1. Kant’s Moral Revolution
1. Jacques Maritain, Moral Philosophy. (Scribner, New York City, 1964.) p. 95.
2. A 633=B 661. Quotations from the Critique of Pure Reason are taken from N. Kemp Smith’s translation (Macmillan, London, 1956).
3. As Kant does, I use “condition” in the sense of a necessary prerequisite, as in “Good behavior is a condition for parole.” Sensations must meet the conditions set down by pure reason in order to be acceptable as meaningful experiences.
4. See the example in Plato’s Republic, Bk. I, 331 E.
2. The Purpose of the Foundation
1. Chap. 1, Sect. 4.
2. Epicurus to Menoeceus. Reprinted in A. I. Melden (Ed.), Ethical Writers (New York, Prentice-Hall, 1955), p. 145.
3. A recent version of this theory is found in John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism (1863 ).
4. I should point out that the Metaphysics of Morals has lately received considerably more attention, reflected not only by good translations but also in commentaries and articles.
5. This matter will be discussed in depth in Chap. 7, Sect. 1.
3. The Propositions of Moral Value
1. Although the question is of considerable importance, no discussion will be found here regarding the many possible meanings of good. Kant does not discuss this question in the Foundation, and I am content to rely on the readers understanding of the ordinary distinctions made.
2. In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle treats this problem from a different point of view: how can a man perform just deeds unless he is already just? “The doer is just or temperate not because he does such things but when he does them in the manner of just and temperate persons [i.e., with the right disposition or motive].” (1105 b)
3. Cf., J. S. Mill’s Utilitarianism, Chap. 2, for a statement of this view.
4. Cf., Critique of Pure Reason, the First Antinomy (B 455 to B 462), and the Solution (B 545).
5. In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant does admit that this principle is an analogy. (Cf. B 425) To present it in the argument here as an axiom, however, without any qualification, does seem somewhat unwarranted.
6. A poignant example of this facility to “perceive” an obligation in a factual situation is found in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, where Linda says of Willy Loman, her husband: “He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid” (my italics).
7. This is reflected in our frequent interchanging of ought and must when speaking of obligation. Thus, “You ought to repay Smith the ten dollars,” is often equivalent to, “You must repay Smith the ten dollars.”
8. This entire discussion centers on duty as recognized. A person may easily omit doing something he ought to do, objectively speaking, yet be unaware that he ought to do it. Duty, as a moral concept, has moral implication only when the agent is aware of it. However, to examine this complex problem here would take us too far afield.
9. W. D. Ross, in The Right and the Good (Oxford, 1930), suggests, through a calculus of motives, that mixed motives may produce actions in such a way that “the value of the action is greater than if it had been done from duty alone.” Cf. pp. 168-173.
10. Such parallelisms are frequent in the Bible; Psalms is a treasure house of them. E.g., “O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor are my eyes haughty.” (Ps. 130)
11. In this paragraph Kant again anticipates. He had mentioned the moral maxim before defining maxim. Here he speaks of the formal rule of reason. Since he will soon explain what he means by this, analysis here is unnecessary.
12. In Section III (Chap. 9 below), Kant will explain that a free will is “determined” by laws of freedom, expressly rejecting any suggestion that a free will is arbitrary in its choices.
13. Pflicht ist Notwendigheit einer Handlung aus Achtung fürs Gesetz. Literally: “Duty is the necessity of an action out of respect for law.” To translate it, “Duty is the necessity of acting out of respect for law,” or, “Duty is the necessity of an action performed from respect for law,” is neither an accurate translation nor an accurate interpretation of the third proposition . My reading, Duty is an action which, out of respect for law, I acknowledge as necessary for me to perform, while it certainly goes beyond the letter of the text, expresses what Kant intends by the third proposition, which a literal version cannot convey.
14. The German word is Achtung. H. J. Paton translates it by “reverence,” but others agree on “respect.” Reverence suggests something Kant did not mean, namely, an awareness of superior value. But he cannot mean that the law is superior to my will, since it is precisely in my practical reason (my will) that the law is grounded. The law is not superior to man; as Jacobi observed, “The law is made for the sake of man and not man for the sake of the law.” To recognize unqualified value is not to recognize superior value.
