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No.4, 20th December 2005

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Kant on Inclinations: ‘Alien’ or ‘Human’?





Saju Chackalackal


1. Introduction

The central thrust of Kant’s ethics is practical as well as transcendental with its emphasis on the synthetic a priori nature of the moral law in the form of the categorical imperative.  Kant defends the necessity and universality that are characteristic features of the moral law with a view to safeguard its transcendental justification and employment in the sensible world.  In this process, however, he assigns an “alien” status to human inclinations, which technically includes human interests, desires, emotions, etc.  The assumption that Kant’s moral perspective, by necessity, revolves around an integral human person calls for a reconsideration and appraisal of the role of human inclinations in realizing human destiny.

2. Pure Reason versus Impure Inclinations

Kant clearly holds that only a moral theory based on reason could be sufficiently universal, and command with necessity.  To this effect, both Critique of Pure Reason and the Critique of Practical Reason approach human cognitions and faculties from the perspective of maintaining the synthetic a priori nature of the moral law, so much so that anything other than the rational moral motive is rejected as spurious.  A passage in the Preface of the Groundwork sets the tone of Kant’s approach for the rest of his career:

Everyone must admit that a law has to carry with it absolute necessity if it is to be valid morally – valid, that is, as a ground of obligation; ... the obligation must be looked for, not in the nature of man nor in the circumstances of the world in which he is placed, but solely a priori in the concepts of pure reason; and that every other precept based on principles of mere experience – and even a precept that may in a certain sense be considered universal, so far as it rests in its slightest part, perhaps only in its motive, on empirical grounds – can indeed be called a practical rule, but never a moral law.[1]

Therefore, the role of inclinations and desires is met with the same fate in Kant’s critical ethics as their presence and activity within the human person are considered to adversely affect the motive in the spectrum of moral practice.  Moreover, any of our attempts to make moral principles out of knowledge drawn from experience is labelled as “the grossest and most pernicious errors.”[2]  For experience leaves us without any “certain moral principles, either to guide judgment or to discipline the mind in fulfilling our duty; for such precepts must be given a priori by pure reason alone.”[3]

Kant holds that pure reason is practical, which means that pure reason is capable of determining the will by its own principles, that is, independently of any antecedent interest or desire, and of providing the principle or motive to act or not to act accordingly.  Moreover, both in the intent and the content of his critical philosophy, Kant is explicit with regard to the unique place of reason in human beings and, thus, in the whole architectonic of pure reason.  His insertion of the word pure along with practical reason in each of the main headings of the second Critique indicates the difference in the viewpoints of the theoretical and the practical approach with regard to empirical aspects.  While employing theoretical reason without empirically considering its object leads to illusion, “the practical standpoint [of] reason runs into illusion when it tries to reach conclusions by considering its object empirically.”[4]  Kant is vehemently against all those who claim that morality has an impure source and demands that it must be kept pure without being defiled by any other non-rational faculties.[5]  He upholds the primacy of reason, and that unless reason is capable of raising us to a status above the animals that are devoid of reason, and to fit us for “higher purposes,” the claim of possessing the faculty of reason is in itself worthless.[6]  This thrust is central to Kant’s practical philosophy so much so that it dictated even the very structure of the second Critique in contradistinction to that of the first.  He writes at the end of the introduction:

... In the present work we begin with principles and proceed to concepts, and only then, if possible, go on to the senses, while in the study of speculative reason we had to start with the senses and end with principles.  Again the reason for this lies in the fact that here we have to deal with a will and to consider reason not in relation to objects but in relation to this will and its causality.  The principles of the empirically unconditioned causality must come first, their application to objects, and finally their application to the subject and its sensuous faculty.  The law of causality from freedom, i.e., any pure practical principle, is the unavoidable beginning and determines the objects to which it alone can be applied.[7]

Later, in a section entitled “Critical Elucidation of the Analytic of Pure Practical Reason,” he draws an analogy (though a wrong one)[8] between the structure of the first and second Critiques whereby he insists that sensibility within the Aesthetic section of the latter is “regarded not as a faculty of intuition but merely as feeling (which can be a subjective ground of desire).”[9]  This is indicative of the primacy of reason and the irrelevance or deprecating role assigned to inclinations in the whole of Kant’s ethics.  His preoccupation to safeguard and uphold the transcendental purity of the moral law so as to make it the necessary and universal rule of life had an adverse influence upon our ‘non-rational’ faculties, to the extent of considering them irrelevant and even detrimental to the moral law.

