On the Basis of Morality/Part II

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part II.

CRITIQUE OP KANT'S BASIS OE ETHICS.


CHAPTER I.

PRELIMINARY REMARKS.

IT is Kant's great service to moral science that he purified it of all Eudaemonism. With the ancients, Ethics was a doctrine of Eudaemonism ; with the moderns for the most part it has been a doctrine of salvation. The former wished to prove that virtue and happiness are identical ; but this was like having two figures which never coincide with each other, no matter how they may be placed. The latter have endeavoured to connect the two, not by the principle of identity, but by that of causation, thus making happiness the result of virtue ; but to do this, they were obliged to have recourse to sophisms, or else to assume the existence of a world beyond any possible perception of the senses.

Among the ancients Plato alone forms an ex- ception : his system is not eudaemonistic ; it is mystic, instead. Even the Ethics of the Cynics and Stoics is nothing but a special form of Eudaemonism, to prove which, there is no lack of evidence and testimony, but the nature of my present task forbids the space.[1]

The ancients, then, equally with the moderns, Plato being the single exception, agree in making virtue only a means to an end. Indeed, strictly speaking, even Kant banished Eudaemonism from Ethics more in appearance than in reality, for between virtue and happiness he still leaves a certain mysterious con- nection ; there is an obscure and difficult passage in his doctrine of the Highest Good, where they occur together ; while it is a patent fact that the course of virtue runs entirely counter to that of happiness. But, passing over this, we may say that with Kant the ethical principle appears as something quite in- dependent of experience and its teaching ; it is trans- cendental, or metaphysical. He recognises that human conduct possesses a significance that oversteps all possibility of experience, and is therefore actually the bridge leading to that which he calls the "intel- ligible " l world, the mundus noumenon, the world of Things in themselves.

The fame, which the Kantian Ethics has won, is due not only to this higher level, which it reached,

Vorstellung, that is, The World as Will and Idea ; " Idea " being used much as eiSwXoi/ sometimes is (cf. Xen. Sym. t 4, 21), in the sense of " an image in the mind," " a mental picture." {Translator.)']

1 It seems better to keep this technical word than to attempt a cumbrous periphrasis. The meaning is perfectly clear. The sensibilia (phaenomena) are opposed to the in- telligibilia (noumena), which compose the transcendental world. So the individual, in so far as he is a phaenomenon, has an empirical character ; in so far as he is a noumenon, his character is intelligible (intelligibilis). The mundus in- telligibilis, or mundus noumendn is the KOO-^IOV voyrbs of New Platonism. (Translator.)


PRELIMINARY REMARKS. 25

but also to the moral purity and loftiness of its conclusions. It is by the latter that most people have been attracted, without paying much attention to the foundation, which is propounded in a very complex, abstract and artificial form ; and Kant him- self required all his powers of acumen and synthesis to give it an appearance of solidity. Fortunately, he separated his Ethics from the exposition of its basis, devoting to the latter a special work entitled the Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten, the theme of which will be found to be precisely the same as that of our prize essay. For on page xiii of the preface he says : " The present treatise is nothing else but an attempt to find out and establish the supreme principle of morality. This is an investigation, whose scope is complete in itself, and which should be kept apart from all other moral researches." It is in this book that we find the basis, that is to say, the essentials of his Ethics set forth with an acute penetration and systematic conciseness, as in no other of his writings. It has, moreover, the great advantage of being the first of Kant's moral works, appearing, 1 as it did, only four years later than the Kritik der Reinen Vernunft, and consequently it dates from the period when, although he was sixty-one, the detri- mental effect of old age on his intellect was not yet perceptible. On the other hand, this is distinctly trace- able in the Kritik der Praktischen Vernunft, which was published in 1788, or one year later than the unhappy remodelling of the Kritik der Reinen Vernunft

1 It was published in 1785 : The Kritik der Reinen Vernunft, first edition, in 1781. (Translator.}


26 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

in the second edition, whereby the latter, his immortal master-piece, was obviously marred. An analysis of this question is to be found in the preface to the new edition by Rosenkranz, 1 from which my own investigation makes it impossible for me to dissent. The Kritik der Praktischen Vernunft contains in its essentials the same material as the above-mentioned Grundlegung ; only the latter has a more concise and rigorous form, while in the former the subject is handled with greater prolixity, interspersed with digressions, and even padded with some pieces of moral rhetoric, to heighten the impression. When Kant wrote it, he had at last, and late in life, become deservedly famous ; hence, being certain of boundless attention, he allowed greater play to the garrulity of old age.

But the Kritik der Praktischen Vernunft contains two sections which are peculiar to itself. First : the ex- position of the relation between Freedom and Necessity (pp. 169-179 of the fourth edition, and pp. 223-231 in Rosenkranz). This passage is above all praise, and undoubtedly was framed earlier in his life, as it is entirely in harmony with his treatment of the same subject in the Kritik der Reinen Vernunft (pp. 560- 586 ; Rosenkranz, p. 438, sqq.). And secondly : the Moraltheologie, which will more and more come to be recognised as the real object Kant had in view. In his Metaphysische Anfangsgrunde der Tugendlehre this pendant to the deplorable Rechtslehre, written in 1797, the debility of old age is at length fully pre- ponderant. For all these reasons the present criticism

1 His analysis is really derived from myself, but in this place I am speaking incognito.


PRELIMINARY REMARKS. 27

will mainly deal with the treatise first mentioned, viz., the Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten, and the reader will please understand that all the page numbers given by themselves refer to it. Both the other works will only be considered as accessory and secondary. For a proper comprehension of the present criticism, which, in probing the Kantian Ethics to its depths, bears directly and principally on this Grundlegung, it is very desirable that the latter be carefully read through again, so that the mind may have a perfectly clear and fresh presentment of what it contains. It is but a matter of 128 and xiv pages (in Rosenkranz only 100 pages altogether). I shall quote from the third edition of 1792, adding the page number of the new complete publication by Rosenkranz, with an R. prefixed.


CHAPTER II.

ON THE IMPEKATIVE FORM OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS.


KANT'S Trpwrov ^evSo^ (first false step) lies in Ms conception of Ethics itself, and this is found very clearly expressed on page 62 (R., p. 54) : " In a system of practical philosophy we are not concerned with adducing reasons for that which takes place, but with formulating laws regarding that which ought to take place, even if it never does take place." This is at once a distinct petitio principii. Who tells you that there are laws to which our conduct ought to be subject ? Who tells you that that ought to take place, which in fact never does take place ? What justification have you for making this assumption at the outset, and consequently for forcing upon us, as the only possible one, a system of Ethics couched in the imperative terms of legislation ? I say, in contradistinction to Kant, that the student of Ethics, and no less the philosopher in general, must content himself with explaining and interpreting that Ifrhich is given, in other words, that which really is, or takes place, so as to obtain an understanding of it, and I maintain furthermore that there is plenty to do in this direction, much more than has hitherto been done, after the lapse

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THE IMPERATIVE FORM OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 29

of thousands of years. Following the above petitio principii, Kant straightway, without any previous investigation, assumes in the preface (which is en- tirely devoted to the subject), that purely moral laws exist ; and this assumption remains thenceforth undisturbed, and forms the very foundation of his whole system. We, however, prefer first of all to examine the conception denoted by the word " law." The true and original meaning of the term is limited to law as between citizens ; it is the lex, vofios, of the Romans and Greeks, a human institution, and depending on human volition. It has a secondary, derived, figurative, metaphorical meaning, when applied to Nature, whose operations, partly known a priori, partly learnt by experience, and which are always constant, we call natural laws. Only a very small portion of these natural laws can be discerned a priori, and with admirable acute- ness, Kant set them apart, and classed them under the name " Metaphysics of Nature." There is also undoubtedly a law for the human will, in so far as man belongs to Nature ; and this law is strictly provable, admits of no exception, is inviolable, and immovable as the mountains, and does not, like the Categorical Imperative, imply a quasi-necessity, but rather a complete and abso- lute one. It is the law of motivation, a form of the law of causation ; in other words, it is the causation which is brought about by the medium of the understanding. It is the sole demonstrable law to which the human will as such is subject. It means that every action can only take place in


30 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

consequence of a sufficient motive. Like causality in general, it is a natural law. On the other hand, moral laws, apart from human institution, state ordinance, or religious doctrine, cannot rightly be assumed as existing without proof. Kant, there- fore, by taking such laws for granted, is guilty of a petitio principii, which is all the bolder, in that he at once adds (page vi of the preface) that a moral law ought to imply " absolute necessity." But " absolute necessity " is everywhere characterised by an inevitable chain of consequence ; how, then, can such a conception be attached to these alleged moral laws (as an instance of which he adduces " thou shalt not lie " *) ? Every one knows, and he himself admits, that no such consecution for the most part takes place ; the reverse, indeed, is the rule.

In scientific Ethics before we admit as controlling the will other laws besides that of motivation- laws which are original and independent of all human ordinance we must first prove and deduce their existence ; that is, provided in things ethical we are concerned not merely with recommending honesty, but with practising it. Until that proof be furnished, I shall recognise only one source to which is traceable the importation into Ethics of the conception Law, Precept, Obligation. It is one which is foreign to philosophy. I mean the Mosaic Decalogue. Indeed the spelling " du sollt " 2 in the

1 Du sollt (sic) nicht liigen.

2 Sollt is the old form for "sollst." Cf. Eng., shalt: Icel.

. (Translator.)


THE IMPERATIVE FORM OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 31

above instance of a moral law, the first put forward by Kant, naively betrays this origin. A conception, however, which can point to no other source than this, has no right, without undergoing further scrutiny, thus to force its way into philosophical Ethics. It will be rejected, until introduced by duly accredited proof. Thus on the threshold of the subject Kant makes his first petitio principii, and that no small one. Our philosopher, then, by begging the question in his preface, simply assumes the conception of Moral Law as given and existing beyond all doubt ; and he treats the closely related conception of Duty (page 8, R, p. 16) exactly in the same way. Without subjecting it to any further test, he admits it forth- with as a proper appurtenance of Ethics. But here, again, I am compelled to enter a protest. This conception, equally with the kindred notions of Law, Command, Obligation, etc., taken thus uncondition- ally, has its source in theological morals, and it will remain a stranger to philosophical morals, so long as it fails to furnish sufficient credentials drawn either from man's nature, or from the objective world. Till then, I can only recognise the Decalogue as the origin of all these connected conceptions. Since the rise of Christianity there is no doubt that philosophical has been unconsciously moulded by theological ethics. And since the latter is essentially dictatorial, the former appears in the shape of pre- cepts and inculcation of Duty, in all innocence, and without any suspicion that first an ulterior sanction is needful for this role ; rather does she suppose it to be her proper and natural form. It is true that


32 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

all peoples, ages, and creeds, and indeed all philo- sophers (with the exception of the materialists proper) have undeniably recognised that the ethical significance of human conduct is a metaphysical one, in other words, that it stretches out beyond this phaenomenal existence and reaches to eternity ; but it is equally true that the presentment of this fact in terms of Command and Obedience, of Law and Duty, is no part of its essence. Furthermore, separated from the theological hypotheses whence they have sprung, these conceptions lose in reality all meaning, and to attempt a substitute for the former by talking with Kant of absolute obligation and of unconditioned duty, is to feed the reader with empty words, nay more, is to give him a contradictio in adjecto 1 to digest.

Every obligation derives all sense and meaning simply and solely from its relation to threatened punishment or promised reward. Hence, long before Kant was thought of, Locke says : " For since it would be utterly in vain, to suppose a rule set to the free actions of man, without annexing to it some enforcement of good and evil to determine his will ; we must, wherever we suppose a law, suppose also some reward or punishment annexed to that law {Essay on the Human Understanding, Bk. II., ch. 33, 6). What ought to be done is therefore necessarily conditioned by punishment or reward ; consequently, to use Kant's language, it is essentially and inevitably

1 A contradiction in the adjective. This occurs when the epithet applied to a noun contradicts its essential meaning. (Translator.)


THE IMPERATIVE FORM OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 33

hypothetical, and never, as he maintains, categorical. If we think away these conditions, the conception of obligation becomes void of sense ; hence absolute obligation is most certainly a contradictio in adjecto. A commanding voice, whether it come from within, or from without, cannot possibly be imagined except as threatening or promising. Consequently obedience to it, which may be wise or foolish according to circumstances, is yet always actuated by selfishness, and therefore morally worthless.

The complete nnthinkableness and nonsense of this conception of an unconditioned obligation, which lies at the root of the Kantian Ethics, appears later in the system itself, namely in the Kritik der Praktiscken Vernunft : just as some concealed poison in an organism cannot remain hid, but sooner or later must come out and show itself. For this obligation, said to be so unconditioned, nevertheless postulates more than one condition in the background ; it assumes a rewarder, a reward, and the immortality of the person to be rewarded.

This is of course unavoidable, if one really makes Duty and Obligation the fundamental conception of Ethics ; for these ideas are essentially relative, and depend for their significance on the threatened penalty or the promised reward. The guerdon which is assumed to be in store for virtue shows clearly enough tli at only in appearance she works for nothing. It is, however, put forward modestly veiled, under the name of the Highest Good, which is the union of Virtue and Happiness. But this is at bottom nothing else but a morality that derives its origin from

3


34 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

Happiness, which means, a morality resting on selfish- ness. In other words, it is Eudaemonism, which Kant had solemnly thrust out of the front door of his system as an intruder, only to let it creep in again by the postern under the name of the Highest Good. This is how the assumption of unconditioned absolute obligation, concealing as it does a contra- diction, avenges itself. Conditioned obligation, on the other hand, cannot of course be any first principle for Ethics, since everything done out of regard for reward or punishment is necessarily an egoistic transaction, and as such is without any real moral value. All this makes it clear that a nobler and wider view of Ethics is needed, if we are in earnest about our endeavour to truly account for the signi- ficance of human conduct a significance which extends beyond phaenomena and is eternal.

As all obligation is entirely dependent on a con- dition, so also is all duty. Both conceptions are very closely related, indeed almost identical. The only difference between them might be said to be that obligation in general may rest on mere force, whereas duty involves the sense of obligation deliberately undertaken, such as we see between master and servant, principal and subordinate, rulers and the ruled. And since no one undertakes a duty gratis, every duty implies also a right. The slave has no duties, because he has no rights ; but he is subject to an obligation which rests on sheer force. In the following Part I shall explain the only meaning which the conception " Duty " has in Ethics.

If we put Ethics in an imperative form, making


THE IMPERATIVE FORM OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 35

it a Doctrine of Duties, and regard the moral worth or worthlessness of human conduct as the fulfilment or violation of duties, we must remember that this view of Duty, and of Obligation in general, is un- deniably derived solely from theological Morals, and primarily from the Decalogue, and consequently that it rests essentially and inseparably on the assumption of man's dependence on another will which gives him commands and announces reward or punishment. But the more the assumption of such a will is in Theology positive and precise, the less should it be quietly and unsuspectingly introduced into philo- sophical Morals. Hence we have no right to assume beforehand that for the latter the imperative Form, the ordaining of commands, laws, and duties is an essential and a matter of course ; and it is a very poor shift to substitute the word " absolute " or " categorical " for the external condition which is indissolubly attached to such conceptions by their very nature : for this gives rise, as explained above, to a contradictio in adjecto.

Kant, then, without more ado or any close ex- amination, borrowed this imperative Form of Ethics from theological Morals. The hypotheses of the latter (in other words, Theology) really lie at the root of his system, and as these alone in point of fact lend it any meaning or sense, so they cannot be separated from, indeed are implicitly contained in, it. After this, when he had expounded his position the task of developing in turn a Theology out of his Morals the famous Moraltheologie was easy enough. For the conceptions which are implicitly


36 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

involved in his Imperative, and which lie hidden at the base of his Morals, only required to be brought forward and expressed explicitly as postulates of Practical Reason. And so it was that, to the world's great edification, a Theology appeared depending simply on Ethics, indeed actually derived therefrom. But this came about because the ethical system itself rests on concealed theological hypotheses. I mean no derisive comparison, but in its form the process is analogous to that whereby a conjurer prepares a surprise for us, when he lets us find something where he had previously employed his art to place it. Described in the abstract, Kant's procedure is this : what ought to have been his first principle, or hypothesis (viz., Theology) he made the conclusion, and what ought to have been deduced as the con- clusion (viz., the Categorical Command) he took as his hypothesis. 1 But after he had thus turned the thing upside down, nobody, not even he himself, recognised it as being what it really was, namely the old well-known system of theological Morals. How this trick was accomplished we shall consider in the sixth and seventh chapters of the present Part.

Ethics was of course frequently put in the im- perative form, and treated as a doctrine of duties also in pre-Kantian philosophy ; but it was always then based upon the will of a God whose existence had been otherwise proved, and so there was no

1 Like the converse of a geometrical proposition, this Kantian inversion is not necessarily true ; its validity, in fact, depends on the conclusion being implicitly contained in the hypothesis. (Translator.)


