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Ethical-Freedom in Kant by Johannes Kreyenbuehl

Rudolf Steiner writes in his Philosophy of Freedom, Chapter 9, about the article here published:

“... The clearest account of this spring of action (of practical reason, ed.) has been given by Kreyenbuehl. In my opinion his article on this subject is one of the most important contributions to present-day philosophy, more especially to Ethics. Kreyenbuehl calls the spring of action, of which we are speaking, the practical a priori, i.e., an impulse to action emanating directly from my intuition.”

With that Rudolf Steiner repeats his indications in the Theory of Knowledge, Chapter 19:

“... The World-Fundament has poured itself out completely into the world; it has not drawn back from the world in order to control it from without, but impels it from within; it has not withheld itself from the world. The highest form in which it emerges within the reality of ordinary life is that of thought and, with this, human personality. If, then, the World-Fundament has goals, these are identical with the goals which man sets up for himself as he manifests his own being. Man is not behaving in accordance with the purposes of the Guiding Power of the world when he investigates one or another of His commandments, but when he behaves in accordance with his own insight. For in him the Guiding Power of the world manifests Himself. He does not live as Will somewhere outside of man; he has renounced his own will in order that all might depend upon the will of man. If man is to be enabled to become his own lawgiver, all thought about world-determinations outside of man must be abandoned.

“We take this opportunity to call attention to the very excellent treatment of the subject by Kreyenbuehl in Philosophische Monatshefte (Vol. 18, No.3). This paper correctly explains how the maxims of our conduct result directly from the determination of our individuality; how everything which is ethically great is not given through the power of the moral law but is performed on the basis of the direct impulse of an individual idea.”

The translation by Harold Jurgens is very faithful to the German and maintains the flavor of Kreyenbuehl's unique style. The German title of the essay is Die ethische Freiheit bei Kant.

G.F. Karnow 

Ethical-Freedom in Kant
A critical-speculative study of the true spirit in Kantian philosophy(1)


1. In the rising and ebbing flow of thought in Kantian philosophy we only really encounter a single firm point which has remained standing intact in the fluctuating stream of dialectic: a consciousness of man's moral-freedom and autonomy, a belief in a moral world order. The immediate force of Kant's ethical sentiment was stronger than the logical consistency of his scientific thought. His repudiation of all knowledge of the super-sensible, his attenuation of ideas to merely restrictive regulators of empirical knowledge would have also made knowledge of ethical-freedom impossible, if one were strictly and logically consistent. At most one could have said that we can know nothing definite about moral-freedom, about an ethical world order or about a moral law, but we are nevertheless permitted to practically arrange our lives as if the empirical motives of pleasure, usefulness, and the like, were not the only ones which influence our will. It is obvious that a merely hypothetical morality like this would paralyze all moral activity. For if even the firmest conviction in a seemingly binding, categorically-definite moral law, and even the clearest consciousness of one's moral-freedom and responsibility isn't always able to eliminate an immoral attitude and way of behavior and help the opposing moral motives to victory, then the reduction of freedom and moral law to a mere regulative idea, to a mere subjective maxim, to an albeit admissible but unnecessary hypothesis, to an itself entirely unrecognizable problem, would have killed all morality in the bud. A live moral feeling, a certain inborn moral instinct, induced Kant to negate this skeptical volatilization of the ideal — with a resulting sacrifice of scientific consistency in the moral sphere — and made him try to reinstate ideas to their proper place as practical constitutive motives and as necessary postulates of a moral world order. It is not enough for Kant to have broken up the unity of the scientific system, so that human reason is divided in itself, and a gaping chasm is opened up between theory and practice, knowledge and moral faith; but he tries to turn this same unscientific character of his viewpoint to advantage in building up his moral world conception. Countless times, and most extensively in Section IX of the Critique of Practical Reason, he expresses himself to the effect that the theoretical unknowability of the supersensible is just one more reason to place practical belief in the same — and moral action in accordance with it — that much higher. One doesn't believe that one is listening to the father of modern philosophy, but to some scholastic theologian of the Middle Ages when we are assured that this impotence of our cognitional faculty in supersensible affairs is necessary to make possible a truly moral attitude directly consecrated to the law of duty. So as commendable as it is that Kant stopped his speculative skepticism short of the shrine of ethics, it is just as undeniable on the other hand that Reason thus set back and deprived of its rights revenged itself on its offender and provided a stunning example in his ethics that one dare not sacrifice clear, scientific conviction to any kind of faith, and that it is a contradiction to deny knowledge of the supersensible to reason, and yet want to attempt a scientific establishment and presentation of the super-sensible in a definite form (i.e., transcendental freedom). Fichte already opined accurately, that is, observed accurately, but philosophized badly about this contradictory behavior (N.W. I, p. 454). The more energetic the attempts originating from Kant's ethical individuality are to develop the fundamental principles of moral action in the greatest possible purity, the more glaringly at all corners and edges that speculative impotence appears, through which (in incomprehensible illusion) he wanted to provide a free space for his ethical ideal. Therefore a very mixed feeling comes over the critic when he's supposed to show how the deepest thoughts and most genial conceptions of ethical consciousness shrivel under the icy breath of theoretical skepticism and are held back at a certain stage of semi-maturity.

