Ethical Studies/Essay 4

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Duty for Duty’s Sake.

IN our answer to the question, Why should I be moral? we found that, explicitly or by implication, all Ethics presupposed something which is the good, and that this good (whatever else may be its nature) has always the character of an end. The moral good is an end in itself, is to be pursued for its own sake. It must not be made a means to something not itself. We have now seen further that pleasure is not the good, is not the end; that, in pursuing pleasure as such, we do not pursue the good. Hedonism we have dismissed, and may banish it, if we please, from our sight, while we turn to develope a new view of the good, another answer to the question, What is the end? In Hedonism we have criticized a onesided view; we shall have to do here with an opposite extremity of onesidedness. The self to be realized before was the self or selves as a maximum quantity or number of particular feelings: in the theory which awaits us the self to be realized has a defect which is diametrically opposed to the first, and yet is the same defect. Its fault is the opposite, since for mere particular it substitutes mere universal; we have not to do with feelings, as this and that, but with a form which is thought of as not this or that. Its fault is the same fault, the failing to see things as a whole, and the fixing as real one element which yet is unreal when apart from the other. In a word, we find in both a onesided view, and their common vice may be called abstractness. So much by way of anticipation, and now we must betake ourselves to our task.

[1] What is the moral end? We know already in part what it is not. It is not a state or collection of states of the self, as feeling pleasure, to be produced either in me or outside me. To know what it is we must go to the moral consciousness. We find there that the end is for me as active, is a practical end. It is not something merely to be felt, it is something to be done.

And it is not something to be done, in which, when done, the doer is not to be involved. The end does not fall outside the doer. I am to realize myself; and, as we saw, I can not make an ultimate end of anything except myself, can not make myself a mere means to something else. Nor, again, does the end fall outside the activity. If the production in me of a mere passive state were the end, the activity would be a mere means to that. But the moral consciousness assures us that the activity is an end in itself. The end is a doing which is to be done; the activity is good in itself, not for the sake of a result beyond. The end, then, is not to be felt, but is to be done: it is to be done and not made; it falls not outside the self of the doer, nor further outside his activity.

In short, the good is the Good Will. The end is will for the sake of will; and, in its relation to me, it is the realization of the good will in myself, or of myself as the good will. In this character I am an end to myself, and I am an absolute and ultimate end. There is nothing which is good, unless it be a good will.

This is no metaphysical fiction. It is the truth of life and of the moral consciousness. A man is not called good because he is rich, nor because he is handsome or clever. He is good when he is moral, and he is moral when his actions are conformed to and embody a good will, or when his will is good.

But ‘good will’ tells us little or nothing. It says only that will is the end. It does not say what will is the end; and we want to know what the good will is.

What is the good will? We may call it indifferently the Free will, or the Universal will, or the Autonomous will, or finally the Formal will.

(1) It is the universal will. The very notion of the moral end is that it should be an end absolutely, not conditionally. It is not an end for me without being one also for you, or for you and me and not for a third person; but it is, without limitation to any this or that, an end for us all. And so the will, as end, is not the particular will of particular men, existing as this, that, and the other series of states of mind. It is the same for you and me, and, in the character of our common standard and aim, it is above you and me. It is thus objective and universal.

(2) It is the free will. It is not conditioned by, it does not owe its existence and attributes to, it is not made what it is by, and hence it can not (properly speaking) be called forth by, anything which is not itself. It exists because of itself and for the sake of itself. It has no end or aim beyond itself; is not constituted or determined by anything else.

Hence we see it is not determined by anything in particular. For, as we saw it, was universal; and universal means not particular; and so no more than a verbal conclusion is wanted to show that, if determined by something particular, it would be determined by something not itself. And this we have already taken to be false.

(3) It is autonomous. For it is universal and an end to itself. The good will is the will which wills the universal as itself and itself as the universal, and hence may be said to be a law to itself and to will its own law. And, because it is universal, hence in willing what is valid for itself it wills what is valid for all. It legislates universally in legislating for itself, since it would not legislate for itself did it not legislate universally.

