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IMMANUEL, KANT. [1724-1804.]
The ethical writings of Kant, in the order of their appearance, are--_Foundation for the Metaphysic of Morals_ (1785); _Critique of the Practical Reason_ (1788); _Metaphysic of Morals_ (1797, in two parts--(1) _Doctrine of Right_ or Jurisprudence, (2) _Doctrine of Virtue_ or Ethics proper). The third work contains the details of his system; the general theory is presented in the two others. Of these we select for a.n.a.lysis the earlier, containing, as it does, in less artificial form, an ampler discussion of the fundamental questions of morals; but towards the end it must be supplemented, in regard to certain characteristic doctrines, from the second, in some respects more developed, work.
In the introduction to the Metaphysic of Morals, Kant distinguishes between the empirical and the rational mode of treating Ethics. He announces his intention to depart from the common plan of mixing up the two together, and to attempt for once to set forth the _pure_ moral philosophy that is implied even in the vulgar ideas of duty and moral law. Because a moral law means an absolute necessity laid on all rational beings whatever, its foundation is to be sought, not in human nature or circ.u.mstances, but _a priori_ in the conception of pure reason. The most universal precept founded on mere experience is only a practical rule, and never a moral law. A purely rational moral philosophy, or Metaphysic of Morals, will serve the double end of meeting a speculative requirement, and of furnishing the only true norm of practice. It investigates the idea and principles of a potentially pure Will, instead of the acts and conditions of human volition as known from psychology. Not a complete Metaphysic of Morals, however, (which would be a Critique of the pure Practical Reason), but merely a foundation for such will be given. The supreme principle of morality is to be established, apart from detailed application. First, common notions will be a.n.a.lyzed in order to get at this highest principle; and then, when the principle has been sought out, they will be returned upon by way of synthesis.
In the first of the three main sections of the work, he makes the pa.s.sage from Common Rational Knowledge of Morals to Philosophical.
Nothing in the world, he begins, can without qualification be called good, except _Will_. Qualities of temperament, like courage, &c., gifts of fortune, like wealth and power, are good only with reference to a good will. As to a good will, when it is really such, the circ.u.mstance that it can, or cannot, be executed does not matter; its value is independent of the utility or fruitlessness of it.
This idea of the absolute worth of mere Will, though it is allowed even by the vulgar understanding, he seeks to establish beyond dispute, by an argument from the natural _subjection_ of Will to Reason. In a being well-organized, if Conservation or Happiness were the grand aim, such subjection would be a great mistake. When Instinct could do the work far better and more surely, Reason should have been deprived of all practical function. Discontent, in fact, rather than happiness comes of pursuit of mere enjoyment by rational calculation; and to make light of the part contributed by Reason to happiness, is really to make out that it exists for a n.o.bler purpose. But now, since Reason _is_ a practical faculty and governs the will, its function can only be to produce a Will good in itself. Such a Will, if not the only good, is certainly the highest; and happiness, unattainable by Reason as a primary aim, and subject in this life altogether to much limitation, is to be sought only in the contentment that arises from the attainment by Reason of its true aim, at the sacrifice often of many a natural inclination.
He proceeds to develop this conception of a Will in itself good and estimable, by dealing with the commonly received ideas of Duty. Leaving aside profitable actions that are plain violations of duty, and also actions conformed to duty, but, while not prompted directly by nature, done from some special inclination--in which case it is easy to distinguish whether the action is done from duty or from self-interest; he considers those more difficult cases where the same action is at once duty, and prompted by direct natural inclination. In all such, whether it be duty of self-preservation, of benevolence, of securing one's own happiness (this last a duty, because discontent and the pressure of care may easily lead to the transgression of other duties), he lays it down that the action is not allowed to have true moral value, unless done in the abeyance or absence of the natural inclination prompting to it. A second position is, that the moral value of an action done from duty lies not in the intention of it, but in the maxim that determines it; not in the object, but in the _principle of Volition_. That is to say, in action done out of regard to duty, the will must be determined by its _formal a priori_ principle, not being determined by any _material a posteriori_ motive. A third position follows then from the other two; Duty is the necessity of an action out of respect for Law. Towards an object there may be inclination, and this inclination may be matter for approval or liking; but it is Law only--the ground and not the effect of Volition, bearing down inclination rather than serving it--that can inspire _Respect_. When inclination and motives are both excluded, nothing remains to determine Will, except Law objectively; and, subjectively, pure respect for a law of practice--_i.e._, the maxim to follow such a law, even at the sacrifice of every inclination. The conception of Law-in-itself alone determining the will, is, then, the surpa.s.sing good that is called moral, which exists already in a man before his action has any result.
