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highest good presupposes that the will is determined purely
by the form of a universal law, not by any matter. The
highest good, as we shall immediately see, has two in-
gredients : it involves the conception of the realisation of
perfect morality or virtue, and the realisation of complete
happiness. This is an object which reason demands, but
it is not the motive by which the will is to be determined.
The only pure motive is the moral law itself, for if the will
were determined by an object called the good, it would not
be determined purely by the moral law. As we have seen
in the Analytic, it is necessary to morality that detennina-
tion by the pure form of law should be the only motive.

Chapter II.— The Summum Bonum.

91 a The Summum bonum, or highest good, contains two ele-
ments, which must be carefully distinguislied from e^ich
other, viz., the supreme {suprcmvm) and the complete (con-
summatum). The supreme good is that which is absolutely
unconditioned, and presupposes nothing higher than itself.
It is therefore not subordinate to anything else {orUjinarium).


The complete good is a whole which is not a part of any
other larger whole of the same kind (perfectissimum). Now,
the condition of virtue, or worthiness to be happy, is the
supreme condition of all that we can regard as desirable,
and therefore it is the supreme condition of complete
happiness. Virtue is thus the supreme good, but it is
not the whole or complete good, which finite beings not only
seek to obtain, but which impartial reason declares to be
a legitimate object of desire. On the supposition that there
is a rational being of infinite power, we must suppose that
He desires that His creatures should not only be virtuous
but happy, provided always that happiness is the result
of virtue. The highest good of a possible world must
therefore consist in the union or harmony of virtue and
happiness in the same person, i.e., it must consist in happi-
ness in exact proportion to morality. By the summum honum
or highest good, therefore, is meant the whole or complete
good. What has to be especially observed, however, is that
virtue, or the supreme good, is the necessary condition of
the complete good, because no one has a right to expect
happiness unless he is virtuous. Happiness is thus not a
good in itself, but only a good under the condition that
conduct is in conformity with the moral law.

1. The Anti7wmy of Practical

292 a The summum honum or highest good, then, demands the
imion of virtue and happiness. Now, the conception of
virtue does not necessarily imply the conception of happi-
ness, nor does the conception of happiness necessarily imply
the conception of virtue ; i.e., we cannot pass from the one
to the other by a purely analytical process ; on the contrary,
we can perfectly well conceive that virtue may not bring
happiness, and, as we have seen, the desire for happiness,
if made a principle of action, is contradictory of virtue.
The only way in which virtue and happiness can be


combined is by a synthetic principle, and indeed u
synthetic principle which connects the one with the other
through the conception of cause and eftect. The wliol»»
question is in regard to the good of action, a {^ood that
is possible only through the will. Hence we nnist say,
either that the desire for happiness supplies the motive for
the maxims of virtue, or that the maxims of virtue are the
efficient cause of happiness. But the former is absolutely
impossible, for anyone who makes happiness his motive
thereby destroys the morality of his action. And the latter
is also impossible in another way, for though a man may
will the moral law, it does not follow that the result of his
action will be to secure happiness. Conformity to the
moral law may exist without happiness, since happiness
is dependent upon the whole connexion of things in the
world of experience, and therefore presupposes a complete
knowledge of the laws of nature as well as the physiail
power to make use of them in the promotion of certain
ends. As man is obviously neither omniscient nor omni-
potent, the most scrupulous adherence to the laws of
morality cannot be expected to result in happiness, and
to lead to the attainment of the highest good.