(4) And lastly, it is formal. For, in willing itself, it wills the universal, and that is not-particular. Any possible object of desire, any wished-for event, any end in the shape of a result to be attained in the particular existence of myself or another, all are this or that something: they have a content, they are ‘material.’ Only that will is good which wills itself as not-particular, as without content or matter, in a word, which wills itself as form.

The good will, then, is the will which is determined by the form only, which realizes itself as the bare form of the will. And this formal will is now seen to be the true expression for all the foregoing characteristics, of universality, freedom, and autonomy. In formality we see they are all one. I am autonomous only because I am free, free only because I am universal, universal only because not particular, and not particular only when formal.

That the good must be formal we might have seen by considering its character of an universal standard or test. Such a standard is a form or it is nothing. It is to be above every possible this and that, and hence can not be any this or that. It is by being not this or that, that it succeeds in having nothing which is not common to every this and that. Otherwise there would be something which would fall without its sphere; it would be only one thing among others, and so would no longer be a standard. But that which can be common to everything is not matter or content, but form only. As no material test of truth, so no material test of morality is possible.

The good will, then, is the bare form of the will, and this is the end. This is what I have to realize, and realize in myself. But I am not a mere form; I have an ‘empirical’ nature, a series of particular states of the ‘this me,’ a mass of desires, aversions, inclinations, passions, pleasures, and pains, what we may call a sensuous self. It is in this self that all content, all matter, all possible filling of the form must be sought; for all matter must come from ‘experience,’ must be given in and through the perception of the outer world or of the series of my own internal states, and is in either case sensuous, and the opposite of the insensible form.

The ‘empirical’ self, the this me, is, no less than the self which is formal will, an element of the moral subject. These elements are antithetical the one to the other; and hence the realization of the form is possible only through an antagonism, an opposition which has to be overcome. It is this conflict and this victory in which the essence of morality lies. Morality is the activity of the formal self forcing the sensuous self, and here first can we attach a meaning to the words ‘ought’ and ‘duty.’[2]

If our self were nothing beyond the series of its states, if it were nothing above and beyond these coexistent and successive phenomena, then the word ‘ought’ could have no meaning. And again, if our self were a pure, unalloyed will, realizing itself apart from a sensuous element, the word ‘ought’ would still be meaningless. It is the antagonism of the two elements in one subject which is the essence of the ought. The ought is a command; it expresses something which neither simply is or is not, but which both is and is not; something, in short, which is to be. Further, when addressed to myself, it puts before me something which is to be done, and which I am to do. A command is the doing of something by me, which doing is willed by a will, not me, and presented as such by that will to me.[3] In the ought the self is commanded, and that self is the sensuous self in me, which is ordered, and which, if I obey, is forced by the non-sensuous formal will which stands above the empirical element, and, equally with that, is myself. The ought is the command of the formal will, and duty is the obedience, or, more properly, the compulsion of the lower self by that will, or the realization of the form in and against the recalcitrant matter of the desires.

Duty must be for duty’s sake, or it is not duty. It is not enough that my acts should realize and embody the universal form, and so far be conformable thereto. It is not enough that the act commanded be done by me. The end, as we have seen, is not a result beyond and outside the activity. It is not the realizedness of the form which is the good, but rather the realization of it; because only as active is it negative, only as negative is it real. And further, the good is not merely the realization of the form by a foreign subject, but its own realization of itself by itself. That does not take place unless the act ordered to be done in the field of the lower self is done by me in the character of the formal self. If that is so, I must know that it is so; and if I do not know that it is so, then it is not so. Duty is not duty unless, in every case and in every act, it is consciously done for the sake of duty, and that means for the sake of the realization of the bare form, and of nothing whatever beside the bare form. And hence we see that an act, done from pleasure in or desire for the bare form, can in no case be dutiful; for that would be the lower nature, for some liking of its own, choosing to realize the form; it could not be the form realizing itself; and hence such an act is not in any degree moral, since in no degree does it attain the end. The lower self in morality is not led, nor coaxed, nor consulted, but forced.

Here again we appeal to the moral consciousness to bear testimony to our conclusion. Every moral man knows that to do right is to do one’s duty for its own sake, and that, if duty is done for the sake of some ulterior object, that act may be legal but is certainly not moral.