Conformity to Law in general, all special motive to follow any single law being excluded, remains as the one principle of Volition: I am never to act otherwise, than so as to be able also to wish that my maxim (_i.e._, my subjective principle of volition) should become a universal law. This is what he finds implied in the common notions of Duty.
Having ill.u.s.trated at length this reading, in regard to the duty of keeping a promise, he contrasts, at the close of the section, the all but infallibility of common human reason in practice with its helplessness in speculation. Notwithstanding, it finds itself unable to settle the contending claims of Reason and Inclination, and so is driven to devise a practical philosophy, owing to the rise of a 'Natural Dialectic' or tendency to refine upon the strict laws of duty in order to make them more pleasant. But, as in the speculative region, the Dialectic cannot be properly got rid of without a complete Critique of Reason.
In Section II. the pa.s.sage is made from the popular moral philosophy thus arising to the metaphysic of morals. He denies that the notion of duty that has been taken above from common sage is empirical. It is proved not to be such from the very a.s.sertions of philosophers that men always act from more or less refined self-love; a.s.sertions that are founded upon the difficulty of proving that acts most apparently conformed to duty are really such. The fact is, no act _can_ be proved by experience to be absolutely moral, _i.e._, done solely from regard to duty, to the exclusion of all inclination; and therefore to concede that morality and duty are ideas to be had from experience, is the surest way to get rid of them altogether. Duty, and respect for its law, are not to be preserved at all, unless Reason is allowed to lay _absolute_ injunctions on the will, whatever experience says of their non-execution. How, indeed, is experience to disclose a moral law, that, in applying to all rational beings as well as men, and to men only as rational, must originate _a priori_ in pure (practical) Reason?
Instead of yielding the principles of morality, empirical examples of moral conduct have rather to be judged by these.
All supreme principles of morality, that are genuine, must rest on pure Reason solely; and the mistake of the popular practical philosophies in vogue, one and all--whether advancing as their principle a special determination of human nature, or Perfection, or Happiness, or Moral Feeling, or Fear of G.o.d, or a little of this and a little of that--is that there has been no previous consideration whether the principles of morality are to be sought for in our empirical knowledge of human nature at all. Such consideration would have shown them to be altogether _a priori_, and would have appeared as a _pure_ practical philosophy or metaphysic of morals (upon the completion of which any popularizing might have waited), kept free from admixture of Anthropology, Theology, Physics, Hyperphysics, &c., and setting forth the conception of Duty as purely rational, without the confusion of empirical motives. To a metaphysic of this kind, Kant is now to ascend from the popular philosophy, with its stock-in-trade of single instances, following out the practical faculty of Reason from the general rules determining it, to the point where the conception of Duty emerges.
While things in nature work according to laws, rational beings alone can act according to a conceived idea of laws, _i.e._, to principles.
This is to have a Will, or, what is the same, Practical Reason, reason being required in deducing actions from laws. If the Will follows Reason exactly and without fail, actions objectively necessary are necessary also subjectively; if, through subjective conditions (inclinations, &c.), the Will does not follow Reason inevitably, objectively necessary actions become subjectively contingent, and towards the objective laws the att.i.tude of the will is no longer unfailing choice, but _constraint_. A constraining objective principle mentally represented, is a _command_; its formula is called _Imperative_, for which the expression is _Ought_. A will perfectly good--_i.e._, subjectively determined to follow the objective laws of good as soon as conceived--knows no Ought. Imperatives are only for an imperfect, such as is the human, will. _Hypothetical_ Imperatives represent the practical necessity of an action as a means to an end, being _problematical_ or _a.s.sertory_ principles, according as the end is possible or real. _Categorical_ Imperatives represent an action as objectively necessary for itself, and count as _apodeictical_ principles.