2. Critical Solution of the Antinomy.

93 a In the antinomy of natural necessity and freedom, as
dealt with in the Critique of Pure Reason, we found that
the only way of escape from contradiction was to maintain
that the principle of natural causation is a law only of
phenomena, and therefore that the most absolute recognition
of the inviolability of natural law is not necessarily incon-
sistent with the existence of a free cause. The solution
of the antinomy of practical reason is of a similar
character. The proposition that virtue is the result of the
search for happiness is absolutely false, happines-s.
when it is made the end of action, is incompatible with


virtue. But the second proposition, viz., that happiness is
the result of virtue, is not absolutely false : on the contrary,
it is an undeniable demand or postulate of reason, that
the agent who is moral is worthy to be happy and
therefore ought to be happy. The contradiction depends
upon the assumption that the world of ordinary sensible
experience is ultimate ; for, since it is impossible for any
finite being to secure absolute happiness under the con-
ditions of his sensible existence, we cannot affirm, and in fact
we must deny, that ^drtue in all cases results in happiness.
But the whole character of our criticism of reason has
shown that the world of our experience is not ultimate.
Not only is the conception of my existence as a noumenon
in the world of intelligence possible, but the moral law is of
such a character that it is a purely intellectual principle,
which yet is capable of determining my causality as mani-
fested in the world of sense. There is, therefore, nothing
impossible in the idea that virtue and happiness should be
united. What we must deny is that they are directly
united ; but this in no way prevents us from supposing
that they may be united indirectly, — not indeed by us, for
we have no power of determining the constitution of
nature, but by an intelligent Author of nature. Such
a connexion through an intelligence other than ours is
the only way in which we can conceive the union of virtue
and happiness to be effective, and therefore the connexion
is not necessary but contingent.
294 a The apparent contradiction or antinomy in the present
case arises from the fact that practical reason rightly
demands the union of virtue and happiness, while on the
other hand morality is possible only if not happiness
but the pure moral law is made the end of action. We
have seen, however, how a way of escape from this apparent
self-contradiction is provided by the distinction between
phenomena and noumena ; for the ultimate end and object -
of a moral will is seen to coincide with the demand of


reason for the combination of virtue and hai.pinoss, when
the necessity and possibility of the combination throiigli the
medium of an infinite Author of nature is perceived. The
antinomy thus disappears when the false assumption is
discarded that the sphere of phenomena is exhaustive of
the whole of existence.

4. The Immortality of the Soul.

>4 6 The summum bonum, then, or the union of virtue
and happiness, is what reason demands. But this end
is so demanded by reason only on condition that the
supreme good should be willed ; for, unless it is willed,
the complete good is impossible. With this proviso,
however, we can say that reason demands the union of
virtue and happiness. Now, the willing of the supreme
good means the willing of the moral law at every moment
of his life by a rational but sensuous being, i.e., it con.''i8t«
in that perfect harmony of the will with the moral law
which is called holiness. But in a being whose desires
are in conflict with reason, holiness is possible only by
an infinite progress. Hence pure practical reason, since it
affirms that perfect holiness should be attained, retjuires us
to postulate an infinite progress towards perfection.

95 a Now, an infinite progress is possible only if we pre-
suppose that the existence of a rational being is prolonged
to infinity. 1 Moreover, the being must retain his self-
consciousness or personality, because otherwise he would
not be a free cause capable of willing the moral law. The
highest good is therefore possible practically only on the
presupposition of personal immortality. Thus immorUility
is a necessary logical consequence of the conception
of a moral being; It cannot be demonstrated, because
demonstration depends upon the employment of the prin-
ciple of natural causation, but it is a necessary postulate
of pure practical reason, i.e., a proposition whicli the


existence of an absolute a 2^''"^^'^"'' practical law necessarily
295 6 A finite rational being cannot possibly at all times will
the moral law, and is only capable of an infinite
progress or approximation to moral perfection ; but,
inasmuch as the Infinite Being is not limited by time, He
sees the good of moral effort as realised, and therefore is
able to take the process of realisation as equivalent to its
consummation. Holiness He demands inexorably as the
condition of the participation of each person in the highest
good ; but, since the form of His consciousness must be
that of an intellectual perception, He sees this holiness as
realised, provided the finite being is making a continuous
and steady advance in goodness. There is no possible justi-
fication for finite beings except that of standing the test of
conformity to the moral law ; but, though as an actual fact
in this life such a conformity can be claimed by no one,
if he has in the past made an advance from lower to higher
degrees of morality he may hope to make unbroken pro-
gress in the future in this life and even beyond it. Hence
it is reasonable for him to expect that in the infinite
duration of his existence, as present to the mind of God,
he may attain to perfect harmony with the moral law.

