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by Immanuel Kant
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Title: The Metaphysical Elements of Ethics

Author: Immanuel Kant

Release Date: May, 2004 [EBook #5684]
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[This file was first posted on August 7, 2002]

Edition: 10

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This eBook was prepared by Matthew Stapleton.



by Immanuel Kant

translated by Thomas Kingsmill Abbott


If there exists on any subject a philosophy (that is, a system of
rational knowledge based on concepts), then there must also be for
this philosophy a system of pure rational concepts, independent of any
condition of intuition, in other words, a metaphysic. It may be
asked whether metaphysical elements are required also for every
practical philosophy, which is the doctrine of duties, and therefore
also for Ethics, in order to be able to present it as a true science
(systematically), not merely as an aggregate of separate doctrines
(fragmentarily). As regards pure jurisprudence, no one will question
this requirement; for it concerns only what is formal in the
elective will, which has to be limited in its external relations
according to laws of freedom; without regarding any end which is the
matter of this will. Here, therefore, deontology is a mere
scientific doctrine (doctrina scientiae). *

* One who is acquainted with practical philosophy is not,
therefore, a practical philosopher. The latter is he who makes the
rational end the principle of his actions, while at the same time he
joins with this the necessary knowledge which, as it aims at action,
must not be spun out into the most subtile threads of metaphysic,
unless a legal duty is in question; in which case meum and tuum must
be accurately determined in the balance of justice, on the principle
of equality of action and action, which requires something like
mathematical proportion, but not in the case of a mere ethical duty.
For in this case the question is not only to know what it is a duty to
do (a thing which on account of the ends that all men naturally have
can be easily decided), but the chief point is the inner principle
of the will namely that the consciousness of this duty be also the
spring of action, in order that we may be able to say of the man who
joins to his knowledge this principle of wisdom that he is a practical

Now in this philosophy (of ethics) it seems contrary to the idea
of it that we should go back to metaphysical elements in order to make
the notion of duty purified from everything empirical (from every
feeling) a motive of action. For what sort of notion can we form of
the mighty power and herculean strength which would be sufficient to
overcome the vice-breeding inclinations, if Virtue is to borrow her
"arms from the armoury of metaphysics," which is a matter of
speculation that only few men can handle? Hence all ethical teaching
in lecture rooms, pulpits, and popular books, when it is decked out
with fragments of metaphysics, becomes ridiculous. But it is not,
therefore, useless, much less ridiculous, to trace in metaphysics
the first principles of ethics; for it is only as a philosopher that
anyone can reach the first principles of this conception of duty,
otherwise we could not look for either certainty or purity in the
ethical teaching. To rely for this reason on a certain feeling
which, on account of the effect expected from it, is called moral,
may, perhaps, even satisfy the popular teacher, provided he desires as
the criterion of a moral duty to consider the problem: "If everyone in
every case made your maxim the universal law, how could this law be
consistent with itself?" But if it were merely feeling that made it
our duty to take this principle as a criterion, then this would not be
dictated by reason, but only adopted instinctively and therefore

{PREFACE ^paragraph 5}

But in fact, whatever men imagine, no moral principle is based on
any feeling, but such a principle is really nothing else than an
obscurely conceived metaphysic which inheres in every man's
reasoning faculty; as the teacher will easily find who tries to
catechize his pupils in the Socratic method about the imperative of
duty and its application to the moral judgement of his actions. The
mode of stating it need not be always metaphysical, and the language
need not necessarily be scholastic, unless the pupil is to be
trained to be a philosopher. But the thought must go back to the
elements of metaphysics, without which we cannot expect any
certainty or purity, or even motive power in ethics.

If we deviate from this principle and begin from pathological, or
purely sensitive, or even moral feeling (from what is subjectively
practical instead of what is objective), that is, from the matter of
the will, the end, not from its form that is the law, in order from
thence to determine duties; then, certainly, there are no metaphysical
elements of ethics, for feeling by whatever it may be excited is
always physical. But then ethical teaching, whether in schools, or
lecture-rooms, etc., is corrupted in its source. For it is not a
matter of indifference by what motives or means one is led to a good
purpose (the obedience to duty). However disgusting, then, metaphysics
may appear to those pretended philosophers who dogmatize oracularly,
or even brilliantly, about the doctrine of duty, it is,
nevertheless, an indispensable duty for those who oppose it to go back
to its principles even in ethics, and to begin by going to school on
its benches.

We may fairly wonder how, after all previous explanations of the
principles of duty, so far as it is derived from pure reason, it was
still possible to reduce it again to a doctrine of happiness; in
such a way, however, that a certain moral happiness not resting on
empirical causes was ultimately arrived at, a self-contradictory
nonentity. In fact, when the thinking man has conquered the
temptations to vice, and is conscious of having done his (often
hard) duty, he finds himself in a state of peace and satisfaction
which may well be called happiness, in which virtue is her own reward.
Now, says the eudaemonist, this delight, this happiness, is the real
motive of his acting virtuously. The notion of duty, says be, does not
immediately determine his will; it is only by means of the happiness
in prospect that he is moved to his duty. Now, on the other hand,
since he can promise himself this reward of virtue only from the
consciousness of having done his duty, it is clear that the latter
must have preceded: that is, be must feel himself bound to do his duty
before he thinks, and without thinking, that happiness will be the
consequence of obedience to duty. He is thus involved in a circle in
his assignment of cause and effect. He can only hope to be happy if he
is conscious of his obedience to duty: and he can only be moved to
obedience to duty if be foresees that he will thereby become happy.
But in this reasoning there is also a contradiction. For, on the one
side, he must obey his duty, without asking what effect this will have
on his happiness, consequently, from a moral principle; on the other
side, he can only recognize something as his duty when he can reckon
on happiness which will accrue to him thereby, and consequently on a
pathological principle, which is the direct opposite of the former.

I have in another place (the Berlin Monatsschrift), reduced, as I
believe, to the simplest expressions the distinction between
pathological and moral pleasure. The pleasure, namely, which must
precede the obedience to the law in order that one may act according
to the law is pathological, and the process follows the physical order
of nature; that which must be preceded by the law in order that it may
be felt is in the moral order. If this distinction is not observed; if
eudaemonism (the principle of happiness) is adopted as the principle
instead of eleutheronomy (the principle of freedom of the inner
legislation), the consequence is the euthanasia (quiet death) of all

{PREFACE ^paragraph 10}

The cause of these mistakes is no other than the following: Those
who are accustomed only to physiological explanations will not admit
into their heads the categorical imperative from which these laws
dictatorially proceed, notwithstanding that they feel themselves
irresistibly forced by it. Dissatisfied at not being able to explain
what lies wholly beyond that sphere, namely, freedom of the elective
will, elevating as is this privilege, that man has of being capable of
such an idea. They are stirred up by the proud claims of speculative
reason, which feels its power so strongly in the fields, just as if
they were allies leagued in defence of the omnipotence of
theoretical reason and roused by a general call to arms to resist that
idea; and thus they are at present, and perhaps for a long time to
come, though ultimately in vain, to attack the moral concept of
freedom and if possible render it doubtful.



