Ethics: Origin and Development : Chapter 9 : Development of Moral Teachings in the Modern Era (End of 18th century and beginning of 19th century)
(1842 - 1921) ~ Russian Father of Anarcho-Communism : As anarchism's most important philosophers he was in great demand as a writer and contributed to the journals edited by Benjamin Tucker (Liberty), Albert Parsons (Alarm) and Johann Most (Freiheit). Tucker praised Kropotkin's publication as "the most scholarly anarchist journal in existence." (From : Spartacus Educational Bio.)
• "...let us remember that if exasperation often drives men to revolt, it is always hope, the hope of victory, which makes revolutions." (From : "The Spirit of Revolution," by Peter Kropotkin, fi....)
• "...all that is necessary for production-- the land, the mines, the highways, machinery, food, shelter, education, knowledge--all have been seized by the few in the course of that long story of robbery, enforced migration and wars, of ignorance and oppression..." (From : "The Conquest of Bread," by Peter Kropotkin, 1906.)
• "To recognize all men as equal and to renounce government of man by man is another increase of individual liberty in a degree which no other form of association has ever admitted even as a dream." (From : "Communism and Anarchy," by Peter Kropotkin, 1901.)
As was pointed out in the preceding chapter, the teachings of the French philosophers of the eighteenth century-Helvétius, Montesquieu, Voltaire, of the Encyclopædists Diderot and d'Alembert, and of Holbach,-played an important part in the history of the evolution of Ethics. The bold denial by these thinkers of the importance of religion for the development of the moral conceptions, their assertions of equity (at least political), and, finally, the decisive influence in the elaboration of social forms of life credited by most of these philosophers to the rationally interpreted emotion of self-interest-all these factors were Very important in forming correct conceptions of morality; and they helped to bring society to the realization of the fact that morality can be completely liberated from the sanction of religion.
However, the terror of the French Revolution, and the general upheaval that accompanied the abolition of feudal rights, and also the wars that followed the Revolution, compelled many thinkers to seek once more the basis of morality in some supernatural power, which they recognized in more or less disguised form. The political and the social reaction were paralleled in the realm of philosophy by a revival of metaphysics. This revival began in Germany, where at the end of the eighteenth century appeared the greatest German philosopher, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). Kant's teaching is on the border line between the metaphysical philosophy of earlier times, and the scientific philosophy of the nineteenth century. We will now briefly survey Kant's moral philosophy.1
Kant's aim was to create a rational ethics, i. e., a theory of moral conceptions entirely different from the empirical ethics advocated by most English and French thinkers of the eighteenth century. Kant's ethical system was to bear the same relation to preceding theories, as theoretical mechanics bears to applied mechanics.
The aim set by Kant was, of course, not new. Almost all thinkers preceding Kant made the endeavor to determine the rational bases of Ethics. But, contrary to the English and French thinkers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Kant intended to discover the fundamental laws of morality not through study of human nature and through observation of life and the actions of man, but through abstract thinking.
Reflecting on the basis of morality Kant came to the conclusion that it is found in our sense of duty. This sense of duty, according to Kant, originates neither from considerations of utility (whether individual or social) nor from a feeling of sympathy or benevolence; it is a property of human reason. According to Kant there are two kinds of rules of conduct that human reason can create; some of these rules are conditional, others are unconditional. For example: if you wish to be healthy-lead a moderate life:-this is a conditional rule. A man who does not want to lead a moderate life, may choose to neglect his health. Such prescriptions contain nothing absolute, and man may or may not carry them out. In this category of conditional rules are included all the rules of conduct based on interest,-and such conditional prescriptions cannot become the basis of morality. Moral rules should have the absolute character of a categorical imperative, and man's sense of duty constitutes such a categorical imperative.