15. See Kant’s comment on the law of love, pp. 61-62.
4. The Form of Law: Universality
1. Cf., A. E. Ewing, Ethics (New York, Free Press, 1965) , p. 57f, for an intuitionist’s view of this same example.
2. H. J. Paton, The Categorical Imperative, p. 194.
3. David Hume, An Inquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals. See Section 9, “Conclusion,” for a summary of Hume’s position.
4. A classic use of this argument is found in Milton’s treatise on divorce.
5. Prologue to Section II
1. Cf. Chap. 1, Sect. 2, above.
2. David Hume, An Inquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals. Appendix I.
3. See above pp. 24-25.
6. Practical Reason and Its Imperatives
1. See Chap. 1, Sect. 3, for a review of the distinction between speculative and practical reason.
2. Cf., Plato’s Meno, 77B et seq.
3. Compare this to Kant’s distinction in the Prolegomena between judgments of perception (valid only for the subject) and judgments of experience (universally valid) . Pt. II, Sect. 18-20.
4. This raises the interesting theological question of whether Jesus, as Son of God, could have chosen other than the good. How was He tempted? If He experienced the call of duty, was His will then not completely good? But if He could not know the constraint of duty, how was He truly man? Fortunately, I need not discuss the problem here.
5. Compare Aristotle’s distinction, Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. 6, Chap. 12 (1144a).
6. In his First Introduction to the Critique of Judgment, Kant makes the following observation:
Let me here correct a mistake I made in the Foundation for a Metaphysics of Morals. After I had indicated that the imperatives of skill command only conditionally, related as they are to a goal which is merely possible (i.e., conditional, or problematic), I called such1 commands “problematic imperatives.” But this expression is contradictory. A better expression would have been “technical imperatives,” imperatives of art. Thus the pragmatic rules, the counsels of prudence, become technical imperatives, since these also prescribe conditionally, being related to an actual and subjectively necessary goal. (Prudence, you see, can be considered as the use of free agents, particularly one’s own natural powers and desires, as means to some further goal.) But we retain the distinct classification of “counsels of prudence,” because the goal which we seek from others and ourselves—happiness—is no merely arbitrary goal. In such imperatives of prudence we require not only the means to the goal (happiness) but indeed some definition of the goal itself. In technical imperatives, on the other hand, we can assume that the goal is clearly understood.
7. Kant’s treatment of means in his discussion of the hypothetical imperative is not very thorough. When he says that willing the end analytically includes willing the means, he fails to distinguish between the following senses of willing the means: (a) willing all of the means, or only some of them; (b) willing one among alternatives; (c) willing the best means. Such a distinction is not essential to his discussion but it arises whenever one tries to construct examples to illustrate what Kant means by the analytic means—end relationship.
8. This passage serves to show again that happiness is not the goal of reason. Since human reason does not know exactly what happiness is, it cannot judge accurately whether its choices will or will not lead to happiness. It would be poor arrangement by Nature if man’s rational goal in life could be achieved only by a lucky shot in the dark. Another note of interest is that the particular suggestions which Kant lists as empirical counsels—“diet, frugality, courtesy, restraint, etc.”—are prudential maxims of Stoicism and give us an insight into Kant’s own ideas on what constituted the Good Life. (Cf. Chap. 7, Sect. 1.)
9. Cf., above, Chap. 1, Sect. 5, p. 14.
7. The Three Variations of the Categorical Imperative
1. See the discussion in Chapter 1, Section 2. Kant begins his discussion with no indication that he is doing anything more than continuing the investigations of the previous chapter. Later, when he resumes the investigation (Chap. 8) , he summarizes the long interlude as though he had never written it. A. R. C. Duncan believes that the long discussion is a later addition , something of a second-thought attempt to “gain a hearing for the moral law.” (Practical Reason and Morality, Chap. 11 in particular.) A list of some important discussions on the variations will be found in the bibliography at the end of this chapter.