Having found ourselves in accord with practical morality, and resting on the conclusion that no act is moral except that which is consciously done for the sake of the universal form, we have now to state the rule which is to guide our practice in life, and which is too simple to occasion any trouble in the working. We have to realize the good will, the will that is an end in itself, and that is universally valid; and, as we saw, these characteristics are summed up in formality. The standard, we saw, must be formal; it must exclude all possible content, because content is diversity; and hence the residue left to us for a standard is plainly identity, the identity which excludes diversity; and of this we can say only that it is, and that it does not contradict itself. Our practical maxim, then, is, Realize non-contradiction. Realize, i.e. act and keep acting; do not contradict yourself, i.e. let all your acts embody and realize the principle of non-contradiction; for so only can you realize the formal will which is the good will. Whatever act embodies a self-contradiction is immoral. Whatever act is self-consistent is legal. Whatever act is self-consistent, and is done for the sake of realizing self-consistency, and for the sake of nothing else, is moral. This is simple, this is practical; and there surely is cause for thankfulness in the arrangement of things which has placed the standard and test of all that is most important, of everything which really is important, in a form which even the unlettered can understand, and a child can apply.

[4] Stated as we have stated it above, the theory of duty for duty’s sake carries with it little or no plausibility. Criticism of it may appear to the reader to be superfluous, but nevertheless it will repay us to see briefly set forth the inner contradictions in which it loses itself, and which destroy its claim to practical value.

The theory contradicts itself; and, reduced to a simple form, the contradiction is as follows:—Self-realization is the end, and the self to be realized is the negative of reality; we are to realize, and must produce nothing real. Let us explain. The good is the will. The will is the carrying of the inner mind out into the world of fact; it is the identity of thought and existence, the process in which the ideal passes over into reality, and where the content on both sides is the same, subject always to the diversity of the two different elements. Mere thought is not will—that is the inner side only. Mere existence in time and space, or time, is not will—that is the outside only. For will we want both sides, and both sides in one. And from the above we see at once that, if the two sides are to correspond, there must be some correspondence in the nature of what they contain; and, starting here from the side of existence, we may say, you can realize nothing, unless that which you are to realize have in it already the character which distinguishes reality.

To realize means to translate an ideal content into existence, whether it be the existence of a series of events in time only,[5] as in mere psychical acts, or existence both in space and time, as is the case in all outward acts.

Neither to give a proper definition of the real, nor to discuss the nature of existence in space and time, and its relation to thought in general, and in particular to human thought, even were I competent to do it, would be possible here. But I do not suppose I shall find much contradiction if I say that the predominant character of existence in space and time is, in one word, its particularness, what is ordinarily called its concreteness, the infinitude of its relations. An existing thing and the mere thought of a thing are not the same, if that be taken to mean that there is no difference between them; and, especially in morals, the distance between theory and fact is as immeasurable as the distance between what is thought and what is willed, between a definition and the thing defined. As I have said before, we can not go into these fundamental questions, but so much seems clear—that, as against a theory, definition, or abstract principle, the main character of existence in space and time is the endless detail of its particular relations. You can not particularize a definition so as to exhaust any sensible object, since that object stands in relation to every other thing in the world.

Let us say then that to realize (whatever else it is beside) is at least to particularize, and we shall see how the theory of duty for duty’s sake contradicts itself. (1) It says you are not to do what it says you are to do; what you have to effect is the negation of the particular; and so it says in a breath, realize and do not realize. (2) It gives you no content; and that which has no content can not be willed, since in volition we must have the same content on each side. (3) Psychically considered, an act of will is a particular act, and hence a formal act of will is impossible.

To explain—(1) You are to realize the good will, and that means the formal will, or the universal will. But universal means the opposite of particular. ‘Realize the particular’ means, realize the opposite of the universal; and so, if you particularize the universal, you have not realized it, i.e. not the universal you had to realize; or, in other words, if you materialize the form, it is no longer formal. On the other hand, ‘realize’ means materialize, it means particularize. ‘Realize’ asserts the concrete identity of matter and form which ‘formal will’ denies; and we are left with the hopeless contradiction of an order, which tells us in one breath that only the formal (i.e. the not-real) will is good, and that for the sake of the good we are to realize (i.e. unformalize) the formal will.