Just as the axioms of pure mathematics are not acquired by man through experience, (so thought Kant), in the same way the sense of duty, with its intrinsic obligatory nature, partakes of the character of a natural law and is inherent in the mind of every rationally thinking creature. Such is the quality of "pure reason." It does not matter that in actual life man never obeys completely the moral categorical imperative. It is important that man came to recognize this imperative not through observation or through his feelings, but, as it were, discovered it in himself and acknowledged it as the supreme law in his actions.
What, then, is the nature of moral duty? Duty in its very essence is that which has absolute significance, and therefore it can never be merely a means toward some other end, but it is an aim in itself. What, then, has an absolute significance for man, and should, therefore, be his aim?
According to Kant, "Nothing can possibly be conceived in the world, or even out of it, which can be called good without qualification, except a goodwill," i. e., free and rational will. Everything in the world, says Kant, has relative value, and only a rational and free personality has an absolute value in itself. Therefore, free and rational will, possessing an absolute value, constitutes the object of the moral duty. "Thou must be free and rational," such is the moral law.2
Having established this moral law Kant proceeds to derive the first formula of moral conduct; "So act as to treat humanity, whether in thine own person or in that of any other, in every case as an end withal, never as a means only." (Ibid., p. 47.) All men, like ourselves, are endowed with free and rational will: therefore they can never serve for us as means to an end. The ideal which morality is striving to approach is, according to Kant, a republic of free and rational human personalities; a republic in which every personality is the aim of all others. On this basis Kant formulated the moral law as follows: "Act as if the maxim of thy action were to become by thy will a universal law of nature," (p. 39.) Or, in another version,-"Act only on that maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will that it should become a universal law." (p. 38.) Or again,-"I am never to act otherwise than so that I could also will that my maxim should become a universal law." (P. 18.)
The short treatise in which Kant expounded these ideas is written in a simple and forcible style, appealing to the better instincts of man. It can easily be imagined, therefore, what an elevating influence Kant's teaching exerted, especially in Germany. in opposition to the eudemonistic and utilitarian theories of morality, which taught man to be moral because he would find in moral conduct either happiness (eudemonistic theory), or utility (utilitarian theory),Kant asserted that we must lead a moral life because such is the demand of our reason. For example, you must respect your own freedom and the freedom of others, not only when you expect to derive from it pleasure or utility, but always and under all circumstances, because freedom is an absolute good, and only freedom constitutes aim in itself; everything else is but means. In other words, human personality constitutes, according to Kant, the ethical basis of morality and of law.
Thus Kant's ethics is particularly suited to those who, while doubting the obligatory nature of the prescriptions of Church or Bible, hesitate at the same time to adopt the viewpoint of natural science. Likewise, in the camp of the learned scientists, Kant's ethics finds adherents among those who like to believe that man performs on earth a mission predetermined by "Supreme Will," and who find in Kant's teaching the expression of "their own vague beliefs" that are a lingering survival of former faith.
The elevating character of Kant's ethics is indisputable. But, after all, it leaves us in complete ignorance with respect to the principal problem of ethics, i. e., the origin of the sense of duty. To say that man is conscious of so lofty a sense of duty that he holds himself obliged to obey it, does not advance us any further than we were with Hutcheson, who maintained that man possesses an inherent moral feeling, which urges him to act in this direction-all the more that the development of feeling is undeniably influenced by reason. Reason, taught Kant, imposes upon us the moral law, reason independent of experience as well as of observations of nature. But, having proved this doctrine with so much fervor, and after teaching it for four years following the appearance of the "Critique of Practical Reason," he was finally forced to acknowledge that he was completely unable to find in man the source of respect for the moral law, and that he had to abandon the attempt to solve this fundamental problem of ethics,-hinting, at the same time, at a "divine origin" of this regard for the moral law.