To the endless number of possible aims of human action correspond as many Imperatives, directing merely how they are to be attained, without any question of their value; these are Imperatives of _Fitness_. To one real aim, existing necessarily for all rational beings, viz., Happiness, corresponds the Imperative of _Prudence_ (in the narrow sense), being a.s.sertory while hypothetical. The categorical Imperative, enjoining a mode of action for itself, and concerned about the form and principle of it, not its nature and result, is the Imperative of _Morality_. These various kinds of Imperatives, as influencing the will, may be distinguished as _Rules_ (of fitness), _Counsels_ (of prudence), _Commands_ or _Laws_ (of morality); also as _technical, pragmatical, moral_.
Now, as to the question of the possibility of these different Imperatives--how they can be supposed able to influence or act upon the Will--there is in the first case no difficulty; in wishing an end it is necessarily implied that we wish the indispensable means, when this is in our power. In like manner, the Imperatives of Prudence are also _a.n.a.lytical_ in character (_i.e._, given by implication), if only it were possible to have a definite idea of the end sought, viz., happiness. But, in fact, with the elements of happiness to be got from experience at the same time that the idea requires an absolute whole, or maximum, of satisfaction now and at every future moment, no finite being can know precisely what he wants, or what may be the effect of any of his wishes. Action, on fixed principles, with a view to happiness, is, therefore, not possible; and one can only follow empirical directions, about Diet, Frugality, Politeness, &c., seen on the whole to promote it. Although, however, there is no certainty of causing happiness, and the Imperatives with reference thereto are mere counsels, they retain their character of a.n.a.lytical propositions, and their action on the will is not less possible than in the former case.
To prove the possibility of the Imperative of morality is more difficult. As categorical, it presupposes nothing else to rest its necessity upon; while by way of experience, it can never be made out to be more than a prudential precept--_i.e._, a pragmatic or hypothetic principle. Its possibility must therefore be established _a priori_.
But the difficulty will then appear no matter of wonder, when it is remembered (from the Critique of Pure Reason) how hard it is to establish synthetic propositions _a priori_.
The question of the possibility, however, meanwhile postponed, the mere conception of a categorical Imperative is found to yield the one formula that can express it, from its not being dependent, like a hypothetical Imperative, on any external condition. Besides the Law (or objective principle of conduct), the only thing implied in the Imperative being the necessity laid upon the _Maxim_ (or subjective principle) to conform to the law--a law limited by no condition; there is nothing for the maxim to be conformed to but the universality of a law in general, and it is the conformity alone that properly const.i.tutes the Imperative necessary. The Imperative is thus single, and runs: _Act according to that maxim only which you can wish at the same time to become a_ _universal law_. Or, since universality of law as determining effects is what we understand by nature: _Act as if the maxim of your action ought by your will to become the universal law of nature_.
Taking cases of duties according to the common divisions of duties to ourselves and to others, perfect and imperfect, he proceeds to show that they may be all deduced from the single Imperative; the question of the _reality_ of duty, which is the same as the establishment of the possibility of the Imperative as a synthetic practical proposition _a priori_, at present altogether apart. Suppose a man tempted to commit suicide, with the view of bettering his evil condition; but it is contradictory that the very principle of self-conservation should lead to self-destruction, and such a maxim of conduct cannot therefore become a universal law of nature. Next, the case of a man borrowing without meaning to repay, has only to be turned into a universal law, and the thing becomes impossible; n.o.body would lend. Again, to neglect a talent that is generally useful for mere ease and self-gratification, can indeed be supposed a universal practice, but can never be wished to be. Finally, to refuse help to others universally might not ruin the race, but can be wished by no one that knows how soon he must himself need a.s.sistance. Now, the rule was, that a maxim of conduct should be _wished_ to become the universal law. In the last two cases, it cannot be wished; in the others, the maxim cannot even be conceived in universal form. Thus, two grades of duty, one admitting of merit, the other so strict as to be irremissible, are established on the general principle. The principle is moreover confirmed in the case of transgression of duty: the transgressor by no means wishes to have his act turned into a general rule, but only seeks special and temporary exemption from a law allowed by himself to be universal.