Ethics in ancient times signified moral philosophy (philosophia
moral is) generally, which was also called the doctrine of duties.
Subsequently it was found advisable to confine this name to a part
of moral philosophy, namely, to the doctrine of duties which are not
subject to external laws (for which in German the name Tugendlehre was
found suitable). Thus the system of general deontology is divided into
that of jurisprudence (jurisprudentia), which is capable of external
laws, and of ethics, which is not thus capable, and we may let this
division stand.

I. Exposition of the Conception of Ethics

The notion of duty is in itself already the notion of a constraint
of the free elective will by the law; whether this constraint be an
external one or be self-constraint. The moral imperative, by its
categorical (the unconditional ought) announces this constraint, which
therefore does not apply to all rational beings (for there may also be
holy beings), but applies to men as rational physical beings who are
unholy enough to be seduced by pleasure to the transgression of the
moral law, although they themselves recognize its authority; and
when they do obey it, to obey it unwillingly (with resistance of their
inclination); and it is in this that the constraint properly
consists. * Now, as man is a free (moral) being, the notion of duty
can contain only self-constraint (by the idea of the law itself), when
we look to the internal determination of the will (the spring), for
thus only is it possible to combine that constraint (even if it were
external) with the freedom of the elective will. The notion of duty
then must be an ethical one.

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 5}

* Man, however, as at the same time a moral being, when he
considers himself objectively, which he is qualified to do by his pure
practical reason, (i.e., according to humanity in his own person).
finds himself holy enough to transgress the law only unwillingly;
for there is no man so depraved who in this transgression would not
feel a resistance and an abhorrence of himself, so that he must put
a force on himself. It is impossible to explain the phenomenon that at
this parting of the ways (where the beautiful fable places Hercules
between virtue and sensuality) man shows more propensity to obey
inclination than the law. For, we can only explain what happens by
tracing it to a cause according to physical laws; but then we should
not be able to conceive the elective will as free. Now this mutually
opposed self-constraint and the inevitability of it makes us recognize
the incomprehensible property of freedom.

The impulses of nature, then, contain hindrances to the fulfilment
of duty in the mind of man, and resisting forces, some of them
powerful; and he must judge himself able to combat these and to
conquer them by means of reason, not in the future, but in the
present, simultaneously with the thought; he must judge that he can do
what the law unconditionally commands that be ought.

Now the power and resolved purpose to resist a strong but unjust
opponent is called fortitude (fortitudo), and when concerned with
the opponent of the moral character within us, it is virtue (virtus,
fortitudo moralis). Accordingly, general deontology, in that part
which brings not external, but internal, freedom under laws is the
doctrine of virtue.

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 10}

Jurisprudence had to do only with the formal condition of external
freedom (the condition of consistency with itself, if its maxim became
a universal law), that is, with law. Ethics, on the contrary, supplies
us with a matter (an object of the free elective will), an end of pure
reason which is at the same time conceived as an objectively necessary
end, i.e., as duty for all men. For, as the sensible inclinations
mislead us to ends (which are the matter of the elective will) that
may contradict duty, the legislating reason cannot otherwise guard
against their influence than by an opposite moral end, which therefore
must be given a priori independently on inclination.

An end is an object of the elective will (of a rational being) by
the idea of which this will is determined to an action for the
production of this object. Now I may be forced by others to actions
which are directed to an end as means, but I cannot be forced to
have an end; I can only make something an end to myself. If,
however, I am also bound to make something which lies in the notions
of practical reason an end to myself, and therefore besides the formal
determining principle of the elective will (as contained in law) to
have also a material principle, an end which can be opposed to the end
derived from sensible impulses; then this gives the notion of an end
which is in itself a duty. The doctrine of this cannot belong to
jurisprudence, but to ethics, since this alone includes in its
conception self-constraint according to moral laws.

For this reason, ethics may also be defined as the system of the
ends of the pure practical reason. The two parts of moral philosophy
are distinguished as treating respectively of ends and of duties of
constraint. That ethics contains duties to the observance of which one
cannot be (physically) forced by others, is merely the consequence
of this, that it is a doctrine of ends, since to be forced to have
ends or to set them before one's self is a contradiction.

Now that ethics is a doctrine of virtue (doctrina officiorum
virtutis) follows from the definition of virtue given above compared
with the obligation, the peculiarity of which has just been shown.
There is in fact no other determination of the elective will, except
that to an end, which in the very notion of it implies that I cannot
even physically be forced to it by the elective will of others.
Another may indeed force me to do something which is not my end (but
only means to the end of another), but he cannot force me to make it
my own end, and yet I can have no end except of my own making. The
latter supposition would be a contradiction- an act of freedom which
yet at the same time would not be free. But there is no
contradiction in setting before one's self an end which is also a
duty: for in this case I constrain myself, and this is quite
consistent with freedom. * But how is such an end possible? That is
now the question. For the possibility of the notion of the thing
(viz., that it is not self-contradictory) is not enough to prove the
possibility of the thing itself (the objective reality of the notion).

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 15}

* The less a man can be physically forced, and the more he can be
morally forced (by the mere idea of duty), so much the freer he is.
The man, for example, who is of sufficiently firm resolution and
strong mind not to give up an enjoyment which he has resolved on,
however much loss is shown as resulting therefrom, and who yet desists
from his purpose unhesitatingly, though very reluctantly, when he
finds that it would cause him to neglect an official duty or a sick
father; this man proves his freedom in the highest degree by this very
thing, that he cannot resist the voice of duty.

II. Exposition of the Notion of an End which is also a Duty

We can conceive the relation of end to duty in two ways; either
starting from the end to find the maxim of the dutiful actions; or
conversely, setting out from this to find the end which is also
duty. jurisprudence proceeds in the former way. It is left to
everyone's free elective will what end he will choose for his
action. But its maxim is determined a priori; namely, that the freedom
of the agent must be consistent with the freedom of every other
according to a universal law.

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 20}

Ethics, however, proceeds in the opposite way. It cannot start
from the ends which the man may propose to himself, and hence give
directions as to the maxims he should adopt, that is, as to his
duty; for that would be to take empirical principles of maxims, and
these could not give any notion of duty; since this, the categorical
ought, has its root in pure reason alone. Indeed, if the maxims were
to be adopted in accordance with those ends (which are all selfish),
we could not properly speak of the notion of duty at all. Hence in
ethics the notion of duty must lead to ends, and must on moral
principles give the foundation of maxims with respect to the ends
which we ought to propose to ourselves.

Setting aside the question what sort of end that is which is in
itself a duty, and how such an end is possible, it is here only
necessary to show that a duty of this kind is called a duty of virtue,
and why it is so called.

To every duty corresponds a right of action (facultas moral is
generatim), but all duties do not imply a corresponding right
(facultas juridica) of another to compel any one, but only the
duties called legal duties. Similarly to all ethical obligation
corresponds the notion of virtue, but it does not follow that all
ethical duties are duties of virtue. Those, in fact, are not so
which do not concern so much a certain end (matter, object of the
elective will), but merely that which is formal in the moral
determination of the will (e.g., that the dutiful action must also
be done from duty). It is only an end which is also duty that can be
called a duty of virtue. Hence there are several of the latter kind
(and thus there are distinct virtues); on the contrary, there is
only one duty of the former kind, but it is one which is valid for all
actions (only one virtuous disposition).

