The active faculty of the human mind, as the faculty of desire in its widest sense, is the power which man has, through his mental representations, of becoming the cause of objects corresponding to these representations.
The capacity of a being to act in conformity with his own representations is what constitutes the life of such a being. It is to be observed, first, that with desire or aversion there is always connected pleasure or pain, the susceptibility for which is called feeling. But the converse does not always hold; for there may be a pleasure connected, not with the desire of an object, but with a mere mental representation, it being indifferent whether an object corresponding to the representation exist or not.
And second, the pleasure or pain connected with the object of desire does not always precede the activity of desire; nor can it be regarded in every case as the cause, but it may as well be the effect of that activity.
They do not involve any relation to an object that could possibly furnish a knowledge of it as such; they cannot even give us a knowledge of our own mental state.
And for the reason just stated, pleasure and pain considered in themselves cannot be more precisely defined. All that can be further done with regard to them is merely to point out what consequences they may have in certain relations, in order to make the knowledge of them available practically.
It is the understanding that first refers the subjective representations to an object; it alone thinks anything by means of these representations.
Now, the subjective nature of our representations might be of such a kind that they could be related to objects so as to furnish knowledge of them, either in regard to their form or matter — in the former relation by pure perception, in the latter by sensation proper.
In this case, the sense-faculty, as the capacity for receiving objective representations, would be properly called sense perception. But mere mental representation from its subjective nature cannot, in fact, become a constituent of objective knowledge, because it contains merely the relation of the representations to the subject, and includes nothing that can be used for attaining a knowledge of the object.
In this case, then, this receptivity of the mind for subjective representations is called feeling. It includes the effect of the representations, whether sensible or intellectual, upon the subject; and it belongs to the sensibility, although the representation itself may belong to the understanding or the reason.
The pleasure which is necessarily connected with the activity of desire, when the representation of the object desired affects the capacity of feeling, may be called practical pleasure.
Imanual kant metiphisics of morals
And this designation is applicable whether the pleasure is the cause or the effect of the desire. On the other hand, that pleasure which is not necessarily connected with the desire of an object, and which, therefore, is not a pleasure in the existence of the object, but is merely attached to a mental representation alone, may be called inactive complacency, or mere contemplative pleasure.
Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals - by Immanuel Kant
The feeling of this latter kind of pleasure is what is called taste. Hence, in a system of practical philosophy, the contemplative pleasure of taste will not be discussed as an essential constituent conception, but need only be referred to incidentally or episodically.
Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals
But as regards practical pleasure, it is otherwise. For the determination of the activity of the faculty of desire or appetency, which is necessarily preceded by this pleasure as its cause, is what properly constitutes desire in the strict sense of the term. Habitual desire, again, constitutes inclination; and the connection of pleasure with the activity of desire, in so far as this connection is judged by the understanding to be valid according to a general rule holding good at least for the individual, is what is called interest.
Hence, in such a case, the practical pleasure is an interest of the inclination of the individual. On the other hand, if the pleasure can only follow a preceding determination of the faculty of desire, it is an intellectual pleasure, and the interest in the object must be called a rational interest; for were the interest sensuous, and not based only upon pure principles of reason, sensation would necessarily be conjoined with the pleasure, and would thus determine the activity of the desire.
Where an entirely pure interest of reason must be assumed, it is not legitimate to introduce into it an interest of inclination surreptitiously. But such inclination would have to be viewed, not as the cause, but as the effect of the rational interest; and we might call it the non-sensuous or rational inclination propensio intellectualis.
Further, concupiscence is to be distinguished from the activity of desire itself, as a stimulus or incitement to its determination.
Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals Quotes
It is always a sensuous state of the mind, which does not itself attain to the definiteness of an act of the power of desire. The activity of the faculty of desire may proceed in accordance with conceptions; and in so far as the principle thus determining it to action is found in the mind, and not in its object it constitutes a power acting or not acting according to liking. In so far as the activity is accompanied with the consciousness of the power of the action to produce the object, it forms an act of choice; if this consciousness is not conjoined with it, the activity is called a wish.
The faculty of desire, in so far as its inner principle of determination as the ground of its liking or predilection lies in the reason of the subject, constitutes the will. The will is therefore the faculty of active desire or appetency, viewed not so much in relation to the action — which is the relation of the act of choice — as rather in relation to the principle that determines the power of choice to the action.
It has, in itself, properly no special principle of determination, but in so far as it may determine the voluntary act of choice, it is the practical reason itself. Under the will, taken generally, may be included the volitional act of choice, and also the mere act of wish, in so far as reason may determine the faculty of desire in its activity.