Or less abstractly—we have two elements in one subject, the sensuous nature and the pure will. The pure will is to be kept pure; it is for its sake that we act, and action consists in the forcing of the sensuous nature. The order is here, ‘Realize the pure will in the sensuous nature,’ and the contradiction is as above. The pure will means the non-sensuous will, and ‘realize it’ means, translate it into an element which destroys its essence. The formal will, when realized, is no longer formal, is materialized, is sensualized, is no longer pure. If you do not want to sensualize the will, why do you say make it real? What is the use and meaning of realizing? Or if you say the will is and means realization, then do you not see that the will means the identity of the pure and sensuous nature, that it implies the two sides, and that ‘formal will’ says, ‘have both sides, but be sure you have only one;’ or, more briefly, that pure or formal will is nonsense?

In its simplest form the contradiction is this. ‘Realize non-contradiction’ is the order. But ‘non-contradiction’ = bare form; ‘realize’ = give content to: content contradicts form without content, and so ‘realize non-contradiction’ means ‘realize a contradiction.’[6]

(2) In our remarks on the self-contradiction of the principle, its abstract negation of reality on the one side, and its demand for realization on the other, we have perhaps rendered further detail needless; but it may be instructive to repeat more specially the general refutation.

We saw that an act of will has two sides, an inner and an outer, what (in one meaning of these much-misused terms) we may call a ‘subjective’ and an ‘objective’ side. There is a certain content, which on one side is to be done, on the other side is done. The killing of a man, for instance, is not, properly speaking, an act of my will, unless I meant to kill him and did kill him. Neither the mere movement of my body, nor the mere thought of my mind, constitutes an act.[7]

There are two sides, and on each side the content is the same. The doing what one wills is acting, and nothing else is acting. The act is the process of translation from the inside world to the outside world (or from the thought to the fact of an event in the inside world), and the translation would not be a translation, unless it implied the identity of the translated.

The immediate corollary from this is that no act can be the mere carrying out of an abstract principle. The content on each side must be the same, and it is at once obvious that no abstraction is a content which is capable of real existence. To take its place in the outward world, the principle must be specialized into a concrete individual, which can then be carried over into existence in time and space. Hence, on the inside (the ‘subjective’ side), the abstraction must have become concrete, and in itself have two sides, be in short individualized; or else there is no possibility of action, because nothing that can be carried over.[8]

Everybody knows that the only way to do your duty is to do your duties; that general doing good may mean doing no good in particular, and so none at all, but rather perhaps the contrary of good. Everybody knows that the setting out, whether in religion, morals, or politics, with the intent to realize an abstraction, is a futile endeavour; and that what it comes to is that either you do nothing at all, or that the particular content which is necessary for action is added to the abstraction by the chance of circumstances or caprice. Everybody suspects, if they do not feel sure, that the acting consciously on and from abstract principles means self-deceit or hypocrisy or both.

(3) A more psychological consideration leads us still to the futility of duty for duty’s sake. A will which does not act is no will, and every act is a particular event: an act is this or that act, and an act in general is nonsense. But how can a formal act be this or that act? Even where the abstraction has been specialized into definite ‘material’ ends and aims to be accomplished, yet even there for the particular volition the special circumstances of time, place, &c. are wanted. They may not be essential to the act; they may make no practical difference to the content. If I have resolved to kill a man in a certain way, the place, time, &c. are psychically necessary for the particular act of killing, but they may not enter into the essence of the act. (So it is with one’s ordinary duties.) The more specialized and materialized the previous intent, the less is added to it by the particular circumstances; and the less specialized the content, the more is added. If I run out into the street to kill a man, chance[9] decides who it is I kill. So with duty. If I intend to do duty generally, chance decides what duty I do; for what falls outside the preconceived intent is chance, and here everything falls outside saving the bare form.