As early as in 1770, i.e., starting with the Inaugural Dissertation, Kant is found to have rejected the moral sense theory along with its principles of pleasure to be capable of providing the first principles of morality, and to have held that only through the pure intellect we can know the first principles of moral judgment.  While he insists in the first Critique that no concepts, including the formulation of the categories, can be thought without first being given in (possible or actual) intuition, practical concepts are justified by the fact of pure reason, without needing any appeal to empirical or pure intuitions.[10]

Consciousness of the moral law for a moral agent, according to Kant, requires no further confirmation as against the injunction of the first Critique; for practical reason deals not with what is, but what ought to be, which, he insists, cannot be confirmed or validated by anything in the realm of the actual: “... so far as nature is concerned, experience supplies the rules and is the source of truth, in respect of the moral laws it is, alas, the mother of illusion!  Nothing is more reprehensible than to derive the laws prescribing what ought to be done from what is done....”[11]  For, as Kemp Smith writes in his commentary, “the actual is not test of the Ideal; ‘what is’ is not test of what ought to be.  And ... the moral law, if valid after all, must apply not merely within the limits of experience, but with absolute universality to all rational beings.”[12]

Practical concepts are said to produce the reality to which they refer by an intention of the will, requiring no intuition to determine the object they are referring to: “The morally good ... is something which, by its object, is supersensuous; nothing corresponding to it can be found in sensuous intuition.”[13]  The knowledge of the fact of moral law gives content to the practical concepts and, thus, they require no further schematisation or construction in intuition for a definite constitutive employment.  Kant holds that “the moral law has no other cognitive faculty to mediate its application to objects of nature than the understanding (not the imagination); and the understanding can supply to an idea of reason not a schema of sensibility but a law.”[14]  So, he consistently rules out any role to inclinations in determining the nature of the moral law, and maintains that any action motivated by desires may have only “legality but not morality.”[15]  All the more, he considers that “all admixture of incentives which derive from one’s own happiness are a hindrance to the influence of the moral law on the human heart,” and, hence, the moral law is more powerful “the more purely it is presented.”[16]

3. Heteronomy and Immorality

Kant consistently degrades the role of non-rational faculties in his treatment of the moral law, and any action performed under the influence of them is considered to be falling under the “mechanism of nature,”[17] and hence heteronomous and immoral or non-moral: “Our actions are determined either practically, i.e., in accordance with laws of freedom, or pathologically, in accordance with laws of our sensuous nature.”[18]  Moreover, he holds that “the man who does a thing because it is pleasant is pathologically determined.”[19]  According to his evaluation, most of the ethical theories before him were conditioned by the pathological desires (i.e., anything other than the moral law, in general) and, thus, are objectionable.  As against such theories, he maintains that the key to the determination of the will and, hence, any valid moral theory, is only through the moral law: “as a free will, and thus not only without co-operating with sensuous impulses but even rejecting all of them and checking all inclinations so far as they could be antagonistic to the law, it is determined merely by the law.”[20]  This law being the form of an intellectual causality, then, is able to positively restrict or strike down the power of inclination so as to become “an object of the greatest respect and thus the ground of a positive feeling which is not of empirical origin ... [and] can be known a priori.”[21]

Inclination (Neigung) indicates a need, and, as Kant puts it in Anthropology, is “a subject’s sensuous desire which has become customary (habit).”[22]  It belongs to the determined physical and psychological nature of human beings; it just happens to us, and therefore, we cannot choose either to have or not to have such an inclination or desire.  It results when the predisposition to the desire of some enjoyment has been fulfilled, and the object of desire has been experienced or enjoyed in a habitual manner: “Habitual sensuous desire is called inclination,”[23] which includes both emotions and passions (which differ only in degree and quality).  Kant also considers that the subjection of a human being to emotions and passions is “an illness of mind” as they “exclude the sovereignty of reason.”[24]  In the introduction to the Metaphysic of Morals he holds that “unless reason holds the reins of government in its own hands, man’s feelings and inclinations assume mastery over him,”[25] which, according to him, is unacceptable from a moral point of view.  Therefore, he is against according any value to them in determining the moral law.  In the second Critique he writes:

Inclination, be it good-natured or otherwise, is blind and slavish; reason, when it is a question of morality, must not play the part of mere guardian of the inclinations, but, without regard to them, as pure practical reason it must care for its own interest to the exclusion of all else.  Even the feeling of sympathy and warm-hearted fellow-feeling, when preceding the consideration of what is duty and serving as a determining ground, is burdensome even to right-thinking persons, confusing their considered maxims and creating the wish to be free from them and subject only to law-giving reason.[26]

In contrast to those actions done from duty (aus Pflicht), those from inclination (aus Neigung) stem from our sensuous, as opposed to our rational, nature.  However, as they emerge from a need, and as they are being incorporated into our maxims, it is possible that they be mistakenly identified as supreme practical principles, whereby rendering actions heteronomous and, thus, uprooting moral intentions.  On this basis he finds empiricism more reprehensible than mysticism:

