Rethinking the Western Tradition

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First Section Ak 4:393 Transition from common rational moral cognition to philosophical moral cognition There is nothing it is possible to think of anywhere in the world, or indeed anything at all outside it, that can be held to be good without limitation, 1 excepting only a good will. Understanding, wit, the power of judgment, 2 and like talents of the mind, whatever they might be called, or courage, resoluteness, persistence in an intention, as qualities of temperament, are without doubt in some respects good and to be wished for; but they can also become extremely evil and harmful, if the will that is to make use of these gifts of nature, and whose peculiar constitution is therefore called charac- 3 4 ter, is not good. It is the same with gifts of fortune. Power, wealth, honor, even health and that entire well-being and contentment with one’s condi- tion, under the name of happiness, make for courage and thereby often also 5 for arrogance, where there is not a good will to correct their influence on 6 the mind, and thereby on the entire principle of action, and make them universally purposive; not to mention that a rational impartial spectator can never take satisfaction even in the sight of the uninterrupted welfare of a being, if it is adorned with no trait of a pure and good will; and so the good will appears to constitute the indispensable condition even of the worthi- ness to be happy. Some qualities are even conducive to this good will itself and can make its work much easier, but still have despite this no inner unconditioned Ak 4:394 7 worth, yet always presuppose a good will, which limits the esteem that one 1. See Anthropology in a Pragmatic Respect, Ak 7:196–201. 2. Geist 3. For Kant’s distinction between ‘‘temperament’’ and ‘‘character,’’ see Anthropology in a Pragmatic Respect, Ak 7:286–95; see also Ak 4:398–99 below. 4. Power, wealth, and honor are for Kant the three objects of the principal social passions. See Anthropology in a Pragmatic Respect, Ak 7:271–274. 5. Mut und hierdurch öfters auch Übermut 6. Gemüt 7. 1786: Hochschätzung; 1785: Schätzung (‘‘estimation’’)10 Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals otherwise rightly has for them, and does not permit them to be held abso- 8 lutely good. Moderation in affects and passions, self-control, and sober reflection not only are good for many aims, but seem even to constitute a part of the inner worth of a person; yet they lack much in order to be de- clared good without limitation (however unconditionally they were praised 9 by the ancients). For without the principles of a good will they can become extremely evil, and the cold-bloodedness of a villain makes him not only far more dangerous but also immediately more abominable in our eyes than he would have been held without it. The good will is good not through what it effects or accomplishes, not through its efficacy for attaining any intended end, but only through its willing, i.e., good in itself, and considered for itself, without comparison, it is to be estimated far higher than anything that could be brought about by it in favor of any inclination, or indeed, if you prefer, of the sum of all inclinations. Even if through the peculiar disfavor of fate, or through the meager endowment of a stepmotherly nature, this will were entirely lacking in the resources to carry out its aim, if with its greatest effort nothing of it were accomplished, and only the good will were left over (to be sure, not a mere wish, but as the summoning up of all the means insofar as they are in our control): then it would shine like a jewel for itself, as something that has its full worth in itself. Utility or fruitlessness can neither add to nor subtract anything from this worth. It would be only the setting, as it were, to make it easier to handle in common traffic, or to draw the attention of those who are still not sufficiently connoisseurs, but not to recommend it to connoisseurs and determine its worth. There is, however, something so strange in this idea of the absolute worth of the mere will, without making any allowance for utility in its estimation, that despite all the agreement with it even of common reason, there must nevertheless arise a suspicion that perhaps it is covertly grounded merely on a high-flown fantasy, and that nature might have been falsely understood in Ak 4:395 the aim it had in assigning reason to govern our will. Hence we will put this idea to the test from this point of view. In the natural predispositions of an organized being, i.e., a being ar- ranged purposively for life, we assume as a principle that no instrument is to 8. In Kant’s empirical theory of the faculty of desire, affects and passions are the two principal obstacles to rational self-control. See Metaphysics of Morals, Ak 6:407–9; Anthropology in a Pragmatic Respect, Ak 7:251–67. 9. Courage and self-control were, for the ancients, two of the primary moral virtues, along with wisdom, justice, and sometimes piety. See Plato, Meno 78d–e, Republic 427e; Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 3.6–12; Cicero, On Duties 1.15.Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals 11 be encountered in it for any end except that which is the most suitable to and 10 appropriate for it. Now if, in a being that has reason and a will, its preser- vation, its welfare—in a word, its happiness—were the real end of nature, then nature would have hit on a very bad arrangement in appointing reason in this creature to accomplish the aim. For all the actions it has to execute toward this aim, and the entire rule of its conduct, would be prescribed to it much more precisely through instinct, and that end could be obtained far more safely through it than could ever happen through reason; and if, over and above this, reason were imparted to the favored creature, it would have served it only to make it consider the happy predisposition of its nature, to admire it, to rejoice in it, and to make it grateful to the beneficent cause of it, but not to subject its faculty of desire to that weak and deceptive guidance, and meddle in the aim of nature; in a word, nature would have prevented reason from breaking out into practical use and from having the presump- tion, with its weak insight, to think out for itself the project of happiness and the means of attaining it; nature would have taken over the choice not only of the ends but also of the means, and with wise provision would have 11 entrusted both solely to instinct. In fact we also find that the more a cultivated reason gives itself over to the aim of enjoying life and happiness, the further the human being falls short of true contentment; from this arises in many, and indeed in those most practiced in the cultivated use of reason, if only they are sincere enough to 12 admit it, a certain degree of misology, i.e., hatred of reason; for after reckoning all the advantages they draw, I do not say from the invention of 13 all the arts of common luxury, but even from the sciences (which also 10. Kant’s reasons for accepting this proposition as an a priori maxim of reflective judgment are presented in the Critique of the Power of Judgment (1790), § 66, Ak 5:376– 77. 