To act you must will something, and something definite. To will in general is impossible, and to will in particular is never to will nothing but a form. It must at best be to will a chance case of the form, and then (speaking psychologically) what moves is chance (desire). The bare form can not move. Will, when one wills nothing in particular, is a pure fiction; and (to put the same thing differently) so is will without desire, conscious or unconscious, special or habitual. It is simply a psychological monster. It is admitted that, if real, it is inexplicable; it is admitted to be in no single case verifiable; and surely Schopenhauer (op. cit. p. 168) is not wrong when he says that, if what is neither conceivable nor to be found in experience is not incredible, then nothing is incredible. If any theory requires such a supposition, then that proves the theory to be false.

We have shown that a formal will is self-contradictory, since the essence of will is that it should not be formal. Duty for duty’s sake is false and impossible. It may not be superfluous to show in addition that, even if such a principle of action were possible, yet it would be worthless and of no avail for practice.

The maxim of non-contradiction is useless. We have seen that it contradicts itself, since it posits a content which is the contradiction of its bare form; but, apart from that, it gives us no information. What am I to do? ‘Produce a tautology’ is the answer. ‘Everything which contradicts itself is wrong. Everything which is tautological is right. Nothing which is tautological is wrong.’ Then what does contradict itself? Everything in one sense; nothing in another.

The principle of non-contradiction does not mean Do not contradict yourself; produce a harmony, a system in your acts and yourself; realize yourself as an organic whole. That would be vague enough without further directions; but what our principle here says is not that. It says the act must not contradict itself. What does this mean? It means that the matter realized, the determination posited by the act, must be self-consistent. Property e.g. is self-consistent. Theft of property is a contradiction.

In the first place, however, is any determination free from contradiction? Take what you will, you must take something definite, and the definite is what it is by the negation of something else. It belongs to the essence of any possible A that it should be not B, C, D, &c., and without this negation it would not be A. A mere positive affirmative is a fictitious abstraction. ‘Affirm A’ means ‘negate B, C, D, &c.’ Property e.g. implies in its appropriation a negation, an exclusion. In this sense not only is the definite content in contradiction with the form, but it also in itself involves contradiction.

This, however, is not the meaning of the rule of non-contradiction. The meaning of that is that you must not posit a determination and with it its own negation. You must not have an act which embodies the rule to negate anything, for that is a self-contradiction. A rule ‘negate A’ contradicts itself, for if A is negated you can not negate it. ‘Steal property’ is a contradiction, for it destroys property, and with it possibility of theft.

We have no need here to push further a metaphysical argument against this view, for it supplies us at once with a crushing instance against itself. The essence of morality was a similar contradiction.[10] ‘Negate the sensuous self.’ But if the sensuous self is negated, possibility of morality disappears. Morality is thus as inconsistent as theft. ‘Succour the poor’ both negates and presupposes (hence posits) poverty: as Blake comically says,

Pity would be no more,
If we did not make somebody poor.
If you are to love your enemies, you must never be without them; and yet you try to get rid of them. Is that consistent? In short, every duty which presupposes something to be negated is no duty; it is an immoral rule, because self-contradictory.

No rule must be stated negatively then, but all positively; and then comes the very serious question, whether there is any rule which can not be stated positively. The canon is an empty form, ‘Let A be A’ It is a tautology; and it requires no great skill to put anything and everything into the form of a tautology, and so to moralize it. ‘Let property be,’ ‘let no-property be;’ ‘let law be,’ ‘let no-law be;’ ‘let love be,’ ‘let hate be;’ ‘be brave,’ ‘be cowardly;’ ‘be kind,’ ‘be cruel,’ ‘be indifferent;’ ‘let succour be,’ ‘let no-succour be;’ or riches, or poverty, or pleasure or pain. Where is the canon? It is nowhere. Poverty is poverty, and is an affirmative tautology. Hate is hate, as much as love is love. They become contradictory only when you say, ‘hate your friends,’ or ‘love your enemies;’ or when, instead of affirming, you analyze them, and see that each is the affirmation of a negation, or the negation of an affirmation. Hate we can all see is so, and deeper thinkers tell us the same of love.