It substitutes for duty something entirely different, namely, an empirical interest, with which inclinations generally are secretly in league.  For this reason empiricism is allied with the inclinations, which, no matter what style they wear, always degrade mankind when they are raised to the dignity of a supreme practical principle.  But these inclinations are so favourable to everyone’s feelings that empiricism is far more dangerous than all mystical enthusiasm, which can never be a lasting condition for any great number of persons.[27]

So, both the source of inclination and its dependence on sensibility, and its aligning with empirical interests with a motive for happiness,[28] and the thrust on striving for its own satisfaction[29] set it apart as unworthy of a moral motive and even detrimental to it.  That is to say, only “a universally valid law that is not derived from the contents of our inclinations alone and can motivate us independently of them is a clearly necessary condition of any proper understanding of duty.”[30]  So, being the product of nature (as against freedom), and desired not for its own sake but only for the sake of satisfying ends outside itself (hence, unworthy to serve as a foundation to the categorical imperative), an inclination is held to be unfit to participate in the formulation of and adherence to the moral principles; nay, for Kant, natural inclinations are opposed to or obstacles for the attainment of virtue, whereby they are considered “evil in [themselves], absolutely reprehensible, and must be completely eradicated.”[31]

 4. Kantian Call to Reject Inclinations

Given the nature of inclinations and their “conditioned value” with regard to the moral law, Kant holds that the attempt of every rational agent should be to distance oneself from them: “Inclinations themselves, as sources of needs, are so far from having an absolute value to make them desirable for their own sake that it must rather be the universal wish of every rational being to be wholly free from them.”[32]  This is so because, in themselves not being unconditionally valuable, inclinations lack any objective ground or principle for action, as they are the unstable and unreliable subjective desires that have become customary through mere habit. 

Whatever ... is derived from the special predisposition of humanity, from certain feelings and propensities, and even, if this were possible, from some special bent peculiar to human reason and not holding necessarily for the will of every rational being – all this can indeed supply a personal maxim, but not a law: it can give us a subjective principle – one on which we have a propensity and inclination to act – but not an objective one on which we should be directed to act although our every propensity, inclination, and natural bent were opposed to it...[33]

Moreover, these natural inclinations cannot be entirely satisfied, as a result of which they create an ever-changing set of needs, the fulfilment of which would be self-defeating with regard to the moral law which is marked by necessity and universality: “No mere sentiments, no matter how favourable to duty, can be relied upon as the motivation to perform duty, for the simple reason that all of our sentiments and inclinations are liable to change in the course of nature.”[34]  That is, Kant holds that an empirically recognized source lacks moral content (moralischen Gehalt) and cannot be the ground of an a priori judgment and, thus, cannot serve as an adequate motive for conformity to the moral law.

The inadequacy of inclinations to originate a priori necessity and universality characteristic of the moral law, according to Kant, indicates the need to establish the reign of reason by curbing the rule of the former in the practical realm.  He holds that “since the sensuous inclinations tempt us to ends (as the matter of choice) which may be contrary to duty, legislative reason can check their influence only by another end, a moral end set up against the ends of inclination, which must therefore be given a priori, independently of the inclinations.”[35]  It is the power of self-determination exercised by the will in independence from all sensuous impulses.[36]  As it is with the concept of freedom, it is only in being independent from all sensuous impulses that one is free,[37] and can exercise the capacity of rational choice and spontaneity of reason.  Therefore, what is required of us is “the a priori subjection of the manifold of desires to the unity of consciousness of a practical reason commanding in the moral law, i.e., of a pure will.”[38]  Thus, according to Kant, it is not in giving in to the inclinations, but in the active use of the free will that we realize our human nature as against that of the animals[39] and, thus, realize our moral worth.

 5. Motive of Duty along with Inclination

In this connection, there arises the question of the moral worth of those actions done both from duty and from inclination.  Kant holds that “it is a very beautiful thing to do good to men because of love and sympathetic good will, or to do justice because of a love of order.”[40]  He also has no objection to inclinations accompanying (mit Neigung), or ensuing from, acts that are done out of duty; in such cases motives other than duty serve as “supplementary or cooperating motive that provides needed support for the motive of duty.”[41]  Moreover, he does not claim that an otherwise morally worthy act would lose its moral significance if an agent has an inclination for the same act.  He even holds that “cheerfulness of heart in the discharge of one’s duty ... is a sign of the genuineness of a virtuous sentiment.”[42]  At the same time, however, it must be remembered that doing something that coincides with duty out of an inclination (aus Neigung) is not to act out of duty (aus Pflicht):

It stands on the same footing as other inclinations – for example, the inclination for honour, which if fortunate enough to hit on something beneficial and right and consequently honourable, deserves praise and encouragement, but not esteem; for its maxim lacks moral content, namely, the performance of such actions, not from inclination, but from duty.[43]

