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proceeds if it meets with no obstruction. Hence it seems to me that
Instinct may most appropriately be called _practical reason_, for like
theoretical reason it determines the _must_ of all experience.

The so-called moral law, on the other hand, is only one aspect of _the
better consciousness_, the aspect which it presents from the point of
view of instinct. This better consciousness is something lying beyond
all experience, that is, beyond all reason, whether of the theoretical
or the practical kind, and has nothing to do with it; whilst it is in
virtue of the mysterious union of it and reason in the same individual
that the better consciousness comes into conflict with reason, leaving
the individual to choose between the two.

In any conflict between the better consciousness and reason, if the
individual decides for reason, should it be theoretical reason, he
becomes a narrow, pedantic philistine; should it be practical, a

If he decides for the better consciousness, we can make no further
positive affirmation about him, for if we were to do so, we should
find ourselves in the realm of reason; and as it is only what takes
place within this realm that we can speak of at all it follows that we
cannot speak of the better consciousness except in negative terms.

This shows us how it is that reason is hindered and obstructed;
that _theoretical reason_ is suppressed in favour of _genius_, and
_practical reason_ in favour of _virtue_. Now the better consciousness
is neither theoretical nor practical; for these are distinctions that
only apply to reason. But if the individual is in the act of choosing,
the better consciousness appears to him in the aspect which it assumes
in vanquishing and overcoming the practical reason (or instinct, to
use the common word). It appears to him as an imperative command, an
_ought_. It so appears to him, I say; in other words, that is the
shape which it takes for the theoretical reason which renders
all things into objects and ideas. But in so far as the better
consciousness desires to vanquish and overcome the theoretical reason,
it takes no shape at all; on the simple ground that, as it comes
into play, the theoretical reason is suppressed and becomes the mere
servant of the better consciousness. That is why genius can never give
any account of its own works.

In the morality of action, the legal principle that both sides are to
be heard must not be allowed to apply; in other words, the claims of
self and the senses must not be urged. Nay, on the contrary, as soon
as the pure will has found expression, the case is closed; _nec
audienda altera pars_.

The lower animals are not endowed with moral freedom. Probably this is
not because they show no trace of the better consciousness which in us
is manifested as morality, or nothing analogous to it; for, if that
were so, the lower animals, which are in so many respects like
ourselves in outward appearance that we regard man as a species of
animal, would possess some _raison d'être_ entirely different from our
own, and actually be, in their essential and inmost nature, something
quite other than ourselves. This is a contention which is obviously
refuted by the thoroughly malignant and inherently vicious character
of certain animals, such as the crocodile, the hyaena, the scorpion,
the snake, and the gentle, affectionate and contented character of
others, such as the dog. Here, as in the case of men, the character,
as it is manifested, must rest upon something that is above and beyond
time. For, as Jacob Böhme says,[1] _there is a power in every animal
which is indestructible, and the spirit of the world draws it into
itself, against the final separation at the Last Judgment_. Therefore
we cannot call the lower animals free, and the reason why we cannot
do so is that they are wanting in a faculty which is profoundly
subordinate to the better consciousness in its highest phase, I mean
reason. Reason is the faculty of supreme comprehension, the idea of
totality. How reason manifests itself in the theoretical sphere Kant
has shown, and it does the same in the practical: it makes us capable
of observing and surveying the whole of our life, thought, and action,
in continual connection, and therefore of acting according to general
maxims, whether those maxims originate in the understanding as
prudential rules, or in the better consciousness as moral laws.

[Footnote 1: _Epistles_, 56.]

