culprit who stalks audaciously away before her, but limps unremittingly after him until she overtake him.—Innocent blood cries for vengeance.—Crime cannot remain unavenged; and if the transgressor suffer not, yet his iniquities are visited on his posterity; or if vengeance is not in this life inflicted, it must in another, after death, which is expressly postulated and believed in, that the demand of eternal justice may be satisfied.—I will tolerate no blood-guiltiness to come over my land, said once a well-thinking prince, by granting pardon to a malignant assassinating duellist, for whom ye entreat my grace.—The debt of sins must be discharged, even though an innocent were required for a sacrifice (in which event his Edition: current; Page: [310] sorrows could not be called punishment, he having transgressed no law): hence we see, that the justice to which we attribute such decrees, is not a person administering a judiciary function (for he could not speak thus without violating the rights of others), but that bare justice as a transcendent principle, and cogitated to an invisible subject, defines the right of this personified Being. All which is in harmony, no doubt, with the formal of the principle of creation, but is contrary to its matter, the end, which must still be the happiness of mankind; for, on account of the vast multitude of criminals who allow their catalogue of sins to run on increasing, this principle of punitive justice would come to put the end of creation, not in the love of the Creator (as we cannot but think it), but in the rigid maintenance of his right (i.e., would make his right itself the end of the creation, called—the glory of God); and yet, since this justice is only a negative principle limitary of the other (benevolence), to affirm this, is contrary to the principles of practical reason, or seems to be so; for in such event, practical reason would hold that there could have been no room for creation, leading to results so contrary to the design and intention of the Author, whose end we can only depicture to ourselves to have been that of love.

Ethics then can, as pure practical philosophy, based on man’s own inward legislation, treat singly of the relation obtaining betwixt man and man, and this is for us the alone comprehensible; but as for relations obtaining betwixt God and man, these far transcend all our powers of knowledge, and are absolutely incomprehensible: and this confirms what we advanced above, that Ethics could not extend itself beyond the boundary of the duties owed by mankind to one another.

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morrison and gibb, edinburgh, printers to her majesty’s stationery office.


Beck, Einzig-möglicher Standpunkt zur Beurtheilung der Critischen Philosophie, Riga, 1796.

Kiesewetter, Darstellung der wichtigsten Wahrheiten der Kritischen Philosophie, Berlin, v. y.

Buhle, Entwurf der Transscendental Philosophie, Göttingen, 1798, reproduced in the eighth volume of his History of Philosophy, 1804.


For Kant’s use of the term Metaphysic, v. p. 164; and for his definition of Metaphysic of Ethics, pp. 21 and 23, note.—C.


Ref. 4, from p. 40.—C.


For Kant’s distinction between Reason, and other faculties of mind, v. p. 64.—C.


Ref. 4, from page 40.—C.


See pp. 26 (note), 99, and 113.—C.


Ref. 4, from p. 40.—C.


Perhaps some may think that I take refuge behind an obscure feeling, under the name of Reverence, instead of throwing light upon the subject by an idea of reason. But although reverence is a feeling, it is no passive feeling received from without, but an active emotion generated in the mind by an idea of reason, and so specifically distinct from all feelings of the former sort, which are reducible to either love or fear. What I immediately apprehend to be my law, I recognise to be so with reverence; which word denotes merely the consciousness of the immediate, unconditional, and unreserved subordination of my will to the law. The immediate determination of the will by the law, and the consciousness of it, is called reverence, and is regarded, not as the cause, but as the effect, of the law upon the person. Strictly speaking, reverence is the representation of a worth before which self-love falls; it cannot, therefore, be regarded as the object of either love or fear, although it bears analogy to both. The object of reverence is therefore alone the law, and in particular that law which, though put by man upon himself, is yet, notwithstanding, in itself necessary. As law, we find ourselves subjected to it without interrogating self-love; yet as imposed upon us by ourselves, it springs from our own will; and in the former way resembles fear, in the latter love. Reverence, even when felt for a person, results from the law whereof that person gives us the example (Cato, of integrity). If to cultivate talents be a duty, then we figure to ourselves a learned man, as if he presented to our view the image of law, enjoining us to be conformed to his example; and thus our reverence for him arises. What is called a moral interest, is based solely on this emotion.


Ref. 4, from p. 40.—C.


Ref. 1, from p. 3.—C.


As pure mathematics and logic are distinguished from the same sciences when mixed, the pure philosophy of morals (metaphysic of ethics) may be distinguished from the “mixed,i.e., when applied to human nature and its phenomena. Such an appellative reminds us that the principles of ethics cannot be founded on any peculiarity in man’s nature, but must demand an establishment à priori, whence will flow a practical rule of life valid for all Intelligents, and so for man likewise.—(Ref. 1, from p. 3.—C.)