The alternative is to act only from maxims with moral content:

When ... disappointments and hopeless misery have quite taken away the taste for life; when a wretched man, strong in soul and more angered at his fate than faint-hearted or cast down, longs for death and still preserves his life without loving it – not from inclination or fear but from duty; then indeed his maxim has a moral content.[44]

He continues to hold the same all through his ethical writings: what is required, according to the second Critique, is “only that we take no account of them [i.e., inclinations] whenever duty is in question.”[45]  For Kant, it is not enough that good acts are performed with any purpose, but they must be performed with the sole intention of acting out of duty.  In this regard, his injunction in the Metaphysic of Morals is clear enough: “do your duty from the motive of duty [handle pflichtmäßig aus Pflicht].”[46]  Against this, any free and spontaneous attempt on the part of a moral agent to assign duty a subordinate position to that of inclinations would turn out to be the root of all moral evil.[47]

 6. Constructive Role of Human Inclination

Kant seems, however, to be increasingly positive towards the contributions of the non-rational faculties, although he is unmoved in his central thrust of duty.  Even in the Groundwork he seems to have held that the pure practical reason must be a “higher faculty of desire” which is able to “supply a motive [Triebfeder] and create an interest [Interesse] which could be called purely moral.”[48]  In the second Critique also, he refers to a moral feeling or respect for the law, which results from our adherence to the moral law motivated by our recognition of the law itself; it is not “antecedent” to but “produced solely by reason.”

Respect for the law is not the incentive to morality; it is morality itself, regarded subjectively as an incentive, inasmuch as pure practical reason, by rejecting all the rival claims of self-love, gives authority and absolute sovereignty to the law.  It should be noticed that, as respect is an effect on feeling and thus on the sensibility of a rational being, it presupposes the sensuous and hence the finitude of such beings on whom respect for the moral law is imposed; thus respect for the law cannot be attributed to a supreme being or even to one free from all sensibility, since to such a being there could be no obstacle to practical reason.[49]

That is, as our rationality is mixed with sensibility, in order that the moral law is carried out (but not as a motive) it must be able to generate specifically moral sentiments that can counter other opposing incentives.  Further in the Metaphysic of Morals, he holds that we have an indirect duty to cultivate sympathetic feelings, which would strengthen our resolve for duty:

... It is our duty: not to avoid places where we shall find the poor who lack the most basic essentials, but rather to seek them out; not to shun sick-rooms or debtors’ prisons in order to avoid the painful sympathetic feelings that we cannot guard against.  For this is still one of the impulses which nature has implanted in us so that we may do what the thought of duty alone would not accomplish.[50]

The intent of this passage is not to say that such feelings would motivate a moral agent to act from duty, but only that with them he or she would be in a better position to practise duty, though clearly it is not to act from inclination, but only with it.  To be more precise, strictly speaking it is not an inclination (as if an impulse or emotion, or passion) but an interest which can lead us to actions directed according to policies and plans under the dictates of the moral law: “An interest is that in virtue of which reason becomes practical – that is, becomes a cause determining the will.  Hence only of a rational being do we say that he takes an interest in something: non-rational creatures merely feel sensuous impulses.”[51]  These moral interests, which are also known as moral feelings, or respect for the law, however, as “natural dispositions of the mind (praedispositio) to be affected by concepts of duty” “lie at the basis of morality, as subjective conditions of our receptiveness to the concept of duty.”[52]

In this connection Kant recognizes that the task of reason is not merely to rule over inclinations (which arise independently of it), but to be instrumental in their origination, and to play a role in their modification and moral cultivation.  For, he maintains that from a natural point of view, there are many inclinations “which the living nature (every man) cannot be without.”[53]  Thus, reason has to appropriate and make its own by restructuring them into judgments according to the moral law.  Cox holds that the impulses are not guided by reason as a horse is driven by its rider, but are to be “incorporated into rational judgments more in the way that an organism assimilates food,”[54] implying that they are not accorded an alien status, but are integral to the moral agent.

7. Rejection of a Moral Role to Inclination

Despite Kant’s claim that inclinations and feelings belong to what is given, they are not objects we can observe with our senses, and in that sense they “lie outside our whole faculty of knowledge,”[55] and “yield no knowledge.”[56]  At the same time, they are classified as belonging to the phenomenal world by which they are made incapable of having any legitimate role in a moral theory.  This creates a peculiar situation with regard to their nature and status, and reflects the unease with which Kant deals with them in critical philosophy.  His overstress on the problems associated with inclinations against developing a morality founded only on the motive of duty seems not to do justice to the former as they are very much part and parcel of every human being.  At least, it must be admitted that inclinations are not the result of a mechanical causality as it is assumed to be functioning in the animal kingdom.  In fact, they cannot be held to be responsible for moral evil, which can be attributed only to our will.[57]  His own recognition of moral feelings, especially the respect for the moral law, points to the fact that they are the result of an integral and simultaneous application of human reason and human desire; and what results is uniquely human and it cannot be animal in any way.[58]  Moreover, in the second Critique, Kant admits that “to be free from their influence,” and “origin,” or a “complete independence from inclinations and desires” is beyond human beings as it “can be ascribed only to the supreme being.”[59]  It is difficult, then, to understand why and how according a rightful place to inclinations in Kant’s moral theory should adversely affect the “strict laws of duty” or “throw doubt on their validity,” or still further, “pervert their very foundations and destroy their whole dignity.”[60] 