11. Kant rejects the proposition that human happiness is an end of nature in his writings on history and in his review of the chief work of his former student J. G. Herder (1762–1802). See Idea toward a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim (1784), Ak 8:19–20; Reviews of Herder’s Ideas for the Philosophy of History of Humanity (1785– 1786), Ak 8:64–65; Conjectural Beginning of Human History (1786), Ak 8:114–18. See also Critique of the Power of Judgment, Ak 5:429–31. Though not an end of nature, human happiness is an end of reason, and of morality; see Critique of Practical Reason, Ak 5:61–62, 110–13; Metaphysics of Morals, Ak 6:387–88. 12. See Plato, Phaedo 89d–91b. 13. ‘‘Luxury (luxus) is excessive convenience in the social life of a community (so that its convenience works against its welfare)’’; Anthropology in a Pragmatic Respect, Ak 7:249.12 Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals 14 seem to them in the end to be a luxury of the understanding), they nev- 15 Ak 4:396 ertheless find that they have in fact only brought more hardship down on their shoulders than they have gained in happiness, and on this account in the end they sooner envy than despise human beings of the more common stamp, who are closer to the guidance of mere natural instinct and do not permit their reason much influence over their deeds and omissions. And we must admit this much, that the judgment of those who very much moderate the boastful high praise of the advantages that reason is supposed to supply us in regard to happiness and contentment with life, or who even reduce it below zero, is by no means morose or ungrateful toward the kindness of the world’s government; but rather these judgments are covertly grounded on the idea of another aim for their existence, possessing much greater dignity, for which, and not for their happiness, reason has been given its wholly authentic vocation, and to which, therefore, as a supreme condition, the private aims of the human being must for the most part defer. For since reason is not sufficiently effective in guiding the will safely in regard to its objects and the satisfaction of all our needs (which it in part itself multiplies), and an implanted natural instinct would have guided us much more certainly to this end, yet since reason nevertheless has been imparted to us as a practical faculty, i.e., as one that ought to have influence on the will, its true vocation must therefore be not to produce volition as a means to some other aim, but rather to produce a will good in itself, for which reason was absolutely necessary, since everywhere else nature goes to work purposively in distributing its predispositions. This will may there- fore not be the single and entire good, but it must be the highest good, and the condition for all the rest, even for every demand for happiness, in which case it can be united with the wisdom of nature, when one perceives that the culture of reason, which is required for the former, limits in many ways the attainment of the second aim, which is always conditioned, namely of happiness, at least in this life, and can even diminish it to less than nothing without nature’s proceeding unpurposively in this; for reason, which recog- nizes its highest practical vocation in the grounding of a good will, is capable in attaining this aim only of a contentment after its own kind, 16 namely from the fulfillment of an end that again only reason determines, 14. 1785 reads scheint instead of zu sein scheinen, which would have the effect in translation of eliminating the words ‘‘to be’’ from this sentence. 15. 1785: ‘‘more of’’ 16. 1785: ‘‘of the end’’Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals 13 even if this should also be bound up with some infringement of the ends of inclination. Ak 4:397 But now in order to develop the concept of a good will, to be esteemed in 17 itself and without any further aim, just as it dwells already in the naturally healthy understanding, which does not need to be taught but rather only to be enlightened, this concept always standing over the estimation of the entire worth of our actions and constituting the condition for everything else: we will put before ourselves the concept of duty, which contains that of a good will, though under certain subjective limitations and hindrances, which, however, far from concealing it and making it unrecognizable, rather elevate it by contrast and let it shine forth all the more brightly. I pass over all actions that are already recognized as contrary to duty, even though they might be useful for this or that aim; for with them the question cannot arise at all whether they might be done from duty, since they even conflict with it. I also set aside the actions which are actually in conformity with duty, for which, however, human beings have immediately no inclination, but nevertheless perform them because they are driven to it through another inclination. For there it is easy to distinguish whether the action in conformity with duty is done from duty or from a self-seeking aim. It is much harder to notice this difference where the action is in conformity with duty and the subject yet has besides this an immediate inclination to it. E.g., it is indeed in conformity with duty that the merchant should not overcharge his inexperienced customers, and where there is much commer- cial traffic, the prudent merchant also does not do this, but rather holds a firm general price for everyone, so that a child buys just as cheaply from him as anyone else. Thus one is honestly served; yet that is by no means sufficient for us to believe