5. The Existence of God.

296 a The second postulate is the existence of God, which can
also be derived from the moral law. The first postulate
was directly based upon the idea of the supreme good, as
implying the conformity of the will to the moral law;
but in the conception of the complete good there is also
implied the realisation of perfect happiness, and it is upon
this combination of virtue and happiness that the second
postulate is based. Reason rightly demands the realisation
of the complete good, which involves the realisation of
happiness in proportion to morality, and demands it on


purely impersonal grounds. Now, we can only concfivo
this union to be effected if we postulate the existence of
God, as the only cause adequate to pro(hice it.
6 6 Happiness, or the continuous experience of the satis-
faction of desire and will, is only })Ossible if nature i.s of
such a character that it is fitted to secure for the a^ent th«'
satisfaction of all his desires, on condition that he wills
the moral law. But, while the willing of the moral law
is within his power as a free being, man has no power over
the constitution of nature. Since, therefore, the cause of
moral action is distinct from any conceivable causo
of nature, there is no reason why we should affirm that
even perfect harmony with the moral law will result in
the attainment of happiness proportionate to virtue. At
the same time pure reason necessarily postulates the
harmony of virtue and happiness. In maintaining that
man is under an absolute obligation to seek the highest
good it presupposes that happiness in proportion to viitue
is attainable, and also affirms it to b6 a legitimate demand.
We must therefore postulate the existence of a cause of
nature as a whole, a cause which is distinct from it, since
there is nothing in it which insures its harmony with human
desires. This cause must have the power to connect
happiness and morality in exact proportion to each other.
Now, a cause which is at once to be the Author of the
system of nature, and at the sange time to provide that
this system shall be in harmony with the moral character
of the agent, must be not only intelligent but moral.
Hence the highest good is capable of being realised in the
world only if we postulate that there ia a Being who
is the cause of nature,' and who at the same time brings
nature into conformity with the moral character of the
agent. Such a being, as acting from the consciousnea.s of
kw, is a rational being, an intelligence ; and the cau.sality
of that being, presupposing as it does the consciousness of
law is a wUl. Thus the idea of the highest good nnplioa


the existence of a Being who is the cause of nature through
His intelhgence and will ; in other words, it implies the
existence of God. Granting, therefore, that we may rightly
postulate the highest derivative good, or the best possible
world, we must also postulate the existence of the source
of this derivative good, viz., God. Not only is it our
duty to promote the highest good, but the very idea of duty
entitles us to presuppose that this highest good may be
realised, this realisation being possible only under pre-
supposition of the existence of God. The highest good is
inseparably connected with duty, or, as we may fairly say,
it is morally necessary to hold the existence of God ; i.e.,
it is necessary as an explanation of the possibility of
EZl " We must carefully observe, that this moral necessity is
subjective, in the sense that it is a need or requirement of
our moral consciousness ; it is not objective, because it is
not itself a duty. For there cannot be a duty to assume
the existence of any thing or being, which can only be a
matter of theoretical conviction. Nor, again, can the
132 assumption of the existence of God be made the basis of
our obligation to obey the moral law, which rests, as has
been conclusively proved, entirely upon the autonomy of
reason itself. Our duty can only be to seek to realise and
promote the highest good, the possibility of which can
therefore be postulated. But as our reason finds this
possibility conceivable only under presupposition of a
supreme intelligence, the assumption of the existence of
that intelligence is bound up with the consciousness
of our duty, although the assumption itself belongs to
the sphere of theoretical reason. Only in relation
to theoretical reason is it regarded as a principle of
explanation or hypothesis, while in reference to the
intelligibility of an object presented through the moral law
(the highest good), and consequently of a requirement for
practical purposes, it may be called a faith, and indeed a


faith of reason, because the sole source from wliich it springs
is pure reason, both in its theoretical and its i)ractical use."