The very fact of the inner struggle that Kant is referring to in the practice of morality is indicative of their permanent and permeating presence along with the rational faculties and, hence, their legitimate human origin.  This is not to be seen merely as occasioning a battle between two opposing and impersonal forces, and the human being to be a helpless and passive spectator of the war between reason and desire.  For, we are endowed not merely with rationality in order to fully realize our humanity, but a whole lot of other faculties (all of them being fully human), an integration of which is essential to any theory – including ethics – that has humanity at its centre.

 8. A Biased Kantian Division of Faculties

There seems to be a serious problem in Kant’s division of human faculties into reason, will, and inclination (for our purpose here, including emotions, passions, interests, etc., put together under the faculty of desire[61]), which is the generally accepted understanding about a human being.  Undue stress on this division,[62] in terms of a watertight compartmentalization, identifying their roles in opposition to each other, which Kant utilizes to formulate his critical human faculty structure, is suspicious.  The question before us is: do we have many faculties having different functions associated with each of them, or only a single one that can assume different functions as it is being applied differently?  An integral view of a human being (which is at the basis of an integral ethics, too) prompts for an integral faculty having its source in our intellect.[63]  The more general and abstract its function tends to be, we call it reason, which, in turn, would be able to make equally general and abstract applications, giving rise to principles.  For Kant reason is “the faculty of principles.”[64]  When the general and abstracted content of the intellect (by reason) tends to motivate action, or is put into practice in relation to our uniquely human nature and conscious actions we call it will.  In the Groundwork, Kant holds that the will is “the power to act in accordance with his idea of laws, that is, in accordance with principles.”[65]  Those that are less abstract, but closely related to the concrete individual dimensions and situations are the inclinations.  In this understanding laws are derived by reason, as it is able to make abstractions and generalizations on the content of subjective experiences, from which principles and laws can be arrived at.[66]  From the abstracted content reason makes a leap into the perfect mode (‘platonically’ corresponding to the actual) whereby it is able to give rise to ideas and ideals having the characteristic of stability or permanency, which can be effectively utilized by the will to set the “ought to be” in the place of “what is.”  Reason and inclination seem to stand at two extremes only because of abstractions made by the former on the latter; thus, they are not at all constitutively different, but have the same origin.  So also, then, their functions cannot be opposed to each other.  Acting solely based on inclination is erroneous, especially when applied in relation to our uniquely human actions (by the will), as it would then disregard the capacity of the same intellect for acting according to principles, which it has given rise to and, thus, acting against itself.  It is the unique function of the will to bring together in action the principles of reason and the concrete and subjective elements of inclinations, and to give rise to an integral dimension to the working of the intellect in a human person.

If this picture of the integral function of the intellect is right, then, Kant’s stringent measures to set apart all inclinations are questionable.  Considering inclinations and desires as “alien sources”[67] in critical philosophy is a strange conclusion, especially because inclinations, too, are part of our human nature, and are the most characteristic expressions of a person.  Reason and will, which are considered to be authentic, are only so because of the general abstractions made on what one has as one’s own.  Then, it seems to be paradoxical that Kant’s critical philosophy has conceded only an ‘alien’ status to inclinations (which are the natural and spontaneous elements of a human person), and accorded the natural and authentic and, thus, human status to reason and will (i.e., that which is derived from the natural).  The stress that Kant lays on reason and will, at the exclusion of inclinations, reflects the undue importance that he grants to necessity and universality as the characteristic elements of critical philosophy.[68]  It is true that necessity and universality can be ascribed only on generalizations and abstractions; this is especially so as the inclinations are more subjective and concrete, but definitely real and natural, and nothing to be categorized as ‘alien’ at all.  Any step in such a direction is unbecoming of considering human person in totality.  Kant holds in his Lectures on Ethics that “it is not possible to have the disposal of a part only of a person without having at the same time a right of disposal over the whole person, for each part of a person is integrally bound up with the whole.”[69]  This integration, as Aristotle had already pointed out in his Nicomachean Ethics, is a “thoughtful desire” or, alternatively, a “desiring thought”[70] implying a human capacity not only to think but also to desire.  Therefore, everything, including inclinations, has its rightful place and role in a human person, without being detrimental to the primacy of duty.  Kant rightly expresses it in the first Critique: “everything that has its basis in the nature of our powers must be appropriate to, and consistent with, their right employment – if only we can guard against a certain misunderstanding and so can discover the proper direction of these powers.”[71]