that the merchant has proceeded thus from duty and from principles of honesty; his advantage required it; but here it is not to be assumed that besides this, he was also supposed to have an immediate inclination toward the customers, so that out of love, as it were, he gave no one an advantage over another in his prices. Thus the action was done neither from duty nor from immediate inclination, but merely from a self- serving aim. By contrast, to preserve one’s life is a duty, and besides this everyone has an immediate inclination to it. But the often anxious care that the greatest part of humankind takes for its sake still has no inner worth, and its maxim Ak 4:398 has no moral content. They protect their life, to be sure, in conformity with duty, but not from duty. If, by contrast, adversities and hopeless grief have 17. This word added in 178614 Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals entirely taken away the taste for life, if the unhappy one, strong of soul, more indignant than pusillanimous or dejected over his fate, wishes for death and yet preserves his life without loving it, not from inclination or fear, but from duty: then his maxim has a moral content. To be beneficent where one can is a duty, and besides this there are some 18 souls so sympathetically attuned that, even without any other motive of vanity or utility to self, take an inner gratification in spreading joy around them, and can take delight in the contentment of others insofar as it is their own work. But I assert that in such a case the action, however it may conform to duty and however amiable it is, nevertheless has no true moral worth, but is on the same footing as other inclinations, e.g., the inclination to honor, which, when it fortunately encounters something that in fact serves the common good and is in conformity with duty, and is thus worthy of honor, deserves praise and encouragement, but not esteem; for the maxim lacks moral content, namely of doing such actions not from inclina- tion but from duty. Thus suppose the mind of that same friend of humanity were clouded over with his own grief, extinguishing all his sympathetic 19 participation in the fate of others; he still has the resources to be beneficent to those suffering distress, but the distress of others does not touch him 20 because he is sufficiently busy with his own; and now, where no inclina- tion any longer stimulates him to it, he tears himself out of this deadly insensibility and does the action without any inclination, solely from duty; only then does it for the first time have its authentic moral worth. Even more: if nature had put little sympathy at all in the heart of this or that person, if he (an honest man, to be sure) were by temperament cold and indifferent toward the sufferings of others, perhaps because he himself is provided with particular gifts of patience and strength to endure his own, and also presupposes or even demands the same of others; if nature has not 21 really formed such a man into a friend of humanity (although he would not in truth be its worst product), nevertheless would he not find a source within himself to give himself a far higher worth than that which a good-natured temperament might have? By all means Just here begins the worth of Ak 4:399 character, which is moral and the highest without any comparison, namely that he is beneficent not from inclination but from duty. To secure one’s own happiness is a duty (at least indirectly), for the lack 18. teilnehmend gestimmte Seelen 19. Teilnehmung 20. 1785: wäre 21. gebildetGroundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals 15 of contentment with one’s condition, in a crowd of many sorrows and amid unsatisfied needs, can easily become a great temptation to the violation of duties. But even without looking at duty, all human beings always have of themselves the most powerful and inward inclination to happiness, because precisely in this idea all inclinations are united in a sum. Yet the precept of happiness is for the most part so constituted that it greatly infringes on some inclinations and yet the human being cannot make any determinate and secure concept of the sum of satisfaction of them all, under the name of ‘happiness’; hence it is not to be wondered at that a single inclination, which is determinate in regard to what it promises and the time in which its satisfaction can be obtained, can outweigh a wavering idea; and the human being, e.g., a person with gout, could choose to enjoy what tastes good and to suffer what he must, because in accordance with his reckoning, here at least he has not sacrificed the enjoyment of the present moment through expectations, perhaps groundless, of a happiness that is supposed to lie in health. But also in this case, if the general inclination to happiness does not determine his will, if for him, at least, health does not count as so necessary in his reckoning, then here, as in all other cases, there still remains a law, namely to promote his happiness not from inclination but from duty, and then his conduct has for the first time its authentic moral worth. It is in this way, without doubt, that those passages in scripture are to be understood in which it is commanded to love our neighbor and even our enemy. For love as inclination cannot be commanded; but beneficence solely from duty, even when no inclination at all drives us to it, or even when natural and invincible disinclination resists, is practical and not path- ological love, which lies in the will and not in the propensity of feeling, in 22 the principles of action and not in melting sympathy; but the former alone can be commanded. 