THE IMPERATIVE FORM OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 37

inconsequence. As soon, however, as the attempt was made, as Kant attempted, to give a foundation to Ethics independent of this will, and establish it without metaphysical hypotheses, there was no longer any justification for taking as its basis the words " thou shalt," and " it is thy duty " (that is, the imperative form), without first deducing the truth thereof from some other source.


CHAPTER III.

ON THE ASSUMPTION OF DUTIES TOWARDS OURSELVES IN PARTICULAR.

THIS form of the doctrine of duties was very accept- able to Kant, and in working out his position he left it untouched ; for, like his predecessors, along with the duties towards others he ranged also duties towards ourselves. I, however, entirely reject this assumption, and, as there will be no better oppor- tunity, I shall here incidentally explain my view.

Duties towards ourselves must, just as all others, be based either on right or on love. Duties towards ourselves based on right are impossible, because of the self-evident fundamental principle volenti non Jit injuria (where the will assents, no injury is done). For what I do is always what I will ; consequently also what I do to myself is never anything but what I will, therefore it cannot be unjust. Next, as regards duties towards ourselves based on love. Ethics here finds her work already done, and comes too late. The impossibility of violating the duty of self-love is at once assumed by the first law of Christian Morals : " Love thy neighbour as thyself." According to this, the love which each man cherishes for himself is postulated as the maximum, and as

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THE ASSUMPTION OF DUTIES TOWARDS OURSELVES. 39

the condition of all other love ; while the converse, " Love thyself as thy neighbour " is never added ; for every one would feel that the latter does not claim enough. Moreover, self-love would be the sole duty regularly involving an opus supererogationis. Kant himself says in the Metaphysische Anfangsgrunde zur Tugendlehre, p. 13 (R., p. 230) : " That which each man inevitably wills of himself, does not belong to the conception of Duty." This idea of duties towards ourselves is nevertheless still held in repute, indeed it enjoys for the most part special favour ; nor need we feel surprise. But it has an amusing effect in cases where people begin to show anxiety about their persons, and talk quite earnestly of the duty of self-preservation ; the while it is sufficiently clear that fear will lend them legs soon enough, and that they have no need of any law of duty to help them along.

First among the duties towards ourselves is gener- ally placed that of not committing suicide, the line of argument taken being extremely prejudiced and resting on the shallowest basis. Unlike animals, man is not only a prey to bodily pain limited to the passing moment, but also to those incomparably greater mental sufferings, which, reaching forwards and backwards, draw upon the future and the past; and nature, by way of compensation, has granted to man alone the privilege of being able to end his life at his own pleasure, before she herself sets a term to it ; thus, while animals necessarily live so long as they can, man need only live so long as he will.


40 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

Whether he ought on ethical gronnds to forego this privilege is a difficult question, which in any case cannot be decided by the usual superficial reasoning. The arguments against suicide which Kant does not deem unworthy of adducing (p. 53, R, p. 48 and p. 67, B,., p. 57), I cannot conscien- tiously describe as other than pitiable, and quite undeserving of an answer. It is laughable indeed to suppose that reflections of such a kind could have wrested the dagger from the hands of Cato, of Cleo- patra, of Cocceius Nerva (Tac., Ann., vi. 26) or of Arria the wife of Paetus (Plin., Ep., iii. 16). If real moral motives for not committing suicide actually exist, it is certain that they lie very deep, and cannot be reached by the plummet of ordinary Ethics. They belong to a higher view of things than is adaptable even to the standpoint of the present treatise.[2]

That which generally comes next on the rubric of duties towards ourselves may be divided partly into rules of worldly wisdom, partly into hygienic pre- scriptions ; but neither class belongs to Morals in the proper sense. Last on the catalogue comes the prohibition of unnatural lust onanism, paederastia, and bestiality. Of these onanism is mainly a vice of childhood, and must be fought against much more with the weapon of dietetics than with that of ethics ; hence we find that the authors of books directed against it are physicians (e.g., Tissot and others) rather than moralists. After dietetics and hygiene have done their work, and struck it down by irrefutable reasoning, if Ethics desires to take up the matter, she finds little left for her to do. Bestiality, again, is of very rare occurrence ; it is thoroughly abnormal and exceptional, and, moreover, so loath- some and foreign to human nature, that itself, better than all arguments of reason, passes judgment on itself, and deters by sheer disgust. For the rest, as being a degradation of human nature, it is in reality an offence against the species as such, and in the abstract ; not against human units. Of the three sexual perversions of which we are speaking it is consequently only with paederastia that Ethics has to do, and in treating of Justice this vice finds its proper place. For Justice is infringed by it, in face of which fact, the dictum volenti nonfat injuria is unavailing. The injustice consists in the seduction of the younger and inexperienced person, who is thereby ruined physically and morally.


CHAPTER IV.

ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS.

WITH the imperative Form of Ethics, which in Chapter II. we proved to be a petitio principii, is directly connected a favourite idea of Kant's, that may be excused, but cannot be adopted. Sometimes we see a physician, after having employed a certain remedy with conspicuous success, henceforth prescrib- ing it for almost all diseases ; to such a one Kant may be likened. By separating the a priori from the a posteriori in human knowledge he made the most brilliant and pregnant discovery that Metaphysics can boast of. What wonder then that thereafter he should try to apply this method, this sundering of the two forms, everywhere, and should consequently make Ethics also consist of two parts, a pure, i.e., an a priori knowable part, and an empirical ? The latter of these he rejects as unreliable for the purpose of founding Ethics. To trace out the former and exhibit it by itself is his purpose in the Grundlegung der Metaphysik der Sitten, which he accordingly represents as a science purely a priori, exactly in the same way as he sets forth the Metaphysische Anfangsgrunde der Naturtvissenschaft. He asserts in fact that the Moral Law, which without warrant,

42


ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 43

without deduction, or proof of any sort, lie postulates as existing, is furthermore a Law knowable a priori and independent of all internal or external experience ; it " rests " (he says) " solely on conceptions of pure Reason ; and is to be taken as a synthetic proposition a priori " (Kritik der Praktiscken Vernunft : p. 56 of fourth Edition ; R., p. 142). But from this defini- tion the implication immediately follows that such a Law can only be formal, like everything else known a priori, and consequently has only to do with the Form of actions, not with their Essence. Let it be thought what this means ! He emphatically adds (p. vi of the preface to the Grundlegung ; R-., p. 5) that it is " useless to look for it either subjectively in man's nature, or objectively in the accidents of the external world," and (preface of the same, page vii ; R., p. 6) that " nothing whatever connected with it can be borrowed from knowledge relating to man, i.e., from anthropology." On page 59 (R., p. 52) he repeats, "That one ought on no account to fall into the mistake of trying to derive one's principle of morality from the special constitu- tion of human nature " ; and again, on page 60 (R., p. 52), he says that, "Everything derived from any natural disposition peculiar to man, or from certain feelings and propensities, or indeed from any special trend attaching solely to human nature, and not necessarily to be taken as the Will of every rational being," is incapable of affording a foundation for the moral law. This shows beyond all possibility of contradiction that Kant does not represent the alleged moral law as a fact of consciousness, capable


44 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

of empirical proof which is how the later would- be philosophers, both individually and collectively, wish to pass it off. In discarding every empirical basis for Morals, he rejects all internal, and still more decidedly all external, experience. Accordingly he founds and I call special attention to this his moral principle not on any provable fact of consciousness, such as an inner natural disposition, nor yet upon any objective relation of things in the external world. No ! That would be an empirical foundation. Instead of this, pure conceptions a priori, i.e., conceptions, which so far contain nothing derived from internal or external experience, and thus are simply shells without kernels these are to be made the basis of Morals. Let us consider the full meaning of such a position. Human consciousness as well as the whole external world, together with all the experience and all the facts they comprise, are swept from under our feet. We have nothing to stand upon. And what have we to hold to ? Nothing but a few entirely abstract, entirely unsubstantial conceptions, floating in the air equally with ourselves. It is from these, or, more correctly, from the mere form of their connection with judgments made, that a Law is declared to proceed, which by so-called absolute necessity is supposed to be valid, and to be strong enough to lay bit and bridle on the surging throng of human desires, on the storm of passion, on the giant might of egoism. We shall see if such be the case.

With this preconceived notion that the basis of Morals must be necessarily and strictly a priori, and entirely free from everything empirical, another of


ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 45

Kant's favourite ideas is closely connected. The moral principle that he seeks to establish is, he says, a synthetic proposition a priori, of merely formal contents, and hence exclusively a matter of Pure Reason ; and accordingly, as such, to be regarded as valid not only for men, but for all possible rational beings ; indeed he declares it to hold good for man " on this account alone," i.e., because per accidens man comes under the category of rational beings. Here lies the cause of his basing the Moral principle not on any feeling, but on pure Eeason (which knows nothing but itself and the statement of its antithesis). So that this pure Reason is taken, not as it really and exclusively is an intellectual faculty of man- but as a self-existent hypostatic essence, yet with- out the smallest authority ; the pernicious eifects of such example and precedent being sufficiently shown in the pitiful philosophy of the present day. Indeed, this view of Morals as existing not for men, as men, but for all rational beings, as such, is with Kant a principle so firmly established, an idea so favourite, that he is never tired of repeating it at every opportunity.

I, on the contrary, maintain that we are never entitled to raise into a genus that which we only know of in a single species. For we could bring nothing into our idea of the genus but what we had abstracted from, this one species ; so that what we should predicate of the genus could after all only be understood of the single species. While, if we should attempt to think away (without any warrant) the particular attributes of the species, in order to form


46 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

our genus, we should perhaps remove the exact, condition whereby the remaining attributes, hypo- statised as a genus, are made possible. Just as we recognise intelligence in general to be an attribute of animal beings alone, and are therefore never justified in thinking of it as existing outside, and independent, of animal nature ; so we recognise Reason as the exclusive attribute of the human race, and have not the smallest right to suppose that Reason exists externally to it, and then proceed to set up a genus called " Rational Beings," differing from its single known species " Man " ; still less are we warranted in laying down laws for such imaginary rational beings in the abstract. To talk of rational beings external to men is like talking of heavy beings external to bodies. One cannot help suspecting that Kant was thinking a little of the dear cherubim, or at any rate counted on their presence in the conviction of the reader. In any case this doctrine contains a tacit assumption of an anima rationales, which as being entirely different from the anima sensitiva, and the anima vegetativa, is supposed to persist after death, and then to be indeed nothing else but rationalis. But in the Kritik der Reinen Vernunft Kant himself has expressly and elabor- ately made an end of this most transcendent hypo- stasis. Nevertheless, in his ethics generally, and in the Kritik der Praktischen Vernunft especially, there seems always to hover in the background the thought that the inner and eternal essence of man consists of Reason. In this connection, where the matter only occurs incidentally, I must content myself with


ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 47

simply asserting the contrary. Reason, as indeed the intellectual faculty as a whole, is secondary, is an attribute of phaenomena, being in point of fact conditioned by the organism ; whereas it is the Will in man which is his very self, the only part of him which is metaphysical, and therefore indestructible.

The success with which Kant had applied his method to the theoretical side of philosophy led him on to extend it to the practical. Here also he endeavoured to separate pure a priori from empirical a posteriori knowledge. For this purpose he assumed that just as we know a priori the laws of Space, of Time, and of Causality, so in like manner, or at any rate analogously, we have the moral plumbline for our conduct given us prior to all experience, and revealed in a Categorical Imperative, an absolute " Ought." But how wide is the difference between this alleged moral law a priori, and our theoretical knowledge a priori of Space, Time, and Causality ! The latter are nothing but the expression of the forms, i.e., the functions of our intellect, whereby alone we are capable of grasping an objective world, and wherein alone it can be mirrored ; so that the world (as we know it) is absolutely conditioned by these forms, and all experience must invariably and exactly correspond to them just as everything that I see through a blue glass must appear blue. While the former, the so-called moral law, is something that experience pours ridicule on at every step ; indeed, as Kant himself says, it is doubtful whether in practice it has ever really been followed on any single occasion. How completely unlike are the things


48 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

which are here classed together under the conception of apriority ! Moreover, Kant overlooked the fact that, according to his own teaching, in theoretical philosophy, it is exactly the Apriority of our know- ledge of Time, Space, and Causality independent as this is of experience that limits it strictly to phaenomena, i.e., to the picture of the world as re- flected in our consciousness, and makes it entirely invalid as regards the real nature of things, i.e., as regards whatever exists independently of our capacity to grasp it.

Similarly, when we turn to practical philosophy, his alleged moral law, if it have an a priori origin in ourselves, must also be only pbaenomeual, and leave entirely untouched the essential nature of things. Only this conclusion would stand in the sharpest contradiction as much to the facts themselves, as to Kant's view of them. For it is precisely the moral principle in us that he everywhere (e.g., Kritik der Praktischen Vernunft, p. 175 ; 11., p. 228) represents as being in the closest connection with the real essence of things, indeed, as directly in contact with it ; and in all passages in the Kritik der Reinen Vernunft, where the mysterious Thing in itself comes forward a little more clearly, it shows itself as the moral principle in us, as Will. But of this he failed to take account.

In Chapter II. of this Part, I explained how Kant took over bodily from theological Morals the imperative form of Ethics, i.e., the conception of obligation, of law, and of duty ; and how at the same time he was constrained to leave behind that which in the realm


ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 49

of theology alone lends force and significance to these ideas. But he felt the need of some basis for them, and accordingly went so far as to require that the conception of duty itself should be also the ground of its fulfilment ; in other words, that it should itself be its own enforcement. An action, he says (p. 11 ; R, p. 18), has no genuine moral worth, unless it be done simply as a matter of duty, and for duty's sake, without any liking for it being felt ; and the character only begins to have value, if a man, who has no sympathy in his heart, and is cold and indifferent to others' sufferings, and who is not by nature a lover of his kind, is nevertheless a doer of good actions, solely out of a pitiful sense of duty. This assertion, which is revolting to true moral sentiment ; this apotheosis of lovelessness, the exact opposite, as it is, of the Christian doctrine of Morals, which places love before everything else, and teaches that without it nothing profiteth (1 Cor. xiii. 3) ; this stupid moral pedantry has been ridiculed by Schiller in two apposite epigrams, entitled Gewissensskrupel (Scruples of Conscience) and Entscheidung (Decision). 1

It appears that some passages in the Kritik der Prak- tischen Vernunft, which exactly suit this connection, were the immediate occasion of the verses. Thus, for instance, on p. 150 (B., p. 211) we find : "Obedience to the moral law, which a man feels incumbent on him, is based not on voluntary inclination, nor on en- deavour willingly put forth, without any authoritative

1 These epigrams form the close of Schiller's poem " Die Philosophen," which is worth reading in this connection. (Translator.)

4


50 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

command, but on a sense of duty." Yes, it must be commanded ! What slavish morality ! Arid again on p. 213 (R., p. 257): "Feelings of compassion, and of tender-hearted sympathy would be actually troublesome to persons who think aright, because through such emotions their well weighed maxims would become confused, and so the desire would grow up to be rid of them, and to be subject solely to the lawgiver Reason." Now I maintain without hesita- tion that what opens the hand of the above-described (p. 11 ; R., p. 18) loveless doer of good, who is indifferent to the sufferings of other people, cannot (provided he have no secondary motives) be anything else than a slavish Sei<ri8ai/j,ovia (fear of the gods), equally whether he calls his fetich " Categorical Imperative " or Fitzlipuzli. 1 For what but fear can move a hard heart ?

Furthermore, on p. 13 (R., p. 19), in accordance with the above view, we find that the moral worth of an action is supposed to lie, by no means in the intention which led to it, but in the maxim which was followed. Whereas I, on the contrary, ask the reader to reflect that it is the intention alone which decides as to the moral worth, or worthlessness, of an action, so that the same act may deserve con- demnation or praise according to the intention which determined it. Hence it is that, whenever men dis- cuss a proceeding to which some moral importance is attached, the intention is always investigated, and by this standard alone the matter is judged ; as, like- wise, it is in the intention alone that every one seeks 1 More correctly, Huitzilopochtli : a Mexican deity.


ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 51

justification, if he see his conduct misinterpreted, or excuse, if its consequence be mischievous.