The duty of virtue is essentially distinguished from the duty of
justice in this respect; that it is morally possible to be
externally compelled to the latter, whereas the former rests on free
self-constraint only. For finite holy beings (which cannot even be
tempted to the violation of duty) there is no doctrine of virtue,
but only moral philosophy, the latter being an autonomy of practical
reason, whereas the former is also an autocracy of it. That is, it
includes a consciousness- not indeed immediately perceived, but
rightly concluded, from the moral categorical imperative- of the power
to become master of one's inclinations which resist the law; so that
human morality in its highest stage can yet be nothing more than
virtue; even if it were quite pure (perfectly free from the
influence of a spring foreign to duty), a state which is poetically
personified under the name of the wise man (as an ideal to which one
should continually approximate).

Virtue, however, is not to be defined and esteemed merely as
habit, and (as it is expressed in the prize essay of Cochius) as a
long custom acquired by practice of morally good actions. For, if this
is not an effect of well-resolved and firm principles ever more and
more purified, then, like any other mechanical arrangement brought
about by technical practical reason, it is neither armed for all
circumstances nor adequately secured against the change that may be
wrought by new allurements.

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 25}


To virtue = + a is opposed as its logical contradictory
(contradictorie oppositum) the negative lack of virtue (moral
weakness) = o; but vice = a is its contrary (contrarie s. realiter
oppositum); and it is not merely a needless question but an
offensive one to ask whether great crimes do not perhaps demand more
strength of mind than great virtues. For by strength of mind we
understand the strength of purpose of a man, as a being endowed with
freedom, and consequently so far as he is master of himself (in his
senses) and therefore in a healthy condition of mind. But great crimes
are paroxysms, the very sight of which makes the man of healthy mind
shudder. The question would therefore be something like this:
whether a man in a fit of madness can have more physical strength than
if he is in his senses; and we may admit this without on that
account ascribing to him more strength of mind, if by mind we
understand the vital principle of man in the free use of his powers.
For since those crimes have their ground merely in the power of the
inclinations that weaken reason, which does not prove strength of
mind, this question would be nearly the same as the question whether a
man in a fit of illness can show more strength than in a healthy
condition; and this may be directly denied, since the want of
health, which consists in the proper balance of all the bodily
forces of the man, is a weakness in the system of these forces, by
which system alone we can estimate absolute health.

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 30}

III. Of the Reason for conceiving an End which is also a Duty

An end is an object of the free elective will, the idea of which
determines this will to an action by which the object is produced.
Accordingly every action has its end, and as no one can have an end
without himself making the object of his elective will his end,
hence to have some end of actions is an act of the freedom of the
agent, not an affect of physical nature. Now, since this act which
determines an end is a practical principle which commands not the
means (therefore not conditionally) but the end itself (therefore
unconditionally), hence it is a categorical imperative of pure
practical reason and one, therefore, which combines a concept of
duty with that of an end in general.

Now there must be such an end and a categorical imperative
corresponding to it. For since there are free actions, there must also
be ends to which as an object those actions are directed. Amongst
these ends there must also be some which are at the same time (that
is, by their very notion) duties. For if there were none such, then
since no actions can be without an end, all ends which practical
reason might have would be valid only as means to other ends, and a
categorical imperative would be impossible; a supposition which
destroys all moral philosophy.

Here, therefore, we treat not of ends which man actually makes to
himself in accordance with the sensible impulses of his nature, but of
objects of the free elective will under its own laws- objects which he
ought to make his end. We may call the former technical
(subjective), properly pragmatical, including the rules of prudence in
the choice of its ends; but the latter we must call the moral
(objective) doctrine of ends. This distinction is, however,
superfluous here, since moral philosophy already by its very notion is
clearly separated from the doctrine of physical nature (in the present
instance, anthropology). The latter resting on empirical principles,
whereas the moral doctrine of ends which treats of duties rests on
principles given a priori in pure practical reason.

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 35}

IV. What are the Ends which are also Duties?


We cannot invert these and make on one side our own happiness, and
on the other the perfection of others, ends which should be in
themselves duties for the same person.

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 40}

For one's own happiness is, no doubt, an end that all men have (by
virtue of the impulse of their nature), but this end cannot without
contradiction be regarded as a duty. What a man of himself
inevitably wills does not come under the notion of duty, for this is a
constraint to an end reluctantly adopted. It is, therefore, a
contradiction to say that a man is in duty bound to advance his own
happiness with all his power.

It is likewise a contradiction to make the perfection of another
my end, and to regard myself as in duty bound to promote it. For it is
just in this that the perfection of another man as a person
consists, namely, that he is able of himself to set before him his own
end according to his own notions of duty; and it is a contradiction to
require (to make it a duty for me) that I should do something which no
other but himself can do.

V. Explanation of these two Notions

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 45}


The word perfection is liable to many misconceptions. It is
sometimes understood as a notion belonging to transcendental
philosophy; viz., the notion of the totality of the manifold which
taken together constitutes a thing; sometimes, again, it is understood
as belonging to teleology, so that it signifies the correspondence
of the properties of a thing to an end. Perfection in the former sense
might be called quantitative (material), in the latter qualitative
(formal) perfection. The former can be one only, for the whole of what
belongs to the one thing is one. But of the latter there may be
several in one thing; and it is of the latter property that we here

When it is said of the perfection that belongs to man generally
(properly speaking, to humanity), that it is in itself a duty to
make this our end, it must be placed in that which may be the effect
of one's deed, not in that which is merely an endowment for which we
have to thank nature; for otherwise it would not be duty.
Consequently, it can be nothing else than the cultivation of one's
power (or natural capacity) and also of one's will (moral disposition)
to satisfy the requirement of duty in general. The supreme element
in the former (the power) is the understanding, it being the faculty
of concepts, and, therefore, also of those concepts which refer to
duty. First it is his duty to labour to raise himself out of the
rudeness of his nature, out of his animal nature more and more to
humanity, by which alone he is capable of setting before him ends to
supply the defects of his ignorance by instruction, and to correct his
errors; he is not merely counselled to do this by reason as
technically practical, with a view to his purposes of other kinds
(as art), but reason, as morally practical, absolutely commands him to
do it, and makes this end his duty, in order that he may be worthy
of the humanity that dwells in him. Secondly, to carry the cultivation
of his will up to the purest virtuous disposition, that, namely, in
which the law is also the spring of his dutiful actions, and to obey
it from duty, for this is internal morally practical perfection.
This is called the moral sense (as it were a special sense, sensus
moralis), because it is a feeling of the effect which the
legislative will within himself exercises on the faculty of acting
accordingly. This is, indeed, often misused fanatically, as though
(like the genius of Socrates) it preceded reason, or even could
dispense with judgement of reason; but still it is a moral perfection,
making every special end, which is also a duty, one's own end.

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 50}


It is inevitable for human nature that a should wish and seek for
happiness, that is, satisfaction with his condition, with certainty of
the continuance of this satisfaction. But for this very reason it is
not an end that is also a duty. Some writers still make a
distinction between moral and physical happiness (the former
consisting in satisfaction with one's person and moral behaviour, that
is, with what one does; the other in satisfaction with that which
nature confers, consequently with what one enjoys as a foreign
gift). Without at present censuring the misuse of the word (which even
involves a contradiction), it must be observed that the feeling of the
former belongs solely to the preceding head, namely, perfection. For
he who is to feel himself happy in the mere consciousness of his
uprightness already possesses that perfection which in the previous
section was defined as that end which is also duty.