2. The first question is: how do we arrive at the concept of freedom, the central point of all morality? Not by an empirical path, because nature shows us only mechanical causality, in which every change is determined by a previous condition, so that the series of. these never ends. Freedom, however, is an attribute of the spirit, and is the capacity to begin a series of actions by itself by means of an original action which is not empirically or phenomenally conditioned (Critique of Pure Reason, pp.166–169 in Hutchins' edition). (2) If there were nothing but causality in the world there could be no question of freedom and hence of morality. But actually, besides nature there exists the region of moral spirit, besides the realm of necessity there is the realm of moral ought, besides laws of mechanical connections there are the pure imperatives of reason (Ibid. p.167). The ethical realm, far from being capable of being constructed or deduced from empirical-phenomenal components — ex pumice aquam! (water from stone) — is a realm of its own, abiding by ideas into which pure reason fits the empirical conditions (Ibid. p.168). It is this very realm of ought, of the categorical imperative, of moral law, which is the cognitional foundation for the highest concept of morality: freedom (C. Pract. R., pp.291–304). Freedom is the real foundation of moral law, moral law is the cognitional foundation of freedom. Of course the critic immediately has to oppose this description with reasonable doubts. Moral law as distinguished from the law of nature contains exactly the same problem as the idea of freedom, only it is the concept of freedom from the point of view that its content is not arbitrary but is a system in accordance with ideas, reasons or moral motives, just as nature is a system of mechanical-causal mediation. In the same act one knows the content of moral law and the content of moral-freedom. What Kant really wants to say is this: That our knowledge of freedom is not immediately knowledge of the full, positive meaning of the word. By reflecting upon our actions we gain the consciousness to begin with, that certain actions which we call moral can not be exclusively derived from empirical motives, but rather that we go considerably beyond the empirical motives of pleasure, displeasure, usefulness and the like in every moral action. Therefore Kant rightly observes that our concept of freedom is at first a negative or practical freedom in so far as we encounter it in operation in practical affairs (Critique of Practical Reason, H. p.302). However, this dialectical means by which the concept of freedom is first given to us as a negative quantity (= insufficiency of empirical motives in moral action) is only one side of its complete concept, which immediately emerges upon sharper reflection. Namely, if we observe that psychologically speaking the soul is never determined negatively but always positively by some kind of a motive of a moral or immoral kind, then from this viewpoint the concept of a negative freedom is meaningless; and those who understand freedom (freedom) only as a libertas a coactione(liberty from necessity or compulsion) completely forget that with regard to psychological determination it makes no difference whether I am determined from without or within, and that true freedom doesn't consist of inner psychological necessitation at all, but rather that the worst criminal as well as the conventionally most moral person find themselves together in this realm of psychological determination. The concept of ethical-freedom is only then attained when one goes beyond every necessitation by merely empirical motives; however this extension and therefore this negative freedom is itself only possible by virtue of the capacity for positive freedom. Purely negative freedom is contradictory from the standpoint of empiricism, because the soul is always positively determined; it therefore also cannot be the cause of phenomena, as Kant rightly observes (Critique of Pure Reason, p.169) it cannot become practical, and contradicts its own concept. If on the other hand the concept of negative freedom cannot be abandoned because it is a necessary component of moral consciousness, then what remains is to expand it to positive freedom and to elevate it into the region of true, transcendental, ideal freedom. If negative freedom is one where empirical causes do not completely determine us (Ibid., p.164), then positive freedom is a special way of drawing up the initiative for one's actions out of the depths of ethical being or existence. It therefore follows that negative freedom is only possible and comprehensible by means of positive freedom, and those who remain standing at negative freedom in any form are like the Hera of mythology who, laden with weights, was suspended between heaven and earth. On one side the weight of empirical motivation presses on them and prevents them from reaching the realm of freedom, on the other side they recognize morality to be a force which opposes sensuousness and selfishness; out of the confused mixing — rather than the dialectical connecting — of the two directions comes negative freedom — that one-sided abstraction of the empirically given, which is incapable of lifting itself to the heights of independent, positive thinking, and consequently eventually sinks again into the depths of unethical behavior.

Thus, if freedom in its true essence has immediately proven itself to be a positive force, and if we further recognize that moral law, categorical imperative and the like only contain this essence in them as if in paraphrase, then it's clear that we cannot get to know freedom through moral laws or the categorical imperative, or through a feeling of ought or through any of its various moments at all, but in the last instance we can only know it by means of an original and direct self-reflection of the spirit on its own ethical nature — by means of a practical a priori. It is still much less possible therefore to establish the true concept of freedom (freedom) on a merely empirical path by comparison of various kinds of motivation, or by abstraction from external compulsion, or the like. Even for the simplest and plainest judgment of an action from moral points of view this original practical a priori is necessary, and the only thing that can be conceded to empiricism is that this a priori is developed to ever greater clarity and purity through its exercise in our actions in the empirical realm. But this also is not to be understood to mean that the empirical exercise of morality as such could help us to greater clarity about the nature and content of positive freedom; rather it is the practical consciousness of freedom again which in itself progresses to ever higher stages of power and purity independently of all empiricism and only recognizes the limitations in all empirical action above which it rises, the inadequate forms in the battle with which the genius of freedom unfolds its wings ever more mightily and victoriously. Neither the Nemean lion not: the twelve headed Hydra made Hercules, but the divine-like nature of our hero became great in these partial trials by battling them, and this entire empirical finiteness is only the battlefield for the ethical spirit on which it, the spirit, is led on to ever more suitable forms of its being and activity. What Kant therefore opposes to this view — namely as if ethical cognition did not begin with freedom — is easy to refute and would, if it could prove anything, just as well disprove the idea that moral law is the cognitional foundation for freedom. If namely to begin with it is said that the first concept of freedom is negative and that therefore knowledge of the same cannot begin with it, then this objection is overcome by the presentation of the practical a priori, which under all circumstances, if ever so weakly and obscurely includes positive knowledge. Positive freedom is the first, original and principal presupposition for the negative; we would never arrive at a consciousness of what it means not to be necessitated exclusively by natural or empirical motives if we didn't already have some kind of knowledge of a system of higher motives which practically and positively elevate us above that other series of natural motives. A being that was completely and exclusively driven by impulses which were foreign to the ethical realm in the strict sense would on this account never even arrive at a negative freedom — and this simply for the reason that the so-called negative freedom in its true essence is really a positive instance of it, and is only labeled as a merely negative faculty by reflection which is not carried to completion.