On p. 14 (R., p. 20) we at last reach the definition of Duty, which is the fundamental conception of Kant's entire ethical system. It is : " The necessity of an action out of respect for the law." But what is necessary takes place with absolute certainty ; while conduct based on pure duty generally does not come off at all. And not only this ; Kant himself admits (p. 25 ; R., p. 28) that there are no certain instances on record of conduct determined solely by pure duty ; and on p. 26 (R., p. 29) he says : " It is utterly impossible to know with certainty from ex- perience whether there has ever really been one single case in which an action, however true to duty, has rested simply on its idea." And similarly on p. 28 (R., p. 30) and p. 49 (R., p. 50). In what sense then can necessity be attributed to such an action ? As it is only fair always to put the most favourable interpretation on an author's words, we will suppose him to mean that an act true to duty is objectively necessary, but subjectively accidental. Only it is precisely this that is more easily said than thought ; for where is the Object of this objective necessity, the consequence of which for the most part, perhaps indeed always, fails to be realised in objective reality ? With every wish to be unbiassed, I cannot but think that the expression necessity of an action is nothing but an artificially concealed, very forced paraphrase of the word " ought." l This will become

1 Or "shall," as in the "them shalt" of the Decalogue. (Translator,)


52 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

clearer if we notice that in the same definition the word Achtung (respect) is employed, where Gehorsam (obedience) is meant. Similarly in the note on p. 16 (R., p. 20) we read : " Achtung signifies simply the subordination of my will to a law. The direct determination of the will by a law, and the consciousness that it is so determined this is what is denoted by Achtung" In what language ? In German the proper term is Gehorsam. But the word Achtung, so unsuitable as it is, cannot without a reason have been put in place of the word Gehorsam. It must serve some purpose ; and this is obviously none other than to veil the derivation of the im- perative form, and of the conception of duty, from theological Morals ; just as we saw above that the expression " necessity of an action," which is such a forced and awkward substitute for the word " shall," was only chosen because " shall " is the exact language of the Decalogue. The above definition : " Duty is the necessity of an action out of respect for the law," would therefore read in natural, undisguised, plain language : " Duty signifies an action which ought to be done out of obedience to a law." This is " the real form of the poodle." l

But now as to the Law, which is the real founda- tion stone of the Kantian Ethics. What does it contain ? And where is it inscribed ? This is the chief

1 l< Des Pudels Kern " ; V. Goethe's Faust, Part I. Studir- zimmer. Schopenhauer means that his analysis has forced the real meaning out of Kant's language, just as Faust by his exorcism compels Mephistopheles, who was in the form of a poodle, to resume his true form. (Translator.)


ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 53

point of inquiry. In the first place, be it observed that we have two questions to deal with : the one has to do with the Principle, the other with the Basis of Ethics two entirely different things, although they are frequently, and sometimes indeed intentionally, confused.

The principle or main proposition of an ethical system is the shortest and most concise definition of the line of conduct which it prescribes, or, if it have no imperative form, of the line of conduct to which it attaches real moral worth. It thus contains, in the general terms of a single enunciation, the direc- tion for following the path of virtue, which is derived from that system : in other words, it is the o/rt 1 of virtue. Whereas the Basis of any theory of Ethics is the SIOTI* of virtue, the reason of the obligation enjoined, of the exhortation or praise given, whether it be sought in human nature, or in the external conditions of the world, or in anything else. As in all sciences, so also in Ethics the o,rt must be clearly distinguished from the Biort. But most teachers of Morals wilfully confound this difference : probably because the o,rt is so easy, the 8t<m so exceedingly difficult, to give. They are therefore glad to try to make up for the poverty on the one hand, by the riches on the other, and to bring about a happy marriage between Ilevia (poverty) and ITopo? (plenty), by putting them together in one proposition. 3

1 o,n : i.e., the " what " a thing is ; its principle, or essence. (Translator.)

2 Std : i.e., the " wherefore " of a thing ; its raison d'etre, its underlying cause. (Translator.)

3 Schopenhauer was doubtless thinking of the famous


54 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

This is generally done by taking the familiar 6,n out of the simple form in which it can be expressed, and forcing it into an artificial formula, from which it is only to be deduced as the conclusion of given premises ; and the* reader is led by this performance to feel as if he had grasped not only the thing, but its cause as well. We may easily convince ourselves of this by recalling all the most familiar principles of Morals. As, however, in what follows I have no intention of imitating acrobatic tricks of this sort, but purpose proceeding with all honesty and straight- forwardness, I cannot make the principle of Ethics equivalent to its basis, but must keep the two quite separate. Accordingly, this o,n i.e., the principle, the fundamental proposition as to which in its essence all teachers of Morals are really, at one, how- ever much they may clothe it in different costumes, I shall at once express in the form which I take to be the simplest and purest possible, viz. : Neminem laede, immo omnes, quantum potes, juva. (Do harm to no one ; but rather help all people, as far as lies in your power.) This is in truth the proposi- tion which all ethical writers expend their energies in endeavouring to account for. It is the common result of their manifold and widely differing de- ductions ; it is the o,n for which the SIOTI is still sought after ; the consequence, the cause of which is wanting. Hence it is itself nothing but the

myth in Plato's Symposium Chap. 23 (Teubner's edition, Leipzig, 1875), where Eros is represented as the offspring of TLopos and Ilej/ia, who on the birthday of Aphrodite were united in the garden of Zeus. (Translator.')


ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 55

Datum (the thing given), in relation to which the Quaesitum (the thing required) is the problem of every ethical system, as also of the present prize essay. The solution of this riddle will disclose the real foundation of Ethics, which, like the philosopher's stone, has been searched for from time immemorial. That the Datum, the o,ri, the principle is most purely expressed by the enunciation I have given, can be seen from the fact that it stands to every other precept of Morals as a conclusion to given premises, and therefore constitutes the real goal it is desired to attain ; so that all other ethical com- mandments can only be regarded as paraphrases, as indirect or disguised statements, of the above simple proposition. This is true, for instance, even of that trite and apparently elementary maxim : Quod tibi fieri non vis, alteri nefeceris. 1 (Do not to another what you are unwilling should be done to yourself.) The defect here is that the wording only touches the duties im- posed by law, not those required by virtue ; a thing which can be easily remedied by the omission of non and ne. Thus changed, it really means nothing else than : Neminem laede, immo omnes, quantum potes,juva. But as this sense is only reached by a periphrasis, the formula gains the appearance of having also revealed its own ultimate foundation, its Btort, ; which, however, is not the case, because it does not in the least follow that, if I am unwilling that something be done to myself, I ought not to do it to others. The same is true of every other principle or leading proposition of Ethics that has hitherto been put forward. 1 Hugo Grotius attributes it to the Emperor Severus.


56 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

If we now return to the above question : how does the law read, in obeying which, according to Kant, duty consists ? and on what is it based ? we shall find that our philosopher, like most others, has in an extremely artificial manner closely connected the principle of Morals with its basis. I again call attention to what I have already examined at the outset I mean, the Kantian claim that the principle of Ethics must be purely a, priori and purely formal, indeed an a priori synthetical proposition, which consequently may not contain anything material, nor rest upon anything empirical, whether objectively in the external world, or subjectively in consciousness, such as any feeling, inclination, impulse, and the like. Kant was perfectly aware of the difficulty of this position ; for on p. 60 (R., p. 53) he says : " It will be seen that philosophy has here indeed reached a precarious standpoint, which yet is to be immovable, notwithstanding that it is neither dependent on, nor supported by, anything in heaven or on earth." We shall therefore with all the greater interest and curiosity await the solution of the problem he has set himself, namely, how something is to arise out of nothing, that is, how out of purely a priori conceptions, which contain nothing empirical or material, the laws of material human action are to grow up. This is a process which we may find symbolised in chemistry, where out of three invisible gases (Azote, Hydrogen, and Chlorine 1 ), and thus in apparently empty space, solid sal-ammoniac is evolved before our eyes.

1 Azote = Nitrogen. The formula for Ammonium Chloride or Sal-ammoniac is NH 4 C1. (Translator).


ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 57

I will, however, explain, more clearly than Kanteither would or could, the method whereby he accomplishes this difficult task. The demonstration is all the more necessary because what he did appears to be seldom properly understood. Almost all Kant's disciples have fallen into the mistake of supposing that he presents his Categorical Imperative directly as a fact of consciousness. But in that case its origin would be anthropological, and, as resting on experience, although internal, it would have an empirical basis : a position which runs directly counter to the Kantian view, and which he repeatedly rejects. Thus on p. 48 (R., p. 44) he says : " It cannot be empirically determined whether any such Categorical Imperative exists everywhere " ; and again, on p. 49 (R., p. 45) : " The possibility of the Categorical Imperative must be investigated entirely on a priori grounds, because here we are not helped by any testimony of ex- perience as to its reality." Even Reinhold, his first pupil, missed this point ; for in his Beitrdge zur Uebersicht der Philosophie am Anfange des 19. Jahrhunderts, No. 2, p. 21, we find him saying : " Kant assumes the moral law to be a direct and certain reality, an original fact of the moral consciousness." But if Kant had wished to make the Categorical Imperative a fact of consciousness, and thus give it an empirical foundation, he certainly would not have failed at least to put it forward as such. And this is precisely what he never does. As far as I know, the Categorical Imperative appears for the first time in the Kritik der Reinen Vernunft (p. 802 of the first, and p. 830 of the fifth, edition), entirely ex mine


58 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

(unexpectedly), without any preamble, and merely connected with the preceding sentence by an altogether unjustifiable " therefore." It is only in the Grundlage zur Metapliysik der Sitten a book to which we here devote especial attention that it is first introduced expressly and formally, as a deduction from certain concepts. Whereas in lieinhold's Formula concordiae des Kriticism.us, 1 we actually read on p. 122 the following sentence : " We distinguish moral self- consciousness from the experience with which it, as an original fact transcending all knowledge, is bound up in the human consciousness ; and we understand by such self-consciousness the direct consciousness of duty, that is, of the necessity we are under of admitting the legitimacy whether pleasurable or the reverse of the will, as the stimulus and as the measure of its own operations."

This would of course be " a charming thesis, with a very pretty hypothesis to boot." 2 But seriously : into what an outrageous petitio principii do we find Kant's moral law here developed ! If that were true, Ethics would indubitably have a basis of incomparable solidity, and there would be no need of any questions being set for prize essays, to en- courage inquiry in this direction. But the greatest marvel would be, that men had been so slow in discovering such a fact of consciousness, corisider-

1 To be found in the fifth number of the Beitrdge zur Uebersicht der Philosophic am Anfange des 19. Jahrhunderts a journal of the greatest importance for critical philosophy.

2 " Einen erklecklichen SATZ, fa, und der auch was SETZT." SCHILLER.


ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 59

ing that for the space of thousands of years a basis for Morals has been sought after with zealous patient toil. How Kant himself is responsible for this deplorable mistake, I shall explain further on ; never- theless, one cannot but wonder at the undisputed predominance of such a radical error among his disciples. Have they never, whilst writing all their numberless books on the Kantian philosophy, noticed the disfigurement which the Kritik der Reinen Ver- nunft underwent in the second edition, and which made it an incoherent, self-contradictory work ? It seems that this has only now come to light ; and, in my opinion, the fact has been quite correctly analysed in Rosenkranz's preface to the second volume of his complete edition of Kant's works. We must, how- ever, remember that many scholars, being unceasingly occupied as teachers and authors, find very little time left for private and exact research. It is certain that docendo disco (I learn by teaching) is not un- conditionally true ; sometimes indeed one is tempted to parody it by saying : semper docendo nihil disco (by always teaching I learn nothing) ; and even what Diderot puts into the mouth of Rameau's nephew is not altogether without reason: " ' And as for these teachers, do you suppose they understand the sciences they give instruction in ? Not a bit of it, my dear sir, not a bit of it. If they possessed sufficient knowledge to be able to teach them, they would not do so.' ' Why ? ' ' Because they would have devoted their lives to the study of them.'" (Goethe's translation, p. 104.) Lichtenberg too says : " I have rather observed that professional people are often exactly those who do


60 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

not know best." But to return to the Kantian Ethics : most persons, provided only the conclusion reached agrees with their moral feelings, immediately assume that there is no flaw to be found in its derivation ; and if the process of deduction looks difficult, they do not trouble themselves much about it, but are content to trust the faculty.

Thus the foundation which Kant gave to his moral law by no means consists in its being proved em- pirically to be a fact of consciousness ; neither does he base it on an appeal to moral feeling, nor yet on a petitio principii, under its fine modern name of an u absolute Postulate." It is formed rather of a very subtle process of thought, which he twice advances, on p. 17 and p. 51 (R., p. 22, and p. 46), and which I shall now proceed to make clear.

Kant, be it observed, ridiculed all empirical stimuli of the will, and began by removing everything, whether subjective or objective, on which a law determining the will's action could be empirically based. The consequence is, that he has nothing left for the substance of his law but simply its Form. Now this can only be the abstract conception of lawfulness. But the conception of lawfulness is built up out of what is valid for all persons equally. Therefore the substance of the law consists of the conception of what is universally valid, and its contents are of course nothing else than its universal validity. Hence the formula will read as follows : " Act only in accordance with that precept which you can also wish should be a general law for all rational beings." This, then, is the real foundation for the most part so


ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 61

greatly misunderstood which Kant constructed for his principle of Morals, and therefore for his whole ethical system. Compare also the Kritik der Praktiscken Vernunft, p. 61 (R., p. 147) ; the end of Note 1.

I pay Kant a tribute of sincere admiration for the great acumen . he displayed in carrying out this dex- terous feat, but I continue in all seriousness my examination of his position according to the standard of truth. I will only observe and this point I shall take up again later on that here reason, because, and in so far as, it works out the above explained special ratiocination, receives the name of practical reason. Now the Categorical Imperative of Practical Reason is the law which results from this process of thought. Consequently Practical Reason is not in the least what most people, including even Fichte, have regarded it a special faculty that cannot be traced to its source, a qualitas occulta, a sort of moral instinct, like Hutcheson's " moral sense " ; but it is (as Kant himself in his preface, p. xii. [R., p. 8], and elsewhere, often enough declares) one and the same with theoretical reason is, in fact, theoretical reason itself, in so far as the latter works out the ratiocinative process I have described. It is noticeable that Fichte calls the Categorical Imperative of Kant an absolute Postulate (Grundlage der gesammten Wissenschaftslehre, Tubingen, 1802, p. 240, Note). This is the modern, more showy, expression for petitio principii, and thus we see that he, too, regularly accepted the Categorical Imperative, and consequently must be included among those who have fallen into the mistake above criticised.


62 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

The objection, to which this Kantian basis of Morals is at once and directly exposed, lies in the fact that such an origin of a moral law in us is im- possible, because of its assumption that man would quite of his own accord hit on the idea of looking about for, and inquiring after, a law to which his will should be subject, and which should shape its actions. This procedure, however, cannot possibly occur to him of itself ; at best it could only be after another moral stimulus had supplied the first impulse and motive thereto ; and such a stimulus would have to be positively operative, and real ; and show itself to be such, as well as spontaneously influence, indeed force its presence upon, the mind. But anything of this sort would run counter to Kant's assumption, which, according to the chain of reasoning above described, is to be regarded as itself the origin of all moral conceptions in fact, the punctum saliens of Morality. Consequently, as long as there is no such antecedent incentive (because, ex hypothesi, there exists no other moral stimulus but the process of thought already explained), so long Egoism alone must remain as the plumb-line of human conduct, as the guiding thread of the law of motivation ; so long the entirely empirical and egoistic motives of the moment, alone and unchecked, must determine, in each separate case, the conduct of a man ; since, on this assumption, there is no voice to arrest him, neither does any reason whatever exist, why he should be minded to inquire after, to say nothing of anxiously searching for, a law which should limit and govern his will 1 . And yet it is only possible


ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 63

on this supposition that he should think out the above remarkable piece of mental legerdemain. It matters not how far we may care to put a strict and exact interpretation on this Kantian process, or whether we choose to tone it down to some dim, obscurely felt operation of thought. No modification of it can attack the primary truths that out of nothing, nothing comes, and that an effect requires a cause. The moral stimulus, like every motive that effects the will, must in all cases make itself felt spontaneously, and therefore have a positive working, and consequently be real. And because for men the only thing which has reality is the empirical, or else that which is supposed to have a possibly empirical existence, therefore it follows that the moral stimulus cannot but be empirical, and show itself as such of its own accord ; and without waiting for us to begin our search, it must come and press itself upon us, and this with such force that it may, at least possibly, overcome the opposing egoistic motives in all their giant strength. For Ethics has to do with actual human conduct, and not with the a priori building of card houses a performance which yields results that no man would ever turn to in the stern stress and battle of life, and which, in face of the storm of our passions, would be about as serviceable as a syringe in a great fire.

I have already noticed above how Kant considered it a special merit of his moral law that it is founded solely on abstract, pure a priori conceptions, con- sequently on pure reason ; whereby its validity obtain* (he says) not only for men, but for all rational beings


64 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

as such. All the more must we regret that pure, abstract conceptions a priori, without real contents, and without any kind of empirical basis can never move, at any rate, men ; of other rational beings I am of course incapable of speaking. The second defect, then, in Kant's ethical basis is its lack of real substance. So far this has escaped notice, because the real nature of his foundation has in all probability been thoroughly understood only by an exceedingly small number of those who were its enthusiastic propagandists. The second fault, I re- peat, is entire want of reality, and hence of possible efficacy. The structure floats in the air, like a web of the subtlest conceptions devoid of all contents ; it is based on nothing, and can therefore support nothing, and move nothing. And yet Kant loaded it with a burden of enormous weight, namely, the hypothesis of the Freedom of the Will. In spite of his oft declared conviction that freedom in human action has absolutely no place ; that theoretically not even its possibility is thinkable (Kritik der Praktischen Vernunft, p. 168 ; R., p. 223); that, if the character of a man, and all the motives which work on him were exactly known, his conduct could be calculated as certainly and as precisely as an eclipse of the moon (ibidem, p. 177 ; R., p. 230) : he nevertheless makes an assumption of freedom (although only ictealiter, and as a postulate) by his celebrated conclusion : " You can, because you ought " ; and this on the strength of his precious ethical basis, which, as we see, floats in the air in- corporeal. But if it has once been clearly recognised


ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 65

that a thing is not, and cannot be, what is the use of all the postulates in the world? It would be much more to the purpose to cast away that on which the postulate is based, because it is an impossible supposition ; and this course would be justified by the rule a non posse ad non esse valet consequentia ; J and by a reductio ad absurdum, which would at the same time be fatal to the Categorical Imperative. Instead of which one false doctrine is built up on the other.