 9. Conclusion: Towards an Integral Personality

By nature a human being is endowed with three original drives (Anlagen) or predispositions the fulfilment or realization of which would be the key to a truly human existence and the attainment of the highest good in the moral world.[72]  They are the predispositions to animality, to humanity, and to personality.  Animality is our predisposition as a physical being, which strives for self-preservation and preservation of the species as a whole.  In other words, it involves our pre-rational, or instinctual basis that preserves, propagates, and cares for our own physical being and our offspring.  The predisposition to humanity lays stress on our social being, which sees to it that our natural self-development is achieved, whereby we also acquire worth in the opinion of others.[73]  Left to itself, it considers man as a rational animal, and is said to involve a capacity to use reason in the service of inclinations.  However, Kant holds that the characteristic of humanity is the power to set an end and to work towards its realization, which involves our capacity to choose,[74] and to desire.  The third, the predisposition to personality is our power to adopt the moral law as the end, and our consciousness of being obligated to respect it.  So, going beyond the concept of a mere rational animal, a human being is considered as a moral and responsible agent who has “predispositions toward good (they enjoin the observance of the law).”[75]  Animality and humanity can become unworthy of a human being when they are employed against the moral law, thus against the predisposition to personality.  The true nature of a human being can be realized, it seems, only when all of these aspects and faculties of a human person operate in a concerted and integrated manner, where, of course, respect for the moral law, which is our predisposition to personality assumes the decisive role. 

What is called for is to complete and perfect our humanity by fully determining our ends by reason, thus responding to the moral incentives: this facilitates the realization of our human potential by way of moving closer to the final end of becoming a person.  What we try to achieve is the full blossoming of our humanity, of course, in view of realizing our personality, though, according to Kant, we can never be certain of having achieved it. 

A moral agent can legitimately aim at the realization of each one’s humanity, in terms of his or her capacity for the good will.  It is in this regard that the second Critique treats humanity and personality in one’s own person as if they were identical.[76]  It is in our ability to choose the moral law, and in setting our ends only from the motive of duty, taking into consideration the whole human being – with all limitations and prospects – that we can see ourselves as fulfilling our moral vocation.  Realization of our humanity, which is in our reach, is the task[77] entrusted to us as human beings, and, what ensues from it – on its own – is personality, the perfect realization of our nature: it can be seen as the gift that we become worthy to be entrusted with.  It would be the perfect harmony between Wille and Willkür, the legislative will and the elective will.  Thus, becoming worthy of this unique gift of personality is a great burden – as one does not always act spontaneously out of duty – and the sublime vocation,[78] as it is the final destiny – of every human being.


[1]Kant, Groundwork, Ak. IV, 389 (Paton 57).

[2]Kant, Metaphysic of Morals, Ak. VI, 215 (Gregor 12).

[3]Kant, Metaphysic of Morals, Ak. VI, 217 (Gregor 15), emphasis added.

[4]Palmquist, Kant’s System of Perspectives, 248.

[5]In the second Critique he insists that “moral feeling is ... produced solely by reason.” Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 76 (Beck 79).

[6]See Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 61 (Beck 63); Kant, Education, Ak. IX, 442, 447 (Churton 2, 13).

[7]Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 16 (Beck 16).

[8]See the footnote (5) inserted by Beck in his translation of Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 90 (Beck 93).

[9]Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 90 (Beck 93).

[10]Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 66 (Beck 68).

[11]Kant, CPR A318-19/B375.

[12]Kemp Smith, A Commentary, page 572.

[13]Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 68 (Beck 70-71).

[14]Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 69 (Beck 71-72).

[15]Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 71 (Beck 74); see also Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 74-75 (Beck 77).

[16]Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 156 (Beck 160).

[17]Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 97 (Beck 100); see also Kant, CPR A418-19/B446-47.

[18]Kant, Lectures on Ethics (Infield), 14.

[19]Kant, Lectures on Ethics (Infield), 16.

[20]Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 72 (Beck 75).

[21]Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 73 (Beck 76).

[22]Kant, Groundwork, Ak. IV, 413n (Paton 81) and Kant, Anthropology (Dowdell), 172.

[23]Kant, Anthropology (Dowdell), 155; also Kant, Metaphysic of Morals, Ak. VI, 212 (Gregor 9).

[24]Kant, Anthropology (Dowdell), 155.

[25]Kant, Metaphysic of Morals, Ak. VI, 408 (Gregor 70).