What duty for duty’s sake really does is first to posit a determination, such as property, love, courage, &c., and then to say that whatever contradicts these is wrong. And, since the principle is a formal empty universal, there is no connection between it and the content which is brought under it. That connection is made from the outside, and rests on arbitrary choice, or considerations of general well-being and perhaps pleasure. The morality of pure duty turns out then to be either something like a Hedonistic rule,[11] or no rule at all, save the hypocritical maxim that, before you do what you like, you should call it duty; and this outdoes Probabilism.

Thus to get from the form of duty to particular duties is impossible. The particular duties must be taken for granted, as in ordinary morality they are taken for granted. But supposing this done, is duty for duty’s sake a valid formula, in the sense that we are to act always on a law and nothing but a law, and that a law can have no exceptions, in the sense of particular cases where it is overruled? No, this takes for granted that life is so simple that we never have to consider more than one duty at a time: whereas we really have to do with conflicting duties, which as a rule escape conflict simply because it is understood which have to give way. It is a mistake to suppose that collision of duties is uncommon; it has been remarked truly that every act can be taken to involve such collision.

To put the question plainly—It is clear that in a given case I may have several duties, and that I may be able to do only one. I must then break some ‘categorical’ law, and the question the ordinary man puts to himself is, Which duty am I to do? He would say, ‘all duties have their limits and are subordinated one to another. You can not put them all in the form of your “categorical imperative” (in the shape of a law absolute and dependent on nothing beside itself) without such exceptions and modifications that, in many cases, you might as well have left it alone altogether. We certainly have laws, but we may not be able to follow them all at once; and to know which we are to follow is a matter of good sense which can not be decided any other way. One should give to the poor—in what cases and how much? Should sacrifice oneself—in what way and within what limits? Should not indulge one’s appetites—except when it is right. Should not idle away one’s time—except when one takes one’s pleasure. Nor neglect one’s work—but for some good reason. All these points we admit are in one way matter of law; but if you think to decide in particular cases by applying some “categorical imperative,” you must be a pedant, if not a fool.’

Ordinary morality does not hold to each of its laws as inviolable, each as an absolute end in itself. It is not even aware of a collision in most cases where duties clash; and, where it perceives it, and is confronted with collisions of moral laws, each of which it has been accustomed to look on as an absolute monarch, so to speak, or a commander-in-chief, rather than as a possible subordinate officer, there it does subordinate one to the other, and feels uneasiness only in proportion to the rarity of the necessity, and the consequent jar to the feelings. There are few laws a breach of which (in obedience to a higher law) morality does not allow, and I believe there are none which are not to be broken in conceivable (imaginable) circumstances, though the necessity of deciding the question does not practically occur. According to ordinary morality (the fact is too palpable to be gainsaid), it is quite right to speak falsely with intent to deceive under certain circumstances, though ordinary morality might add, ‘I don’t call that a lie.’ It is a lie; and when Kant and others maintained that it must always be wrong to lie, they forgot the rather important fact that in some cases to abstain from acting is acting, is wilful neglect of a duty, and that there are duties above truth-speaking, and many offences against morality which are worse, though they may be less painful, than a lie. So to kill oneself, in a manner which must be called suicide, may not only be right but heroic;[12] homicide may be excusable, rebellion in the subject and disobedience in the soldier all morally justifiable, and every one of them clear breaches of categorical imperatives, in obedience to a higher law.

All that it comes to is this (and it is, we must remember, a very important truth), that you must never break a law of duty to please yourself, never for the sake of an end not duty, but only for the sake of a superior and overruling duty. Any breach of duty, as duty, and not as lower duty, is always and absolutely wrong; but it would be rash to say that any one act must be in all cases absolutely and unconditionally immoral. Circumstances decide, because circumstances determine the manner in which the overruling duty must be realized. This is a simple fact which by the candid observer can not be denied, and which is merely the exposition of the moral consciousness, though I am fully aware that it is an exposition which that consciousness would not accept, simply because it must necessarily misunderstand it in its abstract form. And if moral theory were meant to influence moral practice and to be dabbled in by ‘the vulgar’ (and there are not so many persons who in this respect are not the vulgar), then I grant this is a fact it would be well to keep in the background. None the less it is a fact.[13]