Whether this change of viewpoint and this return to theological ethics was due to the influence of the aftermath of the French Revolution, or whether Kant expressed in 1792 the ideas which were already in his mind when he wrote his "Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals" and his Critique of Practical Reason," is a question difficult to answer. Whatever the case may be, here are his actual words (usually not cited by his interpreters): "There is, however, one thing in our soul which we cannot cease to regard with the highest astonishment, and in regard to which admiration is right or even elevating, and that is the original moral capacity in us generally. What is it in us (we may ask ourselves) by which we, who are constantly dependent on nature by so many wants, are yet raised so far above it in the idea of an original capacity (in us) that we regard them all as nothing, and ourselves as unworthy of existence, if we were to indulge in their satisfaction in opposition to a law which our reason authoritatively prescribes; although it is this enjoyment alone that can make life desirable, while reason neither promises anything nor threatens. . . . The incomprehensibility of this capacity, a capacity which proclaims a Divine origin, must rouse man's spirit to enthusiasm, and strengthen it for any sacrifice which respect for this duty may impose on him.3
Having thus denied the significance, and almost the very existence in man of the feeling of sympathy and sociality, to which the moral teachings of Hutcheson and Adam Smith gave such prominence, and explaining the moral faculty of man by the fundamental property of reason, Kant could not, of course, find in nature anything that would point out to him the natural origin of morality. He had therefore to hint at the possibility of the divine origin of our sense of moral duty. And what is more, his repeated statement that the sense of moral duty is inherent in man as well as in all "rationally thinking beings" (while animals were excluded from that category) leads us to think, as was already pointed out by Schopenhauer, that in speaking thus Kant had in mind the "world of angels."
It must be acknowledged, however, that by his philosophy and by his moral teaching Kant aided considerably the destruction of traditional religious ethics and the preparation of the ground for a new, purely scientific ethics. It may be said without exaggeration that Kant helped to prepare the way for the evolutionary ethics of our time. It must also be remembered that, recognizing the elevating character of morality, Kant very justly pointed out that it cannot be based on considerations of happiness or utility, as the eudemonists and the utilitarians asserted. Moreover, Kant showed that morality cannot be based merely on the feeling of sympathy and commiseration. And indeed, no matter how completely the feeling of sympathy for others may be developed in a man, there are, nevertheless, moments in rife when this highly Moral feeling finds itself in contradiction with other tendencies of our nature: man is compelled to decide what course of action is to be taken in such a case, and at such times there is heard the strong voice of moral conscience. The fundamental problem of ethics lies in determining the faculty by means of which man is enabled to make a decision in such contradictory cases, and why the decision which we call moral gives him inner satisfaction and is approved by other men. This fundamental problem of ethics Kant left unanswered. He merely pointed out the inner struggle in man's soul, and he recognized that the decisive part in this struggle is played by reason and not by feeling. Such a statement is not a solution of the problem, because it immediately leads to another question: "Why does our reason reach this, and not some other decision?" Kant rightly refused to say that in the collision of two opposing tendencies our reason is guided by considerations of the usefulness of morality. Of course, considerations of the utility of moral acts for the human race exerted a very great influence on the development of our moral conceptions, but there still remains in moral acts something that cannot be explained either by habit or by considerations of utility or harm, and this something we are bound to explain. Similarly, the consideration of inner satisfaction which we feel on performing a moral act is also insufficient: it is necessary to explain why we feel such satisfaction, just as in considering the influence upon us of some combinations of sounds and chords, it was necessary to explain why certain combinations of sounds are physically pleasant to our ear, and why others are unpleasant, why certain combinations of lines and dimensions in architecture please our eye, while others "offend" it.
Thus Kant was unable to answer the fundamental question of ethics. But by his search of the deeper interpretation of the moral conceptions he paved the way for those who followed Bacon's suggestions and, like Darwin, sought the explanation of morality in the instinct of sociality which is inherent in all gregarious animals, constituting a fundamental faculty of man, and forever developing in the course of man's evolution.
A great deal has been written on Kant's moral philosophy and a great deal more might be added. I shall limit myself, however, to a few additional remarks.