The second reason; that freedom cannot be cognized from experience, holds just as much for moral law; for what belongs to experience in the latter (the expansion of the moral way of thinking into the system of external actions) in its empirical existence cannot of course be a source of knowledge for freedom. If it is really true that ought expresses a kind of necessity which otherwise doesn't occur in all of nature (Critique of Pure Reason, p. 167), and if morality essentially consists in being determined by the imperative ought, then morality and with it the law and principle of morality cannot be cognized by external, natural or even psychological means. But what belongs to the inner ethical way of thinking in the realization of moral law is precisely identical with the idea of positive freedom, and therefore knowledge of the ethical can begin just as well with freedom as with moral law. The only serious objection which Kant could bring to bear against the cognition of freedom by an original act of practical self-consciousness, was his aversion for “intellectual Anschauung” (‘intuition’ in Hutchins) by means of which alone freedom can be known as a positive concept (Critique of Practical Reason, p.303). But after all, one should no longer have to prove that the a priori synthetic function, the transcendental self-consciousness, in the Critique of Pure Reason by its very nature and according to its tendency is or can be anything else but exactly intellectual Anschauung, that is, a function of reason in which the intellect as a thinking intellect recognizes itself at the same time as the principle of and source of Anschauung's (that is, perceptual) activity. Now just as in the theoretical realm transcendental apperception is the highest principle of all intellectual activity, which therefore cannot be understood by any subordinate, isolated fact of experience, so in the practical realm an original, practical self-consciousness is the source of consciousness of freedom. Both the theoretical and the practical a priori coincide in their logical form: it is pure reason or intellectual Anschauung which is the basis for both. As far as content goes, however, the practical a priori is an extension of the theoretical one, and the idea of freedom is precisely the essence or the deepest form of the a priori function, of transcendental self-consciousness, of “intellectual Anschauung”. If therefore in this realm of pure reason empiricism is inadequate to establish a knowledge of the philosophical principle, if the latter can only enter our consciousness by an original, synthetic action of the spirit, then therefore eo ipso (by itself) it is also proven that freedom (pure reason in its highest and most perfect form) can only begin with an original, transcendental, absolutely synthetic act of our spirit, and only through such can it become an object of knowledge. There can therefore no longer be any question about a derivation of freedom from moral law as a fact still different from the former, and Kant would have done well to pursue more seriously his conjecture expressed in the footnote for the beginning of §6, that probably the only unconditioned law is the self-consciousness of pure, practical reason, and that the latter is identical with the positive concept of freedom (Ibid., p.302). It remained for Fichte to bring out the. principal significance of the idea of freedom for the theoretical as well as the practical realm; but also in Kant everything which is advanced about freedom depends upon that original, practical self-consciousness of the spirit, and upon the unspoken presupposition that freedom can only be known by means of a free, original, unconditioned act of the spirit.

3. Kant gave his whole investigation of moral law and of the nature of freedom a wrong turn from the start in that he considered moral law to be a mere legislative form, and everything material in morality, all content-containing motives of the will to be simply a contamination of the ethical realm. According to this then, freedom is also defined generally as total independence from the laws of nature and as determination purely by the law-giving form (Ibid., § 5 and 6, p.301). Now to be sure, it is quite correct that the principle of morality cannot coincide with any of its manifold manifestations in moral life, because each of these can only appear and gain validity under the presupposition of an all-comprehensive ethical context; but this doesn't begin to prove that the moral principle must disregard all content, all particular character and peculiar nature of the phenomenal will, and that it has to make laws as a purely abstract, general form. Rather it is obvious that an empty form loses all definiteness and all relation to the situations given empirically and also that the expansion of a moment — simply separated from this phenomenal world — into the latter becomes impossible (and so does the entire system of objective morality), if the ethical principle is supposed to be only the empty form, while the phenomenal world is supposed to be the mere content in contrast to the ethic-producing form. Aside from it being inconceivable how an empty form would ever be able to produce the fullness of a most manifold concrete content out of itself: freedom in its truly positive character is endangered and volatilized to a merely negative independence from the empirically given. For this reason Kant never quite succeeded in giving the idea of freedom in a really positive, clearly defined content; nevertheless we encounter definitions in his work which do more justice to the ideas than anything else that dogmatic philosophy before him has attained.

4. Already in the so-called antithetic of pure reason (Critique of Pure Reason, p.141), Kant defined freedom as the capacity to initiate a condition, and therefore also a series of effects of it, so that nothing precedes it whereby an action in progress is determined by existing laws. This seems to sound very positive, but as it stands here it is a completely negative and empty phrase which is incapable of being carried out dialectically even in Kantian terms. A pure and simple beginning can first of all mean two different things: it can mean an existence, a being, an action or a thought which for us is a pure and simple presupposition beyond which we can in no way go. An action would therefore begin purely and simply if it were only defined and determined by this last, absolute presupposition. In any case a condition would be established which temporally speaking precedes our action and which causally speaking conditions it according to an existing law. Such a beginning is apparently not what Kant had in mind. Spiritual action should absolutely not presuppose anything; it should begin a state and therewith a series of states without precondition, it should be equipped with creative power in the most daring sense in that it places a something in the empty place of nothing (for “nothing” is presupposed). To be sure Kant also expresses himself occasionally to the effect that freedom is the capacity of the subject to begin an action simply out of himself. But this version runs into the same dilemma. Either the subject latches onto a presupposed condition, existence or change in himself, or he creates something similar out of nothing, whereby one should note that the expression “out of himself” becomes invalid, since nothing precedes the original action of the subject, and therefore also not on an anyway already present, definite and responsible subject or ego, so that the subject is necessitated in Munchhausenic fashion as causa sui (cause of himself) to yank himself out of the swamp of non-existence into the region of existence. In other words, a pure and simple beginning in the Kantian sense involves the contradiction that something existing (ego, subject) is treated as something non-existent (which has to posit its state and therewith itself for the first time). This is definitely not to say that transcendental freedom couldn't also acquire an admissible meaning, the discussion of which however we'll have to reserve for another occasion.