Notwithstanding this force and ease of application, a categorical Imperative has not yet been proved _a priori_ actually existent; and it was allowed that it could not be proved empirically, elements of inclination, interest, &c., being inconsistent with morality. The real question is this: Is it a necessary law that all rational beings should act on maxims that they can wish, to become universal laws? If so, this must be bound up with the very notion of the will of a rational being; the relation of the will to itself being to be determined _a priori_ by pure Reason. The Will is considered as a power of self-determination to act according to certain laws as represented to the mind, existing only in rational beings. And, if the objective ground of self-determination, or _End_, is supplied by mere Reason, it must be the same for all rational beings. _Ends_ may be divided into _Subjective_, resting upon individual _Impulses_ or subjective grounds of desire; and _Objective_, depending on _Motives_ or objective grounds of Volition valid for all rational beings. The principles of action are, in the one case, _Material_, and, in the other, _Formal, i.e._, abstracted from all subjective ends. Material ends, as relative, beget only hypothetical Imperatives. But, supposed some thing, the presence of which in itself has an absolute value, and which, as End-in-self, can be a ground of fixed laws; there, and there only, can be the ground of a possible categorical Imperative, or Law of Practice.
Now, such an End-in-self (not a thing with merely conditional value,--a means to be used arbitrarily) is Man and every rational being, as _Person_. There is no other objective end with absolute value that can supply to the Reason the supreme practical principle requisite for turning subjective principles of action into objective principles of volition. Rational Nature as End-in-self is a subjective principle to a man having this conception of his own being, but becomes objective when every rational being has the same from the same ground in Reason. Hence a new form (the second) to the practical Imperative: _Act so as to use Humanity (Human Nature) as well in your own person, as in the person of another, ever as end also, and never merely as means_.
To this new formula, the old examples are easily squared. Suicide is using one's person as a mere means to a tolerable existence; breaking faith to others is using them as means, not as ends-in-self; neglect of self-cultivation is the not furthering human nature as end-in-self in one's own person; withholding help is refusing to further Humanity as end-in-self through the medium of the aims of others. [In a note he denies that 'the trivial, Do to others as you would,' &c., is a full expression of the law of duty: it contains the ground, neither of duties to self; nor of duties of benevolence to others, for many would forego receiving good on conditions of not conferring it; nor of the duty of retribution, for the malefactor could turn it against his judge, &c.]
The universality of this principle of Human and Rational Nature as End-in-self, as also its character of objective end limiting merely subjective ends, prove that its source is in pure Reason. Objectively, the ground of all practical legislation is Rule and the Form of Universality that enables rule to be Law (of Nature), according to principle first (in its double form); subjectively, it is End, the subject of all ends being every rational being as End-in-self, according to principle second. Hence follows the third practical principle of the Will, as supreme condition of its agreement with universal practical Reason--_the idea of the Will of every rational being as a Will that legislates universally_. The Will, if subject to law, has first itself imposed it.
This new idea--of the Will of every rational being as universally legislative--is what, in the implication of the Categorical Imperative, specifically marks it off from any Hypothetical: Interest is seen to be quite incompatible with Duty, if Duty is Volition of this kind. A will merely subject to laws can be bound to them by interest; not so a will itself legislating supremely, for that would imply another law to keep the interest of self-love from trenching upon the validity of the universal law. Ill.u.s.tration is not needed to prove that a Categorical Imperative, or law for the will of every rational being, if it exist at all, cannot exclude Interest and be unconditional, except as enjoining everything to be done from the maxim of a will that in legislating universally can have itself for object. This is the point that has been always missed, that the laws of duty shall be at once self-imposed and yet universal. Subjection to a law not springing from one's own will implies interest or constraint, and const.i.tutes a certain necessity of action, but never makes Duty. Be the interest one's own or another's, the Imperative is conditional only. Kant's principle is the _Autonomy of the Will_; every other its _Heteronomy_.
The new point of view opens up the very fruitful conception of an _Empire_ or _Realm of Ends_. As a Realm is the systematic union of rational beings by means of common laws, so the ends determined by the laws may, abstractly viewed, be taken to form a systematic whole.
Rational beings, as subject to a law requiring them to treat themselves and others as ends and never merely as means, enter into a systematic union by means of common objective laws, _i.e._ into an (ideal) Empire or Realm of Ends, from the laws being concerned about the mutual relations of rational beings as Ends and Means. In this Realm, a rational being is either Head or Member: Head, if legislating universally and with complete independence; Member, if also universally, but at the same time subject to the laws. When now the maxim of the will does not by nature accord necessarily with the demand of the objective principle--that the will through its maxim be able to regard itself at the same time as legislating; universally--a practical constraint is exerted by the principle, which is _Duty_, lying on every Member in the Realm of Ends (not on the Head) alike. This necessity of practice reposes, not on feeling, impulse, or inclination, but on the relation between rational beings arising from the fact that each, as End-in-self, legislates universally. The Reason gives a universal application to every maxim of the Will; not from any motive of interest, but from the idea of the _Dignity_ of a rational being that follows no law that it does not itself at the same time give.