If happiness, then, is in question, which it is to be my duty to
promote as my end, it must be the happiness of other men whose
(permitted) end I hereby make also mine. It still remains left to
themselves to decide what they shall reckon as belonging to their
happiness; only that it is in my power to decline many things which
they so reckon, but which I do not so regard, supposing that they have
no right to demand it from me as their own. A plausible objection
often advanced against the division of duties above adopted consists
in setting over against that end a supposed obligation to study my own
(physical) happiness, and thus making this, which is my natural and
merely subjective end, my duty (and objective end). This requires to
be cleared up.

Adversity, pain, and want are great temptations to transgression
of one's duty; accordingly it would seem that strength, health, a
competence, and welfare generally, which are opposed to that
influence, may also be regarded as ends that are also duties; that is,
that it is a duty to promote our own happiness not merely to make that
of others our end. But in that case the end is not happiness but the
morality of the agent; and happiness is only the means of removing the
hindrances to morality; permitted means, since no one has a right to
demand from me the sacrifice of my not immoral ends. It is not
directly a duty to seek a competence for one's self; but indirectly it
may be so; namely, in order to guard against poverty which is a
great temptation to vice. But then it is not my happiness but my
morality, to maintain which in its integrity is at once my end and
my duty.

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 55}

VI. Ethics does not supply Laws for Actions (which is done by

Jurisprudence), but only for the Maxims of Action

The notion of duty stands in immediate relation to a law (even
though I abstract from every end which is the matter of the law); as
is shown by the formal principle of duty in the categorical
imperative: "Act so that the maxims of thy action might become a
universal law." But in ethics this is conceived as the law of thy
own will, not of will in general, which might be that of others; for
in the latter case it would give rise to a judicial duty which does
not belong to the domain of ethics. In ethics, maxims are regarded
as those subjective laws which merely have the specific character of
universal legislation, which is only a negative principle (not to
contradict a law in general). How, then, can there be further a law
for the maxims of actions?

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 60}

It is the notion of an end which is also a duty, a notion peculiar
to ethics, that alone is the foundation of a law for the maxims of
actions; by making the subjective end (that which every one has)
subordinate to the objective end (that which every one ought to make
his own). The imperative: "Thou shalt make this or that thy end (e.
g., the happiness of others)" applies to the matter of the elective
will (an object). Now since no free action is possible, without the
agent having in view in it some end (as matter of his elective
will), it follows that, if there is an end which is also a duty, the
maxims of actions which are means to ends must contain only the
condition of fitness for a possible universal legislation: on the
other hand, the end which is also a duty can make it a law that we
should have such a maxim, whilst for the maxim itself the
possibility of agreeing with a universal legislation is sufficient.

For maxims of actions may be arbitrary, and are only limited by
the condition of fitness for a universal legislation, which is the
formal principle of actions. But a law abolishes the arbitrary
character of actions, and is by this distinguished from recommendation
(in which one only desires to know the best means to an end).

VII. Ethical Duties are of indeterminate, Juridical Duties of

strict, Obligation

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 65}

This proposition is a consequence of the foregoing; for if the law
can only command the maxim of the actions, not the actions themselves,
this is a sign that it leaves in the observance of it a latitude
(latitudo) for the elective will; that is, it cannot definitely assign
how and how much we should do by the action towards the end which is
also duty. But by an indeterminate duty is not meant a permission to
make exceptions from the maxim of the actions, but only the permission
to limit one maxim of duty by another (e. g., the general love of
our neighbour by the love of parents); and this in fact enlarges the
field for the practice of virtue. The more indeterminate the duty, and
the more imperfect accordingly the obligation of the man to the
action, and the closer he nevertheless brings this maxim of
obedience thereto (in his own mind) to the strict duty (of justice),
so much the more perfect is his virtuous action.

Hence it is only imperfect duties that are duties of virtue. The
fulfilment of them is merit (meritum) = + a; but their transgression
is not necessarily demerit (demeritum) = - a, but only moral unworth
= o, unless the agent made it a principle not to conform to those
duties. The strength of purpose in the former case is alone properly
called virtue [Tugend] (virtus); the weakness in the latter case is
not vice (vitium), but rather only lack of virtue [Untugend], a want
of moral strength (defectus moralis). (As the word Tugend is derived
from taugen [to be good for something], Untugend by its etymology
signifies good for nothing.) Every action contrary to duty is called
transgression (peccatum). Deliberate transgression which has become
a principle is what properly constitutes what is called vice (vitium).

Although the conformity of actions to justice (i.e., to be an
upright man) is nothing meritorious, yet the conformity of the maxim
of such actions regarded as duties, that is, reverence for justice
is meritorious. For by this the man makes the right of humanity or
of men his own end, and thereby enlarges his notion of duty beyond
that of indebtedness (officium debiti), since although another man
by virtue of his rights can demand that my actions shall conform to
the law, he cannot demand that the law shall also contain the spring
of these actions. The same thing is true of the general ethical
command, "Act dutifully from a sense of duty." To fix this disposition
firmly in one's mind and to quicken it is, as in the former case,
meritorious, because it goes beyond the law of duty in actions and
makes the law in itself the spring.

But just for or reason, those duties also must be reckoned as of
indeterminate obligation, in respect of which there exists a
subjective principle which ethically rewards them; or to bring them as
near as possible to the notion of a strict obligation, a principle
of susceptibility of this reward according to the law of virtue;
namely, a moral pleasure which goes beyond mere satisfaction with
oneself (which may be merely negative), and of which it is proudly
said that in this consciousness virtue is its own reward.

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 70}

When this merit is a merit of the man in respect of other men of
promoting their natural ends, which are recognized as such by all
men (making their happiness his own), we might call it the sweet
merit, the consciousness of which creates a moral enjoyment in which
men are by sympathy inclined to revel; whereas the bitter merit of
promoting the true welfare of other men, even though they should not
recognize it as such (in the case of the unthankful and ungrateful),
has commonly no such reaction, but only produces a satisfaction with
one's self, although in the latter case this would be even greater.

VIII. Exposition of the Duties of Virtue as Intermediate Duties

(1) OUR OWN PERFECTION as an end which is also a duty

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 75}

(a) Physical perfection; that is, cultivation of all our faculties
generally for the promotion of the ends set before us by reason.
That this is a duty, and therefore an end in itself, and that the
effort to effect this even without regard to the advantage that it
secures us, is based, not on a conditional (pragmatic), but an
unconditional (moral) imperative, may be seen from the following
consideration. The power of proposing to ourselves an end is the
characteristic of humanity (as distinguished from the brutes). With
the end of humanity in our own person is therefore combined the
rational will, and consequently the duty of deserving well of humanity
by culture generally, by acquiring or advancing the power to carry out
all sorts of possible ends, so far as this power is to be found in
man; that is, it is a duty to cultivate the crude capacities of our
nature, since it is by that cultivation that the animal is raised to
man, therefore it is a duty in itself.

This duty, however, is merely ethical, that is, of indeterminate
obligation. No principle of reason prescribes how far one must go in
this effort (in enlarging or correcting his faculty of
understanding, that is, in acquisition of knowledge or technical
capacity); and besides the difference in the circumstances into
which men may come makes the choice of the kind of employment for
which he should cultivate his talent very arbitrary. Here,
therefore, there is no law of reason for actions, but only for the
maxim of actions, viz.: "Cultivate thy faculties of mind and body so
as to be effective for all ends that may come in thy way, uncertain
which of them may become thy own."