5. A more positive result appears to be provided by the definition in which freedom is formulated as the ability to be determined by the mere form of a moral law. (Critique of Practical Reason § 2, 3, 5, 6, besides notes; then the fundamental law § 7). However, the wealth which seems to lie in this all-comprehensive moral principle is only the outline of a general concept which is entirely devoid of content and which depends on an abstract formulation of the concept “law”. But what constitutes the content of a law is the mode of action of components of existence itself, and it therefore is something real, actual, concrete, and not a form merely floating over things which one assumes will later compel the latter to obedience. So moral law then also does not manifest itself in the human spirit as a formula confronting man externally, before which he has to bow down in bIfid obedience, he knows not why or wherefore. Where moral law in this form is felt to be like a categorical imperative, or only a command of a foreign power, there true morality, true freedom and autonomy are not present at all. Instead, no discrepancy should exist anymore between the form of moral law and the content of my moral action, between the law and the deepest essence of my ethical nature, between the godhead on the world throne and the will which is destined to take the former into itself, between the heteronomous command which comes to me as the emanation of a higher or foreign power, and my freedom which is certain in its attitude and in its ethical action of being connected with and one with that higher power in the deepest ground of its being. In short, the form of moral law is either empty talk, a concept which says nothing or it is the deepest substance of the ethical-personal spirit itself, in other words, it is not just the most universal or general moment of moral life but it is also at the same time the most special or concrete one in every single ethical individuality. Kant and all those after him who only talk about a general human nature to which the single person feels obligated in his moral action has only asserted the general nature of moral law and has therefore not advanced at all to the concept of true freedom as a moment of really individualistic life. The consciousness of my moral duty is never an abstract, but a concrete universal one, i.e., it must meet not merely the generally valid requirements of moral life but also the special and particular requirements and relations of the individual position, setting, environment and the most complicated detail of the private circumstances. Therefore, anyone moral action in concreto cannot be produced by laborious reflection about what might possibly be applied as a general rule by every person in a particular case or what might agree with the general nature and dignity of the human spirit. Nor can an unethical motive be overcome and silenced by general discussion. Rather what is required at every moment is a directly active impulse of the moral. principle (of direct ethical tact) which doesn't merely accompany me in easily surveyable situations, but which — like that Socratic daimon — stands at my side advising me or warning me even in the most concrete and individual branches of practical life. Higher than the categorical imperative — whose content I after all can only gain by reflection about the multiplicity of human actions — is the Fichtean teaching of conscience, which tells me in every single situation of my existence what I'm supposed to do or avoid in this situation, which accompanies me in all the events of my life and never fails to advise me when I have to act, and which immediately convinces me and irresistibly wins my approval (The Vocation of Man, Book 3: Faith I). Also, he who only finds the moral rule to be applied in a given case after laborious reflection and casuistic cleverness is lower in our moral esteem, because in someone like this we miss the live moral conviction and the undoubting certainty with which the ethical impulse should grasp and shape the individuality of the particular case. Far higher in our esteem for this reason is the open-minded moral consciousness, the decisive firmness of the pure soul, the heroic greatness of the moral genius who unites vivid warmth of feeling with the clarity of his conviction. If freedom is to become my freedom, a moral action my action, if the good and the right are to be realized by me, by the action of this particular individual personality, then I cannot possibly be satisfied with a general law which ignores all the individuality and specialness of the factors competing with each other in an action and which commands me to examine before every action whether the motive underlying it agrees with the abstract norm of universal human nature or whether the way in which it lives and works in me could become a universally valid maxim: Aside from the fact that such an examination could lead to no result, since I often hardly know what is appropriate for me and my circumstances, seldom what is good for others and never what is right for all, so I can never assure myself of the universal validity of my maxim on the path of general reflection and logical subsumption of the single case under the general categorical imperative or under the idea of a universal human nature: aside from this, such a leveling of my moral action to the general pattern, such an adaptation to the generally customary and acceptable would make every individual freedom, every progress beyond the ordinary and domestic, every significant, outstanding and trail-blazing ethical achievement impossible. The majority of the proponents of the universal human nature of the categorical imperative are known to be little suited to serve as models of moral behavior, and whoever strives to guide himself in his practical self-consciousness by the common sense of ordinary moral practice will in any case never astonish the world with an outstanding achievement, he will never belong to those who as ethically normative people “pre-construct” freedom for their fellow man with a concrete example — not with a general concept. Precisely the highest achievements of heroic morality, e.g., the sacrifice of one's life in the service of the truth and the just can never be deduced from general human nature and therefore can also never become the content of general moral regulation, not because such a deed would not be a moral achievement, but on the contrary, because it is such an intense but individual achievement of the moral spirit that an obligation for it cannot be expected generally, cannot be expressed from the common sense of practical life, but can only be hoped for as the emanation of an exceptionally highly intense, morally ingenious individuality. Kant and all those after him who plague themselves with their obligation to a general human nature, which from their point of view can after all only be viewed nominalistically as a collective concept of the. prevailing moral consciousness and not as a power which transcends the manifesting particularity and concretion, all of these have not penetrated to the deepest core of moral life. “In Kant especially there's still quite a bit of that antiquated rationalism of the Enlightenment period which doesn't respect anything which can't be fitted completely into an exact logical formula. This explains his veneration for general abstract formulae, the constrainedness and rigidity of his deductions and divisions, the careful erasing of all personal advancement, which he abhors as idolization, and the pedantical rigor which commands all comfortable interests to sacrifice themselves to the cold paragraphs of the law of duty. This also explains his subjugation of freedom (this most individual ethical principle in the human spirit, from which everything springs which leads humanity beyond itself, the highest and the deepest to which only a small number of the elect ever advance) by the emptiest and most abstract principle of formal law imaginable, which at most represents the average degree of practical common sense attained at anyone moment, but never represents the creative freedom which carries the law of its moral action in itself.

6. We meet a kind of equalization between the concrete idea of a personal freedom and the abstract form of moral law in Kant's concept of autonomy. Namely, insofar as man can disregard sensual motives and determine himself purely by a consciousness of moral law, he is autonomous; the opposite of this — the determination by sensual impulses, by any matter, or by an object of any kind — heteronomy. (Critique of Practical Reason, 8, Proposition IV, p.304). Now if we once and for all disregard the erroneous opposition of the material and formal principles of practical action it becomes easier for us to do justice to the deep truth that Kant expressed with his autonomous moral principle. For if it previously remained unclear what it meant that man has the capacity to determine himself independently of the compulsion of sense impulses” (Critique of Pure Reason, p.164) or “to begin a series of actions by itself” and if it seemed downright incomprehensible how in pure and simple un preconditioned action one could call a deed into existence out of non-existence, then thanks now to the idea of autonomy this causeless freedom has become thinkable. Namely, freedom now means the direct determination of the will by the condition of a generally binding moral law (C. Prac. R., p.310, 321 ff.); to begin an action by itself doesn't mean to shoot it out of a pistol without any mediation, but it means to be driven to an action by the content of moral law alone; autonomy is not mere whim anymore or mere negative freedom, or mere indifferent liberty, but it is a positive expression of the will on the strength of a moral motive which doesn't lie outside the will as a sensory impulse, but which constitutes the true essence of the human spirit and the substance of the will itself. In short, autonomy signifies a fact of greatest importance: that the content of the moral does not confront the will as an external, foreign, merely abstract (general) law, but it is the true substance and real essence of the human spirit itself. Hence freedom if understood truly and positively is also not different from the content of moral law, but it is the capacity to be active as an autonomous will, a true spirit and an ethical personality. By means of autonomy, or ethical-freedom, the human personality acquires a new dignity and significance which could never accrue to it on an empirical path. What is truly essential in the determination of the human personality is not the ability to be determined by empirical motives, is not the existence of and the activity in the terrestrial phenomenon as such, is not the subjugation of the spirit to a foreign albeit moral law and is not the authoritative guardianship of a will standing over me, — but what's truly essential in the determination of the human personality is freedom firstly as negative independence from the mechanism of the whole of nature, or from the whole sum of all sense-dependent conditions (to which it should be added that the spirit only matures under the authoritative discipline of a spirit confronting it) and then secondly and most importantly, it is the ability to follow specific, practical rules given in and by the reason. According to this, man actually belongs to two worlds: the world of sense phenomena and the world of ethical-freedom. As a phenomenal personality however and as a part of phenomenal existence he is subjected to the intelligible personality, to the personality as ethical spirit. In the ethical spirit therefore lies the content, substance and the true nature of man; in ethical-freedom resides his second and highest determination or vocation; in autonomous self-determination lies the persistent stipulation of that value which man can only give himself; from this point of view every man can and must view himself with nothing but reverence and the highest respect (Critique of Practical Reason, p.325 ff.).