Everything in the Realm of Ends has either a _Price_ or a _Dignity_.
Skill, Diligence, &c., bearing on human likings and needs, have a _Market-price_; Qualities like Wit, Fancy, &c., appealing to Taste or Emotional Satisfaction, have an _Affection-price_. But Morality, the only way of being End-in-self, and legislating member in the Realm of Ends, has an intrinsic _Worth or Dignity_, calculable in nothing else.
Its worth is not in results, but in dispositions of Will; its actions need neither recommendation from a subjective disposition or taste, nor prompting from immediate tendency or feeling. Being laid on the Will by Reason, they make the Will, in the execution, the object of an immediate _Respect_, testifying to a Dignity beyond all price. The grounds of these lofty claims in moral goodness and virtue are the partic.i.p.ation by a rational being in the universal legislation, fitness to be a member in a possible Realm of Ends, subjection only to self-imposed laws. Nothing having value but as the law confers it, an unconditional, incomparable worth attaches to the giving of the law, and _Respect_ is the only word that expresses a rational being's appreciation of that. Autonomy is thus the foundation of the dignity of human and of all rational nature.
The three different expressions that have been given to the one general principle of morality imply each the others, and differ merely in their mode of presenting one idea of the Reason to the mind. _Universal application of the Maxim of Conduct, as if it were a law of nature_, is the formula of the Will as absolutely good; _universal prohibition against the use of rational beings ever as means only_, has reference to the fact that a good will in a rational being is an altogether independent and ultimate End, an End-in-self in all; _universal legislation of each for all_ recognizes the prerogative or special dignity of rational beings, that they necessarily take their maxims from the point of view of all, and must regard themselves, being Ends-in-self, as members in a Realm of Ends (a.n.a.logous to the Realm, or Kingdom of Nature), which, though merely an ideal and possible conception, none the less really imposes an imperative upon action.
_Morality_, he concludes, is _the relation of actions to the Autonomy of the Will_, _i.e._, to possible universal legislation through its maxims. Actions that can co-exist with this autonomy are _allowed_; all others are not. A will, whose maxims necessarily accord with the laws of Autonomy, is holy, or absolutely good; the dependence of a will not thus absolutely good is _Obligation_. The objective necessity of an action from obligation is _Duty. Subjection to law_ is not the only element in duty; the fact of the law being self-imposed gives _Dignity_.
The Autonomy of the will is its being a law to itself, without respect to the objects of volition; the principle of autonomy is to choose only in such a way as that the maxims of choice are conceived at the same time as a universal law. This rule cannot be proved a.n.a.lytically to be an Imperative, absolutely binding on every will; as a synthetic proposition it requires, besides a knowledge of the objects, a critique of the subject, _i.e._, pure practical Reason, before, in its apodeictic character, it can be proved completely _a priori_. Still the mere a.n.a.lysis of moral conceptions has sufficed to prove it the sole principle of morals, because this principle is seen to be a categorical Imperative, and a categorical Imperative enjoins neither more nor less than this Autonomy. If, then, Autonomy of Will is the supreme principle, Heteronomy is the source of all ungenuine principles, of Morality. Heteronomy is whenever the Will does not give itself laws, but some object, in relation to the Will, gives them. There is then never more than a hypothetical Imperative: I am to do something because I wish something else.
There follows a division and criticism of the various possible principles of morality that can be set up on the a.s.sumption of Heteronomy, and that have been put forward by human Reason in default of the required Critique of its pure use. Such, are either _Empirical_ or _Rational_. The Empirical, embodying the principle of _Happiness_, are founded on (1) _physical_ or (2) _moral feeling_; the Rational, embodying the principle of _perfection_, on (1) the rational conception of it as a possible result, or (2) the conception of an independent perfection (the Will of G.o.d), as the determining cause of the will. The Empirical principles are altogether to be rejected, because they can give no universal law for all rational beings; of the Rational principles, the first, though setting up an empty and indefinite conception, has the merit of at least making an appeal from sense to pure reason. But the fatal objection to all four is their implying Heteronomy; no imperative founded on them can utter moral, _i.e._, categorical commands.