One of the greatest difficulties in the study of Kant’s Practical Philosophy is, to determine how far he distinguishes Reason from Will, and how far he identifies them. References are given on p. 40, and on p. 45.—C.


Ref. 5, from p. 45.—C.

Ref. 4, from p. 40.—C.


The dependency of the will on sense is called appetite, and it always indicates a want or need; but the dependency of the will on principles of reason is called an interest. This last obtains, therefore, only in a dependent will, not spontaneously conformed to reason. To the Divine Will no interest can be ascribed; the human will may take an interest in an action, without on that account acting out of interest: the first is the practical interest taken in an action; the second would be the pathological interest taken in the end aimed at by the action. The former indicates merely the dependency of the will on reason as such; the second, dependency on rational principles subserving an appetite, i.e., where reason assigns a rule how the wants of appetite may be best appeased. In the first case, the action interests me; in the second, the object of the action (in so far as agreeable). We saw, in the former section, that in an action out of duty the interest lay not in the object and end attained by the action, but singly in the act itself, and its principle in reason (i.e., the law).


The systematic division of the duties I postpone to the metaphysic of ethics, and the above division is merely adopted in order to arrange my examples. By a determinate duty, however, I understand such a one as admits of no exceptions in favour of appetite; whence I arrive at both external and internal determinate obligations: and though this run counter to the common terminology of the schools, it is immaterial to my present purpose whether this be conceded to me or not.


To behold virtue in her proper form, is just to exhibit morality divested of all false ornaments of reward or self-love. How she then eclipses whatever seems charming to sense, every man of uncorrupted reason at once perceives.


For evidence that Kant seems often to distinguish Reason from Will, as in this case, compare the following passages, pp. 5, 7, 11, 20, 25, 74, 81, 89, 120, 192, 230. The explanation of the nature of Reason on p. 64, may be taken for guidance in the comparison—C.


This position is here stated as a postulate. Its ground is assigned in the next chapter.


As examples of passages in which Kant seems to identify Reason and Will, take pp. 25, 55, 57, 71, 72, 100, 169, 174. The description of Will, given in p. 57, may be taken as guiding the comparison.—C.


Ref. 5, from p. 45.—C.


Ref. 5, from p. 45.—C.


For a full view of Kant’s theory of the Freedom of the Will, the passage on pp. 63, 64, distinguishing between the sensible and supersensible or cogitable systems, must be taken as fundamental. Then compare pp. 63, 64, 68, 69, 72, 73, 95, 135, 137, 139, 161, 169, 175.—C.


Ref. 6, from page 57.—C.


Ref. 2, from p. 6; and Ref. 4, from p. 40.—C.

Ref. 6, from p. 57.—C.


See note on next page.—C.


For such occasional references to Consciousness as occur in discussing the Freedom of the Will, v. pp. 70, 72, 75, 95, with which, by way of contrast, may be taken p. 175.—C.


Ref. 6, from p. 57.—C.


Ref. 6, from p. 57.—C.


Ref. 6, from p. 57.—C.


Ref. 7, from p. 67.—C.


Ref. 7, from p. 67.—C.


Ref. 4, from p. 40.—C.

Ref. 5, from p. 45.—C.


Ref. 7, from p. 67.—C.

Ref. 5, from p. 45; and Ref. 6, from p. 57.—C.


Ref. 6, from p. 57.—C.

Interest is that whereby reason becomes a cause practically determining the will. Hence we say of rationals only, that they have an interest in anywhat; irrationals have no more than an appetite or instinct. Reason takes an immediate interest in an action only then, when the universal validity of its maxim is the exclusive determinative of the will.* Such an interest is the alone pure. Again, the interest taken by reason in an action is then indirect and oblique, when some object of desire or particular feeling of the subject is pre-required to determine the choice; and since abstract reason cannot assign any objects of desire, nor beget any feeling pointing to such object, but these arise from observation and experience singly, such latter interest is no pure interest of reason, but is one adulterated with à posteriori grounds. Even the logical interest of reason is not immediate, but rests on the end and aim it may have of advancing its speculative extent.


Ref. 4, from p. 40.—C.


Ref. 7, from p. 67.—C.


Ref. 4, from p. 40.—C.


Ref. 4, from p. 40.—C.


Ref. 7, from p. 67.—C.

Ref. 6, from p. 57.—C.


Ref. 5, from p. 45.—C.


It may be said of every act outwardly in harmony with the law, but which has not been performed out of naked regard had to it, that it is morally good after the letter, but not so according to the spirit, of the law.


Pride (superbia) differs from all these. It is treated of as a vice, Met. Eth.


Not translated.

Although the will deflect originally from the law, it is not necessary to say anything of such causality here; for the duties imposed by the law remain the same, whatever bias a will may labour under.


Ref. 4, from p. 40.—C.


In the chapter not translated.—Tr.


Ref. 6, from p. 57.—C.