In "The Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals," -Kant's principal work on Ethics,-he frankly confesses that we do not see why we have to act in conformity with the moral law, "in other words, whence the moral law derives its obligation. . . . It must be freely admitted," he continued, "that there is a sort of circle here from which it seems impossible to escape. In the order of efficient causes we assume ourselves free, in order that in the order of ends we may conceive ourselves as subject to moral laws; and we afterwards conceive ourselves as subject to these laws, because we have attributed to ourselves freedom of will."4 Kant attempted to rectify this seeming logical error by an explanation which constitutes the essence of his philosophy of knowledge. Reason, said Kant, stands not only above feeling but also above knowledge, for it contains something greater than that which our senses give us: "Reason shows so pure a spontaneity in the case of what I call ideas (Ideal Conceptions) that it thereby far transcends everything that the sensibility can give it, and exhibits its most important function in distinguishing the world of sense from that of understanding, and thereby prescribing the limits of the understanding itself." (Ibid., p. 71.) "When we conceive ourselves as free we transfer ourselves into the world of understanding as members of it, and recognize the autonomy of the will with its consequence, morality; whereas if we conceive ourselves as under obligation, we consider ourselves as belonging to the world of sense, and at the same time to the world of understanding." (p. 72.) Freedom of will is merely an ideal conception of reason.5
It is obvious that Kant means by this that his "categorical imperative," his moral law which constitutes "the fundamental law of pure moral reason," is the necessary form of our thinking. But Kant could not explain whence, due to what causes, our mind developed just this form of thinking. At present, however, if I am not mistaken, we can assert that it originates in the idea of justice, i. e., the recognition of equity among all men. Much has been written about the essence of the Kantian moral law. But what most of all prevented his formulation of this law from becoming generally accepted was his assertion that "moral decision must be such, that it could be accepted as the basis of universal law." But accepted by whom? By the reason of an individual, or by society? If by society, then there can be no other rule for the unanimous judgment about an act but the common good, and then we are inevitably led to the theory of utilitarianism or eudemonism, which Kant so persistently renounced. But if by the words "could be accepted" Kant meant that the principle guiding my act can and should be readily accepted by the reason of every man, not by the force of social utility but by the very nature of human thinking, then there must be some peculiar faculty in human reason which, unfortunately, Kant failed to point out. Such a peculiar faculty does actually exist, and there was no need to go through the entire system of Kantian metaphysics in order to comprehend it. It was very nearly approached by French materialists, and by English and Scotch thinkers. This fundamental faculty of human reason is, as I have already said, the conception of justice, i. e., equity. There is, and there can be, no other rule that may become the universal criterion for judging human acts. And what is more, this criterion is recognized, not fully, but to a considerable extent, by other thinking beings, not by the angels as Kant intimated, but by many social animals. It is impossible to explain this faculty of our reason in any other way than in connection with the progressive development, i. e., the evolution, of man and of the animal world in general. If this is true, it is impossible to deny that the principal endeavor of man is his striving for personal happiness in the broadest sense of that word. All the eudemonists and the utilitarians are right on this point. But it is equally unquestionable that the restraining moral element manifests itself side by side with the striving for personal happiness, in the feelings of sociality, sympathy, and in the acts of mutual aid, which are observed even among the animals. Originating partly in fraternal feeling, and partly in reason, they develop together with the march of society.
Kantian critique unquestionably awakened the conscience of German society and helped it to live through a critical period. But it did not enable Kant to look deeper into the bases of German sociality.
After Goethe's pantheism, Kantian philosophy called society back to the supernatural explanation of the moral conscience, and urged it away, as from a dangerous path, from seeking the fundamental principle of morality in natural causes and in gradual development, -an explanation which the French thinkers of the eighteenth century were approaching.