That the absolutely good Will must be autonomous--_i.e._, without any kind of motive or interest, lay Commands on itself that are at the same time fit to be laws for all rational beings, appears, then, from a deeper consideration of even the popular conceptions of morality. But now the question can no longer be put off: Is Morality, of which this is the only conception, a reality or a phantom? All the different expressions given to the Categorical Imperatives are synthetic practical propositions _a priori_; they postulate a possible synthetic use of the pure practical reason. Is there, and how is there, such a possible synthetic use? This is the question (the same as the other) that Kant proceeds to answer in the Third Section, by giving, in default of a complete Critique of the faculty, as much as is necessary for the purpose. But here, since he afterwards undertook the full Critique, it is better to stop the a.n.a.lysis of the earlier work, and summarily draw upon both for the remainder of the argument, and the rather because some important points have to be added that occur only in the later treatise. The foregoing is a sufficient example of his method of treatment.
The synthetic use of the pure practical reason, in the Categorical Imperative, is legitimized; Autonomy of the Will is explained; Duty is shown to be no phantom--through the conception of Freedom of Will, properly understood. Theoretically (speculatively), Freedom is undemonstrable; being eternally met, in one of the (cosmological) Antinomies of the Pure Reason, by the counter-a.s.sertion that everything in the universe takes place according to unchanging laws of nature.
Even theoretically, however, Freedom is not inconceivable, and morally we become certain of it; for we are conscious of the 'ought' of duty, and with the 'ought' there must go a 'can.' It is not, however, as Phenomenon or Sensible Ens that a man 'can,' is free, has an absolute initiative; all phenomena or Sensible Entia, being in s.p.a.ce and time, are subject to the Natural Law of Causality. But man is also Noumenon, Thing-in-self, Intelligible Ens; and as such, being free from conditions of time and s.p.a.ce, stands outside of the sequence of Nature.
Now, the Noumenon or Ens of the Reason (he a.s.sumes) stands higher than, or has a value above, the Phenomenon or Sensible Ens (as much as Reason stands higher than Sense and Inclination); accordingly, while it is only man as Noumenon that 'can,' it is to man as Phenomenon that the 'ought' is properly addressed; it is upon man as Phenomenon that the law of Duty, prescribed, with perfect freedom from motive, by Man as Noumenon, is laid.
_Freedom of Will_ in Man as Rational End or Thing-in-self is thus the great Postulate of the pure Practical Reason; we can be sure of the fact (although it must always remain speculatively undemonstrable), because else there could be no explanation of the Categorical Imperative of Duty. But inasmuch as the Practical Reason, besides enjoining a law of Duty, must provide also a final end of action in the idea of an unconditioned Supreme Good, it contains also two other Postulates: Man being a sentient as well as a rational being, Happiness as well as Perfect Virtue or Moral Perfection must enter into the Summum Bonum (not, one of them to the exclusion of the other, as the Stoics and Epicureans, in different senses, declared). Now, since there is no such necessary conjunction of the two in nature, it must be sought otherwise. It is found in postulating _Immortality_ and _G.o.d_.
_Immortality_ is required to render possible the attainment of moral perfection. Virtue out of _respect_ for law, with a constant tendency to fall away, is all that is attainable in life. The _Holiness_, or complete accommodation of the will to the Moral Law, implied in the Summum Bonum, can be attained to only in the course of an infinite progression; which means personal Immortality. [As in the former case, the _speculative_ impossibility of proving the immateriality, &c., of the supernatural soul is not here overcome; but Immortality is _morally_ certain, being demanded by the Practical Reason.]
Moral perfection thus provided for, _G.o.d_ must be postulated in order to find the ground of the required conjunction of Felicity. Happiness is the condition of the rational being in whose whole existence everything goes according to wish and will; and this is not the condition of man, for in him observance of the moral law is not conjoined with power of disposal over the laws of nature. But, as Practical Reason demands the conjunction, it is to be found only in a being who is the author at once of Nature and of the Moral Law; and this is G.o.d. [The same remark once more applies, that here what is obtained is a _moral_ certainty of the existence of the Deity: the negative result of the Critique of the Pure _(speculative)_ Reason abides what it was.]
We may now attempt to summarize this abstruse Ethical theory of Kant.
I---The STANDARD of morally good action (or rather Will), as expressed in the different forms of the Categorical Imperative, is the possibility of its being universally extended as a law for all rational beings. His meaning comes out still better in the obverse statement: The action is bad that _cannot be_, or at least _cannot be wished to lie_, turned unto a universal law.