23 The second proposition is: an action from duty has its moral worth not in the aim that is supposed to be attained by it, but rather in the maxim in 24 accordance with which it is resolved upon; thus that worth depends not on Ak 4:400 the actuality of the object of the action, but merely on the principle of the volition, in accordance with which the action is done, without regard to any object of the faculty of desire. It is clear from the preceding that the aims we may have in actions, and their effects, as ends and incentives of the will, can 22. schmelzender Teilnehmung 23. Kant does not say explicitly what the ‘‘first proposition’’ was, but presumably it is that an action has moral worth only if it is done from duty. 24. This word added in 178616 Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals impart to the actions no unconditioned and moral worth. In what, then, can this worth lie, if it is not supposed to exist in the will, in the relation of the actions to the effect hoped for? It can lie nowhere else than in the principle of the will, without regard to the ends that can be effected through such action; for the will is at a crossroads, as it were, between its principle a priori, which is formal, and its incentive a posteriori, which is material, and since it must somehow be determined by something, it must be determined through the formal principle in general of the volition if it does an action from duty, since every material principle has been withdrawn from it. The third proposition, as a consequence of the first two, I would express thus: Duty is the necessity of an action from respect for the law. For the object, as an effect of my proposed action, I can of course have an inclina- 25 tion, but never respect, just because it is merely an effect and not the 26 activity of a will. Just as little can I have respect for inclination in general, whether my own or another’s; I can at most approve it in the first case, in the second I can sometimes even love it, i.e., regard it as favorable to my own advantage. Only that which is connected with my will merely as a ground, never as an effect, only what does not serve my inclination but outweighs it, or at least wholly excludes it from the reckoning in a choice, hence only the mere law for itself, can be an object of respect and hence a command. Now 27 an action from duty is supposed entirely to abstract from the influence of inclination, and with it every object of the will, so nothing is left over for the will that can determine it except the law as what is objective and subjec- tively pure respect for this practical law, hence the maxim of complying Ak 4:401 with such a law, even when it infringes all my inclinations. The moral worth of the action thus lies not in the effect to be expected from it; thus also not in any principle of action which needs to get its motive from this expected effect. For all these effects (agreeableness of one’s con- dition, indeed even the furthering of the happiness of others) could be brought about through other causes, and for them the will of a rational being A maxim is the subjective principle of the volition; the objective princi- ple (i.e., that which would serve all rational beings also subjectively as a practical principle if reason had full control over the faculty of desire) is the practical law. 25. Kant’s pronoun here is in the feminine, which could refer to ‘‘effect’’ but not to ‘‘object,’’ which seems to be the intended referent. Editors therefore often emend the pronoun to the neuter. 26. 1785: ‘‘an effect of my will’’ 27. absondernGroundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals 17 is therefore not needed; but in it alone the highest and unconditioned good can nevertheless be encountered. Nothing other than the representation of the law in itself, which obviously occurs only in the rational being insofar as it, and not the hoped-for effect, is the determining ground of the will, 28 therefore constitutes that so pre-eminent good which we call ‘moral’, which is already present in the person himself who acts in accordance with it, but must not first of all be expected from the effect. Ak 4:402 But what kind of law can it be, whose representation, without even One could accuse me of merely taking refuge behind the word respect Ak4:401 in an obscure feeling instead of giving a distinct reply to the question through a concept of reason. Yet even if respect is a feeling, it is not one received through influence but a feeling self-effected through a concept of reason and hence specifically distinguished from all feelings of the first kind, which may be reduced to inclination or fear. What I immediately recognize as a law for me, I recognize with respect, which signifies merely the consciousness of the subjection of my will to a law without any media- tion of other influences on my sense. The immediate determination of the will through the law and the consciousness of it is called respect, so that the latter is to be regarded as the effect of the law on the subject and not as its cause. Authentically, respect is the representation of a worth that infringes on my self-love. Thus it is something that is considered as an object neither of inclination nor of fear, even though it has something analogical to both at the same time. The object of respect is thus solely the law, and specifically that law that we lay upon ourselves and yet also as in itself necessary. As a law we are subject to it without asking permission of self-love; as laid upon us by ourselves, it is a consequence of our will, and has from the first point of view an analogy with fear, and from the second with inclination. All respect for a person is properly only respect for the law (of uprightness, etc.) of which the person gives us the example. Because we regard the expansion of our talents also as a duty, we represent to ourselves a person with talents also as an example of a law, as it were (to become similar to the person in this) and that constitutes our respect. All so-called moral interest consists solely in respect for the law. The parenthetical material in the penultimate sentence was added in 1786. Cf. Critique of Practical Reason, Ak 5:71–89. In the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant lists four feelings that are produced directly by reason and can serve as moral motivation. These are ‘‘moral feeling,’’ ‘‘conscience,’’ ‘‘love of human beings,’’ and ‘‘respect’’ (Metaphysics of Morals, Ak 6:399–403). 28. 