The act of choice that can be determined by pure reason constitutes the act of free-will. That act which is determinable only by inclination as a sensuous impulse or stimulus would be irrational brute choice arbitrium brutum.
The human act of choice, however, as human, is in fact affected by such impulses or stimuli, but is not determined by them; and it is, therefore, not pure in itself when taken apart from the acquired habit of determination by reason.
But it may be determined to action by the pure will. The freedom of the act of volitional choice is its independence of being determined by sensuous impulses or stimuli. This forms the negative conception of the free-will.
The positive conception of freedom is given by the fact that the will is the capability of pure reason to be practical of itself. But this is not possible otherwise than by the maxim of every action being subjected to the condition of being practicable as a universal law.
Applied as pure reason to the act of choice, and considered apart from its objects, it may be regarded as the faculty of principles; and, in this connection, it is the source of practical principles. Hence it is to be viewed as a law-giving faculty.
But as the material upon which to construct a law is not furnished to it, it can only make the form of the form of the maxim of the act of will, in so far as it is available as a universal law, the supreme law and determining principle of the will. And as the maxims, or rules of human action derived from subjective causes, do not of themselves necessarily agree with those that are objective and universal, reason can only prescribe this supreme law as an absolute imperative of prohibition or command.
The laws of freedom, as distinguished from the laws of nature, are moral laws. So far as they refer only to external actions and their lawfulness, they are called juridical; but if they also require that, as laws, they shall themselves be the determining principles of our actions, they are ethical. The agreement of an action with juridical laws is its legality; the agreement of an action with ethical laws is its morality.
The freedom to which the former laws refer, can only be freedom in external practice; but the freedom to which the latter laws refer is freedom in the internal as well as the external exercise of the activity of the will in so far as it is determined by laws of reason. So, in theoretical philosophy, it is said that only the objects of the external senses are in space, but all the objects both of internal and external sense are in time; because the representations of both, as being representations, so far belong all to the internal sense.
In like manner, whether freedom is viewed in reference to the external or the internal action of the will, its laws, as pure practical laws of reason for the free activity of the will generally, must at the same time be inner principles for its determination, although they may not always be considered in this relation.
It has been shown in The Metaphysical Principles of the Science of Nature that there must be principles a priori for the natural science that has to deal with the objects of the external senses.
Thus Newton accepted the principle of the equality of action and reaction as established by experience, and yet he extended it as a universal law over the whole of material nature. The chemists go even farther, grounding their most general laws regarding the combination and decomposition of the materials of bodies wholly upon experience; and yet they trust so completely to the universality and necessity of those laws that they have no anxiety as to any error being found in propositions founded upon experiments conducted in accordance with them.
But it is otherwise with moral laws. These, in contradistinction to natural laws, are only valid as laws, in so far as they can be rationally established a priori and comprehended as necessary. In fact, conceptions and judgements regarding ourselves and our conduct have no moral significance, if they contain only what may be learned from experience; and when any one is, so to speak, misled into making a moral principle out of anything derived from this latter source, he is already in danger of falling into the coarsest and most fatal errors.
General Introduction to the Metaphysic of Morals
If the philosophy of morals were nothing more than a theory of happiness eudaemonism , it would be absurd to search after principles a priori as a foundation for it. For however plausible it may sound to say that reason, even prior to experience, can comprehend by what means we may attain to a lasting enjoyment of the real pleasures of life, yet all that is taught on this subject a priori is either tautological, or is assumed wholly without foundation.
It is only experience that can show what will bring us enjoyment. The natural impulses directed towards nourishment, the sexual instinct, or the tendency to rest and motion, as well as the higher desires of honour, the acquisition of knowledge, and such like, as developed with our natural capacities, are alone capable of showing in what those enjoyments are to be found.
And, further, the knowledge thus acquired is available for each individual merely in his own way; and it is only thus he can learn the means by which he has to seek those enjoyments. All specious rationalizing a priori, in this connection, is nothing at bottom but carrying facts of experience up to generalizations by induction secundum principia generalia non universalia ; and the generality thus attained is still so limited that numberless exceptions must be allowed to every individual in order that he may adapt the choice of his mode of life to his own particular inclinations and his capacity for pleasure.
And, after all, the individual has really to acquire his prudence at the cost of his own suffering or that of his neighbors the form. But it is quite otherwise with the principles of morality. They lay down commands for every one without regard to his particular inclinations, and merely because and so far as he is free, and has a practical reason. Instruction in the laws of morality is not drawn from observation of oneself or of our animal nature, nor from perception of the course of the world in regard to what happens, or how men act.