 

However, running along side these in every respect excellent and incontestable definitions are others from which one can conclude that the conciliation of moral-freedom as a personal act of the ego, and the content of an over-powerful, generally valid, moral law, was not entirely successful. We see this especially from the way that Kant described the relation of the feeling of respect to moral law. True autonomy and therefore true morality is namely, as noted above, only present where the content of moral law in no way confronts the will, either as empirical rule or as a dictate of another person, or as an abstract general formula, but where will and law, phenomenal individual and ethical spirit, autos and nomos, limited self and unlimited content of morality have become so completely united, that, as Hegel so excellently puts it, the spirit's true consciousness of itself coincides with the consciousness of its ethical-freedom (W. W. XI, p. 62), and that the phenomenal world — this whole natural existence — is only felt as the medium in which and through which the ethical, self-assured and mighty spirit reveals itself. This ethical-freedom as true self-consciousness of the spirit now reflects itself immediately in our feeling life as the feeling of self-respect, as the elevating consciousness of our moral dignity, and as a justified moral pride which is inseparable from the ethical individuality. This feeling of respect, however, is not essentially different from ethical-freedom, but is only the legitimate reflection of the same; it is also — as Kant (loc. cit, p.323) rightly notes — not the primary motive of morality, but morality itself, considered subjectively as a motive. First, moral law objectively and directly determines the will, and only then does the effect of this determination on the feeling follow, on the one hand as displeasure insofar as the sensual and selfish individual is suppressed, on the other hand, as pleasure insofar as the individual obedient to the law of duty becomes aware of his worth, his nobility, and his irrestible power. Once this reflection in the feeling is present, it again can act as a powerful ethical motive insofar as this highest enjoyment of personal life induces man to provide and retain the same for himself, and it is a foolish doctrinaire exaggeration of modern pessimism to regard this striving for ethical eudaimonia (which is very essentially connected with moral activity and is always conditioned by the same) as a corruption of morals. With the same injustice Kant denied every characteristic of pleasure or displeasure to the feeling of respect, after he himself after all, described the depressing effect that sensuality and selfishness — and the elevating effect that ethical behavior — have on moral feeling, in a way which cannot be understood without the inclusion of emotional moments (Ibid,. p.324); and in contradiction to the positive nature of moral-freedom and moral pride he only ascribes a negative value to moral feeling (Ibid, p.326). Such contradictions come about through Kant's wrong conception of pleasure as a mere sensual affection; whereas pleasure itself in man — insofar as he has begun to raise himself above the basest sensuality and animality — has an essential spiritual and ethical significance; as all who occupy themselves with the higher interests of spiritual existence themselves experience (Goethe: The song which pours from the throat is a reward which rewards generously).

However, respect for moral law as heteronomous morality understands it is quite different. Here the content of moral law confronts the human will and therefore can only be felt by the latter as an incommensurable, overpowering quantity which suppresses and humiliates it. This discrepancy between moral content and human will underlies all heteronomy, and is everywhere equally false, no matter how the content of moral law is conceived. In principle it makes no difference whether a moral law confronts me in the guise of a human or a divine authority, and if in affairs of moral life I'm conscious of perceiving anything else but the voice of my own practical reason, then true morality is not attained at all. Quite a bit of this heteronomy, or the moral respect (in the heteronomous sense) connected with it, is even still clinging to Kantian ethics. The reason for this is that Kant wasn't able to bring moral law into a concrete form in which it appears as the innermost being of the spirit itself. As a general law it always remains an abstract formula, and one can't see how the spirit is supposed to find the highest expression of its concrete individuality in it again. As an individual manifesting outwardly I don't know how I arrive at this generally valid law; since the connecting threads between the absolute ethical will and my individual will are missing I don't know why this law should be binding for me, and since it is purely and simply an abstract formula which says everything and nothing I don't know how to apply it in a particular case. Lastly, since this moral law demands of me a pure and simple renunciation of all pleasure, of all individual well being, of all likes, and even of all pleasure from the good, I can only see an oppressing, inhuman measure in it, and the highest condition of all morality — consciousness of the intimate connection of one's being with the ultimate ground of ethical life — can never be fulfilled. The greatest respect for the solemn majesty of this law, combined with a consciousness of his utter inability to ever do justice to its dictates is the only feeling which man can ever have for the categorical imperative. This duality however is an attribute of heteronomous morality, and only in contradiction with this does Kant allow our soul to rejoice at the magnificence of this law and to elevate itself above itself to the extent that it sees the sacred law sovereign above itself and its perishable nature (Ibid, p.324). Yet how can and should a moral law — which in its terrible majesty and truly draconic strictness goes far beyond human standards and which “cannot be degraded to any intimate inclination” (Ibid, p.324), simultaneously crush me and elevate me, let me feel my moral powerlessness and simultaneously my moral greatness, fill me with heteronomous respect for a transcendental command, and with autonomous respect for my own moral dignity and sublimity? Because of his abstract-formal conception of ethics, Kant is not in a position to bridge the gap between heteronomous and autonomous morality, and yet his whole heart is on the side of the spiritually active personality, of which his poetic student said that it has taken the godhead into its will and has filled the gap which separates the heteronomous and therefore guilt-conscious conscience from the moral realm. A criticism cannot help point out this vacillation between heteronomy and autonomy in Kant, and yet it is only objective and just if it acknowledges that, in spite of everything, the center of gravity in Kantian morality definitely lies on the side of autonomous freedom.