(b) Cultivation of Morality in ourselves. The greatest moral
perfection of man is to do his duty, and that from duty (that the
law be not only the rule but also the spring of his actions). Now at
first sight this seems to be a strict obligation, and as if the
principle of duty commanded not merely the legality of every action,
but also the morality, i.e., the mental disposition, with the
exactness and strictness of a law; but in fact the law commands even
here only the maxim of the action, namely, that we should seek the
ground of obligation, not in the sensible impulses (advantage or
disadvantage), but wholly in the law; so that the action itself is not
commanded. For it is not possible to man to see so far into the
depth of his own heart that he could ever be thoroughly certain of the
purity of his moral purpose and the sincerity of his mind even in
one single action, although he has no doubt about the legality of
it. Nay, often the weakness which deters a man from the risk of a
crime is regarded by him as virtue (which gives the notion of
strength). And how many there are who may have led a long blameless
life, who are only fortunate in having escaped so many temptations.
How much of the element of pure morality in their mental disposition
may have belonged to each deed remains hidden even from themselves.

Accordingly, this duty to estimate the worth of one's actions not
merely by their legality, but also by their morality (mental
disposition), is only of indeterminate obligation; the law does not
command this internal action in the human mind itself, but only the
maxim of the action, namely, that we should strive with all our
power that for all dutiful actions the thought of duty should be of
itself an adequate spring.

(2) HAPPINESS OF OTHERS as an end which is also a duty

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 80}

(a) Physical Welfare. Benevolent wishes may be unlimited, for they
do not imply doing anything. But the case is more difficult with
benevolent action, especially when this is to be done, not from
friendly inclination (love) to others, but from duty, at the expense
of the sacrifice and mortification of many of our appetites. That this
beneficence is a duty results from this: that since our self-love
cannot be separated from the need to be loved by others (to obtain
help from them in case of necessity), we therefore make ourselves an
end for others; and this maxim can never be obligatory except by
having the specific character of a universal law, and consequently
by means of a will that we should also make others our ends. Hence the
happiness of others is an end that is also a duty.

I am only bound then to sacrifice to others a part of my welfare
without hope of recompense: because it is my duty, and it is
impossible to assign definite limits how far that may go. Much depends
on what would be the true want of each according to his own
feelings, and it must be left to each to determine this for himself.
For that one should sacrifice his own happiness, his true wants, in
order to promote that of others, would be a self-contradictory maxim
if made a universal law. This duty, therefore, is only
indeterminate; it has a certain latitude within which one may do
more or less without our being able to assign its limits definitely.
The law holds only for the maxims, not for definite actions.

(b) Moral well-being of others (salus moral is) also belongs to
the happiness of others, which it is our duty to promote, but only a
negative duty. The pain that a man feels from remorse of conscience,
although its origin is moral, is yet in its operation physical, like
grief, fear, and every other diseased condition. To take care that
he should not be deservedly smitten by this inward reproach is not
indeed my duty but his business; nevertheless, it is my duty to do
nothing which by the nature of man might seduce him to that for
which his conscience may hereafter torment him, that is, it is my duty
not to give him occasion of stumbling. But there are no definite
limits within which this care for the moral satisfaction of others
must be kept; therefore it involves only an indeterminate obligation.

IX. What is a Duty of Virtue?

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 85}

Virtue is the strength of the man's maxim in his obedience to
duty. All strength is known only by the obstacles that it can
overcome; and in the case of virtue the obstacles are the natural
inclinations which may come into conflict with the moral purpose;
and as it is the man who himself puts these obstacles in the way of
his maxims, hence virtue is not merely a self-constraint (for that
might be an effort of one inclination to constrain another), but is
also a constraint according to a principle of inward freedom, and
therefore by the mere idea of duty, according to its formal law.

All duties involve a notion of necessitation by the law, and ethical
duties involve a necessitation for which only an internal
legislation is possible; juridical duties, on the other hand, one
for which external legislation also is possible. Both, therefore,
include the notion of constraint, either self-constraint or constraint
by others. The moral power of the former is virtue, and the action
springing from such a disposition (from reverence for the law) may
be called a virtuous action (ethical), although the law expresses a
juridical duty. For it is the doctrine of virtue that commands us to
regard the rights of men as holy.

But it does not follow that everything the doing of which is virtue,
is, properly speaking, a duty of virtue. The former may concern merely
the form of the maxims; the latter applies to the matter of them,
namely, to an end which is also conceived as duty. Now, as the ethical
obligation to ends, of which there may be many, is only indeterminate,
because it contains only a law for the maxim of actions, and the end
is the matter (object) of elective will; hence there are many
duties, differing according to the difference of lawful ends, which
may be called duties of virtue (officia honestatis), just because they
are subject only to free self-constraint, not to the constraint of
other men, and determine the end which is also a duty.

Virtue, being a coincidence of the rational will, with every duty
firmly settled in the character, is, like everything formal, only
one and the same. But, as regards the end of actions, which is also
duty, that is, as regards the matter which one ought to make an end,
there may be several virtues; and as the obligation to its maxim is
called a duty of virtue, it follows that there are also several duties
of virtue.

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 90}

The supreme principle of ethics (the doctrine of virtue) is: "Act on
a maxim, the ends of which are such as it might be a universal law for
everyone to have." On this principle a man is an end to himself as
well as others, and it is not enough that he is not permitted to use
either himself or others merely as means (which would imply that be
might be indifferent to them), but it is in itself a duty of every man
to make mankind in general his end.

The principle of ethics being a categorical imperative does not
admit of proof, but it admits of a justification from principles of
pure practical reason. Whatever in relation to mankind, to oneself,
and others, can be an end, that is an end for pure practical reason:
for this is a faculty of assigning ends in general; and to be
indifferent to them, that is, to take no interest in them, is a
contradiction; since in that case it would not determine the maxims of
actions (which always involve an end), and consequently would cease to
be practical reasons. Pure reason, however, cannot command any ends
a priori, except so far as it declares the same to be also a duty,
which duty is then cared a duty of virtue.

X. The Supreme Principle of Jurisprudence was Analytical; that of

Ethics is Synthetical

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 95}

That external constraint, so far as it withstands that which hinders
the external freedom that agrees with general laws (as an obstacle
of the obstacle thereto), can be consistent with ends generally, is
clear on the principle of contradiction, and I need not go beyond
the notion of freedom in order to see it, let the end which each may
be what he will. Accordingly, the supreme principle of jurisprudence
is an analytical principle. On the contrary the principle of ethics
goes beyond the notion of external freedom and, by general laws,
connects further with it an end which it makes a duty. This principle,
therefore, is synthetic. The possibility of it is contained in the
deduction (SS ix).