For, although reason allows us to seek what is for our advantage in every possible way, and although, founding upon the evidence of experience, it may further promise that greater advantages will probably follow on the average from the observance of her commands than from their transgression, especially if prudence guides the conduct, yet the authority of her precepts as commands does not rest on such considerations.
They are used by reason only as counsels, and by way of a counterpoise against seductions to an opposite course, when adjusting beforehand the equilibrium of a partial balance in the sphere of practical judgement, in order thereby to secure the decision of this judgement, according to the due weight of the a priori principles of a pure practical reason.
Metaphysics designates any system of knowledge a priori that consists of pure conceptions. Accordingly, a practical philosophy not having nature, but the freedom of the will for its object, will presuppose and require a metaphysic of morals.
It is even a duty to have such a metaphysic; and every man does, indeed, possess it in himself, although commonly but in an obscure way. For how could any one believe that he has a source of universal law in himself, without principles a priori? And just as in a metaphysics of nature there must be principles regulating the application of the universal supreme principles of nature to objects of experience, so there cannot but be such principles in the metaphysic of morals; and we will often have to deal objectively with the particular nature of man as known only by experience, in order to show in it the consequences of these universal moral principles.
But this mode of dealing with these principles in their particular applications will in no way detract from their rational purity, or throw doubt on their a priori origin. In other words, this amounts to saying that a metaphysic of morals cannot be founded on anthropology as the empirical science of man, but may be applied to it. The counterpart of a metaphysic of morals, and the other member of the division of practical philosophy, would be a moral anthropology, as the empirical science of the moral nature of man.
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This science would contain only the subjective conditions that hinder or favor the realization in practice of the universal moral laws in human nature, with the means of propagating, spreading, and strengthening the moral principles — as by the education of the young and the instruction of the people — and all other such doctrines and precepts founded upon experience and indispensable in themselves, although they must neither precede the metaphysical investigation of the principles of reason, nor be mixed up with it.
For, by doing so, there would be a great danger of laying down false, or at least very flexible moral laws, which would hold forth as unattainable what is not attained only because the law has not been comprehended and presented in its purity, in which also its strength consists.
Or, otherwise, spurious and mixed motives might be adopted instead of what is dutiful and good in itself; and these would furnish no certain moral principles either for the guidance of the judgement or for the discipline of the heart in the practice of duty.
It is only by pure reason, therefore, that duty can and must be prescribed. The higher division of philosophy, under which the division just mentioned stands, is into theoretical philosophy and practical philosophy.
Practical philosophy is just moral philosophy in its widest sense, as has been explained elsewhere. It is only what is practicable according to laws of freedom that can have principles independent of theory, for there is no theory in relation to what passes beyond the determinations of nature. Philosophy therefore cannot embrace under its practical division a technical theory, but only a morally practical doctrine.
But if the dexterity of the will in acting according to laws of freedom, in contradistinction to nature, were to be also called an art, it would necessarily indicate an art which would make a system of freedom possible like the system of nature. This would truly be a Divine art, if we were in a position by means of it to realize completely what reason prescribes to us, and to put the idea into practice.
All legislation, whether relating to internal or external action, and whether prescribed a priori by mere reason or laid down by the will of another, involves two elements: First, a law which represents the action that ought to happen as necessary objectively, thus making the action a duty; second, a motive which connects the principle determining the will to this action with the mental representation of the law subjectively, so that the law makes duty the motive of the action.
By the first element, the action is represented as a duty, in accordance with the mere theoretical knowledge of the possibility of determining the activity of the will by practical rules. By the second element, the obligation so to act is connected in the subject with a determining principle of the will as such. All legislation, therefore, may be differentiated by reference to its motive-principle.
That legislation which does not include the motive-principle in the law, and consequently admits another motive than the idea of duty itself, is juridical.
In respect of the latter, it is evident that the motives distinct from the idea of duty, to which it may refer, must be drawn from the subjective pathological influences of inclination and of aversion, determining the voluntary activity, and especially from the latter; because it is a legislation which has to be compulsory, and not merely a mode of attracting or persuading.
The agreement or non-agreement of an action with the law, without reference to its motive, is its legality; and that character of the action in which the idea of duty arising from the law at the same time forms the motive of the action, is its morality. For instance, actions may in all cases be classified as external. Duties specially in accord with a juridical legislation can only be external duties. For this mode of legislation does not require that the idea of the duty, which is internal, shall be of itself the determining principle of the act of will; and as it requires a motive suitable to the nature of its laws, it can only connect what is external with the law.
Ethical legislation, on the other hand, makes internal actions also duties, but not to the exclusion of the external, for it embraces everything which is of the nature of duty.