If any desire or passion is aroused in us, we, and in the same way the
lower animals, are for the moment filled with this desire; we are all
anger, all lust, all fear; and in such moments neither the better
consciousness can speak, nor the understanding consider the
consequences. But in our case reason allows us even at that moment
to see our actions and our life as an unbroken chain, - a chain
which connects our earlier resolutions, or, it may be, the future
consequences of our action, with the moment of passion which now fills
our whole consciousness. It shows us the identity of our person, even
when that person is exposed to influences of the most varied kind, and
thereby we are enabled to act according to maxims. The lower animal
is wanting in this faculty; the passion which seizes it completely
dominates it, and can be checked only by another passion - anger, for
instance, or lust, by fear; even though the vision that terrifies does
not appeal to the senses, but is present in the animal only as a dim
memory and imagination. Men, therefore, may be called irrational, if,
like the lower animals, they allow themselves to be determined by the

So far, however, is reason from being the source of morality that it
is reason alone which makes us capable of being rascals, which the
lower animals cannot be. It is reason which enables us to form an evil
resolution and to keep it when the provocation to evil is removed; it
enables us, for example, to nurse vengeance. Although at the moment
that we have an opportunity of fulfilling our resolution the better
consciousness may manifest itself as love or charity, it is by force
of reason, in pursuance of some evil maxim, that we act against it.
Thus Goethe says that a man may use his reason only for the purpose of
being more bestial than any beast:

_Er hat Vernunft, doch braucht er sie allein
Um theirischer als jedes Thier zu sein_.

For not only do we, like the beasts, satisfy the desires of the
moment, but we refine upon them and stimulate them in order to prepare
the desire for the satisfaction.

Whenever we think that we perceive a trace of reason in the lower
animals, it fills us with surprise. Now our surprise is not excited by
the good and affectionate disposition which some of them exhibit - we
recognise that as something other than reason - but by some action in
them which seems to be determined not by the impression of the moment,
but by a resolution previously made and kept. Elephants, for instance,
are reported to have taken premeditated revenge for insults long after
they were suffered; lions, to have requited benefits on an opportunity
tardily offered. The truth of such stories has, however, no bearing at
all on the question, What do we mean by reason? But they enable us to
decide whether in the lower animals there is any trace of anything
that we can call reason.

Kant not only declares that all our moral sentiments originate in
reason, but he lays down that reason, _in my sense of the word_, is
a condition of moral action; as he holds that for an action to be
virtuous and meritorious it must be done in accordance with maxims,
and not spring from a resolve taken under some momentary impression.
But in both contentions he is wrong. If I resolve to take vengeance on
some one, and when an opportunity offers, the better consciousness in
the form of love and humanity speaks its word, and I am influenced by
it rather than by my evil resolution, this is a virtuous act, for it
is a manifestation of the better consciousness. It is possible to
conceive of a very virtuous man in whom the better consciousness is
so continuously active that it is never silent, and never allows his
passions to get a complete hold of him. By such consciousness he is
subject to a direct control, instead of being guided indirectly,
through the medium of reason, by means of maxims and moral principles.
That is why a man may have weak reasoning powers and a weak
understanding and yet have a high sense of morality and be eminently
good; for the most important element in a man depends as little on
intellectual as it does on physical strength. Jesus says, _Blessed
are the poor in spirit_. And Jacob Böhme has the excellent and noble
observation: _Whoso lies quietly in his own will, like a child in the
womb, and lets himself be led and guided by that inner principle from
which he is sprung, is the noblest and richest on earth_.[1]

[Footnote 1: _Epistles_, 37.]


The philosophers of the ancient world united in a single conception
a great many things that had no connection with one another. Of this
every dialogue of Plato's furnishes abundant examples. The greatest
and worst confusion of this kind is that between ethics and politics.
The State and the Kingdom of God, or the Moral Law, are so entirely
different in their character that the former is a parody of the
latter, a bitter mockery at the absence of it. Compared with the Moral
Law the State is a crutch instead of a limb, an automaton instead of a