The inadmissibility of a basis for Morals consisting of a few entirely abstract and empty conceptions must have been apparent to Kant himself in secret. For in the Kritik der Praktischen Vernunft, where (as I have already said) he is not so strict and methodical in his work, and where we find him becoming bolder on account of the fame he had gained, it is re- markable how the ethical basis gradually changes its nature, and almost forgets that it is a mere web of abstract ideas ; in fact, it seems distinctly desirous of becoming more substantial. Thus, for instance, on p. 81 (R., p. 163) of the above work are the words : " The Moral Law in some sort a fact of Pure Reason." What is one to think of this extraordinary expression ? In every other place that which is fact is opposed to what is knowable by pure reason. Similarly on p. 83 (R., p. 164) we read of " a Reason which directly determines the Will " ; and so on.

Now let us remember that in laying his founda- tion Kant expressly and repeatedly rejects every

1 To argue from impossibility to non-existence is valid i.e., the impossibility of a thing makes its non-existence a safe conclusion. (Translator.)

5


86 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

anthropological basis, everything that could prove the Categorical Imperative to be a fact of consciousness, because such a proof would be empirical. Neverthe- less, his successors were so emboldened by incidental utterances like the above that they went to much greater lengths. Fichte in his work, System der Sittenlehre, p. 49, warns us expressly " not to allow ourselves to be misled into trying to explain, and derive from external sources, the consciousness that we have duties, because this would be detrimental to the dignity and absoluteness of the law." A very nice excuse ! Again on p. 66 he says : " The principle of Morality is a thought which is based on the intellectual intuition of the absolute activity of the intelligence, and which is directly conceived by the pure intelligence of its own accord." What a fine flourish to conceal the helplessness of this clap-trap ! Whoever may like to convince himself how Kant's disciples, little by little, totally forgot and ignored the real nature of the foundation and derivation which their master originally gave to the moral law, should read a very interesting essay in Reinhold's Beitrage zur Uebersicht der Philosophic im Anfange des 19. Jahrhunderts, No. 2, 1801. In it, on pp. 105 and 106, it is maintained "that in the Kantian philosophy Autonomy (which is the same thing as the Categorical Imperative) is a fact of consciousness, and cannot be traced further back, inasmuch as it declares itself by means of a direct consciousness."

But in this case, it would have an anthropological , and consequently empirical, foundation a position


ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 67

which is diametrically opposed to Kant's explicit and repeated utterances. Again, on p. 108 we find : " Both in the practical philosophy of criticism, and in the whole of the purified or higher transcendental philosophy, Autonomy is that which is founded, and which founds, by itself alone ; and which is neither capable of, nor requires, any other foundation ; it is that which is absolutely original, true and certain per se ; the primal truth ; the prius KCLT e^o^r/y (jpar excel- lence) ; the absolute principle. Whoever, therefore, imagines, requires, or seeks any basis for this Auto- nomy external to itself, can only be regarded by the Kantian School as wanting in moral consciousness j 1 or else as failing to interpret this consciousness correctly, through the employment of false first principles in his speculations. The School of Fichte and Schelling declares him to be afflicted with a dulness of intellect that renders him incapable of being a philosopher, and forms the characteristic of the unholy canaille, and the sluggish brute, or (to use Schelling's more veiled expression) of the profanum vulgus and the ignavum pecus" Every one will understand how much truth there can be in a doctrine which it is sought to uphold by such

1 Dock? ich's dock ! Wissen sie nichts Vernunftiges mehr

zu erwidern,

Schieben sies Einem geschwind in das Gfewissen hinein. SCHILLER, Die Philosophen.

Just as I thought ! Can they give no more any answer of

reason,

Quickly the ground is changed : Conscience, they say, is at fault.

(Translator.)


68 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

defiant and dogmatic rhetoric. Meanwhile, we must doubtless explain by the respect that this language inspired, the really childish credulity with which Kant's followers accepted the Categorical Imperative, and at once treated it as a matter beyond dispute. The truth is that in this case any objections raised to a theoretical assertion might easily be confounded with moral obliquity ; so that every one, although he had no very clear idea in his own mind of the Categorical Imperative, yet preferred to be silent, believing, as he did, in secret, that others were probably better off, and had succeeded in evolving a clearer and more definite mental picture of it. For no one likes to turn his conscience inside out.

Thus in the Kantian School Practical Reason with its Categorical Imperative appears more and more as a hyperphysical fact, as a Delphian temple in the human soul, out of whose dark recesses proceed oracles that infallibly declare not, alas ! what will, but what ought to, happen. This doctrine of Practical Reason, as a direct and immediate fact, once it had been adopted, or rather introduced by artifice combined with defiance, was unhappily later on extended also to Theoretical Reason ; and not unnaturally : for Kant himself had often said that both are but one and the same Reason (e.g., Preface, p. xii ; R., p. 8). After it had been once admitted that in the domain of the Practical there is a Reason which dictates ex tripode, 1 it was an easy step to concede the same privilege to Theoretical Reason also, closely related

1 As from the Pythian tripod : i.e., with official authority, ex cathedrd.


ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 69

as the latter is to the former indeed, consubstantial with it. The one was thus pronounced to be just as immediate as the other, the advantage of this being no less immense than obvious.

Then it was that all philosophasters and fancy- mongers, with J. H. Jacobi the denouncer of atheists at their head, came crowding to this postern which was so unexpectedly opened to them. They wanted to bring their small wares to market, or at least to save what they most valued of the old heirlooms which Kant's teaching threatened to pulverise. As in the life of the individual a single youthful mistake often ruins the whole career ; so when Kant made that one false assumption of a Practical Reason furnished with credentials exclusively transcendent, and (like the supreme courts of appeal) with powers of decision " without grounds," the result was that out of the austere gravity of the Critical Philosophy was evolved a teaching utterly heterogeneous to it. We hear of a Reason at first only dimly u surmising," then clearly " comprehending " the " Supersensuous," and at last endowed with a perfect "intellectual intuition" of it. Every dreamer could now promulgate his mental freaks as the " absolute," i.e., officially issued, deliverances, and revelations of this Reason. Nor need we be sur- prised if the new privilege was fully taken advantage of.

Here, then, is the origin of that philosophical method which appeared immediately after Kant, and which is made up of clap-trap, of mystifica- tion, of imposture, of deception, and of throwing dust in the eyes. This era will be known one day in the History of Philosophy as "The Period of


70 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

Dishonesty." For it was signalised by the disappear- ance of the characteristic of honesty, of searching after truth in common with the reader, which was well marked in the writings of all previous philosophers. The philosophaster's object was not to instruct, but to befool his hearers, as every page attests. At first Fichte and Schelling shine as the heroes of this epoch ; to be followed by the man who is quite unworthy even of them, and greatly their inferior in point of talent I mean the stupid and clumsy charlatan Hegel. The Chorus is composed of a mixed company of professors of philosophy, who in solemn fashion discourse to their public about the Endless, the Absolute, and many other matters of which they can know absolutely nothing.

As a stepping-stone to raise Reason to her prophetic throne a wretched jeu d 1 esprit was actually dragged in, and made to serve. It was asserted that, as the word Vernunft (Reason) comes from vernehmen (to comprehend), therefore Vernunft means a capacity to comprehend the so-called " Super- sensuous," i.e.) NefaXorcoKKvyla, 1 or Cloud-cuckoo- town. This pretty notion met with boundless approval, and for the space of thirty years was constantly repeated in Germany with immense satisfaction ; indeed, it was made the foundation of philosophic manuals. And yet it is as clear as noon- day that of course Vernunft (Reason) comes from vernehmen (to comprehend), but only because Reason makes man superior to animals, so that he not only hears, but also comprehends (vemimmt) by no means, 1 V. Aristoph., Aves, 819 et alibi. (Translator.)


ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 71

what is going on in Cloud-cuckoo-town but what is said, as by one reasonable person to another, the words spoken being comprehended (vernommen) by the listener ; and this capacity is called Reason ( Vernunft). Such is the interpretation that all peoples, ages, and languages have put on the word Reason. It has always been understood to mean the posses- sion of general, abstract, non-intuitive ideas, named concepts, which are denoted and fixed by means of words. This faculty alone it is which in reality gives to men their advantage over animals. For these abstract ideas, or concepts, that is, mental impressions formed of the sum of many separate things, are the condition of language and through it of actual thought ; through which again they determine the consciousness not only of the present (which animals also have), but of the past and the future as such ; whence it results that they are the modulus, so to say, of clear recollection, of circumspection, of foresight, and of intention ; the constant factor in the evolution of systematic co-operation, of the state, of trades, arts, sciences, religions, and philosophies, in short, of everything that so sharply distinguishes human from animal life. Beasts have only intuitive ideas, and therefore also only intuitive motives ; consequently the dependence of their volition on motives is manifest. With man this dependence is no less a fact ; he, too (with due allowance for individual character), is affected by motives under the strictest law of necessity. Only these are for the most part not intuitive but abstract ideas, that is, conceptions, or thoughts, which nevertheless are the result of previous intuitions, hence


72 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

of external influences. This, however, gives him a relative freedom relative, that is, as compared with an animal. For his action is not determined (as it is in all other creatures) by the surroundings of the moment as intuitively perceived, but by the thoughts he has derived from experience, or gained by instruction. Consequently the motive, by which he, too, is necessarily swayed, is not always at once obvious to the looker-on simultaneously with the act ; it lies concealed in the brain. It is this that lends to all his movements, as well as to his conduct and work as a whole, a character manifestly different from that observable in the habits of beasts. He seems as though guided by finer, invisible threads ; whence all his acts bear the stamp of deliberation and premeditation, thus gaining an appearance of independence, which sufficiently distinguishes them from those of animals. All these great differences, however, spring solely out of the capacity for abstract ideas, concepts. This capacity is therefore the essen- tial part of Reason, that is, of the faculty peculiar to man, and it is called TO Xoyipov, 1 TO \oyia-TiKov, ratio, la ragione, il discorso, raison, reason, discourse of reason. If I were asked what the distinction is between it and Verstand, ^01)9, intellects, entendement, understanding ; I should reply thus : The latter is that capacity for knowledge which animals also possess in varying degrees, and which is seen in us at its highest development ; in other words, it is the

1 \6yipos means " remarkable," being never used in the sense of " rational." To \oyixbv is perhaps a possible expression ; the right word is Xoyor. (Translator.)


ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 73

direct consciousness of the law of Causality a con- sciousness which precedes all experience, being constituted by the very form of the understanding, whose essential nature is, in fact, therein contained. On it depends in the first place the intuitive percep- tion of the external world ; for the senses by them- selves are only capable of impression, a thing which is very far from being intuitive perception; indeed, the former is nothing but the material of the latter : vov<? opa KOI vovs atcovei, r'aXXa Kaxba Kal rv(f>\d. (The mind sees, the mind hears ; everything else is deaf and blind.) Intuitive perception is the result of our directly referring the impressions of the sense- organs to their cause, which, exactly because of this act of the intelligence, presents itself as an external object under the mode of intuition proper to us,

  • '.., in space. This is a proof that the Law of

Causality is known to us a priori, and does not arise from experience, since experience itself, inas- much as it presupposes intuitive perception, is only possible through the same law. All the higher qualities of the intellect, all cleverness, sagacity, penetration, acumen are directly proportional to the exactness and fulness with which the workings of Causality in all its relations are grasped ; for all knowledge of the connection of things, in the widest sense of the word, is based on the comprehension of this law, and the clearness and accuracy with which it is understood is the measure of one man's superiority to another in understanding, shrewdness, cunning. On the other hand, the epithet reasonable has at all times been applied to the man who does


74 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

not allow himself to be guided by intuitive impressions, but by thoughts and conceptions, and who therefore always sets to work logically after due reflection and forethought. Conduct of this sort is everywhere known as reasonable. Not that this by any means implies uprightness and love for one's fellows. On the contrary, it is quite possible to act in the most reasonable way, that is, according to conclusions scientifically deduced, and weighed with the nicest exactitude ; and yet to follow the most selfish, unjust, and even iniquitous maxims. So that never before Kant did it occur to any one to identify just, virtuous, and noble conduct with reasonable ; the two lines of behaviour have always been completely separated, and kept apart. The one depends on the kind of motivation ; the other on the difference in fundamental principles. Only after Kant (because he taught that virtue has its source in Pure Reason) did the virtuous and the reasonable become one and the same thing, despite the usage of these words which all languages have adopted a usage which is not fortuitous, but the work of universal, and therefore uniform, human judgment. " Keasonable " and " vicious " are terms that go very well together ; indeed great, far-reaching crimes are only possible from their union. Similarly, " unreasonable " and " noble-minded " are often found associated ; e.g., if I give to-day to the needy man what I shall myself require to-morrow more urgently than he ; or, if I am so far affected as to hand over to one in distress the sum which my creditor is waiting for ; and such cases could be multiplied indefinitely. We have seen that this exaltation of Reason to


ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 75

be the source of all virtue rests on two assertions. First, as Practical Reason, it is said to issue, like an oracle, peremptory Imperatives purely a priori. Secondly, taken in connection with the false ex- planation of Theoretical Reason, as given in the Kritik der Reinen Vernunft, it is presented as a certain faculty essentially concerned with the Unconditioned, as manifested in three alleged Ideas l (the impossibility of which the intellect at the same time recognises a priori). And we found that this position, as an exemplar vitiis imitabile^ led our muddy-headed philosophers, Jacobi at their head, from bad to worse. They talked of Reason ( Vernunft} as directly comprehending (vernehmend) the " Supersensuous/' and absurdly declared that it is a certain mental property which has to do essentially with things transcending all experience, i.e., with metaphysics ; and that it perceives directly and intuitively the ultimate causes of all things, and of all Being, the Supersensuous, the Absolute, the Divine, etc. Now, had it been wished to use Reason, instead of deifying it, such assertions as these must long ago have been met by the simple remark that, if man, by virtue of a special organ, furnished by his Reason, for solving the riddle of the world, possessed an innate metaphysics that only required development ; in that

1 The three Ideas are : (1) The Psychological ; (2) The Cosmological ; (3) The Theological. V. The Paralogisms of Pure Reasons, in the Dialectics : Kritik der Reinen Vernunft, Part I. (Translator.)

2 An example easy to be imitated in its faults. V. Horace, Ep. Lib. I., xix. 17. (Translator.)


76 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

case there would have to be just as complete agree- ment on metaphysical matters as on the truths of arithmetic and geometry ; and this would make it totally impossible that there should exist on the earth a large number of radically different religions, and a still larger number of radically different systems of philosophy. Indeed, we may rather suppose that, if any one were found to differ from the rest in his religious or philosophical views, he would be at once regarded as a subject for mental pathology. Nor would the following plain reflection have failed to present itself. If we discovered a species of apes which intentionally prepared instru- ments for fighting, or building, or for any other purpose ; we should immediately admit that it was endowed with Reason. On the other hand, if we meet with savages destitute of all metaphysics, or of all religion (and there are such) ; it does not occur to us to deny them Reason on that account. The Reason that proves its pretended supersensuous knowledge was duly brought back to bounds by Kant's critique ; but Jacobi's wonderful Reason, that directly comprehends the supersensuous, he must indeed have thought beneath all criticism. Mean- while, a certain imperious and oracular Reason of the same kind is still, at the Universities, fastened on the shoulders of our innocent youth.

NOTE.

If we wish to reach the real origin of this hypothesis of Practical Reason, we must trace its descent a little further back. We shall find that it is derived


ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 77

from a doctrine, which Kant totally confuted, but which nevertheless, in this connection, lies secretly (indeed he himself is not aware of it) at the root of his assumption of a Practical Reason with its Imperatives and its Autonomy a reminiscence of a former mode of thought. I mean the so-called Rational Psychology, according to which man is composed of two entirely heterogeneous substances the material body, and the immaterial soul. Plato was the first to formulate this dogma, and he en- deavoured to prove it as an objective truth. But it was Descartes who, by working it out with scientific exactness, perfectly developed and completed it. And this is just what brought its fallacy to light, as demonstrated by Spinoza, Locke, and Kant succes- sively. It was demonstrated by Spinoza ; because his philosophy consists chiefly in the refutation of his master's twofold dualism, and because he entirely and expressly denied the two Substances of Descartes, and took as his main principle the following pro- position : " Substantia cogitans et substantia extensa una eademque est substantia, quae jam sub hoc, jam sub illo attribute comprehenditur " 1 It was demon- strated by Locke ; for he combated the theory of innate ideas, derived all knowledge from the sensuous, and taught that it is not impossible that Matter should think. And lastly, it was demonstrated by

1 The thinking substance, and substance in extension are one and the self-same substance, which is contained now under the latter attribute (i.e., extension), now under the former (i.e., the attribute of thinking). Ethica, Part IL, Prop. 7. Corollary.