2. See above, p. 43.
3. Cf., “’Kant and Greek Ethics (II) ,” Klaus Reich, Mind, Vol. 47, Oct. 1939, for a detailed treatment of Kant’s debt to Cicero. My own debt to Duncan and Reich will be obvious.
4. Cf., Kant’s Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics , Pt. II, Sect. 14. Also, Critique of Pure Reason, A 216.
5. Such consistency is one of the most persuasive arguments for an intelligent and providential Creator of the universe. See Thomas Aquinas’ fifth argument (Summa Theologica, I-I, Q. 3) , and Hume’s rebuttal of the “Argument from Design,” as it is of ten called (Dialogues on Natural Religion, Bk. 2) . Kant agreed with Hume that the Argument from Design is inconclusive (Critique of Pure Reason, A 620-630).
6. The Stoics believed in a positive divine influence ( Nous ) which guided the affairs of men and nature. The Stoic rules commanded men to live in a manner attuned to the Divine rational influence. They held this to be the meaning of the precept to “act conformably to Nature.”
7. Cf., J. S. Mill, Utilitarianism, Chap. I.
8. See Kant’s argument for this point in Section I above, pp. 47 ff. For a different interpretation of how the inconsistency appears in willing against duty, see Julius Ebbinghaus, “The Interpretation and Misinterpretation of the Categorical Imperative,” Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 4, 1954, 97-108, especially Part II. Ebbinghaus emphasizes the natural goal of happiness as the locus of the inconsistency in willing.
9. In the Preface. See above, Chap. 2, Sect. 1, and the summary graph on p. 22.
10. This sentence is not clear. The various translations differ quite noticeably:
Beck: “The subjective ground of desire is the incentive, while the objective ground of violation is the motive.”
Paton: “The subjective ground of a desire is an impulsion; the objective ground of volition is a motive.”
Abbott: “The subjective ground of desire is the spring, the objective ground of the volition is the motive.”
Falk: “The subjective ground of desire is the motive, while the objective ground of volition is the reason.”
Kant uses “subjective” and “objective” in a different sense than usual, more like “point of departure” and “aiming point.” We might paraphrase the sentence in question as follows : “The originating source of desire is called an incentive (which may be a need, drive, etc.) ; the objective insofar as it is proposed to be achieved by acting is called the motive (or purpose, or end) .” Kant sees desire as the origin of many motivating impulses, and the motive as the objective toward which the impulse aims.
11. Consider the following passage:
IV. ends which are also duties
They are: (a) The perfection of self and (b) the happiness of others. We cannot twist these around so that the same person will have duties to seek his own happiness and the perfection of others.
Surely all men, by their very natures, seek their own happiness. But it would be meaningless to list this end as a duty, for how can it be one’s duty to pursue that which he cannot help but seek? Duty involves a constraint between the will and an end chosen in opposition to natural desire. It is absurd, then, to argue that man ought to seek his own happiness with all his might.
Similarly, it is wrong to think myself duty-bound to promote the perfection of others as though it were my own end. The perfection of each man as a person consists simply in his ability to establish his own ends and determine his own duties. How then could I be duty-bound to do for someone else what no one but he himself can do? ( Metaphysics of Morals, Pt. 2, Introduction, Sec. 4, p. 385.)
12. The same holds when we obey civil laws except that instead of personal authority, we respect legislative or statutory authority.
13. The words autonomy and heteronomy are derived from the Greek: autonomy from autos and nomos, meaning self-law or law imposed upon oneself; heteronomy from heteros and nomos, meaning another’s law or law imposed from without. Kant’s use of such terms is obvious.
14. Kant’s word is Reich. Beck translates it as “Realm,” while Abbott and Paton prefer “kingdom.” The difference is minor since Kant is not speaking of any particular form of government but rather of a community of individual rational beings under a common law. Cf. Paton, p. 187f.