32 This Deduction enables us to see wliy the Gi-eek schooU
were never able to solve the problem of the practical
possibility of the highest good. Their mistake lay in
regarding the rule of the use which the will of man makes
of his freedom as the sole and adequate groiuid of thin
possibility, apart from all consideration of the existence of
God. They were right enough in saying that the principle
of morality is independent of this postulate, that it can 1)0
proved purely from the relation of reason to the will, and
that it is therefore the supreme practical condition of the
highest good ; but it does not follow that that principle is
the luliole condition of the possibility of the highest good.
The Epicureans had indeed assumed an entirely false
principle as the supreme principle of morality, namely,
happiness, and had substituted for a law the maxim of a
choice dependent upon each man's inclination ; but they
proceeded consistently enough to degrade the highest
good to the same low level as their fundamental prin-
ciple, and looked for no greater happiness than can Ix)
acquired by human prudence, including temperance and

L33 moderation of the inclinations. . . . The Stoics, on the
other hand, had quite correctly fixed upon virtue as tlie
condition of the highest good, but as they held the di^^'ree
of virtue which is required for its pure law as complet<.'ly
attainable in this life, they not only strained the moral
powers of man, under the name of a vnsc man, far lx?yond
the limits of his nature and contrary to all tliat we know of
men, but above all they refused to admit that hapi)ine88, the
second element of the highest good, is a special object of
human desire at all, and supposed their ' wise man ' to be
entirely independent of nature for his satisfaction, and to
live in the God-like consciousness of the excellence of
his own person." . .

"The Christian doctrine, even apart from it« religiouu


5" 134 aspect, supplies a conception of the highest good, in the
idea of a ' kingdom of God,' which is adequate to the

5" 135 strictest demand of practical reason. ... In this idea
nature and moral excellence are united together in a
harmony, which is not necessitated by the conception of
either taken by itself, but is established by a Holy Being,
the Creator of all, who makes the highest derivative Good
possible. ... At the same time the Christian principle of
morals is not itself theological; it is not the heteronomy,
but the autonomy of pure practical reason ; for Christianity
does not make the knowledge of God or of His will the
ground of the law, but only of the attainment of the highest
good provided that law is obeyed ; nor does it even place
the true motive of obedience in the expected results, but
solely in the idea of duty, the faithful observance of which
alone makes us worthy to obtain those results. In this
way the moral law, as the object and ultimate end of pure
practical reason, leads to religion ; for religion is the know-
ledge of all duties as divine commands, not as sanctions
which a foreign and alien will has attached to its arbitrary
decrees, but as essential laws of every will which is free in
itself. Nevertheless, these laws must be regarded as
commands of the Supreme Being, because it is only from a
morally perfect (holy and good) and at the same time all-
powerful will, and by harmony with it, that we can hope
to attain the highest good, which the moral law makes it
our duty to set before ourselves as the object of our

6. The Postulates of Pure Practical Ecason.

The postulates of pure practical reason are not theoretical
doctrines, but presuppositions demanded by the character of
man as a moral agent. They in no way extend our specu-
lative knowledge, but merely enable us to affirm the
objective reality of the ideas of speculative reason. Thus