78 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

Kant, in his Kritik der Rationalen Psychologie, as given in the first edition. Leibnitz and Wolff were the champions on the bad side ; and this brought Leibnitz the undeserved honour of being compared to the great Plato, who was really so unlike him.

But to enter into details here would be out of place. According to this Rational Psychology, the soul was originally and in its essence a perceiving substance, and only as a consequence thereof did it become possessed of volition. According as it carried on these two modes of its activity, Perception and Volition, conjoined with the body, or incorporeal, and entirely per se, so it was endowed with a lower or higher faculty of perception, and of volition in like kind. In its higher faculty the immaterial soul was active solely by itself, and without co-opera- tion of the body. In this case it was intellectus purus, being composed of concepts, belonging ex- clusively to itself, and of the corresponding acts of will, both of which were absolutely spiritual, and had nothing sensuous about them the sensuous being derived from the body. x So that it perceived nothing else but pure Abstracts, Universals, innate conceptions, aeternae veritates, etc. ; wherefore also its volition was entirely controlled by purely spiritual ideas like these. On the other hand, the soul's lower faculty of Perception and Volition was the result of its working in concert and close union with the various organs of the body, whereby a prejudicial

1 Intellectio pura est intellectio, quae circa nullas imagines corporeas versatur. (Pure intelligence is intelligence that has nothing to do with any bodily forms.) Cart., Medit., p. 188.


ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 79

effect was produced on its unmixed spiritual activity. Here, i.e., to this lower faculty, was supposed to belong every intuitive perception, which consequently would have to be obscure and confused, while the abstract, formed by separating from objects their qualities, would be clear ! The will, which was determined by preceptions thus sensuously conditioned, formed the lower Volition, and it was for the most part bad ; for its acts were guided by the impulse of the senses ; while the other will (the higher) was untrammelled, was guided by Pure Reason, and apper- tained only to the immaterial soul. This doctrine of the Cartesians has been best expounded by De la Forge, in his Tractatus de Mente Humana, where in chap. 23 we read : l Non nisi eadem voluntas est, quae appellatur appetitus sensitivus, quando excitatur per judicia, quae formantur consequenter ad perceptiones sensuum ; et quae appetitus rationalis nominatur, cum

1 It is nothing but one and the same will, which at one time is called sensuous desire, when it is stimulated by acts of judgment, formed in consequence of perceptions of the senses ; and which at another time is called rational desire (i.e. desire of the reason), when the mind forms acts of judgment about its own proper ideas, independently of the thoughts belonging to, and mixed up with, the senses ; which thoughts are the causes of the mind's tendencies. . . . That these two diverse propensities of the will should be regarded as two distinct desires is occasioned by the fact that very often the one is opposed to the other, because the intention, which is built up by the mind on the foundation of its own proper perceptions, does not always agree with the thoughts which are suggested to the mind by the body's disposition ; whereby it (the mind) is often constrained to will something, while its reason makes it choose something different. (Translator,)


80 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

mens judicia format de propriis suis ideis, inde- pendenter a cogitationibus sensuum con/mis, quae inclinationum ejus sunt causae. . . . Id, quod occasionem dedit, ut duae istae diversae voluntatis propensiones pro duobus dwcrsis appetitibus sumer- entur, est, quod saepissime unus alteri opponatur, quid propositum, quod mens superaedificat propriis suis perceptionibus, non semper consentit cum cogita- tionibus, quae menti a corporis dispositione suggeruntur, per quam saepe obligatur ad aliquid wlendum, dum ratio ejus earn aliud optarefacit.

Out of the dim reminiscence of such views there finally arose Kant's doctrine of the Automony of the Will, which, as the mouthpiece of Pure, Practical Reason, lays down the law for all rational beings as such, and recognises nothing but formal motives, as opposed to material ; the latter determining only the lower faculty of desires, to which the higher is hostile. For the rest, this whole theory, which was not really systematically set forth till the time of Descartes, is nevertheless to be found as far back as Aristotle. In his De Anima I. 1, it is sufficiently clearly stated ; while Plato in the Phaedo (pp. 188 and 189, edit. Bipont.) had already paved the way, with no uncertain hints. After being elaborated to great perfection by the Cartesian doctrine, we find it a hundred years later waxed bold and strong, and occupying the foremost place ; but precisely for this reason forced to reveal its true nature. An excellent resume of the view which then prevailed is presented in Muratori's Delia Forza della Fantasia, chaps. 1-4 and 13, In this work the imagination is


ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 81

regarded as a pa rely material, corporeal organ of the brain (the lower faculty of perception), its function being to intuitively apprehend the external world on the data of the senses ; and nought remains for the immaterial soul but thinking, reflecting, and determining. It must have been felt how obviously this position involves the whole subject in doubt. For if Matter is capable of the intuitive apprehension of the world in all its complexity, it is inconceivable that it should, not also be capable of abstracting this intuition ; wherefrom everything else would follow. Abstraction is of course nothing else than an elimination of the qualities attaching to things which are not necessary for general purposes, in other words, the individual and special differences. For instance, if 1 disregard, or abstract, that which is peculiar to the sheep, ox, stag, camel, etc., I reach the conception of ruminants. By this opera- tion the ideas lose their intuitiveness, and as merely abstract, non-intuitive notions or concepts, they require words to fix them in the consciousness, and allow of their being adequately handled. All this shows that Kant was still under the influence of the after-effect of that old-time doctrine, when he propounded his Practical Reason with its Imperatives.


CHAPTER V.

ON THE LEADING PEINCIPLE OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS.

AFTER having tested in the preceding chapter the actual basis of Kant's Ethics, I now turn to that which rests on it his leading principle of Morals. The latter is very closely connected with the former ; indeed, in a certain sense, they both grew up together. We have seen that the formnla expressing the principle reads as follows : " Act only in accordance with that precept which you can also wish should be a general law for all rational beings." It is a strange proceeding for a man, who ex hypothesi is seeking a law to determine what he should do, and what he should leave undone, to be instructed first to search for one fit to regulate the conduct of all possible rational beings ; but we will pass over that. It is sufficient only to notice the fact that in the above guiding rule, as put forth by Kant, we have obviously not reached the moral law itself, but only a finger- post, or indication where it is to be looked for. The money, so to say, is not yet paid down, but we hold a safe draft for it. And who, then, is the cashier? To say the truth at once : a paymaster in this con- nection surely very unexpected, being neither more nor less than Egoism, as I shall now demonstrate.

82


THE LEADING PRINCIPLE OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 83

The precept, it is said, which I can wish were the guide of all men's conduct, is itself the real moral principle. That which I can wish is the hinge on which the given direction turns. But what can 1 truly wish, and what not ? Clearly, in order to determine what I can wish in the matter under discussion, I require yet another criterion ; for with- out such I could never find the key to the instruction which comes to me like a sealed order. Where, then, is this criterion to be discovered ? Certainly nowhere else but in my Egoism, which is the nearest, ever ready, original, and living standard of all volition, and which has at any rate the jus primi occupantis before every moral principle. The direction for finding the real moral law, which is contained in the Kantian rule, rests, as a matter of fact, on the tacit assump- tion that I can only wish for that which is most to my advantage. Now because, in framing a precept to be generally followed, I cannot regard myself as always active, but must contemplate my playing a passive part eventualiter and at times ; therefore from this point of view my egoism decides for justice and lovingkindness ; not from any wish to practise these virtues, but because it desires to experience them. We are reminded of the miser, who, after listening to a sermon on beneficence, exclaims :

" Wie griindlich ausgefuhrt, wie schon !

Fast mocht' ich betteln gehn." (How well thought out, how excellent ! Almost I'd like to beg.)

This is the indispensable key to the direction in which Kant's leading principle of Ethics is embedded ;


84 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

nor can he help supplying it himself. Only he re- frains from doing so at the moment of propounding his precept, lest we should feel shocked. It is found further on in the text, at a decent distance, so as to prevent the fact at once leaping to light, that here, after all, in spite of his grand a priori edifice, Egoism is sitting on the judge's seat, scales in hand. Moreover, it does not occur, till after he has decided, from the point of view of the eventualiter passive side, that this position holds good for the active role as well. Thus, on p. 19 (R., p. 24) we read : " That 1 could not wish for a general law to establish lying, because people would no longer believe me, or else pay me back in the same coin." Again on p. 55 (R., p. 49) : " The universality of a law to the effect that every one could promise what he likes, without any intention of keeping his word, would make the promise itself, together with the object in view, whatever that might be, impossible ; for no one would believe it." On p. 56 (R., p. 50), in connection with the maxim of hard-heartedness, we find the following : " A will, which should determine this, would contradict itself ; for cases can occur, in which a man needs the love and sympathy of others, and in which he, by virtue of such a natural law, evolved from his own will, would deprive himself of all hope of the help, which he desires." Similarly in the Kritik der Praktischen Vernunft (Part I., vol. i., chap. 2, p. 123 ; R., p. 192) : "If every one were to regard others' distress with total indifference, and you were to belong to such an order of things ; would you be there with the concurrence of your


THE LEADING PRINCIPLE OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 85

will ? " Quam temere in nosmet legem sancimus iniquam ! 1 one could reply. These passages suffici- ently show in what sense the phrase, " to be able to wish," in Kant's formula is to be understood. But it is in the Metaphysische Anfangsgrunde der Tugendlehre, that this real nature of his ethical principle is most clearly stated. In 30 we read : " For every one wishes to be helped. If, however, a man were to give utterance to his rule of unwilling- ness to help others, all people would be justified in refusing him assistance. Thus this rule of selfish- ness contradicts itself." Would be justified, he says, would be justified ! Here, then, it is declared, as explicitly as anything can be, that moral obligation rests solely and entirely on presupposed reciprocity ; consequently it is utterly selfish, and only admits of being interpreted by egoism, which, under the condition of reciprocity, knows how to make a compromise cleverly enough. Such a course would be quite in place if it were a question of laying down the fundamentals of state-organisation, but not, when we come to construct those of ethics. In the Grundlegung, p. 81 (R., p. 67), the following sentence occurs : " The principle of always acting in accordance with that precept which you can also wish were universally established as law this is the only condition under which a man's will can never be in antagonism with itself." From what has been said above, it will be apparent that the true meaning of the word " antagonism " may be thus, explained :

1 How rashly do we sanction an unjust law, which will come home to ourselves ! (Hor., Sat., Lib. I., iii. 67.)


86 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

if a man should sanction the precept of injustice and hard-heartedness, he would subsequently, in the event of his playing a passive part, recall it, and so his will would contradict itself.

From this analysis it is abundantly clear that Kant's famous leading principle is not as he maintains with tireless repetition a categorical, but in reality a hypothetical Imperative ; because it tacitly presupposes the condition that the law to be established for what I do inasmuch as I make it universal shall also be a law for what is done to me ; and because I, under this condition, as the eventualiter non-active party, cannot possibly wish for injustice and hard-heartedness. But if I strike out this proviso, and, trusting perhaps to my sur- passing strength of mind and body, think of myself as always active, and never passive ; then, in choosing the precept which is to be universally valid, if there exists no basis for ethics other than Kant's, I can perfectly well wish that injustice and hard-heartedness should be the general rule, and consequently order the world

Upon the simple plan,

That they should take, who have the power, And they should keep, who can.

(WORDSWORTH.)

In the foregoing chapter we showed that the Kantian leading principle of Ethics is devoid of all real foundation. It is now clear that to this singular defect must.be added, notwithstanding Kant's express assertion to the contrary, its concealed hypothetical nature, whereby its basis turns out to be nothing else


THE LEADING PRINCIPLE OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 87

than Egoism, the latter being the secret interpreter of the direction which it contains. Furthermore, regarding it solely as a formula, we find that it is only a periphrasis, an obscure and disguised mode of expressing the well-known rale : Quod tibi fieri non vis, alteri ne feceris (do not to another what you are unwilling should be done to yourself) ; if, that is, by omitting the non and ne, we remove the limitation, and include the duties taught by love as well as those pre- scribed by taw. For it is obvious that this is the only precept which I can wish should regulate the conduct of all men (speaking, of course, from the point of view of the possibly passive part I may play, where my Egoism is touched). This rule, Quod tibi fieri, etc., is, however, in its turn, merely a circumlocution for, or, if it be preferred, a premise of, the proposition which I have laid down as the simplest and purest definition of the conduct required by the common consent of all ethical systems ; namely, Neminem laede, immo omnes, quantum potes, juva (do harm to no one ; but rather help all people, as far as lies in your power). The true and real substance of Morals is this, and never can be anything else. But on what is it based ? What is it that lends force to this command ? This is the old and difficult problem with which man is still to-day confronted. For, on the other side, we hear Egoism crying with a loud voice : Neminem juva, immo omnes, si forte conducit, laede (help nobody, but rather injure all people, if it brings you any advantage) ; nay more, Malice gives us the variant : Immo omnes, quantum potes, laede (but rather injure all people as far as you can). To bring into the


88 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

lists a combatant equal, or rather superior to Egoism and Malice combined this is the task of all Ethics. Heic Rhodus, heic salta ! l

The division of human duty into two classes has long been recognised, and no doubt owes its origin to the nature of morality itself. We have (1) the duties ordained by law (otherwise called the perfect, obligatory, narrower duties), and (2) those prescribed by virtue (otherwise called imperfect, wider, meri- torious, or, preferably, the duties taught by love). On p. 57 (R, p. 60) we find Kant desiring to give a further confirmation to the moral principle, which he propounded, by undertaking to derive this classi- fication from it. But the attempt turns out to be so forced, and so obviously bad, that it only testifies in the strongest way against the soundness of his position. For, according to him, the duties laid down by statutes rest on a precept, the contrary of which, taken as a general natural law, is declared to be quite unthinkable without contradiction ; while

1 " Here is Rhodes, here make your leap ! " I.e., " Here is the place of trial, here let us see what you can do ! " This Latin proverb is derived from one of JEsop's fables. A braggart boasts of having once accomplished a wonderful jump in Rhodes, and appeals to the evidence of the eye-witnesses. The bystanders then exclaim : " Friend, if this be true, you have no need of witnesses ; for this is Rhodes, and your leap you can make here." The words are: dXX', & </>tXe, et TOVTO a\T)6fs fVriv, ovdev Set croi p.nprvpu>v' OUTTJ yap 'PoSos- xal TrjyS^jLia. V- Fabulae Aesopicae Collectae. Edit. Halm, Leipzig : Teubner. 1875. N~r. 2036, p. 102. The other version of the fable (Nr. 203, p. 101) gives : S> OVTOS, et aXrjdfs TOVT' fcrnv, ov8fi> 8(1 croi Idov 17 'Po'Sor, I8ov Koi TO TnjSjj/ia. (Translator.) .


THE LEADING PRINCIPLE OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 89

the duties inculcated by virtue are made to depend on a maxim, the opposite of which can (he says) be conceived as a general natural law, but cannot possibly be wished for. I beg the reader to reflect that the rule of injustice, the reign of might instead of right, which in the Kantian view is not even thinkable as a natural law, is in reality, and in point of fact, the dominant order of things not only in the animal kingdom, but among men as well. It is true that an attempt has been made among civilised peoples to obviate its injurious effects by means of all the machinery of state government ; but as soon as this, wherever, or of whatever kind, it be, is suspended or eluded, the natural law immediately resumes its sway. Indeed between nation and nation it never ceases to prevail ; the customary jargon about justice is well known to be nothing but diplomacy's official style ; the real arbiter is brute force. On the other hand, genuine, i.e., voluntary, acts of justice, do occur beyond all doubt, but always only as exceptions to the rule. Furthermore : wishing to give instances by way of introducing the above-mentioned classification, Kant establishes the duties prescribed by law first (p. 53 ; R., p. 48) through the so-called duty towards oneself, the duty of not ending one's life voluntarily, if the pain outweigh the pleasure. Accordingly, the rule of suicide is held to be not even thinkable as a general natural law. I, on the contrary, maintain that, since here there can be no intervention of state control, it is exactly this rule which is proved to be an actually existing, unchecked natural law.