Generally speaking, the modem admirers of Kant would do well to deepen and to extend the moral philosophy of their teacher. Of course it is desirable that "the maxim of our action should become a universal law." But did Kant discover this law? We saw, in all the moral teachings of the utilitarians and the eudemonists, that the common good is recognized as the basis of moral conduct. The whole question is, what is to be regarded as the common good? And Kant did not even look for an answer to this fundamental ethical question which so deeply concerned Rousseau and other French writers before the Great Revolution, and also some Scotch and English thinkers. Kant rested content with hinting at Divine Will and faith in a future life.
As regards Kant's second formula: "So act as to treat humanity whether in thine own person or in that of any other in every case as an end withal, never as a means only,"-putting it more simply one could say: "In all questions concerning society bear in mind not only your own, but also social interests."
But this element of disinterestedness, upon which Kant insisted so strongly, and in the exposition of which he saw his great philosophical achievement,-this element is as old as ethics itself. It was already the object of dispute between the Stoics and the Epicureans in Ancient Greece, and in the seventeenth century between the intellectualists and Hobbes, Locke, Hume, etc. Moreover, Kant's formula is incorrect in itself. Man becomes truly moral not when he obeys the command of the law, which he considers divine, and not when his thinking is tinged with the mercenary element of "hope and fear,"-which is Kant's reference to the future life; 6 man is moral only when his moral acts have become second nature with him.
Kant, as was pointed out by Paulsen, thought well of the popular masses among which there manifests itself, at times more frequently than among the educated classes, strong and simple fidelity to duty. But he did not rise to a recognition of the social equality of the popular masses with the other classes. While speaking so alluringly about the sense of duty, and demanding, in effect, that everyone consider his action toward others as an act that is desirable for all with respect to all, he did not dare to utter the principle proclaimed by Rousseau and by the Encyclopædists, and which the Revolution had just written on its banners:-i. e., human equality. He lacked this brave consistency. He saw the value of Rousseau's teachings in their secondary consequences and not in their fundamental essence-the appeal to justice. Similarly, in ranking so high the conception of duty Kant did not ask himself: "whence this respect?" He failed to go beyond the words,-"universal law,"-without attempting to find some other cause for the regard for this law, except its possible universality. And finally, although the application of any rule to all men without exception leads unavoidably to the conception of the equality of all men, he never came to this inevitable conclusion and placed his ethics under the protection of a Supreme Being.
All these considerations serve further to confirm our explanation of the origin of Kantian ethics. He saw in the moral looseness of. societies at the end of the eighteenth century the pernicious influence of the Anglo-Scotch philosophers and of the French Encyclopædists. He wishes to reestablish respect for duty, which had been developing in the human race under the influence of religion, and he attempted to accomplish this in his ethics.
One need hardly dwell here on the extent to which Kantian philosophy, under the pretense of social good, aided the supression in Germany of the philosophy of the development of personality. This point has been sufficiently discussed by a majority of serious critics of Kant's philosophy,-viz., Wundt, Paulsen, Jodl, and many others.7
"Kant's immortal achievement," wrote Goethe, "was the fact that he led us out from the state of flabbiness into which we had sunk." And truly, his ethics undoubtedly introduced a more strict and rigorous attitude toward morality, in place of that looseness which, while not necessarily brought about by the philosophy of the eighteenth century, was in a measure being vindicated by it. But toward a further development of ethics and its better understanding-Kant's teaching contributed nothing. On the contrary, having satisfied to a certain extent the philosophical search for truth, Kant's teaching considerably retarded the development of Ethics in Germany. In vain did Schiller (owing to his familiarity with Ancient Greece) strive to direct ethical thought toward the realization that man becomes truly moral not when the dictates of duty struggle within him against the promptings of emotion, but when the moral attitude has become his second nature. In vain he strove to show that truly artistic development (of course, not that which is now known as "estheticism") aids the formation of personality, that the contemplation of artistic beauty and creative art helps man to rise to the level where he ceases to hear the voice of animal instinct, and where he is brought upon the road to reason and love for humanity. The German philosophers who wrote about morality after Kant, while contributing each his own peculiar point of view, continued, like their master, to occupy the intermediate position between the theological and the philosophical interpretation of morality. They blazed no new trails, but they gave thinkers certain social ideals, within the narrow limits of the semi-feudal system of their day. At the time when in the field of moral philosophy a school of the Utilitarians, headed by Bentham and Mill, was making headway, and when the birth of the Positivist school of Auguste Comte was preparing philosophy for the scientific ethics of Darwin and Spencer, German ethics continued to subsist on scraps of Kantism, or wandered in the mists of metaphysics, at times even reverting, more or less openly, to theological ethics.