1785: ‘‘thus’’18 Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals taking account of the effect expected from it, must determine the will, so that it can be called good absolutely and without limitation? Since I have robbed the will of every impulse that could have arisen from the obedience to any law, there is nothing left over except the universal lawfulness of the action in general which alone is to serve the will as its principle, i.e., I ought never to conduct myself except so that I could also will that my maxim become a universal law. Here it is mere lawfulness in general (without grounding it on any law determining certain actions) that serves the will as its principle, and also must so serve it, if duty is not to be everywhere an 29 empty delusion and a chimerical concept; common human reason, indeed, agrees perfectly with this in its practical judgment, and has the principle just cited always before its eyes. Let the question be, e.g.: When I am in a tight spot, may I not make a promise with the intention of not keeping it? Here I easily make a distinc- tion in the signification the question can have, whether it is prudent, or whether it is in conformity with duty, to make a false promise. The first can without doubt often occur. I do see very well that it is not sufficient to get myself out of a present embarrassment by means of this subterfuge, but rather it must be reflected upon whether from this lie there could later arise much greater inconvenience than that from which I am now freeing myself, and, since the consequences of my supposed cunning are not so easy to foresee, and a trust once lost to me might become much more disadvan- tageous than any ill I think I am avoiding, whether it might not be more prudent to conduct myself in accordance with a universal maxim and make it into a habit not to promise anything except with the intention of keeping it. Yet it soon occurs to me here that such a maxim has as its ground only the worrisome consequences. Now to be truthful from duty is something en- tirely different from being truthful out of worry over disadvantageous con- sequences; in the first case, the concept of the action in itself already con- tains a law for me, whereas in the second I must look around elsewhere to see which effects might be bound up with it for me. For if I deviate from the Ak 4:403 principle of duty, then this is quite certainly evil; but if I desert my maxim of prudence, then that can sometimes be very advantageous to me, even though it is safer to remain with it. Meanwhile, to inform myself in the shortest and least deceptive way in regard to my answer to this problem, whether a lying promise is in conformity with duty, I ask myself: Would I be content with it if my maxim (of getting myself out of embarrassment through an untruthful promise) should be valid as a universal law (for 29. 1785: ‘‘but common human reason’’Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals 19 myself as well as for others), and would I be able to say to myself that anyone may make an untruthful promise when he finds himself in embar- rassment which he cannot get out of in any other way? Then I soon become aware that I can will the lie but not at all a universal law to lie; for in accordance with such a law there would properly be no promises, because it would be pointless to avow my will in regard to my future actions to those who would not believe this avowal, or, if they rashly did so, who would pay me back in the same coin; hence my maxim, as soon as it were made into a universal law, would destroy itself. Thus I need no well-informed shrewdness to know what I have to do in order to make my volition morally good. Inexperienced in regard to the course of the world, incapable of being prepared for all the occurrences that might eventuate in it, I ask myself only: Can you will also that your maxim should become a universal law? If not, then it is reprehensible, and this not for the sake of any disadvantage impending for you or someone else, but because it cannot fit as a principle into a possible universal legislation; but for this legislation reason extorts immediate respect from me, from which, to be sure, I still do not have insight into that on which it is grounded (which the philosopher may investigate), but I at least understand this much, that it is an estimation of a worth which far outweighs everything whose worth is commended by inclination, and that the necessity of my actions from pure respect for the practical law is what constitutes duty, before which every other motive must give way because it is the condition of a will that is good in itself, whose worth surpasses everything. Thus in the moral cognition of common human reason we have attained to its principle, which it obviously does not think abstractly in such a universal form, but actually has always before its eyes and uses as its standard of judgment. It would be easy here to show how, with this compass Ak 4:404 in its hand, it knows its way around very well in all the cases that come before it, how to distinguish what is good, what is evil, what conforms to duty or is contrary to duty, if, without teaching it the least new thing, one 30 only makes it aware of its own principle, as Socrates did; and thus that it needs no science and philosophy to know what one has to do in order to be honest and good, or indeed, even wise and virtuous. It might even have been conjectured in advance that the acquaintance with what every human being is obliged to do, hence to know, would also be the affair of everyone, 30. This would appear to be Kant’s interpretation of Socrates’ ‘‘human wisdom’’ (Plato, Apology 20c–24b). Compare Metaphysics of Morals, Ak 6:411.20 Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals 31 even of the most common human being. Here one cannot regard without admiration the way the practical faculty of judgment is so far ahead of the theoretical in the common human understanding. In the latter, if common reason ventures to depart from the laws of experience and perceptions of sense, then it falls into sheer inconceivabilities and self-contradictions, or at least into a chaos of uncertainty, obscurity, and inconstancy. But in the practical, the power of judgment first begins to show itself to advantage when the common understanding excludes from practical laws all sensuous incentives. It then even becomes subtle, caviling with its conscience, or with other claims in reference to what is to be called right, or even in wanting sincerely to determine the worth of actions for its own instruc- 32 tion, and, what is most striking, it can in the latter case do so with just as good a hope of getting things right as any philosopher might promise to do; indeed, it is almost more secure in this even than the latter, because the 33 philosopher has no other principle than the common understanding, but the philosopher’s judgment is easily confused by a multiplicity of consider- ations that are alien and do not belong to the matter and can make it deviate from the straight direction. Would it not accordingly be more advisable in moral things to stay with the judgment of common reason, and bring in philosophy at most only in order to exhibit