Ref. 6, from p. 57.—C.


Ref. 6, from p. 57, taken with all that follows in this chapter.—C.


Kant distinguishes between transcendental and transcendent. The former is that which, as à priori, transcends experience; the latter is that which transcends all knowledge, or, according to the terminology of his system, transcends both the sensible and the cogitable.—C.


For Kant’s views as to recognition of God, compare with this passage pp. 301, 306, 307.—C.


Porro de actuali constructione hic non quæritur, cum ne possint quidem sensibiles figuræ ad rigorem definitionum effingi; sed requiritur cognitio eorum, quibus absolvitur formatio, quæ intellectualis quædam constructio est.—(C. A. Hausen, Elem. Mathem. pars i. p. 86, a. 1734.)


The sensory may be defined the subjective of our representations, for it is the understanding which refers these representations to an object, i.e., it alone thinks to itself somewhat by means of them. Now, the subjective of a representation may be of such a sort as to be capable of being referred to an object, so as to constitute knowledge of it, and that with respect either to the form, or to the matter. In the first case it is called intuition à priori; in the second, sensation. In these cases, the receptivity is called the sensory, and is divided into the internal sense and the external. Or, otherwise, the subjective of a representation cannot become any element of knowledge, but refers singly to the subject, in which case the receptivity is called feeling. Feeling, then, is the effect of a representation, and is of the sensory, no matter whether or not the representation causing it belong to the intellect or the sensory.


Inclination is here obviously used figuratively, and a distinction may be taken betwixt physical and ethical inclination (Neigung). An inclination to do what the law commands is no doubt morally possible, but then it must not be figured as antecedent to the law; it can only follow upon the representation of the law, when the law has determined the will.


Ref. 6, from p. 57.

Not morally, but psychologically, as mixed.—C.


Ref. 1, from p. 3.—C.


The deduction of the division of a system, i.e., the proof of its completeness, and also of its continuity, i.e., that the transition from the divided notion to its subdivisions be not per saltum, is one of the most difficult tasks imposed on the architect of a system. And there is room for hesitation as to the ultimate notion, which is divided into right and wrong. It is, however, that of an act of free choice in general. Teachers of ontology generally begin with the representations, something,—nothing,—not adverting to the circumstance that these opposed conceptions are already members of a division, and presuppose a higher notion, which can be no other than that of any object whatsoever.


As to the possibility of external legislation, v. p. 173.—C.


Ref. 6, from p. 57.

Ref. 5, from p. 45.—C.


Ref. 9, from p. 167.—C.


Ref. 5, from p. 45.—C.

The meaning is, practical reason or pure will is the substratum of man’s moral nature, i.e., is the ground of the possibility of his freedom and independency on every sensitive determinator, and therefore freedom is not so much a predicate, as a consequence, of will. (Ref. 5, from p. 45.—C.)


Ref. 6, from p. 57; and Ref. 7, from p. 67.—C.


Viz., Equity and Necessity.


To utter a deliberate untruth is in common speech called lying or falsehood; for it may injure the person to whom it is told, if he good-naturedly repeat it, and so render himself the laughing-stock of others. But, juridically, that alone is falsehood which directly violates the rights of man, e.g., the false narrative of a contract, instituted for the purpose of attaching the property of another. Nor is this distinction between these two kindred conceptions ill-founded; for, in any statement made by one man to another, it is entirely at the option of this last what weight he will give to what he hears. And yet, to say of any one that he is a man not to be believed, borders so near on the charge that he is a liar, that the line marking out what falls within the domain of law and what within that of ethics, is all but imperceptible.


After this follows a course of theoretic law, which omitting, we arrive at ethics or morals strictly so called.—Tr.


And yet man, as a moral being, does, when he considers himself objectively, and beholds in an intellectual apprehension the destiny whitherward his reason calls him, deem himself enough holy, to violate his law only unwillingly and with compunction: nor can there exist any one so irrecoverably far gone and decayed in ethical apostasy, as not to feel, in any instance of transgression, an inward warfare and self-dislike, against which he is compelled to struggle. This phenomenon, that mankind should at this conjuncture (where the fable represents Hercules betwixt Virtue and Voluptuousness) give ear rather to his appetites than to the law, is quite inexplicable; for we can explain events only by assigning a cause agreeably to the laws regulating the mechanism of the physical system; and were we to do so here, then were the will not free. Whereas it is just this double and contrary self co-action, and its inevitability, that first of all reveals to mankind that amazing quality of his nature, moral freedom.


Ref. 4, from p. 40.—C.


This principle carries the refutation of much of the later German speculation, closely connected with the system of Kant.—C.


Duty is a negative conception only, i.e., it expresses that the will is limited to the condition of not being repugnant to a potential legislation universal; but since no will can be devoid of ends, the assigning of an end à priori, upon grounds of practical reason, is the ordaining of a maxim to act toward such end.—Tr.