[26]Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 118 (Beck 122-23).  Elsewhere he holds that “the prudent man must at no time be in a state of emotion, not even in that of sympathy with the woes of his best friend, is an entirely correct and sublime moral precept of the Stoic school because emotion makes one (more or less) blind.” Kant, Anthropology (Dowdell), 158.

[27]Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 71 (Beck 74).

[28]Kant, Metaphysic of Morals, Ak. VI, 480, 482 (Gregor 153, 155).

[29]Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 146 (Beck 152).

[30]Guyer, Kant and the Experience of Freedom, 344.

[31]Kant, Religion, Ak. VI, 58 (Greene & Hudson 51).  In another passage he holds that Willkür is corrupted by making our “lower incentives supreme among its maxims.”  That is to say, in choosing ends and actions according to maxims that have a sensible origin, the will subordinates reason to the pursuit of non-rational ends.  See Kant, Religion, Ak. VI, 42 (Greene & Hudson 38).  His detrimental remark on inclinations goes further in holding that the passions (the persisting or more powerful inclinations) are incurable “cancerous sores for pure practical reason.” Kant, Anthropology (Dowdell), 181.

[32]Kant, Groundwork, Ak. IV, 428 (Paton 95-96).

[33]Kant, Groundwork, Ak. IV, 425 (Paton 93).

[34]Kant, Reflection 6902, Ak. XIX, 201; see also Kant, Reflection 7202, Ak. XIX, 277, quoted in Guyer, Kant and the Experience of Freedom, 342.

[35]Kant, Metaphysic of Morals, Ak. VI, 380-81 (Gregor 38).

[36]See Kant, CPR A534B562, A802/B830.

[37]Kant, Metaphysic of Morals, Ak. VI, 213 (Gregor 10).

[38]Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 65 (Beck 67).

[39]It may be interesting to note a statement from Kant’s Reflections: “Man is an animal who is in need of, and capable of, discipline by reason.” Kant, Reflection 1499, Ak. XV, page 782; see also Kant, Reflection 1500, page 785, both quoted in Velkley, Freedom and the End of Reason, 155.

[40]Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 82 (Beck 85).

[41]Korsgaard, Creating the Kingdom of Ends, 58.

[42]Quoted in Webb, Kant’s Philosophy of Religion, 98.

[43]Kant, Groundwork, Ak. IV, 398 (Paton 66).

[44]Kant, Groundwork, Ak. IV, 398 (Paton 65-66).

[45]Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 93 (Beck 96).  See also Kant, On the Old Saw, Ak. VIII, 278 (Ashton 45).

[46]Kant, Metaphysic of Morals, Ak. VI, 391 (Gregor 50).  It may be added that for Kant there is no question of considering an action as morally worthy when done both from duty and from inclination at the same time.  In order to be moral it has to be performed from duty, and only from duty; if not, he would insist that it is risky (bedenklich) to let other motives cooperate (mitwirken) with the moral law.  See Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 72 (Beck 75).

[47]Kant, Religion, Ak. VI, 36 (Greene & Hudson 31).

[48]Kant, Groundwork, Ak. IV, 461 (Paton 129); see also Groundwork, Ak. IV, 413n (Paton 81).  In order to arrive at purely moral motives, we have to attend “to the necessity with which reason prescribes them to us and ... [eliminate] from them all empirical conditions, which reason directs.” Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 30 (Beck 29).

[49]Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 76 (Beck 78-79).  We find Kant insisting on this from his Groundwork onwards: “Duty is the necessity to act out of reverence for the law.” Kant, Groundwork, Ak. IV, 400 (Paton 68).

[50]Kant, Metaphysic of Morals, Ak. VI, 457 (Gregor 126).

[51]Kant, Groundwork, Ak. IV, 459n (Paton 128); see also Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 74-75 (Beck 77-78).

[52]Kant, Metaphysic of Morals, Ak. VI, 399 (Gregor 59).  In the second Critique Kant holds that “even an inclination to do that which accords with duty (e.g., beneficent acts) can at most facilitate the effectiveness of moral maxims but not produce them.” Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 118 (Beck 122).  Later, in the Critique of Judgment, we find him emphasizing the positive side of the moral feeling than he does in the second Critique (Kant, CJ §29, Ak. V, 271 (Bernard 111-12)).

[53]Kant, Anthropology (Dowdell), 174.

[54]Cox, The Will at the Crossroads, 76.

[55]Kant, CPR A801n/B829n.

[56]Kant, Metaphysic of Morals, Ak. VI, 400 (Gregor 60).

[57]See e.g., Kant, Groundwork, Ak. IV, 398 (Paton 66); Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 32-33 (Beck 32-33); Kant, Religion, Ak. VI, 34-35, 57-58 (Greene & Hudson 30, 50-51).