 

7. The essential moment which underlies the entire preceding description of freedom — expressly pointed out by Kant, but neither further secured against all objections of empiricism, nor investigated to its full depth — is the thought that morality is capable of influencing the human will directly (Critique of Practical Reason, p.310, 321); that therefore ethical-freedom is completely independent of all sensual motives and signifies a truly autonomous, morally productive activity. Freedom is — to use Kant's own words — causa noumenon (thinkable but not sense-perceptible cause): with complete spontaneity it makes its own system of ideas into which it fits the empirical conditions, and in accordance with which it declares actions to be necessary which perhaps have never occurred yet, nor will ever occur, but it equally presupposes for all actions that reason has causality with respect to them, for without this it couldn't expect practical results from its ideas (Critique of Pure Reason, p.168; Critique of Practical Reason, p.318, 311 ff.). In my opinion Kant reached the high point of his speculations in his idea of ethical-freedom as a transcendental causality (directly determined by the content and ultimate ground of morality) which regulates the phenomenal world by its own laws; with this he more or less made good the errors he incurred in the founding of his principle of knowledge, in his treatment of the absolutely synthetic a priori function, in his limitation of all knowledge to experience of the phenomenal world, and in his overthrow of all metaphysics. We don't want to hold ourselves up by describing how this transcendental ethical causality in all points runs directly counter to the end result of the Critique of Pure Reason: here transcendental apperception which has to be given the substance and content of its activity from intellectual perception, there transcendental ethical-freedom which brings forth morality (which as regards content and form is independent of all empirical material) out of its own perfect power, and subjects the phenomenon to this new system of ideas: here theoretical knowledge which only is in a position to read phenomena as experience, there a practical ability to order and shape phenomena in accordance with supersensible motives: here the direct rejection of “intellectual perception” of the intellect as a principle not merely for conceptual thinking but also for sense-bound thinking; there the just as direct admission that positive freedom can only be recognized by “intellectual perception” and therefore the reality of the former guarantees the truth of the latter: here the volatilization of all ideas to mere things in themselves, mere negative limiting concepts, mere regulative units of experiential thinking, there the consolidation of the reason-idea to a positive magnitude, and the expansion of the empirical by the transcendental realm of ethical-freedom, or by the constitutive force of moral activity: here the negation of all metaphysics, the repudiation of all knowledge of the supersensible, there the restoration of both as a science of pure, autonomous, practical reason. Kant never became aware of the contradictions in which he entangled himself by tying his teaching of transcendental freedom to the final result of his reason-critique. With complete certainty he once and for all convinced himself of the sophism that reason is a supersensible capacity only from a practical point of view, but that from a theoretical point of view it is quite incapable of establishing anything about metaphysical things. The less he was able to raise his ethical principle to the level of a firmly established, scientific proposition, the more inwardly he clung to the ethical fact itself, because he saw that the value of our actions, the dignity of our personality, the significance of all phenomenal existence depends on ethical-freedom, on the possibility of directly influencing the human will with moral law. Very unlike certain modern proponents of philosophical thinking and of so-called higher education who — from the skeptical hollowness and the asthenia of their speculative thinking ability — immediately derive the right to throw the whole content of an ethical world conception overboard, Kant held fast to ethical-freedom as a last anchor-chain which we dare not let go, even if a theoretical insight into its nature and into the connection of jts members with each other and with the rest of the positions of our existence is denied us. With the certainty of unreflective instinct Kant felt that we here stand at the point where the existence or non-existence of the world, in the highest sense, is decided. That is, if the content of moral law is such that man can never become conscious of it in its purity and its full power, then all scientific endeavors to gain a conclusive principle of ethics are futile. If the ethical principle does not possess the power to work regulatively into the human will without any mediation, without any empirical admixture, without depending on any impulse of pleasure or displeasure or usefulness in the bad egotistical sense: then pure, unclouded morality remains an ever unattainable ideal for man. If in the human personality — and that means in everyone without exception — there isn't some point in which — speaking in principle and ignoring empirical complications — the power of sensual and selfish motives, the striving of bad egoity, the domination of opposing evil is absolutely conquered, eliminated and erased, then this selfishness, this bad egoity and this evil will be regarded as irredeemable substance of the spirit, and therefore the real possibility of an ethical world evolution in general, and ethical progress in particular will be abandoned. So infinitely much depends upon our grasping the pure and simple independence of the moral principle — the absolute, transcendental causality in affairs of moral action — with complete clarity and sharpness, and all the misery in all areas of human life — in science, art and practical life — has its origin in the skeptical dissolution of this fundamental norm in our spiritual organization, the organization of our mental capacity. However, if we look around for the reasons with which Kant supported the transcendental causality of ethical-freedom (Critique of Practical Reason, II: About the Right of Pure Reason etc., p.311 ff.) then it is admittedly not difficult to prove that none of these completely serve the purpose. In support of the concept of a causa noumenon he has:

a. That the concept of a cause springs entirely from pure reason. Not only did Kant fail to prove this statement anywhere but he also directly upset it again in that he limited the application of all categories to objects of sense perception and rejected as inadmissible a so-called transcendental use of the same above and beyond experience. But this is just the most important thing about the causa noumenon. If the category of causality refers exclusively to the phenomenal realm, then the idea of a noumenal causality automatically falls.

b. The causality concept's objective reality is ensured by deduction through looking at the objects, i.e., it has factual validity. — Of course, the validity of pure intellectual concepts is proven insofar as they incorporate the condition that they have all possible experience in them, but this proof is no help in establishing freedom as a causa noumenon. Throughout Kant empiricism is ruled by laws of mechanical causality; freedom however establishes a system of ideas, a realm of ought, independent of the mechanism of nature. Experience cannot be regarded as a valid witness to the factuality of ethical-freedom; rather, the fact and the content of the latter — as well as the real possibility of its appearance in this world of phenomena — must be established independently before it can be determined whether any phenomenon, fact or action is an emanation of and an objective description of ethical-freedom. The “empirical character” of transcendental ethical-freedom, i.e., a psychological-motivation in accordance with definite rules, can only then be regarded as a type or pattern of the “intelligible character” of the same if we presuppose the idea of the latter and also presuppose the possibility that reason has real causality with regard to phenomena (Critique of Pure Reason, p. 168); whereas it is quite impossible to establish the reality of ethical-freedom by beginning with its empirical character. All conditions of nature, all mechanical connections have no bearing on the determination of free will (freedom) itself, but only on the effect and the consequences of the same in the phenomenon (Ibid, H. p. 168).

c. The concept of causality as regards its origin is independent of all sensual conditions. Very good, except that when expressed this precisely the concept of causality is equivalent to the idea of transcendental-freedom and therefore cannot first be drawn in as proof of the latter's truth. Rather the order of thoughts is the reverse: if the Critique of Practical Reason is incapable of independently developing the idea of autonomous ethical-freedom from observation of ethical life and from the critical elaboration of the phenomena of the same, then an a priori causality remains a logical abstraction without support or content. This is exactly why in the Critique of Pure Reason Kant fell down again from the heights of a priorispeculation into the “bathos of experience”, because he was incapable of connecting the idea of freedom with the principle of knowledge or of presenting the former as the truth and perfection of all speculation. Since that time, one-sided logicism — which believes it can gain the true philosophical principle from mere elements of intellectual knowledge and that it can ignore real, objective ethical and metaphysical facts, — has remained the hitherto unrecognized root evil of all philosophical speculation.