* * * * *

The _principle of honour_ stands in close connection with human
freedom. It is, as it were, an abuse of that freedom. Instead of
using his freedom to fulfil the moral law, a man employs his power
of voluntarily undergoing any feeling of pain, of overcoming any
momentary impression, in order that he may assert his self-will,
whatever be the object to which he directs it. As he thereby shows
that, unlike the lower animals, he has thoughts which go beyond the
welfare of his body and whatever makes for that welfare, it has come
about that the principle of honour is often confused with virtue. They
are regarded as if they were twins. But wrongly; for although the
principle of honour is something which distinguishes man from the
lower animals, it is not, in itself, anything that raises him above
them. Taken as an end and aim, it is as dark a delusion as any other
aim that springs from self. Used as a means, or casually, it may be
productive of good; but even that is good which is vain and frivolous.
It is the misuse of freedom, the employment of it as a weapon for
overcoming the world of feeling, that makes man so infinitely more
terrible than the lower animals; for they do only what momentary
instinct bids them; while man acts by ideas, and his ideas may entail
universal ruin before they are satisfied.

There is another circumstance which helps to promote the notion that
honour and virtue are connected. A man who can do what he wants to do
shows that he can also do it if what he wants to do is a virtuous act.
But that those of our actions which we are ourselves obliged to regard
with contempt are also regarded with contempt by other people serves
more than anything that I have here mentioned to establish the
connection. Thus it often happens that a man who is not afraid of the
one kind of contempt is unwilling to undergo the other. But when we
are called upon to choose between our own approval and the world's
censure, as may occur in complicated and mistaken circumstances, what
becomes of the principle of honour then?

Two characteristic examples of the principle of honour are to be found
in Shakespeare's _Henry VI_., Part II., Act IV., Sc. 1. A pirate is
anxious to murder his captive instead of accepting, like others, a
ransom for him; because in taking his captive he lost an eye, and
his own honour and that of his forefathers would in his opinion be
stained, if he were to allow his revenge to be bought off as though he
were a mere trader. The prisoner, on the other hand, who is the Duke
of Suffolk, prefers to have his head grace a pole than to uncover it
to such a low fellow as a pirate, by approaching him to ask for mercy.

Just as civic honour - in other words, the opinion that we deserve to
be trusted - is the palladium of those whose endeavour it is to make
their way in the world on the path of honourable business, so knightly
honour - in other words, the opinion that we are men to be feared - is
the palladium of those who aim at going through life on the path
of violence; and so it was that knightly honour arose among the
robber-knights and other knights of the Middle Ages.

* * * * *

A theoretical philosopher is one who can supply in the shape of ideas
for the reason, a copy of the presentations of experience; just as
what the painter sees he can reproduce on canvas; the sculptor, in
marble; the poet, in pictures for the imagination, though they are
pictures which he supplies only in sowing the ideas from which they

A so-called practical philosopher, on the other hand, is one who,
contrarily, deduces his action from ideas. The theoretical philosopher
transforms life into ideas. The practical philosopher transforms ideas
into life; he acts, therefore, in a thoroughly reasonable manner; he
is consistent, regular, deliberate; he is never hasty or passionate;
he never allows himself to be influenced by the impression of the

And indeed, when we find ourselves among those full presentations of
experience, or real objects, to which the body belongs - since the body
is only an objectified will, the shape which the will assumes in the
material world - it is difficult to let our bodies be guided, not by
those presentations, but by a mere image of them, by cold, colourless
ideas, which are related to experience as the shadow of Orcus to life;
and yet this is the only way in which we can avoid doing things of
which we may have to repent.

The theoretical philosopher enriches the domain of reason by adding to
it; the practical philosopher draws upon it, and makes it serve him.

* * * * *

According to Kant the truth of experience is only a hypothetical
truth. If the suppositions which underlie all the intimations of
experience - subject, object, time, space and causality - were removed,
none of those intimations would contain a word of truth. In other
words, experience is only a phenomenon; it is not knowledge of the

If we find something in our own conduct at which we are secretly
pleased, although we cannot reconcile it with experience, seeing that
if we were to follow the guidance of experience we should have to
do precisely the opposite, we must not allow this to put us out;
otherwise we should be ascribing an authority to experience which
it does not deserve, for all that it teaches rests upon a mere
supposition. This is the general tendency of the Kantian Ethics.