90 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

For it is absolutely certain (as daily experience attests) that men in the vast majority of cases turn to self-destruction directly the gigantic strength of the innate instinct of self-preservation is distinctly overpowered by great suffering. To suppose that there is any thought whatever that can have a deferring effect, after the fear of death, which is so strong and so closely bound up with the nature of every living thing, has shown itself powerless ; in other words, to suppose that there is a thought still mightier than this fear is a daring assump- tion, all the more so, when we see, that it is one which is so difficult to discover that the moralists are not yet able to determine it with pre- cision. In any case, it is certain that arguments against suicide of the sort put forward by Kant in this connection (p. 53 : R., p. 48, and p. 67 ; R., p. 57) have never hitherto restrained any one tired of life even for a moment. Thus a natural law, which ineontestably exists, and is operative every day, is declared by Kant to be simply unthinkable without contradiction, and all for the sake of making his Moral Principle the basis of the classification of duties ! At this point it is, I confess, not without satisfaction that I look forward to the groundwork which I shall give to Ethics in the sequel. From it the division of Duty into what is prescribed by law, and what is taught by love, or, better, into justice and lovingkindness, results quite naturally though a principle of separation which arises from the nature of the subject, and which entirely of itself draws a sharp line of demarkation ; so that the


THE LEADING PRINCIPLE OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 91

foundation of Morals, which I shall present, has in fact ready to hand that confirmation, to which Kant, with a view to support his own position, lays a completely groundless claim.


CHAPTER VI.

ON THE DEBIVED FORMS OF THE LEADING PRINCIPLE OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS.

IT is well known that Kant put the leading principle of his Ethics into another quite different shape, in which it is expressed directly ; the first being indirect, indeed nothing more than an indication as to how the principle is to be sought for. Beginning at p. 63 (R., p. 55), he prepares the way for his second formula by means of very strange, ambiguous, not to say distorted, 1 definitions of the conceptions End and Means, which may be much more simply and correctly denoted thus : an End is the direct motive of an act of the Will, a Means the indirect : simplex sigillum veri (simplicity is the seal of truth). Kant, however, slips through his wonderful enunciations to the statement : " Man, indeed every rational being, exists as an end in himself." On this I must remark that " to exist as an end in oneself" is an unthinkable expression, a contradictio in adjecto. 2 To be an

1 To keep the play of words in " geschrobene" " verschro- bene," we may perhaps render them : "twisted" . . . mis- twisted." ( Translator. )

2 A contradiction in that which is added. A term applied to two ideas which cannot be brought into a thinkable relationship. ( Translator.)

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DERIVED FORMS OF THE LEADING PRINCIPLE. 93

end means to be an object of volition. Every end can only exist in relation to a will, whose end, i.e., (as above stated), whose direct motive it is. Only thus can the idea, "end" have any sense; which is lost as soon as such connection is broken. But this relation, which is essential to the thing, necessarily excludes every "in itself." "End in oneself" is exactly like saying : " Friend in oneself ; enemy in oneself ; uncle in oneself ; north or east in itself ; above or below in itself ; " and so on. At bottom the " end in itself " is in the same case as the " absolute ought " ; the same thought the theo- logical secretly, indeed, unconsciously lies at the root of each as its condition. Nor is the " absolute worth," which is supposed to be attached to this alleged, though unthinkable, " end in itself," at all better circumstanced. It also must be characterised, without pity, as a contradictio in adjecto. Every "worth" is a valuation by comparison, and its bearing is necessarily twofold. First, it is relative, since it exists for some one ; and secondly, it is comparative, as being compared with something else, and estimated accordingly. Severed from these two conditions, the conception, " worth," loses all sense and meaning, and so obviously, that further demon- stration is needless. But more : just as the phrases " end in itself " and " absolute worth " outrage logic, so true morality is outraged by the statement on p. 65 (R., p. 56), that irrational beings (that is, animals) are things, and should therefore be treated simply as means, which are not at the same time ends. In harmony with this, it is expressly declared


94 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

in the Metaphysische Anfangsgrunde der Tugend- lekre, 16 : "A man can have no duties towards any being, except towards his fellowmen ; " and then, 17, we read: "To treat animals cruelly runs counter to the duty of man towards himself; because it deadens the feeling of sympathy for them in their sufferings, and thus weakens a natural tendency which is very serviceable to morality in relation to other men." So one is only to have compassion on animals for the sake of practice, and they are as it were the pathological phantom on which to train one's sympathy with men ! In common with the whole of Asia that is not tainted by Islam (which is tantamount to Judaism), I regard such tenets as odious and revolting. Here, once again, we see withal how entirely this philo- sophical morality, which is, as explained above, only a theological one in disguise, depends in reality on the biblical Ethics. Thus, because Christian morals leave - animals out of consideration (of which more later on) ; therefore in philosophical morals they are of course at once outlawed ; they are merely " things," simply means to ends of any sort ; and so they are good for vivisection, for deer-stalking, bull-fights, horse-races, etc., and they may be whipped to death as they struggle along with heavy quarry carts. Shame on such a morality which is worthy of Pariahs, Chandalas and Mlechchas * ; which fails to recognise

1 A Chandala (or 6andala) means one who is born of a

Brahman woman by a Sudra husband, such a union being an abomination. Hence it is a term applied to a low common


DEEIVED FORMS OF THE LEADING PRINCIPLE. 95

the Eternal Reality immanent in everything that has life, and shining forth with inscrutable significance from all eyes that see the sun ! This is a morality which knows and values only the precious species that gave it birth ; whose characteristic reason it makes the condition under which a being may be an object of moral regard.

By this rough path, then, indeed, per fas et nefas (by fair means and by foul), Kant reaches the second form in which he expresses the fundamental principle of his Ethics : "Act in such a way that you at all times treat mankind, as much in your own person, as in the person of every one else, not only as a Means, but also as an End." Such a statement is a very artificial and roundabout way of saying : " Do not consider yourself alone, but others also ; " this in turn is a paraphrase for : Quod tibi fieri non vis, alteri ne feceris (do not to another what yon are unwilling should be done to yourself) ; and the latter, as I have said, contains nothing but the premises to the conclusion, which is the true and final goal of all morals and of all moralising ; N eminent laede, immo omnes, quantum potes juva (do harm to no one ; but rather help all people as far as lies in your power). Like all beautiful things, this proposition looks best unveiled. Be it only observed that the alleged duties towards oneself are dragged into this second Kantian edict intentionally

person. Mlechcha (or Mleccha) means a foreigner; one who does not speak Sanskrit, and is not subject to Hindu in- stitutions. The transition from a "a barbarian" to a bad or wicked man, is easy. (Translator.)


96 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

and not without difficulty. Some place of course had to be found for them. 1

Another objection that could be raised against the formula is that the malefactor condemned to be executed is treated merely as an instrument, and not as an end, and this with perfectly good reason ; for he is the indispensable means of upholding the terror of the law by its fulfilment, and of thus accomplishing the law's end the repression of crime.

But if this second definition helps nothing towards laying a foundation for Ethics, if it cannot even pass muster as its leading principle, that is, as an adequate and direct summary of ethical precepts ; it has never- theless the merit of containing a fine apergu of moral psychology, for it marks egoism by an exceedingly characteristic token, which is quite worth while being here more closely considered. This egoism, then, of which each of us is full, and to conceal which, as our partie honteuse, we have invented politeness, is per- petually peering through every veil cast over it, and may especially be detected in the fact that our dealings with all those, who come across our path, are directed by the one object of trying to find, before everything else, and as if by instinct, a pos- sible means to any of the numerous ends with which we are always engrossed. When we make a new acquaintance, our first thought, as a rule, is whether the man can be useful to us in some way. If he can do nothing for our benefit, then as soon as we are convinced of this, he himself generally becomes

1 These so-called duties have been discussed in Chapter III. of this Part.


DERIVED FORMS OF THE LEADING PRINCIPLE. 97

nothing to us. To seek in all other people a possible means to our ends, in other words, to make them onr instruments, is almost part of the very nature of human eyes ; and whether the instrument will have to suffer more or less in the using, is a thought which comes "much later, sometimes not at all. That we assume others to be similarly disposed is shown in many ways ; e.g., by the fact that, when, we ask any one for information or advice, we lose all con- fidence in his words directly we discover that he may have some interest in the matter, however small or remote. For then we immediately take for granted that he will make us a means to his ends, and hence give his advice not in accordance with his discernment, but with his desire, and this, no matter how exact the former may be, or how little the latter seem involved ; since we know only too well that a cubic inch of desire weighs much more than a cubic yard of discernment. Conversely, when we ask in such cases : " What ought I to do ? " as a rule, nothing else will occur to our counsellor, but how we should shape our action to suit his own ends ; and to this effect he will give his reply immediately, and as it were mechanically, without so much as bestowing a thought on our ends ; because it is his Will that directly dictates the answer, or ever the question can come before the bar of his real judgment. Hence he tries to mould our conduct to his own benefit, without even being conscious of it, and while he supposes that he is speaking out of the abundance of his discernment, in reality he is nothing but the mouth-piece of his own desire ; indeed, such self-

7


98 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

deception may lead him so far as to utter lies, without being aware of it. So greatly does the influence of the Will preponderate that of the Intelligence. Consequently, it is not the testimony of our own consciousness, but rather, for the most part, that of our interest, which avails to determine whether our language be in accordance with what we discern, or what we desire. To take another case. Let us suppose that a man pursued by enemies and in danger of life, meets a pedlar and inquires for some by-way of escape ; it may happen that the latter will answer him by the question : " Do you need any of my wares ? " It is not of course meant that matters are always like this. On the contrary, many a man is found to show a direct and real participation in another's weal and woe, or (in Kant's language) to regard him as an end and not as a means. How far it seems natural, or the reverse, to each one to treat his neighbour for once in the way as an end, instead of (as usual) a means, this is the criterion of the great ethical difference existing between character and character ; and that on which the mental attitude of sympathy rests in the last resort will be the true basis of Ethics, and will form the subject of the third part of this Essay.

Thus, in his second formula, Kant distinguishes Egoism and its opposite by a very characteristic trait ; and this point of merit I have all the more gladly brought out into strong light and illustrated, because in other respects there is little in the ground- work of his Ethics that I can admit.

The third and last form in which Kant put forward


DERIVED FORMS OF THE LEADING PRINCIPLE. 99

his Moral Principle is the Autonomy of the Will : " The Will of every rational being is universally legislative for all rational beings." This of course follows from the first form. As a consequence of the third, however, we are asked to believe (see p. 71 ; R., p. 60) that the specific characteristic of the Categorical Imperative lies in the renunciation of all interest by the Will when acting from a sense of duty. All previous moral principles had thus (he says) broken down, " because the latter invariably attributed to human actions at bottom a certain interest, whether originating in compulsion, or in pleasurable attraction an interest which might be one's own, or another's " (p. 73 ; R., p. 62). (Another's : let this be particularly 'noticed.) " Whereas a universally legislative Will must prescribe actions which are not based on any interest at all, but solely on a feeling of duty." I beg the reader to think what this really means. As a matter of fact, nothing less than volition with- out motive, in other words, effect without cause. Interest and Motive are interchangeable ideas ; what is interest but quod mea interest, that which is of importance to me ? And is not this, in one word, whatever stirs and sets in motion my Will ? Consequently, what is an interest other than the working of a motive upon the Will ? Therefore where a motive moves the Will, there the latter has an interest ; but where the Will is affected by no motive, there in truth it can be as little active, as a stone is able to leave its place without being pushed or pulled. No educated person will require any demonstration of this. It follows that every


100 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

action, inasmuch as it necessarily .must have a motive, necessarily also presupposes an interest. Kant, however, propounds a second entirely new class of actions which are performed without any interest, i.e., without motive. And these actions are all deeds of justice and lovingkindness ! It will be seen that this monstrous assumption, to be refuted, needed only to be reduced to its real meaning, which was concealed through the word u interest " being trifled with. Meanwhile Kant celebrates (p. 74 sqq. ; R., p. 62) the triumph of his Autonomy of the Will by setting up a moral Utopia called the Kingdom of Ends, which is peopled with nothing but rational beings in abstracto. These, one and all, are always willing, without willing any actual thing (i.e., without interest) : the only thing that they will is that they may all perpetually will in accordance with one maxim (i.e., Autonomy). Difficile est satiram non scribere 1 (it is difficult to refrain from writing a satire).

But there is something else to which Kant is led by his autonomy of the will ; and it involves more serious consequences than the little innocent King- dom of Ends, which is perfectly harmless and may be left in peace. I mean the conception of human dignity. Now this " dignity " is made to rest solely on man's autonomy, and to lie in the fact that the law which he ought to obey is his own work, his relation to it thus being the same as that of the subjects of a constitutional government to their statutes. As an ornamental finish to the Kantian system of morals 1 Juvenal, Sat. I. 30.


DERIVED FORMS OF THE LEADING PRINCIPLE. 101'

such a theory might after all be passed over. Only this expression " Human Dignity," once it was uttered by Kant, became the shibboleth of all perplexed and empty-headed moralists. For behind that imposing formula they concealed their lack, not to say, of a real ethical basis, but of any basis at all which was possessed of an intelligible meaning ; supposing cleverly enough that their readers would be so pleased to see themselves invested with such a "dignity" that they would be quite satisfied. 1 Let us, however, look at this conception a little more carefully, and submit it to the test of reality. Kant (p. 79 ; R., p. 60) defines dignity as " an uncon- ditioned, incomparable value." This is an explanation which makes such an effect by its magnificent sound that one does not readily summon up courage to examine it at close quarters ; else we should find that it too is nothing but a hollow hyperbole, within which there lurks like a gnawing worm, the con- tradictio in adjecto. Every value is the estimation of one thing compared with another ; it is thus a conception of comparison, and consequently relative ; and this relativity is precisely that which forms the essence of the idea. According to Diogenes Laertius (Book VII., chap. 106), 2 this was already correctly taught by the Stoics. He says : ir^v Se a%iav dvai

1 It appears that G. W. Block in his Neue Grundlegung der Philosojihie der Sitten, 1802, was the first to make " Human Dignity" expressly and exclusively the foundation-stone of Ethics, which he then built up entirely on it.

2 V. Diogenes Laertius, de Clarorum Philosophorum Vitis, etc., edit. C. Gabr. Cobet. Paris ; Didot, 1862. In this edition the passage quoted is in chap. 105 ad fin., p. 182. (Translator.)


102 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

afjbOi^rjv BoKifjidaTov, r\v av o efjwreipos TWV rd^rj- o/jLOiov elirelv, a/ner/3ecr$at irvpov^ 7rpo9 ras crvv -rfjjiiova) Kpidds. 1 An incomparable, unconditioned, absolute value, such as "dignity" is declared by Kant to be, is thus, like so much else in Philosophy, the- statement in words of a thought which is really unthinkable ; just as much as " the highest number," or " the greatest space."

" Dock eben wo Beyriffe fehlen, Da stellt ein WORT zu rechter Zdt sick ein."

(But where conceptions fail, Just there a WORD comes in to fill the blank.)

So it was with this expression, " Human Dignity." A most acceptable phrase was brought into currency. Thereon every system of Morals, that was spun out through all classes of duty, and all forms of casuistry, found a broad basis ; from which serene elevation it could comfortably go on preaching.

At the end of his exposition (p. 124 ; E., p. 97), Kant says : " But how it is that Pure Reason without other motives, that may have their derivation else- where, can by itself be practical ; that is, how, without there being any object for the Will to take an antecedent interest in, the simple principle of the universal validity of all the precepts of Pure Reason, as laws, can of itself provide a motive and bring about an interest which may be called purely moral ; or, in other words, how it is that Pure Reason can

1 They teacb that " worth " is the equivalent value of a thing which has been tested, whatever an expert may fix that value to be ; as, for instance, to take wheat in exchange for barley and a mule. (Translator.)


DERIVED FORMS OF THE LEADING PRINCIPLE. 103

be practical ; to explain this problem, all human reason is inadequate, and all trouble and work spent on it are vain." Now it should be remembered that, if any one asserts the existence of a thing which cannot even be conceived as possible, it is incumbent on him to prove that it is an actual reality ; whereas the Categorical Imperative of Practical Reason is expressly not put forward as a fact of consciousness, nor otherwise founded on experience. Rather are we frequently cautioned not to attempt to explain it by having recourse to empirical authropology. (Of. e.g., p. vi. of the preface ; R., p. 5 ; and pp. 59, 60 ; R., p. 52). Moreover, we are repeatedly (e.g., p. 48 ; R., p. 44) assured " that no instance can show, and consequently there can be no empirical proof, that an Imperative of this sort exists everywhere." And further, on p. 49 (R., p. 45), we read, " that the reality of the Categorical Imperative is not a fact of experience." Now if we put all this together, we can hardly avoid the suspicion that Kant is jesting at his readers' expense. But although this practice may be allowed by the present philosophical public of Germany, and seem good in their eyes, yet in Kant's time it was not so much in vogue ; and besides, Ethics, then, as always, was precisely the subject that least of all could lend itself to jokes. Hence we must continue to hold the conviction that what can neither be conceived as possible, nor proved as actual, is destitute of all credentials to attest its existence. And if, by a strong effort of the imagination, we try to picture to ourselves a man, possessed, as it were, by a daemon, in the form of an absolute Ought,


104 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

that speaks only in Categorical Imperatives, and, confronting his wishes and inclinations, claims to be the perpetual controller of his actions ; in* this figure we see no true portrait of human nature, or of our inner life ; what we do discern is an artificial substitute for theological Morals, to which it stands in the same relation as a wooden leg to a living one.