15. Sec. 49, (p. 317, Ak. ed.).
16. Bk. II, Chap. 2, Sect. 5 (pp. 123-132, Ak. ed.).
17. My interpretation of this obscure passage is, I admit, not universally shared. But most commentators do not comment at all on this question as it appears here. I have avoided reading it in light of Kant’s later writings, because (a) it is not clear that such interpretation by hindsight is correct, and (b) it requires a theistic premiss. My reading requires neither, but makes sense of what Kant says in the Grundlegung (although I do not insist that it is how Kant meant to be understood).
18. Kant concludes this paragraph with the following sentence: “Duty does not hind the sovereign in a kingdom of ends, hut only the members, and all of them in the same manner”. This sentence seems clearly inconsistent with everything Kant has said about the sovereign in a kingdom of ends as subject to his own law—unless here he means God, the Sovereign of Heaven. But no groundwork has been laid for this remark and, since it involves the difficulties I have already mentioned in Note 17 above, I take the liberty of excising it from the main body of the text.
19. I have translated Affectionspreis as “aesthetic price,” there being no good English equivalent of the German. “Affective price” conveys little meaning to the modern reader.
20. The common imperatives given here are basically the three Stoic rules discussed in the beginning of this chapter.
8. Autonomy and Heteronomy
1. In this recapitulation Kant takes a slightly different approach. This suggests that the ethical discussion of the three variations was written separately from the core of the Foundation.
2. Kant seems to overlook the need of positive action in imperfect duties to ourselves and to others. As we saw in the third and fourth examples, duty requires more than the mere negative avoidance of treating a rational being solely as a means; we must also work positively for our own perfection and the happiness of others.
3. Kant’s term is subject. I avoided using this term because its technical meaning is unfamiliar and, without a precise explanation, might confuse more than clarify. The use is similar to Aristotle’s (Cf. Categories, Chap. 5, 2a).
4. That is, one cannot have the duty to seek the perfection of others or his own happiness. Cf., note 11, Chap. 7.
5. On the other hand, “moral worth” applies to motives, not to actions. Compare the second proposition of moral worth (Chap. 3, Sect. 2).
6. Cf. Critique of Practical Reason, Bk. 1, Chap. 1 (p. 40, Ak. ed.).
7. Utilitarianism, Chapter 2.
8. Exemplified by Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.
9. Cf. Henry Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics (Chicago, 1962), 7th Ed., Bk. 1, Chap. 4, for a classic refutation of the universal dominion of the pleasure principle.
10. Recent advocates of intuitionist ethics are G. E. Moore (Principia Ethica, 1903), Sir W. David Ross (The Right and the Good, 1930), and A. C. Ewing (The Definition of Good, 1947).
11. Inquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, Appendix (Bobbs-Merrill, Indianapolis, 1957), p. 107.
12. An Inquiry Concerning Moral Good and Bad (1725), Introduction, ad fin. (British Moralists, ed. Selby-Bigge. [Bobbs-Merrill, Indianapolis, 1954] Vol. I, p. 72.)
13. Although Kant had specifically in mind Christian Wolff’s Universai Practical Morality. See above, Chap. 2, p. 29.
14. This view in Kant’s day was represented by Christian August Crusius (1715-1775), who espoused the somewhat Leibnizian position that God had implanted in the human mind certain rules and concepts which gave man an intuitive insight into God’s preestablished harmony in the world.
15. Kant apparently takes a tongue-in-cheek dig at the Prussian ministry of education, which had the power to authorize selected theories as official doctrine. That such administrators usually lacked the basic intellectual background for making such distinctions emphasized all the more the danger of their doing so, especially as a matter of national domestic policy.
9. Freedom and Autonomy
1. For the distinction between Wille and Willkür I am indebted to Professor John Silbers discussion in Ethics, Vol. 73, 1962, and in his introductory essay to Kant’s Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone (New York, Harper, 1960). I assume responsibility for any variance from his treatment.