We must say, however, that even if German philosophy of the first half of the nineteenth century, like German society of that time, did not dare throw off the fetters of the feudal system, still it aided the sadly needed moral revival of Germany, inspiring the young generation toward a higher and more idealistic service to society. In this respect Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel occupy an honorable place in the history of philosophy, and among them Fichte is of particular importance.
I shall not expound his teaching here, for that would necessitate the use of a metaphysical language that only obscures the thought, instead of clarifying it. Hence I refer those who wish to acquaint themselves with Fichte's teaching to the excellent exposition by Jodl, in his "History of Ethics," where he calls Fichte's teaching "Ethics of creative genius." I will only mention here one of the conclusions of this teaching in order to show how nearly Fichte approached some of the conclusions of rational, scientific ethics.
The philosophy of Ancient Greece strove to become a guide in human life. The same aim was pursued by the moral philosophy of Fichte. His demands with respect to morality itself were very high, i. e., he insisted upon complete disinterestedness of moral motives, rejecting all egoistic aims. He demanded complete and clear consciousness in human will, and he upheld the broadest and highest aims, which he defined as the supremacy of reason attained through human freedom and the eradication of human inertia.
In other words, it may be said that morality, according to Fichte, consists in the triumph of the very essence of man, of the very basis of his thinking, over that which he passively assimilates from the environment.
Furthermore, Fichte maintained that conscience should never be guided by authority. He whose actions are based on authority, acts in a conscienceless manner. It can easily be imagined how elevating an influence such principles were to the German youth in the twenties and thirties of the nineteenth century.
Fichte thus returned to the thought that was expressed in Ancient Greece. An inherent property of human reason lies at the bases of moral judgments, and in order to be moral, man has no need either of religious revelation from above, or of fear of punishment in this or in the after life. This idea, however, did not prevent Fichte from finally coming to the conclusion that no philosophy can subsist without divine revelation.
Krause went still further.8 For him philosophy and theology merged into one. Baader built his philosophy on the dogmas of the Catholic Church, and his very exposition was permeated with the spirit of that Church.9
Schelling, Baader's friend, came straight to theism. His ideal is Plato, and his God-a personal God, whose revelation should take the place of all philosophy. Notwithstanding, the German theologists bitterly attacked Schelling, in spite of the fact that he made so thoroughgoing a concession to them. They understood, of course, that his God was not the Christian God, but rather the God of Nature, with its struggle between good and evil. Besides, they saw what an elevating influence Schelling's philosophy exerted upon youth, an influence which their ecclesiastical teachings failed to attain.10
Hegel (1790-1831) did not devote a special work to ethics, but he considers moral problems in his "Philosophy of Law.11 In his philosophy, the law and its bases, and the teaching of the moral, merge into one,-a very characteristic feature of the German mind of the nineteenth century.
In analyzing the Kantian moral law, Hegel first of all pointed out that it is wrong to accept as the justification of the moral rule the fact that it may be generally acknowledged as desirable. He showed that it is possible to find some general basis for every act, or even to raise every act to the dignity of duty. And indeed, we all know that not only do the savages carry out from a sense of duty some actions against which our conscience revolts (killing of children, clan vendetta), but that even civilized societies accept as the general law such actions as many of us consider absolutely revolting (capital punishment, exploitation of labor, class inequalities, etc.).