Our conclusion, therefore, is, that the Kantian Ethics, like all anterior systems, is devoid of any sure foundation. As I showed at the outset, in my examination of its imperative Form, the structure is at bottom nothing but an inversion of theological Morals, cloaked in very abstract formulae of an apparently a priori origin. That this disguise was most artificial and unrecognisable is the more certain, from the fact that Kant, in all good faith, was actually himself deceived by it, arid really believed that he could establish, independently of all theology, and on the basis of pure intelligence a priori, those conceptions of the Law and of the hests of Duty, which obviously have no meaning except in theo- logical Ethics ; whereas I have sufficiently proved that with him they are destitute of all real foundation, and float loosely in mid air. However, the mask at length falls away in his own workshop, and theo- logical Ethics stands forth unveiled, as witness his doctrine of the Highest Good, the Postulates of Practical Reason ; and lastly, his Moral Theology. But this revelation freed neither Kant nor the public from their illusion as to the real state of things ; on the contrary, both he and they rejoiced to see all those precepts, which hitherto had been sanctioned


DERIVED FORMS OF THE LEADING PRINCIPLE. 105

by Faith, now ratified and established by Ethics (although only idealiter, and for practical purposes). The truth is that they, in all sincerity, put the effect for the cause, and the cause for the effect, inasmuch as they failed to perceive that at the root of this system of Morals there lay, as absolutely necessary assumptions, however tacit and concealed, all the alleged consequences that had been drawn from it.

At the end of this severe investigation, which must also have been tiring to my readers, perhaps I may be allowed, by way of diversion, to make a jesting, indeed frivolous comparison. I would liken Kant, in his self-mystification, to a man who at a ball has been flirting the whole evening with a masked beauty, in hopes of making a conquest ; till at last, throwing off her disguise, she reveals herself as his wife.


CHAPTER VII.


KANT'S DOCTHINE OF CONSCIENCE.

THE alleged Practical Reason with its Categorical Imperative, is manifestly very closely connected with Conscience, although essentially different from it in two respects. In the first place, the Categorical Imperative, as commanding, necessarily speaks before the act, whereas Conscience does not till after- wards. Before the act Conscience can at best only speak indirectly, that is, by means of reflection, which holds up to it the recollection of previous cases, in which similar acts after they were committed received its disapproval. It is on this that the etymology of the word Gewissen (Conscience) appears to me to rest, because only what has already taken place is gewiss l (certain). Undoubtedly, through external inducement and kindled emotion, or by reason of the internal discord of bad humour, impure, base thoughts, and evil desires rise up in all people, even in the best. But for these a man is not morally responsible, and need not load his conscience with them ; since they only show what the genus homo, not what the individual, who thinks them, would be

1 Both words are, of course, derived from tvissen sdre = fltievcu. (Translator.)

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KANT'S DOCTRINE OF CONSCIENCE. 107

capable of doing. Other motives, if not simul- taneously, yet almost immediately, come into his consciousness, and confronting the unworthy inclina- tions prevent them from ever being crystallised into deeds ; thus causing them to resemble the out-voted minority of au acting committee. By deeds alone each person gains an empirical knowledge no less of himself than of others, just as it is deeds alone that burden the conscience. For, unlike thoughts, these are not problematic ; on the contrary, they are certain (gewiss), they are unchangeable, and are not only thought, but known (gewusst). The Latin conscientia, 1 and the Greek a-vvelSrjai,*; 2 have the same sense. Conscience is thus the knowledge that a man has about what he has done.

The second point of difference between the alleged Categorical Imperative and Conscience is, that the latter always draws its material from experience ; which the former cannot do, since it is purely a priori. Nevertheless, we may reasonably suppose that Kant's Doctrine of Conscience will throw some light on this new conception of an absolute Ought which he introduced. His theory is most completely set forth in the Metaphysiscke Anfangsgrunde zur Tugendlehre, 13, and in the following criticism I shall assume that the few pages which contain it are lying before the reader.

1 Cf. Horace's ccmscire sibi, pallescere culpa, : Epist. I. 1, 61. To be conscious of having done wrong, to turn pale at the thought of the crime.

3 ZwfiBrjo-is = consciousness (of right or wrong done). (Translator.)


108 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

The Kantian interpretation of Conscience makes an exceedingly imposing effect, before which one used to stand with reverential awe, and all the less confidence was felt in demurring to it, because there lay heavy on the mind the ever-present fear of having theoretical objections construed as practical, and, if the correctness of Kant's view were denied, of being regarded as devoid of conscience. I, however, cannot be led astray in this manner, since the question here is of theory, not of practice ; and I am not concerned with the preaching of Morals, but with the exact investigation of the ultimate ethical basis.

We notice at once that Kant employs exclusively Latin legal terminology, which, however, would seem little adapted to reflect the most secret stirrings of the human heart. Yet this language, this judicial way of treating the subject, he retains from first to last, as though it were essential and proper to the matter. And so we find brought upon the stage of our inner self a complete Court of justice, with indictment, judge, plaintiff, defendant, and sentence ; nothing is wanting. Now if this tribunal, as portrayed by Kant, really existed in our breasts, it would be astonishing if a single person could be found to be, I do not say, so bad, but so stupid, as to act against his conscience. For such a supernatural assize, of an entirely special kind, set up in our consciousness, such a secret court like another Fehmgericht 1 held in the dark recesses of our

1 The celebrated Secret Tribunal of Westphalia, which came into prominence about A.D. 1220. In A.D. 1335 the Arch- bishop of Cologne was appointed head of all the Fehme


KANT'S DOCTRINE OF CONSCIENCE. 109

inmost being, would inspire everybody with- a terror and fear of the gods strong enough to really keep him from grasping at short transient advantages, in face of the dreadful threats of superhuman powers, speaking in tones so near and so clear. In real life, on the contrary, we find that the efficiency of conscience is generally considered such a vanishing quantity that all peoples have bethought themselves of helping it out by means of positive religion, or even of entirely replacing it by the latter. Moreover, if Conscience were indeed of this peculiar nature, the Royal Society could never have thought of the question put for the present Prize Essay.

But if we look more closely at Kant's exposition, we shall find that its imposing effect is mainly pro- duced by the fact that he attributes to the moral verdict passed on ourselves, as its peculiar and essential characteristic, a form which in fact is not so at all. This metaphorical bar of judgment is no more applicable to moral self-examination than it is to every other reflection as regards what we have done, and might have done otherwise, where no ethical question is involved. For it is not only true that the same procedure of indictment, defence, and sentence is occasionally assumed by that obviously spurious and artificial conscience which is based on mere superstition ; as, for instance, when a Hindu reproaches himself with having been the murderer of

benches in Westphalia by the Emperor Charles IV. The reader will remember the description of the trial scene in Scott's Anne of Geierstein. Perhaps the Court of Star Chamber comes nearest to it in English History. {Translator.)


110 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

a cow, or when a Jew remembers that he has smoked his pipe at home on the Sabbath ; bnt even the self- questioning which springs from no ethical source, being indeed rather unmoral than moral, often appears in a shape of this sort, as the following case may exemplify. Suppose I, good-naturedly, but thoughtlessly, have made myself surety for a friend, and suppose there comes with evening the clear perception of the heavy responsibility I have taken on myself a responsibility that may easily involve me in serious trouble, as the wise old saying, e^va' Trdpa 8' ara ! l predicts ; then at once there rise up within me the Accuser and the Counsel for the defence, ready to confront each other. The latter endeavours to palliate my rashness in giving bail so hastily, by pointing out the stress of circumstance or of obliga- tion, or, it may be, the simple straightforwardness of the transaction ; perhaps he even seeks excuse by commending my kind heart. Last of all comes the Judge who inexorably passes the sentence : " A fool's piece of work ! " and I am overwhelmed withconfusion So much for this judicial form of which Kant is so fond ; his other modes of expression are, for the most part, open to the same criticism. For instance, that which he attributes to conscience, at the beginning of the paragraph, as its peculiar property, applies equally to all other scruples of an entirely different sort. He says : " It (conscience) follows him like his shadow, try though he may to escape. By pleasures and

1 If you give a pledge, be sure that Ate (the goddess of mischief) is beside you ; i.e., beware of giving pledges. Thales ap. Plat, Charm. 165 A.


KANT'S DOCTRINE OF CONSCIENCE. Ill

distractions lie may be stupefied and lulled to sleep, but he cannot avoid occasionally waking up and coming to himself ; and then he is immediately aware of the terrible voice," etc. Obviously, this may be just as well understood, word for word, of the secret consciousness of some person of private means, who feels that his expenses far exceed his income, and that thus his capital is being affected, and will gradually melt away.

We have seen that Kant represents the use of legal terms as essential to the subject, and that he keeps to them from beginning to end ; let it now be noted how he employs the same style for the following finely devised sophism. He says : " That a person accused by his conscience should be identi- fied with the judge is an absurd way of portraying a court of justice ; for in that case the accuser would invariably lose." And he adds, by way of elucidating this statement, a very ambiguous and obscure note. His conclusion is that, if we would avoid falling into a contradiction, we must think of the judge (in the judicial conscience-drama that is enacted in our breasts) as different from us, in fact, as another person ; nay more, as one that is an omniscient knower of hearts, whose hests are obligatory on all, and who is almighty for every purpose of executive authority. 1 He thus passes by a

1 Kant leads up to this position with great ingenuity, by having recourse to the theory of the two characters coexistent in man the noumenal (or intelligible) and the empirical ; the one being in time, the other, timeless ; the one, fast bound by the law of causality, the other free. (Translator.)


112 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

perfectly smooth path from conscience to superstition, making the latter a necessary consequence of the former ; while he is secretly sure that he will be all the more willingly followed because the reader's earliest training will have certainly rendered him familiar with such ideas, if not have made them his second nature. Here, then, Kant finds an easy task, a thing he ought rather to have despised; for he should have concerned himself not only with preaching, but also with practising truthfulness. I entirely reject the above quoted sentence, and all the conclusions consequent thereon, and I declare it to be nothing but a shuffling trick. It is not true that the accuser must always lose, when the accused is the same person as the judge ; at least not in the court of judgment in our hearts. In the instance I gave of one man going surety for another, did the accuser lose ? Or must we in this case also, if we wish to avoid a contradiction, really assume a per- sonification after Kant's fashion, and be driven to view objectively as another person that voice whose deliverance would have been those terrible words : " A fool's piece of work ! " ? A sort of Mercury, forsooth, in living flesh ? Or perhaps a prosopopoeia of the MfjTis (cunning) recommended by Homer (11. xxiii. 313 sqq.)? 1 But thus we should only be landed, as before, on the broad path of superstition, aye, and pagan superstition too.

It is in this passage that Kant indicates his Moral Theology, briefly indeed, yet not without all its vital points. The fact that he takes care not to attribute

aye 8f) (TV, <p[\os, IMTJTI.V e'/i/3a\Aeo


KANT'S DOCTRINE OF CONSCIENCE. 113

to it any objective validity, but rather to present it merely as a form subjectively unavoidable, does not free him from the arbitrariness with which he con- structs it, even though he only claims its necessity for human consciousness. His fabric rests, as we have seen, on a tissue of baseless assumptions.

So much, then, is certain. The entire imagery that of a judicial drama whereby Kant depicts con- science is wholly unessential and in no way peculiar to it ; although he keeps this figure, as if it were proper to the subject, right through to the end, in order finally to deduce certain conclusions from it. As a matter of fact it is a sufficiently common form, which our thoughts easily take when we consider any circumstance of real life. It is due for the most part to the conflict of opposing motives which usually spring up, and which are successively weighed and tested by our reflecting reason. And no difference is made whether these motives are moral or egoistic in their nature, nor whether our deliberations are con- cerned with some action in the past, or in the future. Now if we strip from Kant's exposition its dress of legal metaphor, which is only an optional dramatic appendage, the surrounding nimbus with all its imposing effect immediately disappears as well, and there remains nothing but the fact that sometimes, when we think over our actions, we are seized with a certain self-dissatisfaction, which is marked by a special characteristic. It is with our conduct per se that we are discontented, not with its result, and this feeling does not, as in every other case in which we regret the stupidity of our behaviour, rest

8


114 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

on egoistic grounds. For on these occasions the cause of our dissatisfaction is precisely because we have been too egoistic, because we have taken too much thought for ourselves, and not enough for our neighbour ; or perhaps even because, without any resulting advantage, we have made the misery of others an object in itself. That we may be dissatisfied with ourselves, and saddened by reason of sufferings which we have inflicted, not undergone, is a plain fact and impossible to be denied. The connection of this with the only ethical basis that can stand an adequate test we shall examine further on. But Kant, like a clever special pleader, tried by magnifying and embellishing the original datum to make all that he possibly could of it, in order to prepare a very broad foundation for his Ethics and Moral Theology.


CHAPTER VIII.

KANT'S DOCTKINE OF THE INTELLIGIBLE l

AND EMPIRICAL CHAEACTER. THEORY OF FREEDOM.

THE attack I have made, in the cause of truth, on Kant's system of Morals, does not, like those of my predecessors, touch the surface only, but penetrates to its deepest roots. It seems, therefore, only just that, before I leave this part of my subject, I should bring to remembrance the brilliant and conspicuous service which he nevertheless rendered to ethical science. I allude to his doctrine of the co-existence of Freedom and Necessity. We find it first in the Kritik der Reinen Vernunft (pp. 533-554 of the first, and pp. 561- 582 of the fifth, edition) ; but it is still more clearly expounded in the Kritik der Praktischen Vernunft (fourth edition, pp. 169-179 ; R., pp. 224-231).

The strict and absolute necessity of the acts of Will, determined by motives as they arise, was first shown by Hobbes, then by Spinoza, and Hume, and also by Dietrich von Holbach in his Systeme de la Nature ; and lastly by Priestley it was most com- pletely and precisely demonstrated. This point, indeed, has been so clearly proved, and placed beyond

1 V. Note onf " intelligible " in Chapter I. of this Part. (Translator.)

115


116 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

all doubt, that it must be reckoned among the number of perfectly established truths, and only crass ignorance conld continue to speak of a freedom, of a liberum arbitrium indifferentiae (a free and indifferent choice) in the individual acts of men. Nor did Kant, owing to the irrefutable reasoning of his predecessors, hesitate to consider' the Will as fast bound in the chains of Necessity, the matter admitting, as he thought, of no further dispute or doubt. This is proved by all the passages in which he speaks of freedom only from the theoretical standpoint. Never- theless, it is true that onr actions are attended with a consciousness of independence and original initi- ative, which makes us recognise them as our own work, and every one with ineradicable certainty feels that he is the real author of his conduct, and morally responsible for it. But since responsibility implies the possibility of having acted otherwise, which possibility means freedom in some sort or manner ; therefore in the consciousness of responsi- bility is indirectly involved also the consciousness of freedom. The key to resolve the contradiction, that thus arises out of the nature of the case, was at last found by Kant through the distinction he drew with profound acumen, between phaenomena and the Thing in itself (das Ding an sicfi). This distinction is the very core of his whole philosophy, and its greatest merit.

The individual, with his immutable, innate character, strictly determined in all his modes of expression by the law of Causality, which, as acting through the medium of the intellect, is here called by the


THE INTELLIGIBLE AND EMPIRICAL CHARACTER. 117

name of Motivation, the individual so constituted is only the phaenomenon (Erscheinung). The Thing in itself which underlies this phaenomenon is outside of Time and Space, consequently free from all succession and plurality, one, and changeless. Its constitution in itself is the intelligible character, which is equally present in all the acts of the individual, and stamped on every one of them, like the impress of a signet on a thousand seals. The empirical character of the phaenomenon the character which manifests itself in time, and in succession of acts is thus determined by the in- telligible character ; and consequently, the individual, as phaenomenon, in all his modes of expression, which are called forth by motives, must show the invariableness of a natural law. Whence it results that all his actions are governed by strict necessity. Now it used to be commonly maintained that the character of a man may be transformed by moral admonitions and remonstrances appealing to reason ; but when the distinction between the intelligible and empirical character had once been drawn, it followed that the unchangeableness, the inflexible rigidity of the empirical character, which thinking people had always observed, was explained and traced to a rational basis, and consequently accepted as an established fact by Philosophy. Thus the latter was so far harmonised with experience, and ceased to stand abashed before popular wisdom, which long before had spoken the words of truth in the Spanish proverb : Lo que entra con el capillo, sale con la mortaja (that which comes in


118 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

with the child's cap, goes ont with the winding- sheet) ; or : Lo que en la leche se mama, en la mortaja, se derrama (what is imbibed with the milk, is ponred ont again in the winding-sheet).

This doctrine of the coexistence of Freedom and Necessity I regard as the greatest of all the achieve- ments of hnman sagacity. With the Transcendental Aesthetics it forms the two great diamonds in the crown of Kant's fame, which will never pass away. In his Treatise on Freedom, Schelling obviously served up the Kantain teaching in a paraphrase, which by reason of its lively colouring and graphic delineation, is for many people more comprehensible. The work would deserve praise if its author had had the honesty to say that he is drawing on Kant's wisdom, not on his own. As it is, a certain part of the philosophic public still credits him with the entire performance.