* * * * *

Innocence is in its very nature stupid. It is stupid because the aim
of life (I use the expression only figuratively, and I could just
as well speak of the essence of life, or of the world) is to gain a
knowledge of our own bad will, so that our will may become an object
for us, and that we may undergo an inward conversion. Our body is
itself our will objectified; it is one of the first and foremost of
objects, and the deeds that we accomplish for the sake of the body
show us the evil inherent in our will. In the state of innocence,
where there is no evil because there is no experience, man is, as
it were, only an apparatus for living, and the object for which the
apparatus exists is not yet disclosed. An empty form of life like
this, a stage untenanted, is in itself, like the so-called real world,
null and void; and as it can attain a meaning only by action, by
error, by knowledge, by the convulsions of the will, it wears a
character of insipid stupidity. A golden age of innocence, a fools'
paradise, is a notion that is stupid and unmeaning, and for that
very reason in no way worthy of any respect. The first criminal and
murderer, Cain, who acquired a knowledge of guilt, and through
guilt acquired a knowledge of virtue by repentance, and so came to
understand the meaning of life, is a tragical figure more significant,
and almost more respectable, than all the innocent fools in the world
put together.

* * * * *

If I had to write about _modesty_ I should say: I know the esteemed
public for which I have the honour to write far too well to dare to
give utterance to my opinion about this virtue. Personally I am quite
content to be modest and to apply myself to this virtue with
the utmost possible circumspection. But one thing I shall never
admit - that I have ever required modesty of any man, and any statement
to that effect I repel as a slander.

The paltry character of most men compels the few who have any merit
or genius to behave as though they did not know their own value, and
consequently did not know other people's want of value; for it is
only on this condition that the mob acquiesces in tolerating merit. A
virtue has been made out of this necessity, and it is called modesty.
It is a piece of hypocrisy, to be excused only because other people
are so paltry that they must be treated with indulgence.

* * * * *

Human misery may affect us in two ways, and we may be in one of two
opposite moods in regard to it.

In one of them, this misery is immediately present to us. We feel it
in our own person, in our own will which, imbued with violent desires,
is everywhere broken, and this is the process which constitutes
suffering. The result is that the will increases in violence, as
is shown in all cases of passion and emotion; and this increasing
violence comes to a stop only when the will turns and gives way to
complete resignation, in other words, is redeemed. The man who is
entirely dominated by this mood will regard any prosperity which he
may see in others with envy, and any suffering with no sympathy.

In the opposite mood human misery is present to us only as a fact
of knowledge, that is to say, indirectly. We are mainly engaged in
looking at the sufferings of others, and our attention is withdrawn
from our own. It is in their person that we become aware of human
misery; we are filled with sympathy; and the result of this mood is
general benevolence, philanthropy. All envy vanishes, and instead
of feeling it, we are rejoiced when we see one of our tormented
fellow-creatures experience any pleasure or relief.

After the same fashion we may be in one of two opposite moods in
regard to human baseness and depravity. In the one we perceive this
baseness indirectly, in others. Out of this mood arise indignation,
hatred, and contempt of mankind. In the other we perceive it directly,
in ourselves. Out of it there arises humiliation, nay, contrition.

In order to judge the moral value of a man, it is very important to
observe which of these four moods predominate in him. They go in
pairs, one out of each division. In very excellent characters the
second mood of each division will predominate.

* * * * *

The categorical imperative, or absolute command, is a contradiction.
Every command is conditional. What is unconditional and necessary is a
_must_, such as is presented by the laws of nature.