With all due respect to Kant, those who reflect upon the foundation of the moral conceptions, feel that there is some general rule hidden at the bottom of these conceptions. It is significant that from the time of Ancient Greece, thinkers have been searching for a suitable expression, in the form of a brief, generally acceptable formula, to denote that combination of judgment and feeling (or more correctly-judgment approved by feeling), which we find in our moral conceptions.
Hegel, too, felt this need, and he sought support for "morality" (Moralität) in the naturally developed institutions of the family, society, and especially the State. Owing to these three influences, wrote Hegel, man cultivates such a close bond with morality that it loses for him the character of an external compulsion; he sees in it the manifestation of his free will. Moral conceptions developed in this manner are, of course, not unalterable. They were first embodied in the family, then in the State,-but even here there were changes; new and higher forms of morality were constantly being developed, and greater and greater emphasis was being placed on the right of personality to independent development. But it should be remembered that the morality of a primitive shepherd has the same value as the morality of a highly developed individual.
In his interpretation of the development of moral conceptions Hegel unquestionably approached those French philosophers who, as early as the end of the eighteenth century, laid the foundations of the theory of evolution. Hegel was the first thinker in Germany (not counting Goethe) who built his philosophical system on the idea of evolution, although in his teaching this evolution took the form of the famous triad-thesis, antithesis, synthesis. In opposition to Kant, Hegel taught that absolute reason is not an unalterable truth, or immutable thinking; it is a living, constantly moving, and developing reason. This cosmic reason manifests itself in mankind, that finds its self-expression in the State. In Hegel's philosophy human personality is completely absorbed by the State, to which man must render obedience. The individual is only an instrument in the hands of the State, and is therefore but a means; under no circumstances can the individual serve as the aim for the State. The State, governed by an intellectual aristocracy, takes, in Hegel's philosophy, an aspect of a superhuman, semi-divine institution.
Needless to say, such a conception of society inevitably rules out the idea of recognizing justice (i. e., equity) as the basis of moral judgments. It is also clear that so authoritarian an interpretation of the social structure leads back inevitably to religion, namely, to Christianity, which through its Church was one of the principal factors that created the modern State. Hegel, accordingly, saw the proper field for the creative activity of the human spirit not in the realm of the free building of social life, but in the realm of art, religion, and philosophy.
As Eucken justly remarked, we have in Hegel's philosophy a well-rounded system based on the laws of logic; at the same time intuition plays an important part in his philosophy. But if we were to ask: is Hegel's intuition consistent with his entire philosophy?-we should have to answer in the negative.
Hegel's philosophy exerted a vast influence not only in Germany, but also in other countries (especially in Russia). But it owes its influence not to its logical gradations, but to that vital sense of life which is so characteristic of Hegel's writings. Therefore, although Hegel's philosophy made for reconciliation with reality by insisting that "all that exists is rational," it served at the same time to reawaken thought, and brought a certain degree of revolutionary spirit into philosophy; it contained certain progressive elements, and these enabled the so-called "left" Hegelians to use Hegel's teaching as the basis of their revolutionary thought. But even for them the inconclusiveness of Hegelian philosophy proved to be a constant obstacle, especially its subservience to the State. Hence, in their critique of the social system, the "left" Hegelians always stopped short as soon as They came to consider the foundation of the State.
I shall not dwell in detail on the teaching of the German philosopher Schleiermacher (1768-1834), whose moral philosophy, as full of metaphysics as that of Fichte, was built (especially in his second period, 1819-1830) on the basis of theology, not even of religion; it adds almost nothing to what was already said on the same subject by his predecessors. I will simply note that Schleiermacher indicated the three-fold nature of moral acts. Locke, and the eudemonist school in general, asserted that moral conduct is the supreme good; Christianity regarded it as virtue and the fulfillment of duty to the Creator; whereas Kant, while recognizing virtue, saw in moral conduct primarily the fulfillment of duty in general. For Schleiermacher's moral teaching these three elements are indivisible, and the place of justice as constituting the basic element of morality is taken by Christian love.