d. As a concept of non-sensible origin, causality cannot be limited to phenomena but must also be applied to things with a purely intellectual nature. Only, the non-sensible origin of a category merely indicates the negative fact that the realm of sense experience does not constitute the only content of our knowledge. But then how can freedom be thought as a positive concept by means of a merely possible, thinkable, but empty concept?

e. However, the extension of the causality concept above and beyond the phenomena holds only for its practical use; in this extension, it theoretically remains a merely possible and thinkable, but empty, concept. — It is true that with the causality-concept (insofar as it is spread out over the phenomenal world) we go over into the realm of transcendental freedom. But whoever maintains that for speculation this idea is a merely possible and empty concept fails to recognize the unity of reason (which comes to its sharpest expression precisely in this idea) and makes it. into an irrational quantity and an object of an unscientific faith. We are greatly indebted to Fichte for having raised the concept of freedom to the substance of all reason and to the central point of every scientific world conception, and therewith for having paved the way for the first time for the final reconciliation of all dualistic ways of thinking. But more recent philosophers believe they're doing something significant when in renewing the ethical-practical realm, the realm of freedom, and. religious faith they present Kantian dualism as a noli me tangere, which philosophical speculation has to keep away from its body as much as possible, that is, which it has to consider and treat solely as an illusion of uncultured and uneducated minds. Kant expelled the ethical-practical region from speculation and banished it into the realm of faith; the later Kantians, who possess the capacity of a unified world conception to a far lesser degree than Kant, banish the content of faith into the realm of illusion. However, modern positivism has drawn the final conclusion about this conception in that it has reduced ideals in general and therewith philosophical speculation itself to dreams of poetical phantasy. Therewith the series of corrupted products stemming from Kantian dualism is closed, for now.

8. Now although the reasoning by which freedom was to be established as a causa noumenon is invalid, the matter itself is by no means settled hereby. Only, the path by which we arrive at the consciousness of a direct determination of our will by the content of moral law is a different one than Kant chose. If we are to arrive at a scientifically valid concept of ethical-freedom, then this cannot occur on the basis of a “transcendental logic” (or, as one says now, theory of knowledge) which negates the idea of freedom by giving it the form of a source of knowledge which is a priori, absolutely synthetic and rational and independent of all empirical and perceptual material. In logic it was wasted effort to only want to hold on to the rational principle in anyone of its manifold forms of manifestation, as percept, mental image, concept, judgment and the like and in ethics it is lost labor to want to look for a capacity which first makes possible an ethical action that is independent of all empirical motives and that transcends all manifestations of moral consciousness. Furthermore, an error which is connected with the one just mentioned is that one can put things like the principle of speculation, a unified world conception, what philosophy should be or wants to do — into a purely logical form, such as: the three so-called laws of thinking, or a transcendental apperception, or an absolute ego, or an absolute subject-object, or an absolute knowledge. All these forms of the philosophical principle are of a purely logical nature; they contain neither the principle of natural existence nor the basis of ethical existence, and it is therefore impossible to go over to natural and ethical existence by dialectically irreproachable means. The fundamental defect of all previous philosophizing, including classical German idealism from Kant to Hegel lies in this one-sided logicism, which builds up its world conception on the most abstract, emptiest, and therefore least sound and promising foundations, and which doesn't allow the further evolution of the system to follow from this one-sided principle, but only places the single evolutionary phases of the same side by side, or at most reconciles them with each other by an abstract, vague expression such as “otherness”, “return into itself,” etc. However, consistent thinking would require that the form in which the philosophical principle emerged at the end of the dialectical course of evolution should also have been placed at the foundation of the philosophical system as its true beginning. If instead of a single empirical fact or the totality of the same (nature), or a single logical law or the abstract expression of the same (the pure ego or pure knowledge), and if instead of a finite form of the ethical spirit, or the totality of its manifestations (the nature-free or world-free abstract spirit) we place the absolute ethical spirit (as the principle of the total natural and spiritual existence) at the foundation of the philosophical system — only then can a unified world conception be created in which its single members are not rhapsodically roused or placed together externally in only a quite. abstract form, but are conceived to be the inner essential expression of — and the continuously evolving members. of — the absolute ethical spirit itself. In Kant the lack of a unified world conception — and his one-sided logicism — makes itself felt in that he failed in all of his attempts to establish the concept of freedom scientifically and also to reconcile freedom and nature — that sharpest expression of the contrast between empiricism and rationalism, real and ideal, a posteriori and a priori, observation and thinking.

9. The first way that Kant believed he could unite freedom and the necessity of nature is by differentiating between the world as phenomenon and the world as thing in itself. Insofar as things are phenomenon they are subject to the laws of mechanical causality; insofar as they are things in themselves, transcendental freedom rules. (C.Pu.R., p. 165ff.; C.Pr.R., p. 328ff.). Every thing or every human action can and must be considered from this double point of view. Every action as a temporal phenomenon is conditioned by other actions, i.e., by the sum and product of impulses working on the human soul. But every action as an activity of a thing in itself, or as a noumenon, or an intelligible character, has its seat in the spiritually active self-determination of the subject and must therefore be ascribed to the latter for good or bad, must be charged to it or given to its credit. This mode of uniting nature and freedom is already untenable for the reason that the instance to which Kant refers — the distinction of thing in itself and phenomenon — contains exactly the same problem as the relation of freedom and nature. For freedom and nature constitute precisely the greatest, sharpest, and most significant contrast, which is only reflected in a diluted abstract-logical form in the contrast of thing and phenomenon. As long as this universal, ethical contrast of freedom and nature (the absolute ethical spirit and its manifestation in the manifoldness of sense phenomena) is not settled by an independent path of metaphysical speculation, so long the contrast of thing in itself and phenomenon will also haunt “transcendental logic” and cognitional or scientific theory. Only an unparalleled naivety would want to refer to that contrast as a final solution of the world riddle, and the suspicious haste with which the neo-Kantians of all confessions allow all problems which they're unable to solve (Ideas, the supersensible, freedom, religion, the concept of God) to flee into the asylum ignorantiae of the unknowable thing in itself, shows quite clearly that criticism has only fluffed up a pillow for them so that their lazy thinking can take a dogmatic siesta.