II.--Kant would expressly demur to being questioned as to his PSYCHOLOGY of Ethics; since he puts his own theory in express opposition to every other founded upon any empirical view of the mental const.i.tution. Nevertheless, we may extract some kind of answers to the usual queries.
The Faculty is the (pure Practical) Reason. The apprehension of what is morally right is entirely an affair of Reason; the only element of Feeling is an added Sentiment of Awe or Respect for the law that Reason imposes, this being a law, not only for me who impose it on myself, but at the same time for every rational agent. The Pure Reason, which means with Kant the Faculty of Principles, is _Speculative_ or _Practical_.
As _Speculative_, it _requires_ us to bring our knowledge (of the understanding) to certain higher unconditioned unities (Soul, Cosmos, G.o.d); but there is error if these are themselves regarded as facts of knowledge. As _Practical_, it sets up an unconditional law of Duty in Action (unconditioned by motives); and in this and in the related conception of the Summum Bonum is contained a moral certainty of the Immortality (of the soul), Freedom (in the midst of Natural Necessity), and of G.o.d as existent.
As to the point of Free-will, nothing more need be said.
Disinterested Sentiment, as _sentiment_, is very little regarded: disinterested _action_ is required with such rigour that every act or disposition is made to lose its character as moral, according as any element of interested feeling of any kind enters into it. Kant obliterates the line between Duty and Virtue, by making a duty of every virtue; at least he conceives clearly that there is no Virtue in doing what we are strongly prompted to by inclination--that virtue must involve self-sacrifice.
III.--His position with respect to Happiness is peculiar. Happiness is not the end of action: the end of action is rather the self-a.s.sertion of the rational faculty over the lower man.
If the const.i.tuents of Happiness could be known--and they cannot be--there would be no _morality_, but only _prudence_ in the pursuit of them. To promote our own happiness is indeed a duty, but in order to keep us from neglecting our other duties.
Nevertheless, he conceives it necessary that there should be an ultimate equation of Virtue and Happiness; and the need of Happiness he then expressly connects with the sensuous side of our being.
IV.--His MORAL CODE may here be shortly presented from the second part of his latest work, where it is fully given. Distinguishing _Moral_ Duties or (as he calls them) '_Virtue-duties,'_ left to be enforced internally by Conscience, from _Legal_ Duties _(Rechtspflichten)_, externally enforced, he divides them into two cla.s.ses--(A) Duties to _Self_; (B) Duties to _Others_.
(A) Duties to _Self_. These have regard to the one _private_ Aim or End that a man can make a duty of, viz., his own _Perfection_; for his own _Happiness_, being provided for by a natural propensity or inclination, is to himself no duty. They are (a) _perfect_ (negative or restrictive) as directed to mere Self-Conservation; (b) _imperfect_ (positive or extensive) as directed to the Advancement or Perfecting of one's being.
The _perfect_ are concerned about Self (a), as an _Animal_ creature, and then are directed against--(1) _Self-destruction_, (2) _s.e.xual Excess_, (3) _Intemperance in Eating and Drinking_; (B) as a _Moral_ creature, and then are directed against--(1) _Lying_, (2) _Avarice_, (3) _Servility_. The _imperfect_ have reference to (a) _physical_, (B) _moral_ advancement or perfection (subjectively. _Purity_ or _Holiness_).
(B) Duties to _Others_. These have regard to the only Aim or End of others that a man can make a duty of, viz., their _Happiness_; for their _Perfection_ can be promoted only by themselves. Duties to others _as men_ are metaphysically deducible; and application to _special conditions_ of men is to be made empirically. They include (a) Duties of LOVE, involving _Merit_ or _Desert (i.e._, return from the objects of them) in the performance: (1) _Beneficence_, (2) _Grat.i.tude_, (3) _Fellow-feeling_; (b) Duties of RESPECT, absolutely _due_ to others as men; the opposites are the _vices_: (1) _Haughtiness_, (2) _Slander_, (3) _Scornfulness_. In _Friendship_, Love and Respect are combined in the highest degree. Lastly, he notes _Social_ duties in human intercourse _(Affability_, &c.)--these being _outworks_ of morality.
He allows no special Duties to G.o.d, or Inferior Creatures, beyond what is contained in Moral Perfection as Duty to Self.