2. See Henry Sidgwick, Methods of Ethics, 7th Ed. (Chicago, 1962), pp. 511-516.
3. The example indicates how two ideas may be related by a third. It also illustrates how their relationship is a priori, but one must be familiar with Kant’s transcendental doctrine of space to see the a priori connection. Cf., Critique of Pure Reason, B 37 et seq.
4. Critique of Pure Reason, The Paralogisms of Pure Reason, espedaily B 425.
5. I confess that Kant’s purpose in this shift of approach escapes me. By distinguishing here between acting from interest (i.e., heteronomously) and having an interest, he yields no insights into the problem at hand but rather offers a paradoxical parallel which only muddies the development of his argument. This point, moreover, has already been discussed in Section II (Chap. 6, p. 110) and will be discussed again at some length in Chapter 10.
6. See above, Chapter 3, p. 43.
7. Cf. Chapter 3, p. 60.
8. See pp. 46-47.
9. To the complaint of the scholar of the Kantian Critique that I am not precise in my discussion here, I can only apologize with the excuse that I did not mean to be. The precision appropriate to a learned seminar on Transcendental Logic would here be unnecessary and pedantic.
10. While we may have some privileged access to ourselves that is denied to others, it consists not of a different kind of knowledge but only of private experiences unavailable to others.
11. These functions, while distinguishable, do not occur separately. In fact, Kant warns strongly of the danger of converting a distinction for purposes of analysis into a real distinction.
12. This is Kant’s famous doctrine of the Antinomies of Pure Reason. See Critique of Pure Reason, especially B 531-535.
13. Kant uses three terms—Sensibility, Understanding, and Reason—in rather rigid senses. Here Reason (with a capital R) refers to the third, organizing function of mental activity.
14. In the Critique of Practical Reason, Kant gives the following solution to the problem of circularity:
To avoid having anyone imagine that there is an inconsistency when I say that freedom is the condition of the moral law and later assert that the moral law is the only condition under which freedom can be known, I will only remind the reader that, though freedom is certainly the ratio essendi of the moral law, the latter is the ratio cognoscendi of freedom. For had not the moral law already been distinctly thought in our reason, we would never have been justified in assuming anything like freedom, even though it is not self-contradictory. But if there were no freedom, the moral law would never have been encountered. (Translated by L. W. Beck, BobbsMerrill, Indianapolis, 1956, p. 4, note.)
10. The Validity of the Moral Law
1. We might seek the basis for objective law in the world of thought itself, but (a) this would not help us in the present instance, because the “fact” of the objective law is itself in question, not its source; and (b) the question involves other metaphysical problems, such as God’s purpose and intention in creating a rational being.
2. To anyone familiar with Kant’s doctrine of the Critique of Pure Reason, my argument will seem to require some intuition of freedom in order that the conceptual appreciation of “ought” be validated. Someone may point out that Kant, even in the Grundlegung (see pp. 247-48 above), explicitly rejects such an intuition of practical reason. I am convinced that in this respect Kant was wrong, and that without some foundation in practical reason—a “Transcendental Aesthetic of Practical Reason”—Kant’s theory cannot support the a priori moral law.
3. The rest of Section III comprises a self-contained capsule version of Kant’s doctrine of the impossibility of metaphysical knowledge. Relatively little reference is made to the main topics of the Foundation. Perhaps Kant again included an essay which fitted in very well but had been written independently. So far as I know, no one has suggested a “patchwork theory” for the Grundlegung, although (as I have noted here and there) there is some evidence to support it.
4. That is, in contrast to objects of appearance. As things in themselves, rational beings would exist free of the determining influences of the causal necessity found in the world of appearances.
5. We must remember that this is at best a polemical argument, useful for debating purposes. Kant would not wish the categorical imperative to rest on such a slender base as the logical impossibility of disproof. However, this device very effectively rebuts the arguments of the determinists and so removes at least that barrier from the path of reason’s inquiry.
6. The reader interested in further pursuit of the idea of rational faith is urged to examine Kant’s Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone, translated by T. M. Greene and H. H. Hudson (Harper, New York, 1960). See also Paton’s brief comment on rational faith, op. cit., p. 256.