the system of morals all the more completely and comprehensibly, and its rules in a way that is more conve- nient for their use (still more for disputation), but not in order to remove the common human understanding in a practical respect out of its happy sim- plicity, and through philosophy to set it on a new route of investigation and instruction? Ak 4:405 There is something splendid about innocence, but it is in turn very bad that it cannot be protected very well and is easily seduced. On this account even wisdom—which consists more in deeds and omissions than in knowl- edge—also needs science, not in order to learn from it but in order to provide entry and durability for its precepts. The human being feels in himself a powerful counterweight against all commands of duty, which reason represents to him as so worthy of esteem, in his needs and inclina- tions, whose satisfaction he summarizes under the name of ‘happiness’. Now reason commands its precepts unremittingly, without promising any- thing to inclinations, thus snubbing and disrespecting, as it were, those impetuous claims, which at the same time seem so reasonable (and will not 31. 1785: ‘‘Nevertheless’’ 32. 1785: Belohnung (‘‘reward’’); 1786: Belehrung (‘‘instruction’’) 33. 1785: ‘‘can have’’Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals 21 be done away with by any command). From this, however, arises a natural dialectic, that is, a propensity to ratiocinate against those strict laws of duty and to bring into doubt their validity, or at least their purity and strictness, 34 and, where possible, to make them better suited to our wishes and inclina- tions, i.e., at ground to corrupt them and deprive them of their entire dignity, which not even common practical reason can in the end call good. Thus common human reason is impelled, not through any need of spec- ulation (which never assaults it as long as it is satisfied with being mere healthy reason), but rather from practical grounds themselves, to go outside its sphere and to take a step into the field of practical philosophy, in order to receive information and distinct directions about the source of its principle and its correct determination in opposition to the maxims based on need and inclination, so that it may escape from its embarrassment concerning the claims of both sides and not run the risk of being deprived, through the ambiguity into which it easily falls, of all genuine ethical principles. Thus even in common practical reason, when it is cultivated, there ensues un- noticed a dialectic, which necessitates it to seek help in philosophy, just as befalls it in its theoretical use; and therefore the first will find no more tranquillity than the other anywhere except in a complete critique of our reason. 34. 1785: ‘‘at least’’Ak4:406 Second Section Transition from popular moral philosophy to the metaphysics of morals If we have thus far drawn our concept of duty from the common use of our practical reason, it is by no means to be inferred from this that we have treated it as a concept of experience. Rather, if we attend to the experience of the deeds and omissions of human beings, we encounter frequent and, as we ourselves concede, just complaints that one could cite no safe examples of the disposition to act from pure duty; that, even if some of what is done 1 may accord with what duty commands, nevertheless it always remains 2 doubtful whether it is really done from duty and thus has a moral worth. 3 Hence in all ages there have been philosophers who have absolutely denied the actuality of this disposition in human actions, and have ascribed every- thing to a more or less refined self-love, yet without bringing the correct- 4 ness of the concept of morality into doubt; rather, they have mentioned 5 with inward regret the fragility and impurity of human nature, which is, to be sure, noble enough to make an idea so worthy of respect into its precept, but at the same time is too weak to follow it, and uses reason, which ought to serve it for legislation, only in order to take care of the interest of inclinations, whether singly or at most in their greatest compatibility with Ak 4:407 one another. In fact it is absolutely impossible to settle with complete certainty through experience whether there is even a single case in which the maxim 1. 1785: ‘‘thus’’ 2. 1785: ‘‘that’’ 3. 1785 omits this word and treats the following sentence as a clause subordinate to the previous sentence. 4. 1786 adds this verb construction Erwähnung taten 5. In Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, Kant lists ‘‘fragility’’ (the inability to hold to good maxims, once they are adopted) and ‘‘impurity’’ (the need for nonmoral incentives to do one’s duty) as the two lesser degrees of the radical evil in human nature, along with the highest degree, ‘‘depravity’’ (the propensity to place incen- tives of inclination ahead of those of duty) (Ak 6:29–30).Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals 23 of an otherwise dutiful action has rested solely on moral grounds and on the representation of one’s duty. For it is sometimes the case that with the most acute self-examination we encounter nothing that could have been power- ful enough apart from the moral ground of duty to move us to this or that good action and to so great a sacrifice; but from this it cannot be safely inferred that it was not actually some covert impulse of self-love, under the mere false pretense of that idea, that was the real determining cause of the will; so we would gladly flatter ourselves with a false presumption of a nobler motive, while in fact even through the most strenuous testing, we can never fully get behind the covert incentives, because when we are talking about moral worth, it does not depend on the actions, which one 6 sees, but on the inner principles, which one does not see. One cannot better serve the wishes of those who ridicule all morality, as a mere figment of the mind overreaching itself though self-conceit, than to concede to them that the concepts of duty must be drawn solely from experience (as one is gladly persuaded, for the sake of convenience, in the case of all other concepts); for in this way one prepares for them a certain triumph. From love of humanity I will concede that most of our actions are in conformity with duty; but if one looks more closely at ‘‘the imagination 7 of the thoughts of their hearts,’’ then everywhere one runs into the dear 8 self, which is always thrusting itself forward; it is upon this that the aim is based, and not on the strict command of duty, which would often demand self-renunciation. One does not need to be an enemy of virtue, but only a cold-blooded observer, who does not take the liveliest wish for the good straightway as its reality, in order (especially with advancing years, and a power of judgment grown shrewder through experience and more acute for observation) to become doubtful at certain moments whether any true vir- tue is ever really to be encountered in the world. And here nothing can protect us from falling away entirely from our ideas of duty and preserve in our soul a well-grounded respect toward its law, except the clear conviction that even if there have never been actions that have arisen from such pure 6. Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:18: ‘‘While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things that are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.’’ 7. ihr Dichten und Trachten; this is an allusion to the phrase Tichten und Trachten in the Lutheran translation of Genesis 6:5, which reads (in the King James version): ‘‘And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.’’ 8. See Anthropology in a Pragmatic Respect, § 2, Ak 7:128–30.24 Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals Ak 4:408 sources, yet nevertheless we are not talking here about whether this or that happens, but rather reason commands, for itself and independently of all appearances, what ought to happen; hence actions, of which perhaps the world has up to now given no example and about which one might, ground- ing everything on experience, very much doubt even their feasibility, are nevertheless commanded unremittingly by reason; and that, e.g., pure hon- esty in friendship can no less be demanded of every human being, even if up 9 to now there may not have been a single honest friend, because this duty, as duty in general, lies prior to all experience in the idea of a reason determin- ing the will through a priori grounds. If one adds that unless one wants to dispute whether the concept of morality has any truth and relation to any possible object, one could not deny that its law is of such an extensive significance that it would have to be valid not merely for human beings but for all rational beings in general, and not merely under contingent conditions and with exceptions, but with abso- lute necessity, then it is clear that no experience could give occasion for 10 inferring even the possibility of such apodictic laws. For with what right could we bring into unlimited respect, as a universal precept for every rational nature, that which is perhaps valid only under the contingent condi- tions of humanity, and how should laws for the determination of our will be taken as laws for the determination of the will of a rational being in general, and only as such also for our will, if they were merely empirical and did not take their origin fully a priori from pure but practical reason? Nor could one give worse advice to morality than by trying to get it from examples. For every example of morality that is to be represented to me as such must itself be previously judged in accordance with principles of 9. ‘‘Friendship thought of as attainable in its purity or completeness (between Orestes and Pylades, Thesesus and Pirithous) is the hobbyhorse of writers of romances. On the other hand, Aristotle says: ‘My dear friends, there are no friends’ ’’ (Metaphysics of Morals, Ak 6:470). The statement attributed to Aristotle is based on Diogenes Laertius, Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers 5.1.21. 10. The original meaning of ‘apodictic’ is ‘self-evident’ (from the Greek ≤apó + deíknumi). But Kant more typically uses it in the sense of ‘necessary’ (this is its apparent meaning in the Table of Judgments, Critique of Pure Reason A70/B95); yet an epistemic element of certainty is often intended as well. For example: ‘‘Geometrical propositions are all apodictic, i.e., combined with consciousness of their necessity’’ (Critique of Pure Reason B 41; cf. A160/B199); ‘‘Mathematical cognition carries with it thoroughly apodictic certainty (i.e., absolute necessity), hence rests on no grounds of experience’’ (Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, § 6, Ak 4:280).Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals 25 11 morality as to whether it is worthy to serve as an original example, i.e., as 12 a model; but it can by no means by itself supply the concept of morality. Even the holy one of the Gospel must first be compared with our ideal of moral perfection before one can recognize him as holy; he says this about himself too: Why do you call me (whom you see) good? No one is good (the 13 archetype of the good) except the one God (whom you do not see). But where do we get the concept of God as the highest good? Solely from the Ak 4:409 idea that reason projects a priori of moral perfection and connects insepara- bly with the concept of a free will. In morality there is no imitation, and examples serve only for encouragement, i.e., they place beyond doubt the feasibility of what the law commands, they make intuitive what the practi- cal rule expresses universally; but they can never justify setting aside their 14 true original, which lies in reason, and in directing ourselves in accor- dance with examples. If, then, there is no genuine supreme principle of morality which does not have to rest on pure reason independent of all experience, then I believe it is not necessary even to ask whether it is good to expound these concepts in general (in abstracto), as they, together with the principles belonging to them, are fixed a priori, provided that this cognition is distinguished from common cognition and is to be called ‘philosophical’. But in our age this might well be necessary. For if one were to collect votes on which is to be preferred, a pure rational cognition abstracted from everything empirical, hence a metaphysics of morals, or popular practical philosophy, then one 15 16 would soon guess on which side the preponderance will fall. 11. 1785: ‘‘genuine’’ 12. zu oberst 13. ‘‘ ‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good except God alone’ ’’ (Luke 18:19; cf. Matthew 19:17, Mark 10:18). As in note 6 above, compare also 2 Corinthians 4:18. 14. Original 15. 