10. The same problem returns in a different form in the Critique of Judgment insofar as here the contrast of the mechanical and the teleological world conceptions is to be balanced. The progress which Kant made in this book is as follows. In both the preceding critiques nature appears purely and simply as the realm of mechanical causality and sense phenomenon. Every phenomenon is conditioned by another one and the chain of conditions must not anywhere be broken or torn off. Yet with the concept of a natural law or an order of nature we already stand on ground which has a close relationship to the content of the sensible. Kant expresses this relationship of natural law to moral law in the sentence: By the form of lawfulness in general, sense-world nature is to be regarded as the type (Typus) for intelligible Nature (for moral-freedom). Every moral action, insofar as it becomes manifest, must therefore correspond to this type; it must carry the general form of lawful order in itself, since it would otherwise conceal the order and connection of things. If the maxim for an action is so constituted that it doesn't meet the standard of the form of a natural law at all, then it is also morally objectionable. By this rule, for example, all evil, selfish actions are therefore already inadmissible because they would cancel natural and social life if everyone consistently did them (C. Pra R., p. 317ff.), Herewith Kant broke through the rigid dualism between nature and moral law, and in the general lawfulness of the former he recognized the connecting link (scheme, type, or sign) which leads nature over to where it can be considered from ethical points of view. However as nature is thus brought closer to the ethical realm, the latter takes on a more universal form. If nature in the form of lawful connections shows traces of a moral order, if morality in its external appearance as practical freedom (the sign and type of the transcendental freedom: C. Pu. R., p. 235) can only appear in the form of a causal connection, then the conclusion lies extraordinarily near that nature and freedom no longer confront each other as rigid quantities, that they also don't just stand next to each other indifferently and unconnectedly like thing in itself and phenomenon, but that a point can and must be found in which both diverging lines meet. The Critique of Judgment drew this conclusion and showed that point in the teleological world view. In this last critique it is also repeatedly and rightly impressed on us that the explanation of Nature by mechanical causes in its proper place is a justified and necessary side of the knowledge of Nature, but the final, comprehensive and in. the last instance only satisfying view of Nature depends exclusively upon the application of the teleological view. This teleological viewpoint however consists in our advancing beyond the mechanical-causal connection of things to the supersensible, which lies beyond every possible empirical mental image of Nature (C.J., p. 558). In consequence of the application of this highest idea to the whole of existence, the latter must be viewed as a teleological system which is directed towards a final purpose. The content of this ultimate purpose, however, is man as subject of morality and as a spiritually active moral being (Ibid, p. 587). Therefore freedom — which in the earlier critiques confronted nature as the thing in itself — here becomes the substance and ultimate purpose of all natural evolution. Nature (the entire phenomenal world) is a system of last causes which in the last instance are all aimed at the creation of man as an ethically spiritually-active being. This system of last causes however — with ethical-freedom as the substance and ultimate purpose of evolution in Nature — is the keystone of the entire critical structure, also from a speculative point of view; insofar as thereby all other ideas of God and immortality (which as mere regulative ideas in the Critique of Reason were without ground and support) obtain objective reality through freedom and the ethical ultimate purpose (C.Pr.R., Preface; C.I. p. 607). Thus the last word Kant spoke as a critical philosopher would run as follows: in God (the super-sensible substratum of Nature) we have the binding together of the mechanical and teleological world views, and the unifying point of nature and freedom, and the principle of a conclusive ethical world conception. Ethico-theology is the reasonable conclusion of the whole critical undertaking (C.I., p. 591–593). One would deceive oneself however if one believed that Kant was capable of giving these sentences a strictly scientific and uniformly executed foundation. What we mentioned in general at the beginning of this examination of the ethical investigation of our philosopher applies to an even greater extent to the conclusion of it in the teleological and ethico-theological consecration of existence. Kant not only was unable to free himself from his old superstition that we bring general concepts into the world of sense perception (and accordingly he also pronounced the teleological principle to be a merely subjective, regulative and heuristic axiom of which one can't see how the phenomena are then supposed. to correspond to it), he also retained the incompatible ideas that we can't say anything about the supersensible substratum of Nature, except that it's the being in itself, of which we know only the outer appearance (C.I., p. 581), whereas elsewhere he thinks it very important that the idea of freedom makes the objective reality of God possible and expands our reason beyond those limits within which every (theoretical) concept of Nature would have to remain hopelessly imprisoned (C.Pr.R., p. 291; C.I., p. 607). Finally — instead of (as a philosopher) extending the rights of reason to all things (without exception) which might be given in any way, be it as a component of our ethical-practical world conception, be it finally as the very principle of our knowledge — he took his last refuge in faith, which — without insight into the dialectical mediation between nature and freedom, thing and phenomenon — resolves (and makes into a permanent fundamental principle) to accept as true the conditions of the highest ultimate moral purpose (C.I., p. 607). We get what for philosophy and criticism is a strange spectacle: reason gives itself up, diminishes its rights, and cancels knowledge — to make room for faith (Preface to 2nd edition of C.Pu.R., p. 10), and therewith threatens to shake the whole scientific work to its foundations — especially the critical establishment of the concept of freedom and of an ethical world conception.

In spite of all this — as long as human reason exists it will remain to Kant's undying and imperishable credit that as a critical philosopher he exposed the one-sidedness of the philosophical standpoint which arose before him in the area of pure and practical reason and that he clearly and unequivocally and for the first time set philosophy its true task: to make a conclusive world conception from the point of view of an ethical teleology. Kant's philosophy didn't enter the world as subjectivism, empiricism, scepticism, illusionism, positivism, or pessimism, but as ethicism, and his just for this reason truly critical and truly speculative followers took it up into their philosophical thinking and developed it further. Only when modern thinking has returned from all these false side cruises (which all sail under the proud flag of criticism) to Kant, the father of an absolute, ethical world view — and neither ignores, ridicules or bemoans the development of this ethical world view in Fichte, Schelling and Hegel, but understands it and takes it up into its inner being and life — only then will a new epoch begin for philosophy, and the content and task of this new epoch will be the old problem: to gather together the rays scattered by the proponents of our classical German ethical idealism and to unite them with a newly creative impulse into a more unified and more satisfying world picture.

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Notes:
1. Philosophische Monatshefte, Vol. 18 (G. Weiss), 1882

2. Great Books of the Western World, Kant, (R.M. Hutchins, 1952)

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© Tom Last 2017