This enlargement of the notion of duty beyond that of external
freedom and of its limitation by the merely formal condition of its
constant harmony; this, I say, in which, instead of constraint from
without, there is set up freedom within, the power of self-constraint,
and that not by the help of other inclinations, but by pure
practical reason (which scorns all such help), consists in this
fact, which raises it above juridical duty; that by it ends are
proposed from which jurisprudence altogether abstracts. In the case of
the moral imperative, and the supposition of freedom which it
necessarily involves, the law, the power (to fulfil it) and the
rational will that determines the maxim, constitute all the elements
that form the notion of juridical duty. But in the imperative, which
commands the duty of virtue, there is added, besides the notion of
self-constraint, that of an end; not one that we have, but that we
ought to have, which, therefore, pure practical reason has in
itself, whose highest, unconditional end (which, however, continues to
be duty) consists in this: that virtue is its own end and, by
deserving well of men, is also its own reward. Herein it shines so
brightly as an ideal to human perceptions, it seems to cast in the
shade even holiness itself, which is never tempted to
transgression. * This, however, is an illusion arising from the fact
that as we have no measure for the degree of strength, except the
greatness of the obstacles which might have been overcome (which in
our case are the inclinations), we are led to mistake the subjective
conditions of estimation of a magnitude for the objective conditions
of the magnitude itself. But when compared with human ends, all of
which have their obstacles to be overcome, it is true that the worth
of virtue itself, which is its own end, far outweighs the worth of all
the utility and all the empirical ends and advantages which it may
have as consequences.

* So that one might very two well-known lines of Haller thus:

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 100}

With all his failings, man is still

Better than angels void of will.

We may, indeed, say that man is obliged to virtue (as a moral
strength). For although the power (facultas) to overcome all
imposing sensible impulses by virtue of his freedom can and must be
presupposed, yet this power regarded as strength (robur) is
something that must be acquired by the moral spring (the idea of the
law) being elevated by contemplation of the dignity of the pure law of
reason in us, and at the same time also by exercise.

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 105}

XI. According to the preceding Principles, the Scheme of Duties of

Virtue may be thus exhibited

The Material Element of the Duty of Virtue

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 110}

1 2

Internal Duty of Virtue External Virtue of Duty

My Own End, The End of Others,

which is also my the promotion of

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 115}

Duty which is also my


(My own (The Happiness

Perfection) of Others)

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 120}

3 4

The Law which is The End which is

also Spring also Spring

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 125}

On which the On which the

Morality Legality

of every free determination of will rests

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 130}

The Formal Element of the Duty of Virtue.

XII. Preliminary Notions of the Susceptibility of the Mind for

Notions of Duty generally

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 135}

These are such moral qualities as, when a man does not possess them,
he is not bound to acquire them. They are: the moral feeling,
conscience, love of one's neighbour, and respect for ourselves
(self-esteem). There is no obligation to have these, since they are
subjective conditions of susceptibility for the notion of duty, not
objective conditions of morality. They are all sensitive and
antecedent, but natural capacities of mind (praedispositio) to be
affected by notions of duty; capacities which it cannot be regarded as
a duty to have, but which every man has, and by virtue of which he can
be brought under obligation. The consciousness of them is not of
empirical origin, but can only follow on that of a moral law, as an
effect of the same on the mind.


This is the susceptibility for pleasure or displeasure, merely
from the consciousness of the agreement or disagreement of our
action with the law of duty. Now, every determination of the
elective will proceeds from the idea of the possible action through
the feeling of pleasure or displeasure in taking an interest in it
or its effect to the deed; and here the sensitive state (the affection
of the internal sense) is either a pathological or a moral feeling.
The former is the feeling that precedes the idea of the law, the
latter that which may follow it.

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 140}

Now it cannot be a duty to have a moral feeling, or to acquire it;
for all consciousness of obligation supposes this feeling in order
that one may become conscious of the necessitation that lies in the
notion of duty; but every man (as a moral being) has it originally
in himself; the obligation, then, can only extend to the cultivation
of it and the strengthening of it even by admiration of its
inscrutable origin; and this is effected by showing how it is just, by
the mere conception of reason, that it is excited most strongly, in
its own purity and apart from every pathological stimulus; and it is
improper to call this feeling a moral sense; for the word sense
generally means a theoretical power of perception directed to an
object; whereas the moral feeling (like pleasure and displeasure in
general) is something merely subjective, which supplies no
knowledge. No man is wholly destitute of moral feeling, for if he were
totally unsusceptible of this sensation he would be morally dead; and,
to speak in the language of physicians, if the moral vital force could
no longer produce any effect on this feeling, then his humanity
would be dissolved (as it were by chemical laws) into mere animality
and be irrevocably confounded with the mass of other physical
beings. But we have no special sense for (moral) good and evil any
more than for truth, although such expressions are often used; but
we have a susceptibility of the free elective will for being moved
by pure practical reason and its law; and it is this that we call
the moral feeling.


Similarly, conscience is not a thing to be acquired, and it is not a
duty to acquire it; but every man, as a moral being, has it originally
within him. To be bound to have a conscience would be as much as to
say to be under a duty to recognize duties. For conscience is
practical reason which, in every case of law, holds before a man his
duty for acquittal or condemnation; consequently it does not refer
to an object, but only to the subject (affecting the moral feeling
by its own act); so that it is an inevitable fact, not an obligation
and duty. When, therefore, it is said, "This man has no conscience,"
what is meant is that he pays no heed to its dictates. For if he
really had none, he would not take credit to himself for anything done
according to duty, nor reproach himself with violation of duty, and
therefore he would be unable even to conceive the duty of having a

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 145}

I pass by the manifold subdivisions of conscience, and only
observe what follows from what has just been said, namely, that
there is no such thing as an erring conscience. No doubt it is
possible sometimes to err in the objective judgement whether something
is a duty or not; but I cannot err in the subjective whether I have
compared it with my practical (here judicially acting) reason for
the purpose of that judgement: for if I erred I would not have
exercised practical judgement at all, and in that case there is
neither truth nor error. Unconscientiousness is not want of
conscience, but the propensity not to heed its judgement. But when a
man is conscious of having acted according to his conscience, then, as
far as regards guilt or innocence, nothing more can be required of
him, only he is bound to enlighten his understanding as to what is
duty or not; but when it comes or has come to action, then
conscience speaks involuntarily and inevitably. To act conscientiously
can, therefore, not be a duty, since otherwise it would be necessary
to have a second conscience, in order to be conscious of the act of
the first.

The duty here is only to cultivate our con. science, to quicken
our attention to the voice of the internal judge, and to use all means
to secure obedience to it, and is thus our indirect duty.


{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 150}

Love is a matter of feeling, not of will or volition, and I cannot
love because I will to do so, still less because I ought (I cannot
be necessitated to love); hence there is no such thing as a duty to
love. Benevolence, however (amor benevolentiae), as a mode of
action, may be subject to a law of duty. Disinterested benevolence
is often called (though very improperly) love; even where the
happiness of the other is not concerned, but the complete and free
surrender of all one's own ends to the ends of another (even a
superhuman) being, love is spoken of as being also our duty. But all
duty is necessitation or constraint, although it may be
self-constraint according to a law. But what is done from constraint
is not done from love.

It is a duty to do good to other men according to our power, whether
we love them or not, and this duty loses nothing of its weight,
although we must make the sad remark that our species, alas! is not
such as to be found particularly worthy of love when we know it more
closely. Hatred of men, however, is always hateful: even though
without any active hostility it consists only in complete aversion
from mankind (the solitary misanthropy). For benevolence still remains
a duty even towards the manhater, whom one cannot love, but to whom we
can show kindness.