So we see ‘duty for duty’s sake’ says only, ‘do the right for the sake of the right;’ it does not tell us what right is; or ‘realize a good will, do what a good will would do, for the sake of being yourself a good will.’ And that is something; but beyond that it is silent or beside the mark. It tells us to act for the sake of a form, which we saw was a self-contradictory command; and we even saw that in sober sadness the form did exist for form’s sake, and in literal truth remained only a form. We saw that duty’s universal laws are not universal, if that means they can never be overruled, and that its form and its absolute imperative are impracticable. What after all remains is the acting for the sake of a good will, to realize oneself by realizing the will which is above us and higher than ours; and the assurance that this, and not the self to be pleased, is the end for which we have to live. But as to that which the good will is, it tells us nothing, and leaves us with an idle abstraction.

  1. What follows, the reader must be warned, is very far from being meant to be a statement of Kant’s main ethical view; as such it would be neither complete nor accurate, though it will be found to be an applicable criticism. We could not give a statement of Kant’s view without giving all the sides of it; and, were we prepared to do that, not only would considerable space be required, but also we should be obliged to consider topics which lie outside our present undertaking. We have stated a view for purposes of criticism, but that criticism is at the same time a criticism that holds against more than our statement.
  2. In a lower sense we can use, and do use, ‘ought’ outside the moral world. Wherever ‘law’ has a meaning, ‘ought’ has also a meaning. Where the particular phenomenon does not answer to its conception, we say ‘ought.’ ‘A man (e.g.) “ought” to have two eyes.’ ‘Ice of that thickness “ought” to have borne.’ Something has interfered in the case, so that the fact is not an exhibition of the law. But the moral ‘ought’ means much more than this. There the particular fact or phenomenon is this or that will, which, moreover, is or can be aware of its position as such in relation to the law or general conception. This makes an enormous difference.
  3. A command may contain a promise or threat. It is not of its essence that it should do so.
  4. As I said before, this is not a statement of the Kantian view; that view is far wider, and at the same time more confused. As a system it has been annihilated by Hegel’s criticism (i. 335, foll.; and ii. 437, foll.), to which I owe most of the following. Compare also Schopenhauer, iv. Grundprobleme, p. 117-178. But the reader must bear in mind that only I am responsible for what I say.
  5. This is true of course only so long as psychical events are considered simply as such. Every psychical state has also, I suppose, its existence in space. In this connection let me add in passing, that whether the will has direct control over the thoughts or not is an open question in psychology. It is indifferent to us here what answer be given.
  6. The hopeless inconsistencies of the dualistic moral theory, the standing contradictions of its moral theology and practical postulates generally, are beyond our subject. The whole point of view has been criticized in the second of the passages from Hegel referred to above. We may remark in passing a contradiction involved in the doctrine of the imperative. A command is addressed by one will to another, and must be obeyed, if at all, by the second will. But here the will that is commanded is not the will that executes; hence the imperative is never obeyed; and, as it is not to produce action in that to which it is addressed, it is a mere sham-imperative.
  7. This statement is subject to the qualifications mentioned in Essay I. p. 7.
  8. Our statement must not be taken to deny the possibility of the will having a content, which is merely this or that. We say nothing about that, because we are not concerned with it.
  9. Chance, that is to say, relatively to my intent; because my intent does not essentially involve the particular person killed.
  10. Hegel (loc. cit.) pushes this ruthlessly even against the postulate of immortality. In what immediately follows we are drawing from him very largely.
  11. Schopenhauer has some characteristic and piquant criticism on this head.
  12. The story of the imprisoned Italian who, knowing that he was being drugged to disorder his intellect and cause him to betray his comrades, opened a vein, is a good instance. It is a duty for various persons continually to give themselves to certain or well-nigh certain death, and no one has ever called it anything but heroically right and dutiful. Excusable killing is illustrated by the well-known story told in the Indian Mutiny of the husband who killed his wife. Rebellions and mutinies need no illustration. It is noticeable that Berkeley urged passive obedience on the ground that a moral law was absolute.
  13. We shall come upon this again in Essays V. and VI.