1785: ‘‘the truth’’ 16. Kant’s references to ‘‘popular philosophy’’ are primarily allusions to a movement of German Enlightenment philosophers, centered chiefly in Berlin, whose best-known representatives were Christian Garve (1742–1798), Moses Mendelssohn (1729–1786), Christoph Meiners (1747–1810), and Christoph Friedrich Nicolai (1733–1811). Other critical references to this movement can be found throughout Kant’s writings (Critique of Pure Reason A x, A855/B883; Prolegomena, Ak 4:261–62, 371–83; What Does It Mean To Orient Oneself in Thinking? Ak 8:133–46; On the Common Saying ‘‘That May Be Correct in Theory, but Does Not Work in Practice’’ Ak 8:278–89; Metaphysics of Morals,26 Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals 17 This condescension to popular concepts is to be sure very laudable when the elevation to principles of pure reason has already been achieved to full satisfaction, and that would mean first grounding the doctrine of morals on metaphysics, but procuring entry for it by means of popularity, once it stands firm. But it is quite absurd to want to humor popularity in the first investigation, upon which depends the correctness of principles. Not only can this procedure never lay claim to the extremely rare merit of a true philosophical popularity, since there is no art in being commonly under- standable if one relinquishes all well-grounded insight; this produces only a disgusting mish-mash of patched-together observations and half-reasoned principles, in which superficial minds revel, because there is always some- thing serviceable for everyday chitchat, but which insightful people dis- regard, feeling confused and dissatisfied without being able to help them- 18 selves; yet philosophers, who can very well see through the illusion, find Ak 4:410 little hearing when for certain occasions they decry this supposed popu- larity, in order, through acquiring determinate insight, finally to gain the right to be popular . One need only look at the essays on morality adapted to this favored taste; then one will sometimes encounter the particular vocation of human nature (but occasionally also the idea of a rational nature in general), some- times perfection, sometimes happiness, here moral feeling, there fear of God, some of this and some of that, all in a wondrous mixture, without its occurring to anyone to ask whether the principles of morality are to be sought anywhere in the knowledge of human nature (which we can obtain only through experience); and if not, if these principles are to be encoun- tered in pure concepts of reason, fully a priori, free from everything empiri- cal, and nowhere else even in the smallest part, then one may seize the Ak 6:206; On Turning Out Books, Ak 8: 433–37; Logic, Ak 9:19–20, 148). Despite this, Kant was on terms of friendship and mutual admiration with at least two members of the movement, namely Mendelssohn and Garve. Some scholars have maintained the thesis that Garve’s translation, with notes, of Cicero’s On Duties greatly influenced the Ground- work itself, including its account of the good will and its three formulations of the moral law. See Klaus Reich, ‘‘Kant and Greek Ethics,’’ Mind 47 (1939), and A. R. C. Duncan, Practical Reason and Morality (London: Nelson, 1957), chap. 11. For a convincing refutation of this thesis, see Reiner Wimmer, Universalisierung in der Ethik (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1980), pp. 183–84; and Dieter Schönecker, Kant: Grundlegung III. Die De- duktion des kategorischen Imperativs (Freiburg: Alber Verlag, 1999), pp. 61–67. 17. Volksbegriffen 18. BlendwerkGroundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals 27 initiative by entirely separating this investigation as pure practical philoso- phy, or (if one may use such a disreputable term) as metaphysics of morals, bringing it for itself alone to its entire completeness, and deferring the expectations of the public, which demands popularity, until the completion of this undertaking. But such a fully isolated metaphysics of morals, mixed with no anthro- pology, with no theology, with no physics or hyperphysics, still less with occult qualities (which one might call ‘hypophysical’), is not only an indis- pensable substrate of all theoretical cognition of duties which is securely determined, but it is at the same time also a desideratum of the highest importance for the actual fulfillment of its precepts. For the pure representa- tion of duty and the moral law in general, mixed with no alien addition from empirical stimuli, has, by way of reason alone (which thereby for the first time becomes aware that it can for itself be practical), an influence on the human heart so much more powerful than all other incentives that might Ak 4:411 One can, if one wants, distinguish the ‘pure’ philosophy of morals (metaphysics) from the ‘applied’ (namely to human nature) (just as ‘pure’ mathematics and ‘pure’ logic are distinguished from ‘applied’). By this terminology one is directly reminded that moral principles are not grounded on the peculiarities of human nature, but must be subsistent a priori for themselves; but from them human practical rules must be derivable, as for every rational nature. I have a letter from the late excellent Sulzer, in which he asks me what the cause might be that the doctrines of virtue, however convincing they may be to reason, yet accomplish so little. My answer, through being pre- pared so as to be complete, came too late. Yet it is nothing except that the teachers have not brought their concepts to purity, and because they were trying to do too much by scaring up motivations to be morally good from everywhere, in trying to strengthen their medicine they ruin it. For the most common observation shows that when one represents an upright action as it is carried out with a steadfast soul even under the greatest temptations of distress or of enticement, separate from every intention for any advantage in this or in another world, it leaves far behind and eclipses every similar action which is affected even in the slightest with an alien incentive; it elevates the soul and inspires the wish to be able also to act that way. Even moderately young children feel this impression, and one should never rep- resent duty to them otherwise than this. Johann Georg Sulzer (1720– 1779), director of the philosophical division of the Prussian Academy of Sciences (1777–1779). The letter in question is usually thought to be the

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