To hate vice in men is neither duty nor against duty, but a mere
feeling of horror of vice, the will having no influence on the feeling
nor the feeling on the will. Beneficence is a duty. He who often
practises this, and sees his beneficent purpose succeed, comes at last
really to love him whom he has benefited. When, therefore, it is said:
"Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," this does not mean,
"Thou shalt first of all love, and by means of this love (in the
next place) do him good"; but: "Do good to thy neighbour, and this
beneficence will produce in thee the love of men (as a settled habit
of inclination to beneficence)."

The love of complacency (amor complacentiae,) would therefore
alone be direct. This is a pleasure immediately connected with the
idea of the existence of an object, and to have a duty to this, that
is, to be necessitated to find pleasure in a thing, is a

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 155}


Respect (reverentia) is likewise something merely subjective; a
feeling of a peculiar kind not a judgement about an object which it
would be a duty to effect or to advance. For if considered as duty
it could only be conceived as such by means of the respect which we
have for it. To have a duty to this, therefore, would be as much as to
say to be bound in duty to have a duty. When, therefore, it is said:
"Man has a duty of self-esteem," this is improperly stated, and we
ought rather to say: "The law within him inevitably forces from him
respect for his own being, and this feeling (which is of a peculiar
kind) is a basis of certain duties, that is, of certain actions
which may be consistent with his duty to himself." But we cannot say
that he has a duty of respect for himself; for he must have respect
for the law within himself, in order to be able to conceive duty at

XIII. General Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals in the

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 160}

treatment of Pure Ethics

First. A duty can have only a single ground of obligation; and if
two or more proof of it are adduced, this is a certain mark that
either no valid proof has yet been given, or that there are several
distinct duties which have been regarded as one.

For all moral proofs, being philosophical, can only be drawn by
means of rational knowledge from concepts, not like mathematics,
through the construction of concepts. The latter science admits a
variety of proofs of one and the same theorem; because in intuition
a priori there may be several properties of an object, all of which
lead back to the very same principle. If, for instance, to prove the
duty of veracity, an argument is drawn first from the harm that a
lie causes to other men; another from the worthlessness of a liar
and the violation of his own self-respect, what is proved in the
former argument is a duty of benevolence, not of veracity, that is
to say, not the duty which required to be proved, but a different one.
Now, if, in giving a variety of proof for one and the same theorem, we
flatter ourselves that the multitude of reasons will compensate the
lack of weight in each taken separately, this is a very
unphilosophical resource, since it betrays trickery and dishonesty;
for several insufficient proofs placed beside one another do not
produce certainty, nor even probability. They should advance as reason
and consequence in a series, up to the sufficient reason, and it is
only in this way that they can have the force of proof. Yet the former
is the usual device of the rhetorician.

Secondly. The difference between virtue and vice cannot be sought in
the degree in which certain maxims are followed, but only in the
specific quality of the maxims (their relation to the law). In other
words, the vaunted principle of Aristotle, that virtue is the mean
between two vices, is false. * For instance, suppose that good
management is given as the mean between two vices, prodigality and
avarice; then its origin as a virtue can neither be defined as the
gradual diminution of the former vice (by saving), nor as the increase
of the expenses of the miserly. These vices, in fact, cannot be viewed
as if they, proceeding as it were in opposite directions, met together
in good management; but each of them has its own maxim, which
necessarily contradicts that of the other.

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 165}

* The common classical formulae of ethics- medio tutissimus ibis;
omne mimium vertitur in vitium; est modus in rebus, etc., medium
tenuere beati; virtus est medium vitiorum et utrinque reductum-
["You will go most safely in the middle" (Virgil); "Every excess
develops into a vice"; "There is a mean in all things, etc." (Horace);
"Happy they who steadily pursue a middle course"; "Virtue is the
mean between two vices and equally removed from either" (Horace).]-
contain a poor sort of wisdom, which has no definite principles; for
this mean between two extremes, who will assign it for me? Avarice (as
a vice) is not distinguished from frugality (as a virtue) by merely
being the lat pushed too far; but has a quite different principle;
(maxim), namely placing the end of economy not in the enjoyment of
one's means, but in the mere possession of them, renouncing enjoyment;
just as the vice of prodigality is not to be sought in the excessive
enjoyment of one's means, but in the bad maxim which makes the use
of them, without regard to their maintenance, the sole end.

For the same reason, no vice can be defined as an excess in the
practice of certain actions beyond what is proper (e.g.,
Prodigalitas est excessus in consumendis opibus); or, as a less
exercise of them than is fitting (Avaritia est defectus, etc.). For
since in this way the degree is left quite undefined, and the question
whether conduct accords with duty or not, turns wholly on this, such
an account is of no use as a definition.

Thirdly. Ethical virtue must not be estimated by the power we
attribute to man of fulfilling the law; but, conversely, the moral
power must be estimated by the law, which commands categorically; not,
therefore, by the empirical knowledge that we have of men as they are,
but by the rational knowledge how, according to the ideas of humanity,
they ought to be. These three maxims of the scientific treatment of
ethics are opposed to the older apophthegms:

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 170}

1. There is only one virtue and only one vice.

2. Virtue is the observance of the mean path between two opposite

3. Virtue (like prudence) must be learned from experience.

XIV. Of Virtue in General

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 175}

Virtue signifies a moral strength of will. But this does not exhaust
the notion; for such strength might also belong to a holy (superhuman)
being, in whom no opposing impulse counteracts the law of his rational
will; who therefore willingly does everything in accordance with the
law. Virtue then is the moral strength of a man's will in his
obedience to duty; and this is a moral necessitation by his own law
giving reason, inasmuch as this constitutes itself a power executing
the law. It is not itself a duty, nor is it a duty to possess it
(otherwise we should be in duty bound to have a duty), but it
commands, and accompanies its command with a moral constraint (one
possible by laws of internal freedom). But since this should be
irresistible, strength is requisite, and the degree of this strength
can be estimated only by the magnitude of the hindrances which man
creates for himself, by his inclinations. Vices, the brood of unlawful
dispositions, are the monsters that he has to combat; wherefore this
moral strength as fortitude (fortitudo moral is) constitutes the
greatest and only true martial glory of man; it is also called the
true wisdom, namely, the practical, because it makes the ultimate
end of the existence of man on earth its own end. Its possession alone
makes man free, healthy, rich, a king, etc., nor either chance or fate
deprive him of this, since he possesses himself, and the virtuous
cannot lose his virtue.

All the encomiums bestowed on the ideal of humanity in its moral
perfection can lose nothing of their practical reality by the examples
of what men now are, have been, or will probably be hereafter;
anthropology which proceeds from mere empirical knowledge cannot
impair anthroponomy which is erected by the unconditionally
legislating reason; and although virtue may now and then be called
meritorious (in relation to men, not to the law), and be worthy of
reward, yet in itself, as it is its own end, so also it must be
regarded as its own reward.

Virtue considered in its complete perfection is, therefore, regarded
not as if man possessed virtue, but as if virtue possessed the man,
since in the former case it would appear as though he had still had
the choice (for which he would then require another virtue, in order
to select virtue from all other wares offered to him). To conceive a
plurality of virtues (as we unavoidably must) is nothing else but to
conceive various moral objects to which the (rational) will is led
by the single principle of virtue; and it is the same with the
opposite vices. The expression which personifies both is a contrivance
for affecting the sensibility, pointing, however, to a moral sense.
Hence it follows that an aesthetic of morals is not a part, but a
subjective exposition of the Metaphysic of Morals; in which the
emotions that accompany the force of the moral law make the that force
to be felt; for example: disgust, horror, etc., which gives a sensible
moral aversion in order to gain the precedence from the merely
sensible incitement.