Even in common speech we say, This is what I owe to myself.

Ref. 4, from p. 40.—C.


Frederick II.


The position, one ought never to overdo or underdo anything, says nothing, for it is tautological. What is it to overdo? Ans. To do more than is right. What is it to underdo? Ans. To do less than is right. What is meant by one ought? Ans. It is not right to do more or less than is right. If this be the wisdom to be pumped from Aristotle, we have made a bad choice in our fountain.

There is betwixt truth and falsehood no mean, although there is betwixt frankness and reserve: the reserved takes care that everything he says is true; but he does not tell the whole truth, and a medium may be assigned. Now it is quite natural to ask the moralist to indicate this golden mean; which, however, cannot be done, for both virtues admit of a certain latitude, and the bounds put to candour and reserve is a matter for a man’s judgment, and so is a question falling under the pragmatic rules of prudence, and not under the imperative of morality; that is to say, the solution affects a question of indeterminate obligation, and must not be handled as if it were strict and definite. He, therefore, who obeys the laws of duty, nay, if he do more than prudence would prescribe, in a given conjuncture, commits in so far a fault; but he commits none, in so far as he rigidly adheres to his moral maxims, much less a vice in so doing; and Horace’s lines,

  • Insani sapiens nomen ferat, æquus iniqui
  • Ultra quam satis est, virtutem si petat ipsam,

contain downright falsehood, if taken to the letter. Sapiens seems to mean a good, dog-trot, prudent man, who does not feed his imagination with any fantastic idea of perfection, which is to be aspired to, though not attained, which last exceeds man’s power, and would run up ethics into an absurdity. But to be too virtuous, i.e., too attached and devoted to duty, is as much as drawing a right line too straight, or a circle too round.


The twofold personality in which the man who accuses and judges himself has to cogitate himself, this double self, forced on the one hand to appear trembling at the bar of a tribunal, where, on the other hand, he sits as judge, invested as his birthright with such authority, needs some explanation, lest reason seem to be involved in a contradiction with itself. I, at once accused and accuser, am numerically one and the same person, but, as the subject of the moral legislation, based on the idea Freedom (homo noumenon), I must be considered, though only for a practical behoof, as diverse from the phenomenal man endowed with reason. For a practical behoof only, we say, because speculation gives no theory, of the relation obtaining betwixt the cogitable and the sensible system. And this specific difference betwixt the real and the phenomenal man is the difference of the superior and inferior faculties by which man is characterized. The former accuse, the latter appear in defence: after closing the record, the inward judge, as he who is invested with judiciary authority, utters the doom of bliss or woe, as ethical sequents of the deed; but in this capacity (which is that of a sovereign governor) we are unable to investigate any further the sources of its power, but are constrained to stand in awe of the unconditionate jubeo or veto of our reason.


Ref. 6, from p. 57.—C.


This does not contradict what was said at p. 140. There the question was of à priori knowledge. Here Kant only talks of belief.—(Tr.)

Ref. 8, from p. 147.—C.


A reply made by Kant to Schiller may belong to this place. The common objection in Germany to Kant’s Ethics is, that it is too rigoristical; and the poet, in his paper on grace and decorum, affirms that Kant’s ideas of duty and obligation are best fitted to produce monastic manners, being subversive of all physical grace, and proper only for slaves. Here is the answer of the philosopher. He distinguishes betwixt the idea Duty and the beneficial effects of virtue. The first admits of no grace, on account of the awe and sense of the sublime, which follow on its representation—the sublime disdaining charms and embellishment as only proper to the beautiful; but permanent effects of active virtue on him who has fulfilled his duty, may be, and often are, advantageous, and appear as graceful and decorous.

“So that were the question put, Which, then, is the right determination of the Sensory wherewith duty is to be obeyed? i.e., what is the temperament of virtue?—Valiant, and by consequence joyous?—Or Anxious and dejected?—scarce any answer would be needed; so slavish a state and tone of soul never can be where the law itself is not hated; and the glad and joyous heart, on the execution of duty (not complacency in recognising it) betokens that the virtuous sentiments are genuine,—nay, is the test that piety is real,—piety consisting not in the self-reproachings of a whining sinner (a state of mind I look upon as exceedingly equivocal, and which is, for the most part, the man’s inward upbraidings at having erred against a dictate of prudential expediency), but in the steadfast, unfaltering determination to make the matter better in all time to come. And this purpose gaining in life and force by the constancy wherewith the ascetic knows he has adhered to it, must needs effectuate a joyful disposition. Apart from which, no one can be certain that he loves good, i.e., has adopted it into his maxims.”—Kant’s Religion, p. 11.—Tr.


Ref. 8, from p. 147.—C.


Ref. 8, from p. 147.—C.


Ref. 8, from p. 147.—C.