[58]By way of distinction: an animal will is the will of a being that is determined (as it is known to us) entirely by efficient causes of sensuous impulses; a human will, on the contrary, is the will of a being with the power of judgment, the ability to synthesize sensuous impulses and even alter their conjunctions with another in practical judgments which can revise such impulses.  See Cox, The Will at the Crossroads, 93.

[59]Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 118 (Beck 123).

[60]Kant, Groundwork, Ak. IV, 405 (Paton 73).

[61]Kant, Groundwork, Ak. IV, 413n (Paton 81).

[62]In the Metaphysic of Morals Kant explicitly holds this triple division of our faculties: “... the force in you that strives only toward happiness is inclination; but the power that limits your inclination to the condition of your first being worthy of happiness is your reason; and your power to restrain and overcome your inclination by your reason is the freedom of your will” Kant, Metaphysic of Morals, Ak. VI, 481 (Gregor 154).

[63]In the first Critique, while dealing with the structure of pure speculative reason, Kant calls upon the need to consider everything as an organ, in which “the whole [is] for the sake of every part, and every part for the sake of all the others...” Kant, CPR Bxxxviii.  Kant’s later development of teleological doctrine in the Critique of Judgment is reflected here.  See Chackalackal, Unity of Knowing and Acting in Kant, 480ff.

[64]Kant, CPR A299/B356; Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 119 (Beck 124).

[65]Kant, Groundwork, Ak. IV, 412 (Paton 80).

[66]The logical priority of the laws does not give them a status to be absolutely free from experience; instead, they result from the collective human consciousness operative at the universal spectrum, and only to that extent they are synthetic and a priori. Chackalackal, Unity of Knowing and Acting in Kant, 155ff.

[67]Kant, CPR A472n/B500n.  Kant intents this to be only a “non-moral source;” however, despite the fact that the inclinations are not the primary source to determine duty, it is unjustifiable to call them ‘alien’.  In the second Critique Kant holds that man “can never be wholly free from desires and inclinations which, because they rest on physical causes, do not of themselves agree with the moral law, which has an entirely different source.” Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 84 (Beck 86), emphasis added.  See also Kant, Enlightenment, Ak. VIII, 34 (Beck 4).

[68]In the context of Kant’s attempt to fit human faculties to suit his concern for a priori necessity and universality, a passage from the first Critique may be brought against his own theory: we do not say “that a man is too long for his coat, but that the coat is too short for the man.” Kant, CPR A490/B518.

[69]Kant, Lectures on Ethics (Infield) 166, emphasis added.  Along this line, it may be pointed out that the source of evil can be located in the lack of integration among these three functions of the intellect, where an undue stress on any one at the exclusion of the other(s) would be against the person considered as a single whole, and it is this condition that is known as moral evil.  Kant calls it to be man’s natural propensity to evil, or the “radical and innate ... evilness in human nature.” Kant, Religion, Ak. VI, 27 (Greene & Hudson 32).

[70]Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 6.2.1139a36, quoted in Sullivan, Immanuel Kant’s Moral Theory, 26; see also CPR B166; Groundwork, Ak. IV, 459n (Paton  128); CPrR Ak. V, 79 (Beck 82).

[71]Kant, CPR A643-44/B670-71.

[72]Kant, Religion, Ak. VI, 26-27 (Greene & Hudson 22-23); see also Allison, Kant’s Theory of Freedom, 148-49; Sullivan, Immanuel Kant’s Moral Theory, 237.

[73]Kant, Anthropology (Dowdell), 270; Kant, Religion, Ak. VI, 26 (Greene & Hudson 21).

[74]Human is indirectly defined in terms of liberum: Kant, CPR A534/B562.  In the third Critique humanity is considered as the ultimate end of nature, which can be realized through the exercise of freedom.  See Kant, CJ Introduction IX, and §83, Ak. V, 195-96, 431 (Bernard 32-33, 280-81).

[75]Kant, Religion, Ak. VI, 28 (Greene & Hudson 23).

[76]Kant, CPrR Ak. V, 87 (Beck 89-90); see also Kant, Groundwork, Ak. IV, 428-29 (Paton 95-96).

[77]In his “What is Enlightenment?” Kant calls for self-actualised maturity – to be worthy of human beings: “It is so convenient to be immature!  If you have a book to have understanding in place of me, a spiritual advisor to have a conscience for me, a doctor to judge my diet for me, and so on, I need not make any efforts at all.  I need not think, so long as I can pay; others will soon enough take the tiresome job over for me” (Ak. VIII, 35, at  This requires, as we have already seen, stringent practical measures, i.e., to exercise our own rational and self-governing capacity that would set us apart from the lower animals and impart us with human dignity.  For, morally speaking, man makes himself through the autonomous act of self-legislation.

[78]Kant, CPR A317/B374.

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