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 180}

XV. Of the Principle on which Ethics is separated from


This separation on which the subdivision of moral philosophy in
general rests, is founded on this: that the notion of freedom, which
is common to both, makes it necessary to divide duties into those of
external and those of internal freedom; the latter of which alone
are ethical. Hence this internal freedom which is the condition of all
ethical duty must be discussed as a preliminary (discursus
praeliminaris), just as above the doctrine of conscience was discussed
as the condition of all duty.

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 185}


Of the Doctrine of Virtue on the Principle Of Internal Freedom.

Habit (habitus) is a facility of action and a subjective
perfection of the elective will. But not every such facility is a free
habit (habitus libertatis); for if it is custom (assuetudo), that
is, a uniformity of action which, by frequent repetition, has become a
necessity, then it is not a habit proceeding from freedom, and
therefore not a moral habit. Virtue therefore cannot be defined as a
habit of free law-abiding actions, unless indeed we add "determining
itself in its action by the idea of the law"; and then this habit is
not a property of the elective will, but of the rational will, which
is a faculty that in adopting a rule also declares it to be a
universal law, and it is only such a habit that can be reckoned as
virtue. Two things are required for internal freedom: to be master
of oneself in a given case (animus sui compos) and to have command
over oneself (imperium in semetipsum), that is to subdue his
emotions and to govern his passions. With these conditions, the
character (indoles) is noble (erecta); in the opposite case, it is
ignoble (indoles abjecta serva).

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 190}

XVI. Virtue requires, first of all, Command over Oneself

Emotions and passions are essentially distinct; the former belong to
feeling in so far as this coming before reflection makes it more
difficult or even impossible. Hence emotion is called hasty (animus
praeceps). And reason declares through the notion of virtue that a man
should collect himself; but this weakness in the life of one's
understanding, joined with the strength of a mental excitement, is
only a lack of virtue (Untugend), and as it were a weak and childish
thing, which may very well consist with the best will, and has further
this one good thing in it, that this storm soon subsides. A propensity
to emotion (e.g., resentment) is therefore not so closely related to
vice as passion is. Passion, on the other hand, is the sensible
appetite grown into a permanent inclination (e. g., hatred in contrast
to resentment). The calmness with which one indulges it leaves room
for reflection and allows the mind to frame principles thereon for
itself; and thus when the inclination falls upon what contradicts
the law, to brood on it, to allow it to root itself deeply, and
thereby to take up evil (as of set purpose) into one's maxim; and this
is then specifically evil, that is, it is a true vice.

Virtue, therefore, in so far as it is based on internal freedom,
contains a positive command for man, namely, that he should bring
all his powers and inclinations under his rule (that of reason); and
this is a positive precept of command over himself which is additional
to the prohibition, namely, that he should not allow himself to be
governed by his feelings and inclinations (the duty of apathy); since,
unless reason takes the reins of government into its own hands, the
feelings and inclinations play the master over the man.

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 195}

XVII. Virtue necessarily presupposes Apathy (considered as


This word (apathy) has come into bad repute, just as if it meant
want of feeling, and therefore subjective indifference with respect to
the objects of the elective will; it is supposed to be a weakness.
This misconception may be avoided by giving the name moral apathy to
that want of emotion which is to be distinguished from indifference.
In the former, the feelings arising from sensible impressions lose
their influence on the moral feeling only because the respect for
the law is more powerful than all of them together. It is only the
apparent strength of a fever patient that makes even the lively
sympathy with good rise to an emotion, or rather degenerate into it.
Such an emotion is called enthusiasm, and it is with reference to this
that we are to explain the moderation which is usually recommended
in virtuous practices:

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 200}

Insani sapiens nomen ferat, aequus uniqui

Ultra quam satis est virtutem si petat ipsam. *

* Horace. ["Let the wise man bear the name of fool, and the just of
unjust, if he pursue virtue herself beyond the proper bounds."]

{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 205}

For otherwise it is absurd to imagine that one could be too wise
or too virtuous. The emotion always belongs to the sensibility, no
matter by what sort of object it may be excited. The true strength
of virtue is the mind at rest, with a firm, deliberate resolution to
bring its law into practice. That is the state of health in the
moral life; on the contrary, the emotion, even when it is excited by
the idea of the good, is a momentary glitter which leaves exhaustion
after it. We may apply the term fantastically virtuous to the man
who will admit nothing to be indifferent in respect of morality
(adiaphora), and who strews all his steps with duties, as with
traps, and will not allow it to be indifferent whether a man eats fish
or flesh, drink beer or wine, when both agree with him; a micrology
which, if adopted into the doctrine of virtue, would make its rule a


{INTRODUCTION ^paragraph 210}

Virtue is always in progress, and yet always begins from the
beginning. The former follows from the fact that, objectively
considered, it is an ideal and unattainable, and yet it is a duty
constantly to approximate to it. The second is founded subjectively on
the nature of man which is affected by inclinations, under the
influence of which virtue, with its maxims adopted once for all, can
never settle in a position of rest; but, if it is not rising,
inevitably falls; because moral maxims cannot, like technical, be
based on custom (for this belongs to the physical character of the
determination of will); but even if the practice of them become a
custom, the agent would thereby lose the freedom in the choice of
his maxims, which freedom is the character of an action done from



The consciousness of an internal tribunal in man (before which
"his thoughts accuse or excuse one another") is CONSCIENCE.

Every man has a conscience, and finds himself observed by an
inward judge which threatens and keeps him in awe (reverence
combined with fear); and this power which watches over the laws within
him is not something which he himself (arbitrarily) makes, but it is
incorporated in his being. It follows him like his shadow, when he
thinks to escape. He may indeed stupefy himself with pleasures and
distractions, but cannot avoid now and then coming to himself or
awaking, and then he at once perceives its awful voice. In his
utmost depravity, he may, indeed, pay no attention to it, but he
cannot avoid hearing it.

Now this original intellectual and (as a conception of duty) moral
capacity, called conscience, has this peculiarity in it, that although
its business is a business of man with himself, yet he finds himself
compelled by his reason to transact it as if at the command of another
person. For the transaction here is the conduct of a trial (causa)
before a tribunal. But that he who is accused by his conscience should
be conceived as one and the same person with the judge is an absurd
conception of a judicial court; for then the complainant would
always lose his case. Therefore, in all duties the conscience of the
man must regard another than himself as the judge of his actions, if
it is to avoid self-contradiction. Now this other may be an actual
or a merely ideal person which reason frames to itself. Such an
idealized person (the authorized judge of conscience) must be one
who knows the heart; for the tribunal is set up in the inward part
of man; at the same time he must also be all-obliging, that is, must
be or be conceived as a person in respect of whom all duties are to be
regarded as his commands; since conscience is the inward judge of
all free actions. Now, since such a moral being must at the same
time possess all power (in heaven and earth), since otherwise he could
not give his commands their proper effect (which the office of judge
necessarily requires), and since such a moral being possessing power
over all is called GOD, hence conscience must be conceived as the
subjective principle of a responsibility for one's deeds before God;
nay, this latter concept is contained (though it be only obscurely) in
every moral self-consciousness.



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