they justify us in the use of conceptions which otherwiso
would be employed illegitimately.
8 6 These postulates are immortality, freedom and the exist-
ence of God. The first is based upon the demand of reason,
that the supreme good should be realised, a demand which
can only be fulfilled provided that the agent is immortal.
The second postulate is based upon the necessary presuppo-
sition that man as a free agent is independent of all the
influences of desire, and so is capable of determining his will
in conformity with the law of an intelligible world, i.e., the
law of freedom. The third postulate depends upon the
necessity of presupposing a Supreme I>eing who is also
intelligent and moral, as the only condition under which
the highest good is capable of being realised,
c The reality of the highest good is presupposed in reverence
for the moral law, and thus we reach the three postulates of
practical reason, and are enabled to solve the problem which
speculative reason left unsolved. (1) The conception of
immortality involved speculative reason in a paralogism,
i.e., in a logical fallacy resulting from the ambiguity of one
of the terms, an ambiguity into which reason was betrayed
by the inevitable confusion of the phenomenal with tlie real
subject. Eeason, demanding an imconditioned subject, was
led to confuse the consciousness of the thinking subject with
the supposed knowledge of a real suV)stance, viewed as inde-
pendent of nature, and upon this confusion to base tho
permanence or immortality of the soul. But, what rejison
in its theoretical use was unable to prove is actually
established by reason in its practical use, which rightly
postulates that man is immortal, because, as a UKjnil agent,
he must have a duration adequate to the complete realisation
of the moral law. (2) Speculative reason in its demand for
the unconditioned also set up the cosmological idea of an
intelligible world, and of our existence in it, and thu.s it was
involved in the antinomy of free and natural causation,
an antinomy which, from the necessary limiUitJnn of our


knowledge to objects of experience, it was unable to solve.
But here again practical reason, by its postulate of freedom,
enables us to establish, on the ground of faith, what could
not be based upon knowledge, and to show that man actually
is free. (3) Speculative reason led to the conception of a
Supreme Being, but was unable to prove that it was more
than an ideal. Practical reason, on the other hand, shows
that a Supreme Being actually exists as the supreme prin-
ciple without which the highest good is impossible, and that
this Being is endowed with the sovereign power of pre-
scribing moral laws in the intelligible world.

299 a Do these postulates, then, enlarge our knowledge ? Are

immortality, freedom and God, which for speculative reason
are transcendent, immanent and constitutive for practical
reason ? They are immanent and constitutive, but only in
the sense of being presupposed in the moral consciousness.
Practical reason does not bring the free subject, or the
intelligible world, or a Supreme Being, directly within the
sphere of knowledge : all that it can do is to show that they
are bound up with the practical conception of the highest
good. It is purely on the basis of the moral law that their
reality is established. We cannot comprehend how freedom
is possible, because positive knowledge of a free cause is
impossible from the character of our experience : all that we
can say is that there must be a free cause, because without
it there can be no moral law. And the same thing is true
of immortality and the existence of God ; for, though know-
ledge of these oljjects is impossible, no sophistry can destroy
our rational faith in their reality.

7. Possibility of an Extension of Pure Practical Reason
witJiout a corresponding extension of Pure Speculative

300 rt The three Ideas of reason, then, are not knowledge, but

thoughts of objects which even theoretical reason showed to


be possible. They have objective reality in the sense that
they are essential to the realisation of moral law. Wo
cannot doubt the existence of objects correspondinrr to them,
though we cannot know how they are related to thoRo
objects, and we therefore cannot make any theoretical
synthetic judgments in regard to them. But, while there is
no extension of our knowledge through these ideas, the
sphere of reason is itself enlarged in this sense, that we are
now certain that there are actual objects corresponding to
them. Even this indefinite knowledge, however, is due

L41 solely to reason in its practical use. " It is true that,
in the sphere of practice, the Ideas which to theory
were transcendent and without objects, become immanent
and constitutive. For they contain the grounds of the
possibility of realising the highest good, as the necessary
object of practical reason, whereas theoretical reason finds
in them merely regulative principles, which have their value
in furthering the exercise of the intelligence in experience,
but not in enabling us to gain any certitude as to the
existence of an object beyond experience. When, however,
by the moral consciousness we are once put in possession of
this new certitude, reason as a speculative faculty comes in
(though properly only to protect its practical use), and goes
to work with these Ideas in a negative way, that is, not to

Online LibraryJohn WatsonThe philosophy of Kant explained → online text (page 32 of 43)