Generally speaking, Schleiermacher's philosophy constitutes an attempt on the part of a Protestant theologian to reconcile theology with philosophy. In pointing out that man feels his bond with the Universe, his dependence upon it, a desire to merge into the life of Nature, he endeavored to represent this feeling as a purely religious emotion, forgetting (as Jodl justly remarked) "that this universal bond forges also cruel chains that bind the striving spirit to the base and the ignoble, The question 'Why am I such as I am?' was put to the mysterious cosmic forces as often with a bitter curse as with gratitude."
A thorough analysis of Kant's moral philosophy may be found in the works of Jodl, Wundt, Paulsen, and others.
[All the above works, except Die Metaphysik der Sitten, appear in one volume in English translation:-Kant's Critique of Practical Reason, and other works on the theory of Ethics, translated by T. K. Abbott. All quotations, unless otherwise stated, are from the sixth edition of this book, London, 1909.]-Trans. Note.
2Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals, Part 1, Page 9 Of Abbott's translation.
3The Philosophical Theory of Religion, end of Part 1, General Remark. Abbott's translation, pp. 357-358. [A similar passage on the "incomprehensibility of the moral imperative" is found in the concluding remark to the Fundamental Principles of The Metaphysic of Morals. (Abbott's translation. pp. 83-84).]-Trans. Note.
4The Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals, Abbott's translation, page 69.
5"Ideal" in the Kantian sense of the word.
6[It is interesting to note that Shaftesbury, who used exactly the same expression in connection with this subject, took an intermediate position between that of Kant and the author. He wrote: "Principle of fear of future punishment and hope of future award, how mercenary or servile soever it may be accounted, is yet in many circumstances, a great advantage, security and support to virtue." An Inquiry concerning Virtue. (Book 1, part 3, section 3).]-Trans. Note.
7About the relation of Kantian ethics to Christianity on the one side, and to egoistic utilitarianism on the other, see particularly, Wundt's Ethics, volume 11, "Ethical Systems."
8[Karl Christian F. Krause (1781-1832). See Jodl's Gesch. der Ethik, vol. 2.]-Trans. Note.
9[Franz Xaver Baader (1765-1841)]-Trans. Note.
10In Russia we know, for example, from the correspondence of the Bakunins, what an elevating influence Schelling's philosophy exerted, at first, upon the youth that grouped itself around Stankevich and Mikhail Bakunin. But in spite of some correct surmises, expressed but vaguely (about good and evil, for example) Schelling's philosophy, owing to its mystical elements, soon faded away, of course, under the influence of scientific thought. [See Corréspondance de Michel Bakounine, Paris 1896; Bakunin, Sozial-politischer Briefwechsel, 1895. Also, Bakunin, Oeuvres, 6 vols., Paris, 1895-1913. Nikolai V. Stankevich (1813-1840).]-Trans. Note.
11Fundamental Principles of the Philosophy of Law (Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts, 1821). Also the Phenomenology of the Spirit, and the Encyclopædia of the Philosophical Sciences,-on the scientific analysis of the Natural Law, 1802-1803. [See Werke, Berlin, 1832-45,-vol. 8 (Grundlinien); vol. 2 (Phänomenologie des Geistes); vols. 6 & 7 Encyclopädie der philos. Wissenschaften).]-Trans. Note.
From : Anarchy Archives
No comments so far. You can be the first!
<< Last Work in Ethics: Origin and Development
Current Work in Ethics: Origin and Development
Next Work in Ethics: Origin and Development >>
All Nearby Works in Ethics: Origin and Development