It is quite true that the moral law is entirely conditional. There
is a world and a view of life in which it has neither validity nor
significance. That world is, properly speaking, the real world in
which, as individuals, we live; for every regard paid to morality is a
denial of that world and of our individual life in it. It is a view
of the world, however, which does not go beyond the principle of
sufficient reason; and the opposite view proceeds by the intuition of

* * * * *

If a man is under the influence of two opposite but very strong
motives, A and B, and I am greatly concerned that he should choose A,
but still more that he should never be untrue to his choice, and by
changing his mind betray me, or the like, it will not do for me to say
anything that might hinder the motive B from having its full effect
upon him, and only emphasise A; for then I should never be able to
reckon on his decision. What I have to do is, rather, to put both
motives before him at the same time, in as vivid and clear a way as
possible, so that they may work upon him with their whole force. The
choice that he then makes is the decision of his inmost nature, and
stands firm to all eternity. In saying _I will do this_, he has said
_I must do this_. I have got at his will, and I can rely upon its
working as steadily as one of the forces of nature. It is as certain
as fire kindles and water wets that he will act according to the
motive which has proved to be stronger for him. Insight and knowledge
may be attained and lost again; they may be changed, or improved, or
destroyed; but will cannot be changed. That is why _I apprehend, I
perceive, I see_, is subject to alteration and uncertainty; _I will_,
pronounced on a right apprehension of motive, is as firm as nature
itself. The difficulty, however, lies in getting at a right
apprehension. A man's apprehension of motive may change, or be
corrected or perverted; and on the other hand, his circumstances may
undergo an alteration.

* * * * *

A man should exercise an almost boundless toleration and placability,
because if he is capricious enough to refuse to forgive a single
individual for the meanness or evil that lies at his door, it is doing
the rest of the world a quite unmerited honour.

But at the same time the man who is every one's friend is no one's
friend. It is quite obvious what sort of friendship it is which we
hold out to the human race, and to which it is open to almost every
man to return, no matter what he may have done.

* * * * *

With the ancients _friendship_ was one of the chief elements in
morality. But friendship is only limitation and partiality; it is
the restriction to one individual of what is the due of all mankind,
namely, the recognition that a man's own nature and that of mankind
are identical. At most it is a compromise between this recognition and

* * * * *

A lie always has its origin in the desire to extend the dominion of
one's own will over other individuals, and to deny their will in order
the better to affirm one's own. Consequently a lie is in its very
nature the product of injustice, malevolence and villainy. That is why
truth, sincerity, candour and rectitude are at once recognised and
valued as praiseworthy and noble qualities; because we presume that
the man who exhibits them entertains no sentiments of injustice or
malice, and therefore stands in no need of concealing such sentiments.
He who is open cherishes nothing that is bad.

* * * * *

There is a certain kind of courage which springs from the same source
as good-nature. What I mean is that the good-natured man is almost as
clearly conscious that he exists in other individuals as in himself. I
have often shown how this feeling gives rise to good-nature. It
also gives rise to courage, for the simple reason that the man who
possesses this feeling cares less for his own individual existence,
as he lives almost as much in the general existence of all creatures.
Accordingly he is little concerned for his own life and its
belongings. This is by no means the sole source of courage for it is
a phenomenon due to various causes. But it is the noblest kind of
courage, as is shown by the fact that in its origin it is associated
with great gentleness and patience. Men of this kind are usually
irresistible to women.

* * * * *

All general rules and precepts fail, because they proceed from the
false assumption that men are constituted wholly, or almost wholly,
alike; an assumption which the philosophy of Helvetius expressly
makes. Whereas the truth is that the original difference between
individuals in intellect and morality is immeasurable.

* * * * *

The question as to whether morality is something real is the question
whether a well-grounded counter-principle to egoism actually exists.

As egoism restricts concern for welfare to a single individual,

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Online LibraryArthur SchopenhauerThe Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer; On Human Nature → online text (page 7 of 8)