The theory itself, and the whole question re- garding the nature of Freedom, can be better understood if we view them in connection with a general truth, which I think, is most concisely expressed by a formula frequently occurring in the scholastic writings : Operari sequitur esse. 1 In other words, everything in the world operates in accordance with what it is, in accordance with its inherent nature, in which, consequently, all its modes of expression are already contained potentially, while actually they are manifested when elicited by external causes ; so that external causes are the means whereby the essential constitution of the thing is 1 I.e., what is done is a consequence of that which is.


THE INTELLIGIBLE AND EMPIRICAL CHARACTER. 119

revealed. And the modes of expression so resulting form the empirical character ; whereas its hidden, ultimate basis, which is inaccessible to experience, is the intelligible character, that is, the real nature per se of the particular thing in question. Man forms no exception to the rest of nature ; he too has a changeless character, which, however, is strictly individual and different in each case. This character is of course empirical as far as we can grasp it, and therefore only phaenomenal ; while the intelligible character is whatever may be the real nature in itself of the person. His actions one and all, being, as regards their external constitution, determined by motives, can never be shaped otherwise than in accordance with the unchangeable individual char- acter. As a man is, so he his bound to act. Hence for a given person in every single case, there is absolutely only one way of acting possible : Operari sequitur esse. 1 Freedom belongs only to the in- telligible character, not to the empirical. The operari (conduct) of a given individual is necessarily determined externally by motives, internally by his character ; therefore everything that he does neces- sarily takes place. But in his esse (i.e., in what he is), there, we find Freedom. He might have been something different ; and guilt or merit attaches to that which he is. All that he does follows from what he is, as a mere corollary. Through Kant's doctrine we are freed from the primary error of connecting Necessity with esse (what one is), and Freedom with operari (what one does) ; we 1 I.e., his acts are a consequence of what he is.


120 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

become aware that this is a misplacement of terms, and that exactly the inverse arrangement is the true one. Hence it is clear that the moral responsi- bility of a man, while it first of all, and obviously, of course, touches what he does, yet at bottom touches what he is ; because, what he is being the original datum, his conduct, as motives arise, could never take any other course than that which it actually does take. But, however strict be the necessity, whereby, in the individual, acts are elicited by motives, it yet never occurs to anybody not even to him who is convinced of this necessity to exonerate himself on that account, and cast the blame on the motives ; for he knows well enough that, objectively considered, any given cir- cumstance, and its causes, perfectly admitted quite a different, indeed, a directly opposite course of action ; nay, that such a course would actually have taken place, if only he had been a different person. That he is precisely such a one as his conduct proclaims him to be, and no other this it is for which he feels himself responsible ; in his esse (what he is) lies the vulnerable place, where the sting of conscience penetrates. For Conscience is nothing but acquaintance with one's own self an acquaintance that arises out of one's actual mode of conduct, and which becomes ever more intimate. So that it is the esse (what one is) which in reality is accused by conscience, while the operari (what one does) sup- plies the incriminating evidence. Since we are only conscious of Freedom through the sense of responsi- bility ; therefore where the latter lies the former must


THEORY OF FREEDOM. 121

also be ; in the esse (in one's being). It is the operari (what one does) that is subject to necessity. Bat we can only get to know ourselves, as well as others empirically ; we have no a priori knowledge of our character. Certainly our natural tendency is to cherish a very high opinion of it, because the maxim : Quisque praesumitur bonus, donee probetur eontrarium (every one is presumed to be good, until the contrary is proved), is perhaps even more true of the inner court of justice than of the world's tribunals.

NOTE.

He who is capable of recognising the essential part of a thought, though clothed in a dress very different from what he is familiar with, will see, as I do, that this Kantian doctrine of the intelligible and empirical character is a piece of insight already possessed by Plato. The difference is, that with Kant it is sublimated to an abstract clearness ; with Plato it is treated mythically, and connected with metem- psychosis, because, as he did not perceive the ideality of Time, he could only represent it under a temporal form. The identity of the one doctrine with the other becomes exceedingly plain, if we read the explana- tion and illustration of the Platonic myth, which Porphyrius has given with such clear exactitude, that its agreement with the abstract language of Kant comes out unmistakably. In the second book of his Eclogues, chap. 8, 37-40, 1 Stobaetis has preserved

1 V. Joannes Stobaeus. Eclogae Physicae et Ethicae, edit. Curtius Wachsmuth et Otto Hense ; Weidmann, Berlin, 1884. Vol. II., pp. 163-168. (Translator,)


122 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

for us in extenso that part of one of Porphyrius' lost writings which specially comments on the myth in question, as Plato gives it in the second half of the tenth book of the Republic. 1 The whole section is eminently worth reading. As a specimen I shall quote the short 39, in the hope of inducing any one who cares for these things to study Stobaeus for himself. It will then immediately become ap- parent that this Platonic myth is nothing less than an allegory of the profound truth which Kant stated in its abstract purity, as the doctrine of the intelligible and empirical character, and consequently that the latter had been reached, in its essentials, by Plato thousands of years ago. Indeed, this view seems to go back much further still, for Porphyrius is of opinion that Plato took it from the Egyptians. Certainly we already find the same theory in the Brahmanical doctrine of metempsychosis, and it is from this Indian source that the Egyptian priests, in all probability, derived their wisdom. 39 is as follows :

To yap o\ov (3ov\rj/j,a TOLOVT" eoitcev elvai TO TOV UXarawo?' eyeiv /.lev TO avTe^ovcriov ra? -^i^a?, TTplv e/9 (roi)fj,aTa /cat /3/of9 Siatyepovs epirecrelv, et? TO i) TOVTOV TOV fSiov eXecr&u, rj a\\ov, ov, pera Troias &>?}<> Kal cr&)yu,aTO9 ol/ceiov Ty fay, KTe\(Ti,v /tieAAef (Kal yap \eovTO<; (3iov eV avrf) elvat eXeadat,, Kal avSpos*). KaKelvo [levTOi TO avre^ovcnov, a^a Trj Trpo? TWO, T&V TOIOVTWV ftlwv TTTWcrei, e/iTreTToSicrrat. Kare\0ovcrai yap ei? Ta crajyu/ara, Kal avrl -^rv^cov a7ro\VTb)v yeyovvlai, TO avTe^ovaiov (frepovcriv oiKelov TTJ TOV


1 V. Plat., Rep., edit. Stallbaum, 614 sqq. It is the dtro 'Hpos TOV 'Apuevlov. (Translator.)


THEORY OF FREEDOM. 123

rcaracTKevf}, teal e<' &>v y^kv elvai 7ro\vvovv Kal to? CTT' dvOpcaTrov, e<' a>v Se o\isyoKivr)Tov , &>9 eVl rwv a\\u>v cr%e8bv TTCLVTWV icwwi/. 'Hprrjcrdai Se TO avre^ovcriov TOVTO airb Tr}? Kivovpevov (j,ev e avrov, (frepo/nevov Be Kara


1 To sum up. What Plato meant seems to be this. Souls (he said) have free power, before passing into bodies and different modes of being, to choose this or that form of life, which they will pass through in a certain kind of existence, and in a body adapted thereto. (For a soul may choose a lion's, equally with a man's, mode of being.) But this free power of choice is removed simultaneously with entrance into one or other of such forms of life. For when once they have descended into bodies, and instead of unfettered souls have become the souls of living things, then they take that measure of free power which belongs in each case to the organism of the living thing. In some forms this power is very intelligent and full of movement, as in man ; in some it has but little energy, and is of a simple nature, as in almost all other creatures. More- over, this free power depends on the organism in such a way that while its capability of action is caused by itself alone, its impulses are determined by the desires which have their origin in the organism. (Translator.)


CHAPTER IX.

FICHTE'S ETHICS AS A MAGNIFYING GLASS FOE THE ERRORS OF THE KANTIAN.

JUST as in Anatomy and Zoology, many things are not so obvious to the pupil in preparations and natural products as in engravings where there is some exaggeration ; so if there is any one who, after the above criticism, is still not entirely satisfied as to the worthlessness of the Kantian foundation of Ethics, I would recommend him Fichte's System der Sittenlehre, as a sure means of freeing him from all doubt.

Jn the old German Marionnettes a fool always accompanied the emperor, or hero, so that he might afterwards give in his own way a highly coloured version of what had been said or done In like manner behind the great Kant there stands the author of the Wissenschaftslehre, l a true Wissen- sckaftsleere. 2 In order to secure his own, and his family's welfare, Fichte formed the idea of creating a sensation by means of subtle mystification. It was a very suitable and reasonable plan, considering

1 I.e. Scientific Doctrine.

2 I.e. Scientific Blank. Perhaps we might translate : "Scientific Instruction" and "Scientific Misinstr action. " (Translator.)

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FICHTE'S ETHICS AS A MAGNIFYING GLASS 125

the nature of the German philosophic public, and he executed it admirably by outdoing Kant in every particular. He appeared as the latter's living superlative, and produced a perfect caricature of his philosophy by magnifying all its salient points. Nor did the Ethics escape similar treatment. In his System der Sittenlehre, we find the Categorical Imperative grown into a Despotic Imperative ; while the absolute " Ought," the law-giving Reason, and the Hest of Duty have developed into a moral Fate, an unfathomable Necessitj 7 ", requiring mankind to act strictly in accordance with certain maxims. To judge (pp. 308, 309) from the pompous show made, a great deal must depend on these formulae, although one never quite discovers what. So much only seems clear. As in bees there is implanted an instinct to build cells and a hive for life in common, so men (it is alleged) are endowed with an impulse leading them to play in common a great, strictly moral, world-embracing Comedy, their part being merely to figure as puppets nothing else. But there is this important difference between the bees and men. The hive is really brought to completion ; while instead of a moral World-Comedy, as a matter of fact, an exceedingly immoral one is enacted. Here, then, we see the imperative form of the Kantian Ethics, the moral Law, and the absolute " Ought " pushed farther and further till a system of ethical Fatalism is evolved, which, as it is worked out, lapses at times into the comic. 1

1 As evidence of the truth of my words, space prevents me from quoting more than a few passages. P. 196 : " The moral


126 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

If in Kant's doctrine we trace a certain moral pedantry ; with Fichte this pedantry reaches the absurd, and furnishes abundant material for satire. Let the reader notice, for example (pp. 407-409), how he decides the well-known instance of casuistry, where of two human lives one must be lost. We find indeed all the errors of Kant raised to the superlative. Thus, on p. 199, we read : " To act in accordance with

instinct is absolute, and its requirements are peremptory, without any object outside itself." P. 232 : " In consequence of the Moral Law, the empirical Being in Time must be an exact copy of the original Ego." P. 308: "The whole man is a vehicle of the Moral Law." P. 342 : " I am only an instrument, a mere tool of the Moral Law, not in any sense an end." P. 343: "The end laid before every one is to be the means of realising Reason : this is the ultimate purpose of his existence ; for this alone he has his being, and if this end should not be attained, there is not the least occasion for him to live." P. 347 : "I am an instrument of the Moral Law in the phaenomenal world." P. 360 : " It is an ordinance of the Moral Law to nourish one's body, and study one's health ; this of course should be done in no way, and for no other purpose, except to provide an efficient instrument for furthering the end decreed by Reason, i.e., its realisation," (cf. p. 371.) P. 376 : " Every human body is an instrument for furthering the end decreed by Reason, i.e., its realisation ; therefore the greatest possible fitness of each instrument must constitute for me an end : consequently I must take thought for every one." This is Fichte's derivation of loving-kindness ! P. 377 : " I can and dare take thought for myself, solely because, and is so far as I am, an instrument of the Moral Law." P. 388 : " To defend a hunted man atithe risk of one's own life, is an absolute duty ; whenever the life of another human being is in danger, you have no right to think of the safety ot your own." P. 420 : " In the province of the Moral Law there is no way whatever of regarding my fellow-man except as an instrument of Reason."


FICHTE'S ETHICS AS A MAGNIFYING GLASS 127

the dictates of sympathy, of compassion, and of loving-kindness is distinctly unmoral ; indeed this line of conduct, as such, is contrary to morality." Again, on p. 402 : " The impulse that makes us ready to serve others must never be an inconsiderate good- nature, but a clearly thought-out purpose; that, namely, of furthering as much as possible the causality of Reason." However, between these sallies of ridiculous pedantry, Fichte's real philosophic crudeness peeps out clearly enough, as we might only expect in the case of a man whose teaching left no time for learn- ing. He seriously puts forward the liber um arbitrium indifferentiae (a free and indifferent choice), giving as its foundation the most trivial and frivolous reasons. (Pp. 160, 173, 205, 208, 237, 259, 261.) There can be no doubt that a motive, although working through the medium of the intelligence, is, nevertheless, a cause, and consequently involves the same necessity of effect as all other causes; the corollary being that all human action is a strictly necessary result. Whoever remains unconvinced of this, is still, philosophically speaking, barbarous, and ignorant of the rudiments of exact knowledge. The perception of the strict necessity governing man's conduct forms the line of demarcation which separates philosophic heads from all others ; arrived at this limit Fichte clearly showed that he belonged to the others. Moreover, following the footsteps of Kant (p. 303), he proceeds to make various statements which are in direct contradiction to the above mentioned passages ; but this inconsistency, like many more in his writings, only proves that he,


128 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

being one who was never serious in the search for truth, possessed no strong convictions to build on ; as indeed for his purpose they were not in the least necessary. Nothing is more laughable than the fact that this man has received so much posthumous praise for strictly consequential reasoning ; his pedantic style full of loud declamation about trifling matters being actually mistaken for such.

The most complete development of Fichte's system of moral Fatalism is found in his last work : Die Wissenschaftslehre in ihrem Allgemeinen Umrisse Dargestellt, Berlin, 1810. It has the advantage of being only forty-six pages (duodecimo) long, while it contains his whole philosophy in a nutshell. It is therefore to be recommended to all those who consider their time too precious to be wasted on his larger productions, which are framed with a length and tediousness worthy of Christian Wolff, and with the intention, in reality, of deluding, not of instructing the reader. In this little treatise we read on p. 32 : " The intuitive perception of a phaenornenal world only came about, to the end that in such a world the Ego as the absolute Ought might be visible to itself." On p. 33 we actually find: "The ought," (i.e., the moral necessity,) "of the Ought's visibility ;" and on p. 36 : " An ought," (i.e., a moral necessity,) " of the perception that I ought." This, then, is what we have come to so soon after Kant ! His imperative Form, with its unproved Ought, which it secured as a most convenient TTOV crrw (standpoint), is indeed an exemplar vitiis imitabile !

For the rest, all that I have said does not


FICHTE'S ETHICS AS A MAGNIFYING GLASS. 129

overthrow the service Fichte rendered. Kant's philosophy, this late masterpiece of human sagacity, in the very land where it arose, he obscured, nay, supplanted by empty, bombastic superlatives, by extravagances, and by the nonsense which is found, in his Grundlage der gesammten Wissenschaftslehre, appearing under the disguise of profound penetration. His merit was thus to show the world unmistakably what the capacity of the German philosophical public is ; for he made it play the part of a child who is coaxed into giving up a precious gem in exchange for a Niirnberg toy. The fame he obtained in this fashion still lives on credit ; and still Fichte is always mentioned in the same breath with Kant as being another such ('HpaK\r)s ical TriOrjKos ! 1 ). Indeed his name is often placed above the latter's. * It was, of course, Fichte's example that encouraged his successors in the art of enveloping the German people in philosophic fog. These were animated by the same spirit, and crowned with the same prosperity. . Every one knows their names ; nor is this the place to consider them at length. Needless to say, their different opinions, down to the minutest details, are

1 I.e-y Hercules and an ape. A Greek proverb denoting the juxtaposition of the sublime and the ridiculous. V. Greg. Cypr. M. 3, 66 ; Macar. 4, 53 ; Luc. pise. 37 ; and Schol. Bachm. An. 2, 332. (Translator.)

2 My proof for this is a passage from the latest philosophical literature. Herr Feuerbach, an Hegelian (c'est tout dire ! ) in his book, Pierre Bayle : Ein Bdtrag zur Geschichte der Philosophic, 1838, p. 80, writes as follows : " But still more sublime than Kant's are Fichte's ideas as expressed in his Doctrine of Morals and elsewhere. Christianity has nothing in sublimity that could bear comparison with them."

9


130 THE BASIS OF MORALITY.

still set forth, and seriously discussed, by the Pro- fessors of Philosophy ; as if one had really to do with philosophers ! We must, then, thank Fichte for lucid documents now existing, which will have to be revised one day before the Tribunal of posterity, that Court of Appeal from the verdicts of the present, which like the Last Judgment looked forward to by the Saints at almost all periods, has been left to give to true merit its just award.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. For a complete demonstration v. Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, Vol. I., 16, p. 103, sqq., and Vol. II., Chap. 16, p. 166, sqq. of the third edition.
  2. There are ascetic reasons, which may be found in the Fourth Book, Vol. I., 69, of my chief work (Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung).