Skip to main content

Full text of "The basis of morality;"

See other formats


fuBRARV I 

I ONIVERStTY Of 1 
I CALIFOUNIA 1 

I SANOIEGO J 



^ /c::c:>c: 



THE BASIS OF MOKALITY 



ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER 



Uranalateft witb ^ntrofeuctfon anb "Hotcs bg 
ARTHUR BRODRIOK BULLOCK, M.A. 

TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE 




LONDON 

SWAN SONNENSCHEIN & CO., LIMITED 

PATERNOSTER SQUARE 

1903 



PRINTED BT 

HAZELL, WATSON AND VINEY LD., 
LONPOK AND AYLESBURY. 



PRIZE ESSAY 

ON 

THE BASIS OE MORALITY 

NOT APPROVED 

BY 

THE DANISH ROYAL SOCIETY OF SCIENCES, 
Copenhagen, 30 Janiiary, 1840. 



"To preach Morality is easy, to found it diflBcult." — 

(ScHOPENHAUBB : C/e6er den WiUen in der Natur ; p. 128.) 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2007 with funding from 

IVIicrosoft Corporation 



http://www.archive.org/details/basisofmoralityOOschoiala 



MATRI CARiSSIMAE. 



CONTENTS. 



PAGK 

translator's preface . . . . . . ix 

translator's introduction . . . . . xi 

THE QUESTION ........ 1 

part I. 

INTRODUCTION. 

CHAP. 

I. THE PROBLEM . . . . . . .5 

II. GENERAL RETROSPECT . . . . . .12 

IPart II. 

CRITIQUE OF KANT'S BASIS OF ETHICS. 

I. PRELIMINARY REMARKS 23 

II. ON THE IMPERATIVE FORM OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS . 28 
m. ON THE ASSUMPTION OF DUTIES TOWARDS OUR- 
SELVES IN PARTICULAR . . . . .38 
IV. ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. . . 42 

NOTE 76 

V. ON THE LEADING PRINCIPLE OF THE KANTIAN 

ETHICS 82 

VI. ON THE DERIVED FORMS OF THE LEADING PRINCIPLE 

OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS 92 

vii 



VUl CONTENTS. 

CHAP. PAGE 

VII. kant's doctrine of conscience . . . .106 
VIII. kant's doctrine of the intelligible and em- 
pirical CHARACTER. THEORY OF FREEDOM . .115 
NOTE .... . 121 
IX. FICHTE'S ETHICS AS A MAGNIFYING GLASS FOR THE 

ERRORS OF THE KANTIAN . . . . .124 



part III. 

THE FOUNDING OF ETHICS. 

I. CONDITIONS OF THE PROBLEM . . . .133 
II. SCEPTICAL VIEW 135 

III. ANTIMORAL INCENTIVES 150 

IV. CRITERION OF ACTIONS OF MORAL WORTH . .161 
V. STATEMENT AND PROOF OF THE ONLY TRUE MORAL 

INCENTIVE 165 

VI. THE VIRTUE OF JUSTICE 176 

VII. THE VIRTUE OF LOVING-KINDNESS . . .198 

VIII. THE PROOF NOW GIVEN CONFIRMED BY EXPERIENCE 206 

IX. ON THE ETHICAL DIFFERENCE OF CHARACTER . 237 



Ipait IV. 

ON THE METAPHYSICAL EXPLANATION 

OF THE PRIMAL ETHICAL 

PHAENOMENON. 

I. HOW THIS APPENDIX MUST BE UNDERSTOOD . . 257 

II. THE METAPHYSICAL GROUNDWORK . . .264 



JUDICIUM REGIAE DANICAE SCIENTIARI 5l SOCIETATIS . 283 



TRANSLATOR'S PHEEACE. 



This translation was undertaken in the belief that 
there are many English-speaking people who feel 
more than a merely superficial interest in ethical 
research, but who may not read German with suifi- 
cient ease to make them care to take up the original. 
The present Essay is one of the most important 
contributions to Ethics since the time of Kant, and, 
as such, is indispensable to a thorough knowledge 
of the subject. Moreover, from whatever point of 
view it be regarded, — whether the reader find, when 
he closes the book, that his conviction harmonises 
with the conclusion reached, or not ; it would be 
difiicult to find any treatise on Moral Science more 
calculated to stimulate thought, and lift it out of 
infantile imitation of some prescribed pattern. The 
believer in the Kantian, or any other, basis of Ethics, 
could hardly measure the strength or the weakness 
of his own position more surely than by comparing 
it with the Schopenhauerian ; while he who is yet 



X translator's preface. 

in search of a foundation will find much in the follow- 
ing pages to claim his attention. 

Those acquainted with the luminous imagery, the 
subtle irony, the brusque and penetrating vigour of 
the German, will doubtless admit that it is no easy 
task to reduce Schopenhauer to adequate English 
prose ; and if this has been attempted by the present 
writer, no one can be more conscious than he of the 
manifold shortcomings discoverable. But such as 
it is, the work is heartily offered to all who still 
follow the true student's rule, ^'^laWg; iaolbt Jjt larn^ 
xcnb glaHg hcl§t" with the single hope that it may 
help, however slightly, to widen their knowledge, 
and ripen their judgment. 

My friend, R. E. Candy, Esq., I.C.S., has kindly 
given me information concerning several Indian 
names. 

Rome : June, 1902. 



TRANSLATOR'S INTRODUCTION. 



"Ou 8i 6eo\ TifiSxriv, 6 Koi fia^evfieuos alvf2. 

— Theognis : 169. 

In 1837 the Danish Royal Society of Sciences pro- 
pounded, as subject for a prize competition, the 
question with which this treatise opens ; and Schopen- 
hauer, who was glad to seize the opportunity of 
becoming better known, prepared, and sent to Copen- 
hagen, the earliest form of " The Basis of Morality." 
In January, 1840, the work was pronounced unsuc- 
cessful, though there was no other candidate. In 
September of the same year it was published by 
the author, with only a few unimportant additions, 
but preceded by a long introduction, which, cast 
in the form of an exceedingly caustic philippic, is, 
in its way, a masterpiece. In 1860, (only a month 
before Schopenhauer's death,) the second edition was 
printed with many enlargements and insertions, the 
short preface, dated August being one of the last 
things he wrote.^ 

The reason why the prize was withheld is not 

far to seek, and need not detain us. At that time 

the philosophical atmosphere was saturated with 

Hegel, and, to a certain extent, with Fichte ; hence 

^ He died September 21st. 



xii translator's introduction. 

it is easy to imagine with what ruffled, not to say, 
scandalised feelings the Academy must have risen 
from its perusal of the work. Moreover, putting 
Hegel and Fichte out of the question, the position 
advanced was in 1840 so new, indeed so paradoxical 
(as Schopenhauer himself admits) ; there is at times 
such an aggressiveness in the style ; the whole essay 
is so much more calculated to startle than to con- 
ciliate ; that we cannot feel much surprise at the 
official decision. 

In the Judgment published by the Society three 
reasons are given for its unfavourable attitude. The 
second is declared to be not only dissatisfaction with 
the mode of discussion (ipsa disserendi forma), but 
also inability to see that Schopenhauer proves his 
case. x\s the third is alleged the " unseemly " 
language employed in connection with certain '^summi 
philosophV (Hegel and Fichte). These two objec- 
tions are of course in themselves perfectly legitimate, 
and how far the Academy was right or wrong may 
be left for the reader to determine. 

But the first reason stated is of a different kind, 
and affords as neat an instance of self-stultification 
proceeding ex cathedra as can well be found. It is 
true that the question is worded vaguely enough, but 
if it means anything, it asks where the " philosophiae 
moralis fons et fundamentum" — the foundation of 
moral science — is to be sought for, i.e., where it is 
to be found. Turning to the Judgment we read : 
" He " (Schopenhauer) " has omitted to deal with 
the essential part of the question, apparently thinking 
that he was required to establish some fundamental 



TRANSLATORS INTRODUCTION. Xlll 

principle of Ethics " : which he was required to do, 
unless the Society's Latin is borrowed from NetjjaXo- 
KOKKvyia. And then it goes on to declare that he 
treated as secondary, indeed as an opus supererogationis, 
the very thing which the Academy intended should 
occupy the first place, namely, the connection between 
Metaphysics and Ethics.^ But the " metaphysicae et 
etkicae nexus,^' so far from being formulated in the 
question as the chief point to be considered, is not 
even mentioned ! The Society thus denies having 
asked what it actually did ask, while the discussion, 
which it asserts was specially indicated, is not 
suggested by a single word. Its embarrassment is 
sufficiently shown by this unworthy shifting, to 
enlarge upon which would here be out of place.^ 

It is not intended to offer any criticism either 
on Schopenhauer's main position in this essay, or 
on the various side-issues involved. The reader is 
supposed to be accurately acquainted with the funda- 
mentals of his philosophy, as contained in Die Welt 
als Wille unci Vorstellmiff, and is invited to be 
the critic himself. But perhaps a few remarks on 
the structure and general trend of the work may 
not be amiss. 

After preliminary considerations, partly to show 

' It should be noticed that this " essential part of the 
question," a few lines before, is said to have been passed over 
altogether (pmisso enim eo, quod }X)tissimum posttdabatur). 

* Any one who cares to see how this Judgment, the Danish 
Royal Society of Sciences, Hegel, Fichte, and " Professors of 
Philosophy" in general, are all pulverised together under 
our sage's withering wrath and trenchant irony, should read 
his Introduction to each Edition. 



xiv translator's introduction. 

the difficulty of the subject, partly to clear the ground 
(Part I.), the treatise opens with a searching critique 
of Kant's Ethical Basis, of the Leading Principle of 
his system, and of its derived forms. (Part II., 
Chapters I. -VI.) ^ Schopenhauer's conclusion is that 
the Categorical Imperative is a very cleverly woven 
web, yet in reality nothing but the old theological 
basis in disguise, the latter being the indispensable, 
if invisible, clothes' peg for the former ; and that 
Kant's tou7- de main of deducing his Moral Theology 
from Ethics is like inverting a pyramid. The theory of 
Conscience is next discussed (Chapter VII.). The half- 
supernatural element which Kant introduced under 
the highly dramatic form of a court of justice holding 
ing secret session in the breast, is examined, and 
eliminated ; and Conscience is defined as the know- 
ledge that we have of ourselves through our acts. 

But if, so far, the result obtained is distinctly 
unfavourable to Kant, Schopenhauer is glad to agree 
with him on one point, namely, the theory of Freedom, 
to a brief notice of which he now passes (Chapter 
VIII.). He points out that the solution of this question 
is found in the doctrine of the coexistence of Liberty 
and Necessity : according to which the basis of our 
nature, the so-called Intelligible Character, that lies 
outside the forms attaching to phaenomena, namely. 
Time, Space, and Causality, is transcendentally free ; 
while the Empirical Character, together with the whole 

' Incidentally (Chapter III.), duties towards ourselves, 
properly so called, are shown to be non-existent from the 
Schopenhauerian standpoint. Cf. the definition of Duty in 
Part III., Chapter VI. 



translator's introduction. XV 

person, being, as a phaenomenon, the transient objecti- 
vation of the Intelligible Character, nnder the laws of 
the principium individuationis, is strictly determined.^ 
Part II. closes with a sufficiently amnsing examina- 
tion of Fichte (Chapter IX.). His proper function is 
shown to be that of a magnifying glass for Kant. 
By means of this powerful human lens we can see 
the monstrous shapes into which the Kantian pet 
creations are capable of developing. Thus we find the 
Categorical Imperative become a Despotic Imperative, 
the " Absolute Ought " grown into a fathomless in- 
scrutable Elfjiap/jbivr}, etc. 

With Part III. we reach the positive part of the 
work. Schopenhauer begins (Chapter I.) by em- 
phasising the necessity of finding a basis for Ethics 
that appeals, not to the intellect, but to the intuitive 
perception. Such (he says) can never be any 
artificial formula, which surely crumbles to powder 
beneath the rough touch of real life ; rather must 
it be something springing out of the heart of things, 
and therefore lying at the root of man's nature. But 
is there, he asks (Chapter II.), after all, such a thing 
as natural morality ? Is anything good ever done 
absolutely without an egoistic motive? The con- 
clusion arrived at is that, although much may be, 
and has been, at all times, said in favour of the 
Sceptical View, and although this 'view is in fact 

^ Schopenhauer treated this subject exhaustively in his 
Essay on " The Freedom of the Will," which, written immedi- 
ately before, and more fortunate than, the present treatise, 
was awarded the prize by the Royal Norwegian Society of 
Sciences in January, 1839. 



xvi tkanslator's introduction. 

true as regards the greater number of apparently 
unselfish acts, yet there can be no doubt that truly 
moral conduct does occur, that deeds of justice and 
loving-kindness are occasionally performed without 
the smallest hope of reward, or fear of punishment 
involved in their omission. The last paragraph of 
this chapter is important because it puts in the 
clearest light what, according to Schopenhauer, is 
the end of Ethics. Its aim, he says, is not to treat 
of that which people ought to do (for " ought " has no 
place except in theological Morals, whether explicit, 
or implicit) ; but '•' to point out all the varied moral 
lines of human conduct ; to explain them ; and to 
trace them to their ultimate source." This definition, 
which assigns no educative function to Ethics, strictly 
agrees with the doctrine of the unchangeableness 
of character. (F. Chapter IX. of this Part.) 

Our philosopher then proceeds to show (Chapter III.) 
that there are two fundamental " antimoral " in- 
centives in man's nature : Egoism and Malice. Be 
it, however, here remarked that a still simpler 
classification would reduce these two to one. Malice 
may well be regarded as nothing but Egoism carried 
to its extreme, developed to gigantic proportions. It 
is a distinct source of gratification to certain natures 
to witness the sufi'ering of another ; because a diminu- 
tion of the lattef's capacity for action, whether efiiected 
by itself, or not, is regarded by an ego of this kind 
as an increase of its own power to do as it likes, — as 
an enhancement of its own glorification. 

In Chapter IV. the ultimate test of truly moral 
conduct is explained to be the absence of all egoistic 



translator's introduction. xvii 

motivation ; and in Chapters V.-VII., by a process 
of careful reasoning, every human act is traced to 
one of three original springs, namely, (1) Egoism, 
(2) Malice, and (3) Compassion ; or to a combination 
of (1) and (3), or (1) and (2y Of these the third 
is shown to be the only connter-motive to the first 
and second, and in fact the sole source of the two 
cardinal virtues, justice and loving-kindness, which 
are explained as the manifestation of Compassion 
in a lower, and a higher, degree, respectively. In 
the course of the demonstration the question as to 
how far a lie is legitimate comes incidentally under 
discussion ; as also the theory of Duty ; duties being 
defined as "actions, the simple omission of which 
constitutes a wrong." (Cf. Part II., Chapter III.) 

The position now reached, namely, that Compassion 
is the one and only fount of true morality, because 
it is the sole non-egoistic source of action, is (says 
Schopenhauer) a strange paradox ; hence the testimony 
of experience and of universal human sentiment is 
appealed to, in confirmation of it, under nine diff'erent 
considerations (Chapter VIII.). They are as follows : — 

(1) An imaginary case. 

' If, as above suggested, ^lalice be taken as a form of 
Egoism, we may simplify as follows : — 

Egoism. Compassion. 

(a) Lower power : seen in (a) Lower power : seen in 
selfishness, covetousness, etc. justice. 

(b) Higher power : seen in (b) Higher power : seen in 
malice, cruelty, etc. loving-kindness. 

Egoism (not in its higher power) may be simultaneously 
operative with Compassion in every possible proportion. 



XVlll TRANSLATOR S INTRODUCTION. 

(2) Cruelty, which means the maximum deficiency 
in Compassion, is the mark of the deepest moral 
depravity. Therefore the real moral incentive must 
Ipe Compassion. 

(3) Compassion is the only thoroughly eiFective 
spring of moral conduct. 

(4) Limitless Compassion for all living things i& 
the surest and most certain token of a really good 
man. 

(6) The evidence of separate matters of detail. 

(6) Compassion is more easily discerned in its higher 
power ; it is more obviously the root of loving-kindness, 
than of justice. 

(7) Compassion does not stop short with men ; 
it includes all living beings. 

(8) Considered simply from the empirical point of 
view. Compassion is the best possible antidote to 
Egoism, no less than the most soothing balsam for 
the world's inevitable suffering. 

(9) Rousseau's testimony is quoted, as well as 
passages from the Panca-tantra, Pausanias, Lucian» 
Stobaeus, and Lessing ; and reference is made to 
Chinese Ethics and Hindu customs. 

Part III. closes (Chapter IX.) with an inquiry into 
the Ethical Difference of Character. The theory that 
this difference is innate and immutable is supported 
by numerous extracts from various writers of all 
periods, and illustrated in many ways. But all the 
evidence accumulated hardly amounts to more than 
so many hints and indications, and the matter (says 
Schopenhauer) was only satisfactorily explained by 
Kant's doctrine of the Intelligible and Empirical 



TRANSLATOR S INTRODUCTION. XIX 

Character. (Cf. Part II., Chapter VIII.) According 
to this, the ethical difference between man and man 
is an original and ultimate datum, caused by the 
transcendental ly free act of the Intelligible Character,, 
that is, the Will, as Thing in itself, outside phaeno- 
mena ; the Empirical Character being, so to say, 
the reflection of the Intelligible, mirrored through 
the functions of our perceptive faculty, namely, Time,. 
Space, and Causality. Hence the former, while 
manifested in plurality and difference of acts, yet 
necessarily always wears the same unchangeable 
features, inasmuch as it is but the appearance-form 
of the unity behind. If the reader asks why " the 
essential constitution of the Thing in itself under- 
lying the phaenomenon " is so enormously different 
in different individuals, it can only be said that our 
intellect, conditioned, as it is, by the laws of Causality, 
Space, and Time, has no power to deal with noumena^ 
its range being limited to phaenomena ; and that 
therefore this question is one of those which have 
no conceivable answer. (Cf. Die Welt als Wille und 
VorstelluJig , vol. ii., chap. 50., Epiphilosophie.) ^ 

' V. Also the Neve Paralipomena, chap. vii. ; Zur Ethik,. 
§ 248, where Schopenhauer calls this "the hardest of all 
problems.'' On the one hand, we have the metaphysical unity 
of the Will, as Thing in itself, which, as the Intelligible 
Character, is present, whole and undivided, in all phaenomena, 
in every individual ; on the other hand, we find, as a fact 
of experience, the widest possible difference in the Empirical 
Character, no less of animals than of men. That is to say, 
*^ difference'^ must be predicated of the Thing in itself! It 
is obvious that we here touch a contradiction, which, for 
the rest, lies at the root of the Schopenhauerian doctrine of 
the Will. 



XX TRANSLATORS INTRODUCTION. 

The discussion now terminated points to the 
conclusion that nine-tenths, or perhaps nineteen- 
twentieths, of what we do is, more or less, due 
to Egoism, conscious or unconscious ; while acts of 
real morality, that is, of unselfish justice and pure 
loving-kindness (admitting that they occur) are to 
be attributed to Compassion, that is, the sense of 
suflfering with another. Nor is the principle of 
Altruism new. It is as old as man himself All 
the rare and sensitive natures in the world have 
given utterance to it, each in his own way. Like a 
golden thread it runs from the earliest Indian literature 
to George Eliot, to Tolstoi ; and every day, for un- 
numbered ages, " from youth to eld, from sire to 
son," in lowly dwellings and in princes' palaces, it 
has been unawares translated into action. 

And if we may forecast the future from the past, 
it would appear that in all the stormy seas yet to 
be traversed by the human race, before its little day 
is spent. Compassion will ever be the surest guide 
to better things ; and that the light of knowledge 
illuminating the path, whereby the world may become 
relatively happier, will always vary directly as man's 
susceptibility to its promptings : for " Durch Mitleid 
wissend " is not truer of Parsifal than of all other 
saviours. 

In the fourth Part of the treatise Schopenhauer 
attempts the metaphysical explanation of Compassion, 
which for those, who still think that Metaphysics is 
something more than a pseudo-science of the past 
— like Alchemy or Astrology — will have special 
interest. 



TRANSLATOR S INTRODUCTTION. XXk 

It shonld be observed (as is pointed out in our author's 
Preface to the first edition) that the line of thought 
followed does not belong to any particular meta- 
physical school, but to many ; being in fact a principle 
at the root of the oldest systems in the world, and 
traceable in one form or another down to Kant. As 
in the dawn of history it was our own Aryan fore- 
fathers, who divined with subtle intuition the ideality 
of Time and Space ; so in the fulness of the ages 
it was reserved for another Aryan of Scotch descent 
to formulate the same in exact language. Now, by 
the vast majority of men the ideality of the principium 
individuationis is undoubtedly either not consciously 
realised at all, or else but dimly perceived under 
the form of allegories and mythologies. Yet, if this 
theory be true, if individuation be only a phaenomenon 
depending on the subjectivity of Time and Space, 
then Compassion, and its external expression, the 
ar/dinfj that is greater than Faith and Hope, receive 
their final explanation. And every evdavaaia ; every 
word that vibrates in harmony with the inspired 
rhapsody of 1 Corinthians xiii. ; every act of genuine 
justice, or of true loving-kindness, done by man to 
man, as well as the uplifting emotion which stirs 
our hearts at the sight of such conduct : — all these 
things become fraught with a new and luminous 
significance : the secret writing is interpreted, its 
deepest meaning disclosed. 

Moreover, the " thou shalt," and the " thou shalt 
not," no less of the various theologies than of the 
Categorical Imperative, may from this point of view 
be accounted for, on the ground of the identity of 



xxii translator's introduction. 

man, so far as he is noumenal, with the transcendental 
Reality behind phaenomena. The crude threats of 
punishment and promises of reward, the stern Moral 
Law, poised in mid air, — these hypotheses, and all 
their varieties (whose function is in reality nothing 
else but to check Egoism), are seen to be due to the 
intellect's imperfect comprehension of, or rather, 
its vague groping after, the transcendental unity of 
life, however individualised and differentiated as a 
phaenomenon in Time and Space.^ It thus becomes 
apparent that the position developed by Schopenhauer 
in the third and fourth parts of the Essay is not so 
much destructive, as explanatory, of the usual theories, 
which, if once the former be fully grasped, lose 
themselves in it as stars and moon in the light of 
day. They are at once interpreted, and shown to 
be no longer of importance. Similarly, all the 
religions of the world, " which are the Metaphysics 
of the people," find their raison (Tetre in the same 
doctrine. The theory of an external Srj/xiovpyo'; takes 
its place as the natural mode of denoting, in children's 
language, the internal metaphysical Entity, whose 
appearance-form, in terms of our consciousness, is 
called the Universe. The circle is completed ; the 
discords vanish, and an ultimate harmony is reached. 
And so over the thrice-tangled skein of phaenominal 



' The reader will remember the fine poetic presentment of 
this view of things, which Goethe with intuitive perception 
gives in the Faust, Part I., where the Erdgeist says : 

"So schaff' ich am sazcseTiden Webstlthl dee Zeit, 
Und wirke dee Gottheit lebendiges Kleid." 



translator's introduction. xxiii 

-existence a simplifying and integrating light is shed, 
showing that the irav is but the reflection of the 
4v, under the forms of our faculty of perception, 
namely, Time, Space, and Causality — forms, which 
necessarily imply plurality and change, on which, 
again, in the last resort the Welt-Schmerz depends. 

" The One remains, the many change and pass ; 

Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass, 
Stains the white radiance of Eternity, 
Until Death tramples it to fragments." 

" What an unspeakable gain," says Richard 
Wagner,^ " we should bring to those who are terrified 
by the threats of the Church, and, on the other hand, 
to those who are reduced to despair by our physicists, 

V. Gesammelte Schriften und Dichtungen von Richard 
Wagner. Zweite Auflage, vol. x. " Was niitzt diese 
Erkenntnis 1 " p. 361 : — Welchen unsdglichen Gewinn wiirden 
ivir aber den einerseits von den Drohungen der Kirche 
Erschreckten, ander^erseits den durch unsere Physiker zur 
Verzweiflung Gebrachten zufiihren^ wenn wir dem erhahenen 
Gebdvde von " Liebe, Glaube und Hoffnung " eine deutliche 
Erkenntniss der, durch die unserer Wahrnehmung einzig zu 
Orunde liegenden Gesetze des Rauvies und der Zeit bedingten, 
Idealitdt der Welt einfiigen konnten, durch welche dann alle 
die Fragen des bedngstigten GemHthes nach einem " Wo " und 
" Wann " der " anderen Welt " als nur durch ein seliges 
Lacheln beantwortbar erkannt werden miissten? Denn, giebt 
€S auf diese, so grenzenlos wichtig diinkenden Fragen eine 
Antwort, so hat sie unser Philosoph, mit xmubertrefflicher 
Prdzision und Schonheit, mit diesem, geivissermaassen nur 
der Definition der Idealitdt von Zeit und Raum beigegebenen 
Aussjtrucke ertheilt : " Frieda, Ruhe, und Glilckseligkeit wohnt 
allein da, wo es kein wo und kein wann giebt." 



xxiv translator's introduction. 

if we could quicken the noble edifice of ' Love, Faith^ 
and Hope,' with a cle.ar consciousness of the ideality 
of the world, conditioned by the laws of Space and 
Time, which form the sole basis of our perceptive 
capacity ! In that case all anxious inquiries as to a 
' Where ' and ' When ' of the ' other world ' would 
be understood to be only answerable by a blissful 
smile. For, if there is a solution to these questions, 
which seem of such boundless importance, our philo- 
sopher has given it with incomparable precision and 
beauty in the following sentence, which, to a certain 
extent, is only a corollary to the definition of the 
ideality of Time and Space : ' Peace, Eest, and 
Bliss dwell only there where there is no where, and 
no when.'" (F. Schopenhauer : Parerga and Parali- 
pomena, vol. ii., chap. 3, § 30 bis.) 



THE QUESTION 

Tre question advanced by the Royal Society, together 
with the considerations leading np to it, is as follows: — 

Quum primitiva moralitatis idea, sive de summa 
lege morali principalis notio, sua quadam 'propria 
eaque minim e logica necessitate, twm in ea disciplina 
appareat, cui proposituTii est cognitionem rod tjOlkov 
explicare, tum in vita, partim in conscientiae judicio 
de nostris actionibus, partim in censura m,orali de 
actionibus aliorum hominum ; quumque complures, 
quae ab ilia ider inseparabiles sunt, eamque tanquam 
origine'tn respiciunt, notiones principales ad to r^OiKov 
spectantes, velut offi,cii notio et imputationis, eadem 
necessitate eodemque ambitu vim suam exserant, — 
et tamen inter eos cursus viasque, quas nostrae aetatis 
m^editatio philosophica persequitur, magni momenti 
esse videatur, hoc argumentum, ad disputationem, 
revocare, — cupit Societas, ut accurate haec quaestio 
perpendatur et pertractetur : 

Philosophiae moral is fans etfundamentum uti^m in 
idea moralitatis, quae immediate conscientia con- 
tineatur, et ceteris notionibus fundamentalibus, quae 
ex ilia prodeant, explicandis quaerenda sunt, an in 
alio cognoscendi principio ? 

(The original idea of morality, or the leading conception of 
the supreme moral law, occurs by a necessity which seems 

1 



2 - THE QUESTION. 

peculiar to the subject, but which is by no means a logical 
one, both in that science, whose object it is to set forth the 
knowledge of what is moral, and also in real life, where it 
shows itself partly in the judgment passed by conscience on 
our own actions, partly in our moral estimation of the actions 
of others ; moreover, most of the chief conceptions in Ethics, 
springing as they do out of that idea, and inseparable 
from it (as, for instance, the conception of duty, and the 
ascription of praise or blame) assert themselves with the 
same necessity, and under the same conditions. In view 
of these facts and because it appears highly desirable, con- 
sidering the trend of philosophic investigation in our time, 
to submit this matter to further scrutiny ; the Society desires 
that the following question be carefully considered and 
discussed : — 

Is the fountain and basis of Morals to he sought for in 
an idea of morality which lies directly in the consciousness (or 
conscience), and in the analysis of the other leading ethical 
conceptions which arise from it ? or is it to be found 'in some 
other source of knowledge?) 



Ipart L 
INTRODUCTION. 



CHAPTER I. 

THE PROBLEM. 

" Why do philosophers diflfer so widely as to the 
first principles of Morals, but agree respecting the 
conclusions and duties which they deduce from those 
principles ? " 

This is the question which was set as subject for 
a prize essay by the Royal Society of Holland at 
Harlem, 1810, and solved by J. C. F. Meister ; and 
in comparison with the task before us, the inquiry 
presented no extraordinary difficnlty. For : — 

(1) The present question of the Royal Society has 
to do with nothing less important than the objectively 
true basis of morals, and consequently of morality. 
It is an Academy, be it observed, which invites this 
inquiry ; and hence, from its position, it has no 
practical purpose in view ; it asks for no discourse 
inculcating the exercise of uprightness and virtue, 
with arguments based on evidence, of which the 
plausibility is dwelt on, and the sophistry evaded, as 
is done in popular manuals. Rather, as its aim is 
not practical, but only theoretical, it desires nothing 
but the purely philosophical, that is, the objective, 
undisguised, and naked exposition of the ultimate 
basis of all good moral conduct, independent of 

5 



6 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

every positive law, of every unproved assumption, 
and hence free from all groundwork, whether meta- 
physical or mythical. This, however, is a problem 
whose bristling difficulties are attested by the circum- 
stance that all philosophers in every age and land 
have blunted their wits on it, and still more by the 
fact that all gods, oriental and occidental, actually 
derive their existence therefrom. Should therefore 
this opportunity serve to solve it, assuredly the Royal 
Society will not have expended its money amiss. 

(2) Apart from this, a peculiar disadvantage will 
be found to attach to any theoretical examination of 
the basis of morals, because such an investigation 
is suspiciously like an attempt to undermine, and 
occasion the collapse of, the structure itself. The fact 
is, that in this matter we are apt to so closely 
associate practical aims with theory, that the well- 
meant zeal of the former is with difficulty restrained 
from ill-timed intervention. Nor is it within the 
power of every one to clearly dissociate the purely 
theoretical search for objective truth, purged of all 
interest, even of that of morality as practised, from 
a shameless attack on the heart's sacred convictions. 
Therefore he, who here puts his hand to the plough, 
must, for his encouragement, ever bear in mind that 
from the doings and affairs of the populace, from the 
turmoil and bustle of the market-place, nothing is 
further removed than the quiet retreat and sanctuary 
of the Academy, where no noise of tlie world may 
enter, and where the only god raised on a pedestal 
is Truth, in solitary, naked sublimity. 

The conclusion from these two premises is that 



THE PKOBLEM. 7 

I mnst be allowed complete freedom of speech, as 
well as the right of questioning everything ; and 
furthermore, that if I succeed in really contributing 
something, however small, to this subject, then that 
contribution will be of no little importance. 

But there are still other difficulties obstructing 
my path. The Royal Society asks for a short mono- 
graph setting forth the basis of Ethics entirely by 
itself; which means to say, independent of its con- 
nection with the general system, i.e., the actual 
metaphysics of any philosophy. Such a demand 
must not only render the accomplishment of the 
task more difficult, but necessarily make it imper- 
fect. Long ago Christian Wolff, in his Philosophia 
Practica (P. II., § 28) observed : " Tenebrae in 
philosophia practica nan dispelluntur, nisi luce meta- 
physica effulgente^'' (Darkness in practical philo- 
sophy is only dispersed, when the light of meta- 
physics shines on it ;) and Kant in the Preface to 
his Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten remarks : 
" Metaphysics must precede, and is in every case 
indispensable to, moral philosophy." For, just as 
every religion on earth, so far as it prescribes 
morality, does not leave the latter to rest on itself, 
but backs it by a body of dogmas (the chief end 
of which is precisely to be the prop of the moral 
sense) ; so with philosophy, the ethical basis, what- 
ever it be, must itself attach to, and find its support 
in, one system of metaphysics or another, that is 
to say, iu a presupposed explanation of the world, 
and of existence in general. This is so, because the 
ultimate and true conclusion concerning the essential 



8 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

nature of tlie Universe must necessarily be closely 
connected with that touching the ethical significance 
of human action ; and because, in any case, that 
which is presented as the foundation of morality, if 
it is not to be merely an abstract formula,, floating 
in the clouds, and out of contact with the real world, 
must be some fact or other discoverable either in the 
objective kosmos, or else in man's consciousness ; 
but, as such, it can itself be only a phaenomenon ; 
and consequently, like all other phaenomena, it 
requires a further explanation ; and this explanation 
is supplied by Metaphysics. Philosophy indeed is 
such a connected whole that it is impossible to 
exhaustively discuss any one part without all the 
others being involved. Thus Plato says quite 
correctly : Wv)(rj'i ovv (f>vai,v afiw? Xoyov Karavoijaac 
oiei BvvaTov elvai, dveu t% tov 6\ov (f)va€Q)<i ; (Phaedr., 
p. 371, Ed. Bip.) (Do you think then it is possible 
to understand at all adequately the nature of the 
soul, without at the same time understanding the 
nature of the Whole, i.e., the totality of things?) 
The metaphysics of nature, the metaphysics of morals, 
and the metaphysics of the beautiful mutually pre- 
suppose each other, and only when taken as connected 
together do they complete the explanation of things 
as they really are, and of existence in general. So 
that whoever should exactly trace one of these three 
to its ultimate origin, would be found to have neces- 
sarily brought the others into his solution of the 
problem ; just as an absolutely clear and exhaustive 
understanding of any single thing in the world would 
imply a perfect comprehension of everything else. 



THE PROBLEM. 9 

Now if we were to start from a given system of 
metaphysics, which is assumed to be trne, we should 
reach synthetically a basis of morals, and this basis, 
being, so to say, built up from below, would provide 
the resulting ethical structure with a sure foundation. 
But in the present case, since the terms of the question 
enforce the separation of ethics from all metaphysics, 
there remains nothing but the analytic method, which 
proceeds from facts either of external experience, or 
of consciousness. It is true that thus the ultimate 
origin of the latter may be traced back to the human 
spirit, a source which then, however, must be taken 
as a fundamental fact, a primary phaenomenon, un- 
derivable from anything else, with the result that the 
whole explanation remains simply a psychological one. 
At best its connection with any general metaphysical 
standpoint can only be described as accessory. On 
the other hand, the fundamental datum, the primary 
phaenomenon of Ethics, so found in man's nature, could 
itself in its turn be accounted for and explained, if 
we might first treat of metaphysics, and then by the 
synthetic method deduce Ethics from it. This would 
mean, however, nothing less than the construction of 
a complete system of philosophy, whereby the limits 
of the given question would be far exceeded. I am, 
therefore, compelled to answer it within the lines 
which its own isolated narrowness has laid down. 

And lastly, there is the following consideration. The 
basis on which it is here intended to place Ethics will 
prove to be a very small one ; and the consequence is 
that of the many lawful, approvable, and praiseworthy 
actions of mankind, only the minority will be found to 



10 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

spring from purely moral motives, while the majority 
will have to be attributed to other sources. This 
gives less satisfaction, has not such a specious glitter 
as, let ns say, a Categorical Imperative, which always 
stands ready for commands, only that itself in its tarn 
may command what ought to be done, and what ought 
to be left undone ; ^ not to mention other foundations 
that are entirely material. 

I can only, therefore, remind the reader of the 
saying in Ecclesiastes (iv. 6) : " Better is an handful 
with quietness, than both the hands full with travail 
and vexation of spirit." In all knowledge the 
genuine, proof-resisting, indestructible coefficient is 
never large ; just as in the earth's metallic strata a 
hundredweight of stone hides but a few ounces of 
gold. But whether others will prefer — as I do — the 
assured to the bulky possession, the small quantity 
of gold which remains in the crucible to the big 
lump of matter that was brought along with it; or 
whether I shall rather be charged with having re- 
moved from Ethics its basis, instead of providing one, 
in so far as I prove that the lawful and commendable 
actions of mankind often do not contain a particle 
of pure moral worth, and in most cases only a very 
little, resting, as they do, otherwise on motives, the 
sufficiency of which must ultimately be referred to 
the egoism of the doer ; all this I must leave un- 
decided; and I do so, not without anxiety, nay, rather 

^ That is, the Categorical Imperative appears at first as 
your " obedient humble servant," ready to perform any useful 
service, e.g., the solving of ethical riddles ; while it ends by 
gaining the upper hand, and commanding. — {Translator.) 



THE PROBLEM. 11 

with resignation, becanse I have long since been of 
the same mind as Johann Georg von Zimmermann, 
when he said : " Rest assured until your dying day, 
that nothing in the world is so rare as a good judge." 
{Ueber die Einsamkeit ; Pt. I,, Ch. iii., p. 93.) 

For all true and voluntary righteousness, for all 
lovingkindness, for all nobleness, wherever these 
qualities may be found, my theory can only point 
to a very small foundation ; whereas my opponents 
confidently construct broad bases for Morals, which 
are made strong enough for every possible burden, 
and are at the same time thrust upon every doubter's 
conscience, accompanied with a threatening side-glance 
at his own morality. As contrasted with these, 
my own position is indeed in sore and sorry plight. 
It is like that of Cordelia before King Lear, with 
her weakly worded assurance of dutiful affection, 
compared with the effusive protestations of her more 
eloquent sisters. So that there seems to be need of 
a cordial that may be furnished by some maxim 
taken from intellectual hunting grounds, such as, 
Magna est vis veritatis, et praevalebit. (Great is the 
strength of truth, and it will prevail.) But to a man 
who has lived and laboured even this fails to give 
much encouragement. Meanwhile, I will for once 
make the venture with truth on my side ; and what 
opposes me will at the same time oppose truth. 



CHAPTER II. 

GENERAL RETROSPECT. 

For the people morality comes through, and is 
fonnded on, theology, as the express will of God. 
On the other hand, we see philosophers, with few 
exceptions, taking special pains to entirely exclude 
this kind of foundation ; indeed, so they may but 
avoid it, they prefer even to find a refuge in sophistry. 
Whence comes this antithesis ? Assuredly no more 
efficient basis for Ethics can be imagined than the 
theological ; for who would be so bold as to oppose 
the will of the Almighty and the Omniscient ? 
Unquestionably, no one ; if only this will were pro- 
claimed in an authentic, official manner (if one may 
say so), whereby no possible room for doubt could 
be left. This, however, is precisely the condition 
which does not admit of being realised. It is rather 
the inverse process which is attempted. The law 
declared to be the will of God men try to accredit 
as such, by demonstrating its agreement with our 
own independent, and hence, natural moral views, 
and an appeal is consequently made to these as being 
more direct and certain. But this is not all. We 
perceive that an action performed solely through 
threat of punishment and promise of reward would 

12 



GENERAL RETROSPECT. 13 

be moral mach more in appearance than in reality ; 
since, after all, it would have its root in Egoism, 
and in the last resort the scale would be turned 
by the greater or less amount of credulity evinced 
in each case. Now it was none other than Kant who 
destroyed the foundations of Speculative Theology, 
which up to his time were accounted unshakable. 
Speculative Theology had hitherto sustained Ethics, 
and in order to procure for the former an existence 
of some sort, if only an imaginary one, his wish 
was to proceed inversely, and make Ethics sustain 
Speculative Theology. So that it is now more than 
ever impossible to think of basing Ethics on Theology ; 
for no one knows any longer which of the two is to 
be the supporter, and which the supported, and the 
consequence is a cir cuius vitiosus. 

It is precisely through the influence of Kant's 
philosophy ; through the contemporaneous effect of 
the unparalleled progress made in all the natural 
sciences, with regard to which every past age in 
comparison with our own appears childish ; and lastly, 
through the knowledge of Sanskrit literature, and 
of those most ancient and widest spread faiths, 
Brahmanism and Buddhism, which, as far as time 
and space go, are the most important religious 
systems of mankind, and, as a matter of fact, are 
the original native religious of our own race, now 
well known to be of Asiatic descent — our race, to 
which in its new strange home they once more send 
a message across the centuries ; — it is because of 
all this, I say, that the fundamental philosophical 
convictions of learned Europe have in the course 



14 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

of the last fifty years undergone a revolution, which 
perhaps many only reluctantly admit, but which 
cannot be denied. The result of this change is that 
the old supports of Ethics have been shown to be 
rotten, while the assurance remains that Ethics 
itself can never collapse ; whence the conviction 
arises that for it there must exist a groundwork 
difierent from any hitherto provided, and adaptable 
to the advanced views of the age. The need of such 
is making itself felt more and more, and in it we 
undoubtedly find the reason that has induced the 
Royal Society to make the present important question 
the subject of a prize essay. 

In every age much good morality has been preached ; 
but the explanation of its raison d'etre has always 
been encompassed with difficulties. On the whole 
we discern an endeavour to get at some objective 
truth, from which the ethical injunctions could be 
logically deduced ; and it has been sought for both 
in the nature of things, and in the nature of man ; 
but in vain. The result was always the same. The 
will of each human unit was found to gravitate 
solely towards its own individual welfare, the idea 
of which in its entirety is designated by the term 
" blissfulness " {GluckseligkeiC) ; and this striving 
after self-satisfaction leads mankind by a path very 
difi'erent to the one morality would fain point out. 
The endeavour was next made now to identify " bliss- 
fulness " with virtue, now to represent it as virtue's 
consequence and efi'ect. Both attempts have always 
failed ; and this for no want of sophistry. Then 
recourse was had to artificial formulas, purely ob- 



GENERAL RETROSPECT. 15 

jective and abstract, as well a posteriori as a 
priori, from which correct ethical conduct undoubtedly 
admitted of being deduced. But there was nothing 
found in man's nature to afford these a footing, where- 
by they might have availed to guide the strivings 
of his volition, in face of its egoistic tendency. It 
appears to me superfluous to verify all this by 
describing and criticising every hitherto existing 
foundation of morality ; not only because I share 
Augustine's opinion, non est pro magno habendum 
quid homines senserint, sed quae sit rei Veritas (It 
is the truth about a thing, not men's opinions 
thereon, that is of importance) ; but also because 
it would be like <y\avKa^ et9 'A6r)va<; KOfii^eiv (i.e., 
carrying coals to Newcastle) ; for previous attempts 
to give a foundation to Ethics are sufficiently well- 
known to the Royal Society, and the very question 
proposed shows that it is also convinced of their 
inadequateness. Any reader less well-informed will 
find a careful, if not complete, presentment of the 
attempts hitherto made, in Garve's Uebersicht der 
vornehmsten Principien der Sittenlehre, and again, 
in Staudlin's Geschichte der Moralphilosophie. It is 
of course very disheartening to reflect that Ethics, 
which so directly concerns life, has met with the 
same unhappy fate as the abstruse science of Meta- 
physics, and that its first principle, though perpetually 
sought for ever since the time of Socrates, has still 
to be found. Moreover, we must remember that in 
Ethics, much more than in any other science, what 
is essential is contained in its fundamental propo- 
sitions ; the deductions are so simple that they come 



16 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

of themselves. For all are capable of drawing a 
conclusion, but few of judging. And this is exactly 
the reason why lengthy text-books and dissertations 
on Morals are as superfluous as they are tedious. 
Meantime, if I may postulate an acquaintance with 
all the former foundations of Ethics, my task will 
be lightened. Whoever observes how ancient as 
well as modern philosophers (the Church creed 
sufficed for the middle ages) have had recourse to 
the most diverse and extraordinary arguments, in 
order to provide for the generally recognised require- 
ments of morality a basis capable of proof, and how 
notwithstanding they admittedly failed ; he will be 
able to measure the difficulty of the problem, and 
estimate my contribution accordingly. And he w^c 
has learned to know that none of the roads hitherto 
struck on lead to the goal, will be the more willing 
to tread with me a very different path from these — 
a path which up to now either has not been noticed, 
or else has been passed over with contempt ; perhaps 
because it was the most natural one. ^ As a matter 
of fact my solution of the question will remind many 
of Columbus' egg. 

* lo dir non vi saprei per qual sventura, 
piuttosto per qual fatalita, 
Da noi credito ottien piu V impostura, 
Che la semplice e nuda verita. 

Casti. 

[I cannot tell what mischief sly, 

Or rather what fatality, 
Leads man to credit more the lie 

Than truth in naked purity.] 

{Translator.) 



GENERAL RETROSPECT. 17 

It is solely to the latest attempt at giving a basis to 
Ethics — I mean the Kantian — that a critical examina- 
tion will be devoted. I shall make it all the more 
exhaustive, partly because the great ethical reform 
of Kant gave to this science a foundation having 
a real superiority to previous ones ; and partly be- 
cause it still remains the last important pronounce- 
ment in this domain ; for which reason it has obtained 
general acceptance up to the present day, and is 
universally taught, although differently garnished by 
certain changes in the demonstration and in the ter- 
minology. It is the ethical system of the last sixty 
years, which must be removed ere we enter on another 
path. Furthermore, my criticism of the Kantian basis 
will give me occasion to examine and discnss most 
of the fundamental conceptions of Ethics, and the 
outcome of this investigation I shall later on be 
able to postulate. Besides, inasmuch as opposites 
illustrate each other, it is exactly this course which 
will be the best preparation and guide, indeed the 
direct way, to my own position, which in its essential 
points is diametrically opposed to Kant's. It would 
therefore be a very perverse beginning to skip the 
following criticism, and turn at once to the positive 
part of my exposition, which then would remain only 
half intelligible. 

In any case the time has assuredly arrived for 
once to cite Ethics before the bar of a searching 
scrutiny. During more than half a century it has 
been lying comfortably on the restful cushion which 
Kant arranged for it — the cnshion of the Categorical 
Imperative of Practical Reason. In our day this 

2 



18 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

Imperative is mostly introduced to us under a name 
which, being smoother and less ostentations, has 
obtained more currency. It is called " the Moral 
Law " ; and thus entitled, with a passing bow to 
reason and experience, it slips through unobserved 
into the house. Once inside, there is no end to 
its orders and commands ; nor can it ever afterwards 
be brought to account. It was proper, indeed in- 
evitable, that Kant, as the inventor of the thing, 
should remain satisfied with his creation, particularly 
as he shelved by its means errors still more glaring. 
But to be obliged to look on and see asses disporting 
themselves on the comfortable cushion which he 
prepared, and which since his time has been more 
and more trampled on and flattened out — this truly 
is hard. I allude to the daily hackney compilers, 
who, with the ready confidence born of stupidity, 
imagine that they have given a foundation to Ethics, 
if they do but appeal to that " Moral Law " which 
is alleged to be inherent in our reason ; and then 
they complacently weave upon this such a confused 
and wide-reaching tissue of phrases that they succeed 
in rendering unintelligible the clearest and simplest 
relations of life : and all this, without ever once 
seriously asking themselves whether in point of 
fact there really does exist such a " Moral Law," as 
a convenient code of morality, graven in our heads 
or hearts. 

Hence I admit the especial pleasure I feel in 
proceeding to remove from Ethics its broad cushion 
of repose, and I unreservedly declare my intention 
of proving that Kant's Practical Reason and Gate- 



GENERAL RETROSPECT. 19 

gorical Imperative are completely unwarrantable, 
baseless, and fabricated assumptions ; and I shall 
further show that Kant's whole system, like those 
of his predecessors, is in want of a solid foundation. 
Consequently Ethics will again be consigned to its 
former entirely helpless condition, there to remain, 
until I come to demonstrate the true moral principle 
of human nature — a principle which is incontestably 
efficient, and has its root in our very being. The 
latter, however, has no such broad basis to offer as 
the above-mentioned cushion ; so that, doubtless, those 
who are accustomed to take things easily, will not 
abandon their comfortable old seat, before they are 
thoroughly aware how deeply the ground on which 
it stands is undermined 



|>art II» 

CRITIQUE OE KANT'S BASIS OE 
ETHICS. 



21 



CHAPTER I. 

PRELIMINARY REMARKS. 

It is Kant's great service to moral science that he 
purified it of all Eudaemonism. With the ancients, 
Ethics was a doctrine of Eudaemonism ; with the 
moderns for the most part it has been a doctrine of 
salvation. The former wished to prove that virtue 
and happiness are identical ; but this was like having 
two figures which never coincide with each other, no 
matter how they may be placed. The latter have 
endeavoured to connect the two, not by the principle 
of identity, but by that of causation, thus making 
happiness the result of virtue ; but to do this, they 
were obliged to have recourse to sophisms, or else to 
assume the existence of a world beyond any possible 
perception of the senses. 

Among the ancients Plato alone forms an ex- 
ception : his system is not eudaemonistic ; it is 
mystic, instead. Even the Ethics of the Cynics and 
Stoics is nothing but a special form of Eudaemonism, 
to prove which, there is no lack of evidence and 
testimony, but the nature of my present task forbids 
the space.^ 

^ For a complete demonstration v. Die Welt ah Wille und 
Vorstellung, Vol. I., § 16, p. 103, sqq., and Vol. II., Chap. 16, 
p. 166, sqq. of the third edition. [Die Welt als Wille und 

23 



24 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

The ancients, then, equally with the moderns, Plato 
being the single exception, agree in making virtue 
only a means to an end. Indeed, strictly speaking, 
even Kant banished Eudaemonism from Ethics more 
in appearance than in reality, for between virtue and 
happiness he still leaves a certain mysterious con- 
nection ; — there is an obscure and difficult passage in 
his doctrine of the Highest Good, where they occur 
together ; while it is a patent fact that the course of 
virtue runs entirely counter to that of happiness. 
But, passing over this, we may say that with Kant 
the ethical principle appears as something quite in- 
dependent of experience and its teaching ; it is trans- 
cendental, or metaphysical. He recognises that human 
conduct possesses a significance that oversteps all 
possibility of experience, and is therefore actually the 
bridge leading to that which he calls the "intel- 
ligible " ^ world, the mundus noumenon^ the world of 
Things in themselves. 

The fame, which the Kantian Ethics has won, is 
due not only to this higher level, which it reached, 

Vorstellung, that is, The World as Will and Idea ; " Idea " 
being used much as eibaXov sometimes is (cf. Xen. Sym., 
4, 21), in the sense of " an image in the mind," " a mental 
picture." — {Translator.)] 

' It seems better to keep this technical word than to 
attempt a cumbrous periphrasis. The meaning is perfectly 
clear. The sensibilia {phaenomena) are opposed to the in- 
telligihilia (nou7nena), which compose the transcendental 
world. So the individual, in so far as he is a phaenomenon, 
has an empirical character ; in so far as he is a noumenon, 
his character is intelligible {intelligibilis). The mundus in- 
telligibilis, or mundus noumendn is the Kocrfxos vorjros of 
New Platonism. — (IVanslator.) 



PRELIMINAKY REMARKS. 25 

but also to the moral purity and loftiness of its 
conclusions. It is by the latter that most people 
have been attracted, without paying much attention 
to the foundation, which is propounded in a very 
complex, abstract and artificial form ; and Kant him- 
self required all his powers of acumen and synthesis 
to give it an appearance of solidity. Fortunately, he 
separated his Ethics from the exposition of its basis, 
devoting to the latter a special work entitled the 
Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten, the theme of 
which will be found to be precisely the same as that 
of our prize essay. For on page xiii of the preface 
he says : " The present treatise is nothing else but 
an attempt to find out and establish the supreme 
principle of morality. This is an investigation, whose 
scope is complete in itself, and which should be 
kept apart from all other moral researches." It 
is in this book that we find the basis, that is to say, 
the essentials of his Ethics set forth with an acute 
penetration and systematic conciseness, as in no other 
of his writings. It has, moreover, the great advantage 
of being the first of Kant's moral works, appearing,^ 
as it did, only four years later than the Kritik der 
Reinen Vernunftj and consequently it dates from the 
period when, although he was sixty-one, the detri- 
mental eff'ect of old age on his intellect was not yet 
perceptible. On the other hand, this is distinctly trace- 
able in the Kritik der Praktischen Vernunft^ which 
was published in 1788, or one year later than the 
unhappy XQvtiO^QWmg oithQ Kritik der Reinen Vernunft 

^ It was published in 1785 : The Kritik der Meinen Vernunft, 
first edition, in 1781. — {Translator.) 



26 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

in the second edition, whereby the latter, his immortal 
master-piece, was obviously marred. An analysis of 
this question is to be found in the preface to the 
new edition by Rosenkranz,^ from which my own 
investigation makes it impossible for me to dissent. 
The Kritik der Praktischen Vernunft contains in its 
essentials the same material as the above-mentioned 
Grundlegung ; only the latter has a more concise and 
rigorous form, while in the former the subject is handled 
with greater prolixity, interspersed with digressions, 
and even padded with some pieces of moral rhetoric, 
to heighten the impression. When Kant wrote it, he 
had at last, and late in life, become deservedly famous ; 
hence, being certain of boundless attention, he allowed 
greater play to the garrulity of old age. 

But the Kritik der Praktischen Vernunft contains 
two sections which are peculiar to itself. First : the ex- 
position of the relation between Freedom and Necessity 
(pp. 169-179 of the fourth edition, and pp. 223-231 
in Rosenkranz). This passage is above all praise, and 
undoubtedly was framed earlier in his life, as it is 
entirely in harmony with his treatment of the same 
subject in the Kritik der Reinen Vernunft (pp. 560- 
586 ; Rosenkranz, p. 438, sqq.). And secondly : the 
Moraltheologie, which will more and more come to be 
recognised as the real object Kant had in view. In 
his Metapkysische AnfangsgrUnde der Tugendlehre 
this pendant to the deplorable Rechtslehre, written in 
1797, the debility of old age is at length fully pre- 
ponderant. For all these reasons the present criticism 

' His analysis is really derived from myself, but in this 
place I am speaking incognito. 



PRELIMINARY REMARKS. 27 

will mainly deal with the treatise first mentioned, viz.^ 
the Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten, and the 
reader will please understand that all the page 
numbers given by themselves refer to it. Both the 
other works will only be considered as accessory and 
secondary. For a proper comprehension of the present 
criticism, which, in probing the Kantian Ethics to 
its depths, bears directly and principally on this 
Grundlegung, it is very desirable that the latter be 
carefully read through again, so that the mind may 
have a perfectly clear and fresh presentment of what 
it contains. It is but a matter of 128 and xiv pages 
(in Rosenkranz only 100 pages altogether). I shall 
quote from the third edition of 1792, adding the 
page number of the new complete publication by 
Rosenkranz, with an R. prefixed. 



CHAPTER II. 

ON THE IMPERATIVE FORM OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 

Kant's irpcoTov ^jrevSo'i (first false step) lies in his 
conception of Ethics itself, and this is found very 
clearly expressed on page 62 (R., p. 54) : " In a 
system of practical philosophy we are not concerned 
with adducing reasons for that which takes place, 
but with formulating laws regarding that which 
ought to take place, even if it never does take 
place." This is at once a distinct petitio principii. 
Who tells you that there are laws to which our 
conduct ought to be subject ? Who tells you that 
that ought to take place, which in fact never does 
take place ? What justification have you for making 
this assumption at the outset, and consequently 
for forcing upon us, as the only possible one, a 
system of Ethics couched in the imperative terms of 
legislation ? I say, in contradistinction to Kant, that 
the student of Ethics, and no less the philosopher 
in general, must content himself with explaining and 
interpreting that I'S^hich is given, in other words, 
that which really is, or takes place, so as to obtain 
an understanding of it, and I maintain • furthermore 
that there is plenty to do in this direction, much 
more than has hitherto been done, after the lapse 

28 



THE IMPERATIVE FORM OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 29 

of thousands of years. Following the above petitio 
principii, Kant straightway, without any previous 
investigation, assumes in the preface (which is en- 
tirely devoted to the subject), that purely moral 
laws exist ; and this assumption remains thenceforth 
undisturbed, and forms the very foundation of his 
whole system. We, however, prefer first of all to 
examine the conception denoted by the word " law." 
The true and original meaning of the term is limited 
to law as between citizens ; it is the lex, v6/iio<i, of 
the Romans and Greeks, a human institution, and 
depending on human volition. It has a secondary, 
derived, figurative, metaphorical meaning, when 
applied to Nature, whose operations, partly known 
a pi'iori. partly learnt by experience, and which 
are always constant, we call natural laws. Only 
a very small portion of these natural laws can 
be discerned a priori, and with admirable acute- 
ness, Kant set them apart, and classed them 
under the name " Metaphysics of Nature." There 
is also undoubtedly a law for the human will, in 
so far as man belongs to Nature ; and this law 
is strictly provable, admits of no exception, is 
inviolable, and immovable as the mountains, and 
does not, like the Categorical Imperative, imply 
a quasi-necessity, but rather a complete and abso- 
lute one. It is the law of motivation, a form of 
the law of causation ; in other words, it is the 
causation which is brouglit about by the medium 
of the understanding. It is the sole demonstrable 
law to which the human will as such is subject. 
It means that every action can only take place in 



30 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

consequence of a sufficient motive. Like causality 
in general, it is a natural law. On the other 
hand, moral laws, apart from human institution, 
state ordinance, or religious doctrine, cannot rightly 
be assumed as existing without proof. Kant, there- 
fore, by taking such laws for granted, is guilty 
of a petitio principii, which is all the bolder, in 
that he at once adds (page vi of the preface) that 
a moral law ought to imply "absolute necessity." 
But " absolute necessity " is everywhere characterised 
by an inevitable chain of consequence ; how, then, 
can such a conception be attached to these alleged 
moral laws (as an instance of which he adduces 
" thou shalt not lie " ^) ? Every one knows, and 
he himself admits, that no such consecution for 
the most part takes place ; the reverse, indeed, is 
the rule. 

In scientific Ethics before we admit as controlling 
the will other laws besides that of motivation — 
laws which are original and independent of all 
human ordinance — we must first prove and deduce 
their existence ; that is, provided in things ethical 
we are concerned not merely with recommending 
honesty, but with practising it. Until that proof 
be furnished, I shall recognise only one source to 
which is traceable the importation into Ethics of 
the conception Law, Precept, Obligation. It is one 
which is foreign to philosophy. I mean the Mosaic 
Decalogue. Indeed the spelling " du sollt " ^ in the 

* Du sollt {sic) nicht liigen. 

" Sollt is the old form for "sollst" Cf. Eng., shalt: Icel. 
gJpcilt.—{!rranslator.) 



THE IMPERATIVE FORM OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 31 

above instance of a moral law, the first put forward 
by Kant, naively betrays this origin. A conception, 
however, which can point to no other source than 
this, has no right, without undergoing further scrutiny, 
thus to force its way into philosophical Ethics. It 
will be rejected, until introduced by duly accredited 
proof. Thus on the threshold of the subject Kant 
makes his first petitio principii, and that no small one. 
Our philosopher, then, by begging the question 
in his preface, simply assumes the conception of 
Moral Law as given and existing beyond all doubt ; 
and he treats the closely related conception of Duty 
(page 8, R, p. 16) exactly in the same way. Without 
subjecting it to any further test, he admits it forth- 
with as a proper appurtenance of Ethics. But here, 
again, I am compelled to enter a protest. This 
conception, equally with the kindred notions of Law, 
Gommaiid, Obligation, etc., taken thus uncondition- 
ally, has its source in theological morals, and 
it will remain a stranger to philosophical morals, so 
long as it fails to furnish sufficient credentials drawn 
either from man's nature, or from the objective world. 
Till then, I can only recognise the Decalogue as 
the origin of all these connected conceptions. Since 
the rise of Christianity there is no doubt that 
philosophical has been unconsciously moulded by 
theological ethics. And since the latter is essentially 
dictatorial, the former appears in the shape of pre- 
cepts and inculcation of Duty, in all innocence, and 
without any suspicion that first an ulterior sanction 
is needful for this role ; rather does she suppose it 
to be her proper and natural form. It is true that 



32 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

all peojiles, ages, and creeds, and indeed all philo- 
sophers (with the exception of the materialists proper) 
have undeniably recognised that the ethical significance 
of human conduct is a metaphysical one, in other 
words, that it stretches out beyond this phaenomenal 
existence and reaches to eternity ; but it is equally 
true that the presentment of this fact in terms of 
Command and Obedience, of Law and Duty, is no 
part of its essence. Furthermore, separated from 
the theological hypotheses whence they have sprung, 
these conceptions lose in reality all meaning, and 
to attempt a substitute for the former by talking 
with Kant of absolute obligation and of unconditioned 
duty, is to feed the reader with empty words, nay 
more, is to give him a contradictio in adjecto^ to 
digest. 

Every obligation derives all sense and meaning 
simply and solely from its relation to threatened 
punishment or promised reward. Hence, long before 
Kant was thought of, Locke says : " For since it 
would be utterly in vain, to suppose a rule set to 
the free actions of man, without annexing to it some 
enforcement of good and evil to determine his will ; 
we must, wherever we suppose a law, suppose also 
some reward or punishment annexed to that law 
{Essay on the Human Understanding, Bk. II., ch. 33, 
§ 6). What ought to be done is therefore necessarily 
conditioned by punishment or reward ; consequently, 
to use Kant's language, it is essentially and inevitably 

* A contradiction in the adjective. This occurs when the 
epithet applied to a noun contradicts its essential meaning.— 
{Translator.) 



THE IMPERATIVE FORM OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 33 

hypothetical, and never, as lie maintains, categorical. 
If we think away these conditions, the conception 
of obligation becomes void of sense ; hence absolute 
obligation is most certainly a contradictio in adjecto. 
A commanding voice, whether it come from within, 
or from without, cannot possibly be imagined except 
as threatening or promising. Consequently obedience 
to it, which may be wise or foolish according to 
circumstances, is yet always actuated by selfishness, 
and therefore morally worthless. 

The complete unthinkableness and nonsense of 
this conception of an unconditioned obligation, which 
lies at the root of the Kantian Ethics, appears 
later in the system itself, namely in the Kritik der 
Praktiscken Vernunft : just as some concealed poison 
in an organism cannot remain hid, but sooner or later 
must come out and show itself. For this obligation, 
said to be so unconditioned, nevertheless postulates 
more than one condition in the background ; it assumes 
a rewarder, a reward, aud the immortality of the 
person to be rewarded. 

This is of course unavoidable, if one really makes 
Duty and Obligation the fundamental conception of 
Ethics ; for these ideas are essentially relative, and 
depend for their significance on the threatened penalty 
or the promised reward. The guerdon which is 
assumed to be in store for virtue shows clearly enough 
that only in appearance she works for nothing. It 
is, however, put forward modestly veiled, under the 
name of the Highest Good, which is the union of 
Virtue and Hajipiness. But this is at bottom nothing 
else but a morality that derives its origin from 

3 



34 THE BASIS OF MORALITY, 

Happiness, which means, a morality resting on selfish- 
ness. In other words, it is Eudaemonism, which 
Kant had solemnly thrust out of the front door of 
his system as an intruder, only to let it creep in 
again by the postern under the name of the Highest 
Good. This is how the assumption of unconditioned 
absolute obligation, concealing as it does a contra- 
diction, avenges itself. Conditioned obligation, on 
the other hand, cannot of course be any first principle 
for Ethics, since everything done out of regard for 
reward or punishment is necessarily an egoistic 
transaction, and as such is without any real moral 
value. All this makes it clear that a nobler and 
wider view of Etliics is needed, if we are in earnest 
about our endeavour to truly account for the signi- 
ficance of human conduct — a significance which 
extends beyond phaenomena and is eternal. 

As all obligation is entirely dependent on a con- 
dition, so also is all duty. Both conceptions are very 
closely related, indeed almost identical. The only 
difference between them might be said to be that 
obligation in general may rest on mere force, whereas 
duty involves the sense of obligation deliberately 
undertaken, such as we see between master and 
servant, principal and subordinate, rulers and the 
ruled. And since no one undertakes a duty gratis, 
every duty implies also a right. The slave has no 
duties, because he has no rights ; but he is subject 
to an obligation which rests on sheer force. In the 
following Part I shall explain the only meaning 
which the conception " Duty " has in Ethics. 

If we put Ethics in an imperative form, making 



THE IMPERATIVE FORM OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 35 

it a Doctrine of Duties, and regard the moral worth 
or worthlessness of human conduct as the fulfilment 
or violation of duties, we must remember that this 
view of Duty, and of Obligation in general, is un- 
deniably derived solely from theological Morals, and 
primarily from the Decalogue, and consequently that 
it rests essentially and inseparably on the assumption 
of man's dependence on another will which gives 
him commands and announces reward or punishment. 
But the more the assumption of such a will is in 
Theology positive and precise, the less should it 
be quietly and unsuspectingly introduced into philo- 
sophical Morals. Hence we have no right to assume 
beforehand that for the latter the imperative Form, 
the ordaining of commands, laws, and duties is an 
essential and a matter of course ; and it is a very 
poor shift to substitute the word " absolute " or 
" categorical " for the external condition which is 
indissolubly attached to such conceptions by their 
very nature : for this gives rise, as explained above, 
to a contradictio in adjecto. 

Kant, then, without more ado or any close ex- 
amination, borrowed this imperative Form of Ethics 
from theological Morals. The hypotheses of the 
latter (in other words. Theology) really lie at the 
root of his system, and as these alone in point of 
fact lend it any meaning or sense, so they cannot be 
separated from, indeed are implicitly contained in, 
it. After this, when he had expounded his position 
the task of developing in turn a Theology out of 
his Morals — the famous Moraltheologie — was easy 
enough. For the conceptions which are implicitly 



36 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

involved in his Imperative, and which lie hidden at 
the base of his Morals, only required to be brought 
forward and expressed explicitly as postulates of 
Practical Reason. And so it was that, to the world's 
great edification, a Theology appeared depending 
simply on Ethics, indeed actually derived therefrom. 
But this came about because the ethical system itself 
rests on concealed theological hypotheses. I mean 
no derisive comparison, but in its form the process 
is analogous to that whereby a conjurer prepares 
a surprise for us, when he lets us find something 
where he had previously employed his art to place 
it. Described in the abstract, Kant's procedure is 
this : what ought to have been his first principle, 
or hypothesis {viz., Theology) he made the conclusion, 
and what ought to have been deduced as the con- 
clusion (viz., the Categorical Command) he took as 
his hypothesis.^ But after he had thus turned the 
thing upside down, nobody, not even he himself, 
recognised it as being what it really was, namely the 
old well-known system of theological Morals. How 
this trick was accomplished we shall consider in the 
sixth and seventh chapters of the present Part. 

Ethics was of course frequently put in the im- 
perative form, and treated as a doctrine of duties 
also in pre-Kantian philosophy ; but it was always 
then based upon the will of a God whose existence 
had been otherwise proved, and so there was no 

' Like the converse of a geometrical proposition, this Kantian 
inversion is not necessarily true ; its validity, in fact, depends 
on the conclusion being implicitly contained in the hypothesis. 
— {Translator.) 



THE IMPERATIVE FORM OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 37 

inconsequence. As soon, however, as the attempt 
was made, as Kant attempted, to give a foundation 
to Ethics independent of this will, and establish it 
without metaphysical hypotheses, there was no longer 
any justification for taking as its basis the words 
" thou shalt," and " it is thy duty " (that is, the 
imperative form), without first deducing the truth 
thereof from some other source. 



CHAPTER III. 

ON THE ASSUMPTION OF DUTIES TOWARDS OURSELVES 
IN PARTICULAR. 

This form of the doctrine of duties was very accept- 
able to Kant, and in working out his position he 
left it untouched ; for, like his predecessors, along 
with the duties towards others he ranged also duties 
towards ourselves. I, however, entirely reject this 
assumption, and, as there will be no better oppor- 
tunity, I shall here incidentally explain my view. 

Duties towards ourselves must, just as all others, 
be based either on right or on love. Duties towards 
ourselves based on right are impossible, because of 
the self-evident fundamental principle volenti non Jit 
injuria (where the will assents, no injury is done). 
For what I do is always what I will ; consequently 
also what I do to myself is never anything but what 
I will, therefore it cannot be unjust. Next, as 
regards duties towards ourselves based on love. 
Ethics here finds her work already done, and comes 
too late. The impossibility of violating the duty 
of self-love is at once assumed by the first law of 
Christian Morals : " Love thy neighbour as thyself." 
According to this, the love which each man cherishes 
for himself is postulated as the maximum, and as 

38 



THE ASSUMPTION OF DUTIES TOWARDS OURSELVES. 39 

the condition of all other love ; while the converse, 
" Love thyself as thy neighbour " is never added ; for 
every one would feel that the latter does not claim 
enough. Moreover, self-love would be the sole duty 
regularly involving an opus supererogationis, Kant 
himself says in the Metaphysische Anfangsgr-iinde 
zur Tugendlehre, p. 13 (R., p. 230) : " That which 
each man inevitably wills of himself, does not belong 
to the conception of Duty." This idea of duties 
towards ourselves is nevertheless still held in repute, 
indeed it enjoys for the most part special favour ; 
nor need we feel surprise. But it has an amusing 
effect in cases where people begin to show anxiety 
about their persons, and talk quite earnestly of the 
duty of self-preservation ; the while it is sufficiently 
clear that fear will lend them legs soon enough, and 
that they have no need of any law of duty to help 
them along. 

First among the duties towards ourselves is gener- 
ally placed that of not committing suicide, the line 
of argument taken being extremely prejudiced and 
resting on the shallowest basis. Unlike animals, 
man is not only a prey to bodily pain limited to 
the passing moment, but also to those incomparably 
greater mental sufferings, which, reaching forwards 
and backwards, draw upon the future and the past; 
and nature, by way of compensation, has granted 
to man alone the privilege of being able to end 
his life at his own pleasure, before she herself sets 
a term to it ; thus, while animals necessarily live so 
long as they can, man need only live so long as 
he will. 



40 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

Whether he ought on ethical grounds to forego 
this privilege is a difficult question, which in any 
case cannot be decided by the usual superficial 
reasoning. The arguments against suicide which 
Kant does not deem unworthy of adducing (p. 53, 
R., p. 48 and p. 67, R., p. 57), I cannot conscien- 
tiously describe as other than pitiable, and quite 
undeserving of an answer. It is laughable indeed 
to suppose that reflections of such a kind could have 
wrested the dagger from the hands of Cato, of Cleo- 
patra, of Cocceius Nerva (Tac, Ann., vi. 26) or of 
Arria the wife of Paetus (Plin., Ep., iii. 16). If 
real moral motives for not committing suicide actually 
exist, it is certain that they lie very deep, and cannot 
be reached by the plummet of ordinary Ethics. They 
belong to a higher view of things than is adaptable 
even to the standpoint of the present treatise.^ 

That which generally comes next on the rul)ric of 
duties towards ourselves may be divided partly into 
rules of worldly wisdom, partly into hygienic pre- 
scriptions ; but neither class belongs to Morals in 
the proper sense. Last on the catalogue comes the 
prohibition of unnatural lust — onanism, jyaederastia, 
and bestiality. Of these onanism is mainly a vice 
of childhood, and must be fought against much more 
with the weapon of dietetics than with that of ethics ; 
hence we find that the authors of books directed 
against it are physicians {e.g., Tissot and others) 
rather than moralists. After dietetics and hygiene 

^ There are ascetic reasons, which may be found in the Fourth 
Book, Vol. I., § 69, of my chief work {Die Welt ah Wille und 
Vorstellung). 



THE ASSUMPTION OF DUTIES TOWARDS OURSELVES. 41 

have done their work, and struck it down by irre- 
futable reasoning, if Ethics desires to take up the 
matter, she finds little left for her to do. Bestiality, 
again, is of very rare occurrence ; it is thoroughly 
abnormal and exceptional, and, moreover, so loath- 
some and foreign to human nature, that itself, 
better than all arguments of reason, passes judg- 
ment on itself, and deters by sheer disgust. For 
the rest, as being a degradation of human nature, it 
is in reality an offence against the species as such, 
and in the abstract ; not against human units. Of 
the three sexual perversions of which we are speaking 
it is consequently only with paederastia that Ethics 
has to do, and in treating of Justice this vice finds 
its proper place. For Justice is infringed by it, in 
face of which fact, the dictum volenti nonfit injuria is 
unavailing. The injustice consists in the seduction 
of the younger and inexperienced person, who is 
thereby ruined physically and morally. 



CHAPTER lY. 

ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 

With the imperative Form of Ethics, which in 
Chapter II. we proved to be a petitio principii, is 
directly connected a favourite idea of Kant's, that 
may be excused, but cannot be adopted. Sometimes 
we see a physician, after having employed a certain 
remedy with conspicuous success, henceforth prescrib- 
ing it for almost all diseases ; to such a one Kant 
may be likened. By separating the a priori from 
the a posteriori in human knowledge he made the 
most brilliant and pregnant discovery that Metaphysics 
can boast of. What wonder then that thereafter he 
should try to apply this method, this sundering of 
the two forms, everywhere, and should consequently 
make Ethics also consist of two parts, a pure, i.e., 
an a priori knowable part, and an empirical ? The 
latter of these he rejects as unreliable for the purpose 
of founding Ethics. To trace out the former and 
exhibit it by itself is his purpose in the Grundlegiing 
der Metaphysik der Sitten, which he accordingly 
represents as a science purely a priori, exactly in 
the same way as he sets forth the Metaphysische 
Anfangsgrunde der Naturivissenschaft. He asserts 
in fact that the Moral Law, which without warrant, 

42 



ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 43 

without deduction, or proof of any sort, he postulates 
as existing, is furthermore a Law knowable a priori 
and independent of all internal or external experience ; 
it " rests " (he says) " solely on conceptions of pure 
Eeason ; and is to be taken as a synthetic proposition 
a priori " (^Kritik der Praktischen Vernunft : p. 56 
of fourth Edition ; R., p. 142). But from this defini- 
tion the implication immediately follows that such a 
Law can only be formal, like everything else known 
a priori, and consequently has only to do with the 
Form of actions, not with their Essence. Let 
it be thought what this means ! He emphatically 
adds (p. vi of the preface to the Grundlegung ; 
R., p. 5) that it is " useless to look for it either 
subjectively in man's nature, or objectively in the 
accidents of the external world," and (preface of 
the same, page vii ; R., p. 6) that " nothing whatever 
connected with it can be borrowed from knowledge 
relating to man, i.e., from anthropology." On page 
59 (R., p. 52) he repeats, " That one ought on no 
account to fall into the mistake of trying to derive 
one's principle of morality from the special constitu- 
tion of human nature " ; and again, on page 60 
(R., p. 52), he says that, " Everything derived from 
any natural disposition peculiar to man, or from 
certain feelings and propensities, or indeed from any 
special trend attaching solely to human nature, and 
not necessarily to be taken as the Will of every 
rational being," is incapable of affording a foundation 
for the moral law. This shows beyond all possibility 
of contradiction that Kant does not represent the 
alleged moral law as a fact of consciousness, capable 



44 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

of empirical proof — which is how the later would- 
be philosophers, both individnally and collectively, 
wish to pass it off. In discarding every empirical 
basis for Morals, he rejects all internal, and still more 
decidedly all external, experience. Accordingly he 
founds — and I call special attention to this — his moral 
principle not on any provable fact of consciousness, 
such as an inner natural disposition, nor yet upon 
any objective relation of things in the external world. 
No ! That would be an empirical foundation. Instead 
of this, pure conceptions a priori, i.e., conceptions, 
which so far contain nothing derived from internal 
or external experience, and thus are simply shells 
without kernels — these are to be made the basis of 
Morals. Let us consider the fall meaning* of such 
a position. Human consciousness as well as the 
whole external world, together with all the experience 
and all the facts they comprise, are swept from under 
our feet. We have nothing to stand upon. And 
what have we to hold to ? Nothing but a few entirely 
abstract, entirely unsubstantial conceptions, floating 
in the air equally with ourselves. It is from these, 
or, more correctly, from the mere form of their 
connection with judgments made, that a Law is 
declared to proceed, which by so-called absolute 
necessity is supposed to be valid, and to be strong 
enough to lay bit and bridle on the surging throng of 
human desires, on the storm of passion, ou the giant 
might of egoism. We shall see if such be the case. 

With this preconceived notion that the basis of 
Morals must be necessarily and strictly a priori, and 
entirely free from everything empirical, another of 



ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 45 

Kant's favourite ideas is closely connected. The 
moral principle that he seeks to establish is, he says, 
a synthetic proposition a priori, of merely formal 
contents, and hence exclusively a matter of Pure 
Reason ; and accordingly, as such, to be regarded as 
valid not only for men, but for all possible rational 
beings ; indeed he declares it to hold good for man 
" on this account alone," i.e., because per accidens 
man comes under the category of rational beings. 
Here lies the cause of his basing the Moral principle 
not on any feeling, but on pnre Reason (which knows 
nothing but itself and the statement of its antithesis). 
So that this pure Reason is taken, not as it really 
and exclusively is — an intellectual faculty of man — 
but as a self-existent hypostatic essence, yet with- 
out the smallest authority ; the pernicious effects 
of such example and precedent being sufficiently 
shown in the pitiful philosophy of the present day. 
Indeed, this view of Morals as existing not for 
men, as men, but for all rational beings, as such, is 
with Kant a principle so firmly established, an idea 
so favourite, that he is never tired of repeating it 
at every opportunity. 

I, on the contrary, maintain that we are never 
entitled to raise into a genus that which we only 
know of in a single species. For we could bring 
nothing into our idea of the genus but what we had 
abstracted from this one species ; so that what we 
should predicate of the genus could after all only be 
understood of the single species. While, if we should 
attempt to think away (without any warrant) the 
particular attributes of the species, in order to form 



46 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

our genus, we should perhaps remove the exact, 
condition whereby the remaining attributes, hypo- 
statised as a genus, are made possible. Just as we 
recognise intelligence in general to be an attribute of 
animal beings alone, and are therefore never justified 
in thinking of it as existing outside, and independent, 
of animal nature ; so we recognise Reason as the 
exclusive attribute of the human race, and have not 
the smallest right to suppose that Reason exists 
externally to it, and then proceed to set up a genus 
called " Rational Beings," diflPering from its single 
known species " Man " ; still less are we warranted 
in laying down laws for such imaginary rational 
beings in the abstract. To talk of rational beings 
external to men is like talking of heavy beings 
external to bodies. One cannot help suspecting 
that Kant was thinking a little of the dear cherubim, 
or at any rate counted on their presence in the 
conviction of the reader. In any case this doctrine 
contains a tacit assumption of an anima rationalis, 
which as being entirely different from the anima 
sensitiva, and the anima vegetativa, is supposed 
to persist after death, and then to be indeed nothing 
else but rationalis. But in the Kritik der Reinen 
Vernunft Kant himself has expressly and elabor- 
ately made an end of this most transcendent hypo- 
stasis. Nevertheless, in his ethics generally, and in 
the Kritik der Praktischen Vernunft especially, there 
seems always to hover in the background the thought 
that the inner and eternal essence of man consists 
of Reason. In this connection, where the matter 
only occurs incidentally, I must content myself with 



ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 47 

simply asserting the contrary. Reason, as indeed 
the intellectual faculty as a whole, is secondary, is 
an attribute of phaenomena, being in point of fact 
conditioned by the organism ; whereas it is the Will 
in man which is his very self, the only part of him 
which is metaphysical, and therefore indestructible. 

The success with which Kant had applied his 
method to the theoretical side of philosophy led him 
on to extend it to the practical. Here also he 
endeavoured to separate pure a 'priori from empirical 
a "posteriori knowledge. For this purpose he assumed 
that just as we know a priori the laws of Space, 
of Time, and of Cansality, so in like manner, or at 
any rate analogously, we have the moral phimbline 
for our conduct given us prior to all experience, and 
revealed in a Categorical Imperative, an absolute 
" Ought." But how wide is the diflFerence between 
this alleged moral law a priori, and our theoretical 
knowledge a priori of Space, Time, and Causality ! 
The latter are nothing but the expression of the forms, 
i.e., the functions of our intellect, whereby alone we 
are capable of grasping an objective world, and 
wherein alone it can be mirrored ; so that the world 
(as we know it) is absolutely conditioned by these 
forms, and all experience must invariably and exactly 
correspond to them — ^just as everything that I see 
through a blue glass must appear blue. While the 
former, the so-called moral law, is something that 
experience pours ridicule on at every step ; indeed, 
as Kant himself says, it is doubtful whether in 
practice it has ever really been followed on any single 
occasion. How completely unlike are the things 



48 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

which are here classed together under the conception 
of apriority ! Moreover, Kant overlooked the fact 
that, according to his own teaching, in theoretical 
philosophy, it is exactly the Apriority of our know- 
ledge of Time, Space, and Causality — independent 
as this is of experience— that limits it strictly to 
phaenomena, i.e., to the i)icture of the world as re- 
flected in our consciousness, and makes it entirely 
invalid as regards the real nature of things, i.e., as 
regards whatever exists independently of our capacity 
to grasp it. 

Similarly, when we turn to practical philosoi)liy, 
his alleged moral law, if it have an a prioi^i oiigin 
in ourselves, must also be only phaenomenal, and 
leave entirely untouched the essential nature of things. 
Only this conclusion would stand in the sharpest 
contradiction as much to the facts themselves, as to 
Kant's view of them. For it is precisely the moral 
principle in us that he everywhere {e.g.. Kritik der 
Praktischen Vernunj't, p. 175 ; 1{., p. 228) represents 
as being in the closest connection with the real essence 
of things, indeed, as directly in contact with it ; and 
in all passages in the Kritik der Reinen Vernunft, 
where the mysterious Thing in itself comes forward 
a little more clearly, it shows itself as the moral 
principle in us, as Will. But of this he failed to 
take account. 

In Chapter II. of this Part, I explained how Kant 
took over bodily from theological Morals the imperative 
form of Ethics, i.e., the conception of obligation, of 
law, and of duty ; and how at the same time he was 
constrained to leave behind that which in the realm 



ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 49 

of theology alone lends force and significance to these 
ideas. But he felt the need of some basis for them, 
and accordingly went so far as to require that the 
conception of duty itself should be also the ground 
of its fulfilment ; in other words, that it should itself 
be its own enforcement. An action, he says (p. 11 ; 
K, p. 18), has no genuine moral worth, unless it be 
done simply as a matter of duty, and for duty's sake, 
without any liking for it being felt ; and the character 
only begins to have value, if a man, who has no 
sympathy in his heart, and is cold and indifferent to 
others' sufferings, and who is not by nature a lover 
of his kind, is nevertheless a doer of good actions, 
solely out of a pitiful sense of duty. This assertion, 
which is revolting to true moral sentiment ; this 
apotheosis of lovelessness, the exact opposite, as it is, 
of the Christian doctrine of Morals, which places love 
before everything else, and teaches that without it 
nothing profiteth (1 Cor. xiii. 3) ; this stupid moral 
pedantry has been ridiculed by Schiller in two 
apposite epigrams, entitled Gewusensskrupel (Scruples 
of Conscience) and Entscheidaiig (Decision),^ 

It appears that some passages in the Kritik der Prak- 
tischen Vernunftj which exactly suit this connection, 
were the immediate occasion of the verses. Thus, for 
instance, on p. 150 (R., p. 211) we find : "Obedience 
to the moral law, which a man feels incumbent on 
him, is based not on voluntary inclination, nor on en- 
deavour willingly put forth, without any authoritative 

' These epigrams form the close of Schiller's poem "Die 
Philosophen," which is worth reading in this connection. — 
{Translator.) 

4 



50 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

command, but on a sense of duty." Yes, it must be 
commanded ! What slavish morality ! And again 
on p. 213 (R., p. 257): "Feelings of compassion, 
and of tender-hearted sympathy would be actually 
troublesome to persons who think aright, because 
through such emotions their well weighed maxims 
would become confused, and so the desire would grow 
up to be rid of them, and to be subject solely to the 
lawgiver — Reason." Now I maintain without hesita- 
tion that what opens the hand of the above-described 
(p. 11 ; R., p. 18) loveless doer of good, who is 
indifferent to the sufferings of other people, cannot 
(provided he have no secondary motives) be anytliing 
else than a slavish Beca-iSai/xovia (fear of the gods), 
equally whether he calls his fetich " Categorical 
Imperative " or Fitzlipuzli.^ For what but fear can 
move a hard heart ? 

Furthermore, on p. 13 (R., p. 19), in accordance 
with the above view, we find that the moral worth 
of an action is supposed to lie, by no means in the 
intention which led to it, but in the maxim which 
was followed. Whereas I, on the contrary, ask the 
reader to reflect that it is the intention alone which 
decides as to the moral worth, or worthlessness, of 
an action, so that the same act may deserve con- 
demnation or praise according to the intention which 
determined it. Hence it is that, whenever men dis- 
cuss a proceeding to which some moral importance is 
attached, the intention is always investigated, and by 
this standard alone the matter is judged ; as, like- 
wise, it is in the intention alone that every one seeks 
' More correctly, Huitzilopochtli : a Mexican deity. 



ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 61 

justification, if he see his conduct misinterpreted, 
or excuse, if its consequence be mischievous. 

On p. 14 (R., p. 20) we at last reach the definition 
of Duty, which is the fundamental conception of 
Kant's entire ethical system. It is : " The necessity 
of an action out of respect for the law." But what 
is necessary takes place with absolute certainty ; 
while conduct based on pure duty generally does not 
come off at all. And not only this ; Kant himself 
admits (p. 25 ; R., p. 28) that there are no certain 
instances on record of conduct determined solely by 
pure duty ; and on p. 26 (R., p. 29) he says : " It is 
utterly impossible to know with certainty from ex- 
perience whether there has ever really been one single 
case in which an action, however true to duty, has 
rested simply on its idea." And similarly on p. 28 
(R., p. 30) and p. 49 (R., p. 50). In what sense 
then can necessity be attributed to such an action ? 
As it is only fair always to put the most favourable 
interpretation on an author's words, we will suppose 
him to mean that an act true to duty is objectively 
necessary, but subjectively accidental. Only it is 
precisely this that is more easily said than thought ; 
for where is the Object of this objective necessity, the 
consequence of which for the most part, perhaps indeed 
always, fails to be realised in objective reality ? 
With every wish to be unbiassed, I cannot but 
think that the expression — necessity of an action — 
is nothing but an artificially concealed, very forced 
paraphrase of the word " ought." ^ This will become 

' Or "shall," as in the "thou shalt" of the Decalogue, 
— {Translator,) 



52 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

clearer if we notice that in the same definition 
the word Achtung (respect) is employed, where 
Gehorsam (obedience) is meant. Similarly in the 
note on p. 16 (R., p. 20) we read : " Achtung signifies 
simply the subordination of my will to a law. The 
direct determination of the will by a law, and the 
consciousness that it is so determined — this is what 
is denoted by Achtung^ In what language ? In 
German the proper term is Gehorsam. But the word 
Achtung, so unsuitable as it is, cannot without a 
reason have been put in place of the word Gehorsam. 
It must serve some purpose ; and this is obviously 
none other than to veil the derivation of the im- 
perative form, and of the conception of duty, from 
theological Morals ; just as we saw above that the 
expression " necessity of an action," which is such a 
forced and awkward substitute for the word " shall," 
was only chosen because " shall " is the exact 
language of the Decalogue. The above definition : 
" Duty is the necessity of an action out of respect for 
the law," would therefore read in natural, undisguised, 
plain language : " Duty signifies an action which 
ought to be done out of obedience to a law." This is 
" the real form of the poodle." ^ 

But now as to the Law, which is the real founda- 
tion stone of the Kantian Ethics. What does it 
contain ? And where is it inscribed ? This is the chief 

' " Des Pvdeh Kern " ; V. Goethe's Faiist, Part I. Stvdir- 
zimmer. Schopenhauer means that his analysis has forced the 
real meaning out of Kant's language, just as Faust by his 
exorcism compels Mephistopheles, who was in the form of a 
poodle, to resume his true form. — {Translator.) 



ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 53 

point of inquiry. In the first place, be it observed 
that we have two questions to deal with : the 
one has to do with the Principle, the other with 
the Basis of Ethics — two entirely different things, 
although they are frequently, and sometimes indeed 
intentionally, confused. 

The principle or main proposition of an ethical 
system is the shortest and most concise definition 
of the line of conduct which it prescribes, or, if it 
have no imperative form, of the line of conduct to 
which it attaches real moral worth. It thus contains, 
in the general terms of a single enunciation, the direc- 
tion for following the path of virtue, which is derived 
from that system : in other words, it is the o,ti^ 
of virtue. Whereas the Basis of any theory of Ethics 
is the Slotc^ of virtue, the reason of the obligation 
enjoined, of the exhortation or praise given, whether 
it be sought in human nature, or in the external 
conditions of the world, or in anything else. As 
in all sciences, so also in Ethics the o,ti must be 
clearly distinguished from the Bcoti. But most 
teachers of Morals wilfully confound this difference : 
probably because the o,ti, is so easy, the Stort, so 
exceedingly difficult, to give. They are therefore 
glad to try to make up for the poverty on the one 
hand, by the riches on the other, and to bring about 
a happy marriage between Uevla (poverty) and n6po<i 
(plenty), by putting them together in one proposition.^ 

* o,Ti : i.e., the " what " a thing is ; its principle, or essence. — 
(Translator.) 

^ bioTi : i.e., the " wherefore " of a thing ; its raison d'etre, 
its underlying cause. — {Translator.) 

* Schopenhauer was doubtless thinking of the famous 



64 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

This is generally done by taking the familiar 6,tl 
out of the simple form in which it can be expressed, 
and forcing it into an artificial formula, from which 
it is only to be deduced as the conclusion of given 
premises ; and the* reader is led by this performance 
to feel as if he had grasped not only the thing, but 
its cause as well. We may easily convince ourselves 
of this by recalling all the most familiar principles 
of Morals. As, however, in what follows I have no 
intention of imitating acrobatic tricks of this sort, 
but purpose proceeding with all honesty and straight- 
forwardness, I cannot make the principle of Ethics 
equivalent to its basis, but must keep the two quite 
separate. Accordingly, this 6,ti, — i.e., the principle, 
the fundamental proposition — as to which in its 
essence all teachers of Morals are really, at one, how- 
ever much they may clothe it in different costumes, 
I shall at once express in the form which I take to 
be the simplest and purest possible, viz. : Neminem 
laede, immo omnes^ quantum potes, Juva. (Do harm 
to no one ; but rather help all people, as far as 
lies in your power.) This is in truth the proposi- 
tion which all ethical writers expend their energies 
in endeavouring to account for. It is the common 
result of their manifold and widely differing de- 
ductions ; it is the 6,Tt for which the Siotl is still 
sought after ; the consequence, the cause of which 
is wanting. Hence it is itself nothing but the 

myth in Plato's Symposium Chap. 23 (Teubner's edition, 
Leipzig, 1875), where Eros is represented as the offspring of 
Hopos and Ufvia, who on the birthday of Aphrodite were united 
in the garden of Zeus. — (Translator.) 



ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 55 

Datum (the thing given), in relation to which the 
Quaesitum (the thing required) is the problem of 
every ethical system, as also of the present prize 
essay. The solntion of this riddle will disclose 
the real foundation of Ethics, which, like the 
philosopher's stone, has been searched for from time 
immemorial. That the Datum, the o,Tt, the principle 
is most purely expressed by the enunciation I have 
given, can be seen from the fact that it stands to 
every other precept of Morals as a conclusion to given 
premises, and therefore constitutes the real goal it 
is desired to attain ; so that all other ethical com- 
mandments can only be regarded as paraphrases, as 
indirect or disguised statements, of the above simple 
proposition. This is true, for instance, even of that 
trite and apparently elementary maxim : Quod tibi fieri 
non vis, alteri nefeceris} (Do not to another what you 
are unwilling should be done to yourself.) The defect 
here is that the wording only touches the duties im- 
posed by law, not those required by virtue ; — a thing 
which can be easily remedied by the omission of non 
and ne. Thus changed, it really means nothing else 
than : Neminem laede, immo omnes, quantum pates, juva. 
But as this sense is only reached by a periphrasis, the 
formula gains the appearance of having also revealed 
its own ultimate foundation, its StoVt ; which, however, 
is not the case, because it does not in the least follow 
that, if I am unwilling that something be done to 
myself, I ought not to do it to others. The same 
is true of every other principle or leading proposition 
of Ethics that has hitherto been put forward. 
' Hugo Grotius attributes it to the Emperor Severus. 



56 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

If we now return to the above question : — how does 
the law read, in obeying which, according to Kant, duty 
consists ? and on what is it based ? — we shall find that 
our philosopher, like most others, has in an extremely 
artificial manner closely connected the principle of 
Morals with its basis. I again call attention to what 
I have already examined at the outset — I mean, the 
Kantian claim that the principle of Ethics must be 
purely a priori and purely formal, indeed an a -priori 
synthetical proposition, which consequently may not 
contain anything material, nor rest upon anything 
empirical, whether objectively in the external world, 
or subjectively in consciousness, such as any feeling, 
inclination, impulse, and the like. Kant was perfectly 
aware of the difficulty of this position ; for on p. 60 
(R., p. 53) he says : " It will be seen that philosophy 
has here indeed reached a precarious standpoint, 
which yet is to be immovable, notwithstanding that 
it is neither dependent on, nor supported by, anything 
in heaven or on earth." We shall therefore with all 
the greater interest and curiosity await the solution 
of the problem he has set himself, namely, how 
something is to arise out of nothing, that is, how 
out of purely a priori conceptions, which contain 
nothing empirical or material, the laws of material 
human action are to grow up. This is a process 
which we may find symbolised in chemistry, where 
out of three invisible gases (Azote, Hydrogen, and 
Chlorine^), and thus in apparently empty space, 
solid sal-ammoniac is evolved before our eyes. 

' Azote = Nitrogen. The formula for Ammonium Chloride 
or Sal-ammoniac is NH4CI. — {Translator). 



ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 57 

I will, however, explain, more clearly than Kant either 
would or could, the method whereby he accomplishes 
this difficult task. The demonstration is all the more 
necessary because what he did appears to be seldom 
properly understood. Almost all Kant's disciples 
have fallen into the mistake of supposing that he 
presents his Categorical Imperative directly as a fact 
of consciousness. But in that case its origin would 
be anthropological, and, as resting on experience, 
although internal, it would have an empirical basis : 
a position which runs directly counter to the Kantian 
view, and which he repeatedly rejects. Thus on p. 48 
(R., p. 44) he says : " It cannot be empirically 
determined whether any such Categorical Imperative 
exists everywhere " ; and again, on p. 49 (R., p. 45) : 
" The possibility of the Categorical Imperative must 
be investigated entirely on a priori grounds, because 
here we are not helped by any testimony of ex- 
perience as to its reality." Even Reinhold, his first 
pupil, missed this point ; for in his Beitrdge zur 
Uebersicht der Philosophie am Anfange des 19. 
Jahrhunderts, No. 2, p. 21, we find him saying : " Kant 
assumes the moral law to be a direct and certain 
reality, an original fact of the moral consciousness." 
But if Kant had wished to make the Categorical 
Imperative a fact of consciousness, and thus give it 
an empirical foundation, he certainly would not have 
failed at least to put it forward as such. And this 
is precisely what he never does. As far as I know, 
the Categorical Imperative appears for the first time 
in the Kritik der Reinen Vernunft (p. 802 of the 
first, and p. 830 of the fifth, edition), entirely ex nunc 



58 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

(unexpectedly), without any preamble, and merely 
connected with the preceding sentence by an altogether 
unjustifiable " therefore." It is only in the Grundlage 
zur MetapJujsik tier Sitten — a book to which we here 
devote especial attention — that it is first introduced 
expressly and formally, as a deduction from certain 
concepts. Whereas in lieinhold's Formula concordiae 
des Kriticismus,^ we actually read on p. 122 the 
following sentence : " We distinguish moral self- 
consciousness from the experience with which it, as 
an original fact transcending all knowledge, is bound 
up in the human consciousness ; and we understand 
by such self-consciousness the direct consciousness of 
duty, that is, of the necessity we are under of admitting 
the legitimacy — whether pleasurable or the reverse — 
of the will, as the stimulus and as the measure of 
its own operations." 

This would of course be " a charming thesis, with 
a very pretty hypothesis to boot." ^ But seriously : 
into what an outrageous petitio principii do we 
find Kant's moral law here developed ! If that 
were true. Ethics would indubitably have a basis 
of incomparable solidity, and there would be no need 
of any questions being set for prize essays, to en- 
courage inquiry in this direction. But the greatest 
marvel would be, that men had been so slow in 
discovering such a fact of consciousness, consider- 

* To be found in the fifth number of the Beitrdge zur 
Uehersicht der Fhilosophie am Anfange des 19. JahrhuTiderts — 
a journal of the greatest importance for critical philosophy. 

" " Einen erklecUichen Satz, ja, und der avxh was setzt." 
—Schiller. 



ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 59 

ing that for the space of thousands of years a basis 
for Morals has been sought after with zealous patient 
toil. How Kant himself is responsible for this 
deplorable mistake, I shall explain further on ; never- 
theless, one cannot but wonder at the undisputed 
predominance of such a radical error among his 
disciples. Have they never, whilst writing all their 
numberless books on the Kantian philosophy, noticed 
the disfigurement which the Kritik der Reinen Ver- 
nunft underwent in the second edition, and which made 
it an incoherent, self-contradictory work ? It seems 
that this has only now come to light ; and, in my 
opinion, the fact has been quite correctly analysed in 
Rosenkranz's preface to the second volume of his 
complete edition of Kant's works. We must, how- 
ever, remember that many scholars, being unceasingly 
occupied as teachers and authors, find very little 
time left for private and exact research. It is certain 
that docendo disco (I learn by teaching) is not un- 
conditionally true ; sometimes indeed one is tempted 
to parody it by saying : semper docendo nihil disco 
(by always teaching I learn nothing) ; and even what 
Diderot puts into the mouth of Rameau's nephew is not 
altogether without reason: " ' And as for these teachers, 
do you suppose they understand the sciences they 
give instruction in ? Not a bit of it, my dear sir, 
not a bit of it. If they possessed sufiicient knowledge 
to be able to teach them, they would not do so.' 
' Why ? ' ' Because they would have devoted their lives 
to the study of them.'"— (Goethe's translation, p. 104.) 
Lichtenberg too says : " I have rather observed that 
professional people are often exactly those who do 



60 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

not know best." But to return to the Kantian Ethics : 
most persons, provided only the condnsion reached 
agrees with their moral feelings, immediately assume 
that there is no flaw to be found in its derivation ; 
and if the process of deduction looks difficult, they 
do not trouble themselves much about it, but are 
content to trust the faculty. 

Thus the foundation which Kant gave to his moral 
law by no means consists in its being proved em- 
pirically to be a fact of consciousness ; neither does 
he base it on an appeal to moral feeling, nor yet on 
a petitio principii, under its fine modern name of 
an "absolute Postulate." It is formed rather of a 
very subtle process of thought, which he twice 
advances, on p. 17 and p. 51 (R., p. 22, and p. 46), 
and which I shall now proceed to make clear. 

Kant, be it observed, ridiculed all empirical stimuli 
of the will, and began by removing everything, 
whether subjective or objective, on which a law 
determining the will's action could be empirically 
based. The consequence is, that he has nothing left 
for the substance of his law but simply its Form. Now 
this can only be the abstract conception of lawfulness. 
But the conception of lawfulness is built up out of 
what is valid for all persons equally. Therefore the 
substance of the law consists of the conception of 
what is universally valid, and its contents are of 
course nothing else than its universal validity. Hence 
the formula will read as follows : " Act only in 
accordance with that precept which you can also wish 
should be a general law for all rational beings." 
This, then, is the real foundation — for the most part so 



ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 61 

greatly misunderstood — which Kant constructed for his 
principle of Morals, and therefore for his whole ethical 
system. Compare also the Kritik der Praktischen 
Vernunft, p. 61 (R., p. 147) ; the end of Note 1. 

I pay Kant a tribute of sincere admiration for the 
great acumen he displayed in carrying out this dex- 
terous feat, but I continue in all seriousness my 
examination of his position according to the standard 
of truth. I will only observe — and this point I shall 
take up again later on — that here reason, because, 
and in so far as, it works out the above explained 
special ratiocination, receives the name of practical 
reason. Now the Categorical Imperative of Practical 
Reason is the law which results from this process of 
thought. Consequently Practical Reason is not in 
the least what most people, including even Fichte, 
have regarded it — a special " faculty that cannot be 
traced to its source, a qualitas occulta, a sort of 
moral instinct, like Hutcheson's " moral sense " ; but 
it is (as Kant himself in his preface, p. xii. [R., p. 8], 
and elsewhere, often enough declares) one and the 
same with theoretical reason — is, in fact, theoretical 
reason itself, in so far as the latter works out the 
ratiocinative process I have described. It is noticeable 
that Fichte calls the Categorical Imperative of Kant 
an absolute Postulate {Grundlage der gesammten 
Wissenschaftslehre, Tubingen, 1802, p. 240, Note). 
This is the modern, more showy, expression for petitio 
pri7icipii, and thus we see that he, too, regularly 
accepted the Categorical Imperative, and consequently 
must be included among those who have fallen into 
the mistake above criticised. 



62 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

The objection, to which this Kantian basis of 
Morals is at once and directly exposed, lies in the 
fact that such an origin of a moral law in us is im- 
possible, because of its assumption that man would 
quite of his own accord hit on the idea of looking 
about for, and inquiring after, a law to which his will 
should be subject, and which should shape its actions. 
This procedure, however, cannot possibly occur to him 
of itself ; at best it could only be after another moral 
stimulus had supplied the first impulse and motive 
thereto ; and such a stimulus would have to be 
positively operative, and real ; and show itself to 
be such, as well as spontaneously influence, indeed 
force its presence upon, the mind. But anything of 
this sort would ran counter to Kant's assumption, 
which, according to the chain of reasoning above 
described, is to be regarded as itself the origin of all 
moral conceptions — in fact, the punctum saliens of 
Morality. Consequently, as long as there is no such 
antecedent incentive (because, ex hypothesis there 
exists no other moral stimulus but the process of 
thought already explained), so long Egoism alone 
must remain as the plumb-line of human conduct, 
as the guiding thread of the law of motivation ; so 
long the entirely empirical and egoistic motives of 
the moment, alone and unchecked, must determine, 
in each separate case, the conduct of a man ; since, 
on this assumption, there is no voice to arrest 
him, neither does any reason whatever exist, why 
he should be minded to inquire after, to say nothing 
of anxiously searching for, a law which should limit 
and govern his y{\\\. And yet it is only possible 



ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 63 

on this supposition thfit he should think out the 
above remarkable piece of mental legerdemain. It 
matters not how far we may care to put a strict 
and exact interpretation on this Kantian process, 
or whether we choose to tone it down to some 
dim, obscurely felt operation of thought. No 
modification of it can attack the primary truths that 
out of nothing, nothing comes, and that an effect 
requires a cause. The moral stimulus, like every 
motive that effects the will, must in all cases make 
itself felt spontaneously, and therefore have a positive 
working, and consequently be real. And because for 
men the only thing which has reality is the empirical, 
or else that which is supposed to have a possibly 
empirical existence, therefore it follows that the 
moral stimulus cannot but be empirical, and show 
itself as such of its own accord ; and without waiting 
for us to begin our search, it must come and press 
itself upon us, and this with such force that it may, 
at least possibly, overcome the opposing egoistic 
motives in all their giant strength. For Ethics has 
to do with actual human conduct, and not with the 
a 'priori building of card houses — a performance 
which yields results that no man would ever turn to 
in the stern stress and battle of life, and which, in 
face of the storm of our passions, would be about 
as serviceable as a syringe in a great fire. 

I have already noticed above how Kant considered 
it a special merit of his moral law that it is founded 
solely on abstract, pure a 'priori conceptions, con- 
sequently on pure reason ; whereby its validity obtaine 
(he says) not only for men, but for all rational beings 



64 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

as such. All the more must we regret that pure, 
abstract conceptions a priori, without real contents, 
and without any kind of empirical basis can never 
move, at any rate, men ; of other rational beings 
I am of course incapable of speaking. The second 
defect, then, in Kant's ethical basis is its lack of 
real substance. So far this has escaped notice, 
because the real nature of his foundation has in all 
probability been thoroughly understood only by an 
exceedingly small number of those who were its 
enthusiastic propagandists. The second fault, I re- 
peat, is entire want of reality, and hence of possible 
efficacy. The structure floats in the air, like a web 
of the subtlest conceptions devoid of all contents ; 
it is based on nothing, and can therefore support 
nothing, and move nothing. And yet Kant loaded 
it with a burden of enormous weight, namely, the 
hypothesis of the Freedom of the Will. In spite of 
his oft declared conviction that freedom in human 
action has absolutely no place ; that theoretically 
not even its possibility is thinkable {Kritik der 
Praktischen Vernunft, p. 168 ; R., p. 223); that, if the 
character of a man, and all the motives which work 
on him were exactly known, his conduct could be 
calculated as certainly and as precisely as an eclipse 
of the moon {ibidem^ p. 177 ; II., p. 230) : he 
nevertheless makes an assumption of freedom 
(although only idealiter, and as a postulate) by his 
celebrated conclusion : " You can, because you 
ought " ; and this on the strength of his precious 
ethical basis, which, as we see, floats in the air in- 
corporeal. But if it has once been clearly recognised 



ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 65 

that a thing is not, and cannot be, what is the use of 
all the postulates iu the world? It would be much 
more to the purpose to cast away that on which 
the postulate is based, because it is an impossible 
supposition ; and this course would be justified by the 
rule a non posse ad non esse valet consequentia ; ^ and 
by a reductio ad absurdum, which would at the same 
time be fatal to the Categorical Imperative. Instead 
of which one false doctrine is built up on the other. 

The inadmissibility of a basis for Morals consisting 
of a few entirely abstract and empty conceptions 
must have been apparent to Kant himself in secret. 
For in the Kritik der Praktischeti Vernunft, where (as 
I have already said) he is not so strict and methodical 
in his work, and where we find him becoming bolder 
on account of the fame he had gained, it is re- 
markable how the ethical basis gradually changes 
its nature, and almost forgets that it is a mere web 
of abstract ideas ; in fact, it seems distinctly desirous 
of becoming more substantial. Thus, for instance, 
on p. 81 (R., p. 163) of the above work are the 
words : " The Moral Law in some sort a fact of Pure 
Reason." What is one to think of this extraordinary 
expression ? In every other place that which is 
fact is opposed to what is knowable by pure reason. 
Similarly on p. 83 (R., p. 164) we read of " a Reason 
which directly determines the Will " ; and so on. 

Now let us remember that in laying his founda- 
tion Kant expressly and repeatedly rejects every 

' To argue from impossibility to non-existence is valid — 
i.e., the impossibility of a thing makes its non-existence a 
safe conclusion. — {Translator.) 

5 



66 THE BASIS OF MORALITY, 

anthropological basis, everything that conld prove the 
Categorical Imperative to be a fact of consciousness, 
because such a proof would be empirical. Neverthe- 
less, his successors were so emboldened by incidental 
utterances like the above that they went to much 
greater lengths. Fichte in his work, System der 
Sittenlehre, p. 49, warns us expressly " not to allow 
ourselves to be misled into trying to explain, and 
derive from external sources, the consciousness that 
we have duties, because this would be detrimental 
to the dignity and absoluteness of the law." A 
very nice excuse ! Again on p. 66 he says : " The 
principle of Morality is a thought which is based 
on the intellectual intuition of the absolute activity 
of the intelligence, and which is directly conceived 
by the pure intelligence of its own accord." What 
a fine flourish to conceal the helplessness of this 
clap-trap ! Whoever may like to convince himself 
how Kant's disciples, little by little, totally forgot 
and ignored the real nature of the foundation and 
derivation which their master originally gave to the 
moral law, should read a very interesting essay in 
Reinhold's Beitrdge zur Uebersicht der 'Philosophic 
im Anfange des 19. Jahrhunderts, No. 2, 1801. In 
it, on pp. 105 and 106, it is maintained "that in 
the Kantian philosophy Autonomy (which is the 
same thing as the Categorical Imperative) is a fact 
of consciousness, and cannot be traced further back, 
inasmuch as it declares itself by means of a direct 
consciousness." 

But in this case, it would have an anthropological , 
and consequently empirical, foundation — a position 



ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 67 

which is diametrically opposed to Kant's explicit 
and repeated utterances. Again, on p. 108 we find : 
" Both in the practical philosophy of criticism, and 
in the whole of the purified or higher transcendental 
philosophy, Autonomy is that which is founded, and 
which founds, by itself alone ; and which is neither 
capable of, nor requires, any other foundation ; it is that 
which is absolutely original, true and certain per se ; 
the primal truth ; the p7ius kut i^oxnv (par excel- 
lence) ; the absolute principle. Whoever, therefore, 
imagines, requires, or seeks any basis for this Auto- 
nomy external to itself, can only be regarded by the 
Kantian School as wanting in moral consciousness ; ^ 
or else as failing to interpret this consciousness 
correctly, through the employment of false first 
principles in his speculations. The School of Fichte 
and Schelling declares him to be afflicted with a 
dulness of intellect that renders him incapable of 
being a philosopher, and forms the characteristic of 
the unholy canaille, and the sluggish brute, or (to 
use Schelling's more veiled expression) of the 
profaniim vulgus and the ignavum pecus^ Every 
one will understand how much truth there can be in 
a doctrine which it is sought to uphold by such 

' Dachi icKs dock ! Wissen sie nichts Vernunftiges mehr 
zu erwidern, 
Schiehen sies JEinem geschwind in das Gewissen hinein. 
— Schiller, Die Philosophen. 

Just as I thought ! Can they give no more any answer of 
reason, 
Quickly the ground is changed : Conscience, they say, 
is at fault. 

— {Translator.) 



68 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

defiant and dogmatic rhetoric. Meanwhile, we must 
doubtless explain by the respect that this language 
inspired, the really childish credulity with which 
Kant's followers accepted the Categorical Imperative, 
and at once treated it as a matter beyond dispute. 
The truth is that in this case any objections raised to 
a theoretical assertion might easily be confounded 
with moral obliquity ; so that every one, although 
he had no very clear idea in his own mind of the 
Categorical Imperative, yet preferred to be silent, 
believing, as he did, in secret, that others were 
probably better off, and had succeeded in evolving a 
clearer and more definite mental picture of it. For 
no one likes to turn his conscience inside out. 

Thus in the Kantian School Practical Reason 
with its Categorical Imperative appears more and 
more as a hyperphysical fact, as a Delphian temple 
in the human soul, out of whose dark recesses proceed 
oracles that infallibly declare not, alas ! what will, 
but what ought to, happen. This doctrine of Practical 
Reason, as a direct and immediate fact, once it had 
been adopted, or rather introduced by artifice combined 
with defiance, was unhappily later on extended also 
to Theoretical Reason ; and not unnaturally : for 
Kant himself had often said that both are but one 
and the same Reason (e.g., Preface, p. xii ; R., p. 8). 
After it had been once admitted that in the domain 
of the Practical there is a Reason which dictates ex 
tripode,^ it was an easy step to concede the same 
privilege to Theoretical Reason also, closely related 

" As from the Pythian tripod : i.e., with official authority, 
ex cathedrd. 



ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 69 

as the latter is to the former — indeed, consubstantial 
with it. The one was thas pronounced to be just 
as immediate as the other, the advantage of this 
being no less immense than obvious. 

Then it was that all philosophasters and fancy- 
mongers, with J. H. Jacobi — the denouncer of atheists 
— at their head, came crowding to this postern which 
was so unexpectedly opened to them. They wanted to 
bring their small wares to market, or at least to save 
what they most valued of the old heirlooms which 
Kant's teaching threatened to pulverise. As in the 
life of the individual a single youthful mistake often 
ruins the whole career ; so when Kant made that 
one false assumption of a Practical Reason furnished 
with credentials exclusively transcendent, and (like 
the supreme courts of appeal) with powers of decision 
" without grounds," the result was that out of the 
austere gravity of the Critical Philosophy was evolved 
a teaching utterly heterogeneous to it. We hear of a 
Reason at first only dimly " surmising," then clearly 
" comprehending " the " Supersensuous," and at last 
endowed with a perfect "intellectual intuition" of it. 
Every dreamer could now promulgate his mental freaks 
as the " absolute," i.e., officially issued, deliverances, 
and revelations of this Reason. Nor need we be sur- 
prised if the new privilege was fully taken advantage of. 

Here, then, is the origin of that philosophical 
method which appeared immediately after Kant, 
and which is made up of clap-trap, of mystifica- 
tion, of imposture, of deception, and of throwing 
dust in the eyes. This era will be known one day 
in the History of Philosophy as "The Period of 



70 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

Dishonesty." For it was signalised by the disappear- 
ance of the characteristic of honesty, of searching after 
truth in common with the reader, which was well 
marked in the writings of all previous philosophers. 
The philosophaster's object was not to instruct, but 
to befool his hearers, as every page attests. At 
first Fichte and Schelling shine as the heroes of 
this epoch ; to be followed by the man who is quite 
unworthy even of them, and greatly their inferior 
in point of talent — I mean the stupid and clumsy 
charlatan Hegel. The Chorus is composed of a mixed 
company of professors of philosophy, who in solemn 
fashion discourse to their public about the Endless, 
the Absolute, and many other matters of which they 
can know absolutely nothing. 

As a stepping-stone to raise Reason to her 
prophetic throne a wretched jeu cVesprit was actually 
dragged in, and made to serve. It was asserted 
that, as the word Vernunft (Reason) comes from 
vernehmen (to comprehend), therefore Vernunft means 
a capacity to comprehend the so-called " Super- 
sensuous," i.e., NeipeXoKOKKvyia,^ or Cloud-cnckoo- 
town. This pretty notion met with boundless 
approval, and for the space of thirty years was 
constantly repeated in Germany with immense 
satisfaction ; indeed, it was made the foundation of 
philosophic manuals. And yet it is as clear as noon- 
day that of course Vernunft (Reason) comes from 
vernehmen (to comprehend), but only because Reason 
makes man superior to animals, so that he not only 
hears, but also comprehends (vei^nimmt) — by no means, 
* V. Aristoph., Aves, 819 et alibi. — {Translato7\) 



ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 71 

what is going on in Cloud-cuckoo-town — but what 
is said, as by one reasonable person to another, the 
words spoken being comprehended {vernommen) by the 
listener ; and this capacity is called Reason ( Vernunft). 
Such is the interpretation that all peoples, ages, 
and languages have put on the word Reason. It 
has always been understood to mean the posses- 
sion of general, abstract, non-intuitive ideas, named 
concepts, which are denoted and fixed by means of 
words. This faculty alone it is which in reality gives 
to men their advantage over animals. For these 
abstract ideas, or concepts, that is, mental impressions 
formed of the sum of many separate things, are 
the condition of language and through it of actual 
thought ; through which again they determine the 
consciousness not only of the present (which animals 
also have), but of the past and the future as such ; 
whence it results that they are the modulus, so to say, 
of clear recollection, of circumspection, of foresight, 
and of intention ; the constant factor in the evolution 
of systematic co-operation, of the state, of trades, 
arts, sciences, religions, and philosophies, in short, 
of everything that so sharply distinguishes human 
from animal life. Beasts have only intuitive ideas, 
and therefore also only intuitive motives ; consequently 
the dependence of their volition on motives is manifest. 
With man this dependence is no less a fact ; he, 
too (with due allowance for individual character), is 
affected by motives under the strictest law of necessity. 
Only these are for the most part not intuitive but 
abstract ideas, that is, conceptions, or thoughts, which 
nevertheless are the result of previous intuitions, hence 



72 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

of external influences. This, however, gives him a 
relative freedom — relative, that is, as compared with 
an animal. For his action is not determined (as it 
is in all other creatures) by the surroundings of 
the moment as intuitively perceived, but by the 
thoughts he has derived from experience, or gained 
by instruction. Consequently the motive, by which 
he, too, is necessarily swayed, is not always at once 
obvious to the looker-on simultaneously with the act ; 
it lies concealed in the brain. It is this that lends 
to all his movements, as well as to his conduct and 
work as a whole, a character manifestly different 
from that observable in the habits of beasts. He 
seems as though guided by finer, invisible threads ; 
whence all his acts bear the stamp of deliberation 
and premeditation, thus gaining an appearance of 
independence, which sufficiently distinguishes them 
from those of animals. All these great differences, 
however, spring solely out of the capacity for abstract 
ideas, concepts. This capacity is therefore the essen- 
tial part of Reason, that is, of the faculty peculiar to 
man, and it is called ro \6yi/j.ov,^ to XoyicrrLKov, 
ratio, la ragioue, 11 discorso, raison, reason, discourse 
of reason. If I were asked what the distinction is 
between it and Verstand, vov<;, intelleotus, entendement, 
understanding ; I should reply thus : The latter is 
that capacity for knowledge which animals also 
possess in varying degrees, and which is seen in us at 
its highest development ; in other words, it is the 

* Xo'yi/xos means *' remarkable," being never used in the sense 
of " rational." To XoyiKov is perhaps a possible expression ; 
the right word is Xoyos.— (IVanslator.) 



ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 73 

direct conscionsness of the law of Causality — a con- 
scionsness which precedes all experience, being 
constituted by the very form of the understanding, 
whose essential nature is, in fact, therein contained. 
On it depends in the first place the intuitive percep- 
tion of the external world ; for the senses by them- 
selves are only capable of impression, a thing which 
is very far from being intuitive perception; indeed, 
the former is nothing but the material of the latter : 
vovt opa Kol vom CLKOveLj raXKa Kco(f}a koI rv^Xd. 
(The mind sees, the mind hears ; everything else is 
deaf and blind.) Intuitive perception is the result of 
our directly referring the impressions of the sense- 
organs to their cause, which, exactly because of this 
act of the intelligence, presents itself as an external 
object under the mode of intuition proper to us, 
i.e., in space. This is a proof that the Law of 
Causality is known to us a priori, and does not 
arise from experience, since experience itself, inas- 
much as it presupposes intuitive perception, is only 
possible through the same law. All the higher 
qualities of the intellect, all cleverness, sagacity, 
penetration, acumen are directly proportional to the 
exactness and fulness with which the workings of 
Causality in all its relations are grasped ; for all 
knowledge of the connection of things, in the widest 
sense of the word, is based on the comprehension 
of this law, and the clearness and accuracy with 
which it is understood is the measure of one man's 
superiority to another in understanding, shrewdness, 
cunning. On the other hand, the epithet reasonable 
has at all times been applied to the man who does 



74 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

not allow himself to be guided by intuitive impressions, 
but by thoughts and conceptions, and who therefore 
always sets to work logically after due reflection 
and forethought. Conduct of this sort is everywhere 
known as reasonable. Not that this by any means 
implies uprightness and love for one's fellows. 
On the contrary, it is quite possible to act in the 
most reasonable way, that is, according to conclusions 
scientifically deduced, and weighed with the nicest 
exactitude ; and yet to follow the most selfish, unjust, 
and even iniquitous maxims. So that never before 
Kant did it occur to any one to identify just, virtuous, 
and noble conduct with reasonable ; the two lines of 
behaviour have always been completely separated, and 
kept apart. The one depends on the kind of motivation ; 
the other on the difference in fundamental principles. 
Only after Kant (because he taught that virtue 
has its source in Pure Reason) did the virtuous and 
the reasonable become one and the same thing, despite 
the usage of these words which all languages have 
adopted — a usage which is not fortuitous, but the 
work of universal, and therefore uniform, human 
judgment. " Keasonable " and " vicious " are terms 
that go very well together ; indeed great, far-reaching 
crimes are only possible from their union. Similarly, 
" unreasonable " and " noble-minded " are often found 
associated ; e.g.^ if I give to-day to the needy man 
what I shall myself require to-morrow more urgently 
than he ; or, if I am so far affected as to hand over 
to one in distress the sum which my creditor is waiting 
for ; and such cases could be multiplied indefinitely. 
We have seen that this exaltation of Reason to 



ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 75 

be the source of all virtue rests on two assertions. 
First, as Practical Reason, it is said to issue, like 
an oracle, peremptory Imperatives purely a priori. 
Secondly, taken in connection with- the false ex- 
planation of Theoretical Reason, as given in the 
Kritik der Reinen Vernunfty it is presented as a certain 
faculty essentially concerned with the Unconditioned, as 
manifested in three alleged Ideas ^ (the impossibility 
of which the intellect at the same time recognises 
a priori). And we found that this position, as an 
exemplar vitiis imitabile,^ led our muddy-headed 
philosophers, Jacobi at their head, from bad to 
worse. They talked of Reason ( Vernunft) as directly 
comprehending (rernehmend) the " Supersensuous," 
and absurdly declared that it is a certain mental 
property which has to do essentially with things 
transcending all experience, i.e., with metaphysics ; 
and that it perceives directly and intuitively the 
ultimate causes of all things, and of all Being, the 
Supersensuous, the Absolute, the Divine, etc. Now, 
had it been wished to use Reason, instead of deifying 
it, such assertions as these must long ago have been 
met by the simple remark that, if man, by virtue 
of a special organ, furnished by his Reason, for 
solving the riddle of the world, possessed an innate 
metaphysics that only required development ; in that 

' The three Ideas are : (1) The Psychological ; (2) The 
Cosmological ; (3) The Theological. V. The Paralogisms of 
Pure Reasons, in the Dialectics : Kritik der Reinen Vernunft, 
Part I. — {Translator.) 

^ An example easy to be imitated in its faults. V. Horace, 
Ep. Lib. I., xix. 17. — {Translator.) 



76 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

case there would have to be just as complete agree- 
ment on metaphysical matters as on the truths 
of arithmetic and geometry ; and this would make 
it totally impossible that there should exist on the 
earth a large number of radically different religions, 
and a still larger number of radically different 
systems of philosophy. Indeed, we may rather 
suppose that, if any one were found to differ from 
the rest in his religious or philosophical views, he 
would be at once regarded as a subject for mental 
pathology. Nor would the following plain reflection 
have failed to present itself. If we discovered a 
species of apes which intentionally prepared instrn- 
ments for fighting, or building, or for any other 
purpose ; we should immediately admit that it was 
endowed with Reason. On the other hand, if we 
meet with savages destitute of all metaphysics, or 
of all religion (and there are such) ; it does not 
occur to us to deny them Reason on that account. 
The Reason that proves its pretended supersensuous 
knowledge was duly brought back to bounds by 
Kant's critique ; but Jacobi's wonderful Reason, that 
directly comprehends the supersensuous, he must 
indeed have thought beneath all criticism. Mean- 
while, a certain imperious and oracular Reason of 
the same kind is still, at the Universities, fastened 
on the shoulders of our innocent youth. 

NOTE. 

If we wish to reach the real origin of this hypothesis 
of Practical Reason, we must trace its descent a 
little further back. We shall find that it is derived 



ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 77 

from a doctrine, which Kant totally confuted, but 
which nevertheless, in this connection, lies secretly 
(indeed he himself is not aware of it) at the root 
of his assumption of a Practical Reason with its 
Imperatives and its Autonomy — a reminiscence of 
a former mode of thought. I mean the so-called 
Rational Psychology, according to which man is 
composed of two entirely heterogeneous substances — 
the material body, and the immaterial soul. Plato 
was the first to formulate this dogma, and he en- 
deavoured to prove it as an objective truth. But it 
was Descartes who, by working it out with scientific 
exactness, perfectly developed and completed it. 
And this is just what brought its fallacy to light, as 
demonstrated by Spinoza, Locke, and Kant succes- 
sively. It was demonstrated by Spinoza ; because his 
philosophy consists chiefiy in the refutation of his 
master's twofold dualism, and because he entirely and 
expressly denied the two Substances of Descartes, 
and took as his main principle the following pro- 
position : " Substantia cogitans et substantia extensa 
una eademque est substantia, quae jam sub hoc, jam 
sub illo attributo comprehenditur .''^ ^ It was demon- 
strated by Locke ; for he combated the theory of 
innate ideas, derived all knowledge from the sensuous, 
and taught that it is not impossible that Matter 
should think. And lastly, it was demonstrated by 

* The thinking substance, and substance in extension are 
one and the self-same substance, which is contained now 
under the latter attribute {i.e., extension), now under the 
former {i.e., the attribute of thinking). — Ethica, Part II., 
Prop. 7. Corollary. 



78 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

Kant, in his Kritik der Rationalen Psychologies as 
given in the first edition. Leibnitz and Wolff were 
the champions on the bad side ; and this brought 
Leibnitz the undeserved honour of being compared 
to the great Plato, who was really so unlike him. 

But to enter into details here would be out of 
place. According to this Rational Psychology, the 
soul was originally and in its essence a perceiving 
substance, and only as a consequence thereof did it 
become possessed of volition. According as it carried 
on these two modes of its activity. Perception and 
Volition, conjoined with the body, or incorporeal, and 
entirely per se, so it was endowed with a lower or 
higher faculty of perception, and of volition in like 
kind. In its higher faculty the immaterial soul 
was active solely by itself, and without co-opera- 
tion of the body. In this case it was intellectus 
purus, being composed of concepts, belonging ex- 
clusively to itself, and of the corresponding acts of 
will, both of which were absolutely spiritual, and 
had nothing sensuous about them— the sensuous 
being derived from the body. ^ So that it perceived 
nothing else but pure Abstracts, Universals, innate 
conceptions, aeternae veritates, etc. ; wherefore also 
its volition was entirely controlled by purely spiritual 
ideas like these. On the other hand, the soul's lower 
faculty of Perception and Volition was the result 
of its working in concert and close union with the 
various organs of the body, whereby a prejudicial 

* Intellectio pura est intellectio, qiuie circa nullas imagines 
corporeas versatur. (Pure intelhgence is intelligence that has 
nothing to do with any bodily forms.) — Cart., Medit, p. 188. 



ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 79 

eflfect was produced on its unmixed spiritual activity. 
Here, i.e., to this lower faculty, was supposed to 
belong every intuitive perception, which consequently 
would have to be obscure and confused, while the 
abstract, formed by separating from objects their 
qualities, would be clear ! The will, which was 
determined by preceptions thus sensuously conditioned, 
formed the lower Volition, and it was for the most 
part bad ; for its acts were guided by the impulse 
of the senses ; while the other will (the higher) was 
untrammelled, was guided by Pure Reason, and apper- 
tained only to the immaterial soul. This doctrine of 
the Cartesians has been best expounded by De la 
Forge, in his Tractatus de Mente Humana, where in 
chap. 23 we read : ^ Non nisi eadem voluntas est, quae 
appellatur appetitus sensitivus, quando excitatur per 
judicia, quae formantur consequenter ad perceptiones 
sensuum ; et quae appetitus rationalis nominatur, cum 

' It is nothing but one and the same will, which at one 
time is called sensuous desire, when it is stimulated by acts 
of judgment, formed in consequence of perceptions of the 
senses ; and which at another time is called rational desire 
{i.e. desire of the reason), when the mind forms acts of 
judgment about its own proper ideas, independently of the 
thoughts belonging to, and mixed up with, the senses ; which 
thoughts are the causes of the mind's tendencies. . . . That 
these two diverse propensities of the Avill should be regarded 
as two distinct desires is occasioned by the fact that very 
often the one is opposed to the other, because the intention, 
which is built up by the mind on the foundation of its own 
proper perceptions, does not always agree with the thoughts 
which are suggested to the mind by the body's disposition ; 
whereby it (the mind) is often constrained to will something, 
while its reason makes it choose something different. — 
{Translator,) 



80 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

mens judicia format de propriis suis ideis, inde- 
pendenter a cogitationibus sensuum confusis, quae 
inclinationum. ejus sunt causae. . . . Id, quod 
occasionem dedit, ut duae istae diversae voluntatis 
propensiones pro duohus diversis appetitibus sumer- 
entur, est, quod saepissime unus alteri opponatur, 
quia propositum, quod mens superaedificat propriis 
suis perceptionibus, non semper consentit cum cogita- 
tionibus, quae menti a corporis dispositione suggeruntur, 
per quam saepe obligatur ad aliquid volendum, dum 
ratio ejus earn aliud optare facit. 

Out of the dim reminiscence of such views there 
finally arose Kant's doctrine of the Automony of the 
Will, which, as the mouthpiece of Pure, Practical 
Reason, lays down the law for all rational beings 
as such, and recognises nothing but formal motives, 
as opposed to material ; the latter determining only 
the lower faculty of desires, to which the higher 
is hostile. For the rest, this whole theory, which 
was not really systematically set forth till the time 
of Descartes, is nevertheless to be found as fiir back 
as Aristotle. In his De Anima I. 1, it is sufficiently 
clearly stated ; while Plato in the Phaedo (pp. 188 
and 189, edit. Bipont.) had already paved the way, 
with no uncertain hints. After being elaborated to 
great perfection by the Cartesian doctrine, we find 
it a hundred years later waxed bold and strong, 
and occupying the foremost place ; but precisely for 
this reason forced to reveal its true nature. An 
excellent resume of the view which then prevailed 
is presented in Muratori's Delia Forza della Fantasia^ 
chaps. 1-4 and 13. In this work the imagination is 



ON THE BASIS OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 81 

regarded as a pa rely material, corporeal organ of 
the brain (the lower faculty of perception), its 
function being to intuitively apprehend the external 
world on the data of the senses ; and nought remains 
for the immaterial soul but thinking, reflecting, and 
determining. It must have been felt how obviously 
this position involves the whole subject in doubt. 
For if Matter is capable of the intuitive apprehension 
of the world in all its complexity, it is inconceivable 
that it should, not also be capable of abstracting 
this intuition ; wherefrom everything else would 
follow. Abstraction is of course nothing else than 
an elimination of the qualities attaching to things 
which are not necessary for general purposes, in 
other words, the individual and special differences. 
For instance, if 1 disregard, or abstract, that which 
is peculiar to the sheep, ox, stag, camel, etc., 1 
reach the conception of ruminants. By this opera- 
tion the ideas lose their intuitiveness, and as merely 
abstract, non-intuitive notions or concepts, they 
require words to fix them in the consciousness, and 
allow of their being adequately handled. All this 
shows that Kant was still under the influence of 
the after-efi'ect of that old-time doctrine, when he 
propounded his Practical Reason with its Imperatives. 



CHAPTER V. 

ON THE LEADING PEINCIPLE OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 

Aftrk having tested in the preceding chapter the 
actual basis of Kant's Ethics, I now turn to that 
which rests on it — his leading principle of Morals, 
The latter is very closely connected with the former ; 
indeed, in a certain sense, they both grew up together. 
We have seen that the formula expressing the 
principle reads as follows : " Act only in accordance 
with that precept which you can also wish should be 
a general law for all rational beings." It is a strange 
proceeding for a man, who ex hypothesi is seeking 
a law to determine what he should do, and what 
he should leave undone, to be instructed first to search 
for one fit to regulate the conduct of all possible 
rational beings ; but we will pass over that. It is 
suificient only to notice the fact that in the above 
guiding rule, as put forth by Kant, we have obviously 
not reached the moral law itself, but only a finger- 
post, or indication where it is to be looked for. The 
money, so to say, is not yet paid down, but we hold 
a safe draft for it. And who, then, is the cashier? 
To say the truth at once : a paymaster in this con- 
nection surely very unexpected, being neither more 
nor less than Egoism, as I shall now demonstrate. 

82 



THE LEADING PRINCIPLE OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 83 

The precept, it is said, which I can wish were 
the guide of all men's conduct, is itself the real 
moral principle. That which I can wish is the hinge 
on which the given direction turns. But what can 
1 truly wish, and what not ? Clearly, in order to 
determine what I can wish in the matter under 
discussion, I require yet another criterion ; for with- 
out such I could never find the key to the instruction 
which comes to me like a sealed order. Where, 
then, is this criterion to be discovered ? Certainly 
nowhere else but in my Egoism, which is the nearest, 
ever ready, original, and living standard of all volition, 
and which has at any rate the jus primi occupantis 
before every moral principle. The direction for finding 
the real moral law, which is contained in the Kantian 
rule, rests, as a matter of fact, on the tacit assump- 
tion that I can only wish for that which is most 
to my advantage. Now because, in framing a precept 
to be generally followed, I cannot regard myself as 
always active, but must contemplate my playing a 
passive part eventualiter and at times ; therefore 
from this point of view my egoism decides for justice 
and lovingkindness ; not from any wish to practise 
these virtues, but because it desires to experience them. 
We are reminded of the miser, who, after listening 
to a sermon on beneficence, exclaims : 

" Wie griindlich aiisgefuhrt, wie schon ! — 

Fast mochf ich hetteln gehn." 
(How well thought out, how excellent ! — 

Almost I'd like to beg.) 

This is the indispensable key to the direction in 
which Kant's leading principle of Ethics is embedded ; 



84 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

nor can he help supplying it himself. Only he re- 
frains frorri doing so at the moment of propounding 
his precept, lest we should feel shocked. It is found 
further on in the text, at a decent distance, so as 
to prevent the fact at once leaping to light, that 
here, after all, in spite of his grand a priori edifice. 
Egoism is sitting on the judge's seat, scales in hand. 
Moreover, it does not occur, till after he has decided, 
from the point of view of the eventualiter passive 
side, that this position holds good for the active 
role as well. Thus, on p. 19 (R., p. 24) we read : 
" That 1 could not wish for a general law to establish 
lying, because people would no longer believe me, 
or else pay me back in the same coin." Again on 
p. 55 (R., p. 49) : " The universality of a law to 
the effect that every one could promise what he 
likes, without any intention of keeping his word, 
would make the promise itself, together with the 
object in view, whatever that might be, impossible ; 
for no one would believe it." On p. 56 (R., p. 50), 
in connection with the maxim of hard-heartedness, we 
find the following : " A will, which should determine 
this, would contradict itself ; for cases can occur, in 
which a man needs the love and sympathy of others, 
and in which he, by virtue of such a natural law, 
evolved from his own will, would deprive himself 
of all hope of the help, which he desires." Similarly 
in the Kritik der Praktiscken Vernunft (Part I., vol. i., 
chap. 2, p. 123 ; R., p. 192) : "If every one were to 
regard others' distress with total indifference, and 
you were to belong to such an order of things ; 
would you be there with the concurrence of your 



THE LEADING PRINCIPLE OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 85 

will ? " Quam temere in nosmet legem sancimus 
iniquam ! ^ one could reply. These passages suffici- 
ently show in what sense the phrase, " to be able 
to wish," in Kant's formula is to be understood. 
But it is in the Metaphysische Anfangsgrunde der 
Tugejidlehre, that this real nature of his ethical 
principle is most clearly stated. In § 30 we read : 
" For every one wishes to be helped. If, however, 
a man were to give utterance to his rule of unwilling- 
ness to help others, all people would be justified 
in refusing him assistance. Thus this rule of selfish- 
ness contradicts itself." "Would be justified, he says, 
would be justified! Here, then, it is declared, as 
explicitly as anything can be, that moral obligation 
rests solely and entirely on presupposed reciprocity ; 
consequently it is utterly selfish, and only admits 
of being interpreted by egoism, which, under the 
condition of reciprocity, knows how to make a 
compromise cleverly enough. Such a course would 
be quite in place if it were a question of laying 
down the fundamentals of state-organisation, but not, 
when we come to construct those of ethics. In the 
Grundlegung, p. 81 (R., P- 6^)j the following sentence 
occurs : " The principle of always acting in accordance 
with that precept which you can also wish were 
universally established as law — this is the only 
condition under which a man's will can never be in 
antagonism with itself." From what has been said 
above, it will be apparent that the true meaning 
of the word " antagonism " may be thus explained : 

' How rashly do we sanction an unjust law, which will 
come home to ourselves! — (Hor., Sat, Lib. I., iii. 67.) 



86 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

if a man should sanction the precept of injustice 
and hard-heartedness, he would subsequently, in the 
event of his playing a passive part, recall it, and 
so his will would contradict itself. 

From this analysis it is abundantly clear that 
Kant's famous leading principle is not — as he 
maintains with tireless repetition — a categorical, but 
in reality a hypothetical Imperative ; because it 
tacitly presupposes the condition that the law to be 
established for what I do — inasmuch as I make it 
universal — shall also be a law for what is done to 
me ; and because I, under this condition, as the 
eventualiter non-active party, cannot possibly wish 
for injustice and hard-heartedness. But if I strike 
out this proviso, and, trusting perhaps to my sur- 
passing strength of mind and body, think of myself 
as always active, and never passive ; then, in choosing 
the precept which is to be universally valid, if there 
exists no basis for ethics other than Kant's, I can 
perfectly well wish that injustice and hard-heartedness 
should be the general rule, and consequently order 
the world 

Upon the simple plan, 
That they should take, who have the power, 
And they should keep, who can, 

—(Wordsworth.) 

In the foregoing chapter we showed that the 
Kantian leading principle of Ethics is devoid of all 
real foundation. It is now clear that to this singular 
defect must.be added, notwithstanding Kant's express 
assertion to the contrary, its concealed hypothetical 
nature, whereby its basis turns out to be nothing else 



THE LEADING PRINCIPLE OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 87 

than Egoism, the latter being the secret interpreter 
of the direction which it contains. Furthermore, 
regarding it solely as a formula, we find that it is 
only a periphrasis, an obscure and disguised mode of 
expressing the well-known rule : Quod tihi fieri non 
vis, alteri ne feceris (do not to another what you are 
unwilling should be done to yourself) ; if, that is, by 
omitting the non and ne, we remove the limitation, and 
include the duties taught by love as well as those pre- 
scribed by law. For it is obvious that this is the only 
precept which I can wish should regulate the conduct 
of all men (speaking, of course, from the point of view 
of the possibly passive part I may play, where my 
Egoism is touched). This rule, Quod tibi fieri, etc., is, 
however, in its turn, merely a circumlocution for, or, 
if it be preferred, a premise of, the proposition which 
I have laid down as the simplest and purest definition 
of the conduct required by the common consent of all 
ethical systems ; namely, Neminem laede, immo omnes, 
quantum potes, juva (do harm to no one ; but 
rather help all people, as far as lies in your power). 
The true and real substance of Morals is this, and 
never can be anything else. But on what is it based ? 
What is it that lends force to this command ? This 
is the old and difficult problem with which man is 
still to-day confronted. For, on the other side, we 
hear Egoism crying with a loud voice : Neminem juva, 
immo om?ies, si forte conducit, laede (help nobody, 
but rather injure all people, if it brings you any 
advantage) ; nay more, Malice gives us the variant : 
Immo omnes, quantum potes, laede (but rather injure 
all people as far as you can). To bring into the 



88 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

lists a combatant equal, or rather superior to Egoism 
and Malice combined — this is the task of all Ethics. 
Heic Rkodus, heic salta ! ^ 

The division of human duty into two classes has 
long been recognised, and no doubt owes its origin 
to the nature of morality itself. We have (1) the 
duties ordained by law (otherwise called the perfect, 
obligatory, narrower duties), and (2) those prescribed 
by virtue (otherwise called imperfect, wider, meri- 
torious, or, preferably, the duties taught by love). 
On p. 67 (R, p. 60) we find Kant desiring to give 
a further confirmation to the moral principle, which 
he propounded, by undertaking to derive this classi- 
fication from it. But the attempt turns out to be 
so forced, and so obviously bad, that it only testifies 
in the strongest way against the soundness of his 
position. For, according to him, the duties laid 
down by statutes rest on a precept, the contrary 
of which, taken as a general natural law, is declared 
to be quite unthinkable without contradiction ; while 

' " Here is Rhodes, here make your leap ! " /.e., " Here is the 
place of trial, here let us see what you can do ! " This Latin 
proverb is derived from one of ^sop's fables. A braggart 
boasts of having once accomplished a wonderful jump in 
Rhodes, and appeals to the evidence of the eye-witnesses. 
The bystanders then exclaim : " Friend, if this be true, you 
have no need of witnesses ; for this is Rhodes, and your leaj) 
you can make here." The words are: aAX', a- ^iXe, d rovro 
akrjdei earcv, ovbev Sei aroi fxaprvpoaV avrrj yap 'PoSoj Knl irrjdrjpa. V- 
Fabvlae Aesopicae Gollectae. Edit. Halm, Leipzig : Teubner. 
1875. Nr. 2036, p. 102. The other version of the fable (Nr. 
20.3, p. 101) gives : 2) ovto^, el dXrjdes tovt^ fariv, ovdev 8el croi 
fiapTVpoiv Idoii f) 'PoSos, Idoii koi to 7rf}8r]pa. — {Ti'anslator.) , 



THE LEADING PRINCIPLE OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 89 

the duties incnlcated by virtue are made to depend 
on a maxim, the opposite of which can (he says) 
be conceived as a general natural law, but cannot 
possibly be wished for. I beg the reader to reflect 
that the rule of injustice, the reign of might instead 
of riorht, which in the Kantian view is not even 
thinkable as a natural law, is in reality, and in 
point of fact, the dominant order of things not only 
in the animal kingdom, but among men as well. 
It is true that an attempt has been made among 
civilised peoples to obviate its injurious effects by 
means of all the machinery of state government ; 
but as soon as this, wherever, or of whatever kind, 
it be, is suspended or eluded, the natural law 
immediately resumes its sway. Indeed between 
nation and nation it never ceases to prevail ; the 
customary jargon about justice is well known to 
be nothing but diplomacy's official style ; the real 
arbiter is brute force. On the other hand, genuine, 
i.e., voluntary, acts of justice, do occur beyond all 
doubt, but always only as exceptions to the rule. 
Furthermore : wishing to give instances by way 
of introducing the above-mentioned classification, 
Kant establishes the duties prescribed by law first 
(p. 53 ; R., p. 48) through the so-called duty towards 
oneself, — the duty of not ending one's life voluntarily, 
if the pain outweigh the pleasure. Accordingly, the 
rule of suicide is held to be not even thinkable as 
a general natural law. I, on the contrary, maintain 
that, since here there can be no intervention of 
state control, it is exactly this rule which is proved 
to be an actually existing, unchecked natural law. 



90 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

For it is absolutely certain (as daily experience 
attests) that men in the vast majority of cases turn 
to self-destruction directly the gigantic strength of 
the innate instinct of self-preservation is distinctly 
overpowered by great suffering. To suppose that 
there is any thought whatever that can have a 
deferring effect, after the fear of death, which is 
so strong and so closely bound up with the nature 
of every living thing, has shown itself powerless ; 
in other words, to suppose that there is a thought 
still mightier than this fear — is a daring assump- 
tion, all the more so, when we see, that it 
is one which is so difficult to discover that the 
moralists are not yet able to determine it with pre- 
cision. In any case, it is certain that arguments 
against suicide of the sort put forward by Kant in 
this connection (p. 63 : R., p. 48, and p. 67 ; B., p. 
57) have never hitherto restrained any one tired 
of life even for a moment. Thus a natural law, 
which iucontestably exists, and is operative every 
day, is declared by Kant to be simply unthinkable 
without contradiction, and all for the sake of making 
liis Moral Principle the basis of the classification of 
duties 1 At this point it is, I confess, not without 
satisfaction that I look forward to the groundwork 
which I shall give to Ethics in the sequel. From 
it the division of Duty into what is prescribed by 
law, and what is taught by love, or, better, into 
justice and lovingkindness, results quite naturally 
though a principle of separation which arises from 
the nature of the subject, and which entirely of itself 
draws a sharp line of demarkation ; so that the 



THE LEADING PRINCIPLE OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 91 

foundation of Morals, which I shall present, has in 
fact ready to hand that confirmation, to which Kant, 
with a view to support his own position, lays a 
completely groundless claim. 



CHAPTEU VI. 

ON THE DERIVED FORMS OF THE LEADING PRINCIPLE 
OF THE KANTIAN ETHICS. 

It is well known that Kant put the leading principle 
of his Ethics into another quite different shape, 
in which it is expressed directly ; the first being 
indirect, indeed nothing more than an indication as 
to how the principle is to be sought for. Beginning 
at p. 63 (R., p. 5.5), he prepares the way for his 
second formula by means of very strange, ambiguous, 
not to say distorted,^ definitions of the conceptions 
End and Means, which may be much more simply and 
correctly denoted thus : an End is the direct motive 
of an act of the Will, a Means the indirect : simplex 
sigilluin veri (simplicity is the seal of truth). Kant, 
however, slips through his wonderful enunciations to 
the statement : " Man, indeed every rational being, 
exists as an end in himself." On this I must remark 
that " to exist as an end in oneself" is an unthinkable 
expression, a contradictio in adjecto. ^ To be an 

' To keep the play of words in " geschrohene" " verschro- 
bene," we may perhaps render them : "twisted" . . . ''mis- 
twisted." — (Translator.) 

* A contradiction in that which is added. A terra applied 
to two ideas which cannot be brought into a thinkable 
relationship. — ( Translator.) 

92 



DERIVED FORMS OF THE LEADING PRINCIPLE. 93 

end means to be an object of volition. Every end 
can only exist in relation to a will, whose end, i.e., 
(as above stated), whose direct motive it is. Only 
thus can the idea, " end " have any sense, which is 
lost as soon as such connection is broken. But this 
relation, which is essential to the thing, necessarily 
excludes every "in itself." "End in oneself" is 
exactly like saying : " Friend in oneself ; — enemy 
in oneself ; — uncle in oneself ; — north or east in 
itself ; — above or below in itself ; " and so on. At 
bottom the "end in itself" is in the same case as 
the " absolute ought " ; the same thought — the theo- 
logical — secretly, indeed, unconsciously lies at the 
root of each as its condition. Nor is the " absolute 
worth," which is supposed to be attached to this 
alleged, though unthinkable, " end in itself," at all 
better circumstanced. It also must be characterised, 
without pity, as a contradictio in adjecto. Every 
"worth" is a valuation by comparison, and its 
bearing is necessarily twofold. First, it is relative, 
since it exists for some one ; and secondly, it is 
comparative, as being compared with something else, 
and estimated accordingly. Severed from these two 
conditions, the conception, " worth," loses all sense 
and meaning, and so obviously, that further demon- 
stration is needless. But more : just as the phrases 
" end in itself " and " absolute worth " outrage 
logic, so true morality is outraged by the statement 
on p. 65 (R., p. 56), that irrational beings (that is, 
animals) are things, and should therefore be treated 
simply as means, which are not at the same time 
ends. In harmony with this, it is expressly declared 



94 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

in the Metaphysische Anfangsgrilnde der Tugend- 
lehre, § 16 : "A man can have no duties towards 
any being, except towards his fellowmen ; " and 
then, § 17, we read: "To treat animals cruelly 
runs counter to the duty of man towards himself; 
because it deadens the feeling of sympathy for 
them in their sufferings, and thus weakens a natural 
tendency which is very serviceable to morality in 
relation to other men." So one is only to have 
compassion on animals for the sake of practice, 
and they are as it were the pathological phantom 
on which to train one's sympathy with men ! In 
common with the whole of Asia that is not tainted 
by IslS,m (which is tantamount to Judaism), I 
regard such tenets as odious and revolting. Here, 
once again, we see withal how entirely this philo- 
sophical morality, which is, as explained above, only 
a theological one in disguise, depends in reality on 
the biblical Ethics. Thus, because Christian morals 
leave ^ animals out of consideration (of which more 
later on) ; therefore in philosophical morals they are 
of course at once outlawed ; they are merely " things," 
simply means to ends of any sort ; and so they are 
good for vivisection, for deer-stalking, bull-fights, 
horse-races, etc., and they may be whipped to death 
as they struggle along with heavy quarry carts. 
Shame on such a morality which is worthy of Pariahs, 
Chandalas and Mlechchas ^ ; which fails to recognise 

' A Chandala (or Candala) means one who is born of a 

Brahman woman by a Sudra husband, such a union being 
an abomination. Hence it is a term appUed to a low common 



DEEIVED FORMS OF THE LEADING PRINCIPLE. 95 

the Eternal Reality immanent in everything that has 
life, and shining forth with inscrutable significance 
from all eyes that see the sun I This is a morality 
which knows and values only the precious species 
that gave it birth ; whose characteristic — reason— it 
makes the condition under which a being may be 
an object of moral regard. 

By this rough path, then, — indeed, -per fas et 
nefas (by fair means and by foul), Kant reaches the 
second form in which he expresses the fundamental 
principle of his Ethics : " Act in such a way that 
you at all times treat mankind, as much in your 
own person, as in the person of every one else, not 
only as a Means, but also as an End." Such a 
statement is a very artificial and roundabout way 
of saying : " Do not consider yourself alone, but 
others also ; " this in turn is a paraphrase for : Quod 
tiU fieri non vis, alteri ne feceris (do not to another 
what yon are unwilling should be done to yourself) ; 
and the latter, as I have said, contains nothing but 
the premises to the conclusion, which is the true 
and final goal of all morals and of all moralising ; 
Neminem laede, immo omnes, quantum potes juva (do 
harm to no one ; but rather help all people as far 
as lies in your power). Like all beautiful things, 
this proposition looks best unveiled. Be it only 
observed that the alleged duties towards oneself are 
dragged into this second Kantian edict intentionally 

person. Mlechcha (or Mleccha) means a foreigner; one who 
does not speak Sanskrit, and is not subject to Hindu in- 
stitutions. The transition from a " a barbarian " to a bad 
or wicked man, is easy. — {Translator.) 



96 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

and not without dilBficulty. Some place of course had 
to be found for them.^ 

Another objection that could be raised against the 
formula is that the malefactor condemned to be 
executed is treated merely as an instrument, and not 
as an end, and this with perfectly good reason ; for 
he is the indispensable means of upholding the terror 
of the law by its fulfilment, and of thus accomplishing 
the law's end — the repression of crime. 

But if this second definition helps nothing towards 
laying a foundation for Ethics, if it cannot even pass 
muster as its leading principle, that is, as an adequate 
and direct summary of ethical precepts ; it has never- 
theless the merit of containing a fine apergu of moral 
psychology, for it marks egoism by an exceedingly 
characteristic token, which is quite worth while being 
here more closely considered. This egoism, then, of 
which each of us is full, and to conceal which, as our 
partie honteuse, we have invented politeness, is per- 
petually peering through every veil cast over it, and 
may especially be detected in the fact that our 
dealings with all those, who come across our path, 
are directed by the one object of trying to find, 
before everything else, and as if by instinct, a pos- 
sible means to any of the numerous ends with which 
we are always engrossed. When we make a new 
acquaintance, our first thought, as a rule, is whether 
the man can be useful to us in some way. If he 
can do nothing for our benefit, then as soon as we 
are convinced of this, he himself generally becomes 

' These so-called duties have been discussed in Chapter III. 
of this Part. 



DERIVED FORMS OF THE LEADING PRINCIPLE. 97 

nothing to us. To seek ia all other people a possible 
means to onr ends, in other words, to make them 
our instruments, is almost part of the very nature 
of human eyes ; and whether the instrument will 
have to suffer more or less in the using, is a thought 
which comes much later, sometimes not at all. That 
we assume others to be similarly disposed is shown 
in many ways ; e.g., by the fact that, when we ask 
any one for information or advice, we lose all con- 
fidence in his words directly we discover that he 
may have some interest in the matter, however small 
or remote. For then we immediately take for granted 
that he will make us a means to his ends, and hence 
give his advice not in accordance with his discernment, 
but with his desire, and this, no matter how exact 
the former may be, or how little the latter seem 
involved ; since we know only too well that a cubic 
inch of desire weighs much more than a cubic yard 
of discernment. Conversely, when we ask in such 
cases : " What ought I to do ? " as a rule, nothing 
else will occur to our counsellor, but how we should 
shape our action to suit his own ends ; and to this 
effect he will give his reply immediately, and as it 
were mechanically, without so much as bestowing 
a thought on our ends ; because it is his Will that 
directly dictates the answer, or ever the question 
can come before the bar of his real judgment. Hence 
he tries to mould our conduct to his own benefit, 
without even being conscious of it, and while he 
supposes that he is speaking out of the abundance 
of his discernment, in reality he is nothing but the 
mouth-piece of his own desire ; indeed, such self- 

7 



98 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

deception may lead him so far as to utter lies, 
without being aware of it. So greatly does the 
influence of the Will preponderate that of the 
Intelligence. Consequently, it is not the testimony 
of our own consciousness, but rather, for the most 
part, that of our interest, which avails to determine 
whether our language be in accordance with what 
we discern, or what we desire. To take another 
case. Let us suppose that a man pursued by enemies 
and in danger of life, meets a pedlar and inquires 
for some by-way of escape ; it may happen that the 
latter will answer him by the question : " Do you 
need any of my wares ? " It is not of course meant 
that matters are always like this. On the contrary, 
many a man is found to show a direct and real 
participation in another's weal and woe, or (in Kant's 
language) to regard him as an end and not as a 
means. How far it seems natural, or the reverse, 
to each one to treat his neighbour for once in the 
way as an end, instead of (as usual) a means, — 
this is the criterion of the great ethical difference 
existing between character and character ; and that 
on which the mental attitude of sympathy rests in 
the last resort will be the true basis of Ethics, and 
will form the subject of the third part of this Essay. 

Thus, in his second formula, Kant distinguishes 
Egoism and its opposite by a very characteristic 
trait ; and this point of merit I have all the more 
gladly brought out into strong light and illustrated, 
because in other respects there is little in the ground- 
work of his Ethics that I can admit. 

The third and last form in which Kant put forward 



DERIVED FORMS OF THE LEADING PRINCIPLE. 99 

his Moral Principle is the Autonomy of the Will : 
" The Will of every rational being is universally 
legislative for all rational beings." This of course 
follows from the first form. As a consequence of the 
third, however, we are asked to believe (see p. 71 ; 
R., p. 60) that the specific characteristic of the 
Categorical Imperative lies in the renunciation of all 
interest by the Will when acting from a sense of duty. 
All previous moral principles had thus (he says) 
broken down, " because the latter invariably attributed 
to human actions at bottom a certain interest, whether 
originating in compulsion, or in pleasurable attraction 
— an interest which might be one's own, or another's " 
(p. 73 ; R., p. 62). (Another's : let this be particularly 
•noticed.) " Whereas a universally legislative Will 
must prescribe actions which are not based on any 
interest at all, but solely on a feeling of duty." 
I beg the reader to think what this really means. 
As a matter of fact, nothing less than volition with- 
out motive, in other words, eifect without cause. 
Interest and Motive are interchangeable ideas ; 
what is interest but quod mea interest, that which 
is of importance to me ? And is not this, in one 
word, whatever stirs and sets in motion my Will ? 
Consequently, what is an interest other than the 
working of a motive upon the Will ? Therefore 
where a motive moves the Will, there the latter has 
an interest ; but where the Will is affected by no 
motive, there in truth it can be as little active, as 
a stone is able to leave its place without being 
pushed or pulled. No educated person will require 
any demonstration of this. It follows that every 



100 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

action, inasmuch as it necessarily .must have a 
motive, necessarily also presupposes an interest. 
Kant, however, propounds a second entirely new class 
of actions which are performed without any interest, 
i.e.y without motive. And these actions are — all 
deeds of justice and lovingkindness ! It will be 
seen that this monstrous assumption, to be refuted, 
needed only to be reduced to its real meaning, which 
was concealed through the word " interest " being 
trifled with. Meanwhile Kant celebrates (p. 74 sqq. ; 
K., p. 62) the triumph of his Autonomy of the 
Will by setting up a moral Utopia called the 
Kingdom of Ends, which is peopled with nothing but 
rational beings in abstracto. These, one and all, are 
always willing, without willing any actual thing {i.e., 
without interest) : the only thing that they will is 
that they may all perpetually will in accordance with 
one maxim {i.e., Autonomy). Difficile est satiram 
non scribere^ (it is difficult to refrain from writing 
a satire). 

But there is something else to which Kant is led 
by his autonomy of the will ; and it involves more 
serious consequences than the little innocent King- 
dom of Ends, which is perfectly harmless and may 
be left in peace. I mean the conception of human 
dignity. Now this " dignity " is made to rest solely 
on man's autonomy, and to lie in the fact that the law 
which he ought to obey is his own work, his relation 
to it thus being the same as that of the subjects of a 
constitutional government to their statutes. As an 
ornamental iinish to the Kantian system of morals 
' Juvenal, Sat. I. 30. 



DERIVED FORMS OF THE LEADING PRINCIPLE. 101' 

such a theory might after all be passed over. Only 
this expression " Human Dignity," once it was uttered 
by Kant, became the shibboleth of all perplexed aud 
empty-headed moralists. For behind that imposing 
formula they concealed their lack, not to say, of a 
real ethical basis, but of any basis at all which 
was possessed of an intelligible meaning ; supposing 
cleverly enough that their readers would be so 
pleased to see themselves invested with such a 
"dignity" that they would be quite satisfied.^ Let 
us, however, look at this conception a little more 
carefully, and submit it to the test of reality. Kant 
(p. 79 ; R., p. 60) defines dignity as " an uncon- 
ditioned, incomparable value." This is an explanation 
which makes such an eifect by its magnificent sound 
that one does not readily summon up courage to 
examine it at close quarters ; else we should find 
that it too is nothing but a hollow hyperbole, within 
which there lurks like a gnawing worm, the con- 
tradictio in adjecto. Every value is the estimation 
of one thing compared with another ; it is thus a 
conception of comparison, and consequently relative ; 
and this relativity is precisely that which forms the 
essence of the idea. According to Diogenes Laertius 
(Book VII., chap. 106),^ this was already correctly 
taught by the Stoics. He says : Tr)v he a^iav dvau 

' It appears that G. W. Block in his Nev£. Grundlegung der 
Philosophie der Sitten, 1802, was the first to make " Human 
Dignity" expressly and exclusively the foundation-stone of 
Ethics, which he then built up entirely on it. 

* V. Diogenes Laertius, de Clarorum Philosophorum Vitis, 
etc., edit. C. Gabr. Cobet. Paris ; Didot, 1862. In this edition 
the passage quoted is in chap. 105 ad fin., -p. 182. — {Translator.) 



102 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

afjLOi^rjv BoKi/jbdarov, rjv av 6 €fi7recpo<i roiv irpwyfidTwv 
rd^r)' ofxoLOV eiirelv, dfxei^eadat 7rvpov<i 7rpo<i Taii aijv 
rjfjbtovq) Kptddf} An incomparable, unconditioned, absolute 
value, such as "dignity" is declared by Kant to 
be, is thus, like so much else in Philosopliy, the- 
statement in words of a thought which is really 
unthinkable ; just as much as " the highest number," 
or " the greatest space." 

" Dock eben wo Begriffe fehlen, 
Da stellt ein Wort zu rechter Zeit sick ein." 

(But where conceptions fail, 
Just there a Word comes in to fill the blank.) 

So it was with this expression, " Human Dignity." 
A most acceptable phrase was brought into currency. 
Thereon every system of Morals, that was spun out 
through all classes of duty, and all forms of casuistry, 
found a broad basis ; from which serene elevation 
it could comfortably go on preaching. 

At the end of his exposition (p. 124 ; R., p. 97), 
Kant says : " But how it is that Pure Reason without 
other motives, that may have their derivation else- 
where, can by itself be practical ; that is, how, without 
there being any object for the Will to take an 
antecedent interest in, the simple principle of the 
universal validity of all the precepts of Pare Reason, 
as laws, can of itself provide a motive and bring 
about an interest which may be called purely moral ; 
or, in other words, how it is that Pure Reason can 

' They teach that " worth " is the equivalent value of a 
thing which has been tested, whatever an expert may fix that 
value to be ; as, for instance, to take wheat in exchange for 
barley and a mule. — {Translator.) 



DERIVED FORMS OF THE LEADING PRINCIPLE. 103 

be practical ; — to explain this problem, all human 
reason is inadequate, and all trouble and work spent 
on it are vain." Now it should be remembered that, 
if any one asserts the existence of a thing which 
cannot even be conceived as possible, it is incumbent on 
him to prove that it is an actual reality ; whereas the 
Categorical Imperative of Practical Reason is expressly 
not put forward as a fact of consciousness, nor otherwise 
founded on experience. Rather are we frequently 
cautioned not to attempt to explain it by having 
recourse to empirical anthropology. (Cf. e.g.., p. vi. 
of the preface ; R., p. 5 ; and pp. 59, 60 ; R,, p. 52). 
Moreover, we are repeatedly {e.g., p. 48 ; R., p. 44) 
assured " that no instance can show, and consequently 
there can be no empirical proof, that an Imperative 
of this sort exists everywhere." And further, on 
p. 49 (R., p. 45), we read, '' that the reality of the 
Categorical Imperative is not a fact of experience." 
Now if we put all this together, we can hardly avoid 
the suspicion that Kant is jesting at his readers' 
expense. But although this practice may be allowed 
by the present philosophical public of Germany, and 
seem good in their eyes, yet in Kant's time it was 
not so much in vogue ; and besides, Ethics, then, 
as always, was precisely the subject that least of 
all could lend itself to jokes. Hence we must 
continue to hold the conviction that what can neither 
be conceived as possible, nor proved as actual, is 
destitute of all credentials to attest its existence. 
And if, by a strong effort of the imagination, we 
try to picture to ourselves a man, possessed, as it 
were, by a daemon, in the form of an absolute Ought, 



104 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

that speaks only in Categorical Imperatives, and, 
confronting his wishes and inclinations, claims to be 
the perpetual controller of his actions ; iil this figure 
we see no true portrait of human nature, or of 
our inner life ; what we do discern is an artificial 
substitute for theological Morals, to which it stands 
in the same relation as a wooden leg to a living one. 

Our conclusion, therefore, is, that the Kantian 
Ethics, like all anterior systems, is devoid of any 
sure foundation. As I showed at the outset, in my 
examination of its imperative Form, the structure is 
at bottom nothing but an inversion of theological 
Morals, cloaked in very abstract formulae of an 
apparently a priori origin. That this disguise was 
most artificial and unrecognisable is the more certain, 
from the fact that Kant, in all good faith, wag 
actually himself deceived by it, and really believed 
that he could establish, independently of all theology, 
and on the basis of pure intelligence a 'priori, those 
conceptions of the Law and of the bests of Duty, 
which obviously have no meaning except in theo- 
logical Ethics ; whereas I have sufficiently proved 
that with him they are destitute of all real foundation, 
and float loosely in mid air. However, the mask at 
length falls away in his own workshop, and theo- 
logical Ethics stands forth unveiled, as witness his 
doctrine of the Highest Good, the Postulates of 
Practical Reason ; and lastly, his Moral Theology. 
But this revelation freed neither Kant nor the public 
from their illusion as to the real state of things ; on 
the contrary, both he and they rejoiced to see all 
those precepts, which hitherto had been sanctioned 



DERIVED FORMS OF THE LEADING PRINCIPLE. 105 

by Faith, now ratified and established by Ethics 
(although only idealiter, and for practical purposes). 
The truth is that they, in all sincerity, put the effect 
for the cause, and the cause for the effect, inasmuch 
as they failed to perceive that at the root of this 
system of Morals there lay, as absolutely necessary 
assumptions, however tacit and concealed, all the 
alleged consequences that had been drawn from it. 

At the end of this severe investigation, which must 
also have been tiring to my readers, perhaps I may 
be allowed, by way of diversion, to make a jesting, 
indeed frivolous comparison. I would liken Kant, 
in his self-mystification, to a man who at a ball has 
been flirting the whole evening with a masked beauty, 
in hopes of making a conquest ; till at last, throwing 
off her disguise, she reveals herself — as his wife. 



CHAPTER VII. 

rant's doctkine of conscience. 

The alleged Practical Reason with its Categorical 
Imperative, is manifestly very closely connected with 
Conscience, although essentially difiereut from it in 
two respects. In the first place, the Categorical 
Imperative, as commanding, necessarily speaks 
before the act, whereas CVmscience docs not till after- 
wards. Before the act Conscience can at best only 
speak indirectly, that is, by means of reflection, which 
holds up to it the recollection of previous cases, in 
which similar acts after they were committed received 
its disapproval. It is on this that the etymology of 
the word Gewissen (Conscience) appears to me to 
rest, because only what has already taken place is 
gewiss ^ (certain). Undoubtedly, through external 
inducement and kindled emotion, or by reason of 
the internal discord of bad humour, impure, base 
thoughts, and evil desires rise up in all people, 
even in the best. But for these a man is not morally 
responsible, and need not load his conscience with 
them ; since they only show what the genus homo^ 
not what the individual, who thinks them, would be 

' Both words are, of course, derived from zoissen = scire = 
fldfpai. — {Trandator.) 

106 



Kant's doctrine of conscience. 107 

capable of doing. Other motives, if not simul- 
taneously, yet almost immediately, come into his 
consciousness, and confronting the unworthy inclina- 
tions prevent them from ever being crystallised into 
deeds ; thus causing them to resemble the out- voted 
minority of an acting committee. By deeds alone 
each person gains an empirical knowledge no less 
of himself than of others, just as it is deeds alone 
that burden the conscience. For, unlike thoughts, 
these are not problematic ; on the contrary, they 
are certain (jewiss), they are unchangeable, and 
are not only thought, but known {gewusst). The 
Latin conscientia^ and the Greek avveiSrjai^; ^ have 
the same sense. Conscience is thus the knowledge 
that a man has about what he has done. 

The second point of difference between the alleged 
Categorical Imperative and Conscience is, that the 
latter always draws its material from experience ; 
which the former cannot do, since it is purely a 
prioj'i. Nevertheless, we may reasonably suppose 
that Kant's Doctrine of Conscience will throw some 
light on this new conception of an absolute Ought 
which he introduced. His theory is most completely 
set forth in the Metaphysische Anfangsgrilnde zur 
Tugendlehre, § 13, and in the following criticism I 
shall assume that the few pages which contain it 
are lying before the reader. 

' Cf . Horace's conscire sibi, pallescere culpa : Epist. I. 1 , 
61. To be conscious of having done wrong, to turn pale at 
the thought of the crime. 

* 2vviibri(Tis = consciousness {oi right or wrong done). — 
{Translator.) 



108 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

The Kantian interpretation of Conscience makes 
an exceedingly imposing effect, before which one 
nsed to stand with reverential awe, and all the less 
confidence was felt in demurring to it, because there 
lay heavy on the mind the ever-present fear of having 
theoretical objections construed as practical, and, if 
the correctness of Kant's view were denied, of being 
regarded as devoid of conscience. I, however, cannot 
be led astray in this manner, since the question here 
is of theory, not of practice ; and I am not concerned 
with the preaching of Morals, but with the exact 
investigation of the ultimate ethical basis. 

We notice at once that Kant employs exclusively 
Latin legal terminology, which, however, would seem 
little adapted to reflect the most secret stirrings of 
the human heart. Yet this language, this judicial 
way of treating the subject, he retains from first 
to last, as though it were essential and proper 
to the matter. And so we find brought upon the 
stage of our inner self a complete Court of justice, 
with indictment, judge, plaintiff, defendant, and 
sentence ; — nothing is wanting. Now if this tribunal, 
as portrayed by Kant, really existed in our breasts, 
it would be astonishing if a single person could be 
found to be, I do not say, so had, but so stupid, as to 
act against his conscience. For such a superuatural 
assize, of an entirely special kind, set up in our 
consciousness, such a secret court — like another 
Fehmgericht ^ — held in the dark recesses of our 

' The celebrated Secret Tribunal of Westphalia, which came 
into prominence about a.d. 1220. In A.D. 1335 the Arch- 
bishop of Cologne was appointed head of all the Fehme 



ka.nt's doctrine of conscience. 109 

inmost being, would inspire everybody with- a terror 
and fear of the gods strong enough to really keep 
him from grasping at short transient advantages, in 
face of the dreadful threats of superhuman powers, 
speaking in tones so near and so clear. In real 
life, on the contrary, we find that the efficiency of 
conscience is generally considered such a vanishing 
quantity that all peoples have bethought themselves 
of helping it out by means of positive religion, or 
even of entirely replacing it by the latter. Moreover, 
if Conscience were indeed of this peculiar nature, 
the Royal Society could never have thought of the 
question put for the present Prize Essay. 

But if we look more closely at Kant's exposition, 
we shall find that its imposing effect is mainly pro- 
duced by the fact that he attributes to the moral 
verdict passed on ourselves, as its peculiar and 
essential characteristic, a form which in fact is not so 
at all. This metaphorical bar of judgment is no more 
applicable to moral self-examination than it is to 
every other reflection as regards what we have done, 
and might have done otherwise, where no ethical 
question is involved. For it is not only true that 
the same procedure of indictment, defence, and 
sentence is occasionally assumed by that obviously 
spurious and artificial conscience which is based on 
mere superstition ; as, for instance, when a Hindu 
reproaches himself with having been the murderer of 

benches in Westphalia by the Emperor Charles IV. The 
reader will remember the description of the trial scene in 
Scott's Anne of Geierstein. Perhaps the Court of Star Chamber 
comes nearest to it in English History. — {Translator.) 



110 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

a COW, or when a Jew remembers that he has smoked 
his pipe at home on the Sabbath ; but even the self- 
questioning which springs from no ethical source, 
being indeed rather unmoral than moral, often 
appears in a shape of this sort, as the following case 
may exemplify. Suppose I, good-naturedly, but 
thoughtlessly, have made myself surety for a friend, 
and suppose there comes with evening the clear 
perception of the heavy responsibility I have taken on 
myself — a responsibility that may easily involve me 
in serious trouble, as the wise old saying, iyyva' irdpa 
8' dra ! ^ predicts ; then at once there rise up within 
me the Accuser and the Counsel for the defence, ready 
to confront each other. The latter endeavours to 
palliate my rashness in giving bail so hastily, by 
pointing out the stress of circumstance or of obliga- 
tion, or, it may be, the simple straightforwardness 
of the transaction ; perhaps he even seeks excuse by 
commending my kind heart. Last of all comes the 
Judge who inexorably passes the sentence : " A fool's 
piece of work ! " and 1 am overwhelmed withconfusion 
So much for this judicial form of which Kant is so 
fond ; his other modes of expression are, for the most 
part, open to the same criticism. For instance, that 
which he attributes to conscience, at the beginning of 
the paragraph, as its peculiar property, applies equally 
to all other scruples of an entirely different sort. He 
says : " It (conscience) follows him like his shadow, 
try though he may to escape. By pleasures and 

' If you give a pledge, be sure that Ate (the goddess of 
mischief) is beside you ; i.e., beware of giving pledges. — Thales 
ap. Plat. Charm. 165 A. 



kant's doctrine of conscience. Ill 

distractions lie may be stupefied and In lied to sleep, 
but he cannot avoid occasionally waking up and 
coming to himself ; and then he is immediately 
aware of the terrible voice," etc. Obviously, this may 
be just as well understood, word for word, of the 
secret consciousness of some person of private means, 
who feels that his expenses far exceed his income, 
and that thus his capital is being affected, and will 
gradually melt away. 

We have seen that Kant represents the use of 
legal terms as essential to the subject, and that he 
keeps to them from beginning to end ; let it now 
be noted how he employs the same style for the 
following finely devised sophism. He says : " That 
a person accused by his conscience should be identi- 
fied with the judge is an absurd way of portraying 
a court of justice ; for in that case the accuser 
would invariably lose." And he adds, by way of 
elucidating this statement, a very ambiguous and 
obscure note. His conclusion is that, if we would 
avoid falling into a contradiction, we must think 
of the judge (in the judicial conscience-drama that 
is enacted in our breasts) as different from us, in 
fact, as another person ; nay more, as one that is 
an omniscient knower of hearts, whose bests are 
obligatory on all, and who is almighty for every 
purpose of executive authority.^ He thus passes by a 

• Kant leads up to this position with great ingenuity, by- 
having recourse to the theory of the two characters coexistent 
in man — the noumenal (or intelligible) and the empirical ; 
the one being in time, the other, timeless ; the one, fast bound 
by the law of causality, the other free. — (Translator.) 



112 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

perfectly smooth path from conscience to superstition, 
making the latter a necessary consequence of the 
former ; while he is secretly sure that he will be 
all the more willingly followed because the reader's 
earliest training will have certainly rendered him 
familiar with such ideas, if not have made them his 
second nature. Here, then, Kant finds an easy task, 
— a thing he ought rather to have despised; for 
he should have concerned himself not only with 
preaching, but also with practising truthfulness. I 
entirely reject the above quoted sentence, and all the 
conclusions consequent thereon, and I declare it to 
be nothing but a shuffling trick. It is not true that 
the accuser must always lose, when the accused is 
the same person as the judge ; at least not in the 
court of judgment in our hearts. In the instance I 
gave of one man going surety for another, did the 
accuser lose ? Or must we in this case also, if we 
wish to avoid a contradiction, really assume a per- 
sonification after Kant's fashion, and be driven to 
view objectively as another person that voice whose 
deliverance would have been those terrible words : 
" A fool's piece of work I " ? A sort of Mercury, 
forsooth, in living flesh ? Or perhaps a prosopopoeia 
of the Mr]Ti^ (cunning) recommended by Homer (11. 
xxiii. 313 sqq.)?^ But thus we should only be 
landed, as before, on the broad path of superstition, 
aye, and pagan superstition too. 

It is in this passage that Kant indicates his Moral 
Theology, briefly indeed, yet not without all its vital 
points. The fact that he takes care not to attribute 

' 'A\X' aye 8fj <rv, <^iXor, imtjtiv e/x/SaXXco dvfia, k.t.X. 



kant's doctrine of conscience. 113 

to it any objective validity, but rather to present it 
merely as a form subjectively unavoidable, does not 
free him from the arbitrariness with which he con- 
structs it, even though he only claims its necessity 
for human consciousness. His fabric rests, as we 
have seen, on a tissue of baseless assumptions. 

So much, then, is certain. The entire imagery — 
that of a judicial drama — whereby Kant depicts con- 
science is wholly unessential and in no way peculiar 
to it ; although he keeps this figure, as if it were 
proper to the subject, right through to the end, in 
order finally to deduce certain conclusions from it. 
As a matter of fact it is a sufficiently common form, 
which our thoughts easily take when we consider any 
circumstance of real life. It is due for the most part 
to the conflict of opposing motives which usually 
spring up, and which are successively weighed and 
tested by our reflecting reason. And no difference is 
made whether these motives are moral or egoistic in 
their nature, nor whether our deliberations are con- 
cerned with some action in the past, or in the future. 
Now if we strip from Kant's exposition its dress of 
legal metaphor, which is only an optional dramatic 
appendage, the surrounding nimbus with all its 
imposing eff'ect immediately disappears as well, and 
there remains nothing but the fact that sometimes, 
when we think over our actions, we are seized 
with a certain self-dissatisfaction, which is marked 
by a special characteristic. It is with our conduct 
per se that we are discontented, not with its result, 
and this feeling does not, as in every other case in 
which we regret the stupidity of our behaviour, rest 

8 



114 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

on egoistic grounds. For on these occasions the cause 
of our dissatisfaction is precisely because we have 
been too egoistic, because we liave taken too much 
thought for ourselves, and not enough for our 
neighbour ; or perhaps even because, without any 
resulting advantage, we have made the misery of 
others an object in itself. That we may be dissatisfied 
with ourselves, and saddened by reason of sufferings 
which we have inflicted, not undergone, is a plain 
fact and impossible to be denied. The connection of 
this with the only ethical basis that can stand an 
adequate test we shall examine further oq. But 
Kant, like a clever special pleader, tried by magnifying 
and embellishing the original datum to make all that 
he possibly could of it, in order to prepare a very 
broad foundation for his Ethics and Moral Theology. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

kant's doctrine of the intelligible 1 
and empirical character. theory of freedom. 

The attack I have made, in the cause of truth, on 
Kant's system of Morals, does not, like those of my 
predecessors, touch the surface only, but penetrates to 
its deepest roots. It seems, therefore, only just that, 
before I leave this part of my subject, I should bring 
to remembrance the brilliant and conspicuous service 
which he nevertheless rendered to ethical science. 
I allude to his doctrine of the co-existence of Freedom 
and Necessity. We find it first in the Kritik der 
lieinen Vernunft (pp. 533-554 of the first, and pp. 561- 
582 of the fifth, edition) ; but it is still more clearly 
expounded in the Kritik der Praktischen Vernunft 
(fourth edition, pp. 169-179 ; K, pp. 224-231). 

The strict and absolute necessity of the acts of 
Will, determined by motives as they arise, was first 
shown by Hobbes, then by Spinoza, and Hume, and 
also by Dietrich von Holbach in his Systeme de la 
Nature ; and lastly by Priestley it was most com- 
pletely and precisely demonstrated. This point, 
indeed, has been so clearly proved, and placed beyond 

' V. Note onj " intelligible " in Chapter I. of this Part. — 
{Translator.) 

115 



116 THE BASIS OF MORALirY, 

all doubt, that it must be reckoned among the 
number of perfectly established truths, and only- 
crass ignorance could continue to speak of a freedom, 
of a liberum arbitrium inclifferentiae (a free and 
indifferent choice) in the individual acts of men. Nor 
did Kant, owing to the irrefutable reasoning of his 
predecessors, hesitate to consider the Will as fast 
bound in the chains of Necessity, the matter admitting, 
as he thought, of no further dispute or doubt. This 
is proved by all the passages in which he speaks of 
freedom only from the theoretical standpoint. Never- 
theless, it is true that onr actions are attended with 
a consciousness of independence and original initi- 
ative, which makes us recognise them as our own 
work, and every one with ineradicable certainty 
feels that he is the real author of his conduct, and 
morally responsible for it. But since responsibility 
implies the possibility of having acted otherwise, 
which possibility means freedom in some sort or 
manner ; therefore in the consciousness of responsi- 
bility is indirectly involved also the consciousness 
of freedom. The key to resolve the contradiction, 
that thus arises out of the nature of the case, was 
at last found by Kant through the distinction he 
drew with profound acumen, between phaenomena 
and the Thing in itself (das Ding an sick). This 
distinction is the very core of his wliole philosophy, 
and its greatest merit. 

The individual, with his immutable, innate character, 
strictly determined in all his modes of expression 
by the law of Causality, which, as acting through 
the medium of the intellect, is here called by the 



THE INTELLIGIBLE AND EMPIRICAL CHARACTER. 117 

name of Motivation, — the individual so constituted 
is only the phaenomenon {Erscheinung). The Thing 
in itself which underlies this phaenomenon is outside 
of Time and Space, consequently free from all 
succession and plurality, one, and changeless. Its 
constitution in itself is the intelligible character, 
which is equally present in all the acts of the 
individual, and stamped on every one of them, 
like the impress of a signet on a thousand seals. 
The empirical character of the phaenomenon — the 
character which manifests itself in time, and in 
succession of acts — is thus determined by the in- 
telligible character ; and consequently, the individual, 
as phaenomenon, in all his modes of expression, 
which are called forth by motives, must show the 
invariableness of a natural law. Whence it results 
that all his actions are governed by strict necessity. 
Now it used to be commonly maintained that the 
character of a man may be transformed by moral 
admonitions and remonstrances appealing to reason ; 
but when the distinction between the intelligible 
and empirical character had once been drawn, it 
followed that the unchangeableness, the inflexible 
rigidity of the empirical character, which thinking 
people had always observed, was explained and 
traced to a rational basis, and consequently accepted 
as an established fact by Philosophy, Thus the 
latter was so far harmonised with experience, and 
ceased to stand abashed before popular wisdom, 
which long before had spoken the words of truth 
in the Spanish proverb : Lo que entra con el 
capillOy sale con la mortaja (that which comes in 



118 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

with the child's cap, goes ont with the winding- 
sheet) ; or : Lo que en la leche se mama, en la 
mortaja se derrama (what is imbibed with the nailk, 
is poured out again in the winding-sheet). 

This doctrine of the coexistence of Freedom and 
Necessity I regard as the greatest of all the achieve- 
ments of human sagacity. With the Transcendental 
Aesthetics it forms the two great diamonds in the 
crown of Kant's fame, which will never pass away. 
In his Treatise on Freedom, Schelling obviously 
served up the Kantain teaching in a paraphrase, 
which by reason of its lively colouring and graphic 
delineation, is for many people more comprehensible. 
The work would deserve praise if its author had 
had the honesty to say that he is drawing on Kant's 
wisdom, not on his own. As it is, a certain part 
of the philosophic public still credits him with the 
entire performance. 

The theory itself, and the whole question re- 
garding the nature of Freedom, can be better 
understood if we view them in connection with a 
general truth, which I think, is most concisely 
expressed by a formnla frequently occurring in the 
scholastic writings : Operari sequitur esse} In other 
words, everything in the world ()i)erates in accordance 
with what it is, in accordance with its inherent 
nature, in which, consequently, all its modes of 
expression are already contained potentially, while 
actually they are manifested when elicited by external 
causes ; so that external causes are the means 
whereby the essential constitution of the thing is 
* I.e., Avhat is done is a consequence of that which is. 



THE INTELLIGIBLE AND EMPIRICAL CHARACTER. 119 

revealed. And the modes of expression so resulting 
form the empirical character ; whereas its hidden, 
ultimate basis, which is inaccessible to experience, 
is the intelligible character, that is, the real nature 
'per se of the particular thing in question. Man 
forms no exception to the rest of nature ; he too 
has a changeless character, which, however, is strictly 
individual and different in each case. This character 
is of course empirical as far as we can grasp it, and 
therefore only phaenomenal ; while the intelligible 
character is whatever may be the real nature m 
itself of the person. His actions one and all, being, 
as regards their external constitution, determined 
by motives, can never be shaped otherwise than in 
accordance with the unchangeable individual char- 
acter. As a man is, so he his bound to act. Hence 
for a given person in every single case, there is 
absolutely only one way of acting possible : Operari 
sequitar esse} Freedom belongs only to the in- 
telligible character, not to the empirical. The operari 
(conduct) of a given individual is necessarily 
determined externally by motives, internally by his 
character ; therefore everything that he does neces- 
sarily takes place. But in his esse (i.e., in what 
he is), there, we find Freedom. He might have 
been something different ; and guilt or merit attaches 
to that which he is. All that he does follows 
from what he is, as a mere corollary. Through 
Kant's doctrine we are freed from the primary error 
of connecting Necessity with esse (what one is), 
and Freedom with operari (what one does) ; we 
' I.e., his acts are a consequence of what he is. 



120 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

become aware that this is a misplacement of terms, 
and that exactly the inverse arrangement is the 
true one. Hence it is char that the moral responsi- 
bility of a man, while it first of all, and obviously, 
of course, touches what he does, yet at bottom 
touches what he is ; because, what he is being the 
original datum, his conduct, as motives arise, could 
never take any other course than that which it 
actually does take. But, however strict be the 
necessity, whereby, in the individual, acts are elicited 
by motives, it yet never occurs to anybody — not 
even to him who is convinced of this necessity — 
to exonerate himself on that account, and cast 
the blame on the motives ; for he knows well 
enough that, objectively considered, any given cir- 
cumstance, and its causes, perfectly admitted quite 
a difierent, indeed, a directly opposite course of 
action ; nay, that such a course would actually have 
taken place, if only he had been a different person. 
That he is precisely such a one as his conduct 
proclaims him to be, and no other — this it is for 
which he feels himself responsible ; in his esse (what 
he is) lies the vulnerable place, where the sting of 
conscience penetrates. For Conscience is nothing but 
acquaintance with one's own self— an acquaintance 
that arises out of one's actual mode of conduct, and 
which becomes ever more intimate. So that it is the 
esse (what one is) which in reality is accused by 
conscience, while the operari (what one does) sup- 
plies the incriminating evidence. Since we are only 
conscious of Freedom through the sense of responsi- 
bility ; therefore where the latter lies the former must 



THEORY OF FREEDOM. 121 

also be ; in the esse (in one's being). It is the 
operari (what one does) that is subject to necessity. 
Bat we can only get to know ourselves, as well as 
others empirically ; we have no a jjriori knowledge 
of OUT character. Certainly oiti* natural tendency 
is to cherish a very high opinion of it, because the 
maxim : Quisque praesumitur bonus, donee probetur 
eontrarium (every one is presumed to be good, until 
the contrary is proved), is perhaps even more true of 
the inner court of justice than of the world's tribunals. 

NOTE. 

He who is capable of recognising the essential 
part of a thought, though clothed in a dress very 
dijfferent from what he is familiar with, will see, 
as I do, that this Kantian doctrine of the intelligible 
and emj)irical character is a piece of insight already 
possessed by Plato. The ditiference is, that with Kant 
it is sublimated to an abstract clearness ; with Plato 
it is treated mythically, and connected with metem- 
psychosis, because, as he did not perceive the ideality 
of Time, he could only represent it under a temporal 
form. The identity of the one doctrine with the other 
becomes exceedingly plain, if we read the explana- 
tion and illustration of the Platonic myth, which 
Porphyrins has given with such clear exactitude, 
that its agreement with the abstract language of Kant 
comes out unmistakably. In the second book of his 
Eclogues, chap, 8, §§ 37-40,^ Stobaeus has preserved 

^ V. Joannes Stobaeus. Eclogae Phydcae et Ethicae, edit. 
Curtius Waclismuth et Otto Hense ; Weidmann, Berlin, 1884. 
Vol. IL, pp. Wi-IQ^.— {Translator,) 



122 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

for ns in extenso that part of one of Porphyrins' lost 
writings which specially comments on the myth in 
question, as Plato gives it in the second half of 
the tenth book of the Republic.^ The whole section 
is eminently worth reading. As a specimen I shall 
qnote the short § 39, in the hope of inducing any 
one who cares for these things to study Stobaeus 
for himself. It will then immediately become ap- 
parent that this Platonic myth is nothing less than 
an allegory of the profound truth which Kant stated 
in its abstract purity, as the doctrine of the intelligible 
and empirical character, and consequently that the 
latter had been reached, in its essentials, by Plato 
thousands of years ago. Indeed, this view seems to 
go back much further still, for Porphyrins is of opinion 
that Plato took it from tlie Egyptians. Certainly 
we already find the same theory in the Brahraanical 
doctrine of metempsychosis, and it is from this Indian 
source that the Egyptian priests, in all i)robability, 
derived their wisdom. § 39 is as follows : — 

To 'yap oKov ^ovkqjxa toiovt eoiK€v elvai to tov 
TI\dT(ovo<i' €)(eiv fvev to avTe^ovaiov ra? ■^v')(^a<;, irplv 
elf (T(o/j(,aTa koL ^iov<i Siacfiepovi €fj,7recrelv, et? to r) tovtou 
TOV ^iov eXeadai, r) dWov, 6v, /jbeTa ttoio.^ ^wtj^ kuI 
a(ofzaTO<; oIkclov ttj ^(orj^ CKTeXeaecv fxeWei' (kuI yap 
\eopTO<{ ^iov eV avrfj elvav eXeaOai, /cal avSpo-i). 
KaK€Lvo fjbivTOi TO avTe^ovcTiop, dixa TJj Trpo? Tiva tmu 
TOiovTOiv /Si&jy TTTCoaei, e/u,7r€7r6Bt,aTat. Karekdovcrai 
yap et? to, acofjuaTa, Kal dvTi "^v^wv diroXvToyv yeyovvlav 
■y^v')(aX ^(ocov, to avTe^ovaiov (pepovaiv oiKelov Ty tov 

^ V. Plat., Rep., edit. Stallbaum, 614 sqq. It is the arroXoyo? 
'Hpoy TOV 'Apfieviov. — (Translator.) 



THEORY OF FREEDOM. 123 

^(oov KaraaKeinj, koX e0' wv fiev eTvac iroXvvovv koX 
7ro\uKLV7)TOV, o)? cV avdpcoTTOv, i<j} SiV he okiyoKivrjTov 
KoX fiovorpoTTov, ft)? iirl rcav aXKwv a^^Sov irdvTbw ^cocov. 
'Hprrjcrdai Be to avre^ovatov tovto airo t^? KaraaKeri)^^ 
Kivovfievov fiev e^ avrov, (f)ep6/.tevov Be Kara ra? eV tt}? 
Kara(TKeDrj<i yiyi'ofi€va<i 7rpo6vfxia<;^ 

^ To sum up. What Plato meant seems to be this. Souls 
(he said) have free power, before passing into bodies and different 
modes of being, to choose this or that form of life, which they 
will pass through in a certain kind of existence, and in a body 
adapted thereto. (For a soul may choose a lion's, equally 
with a man's, mode of being.) But this free power of choice 
is removed simultaneously with entrance into one or other of 
such forms of life. For when once they have descended into 
bodies, and instead of unfettered souls have become the souls 
of living things, then they take that measure of free power 
which belongs in each case to the organism of the living thing. 
In some forms this power is very intelligent and full of 
movement, as in man ; in some it has but little energy, and is 
of a simple nature, as in almost all other creatures. More- 
over, this free power depends on the organism in such a 
way that while its capability of action is caused by itself 
alone, its impulses are determined by the desires which have 
their origin in the organism. — {Translator.) 



CHAPTER IX. 

fichte's ethics as a magnifying glass for the 
errors of the kantian. 

Just as in Anatomy and Zoology, many things are 
not so obvious to the pupil in preparations and 
natural products as in engravings where there is 
some exaggeration ; so if there is any one who, after 
the above criticism, is still not entirely satisfied as 
to the worthlessness of the Kantian foundation of 
Ethics, I would recommend him Fichte's System der 
Sittenlekre^ as a sure means of freeing him from 
all doubt. 

In the old German Marionnettes a fool always 
accompanied the emperor, or hero, so that he might 
afterwards give in his own way a highly coloured 
version of what had been said or done In like 
manner behind the great Kant there stands the 
author of the Wissenschaftslehre, ^ a true Wissen- 
schaftsleere? In order to secure his own, and his 
family's welfare, Fichte formed the idea of creating 
a sensation by means of subtle mystification. It 
was a very suitable and reasonable plan, considering 

^ I.e. Scientific Doctrine. 

^ I.e. Scientific Blank. Perhaps we might translate :— 
"Scientific Instruction" and "Scientific Misinstr action." — 
{Translator^ 

124 



fichte's ethics as a magnifying glass 125 

the nature of the German philosophic public, and 
he executed it admirably by outdoing Kant in every 
particular. He appeared as the latter's living 
superlative, and produced a perfect caricature of 
his philosophy by magnifying all its salient points. 
Nor did the Ethics escape similar treatment. In 
his System der Sittenlehre^ we find the Categorical 
Imperative grown into a Despotic Imperative ; while 
the absolute " Ought," the law-giving Reason, and 
the Hest of Duty have developed into a moral Fate, 
an unfathomable Necessity, requiring mankind to 
act strictly in accordance with certain maxims. 
To judge (pp. 308, 309) from the pompous show 
made, a great deal must depend on these formulae, 
although one never quite discovers what. So much 
only seems clear. As in bees there is implanted 
an instinct to build cells and a hive for life in 
common, so men (it is alleged) are endowed with 
an impulse leading them to play in common a 
great, strictly moral, world-embracing Comedy, their 
part being merely to figure as puppets — nothing 
else. But there is this important difi'erence between 
the bees and men. The hive is really brought to 
completion ; while instead of a moral World-Comedy, 
as a matter of fact, an exceedingly immoral one is 
enacted. Here, then, we see the imperative form 
of the Kantian Ethics, the moral Law, and the 
absolute " Ought " pushed farther and further till 
a system of ethical Fatalism is evolved, which, as 
it is worked out, lapses at times into the comic.^ 

' As evidence of the truth of my words, space prevents me 
from quoting more than a few passages. P. 196 : " The moral 



126 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

If in Kant's doctrine we trace a certain moral 
pedantry ; with Fichte this pedantry reaches the 
absurd, and furnishes abundant material for satire. 
Let the reader notice, for example (pp. 407-409), 
how he decides the well-known instance of casuistry, 
where of two human lives one must be lost. We find 
indeed all the errors of Kant raised to the superlative. 
Thus, on p. 199, we read : " To act in accordance with 

instinct is absolute, and its requirements are peremptory, 
without any object outside itseK." P. 232 : " In consequence 
of the Moral Law, the empirical Being in Time must be an 
exact copy of the original Ego." P. 308 : " The whole man 
is a vehicle of the Moral Law." P. 342 : " I am only an 
instrument, a mere tool of the Moral Law, not in any sense 
an end." P. 343: "The end laid before every one is to be 
the means of realising Reason : this is the ultimate purpose 
of his existence ; for this alone he has his being, and if this 
end should not be attained, there is not the least occasion 
for him to live." P. 347 : "I am an instrument of the Moral 
Law in the phaenomenal world." P. 360 : " It is an ordinance 
of the Moral Law to nourish one's body, and study one's 
health ; this of course should be done in no way, and for no 
other purpose, except to provide an efficient instrument for 
furthering the end decreed by Reason, i.e., its realisation," — 
(cf. p. 371.) P. 376 : " Every human body is an instrument 
for furthering the end decreed by Reason, i.e., its realisation ; 
therefore the greatest possible fitness of each instrument must 
constitute for me an end : consequently I must take thought 
for every one." — This is Fichte's derivation of loving-kindness ! 
P. 377 : " I can and dare take thought for myself, solely 
because, and is so far as I am, an instrunie7it of the Moral 
Law." P. 388 : " To defend a hunted man attthe risk of one's 
own life, is an absolute duty ; whenever the life of another 
human being is in danger, you have no right to think of the 
safety ot your own." P. 420 : " In the province of the Moral 
Law there is no way whatever of regarding my feUow-man 
except as an instrument of Reason." 



ftchte's ethics as a magnifying glass 127 

the dictates of sympathy, of compassion, and of 
loving-kindness is distinctly unmoral ; indeed this 
line of conduct, as such, is contrary to morality." 
Again, on p. 402 : " The impulse that makes us ready 
to serve others must never be an inconsiderate good- 
nature, but a clearly thought-out purpose ; that, namely, 
of furthering as much as possible the causality of 
Reason." However, between these sallies of ridiculous 
I)edantry, Fichte's real philosophic crudeness peeps 
out clearly enough, as we might only expect in the 
case of a man whose teaching left no time for learn- 
ing. He seriously puts forward the liberum arbitrium 
indifferentiae (a free and indiflferent choice), giving 
as its foundation the most trivial and frivolous 
reasons. (Pp. 160, 173, 205, 208, 237, 259, 261.) 
There can be no doubt that a motive, althougli 
working through the medium of the intelligence, 
is, nevertheless, a cause, and consequently involves 
the same necessity of effect as all other causes; 
the corollary being that all human action is a strictly 
necessary result. Whoever remains unconvinced of 
this, is still, philosophically speaking, barbarous, and 
ignorant of the rudiments of exact knowledge. The 
perception of the strict necessity governing man's 
conduct forms the line of demarcation which separates 
philosophic heads from all others ; arrived at this 
limit Fichte clearly showed that he belonged to the 
others. Moreover, following the footsteps of Kant 
(p. 303), he proceeds to make various statements 
vsrhich are in direct contradiction to the above 
mentioned passages ; but this inconsistency, like 
many more in his writings, only proves that he, 



128 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

being one who was never serious in the search for 
truth, possessed no strong convictions to build on ; 
as indeed for his purpose they were not in the least 
necessary. Nothing is more laughable than the fact 
that this man has received so much posthumous 
praise for strictly consequential reasoning ; his 
pedantic style full of loud declamation about trifling 
matters being actually mistaken for such. 

The most complete development of Fichte's system 
of moral Fatalism is found in his last work : Die 
Wissenschaftslehre in ihrem Allgemeinen Uminsse 
Dargestellt, Berlin, 1810. It has the advantage of 
being only forty-six pages (duodecimo) long, while it 
contains his whole philosophy in a nutshell. It is 
therefore to be recommended to all those who consider 
their time too precious to be wasted on his larger 
productions, which are framed with a length and 
tediousness worthy of Christian Wolff, and with the 
intention, in reality, of deluding, not of instructing 
the reader. In this little treatise we read on p. 32 : 
" The intuitive perception of a phaenomenal world 
only came about, to the end that in such a world the 
Ego as the absolute Ought might be visible to itself." 
On p. 33 we actually find : " The ought," {i.e., the 
moral necessity,) "of the Ought's visibility ;" and on 
p. 36 : " An ought," {i.e., a moral necessity,) " of the 
perception that I ought." This, then, is what we have 
come to so soon after Kant ! His imperative Form, 
with its unproved Ought, which it secured as a most 
convenient irov arrSi (standpoint), is indeed an exemplar 
vitiis imitabile ! 

For the rest, all that I have said does not 



fichte's ethics as a magnifying glass. 129 

overthrow the service Fichte rendered. Kant's 
philosophy, this late masterpiece of human sagacity, 
in the very land where it arose, he obscured, nay, 
supplanted by empty, bombastic superlatives, by 
extravagances, and by the nonsense which is found, 
in his Grundlage der gesammten Wissenschaftslehre, 
appearing under the disguise of profound penetration. 
His merit was thus to show the world unmistakably 
what the capacity of the German philosophical 
public is ; for he made it play the part of a child 
who is coaxed into giving up a precious gem in 
exchange for a Niirnberg toy. The fame he obtained 
in this fashion still lives on credit ; and still Fichte 
is always mentioned in the same breath with Kant 
as being another such {'HpaK\i]<} koI Tr/^iy/co? I ^). 
Indeed his name is often placed above the latter's. ' 
It was, of course, Fichte's example that encouraged 
his successors in the art of enveloping the German 
people in philosophic fog. These were animated by 
the same spirit, and crowned with the same prosperity. . 
Every one knows their names ; nor is this the place 
to consider them at length. Needless to say, their 
different opinions, down to the minutest details, are 

' I.e-, Hercules and an ape. A Greek proverb denoting 
the juxtaposition of the sublime and the ridiculous. V. Greg. 
Cypr. M. 3, 66 ; Macar. 4, 53 ; Luc. pise. 37 ; and Schol. 
Bachni. An. 2, 2Z2.—{Translatm:) 

^ My proof for this is a passage from the latest philosophical 
literature. Herr Feuerbach, an Hegehan {c'est tout dire ! ) 
in his book, Pierre Bayle : Ein Beitrag zur Geschiclite der 
Philosophie, 1838, p. 80, writes as follows : " But still more 
sublime than Kant's are Fichte's ideas as expressed in his 
Doctrine of Morals and elsewhere. Christianity has nothing 
in sublimity that could bear comparison with them." 

9 



130 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

still set forth, and seriously discussed, by the Pro- 
fessors of Philosophy ; as if one had really to do 
with philosophers ! We must, then, thank Fichte 
for lucid documents now existing, which will have 
to be revised one day before the Tribunal of posterity, 
that Court of Appeal from the verdicts of the present, 
which — like the Last Judgment looked forward to 
by the Saints — at almost all periods, has been left 
to give to true merit its just award. 



part IIL 
THE FOUNDING OP ETHICS. 



CHAPTER I. 

CONDITIONS OF THE PROBLEM. 

Thus the fonndation which Kant gave to Ethics, 
which for the last sixty years has been regarded as 
a sure basis, proves to be an inadmissible assumption, 
and merely theological Morals in disguise ; it sinks 
therefore before our eyes into the deep gulf of 
philosophic error, which perhaps will never be filled 
up. That the previous attempts to lay a foundation 
are still less satisfactory, I take for granted, as I 
have already said. They consist, for the most part, 
of nnproved assertions, drawn from the impalpable 
world of dreams, and at the same time — like Kant's 
system itself — full of an artificial subtlety dealing 
with the finest distinctions, and resting on the 
most abstract conceptions. We find difficult combi- 
nations ; rules invented for the purpose ; formulae 
balanced on a needle's point ; and stilted maxims, 
from which it is no longer possible to look down 
and see life as it really is with all its turmoil. 
Such niceties are doubtless admirably adapted for 
the lecture-room, if only with a view to sharpen- 
ing the wits ; but they can never be the cause of 
the impulse to act justly and to do good, which 
is found in every man ; as also they are powerless 

133 



134 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

to counterbalance the deep-seated tendency to in- 
justice and hardness of heart. Neither is it possible 
to fasten the reproaches of conscience upon them ; to 
attribute the former to the breaking of such hair- 
splitting precepts only serves to make the same 
ridiculous. In a word, artificial associations of ideas 
like these cannot possibly — if we take the matter 
seriously — contain the true incentive to justice and 
loving-kindness. Rather must this be something 
that requires but little reflection, and still less 
abstraction and complicated synthesis ; something 
that, independent of the training of the understanding, 
speaks to every one, even to the rudest,— a something 
resting simply on intuitive perception, and forcing its 
way home as a direct emanation from the reality of 
things. So long as Ethics cannot point to a foundation 
of this sort, she may go on with her discussions, and 
make a great display in the lecture-rooms ; but real 
life will only pour contempt upon her. I must there- 
fore give our moralists the paradoxical advice, first 
to look about them a little among: their fellow-men. 



CHAPTER II. 

SCEPTICAL VIEW. 

But when we cast a retrospect over the attempts 
made, and made in vain, for more than two thousand 
years, to find a sure basis for Ethics, ought we not 
perhaps to think that after all there is no natural 
morality, independent of human institution ? Shall 
we not conclude that all moral systems are nothing 
but artificial products, means invented for the better 
restraint of the selfish and wicked race of men ; and 
further, that, as they have no internal credentials 
and no natural basis, they would fail in their purpose, 
if without the support of positive religion ? The 
legal code and the police are not sufficient in all 
cases ; there are offences, the discovery of which is 
too difficult ; some, indeed, where punishment is a 
precarious matter ; where, in short, we are left 
without public protection. Moreover, the civil law 
can at most enforce justice, not loving-kindness and 
beneficence ; because, of course, these are qualities 
as regards which every one would like to play the 
passive, and no one the active, part. All this has 
given rise to the hypothesis that morality rests 
solely on religion, and that both have the same 
aim — that of being complementary to the necessary 

135 



136 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

inadequacy of state machinery and legislation. 
Consequently, there cannot be (it is said) a natural 
morality, i.e., one based simply on the nature of 
things, or of man, and the fruitless search of 
philosophers for its foundation is explained. This 
view is not without plausibility ; and we find it as 
far back as the Pyrrhonians : 

oijTf ayaOov ri e'ori <f)V(Tfi, ovrt kukou, 

dXX.a irpbs avOpanav ravra v6a KeKpirai, 
Kara top Ti/iwva.^ 

— Sext. Emp. adv. Math., XI., 140. 

Also in modern times distinguished thinkers have 
given their adherence to it. A careful examination 
therefore it deserves; although the easier course would 
be to shelve it by giving an inquisitorial glance at the 
consciences of those in whom such a theory could arise. 
We should fall into a great, a very childish 
blunder, if we believed all the just and legal actions 
of mankind to have a moral origin. This is far from 
being the case. As a rule, between the justice, which 
men practise, and genuine singleness of heart, there 
exists a relation analogous to that between polite 
expressions, and the true love of one's neighbour, 
which, unlike the former, does not ostensibly over- 
come Egoism, but really does so. That honesty of 
sentiment, everywhere so carefully exhibited, which 

* I.e., there is nothing either good or bad by nature, but 
these things are decided by human judgment, as Timon says. 
V. Sexti Empirici Oj^era Quae Exstant : Adversus Mathe- 
maticos ; p. 462 A ad Jin. Aurelianae : Petrus et Jacobus 
Chouet, 1621. V. also : Sexti Empirici Oi^era, edit. Jo. Albertus 
Fabricius : Lipsiae, 1718, Lib. XI., 140, p. 716. 



SCEPTICAL VIEW. 137 

requires to be regarded as above all suspicion ; that 
deep indignation, which is stirred by the smallest 
sign of a doubt in this direction, and is ready to break 
out into furious anger ; — to what are we to attri- 
bute these symptoms ? None but the inexperienced 
and simple will take them for pure coin, for the work- 
ing of a fine moral feeling, or conscience. In point 
of fact, the general correctness of conduct which is 
adopted in human intercourse, and insisted on as 
a rule no less immovable than the hills, depends 
principally on two external necessities ; first, on legal 
ordinance, by virtue of which the rights of every 
man are protected by public authority ; and secondly, 
on the recognised need of possessing civil honour, 
-in other words, a good name, in order to advance 
in the world. This is why the steps taken by the 
individual are closely watched by public opinion, 
which is so inexorably severe that it never forgives 
even a single false move or slip, but remembers 
it against the guilty person as an indelible blot, all 
his life long. As far as this goes, public opinion 
is wise enough ; for, starting from the fundamental 
principle : Operari sequitur esse (what one does is 
determined by what one is), it shows its conviction 
that the character is unchangeable, and that there- 
fore what a man has once done, he will assuredly do 
again, if only the circumstances be precisely similar. 
Such are the two custodians that keep guard on 
the correct conduct of people, without which, to 
speak frankly, we should be in a sad case, especially 
with reference to property, this central point in human 
life, around which the chief part of its energy and 



138 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

activity revolves. For the purely ethical motives to 
integrity, assumiag that they exist, cannot as a rule 
be applied, except very indirectly, to the question of 
ownership as guaranteed by the state. These motives, 
in fact, have a direct and essential bearing only on 
natural right ; with positive right their connection is 
merely indirect, in so far as the latter is based on the 
former. Natural right, however, attaches to no other 
property than that which has been gained by one's own 
exertion ; because, when this is seized, the owner is 
at the same time robbed of all the efforts he expended 
in acquiring it. The theory of preoccupancy I reject 
absolutely, but cannot here set forth its refutation.^ 
Now of course all estate based on positive right ought 
ultimately and in the last instance (it matters not 
how many intermediate links are involved) to rest 
on the natural right of possession. But what a 
distance there is, in most cases, between the title- 
deeds, that belong to our civil life, and this natural 
right — their original source ! Indeed their connection 
with the latter is generally either very difficult, or 
else impossible, to prove. What we hold is ours by 
inheritance, by marriage, by success in the lottery ; 
or if in no way of this kind, still it is not gained by 
our own work, with the sweat of the brow, bnt rather 
by shrewdness and bright ideas {e.g.^ in the field 
of speculation), yes, and sometimes even by our very 
stupidity, which, through a conjunction of circum- 
stances, is crowned and glorified by the Deus eventus. 
It is only in a very small minority of cases that 

^ See Die Welt cUs Wille und Vorstellung, VoUI., § 62, p. 
396 sqq., and Vol. II., chap. 47, p. 682. 



SCEPTICAL VIEW. 139 

property is the fruit of real labour and toil ; and even 
then the work is usually mental, like that of lawyers, 
doctors, civilians, teachers, etc. ; and this in the eyes 
of the rude appears to cost but little effort. 

Now, when wealth is acquired in any such fashion, 
there is need of considerable education before the ethical 
right can be recognised and respected out of a purely 
moral impulse. Hence it comes about that not a 
few secretly regard the possessions of others as held 
merely by virtue of positive right. So, if they find 
means to wrest from another man his goods, by using, 
or perhaps by evading, the laws, they feel no scruples ; 
for in their opinion he would lose what he holds, in 
the same way in which he had previously obtained it, 
and they consequently regard their own claims as 
equal to his. From their point of view, the right of 
the stronger in civil society is superseded by the right 
of the cleverer. 

Incidentally we may notice that the rich man 
often shows an inflexible correctness of conduct. 
Why ? Because with his whole heart he is attached 
to, and rigidly maintains, a rule, on the observance 
of which his entire wealth, and all its attendant 
advantages, depend. For this reason his profession 
of the principle : Suum cuique (to each his own), is 
thoroughly in earnest, and shows an unswerving 
consistency. No doubt there is an objective loyalty 
to sincerity and good faith, which avails to keep them 
sacred ; but such loyalty is based simply on the 
fact that sincerity and good faith are the foundation 
of all free intercourse among men ; of good order ; 
and of secure ownership. Consequently they very 



140 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

often benefit ourselves, and with this end in view they 
mnst be preserved even at some cost : just as a good 
piece of land is worth a certain outlay. But integrity 
thus derived is, as a rule, only to be met with among 
wealthy people, or at least those who are engaged 
in a lucrative business. It is an especial characteristic 
of tradesmen ; because they have the strongest con- 
viction that for all the operations of commerce the 
one thing indispensable is mutual trust and credit ; 
and this is why mercantile honour stands quite by 
itself. On the other hand, the poor man, who cannot 
make both ends meet, and who, by reason of the 
unequal division of property, sees himself condemned 
to want and hard work, while others before his eyes 
are lapped in luxury and idleness, will not easily 
perceive that the raison d'etre of this inequality is a 
corresponding inequality of service and honest industry. 
And if he does not recognise this, how is he to be 
governed by the purely ethical motive to uprightness, 
which should keep him from stretching out his hand 
to grasp the superfluity of another ? Generally, it 
is the order of government as established by law 
that restrains him. But should ever the rare occasion 
present itself when he discovers that he is beyond 
the reach of the police, an'd that he could by a single 
act throw off the galling burden of penury, which is 
aggravated by the sight of others' opulence ; if he 
feels this, and realises that he could thus enter 
into the possession and enjoyment of all that he has 
BO often coveted : what is there then to stay his 
hand ? Religious dogmas ? It is seldom that faith 
is so firm. A purely moral incentive to be just and 



SCEPTICAL VIEW. 141 

upright ? Perhaps in a few Isolated cases. But in by 
far the greater number there is in reality nothing 
but the anxiety a man feels to keep his good 
name, his civil honour — a thing that touches closely 
even those in humble circumstances. He knows 
the imminent danger incurred of having to pay 
for dishonest conduct by being expelled from the 
great Masonic Lodge of honourable people who live 
correct lives. He knows that property all over the 
world is in their hands, and duly apportioned among 
themselves, and that they wield the power of making 
him an outcast for life from good society, in case he 
commit a single disgraceful action. He knows that 
whoever takes one false step in this direction is 
marked as a person that no one trusts, whose company 
every one shuns, and from whom all advancement is 
cut off; to whom, as being " a fellow that has stolen," 
the proverb is applied : " He who steals once is a 
thief all his life." 

These, then, are the guards that watch over correct 
behaviour between man and man, and he who has 
lived, and kept his eyes open, will admit that the 
vast majority of honourable actions in human inter- 
course must be attributed to them ; nay, he will go 
further, and say that there are not wanting people 
who hope to elude even their vigilance, and who 
regard justice and honesty merely as an external 
badge, as a flag, under the protection of which they 
can carry out their own freebooting propensities with 
better success. We need not therefore break out into 
holy wrath, and buckle on our armour, if a moralist 
is found to suggest that perhaps all integrity and 



-142 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

uprightness may be at bottom only conventional. 
This is what Holbach, Helvetius, d'Alembert, and 
others of their time did ; and, following out the 
theory, they endeavoured with great acumen to trace 
back all moral conduct to egoistic motives, however 
remote and indirect. That their position is literally 
true of most just actions, as having an ultimate 
foundation centred in the Self, I have shown above. 
That it is also true to a large extent of what is done 
in kindness and humanity, there can be no doubt ; 
acts of this sort often arise from love of ostentation, 
still oftener from belief in a retribution to come, 
which may be dealt out in the second or even the 
third power ; ^ or they can be explained by other 
egoistic motives. Nevertheless, it is equally certain 
that there occur actions of disinterested good-will 
and entirely voluntary justice. To prove the latter 
statement, I appeal only to the facts of experience, 
not to those of consciousness. There are isolated, 
yet indisputable cases on record, where not only 
the danger of legal prosecution, but also all chance 
of discovery, and even of suspicion has been ex- 
cluded, and where, notwithstanding, the poor man has 
rendered to the rich his own. For example, things 
lost, and found, have been given back without any 
thought or hope of reward ; a deposit made by a 
third person has been restored after his death to the 
rightful owner ; a poor man, secretly intrusted with 

^ In other words : If a be a given offence, or virtuous act, 
and X the punishment, or reward, proportional to it ; then 
the punishment, or reward, actually inflicted, instead of being 
X, may be x' or oc^. — {Translator.) 



SCEPTICAL VIEW. 143 

a treasure by a fugitive, has faithfully kept, and then 
returned, it. Instances of this sort can be found, beyond 
all doubt ; only the surprise, the emotion, and the 
high respect awakened, when we hear of them, testify 
to the fact that they are unexpected and very ex- 
ceptional. There are in truth really honest people : 
like four-leaved clover, their existence is not a fiction. 
But Hamlet uses no hyperbole when he says : " To 
be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man pick'd 
out of ten thousand." If it be objected that, after 
all, religious dogmas, involving rewards and penalties 
in another world, are at the root of conduct as 
above described ; cases could probably be adduced 
where the actors possessed no religious faith what- 
ever. And this is a thing by no means so infrequent 
as is generally maintained. 

Those who combat the sceptical view appeal specially 
to the testimony of conscience. But conscience itself 
is impugned, and doubts are raised about its natural 
origin. Now, as a matter of fact, there is a conscientia 
spuria (false conscience), which is often confounded 
with the true. The regret and anxiety which many 
a man feels for what he has done is frequently, 
at bottom, nothing but fear of the possible conse- 
quences. Not a few people, if they break external, 
voluntary, and even absurd rules, suffer from painful 
searchings of heart, exactly similar to those inflicted 
by the real conscience. Thus, for instance, a bigoted 
Jew, if on Saturday he should smoke a pipe at 
home, becomes really oppressed with the sense of 
having disobeyed the command in Exodus xxxv. 3 : 
" Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations 



144 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

upon the Sabbath day." How often it happens that 
a nobleman or officer is the victim of self-reproach, 
because on some occasion or other he has not properly 
complied with that fools' codex, which is called 
knightly honour ! Nay more : there are many of this 
class, who, if they see the impossibility of merely 
doing enough in some quarrel to satisfy the above- 
named code — to say nothing of keeping their pledged 
word of honour — are ready to shoot themselves. (In- 
stances of both have come under my knowledge.) 
And this, while the selfsame man would with 
an easy mind break his promise every day, if only 
the shibboleth " Honour " be not involved. In short, 
every inconsequent, and thoughtless action, all 
conduct contrary to our prejudices, principles, or 
convictions, whatever these may be ; indeed, every 
indiscretion, every mistake, every piece of stupidity 
rankles in us secretly, and leaves its sting behind. 
The average individual, who thinks his conscience 
such an imposing structure, would be surprised, could 
he see of what it actually consists : probably of about 
one-fifth, fear of men ; one-fifth, superstition ; one- 
fifth, prejudice ; one-fifth, vanity ; and one-fifth, habit. 
So that in reality he is no better than the English- 
man, who said quite frankly : " 1 cannot afford to 
keep a conscience." Religious people of every creed, 
as a rule, understand by conscience nothing else 
than the dogmas and injunctions of their religion, 
and the self-examination based thereon ; and it is 
in this sense that the expressions coercion of conscience 
and liberty of conscience are used. The same inter- 
pretation was always given by the theologians, 



SCEPTICAL VIEW. 145 

schoolmen, and casuists of the middle ages and of 
later times. Whatever a man knew of the formulae 
and prescriptions of the Church, coupled with a re- 
solution to believe and obey it, constituted his 
conscience. Thus we find the terms " a doubting 
conscience," " an opinionated conscience," " an erring 
conscience," and the like ; and councils were held, 
and confessors employed, for the special purpose of 
setting such irregularities straight. How little the 
conception of conscience, just as other conceptions, is 
determined by its own object ; how difi'erently it is 
viewed by difi'erent people ; how wavering and un- 
certain it appears in books ; all this is briefly but 
clearly set forth in Staudlin's Geschichte der Lehre vom 
Gewissen. These facts taken in conjunction are not 
calculated to establish the reality of the thing ; they 
have rather given rise to the question whether there is 
in truth a genuine, inborn conscience. I have already 
had occasion in Part II., Chapter VIII., where the 
theory of Freedom is discussed, to touch on my view 
of conscience, and I shall return to it below. 

All these sceptical objections added together do 
not in the least avail to prove that no true morality 
exists, however much they may moderate our ex- 
pectations as to the moral tendency in man, and the 
natural basis of Ethics. Undoubtedly a great deal 
that is ascribed to the ethical sense can be proved 
to spring from other incentives ; and when we 
contemplate the moral depravity of the world, it is 
sufficiently clear that the stimulus for good cannot 
be very powerful, especially as it often does not 
work even in cases where the opposing motives are 

10 



146 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

weak, although then the individual difference of 
character makes itself fully felt. 

It should be observed that this moral depravity 
is all the more difficult to discern, because its 
manifestations are checked and cloaked by public 
order, as enforced by law ; by the necessity of having 
a good name ; and even by ordinary polite manners. 
And this is not all. People commonly suppose that 
in the education of the young their moral interests 
are furthered by representing uprightness and virtue 
as principles generally followed by the world. Later 
on, it is often to their great harm that experience 
teaches them something else ; for the discovery, that 
the instructors of their early years were the first to 
deceive them, is likely to have a more mischievous 
effect on their morality than if these persons had given 
them the first example of ingenuous truthfulness, by 
saying frankly : " The world is sunk in evil, and 
men are not what they ought to be ; but be not 
misled thereby, and see that you do better." All 
this, as I have said, increases the difficulty of re- 
cognising the real immorality of mankind. The state 
— this masterpiece, which sums up the self-conscious, 
intelligent egoism of all — consigns the rights of each 
person to a power, which, being enormously superior 
to that of the individual, compels him to respect the 
rights of all others. This is the leash that restrains 
the limitless egoism of nearly every one, the malice 
of many, the cruelty of not a few. The illusion 
thus arising is so great that, when in special cases, 
where the executive power is ineffective, or is eluded, 
the insatiable covetousness, the base greed, the deep 



SCEPTICAL VIEW. 147 

hypocrisy, or the spiteful tricks of men are apparent 
in all their ugliness, we recoil with horror, supposing 
that we have stumbled on some unheard-of monster : 
whereas, without the compulsion of law, and the 
necessity of keeping an honourable name, these sights 
would be of every day occurrence. In order to dis- 
cover what, from a moral point of view, human 
beings are made of, we must study anarchist records, 
and the proceedings connected with criminals. The 
thousands that throng before our eyes, in peaceful 
intercourse each with the other, can only be regarded 
as so many tigers and wolves, whose teeth are secured 
by a strong muzzle. Let us now suppose this muzzle 
cast off, or, in other words, the power of the state 
abolished ; the contemplation of the spectacle then 
to be awaited would make all thinking people 
shudder ; and they would thus betray the small 
amount of trust they really have in the efl&ciency 
either of religion, or of conscience, or of the natural 
basis of Morals, whatever it be. But if these im- 
moral, antinomian forces should be unshackled and 
let loose, it is precisely then that the true moral 
incentive, hidden before, would reveal its activity, 
and consequently be most easily recognised. And 
nothing would bring out so clearly as this the 
prodigious moral difference of character between man 
and man ; it would be found to be as great as the 
intellectual, which is saying much. 

The objection will perhaps be raised that Ethics 
is not concerned with what men actually do, but 
that it is the science which treats of what their 
conduct ought to be. Now this is exactly the position 



148 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

which I deny. In the critical part of the present 
treatise I have sufficiently demonstrated that the con- 
ception of ought, in other words, the imperative form of 
Ethics, is valid only in theological morals, outside of 
which it loses all sense and meaning. The end which 
I place before Ethical Science is to point out all the 
varied moral lines of human conduct ; to explain 
them ; and to trace them to their ultimate source. 
Consequently there remains no way of discovering 
the basis of Ethics except the empirical. We must 
search and see whether we can find any actions to 
which we are obliged to ascribe genuine moral worth : 
actions, that is, of voluntary justice, of pure loving- 
kindness, and of true nobleness. Such conduct, 
when found, is to be regarded as a given phaenome- 
non, which has to be properly accounted for ; in other 
words, its real origin must be explored, and this will 
involve the investigation and explanation of the 
peculiar motives which lead men to actions so radically 
distinct from all others, that they form a class by 
themselves. These motives, together with a respon- 
sive susceptibility for them, will constitute the 
ultimate basis of morality, and the knowledge of 
them will be the foundation of Ethics. This is the 
humble path to which I direct the Science of Morals. 
It contains no construction a priori, no absolute 
legislation for all rational beings in abstracto-, it 
lacks all official, academic sanction. Therefore, who- 
ever thinks it not sufficiently fashionable, may return 
to the Categorical Imperative; to the Shibboleth 
of " Human Dignity " ; to the empty phrases, the 
cobwebs, and the soap-bubbles of the Schools ; to 



SCEPTICAL VIEW. 149 

principles on which experience ponrs contempt at 
every step, and of which no one, outside the lectnre- 
rooms knows anything, or has ever had the least 
notion. On the other hand, the foundation which 
is reached by following my path is upheld by ex- 
perience ; and it is experience which daily and hourly 
delivers its silent testimony in favour of my theory. 



CHAPTER III. 

ANTIMORAL ^ INCENTIVES. 

The chief and fundamental incentive in man, as in 
animals, is Egoism, that is, the urgent impulse to 
exist, and exist under the best circumstances. The 
German word Selbstsucht (self-seeking) involves a 
false secondary idea of disease (Sucht)} The term 
Eigennutz (self-interest) denotes Egoism, so far as 
the latter is guided by rt^ason, which enables it, by 
means of reflection, to prosecute its purposes system- 

' I venture to use this word although irregularly formed, 
because " antiethical " would not here give an adequate 
meaning. Sittlich (in accordance with good manners) and 
unsittlich (contrary to good manners), which have lately 
come into vogue, are bad substitutes for moralisch (moral) 
and unmoralisch (immoral) : first, because moralisch is a 
scientific conception, which, as such, requires to be denoted 
by a Greek or Latin term, for reasons which may be found 
in Die Welt ah Wille und Vorstellung, vol. ii., chap. 12, p. 134 
sqq. ; and secondly, because sittlich is a weaker and tamer 
expression, difficult to distinguish from sittsam (modest) 
which in popular acceptation means zimjierlich (simpering). 
No concessions must be made to this extravagant love of 
germanising ! 

^ In Sucht (siech = sick) and Selbst-sucht (stichen = s,eek) there 
is an apparent confusion between the two bases SUK (seuka) 
to be ill, and sokyan, to seek. V. Skeat's Etymological 
Dictianary. — ( Tra'ndator. ) 

150 



ANTIMORAL INCENTIVES. 151 

atically ; so that animals may be called egoistic, 
but not self-interested (eigennutzig). I shall there- 
fore retain the word Egoism for the general idea. Now 
this Egoism is, both in animals and men, connected 
in the closest way with their very essence and being ; 
indeed, it is one and the same thing. For this reason 
all human actions, as a rule, have their origin in 
Egoism, and to it, accordingly, we mast always first 
turn, when we try to find the explanation of any 
given line of conduct ; just as, when the endeavour 
is made to guide a man in any direction, the means 
to this end are universally calculated with reference 
to the same all-powerful motive. Egoism is, from 
its nature, limitless. The individual is filled with 
the unqualified desire of preserving his life, and of 
keeping it free from all pain, under which is included 
all want and privation. He wishes to have the 
greatest possible amount of pleasurable existence, 
and every gratification that he is capable of appreciat- 
ing ; indeed, he attempts, if possible, to evolve fresh 
capacities for enjoyment. Everything that opposes 
the strivings of his Egoism awakens his dislike, his 
anger, his hate : this is the mortal enemy, which 
he tries to annihilate. If it were possible, he would 
like to possess everything for his own pleasure ; as 
this is impossible, he wishes at least to control every- 
thing. " All things for me, and nothing for others " 
is his maxim. Egoism is a huge giant overtopping 
the world. If each person were allowed to choose 
between his own destruction and that of the rest 
of mankind, I need not say what the decision would 
be in most cases. Thus it is that every human unit 



152 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

makes himself the centre of the world, which he views 
exclusively from that standpoint. Whatever occurs, 
even, for instance, the most sweeping changes in the 
destinies of nations, he brings into relation first and 
foremost with his own interests, which, however 
slightly and indirectly they may be affected, he is 
sure to think of before anything else. No sharper 
contrast can be imagined than that between the 
profound and exclusive attention which each person 
devotes to his own self, and the indifference with 
which, as a rule, all other people regard that self, — 
an indifference precisely like that with which he in 
turn looks upon them. To a certain extent it is 
actually comic to see how each individual out of 
innumerable multitudes considers himself, at least 
from the practical })oint of view, as tlie only real 
thing, and all others in some sort as mere phantoms. 
The ultimate reason of this lies in the fact that 
every one is directly conscious of himself, but of 
others only indirectly, through his mind's eye ; and 
the direct impression asserts its right. In other 
words, it is in consequence of the subjectivity which 
is essential to our consciousness that each person 
is himself the whole world ; for all that is objec- 
tive exists only indirectly, as simply the mental 
picture of the subject ; whence it comes about that 
everything is invariably expressed in terms of self- 
consciousness. The only world which the individual 
really grasps, and of which he has certain knowledge, 
he carries in himself, as a mirrored image fashioned 
by his brain ; and he is, therefore, its centre. Conse- 
quently he is all in all to himself ; and since he 



ANTIMORAL INCENTIVES. 153 

feels that he contains within his ego all that is real, 
nothing can be of greater importance to him than his 
own self.^ Moreover this supremely important self, this 
microcosm, to which the macrocosm stands in relation 
as its mere modification or accident, — this, which is 
the individual's whole world, he knows perfectly well 
must be destroyed by death ; which is therefore for 
Inm equivalent to the destruction of all things. 

Such, then, are the elements out of which, on the 
basis of the Will to live, Egoism grows up, and like a 
broad trench it forms a perennial separation between 
man and man. If on any occasion some one actually 
jumps across, to help another, such an act is regarded 
as a sort of miracle, which calls forth amazement and 
wins approval. In Part II., Chapter VI., where Kant's 
principle of Morals is discussed, I had the opportunity 
of describing how Egoism behaves in everyday life, 
where it is always peering out of some corner or other, 
despite ordinary politeness, which, like the traditional 
fig-leaf, is used as a covering. In point of fact, 
politeness is the conventional and systematic dis- 
avowal of Egoism in the trifles of daily intercourse, 
and is, of course, a piece of recognised hypocrisy. 
Gentle manners are expected and commended, because 
that which they conceal — Egoism — is so odious, that 
no one wishes to see it, however much it is known 
to be there ; just as people like to have repulsive 
objects hidden at least by a curtain. Now, unless 

' It should be noticed that while from the subjective side 
a man's self assumes these gigantic proportions, objectively 
it shrinks to almost nothing — namely, to about the one- 
thousand-millionth part of the human race. 



154 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

external force (under which must be inchided every 
source of fear whether of human or superhuman 
powers), or else the real moral incentive is in 
effective operation, it is certain that Egoism always 
pursues its purposes with unqualified directness ; 
hence without these checks, considering the countless 
number of egoistic individuals, the helium omnium 
contra omnes ^ would be the order of the day, and 
prove the ruin of all. Thus is explained the early 
construction by reflecting reason of state government, 
which, arising, as it does, from a mutual fear of 
reciprocal violence, obviates the disastrous con- 
sequences of the general Egoism, as far as it is 
possible to do by negative procedure. Where, how- 
ever, the two forces that oppose Egoism fail to be 
operative, the latter is not slow to reveal all its 
horrible dimensions, nor is the spectacle exactly 
attractive. In order to express the strength of this 
antimoral power in a few words, to portray it, so to 
say, at one stroke, some very emphatic hyperbole is 
wanted. It may be put thus : many a man would be 
quite capable of killing another, simply to rub his 
boots over with the victim's fat. I am only doubtful 
whether this, after all, is any exaggeration. Egoism, 
then, is the first and principal, though not the only, 
power that the moral Motive has to contend against ; 
and it is surely sufficiently clear that the latter, in 
order to enter the lists against such an opponent, 
must be something more real than a hair-splitting 
sophism or an a priori soap-bubble. In war the first 

' The war of all against all. Hobbes uses this expression. 
— {Translator.) 



ANTIMORAL INCENTIVES. 155 

thing to be done is to know the enemy well ; and 
in the shock of battle, now impending, Egoism, as the 
chief combatant on its own side, is best set against 
the virtue of Justice, which, in my opinion, is the 
first and original cardinal virtue. 

The virtue of loving-kindness, on the other hand, 
is rather to be matched with ill-wiU, or spitefulness, 
the origin and successive stages of which we will 
now consider. Ill-will, in its lower degrees, is very 
frequent, indeed, almost a common thing ; and it 
easily rises in the scale. Goethe is assuredly right 
when he says that in this world indifference and 
aversion are quite at home. — ( Wahlverwandtschaften, 
Part I., chap. 3.) It is very fortunate for us that 
the cloak, which prudence and politeness throw over 
this vice, prevents us from seeing how general it 
is, and how the helium omnium contra omnes is 
constantly waged, at least in thought. Yet ever 
and anon there is some appearance of it : for instance, 
in the relentless backbiting so frequently observed ; 
while its clearest manifestation is found in all out- 
breaks of anger, which, for the most part, are quite 
disproportioual to their cause, and which could 
hardly be so violent, had they not been compressed — 
like gunpowder — into the explosive compound formed 
of long cherished brooding hatred. Ill-will usually 
arises from the unavoidable collisions of Egoism 
which occur at every step. It is, moreover, objectively 
excited by the view of the weakness, the folly, the 
vices, failings, shortcomings, and imperfections of 
all kinds, which every one more or less, at least 
occasionally, affords to others. Indeed, the spectacle 



156 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

is such, that many a man, especially in moments of 
melancholy and depression, may be tempted to regard 
the world, from the aesthetic standpoint, as a cabinet 
of caricatures ; from the intellectual, as a madhouse ; 
and from the moral, as a nest of sharpers. If such 
a mental attitude be indulged, misanthropy is the 
result. Lastly, one of the chief sources of ill-will 
is envy ; or rather, the latter is itself ill-will, kindled 
by the happiness, possessions, or advantages of others. 
No one is absolutely free from envy ; and Herodotus 
(III. 80) said long ago : <j)d6vo<i dpxv^ep e^i^verat 
dv6pco7ra) (envy is a natural growth in man from 
the beginning). But its degrees vary considerably. 
It is most poisonous and implacable when directed 
against personal qualities, because then the envious 
have nothing to hope for. And precisely in such 
cases its vilest form also appears, because men 
are made to hate what they ought to love and 
honour. Yet so " the world wags," even as Petrarca 
complained : 

Di lor j)ar piu, che d'altri, invidia s'abbia, 

Che per se stessi son levati a volo, 

Uscendo fuor della commune gahbia. 

(For envy fastens most of all on those, 

Who, rising on their own strong wings, escape 

The bars wherein the vulgar crowd is cag'd.) 

The reader is referred to the Parerga, vol. ii., § 114, 
for a more complete examination of envy. 

In a certain sense the opposite of envy is the 
habit of gloating over the misfortunes of others. 
At any rate, while the former is human, the latter 
is diabolical. There is no sign more infallible of an 



ANTIMORAL INCENTIVES. 157 

entirely bad heart, and of profound moral worthless- 
ness than open and candid enjoyment in seeing other 
people snfiPer. The man in whom this trait is observed 
ought to be for ever avoided : Hie niger est, hunc 
tu, Romane, camto} These two vices are in them- 
selves merely theoretical ; in practice they become 
malice and cruelty. It is true that Egoism may 
lead to wickedness and crime of every sort ; but 
the resulting injury and pain to others are simply 
the means, not the end, and are therefore involved 
only as an accident. Whereas malice and cruelty 
make others' misery the end in itself, the realisation 
of which affords distinct pleasure. They therefore 
constitute a higher degree of moral turpitude. The 
maxim of Egoism, at its worst is : Neminem juva, 
immo omnes, si forte eonducit (thus there is always 
a condition), laede (help no body, but rather injure 
all people, if it brings you any advantage). The 
guiding rule of malice is : Omnes, quantum potes, 
laede (injure all people as far as you can). As 
malicious joy is in fact theoretical cruelty, so, con- 
versely, cruelty is nothing but malicious joy put 
into practice ; and the latter is sure to show itself 
in the form of cruelty, directly an opportunity offers. 

An examination of the special vices that spring 
from these two primary antimoral forces forms no part 
of the present treatise : its proper place would be 
found in a detailed system of Ethics. From Egoism 
we should probably derive greed, gluttony, lust, 
selfishness, avarice, covetousness, injustice, hardness 

* This man is black ; of him shalt thou, O Roman, beware. 
V, Horace, Sat.^ Lib. I. 4. 85. — {Translator.) 



158 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

of heart, pride, arrogance, etc. ; while to spitefulness 
• might be ascribed disaffection, envy, ill-will, malice, 
pleasure in seeing others suffer, prying curiosity, 
slander, insolence, petulance, hatred, anger, treachery, 
fraud, thirst for revenge, cruelty, etc. The first root 
is more bestial, the second more devilish ; and accord- 
ing as either is the stronger ; or according as the 
moral incentive, to be described below, predominates, 
so the salient points for the ethical classification 
of character are determined. No man is entirely 
free from some traces of all three. 

Here I bring to an end my review of these terrible 
powers of evil ; it is an array reminding one of the 
Princes of Darkness in Milton's Pandemonium. But 
my plan, which in this respect of course differs from 
that of all other moralists, required me to consider 
at the outset this gloomy side of human nature, and, 
like Dante, to descend first to Tartarus. 

It will now be fully apparent how difficult our 
problem is. We have to find a motive capable of 
making a man take up a line of conduct directly 
opposed to all those propensities which lie deeply 
ingrained in his nature ; or, given such conduct as 
a fact of experience, we must search for a motive 
capable of supplying an adequate and non-artificial 
explanation of it. The difficulty, in fact, is so great 
that, in order to solve it, for the vast majority of 
mankind, it has been everywhere necessary to have 
recourse to machinery from another world. Gods 
have been pointed to, whose will and command 
the required mode of behaviour was said to be, and 
who were represented as emphasising this command 



ANTIMORAL INCENTIVES. 159 

by penalties and rewards either in this, or in another 
world, to which death would be the gate. Now 
let ns assume that belief in a doctrine of this sort 
took general root (a thing which is certainly possible 
through strenuous inculcation at a very early age) ; 
and let us also assume that it brought about the 
intended effect, — though this is a much harder matter 
to admit, and not nearly so well confirmed by ex- 
perience ; we should then no doubt succeed in obtain- 
ing strict legality of action, even beyond the limits 
that justice and the police can reach ; but every one 
feels that this would not in the least imply what 
we mean by morality of the heart. For obviously, 
every act arising from motives like those just 
mentioned is after all derived simply from pure 
Egoism. How can I talk of unselfishness when I 
am enticed by a promised guerdon, or deterred by a 
threatened punishment ? A recompense in another 
world, thoroughly believed in, must be regarded as 
a bill of exchange, which is perfectly safe, though 
only payable at a very distant date. It is thus quite 
possible that the profuse assurances, which beggars 
so constantly make, that those, who relieve them, 
will receive a thousandfold more for their gifts in the 
next world, may lead many a miser to generous alms- 
giving ; for such a one complacently views the matter 
as a good investment of money, being perfectly con- 
vinced that he will rise again as a Croesus. For the 
mass of mankind, it will perhaps be always necessary 
to continue the appeal to incentives of this nature, 
and we know that such is the teaching promulgated 
by the different religions, which are in fact the 



160 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

metaphysics of the people. Be it, however, observed 
in this connection that a man is sometimes just as 
much in error as to the true motives that govern his 
own acts, as he is with regard to those of others. 
Hence it is certain that many persons, while they 
can only account to themselves for their noblest 
actions by attributing them to motives of the kind 
above described, are, nevertheless, really guided in 
their conduct by far higher and purer incentives, 
though the latter may be much more difficult to 
discover. They are doing, no doubt, out of direct 
love of their neighbour, that which they can but 
explain as the command of their God. On the other 
hand, Philosophy, in dealing with this, as with all 
other problems, endeavours to extract the true and 
ultimate cause of the given phaenomena from the 
disclosures which the nature itself of man yields, 
and which, freed as they must be from all mythical 
interpretation, from all religious dogmas, and trans- 
cendent hypostases, she requires to see confirmed 
by external or internal experience. Now, as our 
present task is a philosophical one, we must entirely 
disregard all solutions conditioned by any religion ; 
and I have here touched on them merely in order 
to throw a stronger light on the magnitude of the 
difficulty. 



CHAPTER IV. 

CBITERION OF ACTIONS OF MOBAL WORTH. 

Thebb is first the empirical question to be settled, 
whether actions of volnntary justice and unselfish 
loving-kindness, which are capable of rising to noble- 
ness and magnanimity, actually occur in experience. 
Unfortunately, this inquiry cannot be decided alto- 
gether empirically, because it is invariably only the 
act that experience gives, the incentives not being 
apparent. Hence the possibility always remains that 
an egoistic motive may have had weight in determining 
a just or good deed. In a theoretical investigation 
like the present, I shall not avail myself of the 
inexcusable trick of shifting the matter on to the 
reader's conscience. But I believe there are few 
people who have any doubt about the matter, and 
who are not convinced from their own experience 
that just acts are often performed simply and solely 
to prevent a man suffering from injustice. Most of 
us, I do not hesitate to say, are jDersuaded that there 
are persons in whom the principle of giving others 
their due seems to be innate, who neither intentionally 
injure any one, nor unconditionally seek their own 
advantage, but in considering themselves show regard 
also for the rights of their neighbours ; persons who, 

161 11 



162 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

when they undertake matters involving reciprocal 
obligations, not only see that the other party does 
his duty, but also that he gets his own, because it is 
really against their will that any one, with whom they 
have to do, should be shabbily treated. These are the 
men of true probity, the few aequi (just) among the 
countless number of the iniqui (unjust). Sach people 
exist. Similarly, it will be admitted, I think, that 
many help and give, perform services, and deny them- 
selves, without having any further intention in their 
hearts than that of assisting another, whose distress 
they see. When Arnold von Winkelried exclaimed : 
" Truwen, liehen Eidgenossen, wullt's minem Wip und 
Kinde gedenken,^^ '^ and then clasped in his arms as 
many hostile spears as he could grasp ; can any one 
believe that he had some selfish purpose ? I cannot. 
To cases of voluntary justice, which cannot be denied 
without deliberate and wilful trifling with facts, I have 
already drawn attention in Chapter II. of this Part. 
Should any one, however, persist in refusing to believe 
that such actions ever happen, then, according to 
his view, Ethics would be a science without any real 
object, like Astrology and Alchemy, and it would 
be waste of time to discuss its basis any further. 
With him, therefore, I have nothing to do, and 
address myself to those who allow that we are deal- 
ing with something more than an imaginary creation. 
It is, then, only to conduct of the above kind that 
genuine moral worth can be ascribed. Its special 
mark is that it rejects and excludes the whole class 

' Comrades, true and loyal to our oath, care for my wife 
and child in remembrance of this. 



CRITERION OF ACTIONS OF MORAL WORTH 163 

of motives by which otherwise all human action is 
prompted : I mean the self-interested motives, using 
the word in its widest sense. Consequently the moral 
value of an act is lowered by the disclosure of an 
accessory selfish incentive ; while it is entirely de- 
stroyed, if that incentive stood alone. The absence 
of all egoistic motives is thus the Criterion of an 
action of moral value. It may, no doubt, be objected 
that also acts of pure malice and cruelty are not 
selfish/ Bat it is manifest that the latter cannot be 
meant, since they are, in kind, the exact opposite 
of those now being considered. If, however, the de- 
finition be insisted on in its strict sense, then we 
may expressly except such actions, because of their 
essential token— the compassing of others' suffering. 

There is also another characteristic of conduct having 
real moral worth, which is entirely internal and there- 
fore less obvious. I allude to the fact that it leaves 
behind a certain self-satisfaction which is called the 
approval of conscience : just as, on the other hand, 
injustice and unkindness, and still more malice and 
cruelty, involve a secret self-condemnation. Lastly, 
there is an external, secondary, and accidental sign 
that draws a clear line between the two classes. Acts 
of the former kind win the approval and respect 
of disinterested witnesses : those of the latter incur 
their disapproval and contempt. 

Those actions that bear the stamp of moral value, 
so determined, and admitted to be realities, constitute 

* Acts of malice and cruelty are so many gratifications of 
the ego, and are therefore, in a certain sense, selfish. V. Intro- 
duction, pp. xvi. and xvii. — (Translator.) 



164 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

the phaenomenon that lies before us, and which we 
have to explain. We must accordingly search out 
what it is that moves men to such conduct. If we 
succeed in oor investigation, we shall necessarily bring 
to light the true moral incentive ; and, as it is upon 
this that all ethical science must depend, our problem 
will then be solved. 



CHAPTER V. 

STATEMENT AND PROOF OF THE ONLY TRUE MORAL 
INCENTIVE. 

The preceding considerations, which were unavoidably 
necessary in order to clear the ground, now enable 
me to indicate the true incentive which underlies 
all acts of real moral worth. The seriousness, and 
indisputable genuineness, with which we shall find 
it is distinguished, removes it far indeed from the 
hair-splittings, subtleties, sophisms, assertions formu- 
lated out of airy nothings, and a priori soap-bubbles, 
which all systems up to the present have tried to 
make at once the source of moral conduct and the 
basis of Ethics. This incentive I shall not put 
forward as an hypothesis to be accepted or rejected, 
as one pleases ; I shall actually prove that it is the 
only possible one. But as this demonstration requires 
several fundamental truths to be borne in mind, the 
reader's attention is first called to certain propositions 
which we must presuppose, and which may properly 
be considered as axioms ; except the last two, which 
result from the analysis contained in the preceding 
chapter, and in Part II., Chapter III. 

(1) No action can take place without a sufficient 

166 



166 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

motive ; as little as a stone can move without a 
sufficient push or pull. 

(2) Similarly, no action can be left undone, when, 
given the character of the doer, a sufficient motive 
is present ; unless a stronger counter-motive neces- 
sarily prevents it. 

(3) Whatever moves the Will, — this, and this 
alone, implies the sense of weal and woe, in the 
widest sense of the term ; and conversely, weal and 
woe signify " that which is in conformity with, or 
which is contrary to, a Will." Hence every motive 
must have a connection with weal and woe. 

(4) Consequently every action stands in relation to, 
and has as its ultimate object, a being susceptible of 
weal and woe. 

(5) This being is either the doer himself ; or 
another, whose position as regards the action is there- 
fore passive ; since it is done either to his harm, or 
to his benefit and advantage. 

(6) Every action, which has to do, as its ultimate 
object, with the weal and woe of the agent himself, 
is egoistic. 

(7) The foregoing propositions with regard to what 
is done apply equally to what is left undone, in all 
cases where motive and counter-motive play their parts. 

(8) From the analysis in the foregoing chapter, 
it results that Egoism and the moral worth of an 
action absolutely exclude each other. If an act have 
an egoistic object as its motive, then no moral value 
can be attached to it ; if an act is to have moral 
value, then no egoistic object, direct or indirect, near 
or remote, may be its motive. 



THE ONLY TRUE MORAL INCENTIVE. 167 

(9) In consequence of my elimination in Part II., 
Chapter III., of alleged duties towards ourselves, the 
moral significance of our conduct can only lie in 
the eiFect produced upon others ; its relation to the 
latter is alone that which lends it moral worth, or 
worthlessness, and constitutes it an act of justice, 
loving-kindness, etc., or the reverse. 

From these propositions the following conclusion 
is obvious : The weal and woe, which (according 
to our third axiom) must, as its ultimate object, lie 
at the root of everything done, or left undone, is 
either that of the doer himself, or that of some other 
person, whose role with reference to the action is 
passive. Conduct in the first case is necessarily 
egoistic, as it is impelled by an interested motive. 
And this is not only true when men — as they nearly 
always do — plainly shape their acts for their own 
profit and advantage ; it is equally true when from 
anything done we expect some benefit to ourselves, 
no matter how remote, whether in this or in another 
world. Nor is it less the fact when our honour, our 
good name, or the wish to win the respect of some 
one, the sympathy of the lookers on, etc., is the 
object we have in view ; or when our intention is 
to uphold a rule of conduct, which, if generally 
followed, would occasionally be useful to ourselves, for 
instance, the principle of justice, of mutual succour 
and aid, and so forth. Similarly, the proceeding is 
at bottom egoistic, when a man considers it a prudent 
step to obey some absolute command issued by 
an unknown, but evidently supreme power ; for in 
such a case nothino' can be the motive but fear of 



168 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

the disastrous consequences of disobedience, however 
generally and indistinctly these may be conceived. 
Nor is it a whit the less Egoism that prompts us when 
we endeavour to emphasise, by something done or left 
undone, the high opinion (whether distinctly realised 
or not) which we have of ourselves, and of our value 
or dignity ; for the diminution of self-satisfaction, 
which might otherwise occur, would involve the 
wounding of our pride. Lastly, it is still Egoism 
that is operative, when a man, following Wolff's 
principles, seeks by his conduct to work out his own 
perfection. In short, one may make the ultimate 
incentive to an action what one pleases ; it will 
always turn out, no matter by how circuitous a path, 
that in the last resort what affects the actual weal 
and woe of the agent himself is the real motive ; 
consequently what he does is egoistic, and there- 
fore without moral worth. There is only a single 
case in which this fails to happen : namely, when the 
ultimate incentive for doing something, or leaving 
it undone, is precisely and exclusively centred in the 
weal and woe of some one else, who plays a passive 
part ; that is to say, when the person on the active 
side, by what he does, or omits to do, simply and 
solely regards the weal and woe of another, and has 
absolutely no other object than to benefit him, by 
keeping harm from his door, or, it may be, even by 
affording help, assistance, and relief. It is this aim 
alone that gives to what is done, or left undone, the 
stamp of moral worth ; which is thus seen to depend 
exclusively on the circumstance that the act is carried 
out, or omitted, purely for the benefit and advantage 



THE ONLY TRUE MORAL INCENTIVE. 169 

of another. If and when this is not so, then the 
question of weal and woe which incites to, or deters 
from, every action contemplated, can only relate to 
the agent himself ; whence its performance, or non- 
performance is entirely egoistic, and without moral 
value. 

But if what I do is to take place solely on account 
of some one else ; then it follows that his weal 
and woe must directly constitute my motive ; just 
as, ordinarily, my own weal and woe form it. This 
narrows the limits of our problem, which may now 
be stated as follows : How is it possible that 
another's weal and woe should influence my will 
directly, that is, exactly in the same way as otherwise 
my own move it ? How can that which affects 
another for good or bad become my immediate motive, 
and actually sometimes assume such importance that 
it more or less supplants my own interests, which are, 
as a rule, the single source of the incentives that 
appeal to me ? Obviously, only because that other 
person becomes the ultimate object of my will, pre- 
cisely as usually I myself am that object ; in other 
words, because I directly desire weal, and not woe, 
for him, just as habitually I do for myself. This, 
however, necessarily implies that I suffer with him, 
and feel his woe, exactly as in most cases I feel only 
mine, and therefore desire his weal as immediately 
as at other times I desire only my own. But, for this 
to be possible, I must in some way or other be 
identified with him ; that is, the difference between 
myself and him, which is the precise raison d'etre 
of my Egoism, must be removed, at least to a certain 



170 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

extent. Now, since I do not live in his skin, there 
renaains only the knowledge, that is, the mental 
picture, I have of him, as the possible means where- 
by I can so far identify myself with him, that 
my action declares the difference to be practically 
effaced. The process here analysed is not a dream, 
a fancy floating in the air ; it is perfectly real, and 
by no means infrequent. It is, what we see every 
day, — the phaenomenon of Compassion ; in other words, 
the direct participation, independent of all ulterior 
considerations, in the sufferings of another, leading to 
sympathetic assistance in the effort to prevent or remove 
them ; whereon in the last resort all satisfaction and all 
well-being and happiness depend. It is this Compassion 
alone which is the real basis of all voluntary justice 
and all genuine loving-kindness. Only so far as an 
action springs therefrom, has it moral value ; and all 
conduct that proceeds from any other motive whatever 
has none. When once compassion is stirred within 
me, by another's pain, then his weal and woe go 
straight to my heart, exactly in the same way, if 
not always to the same degree, as otherwise I feel 
only my own. Consequently the difference between 
myself and him is no longer an absolute one. 

No doubt this operation is astonishing, indeed hardly 
comprehensible. It is, in fact, the great mystery of 
Ethics, its original phaenomenon, and the boundary 
stone, past which only transcendental speculation may 
dare to take a step. Herein we see the wall of 
partition, which, according to the light of nature (as 
reason is called by old theologians), entirely separates 
being from being, broken down, and the non-ego to 



THE ONLY TRUE MORAL INCENTIVE. 171 

a certain extent identified with the ego. I wish for 
the moment to leave the metaphysical explanation 
of this enigma untouched, and first to inquire 
whether all acts of voluntary justice and true loving- 
kindness really arise from it. If so, our problem 
will be solved, for we shall have found the ultimate 
basis of morality, and shown that it lies in human 
nature itself. This foundation, however, in its turn 
cannot form a problem of Ethics, but rather, like 
every other ultimate fact as such, of Metaphysics. 
Only the solution, that the latter offers of the 
primary ethical phaenomenon, lies outside the limits 
of the question put by the Danish Royal Society, 
which is concerned solely with the basis ; so that 
the transcendental explanation can be given merely 
as a voluntary and unessential appendix. 

But before I turn to the derivation of the cardinal 
virtues from the original incentive, as here disclosed, 
I have still to bring to the notice of the reader two 
observations which the subject renders necessary. 

(1) For the purpose of easier comprehension I have 
simplified the above presentation of compassion as 
the sole source of truly moral actions, by intentionally 
leaving out of consideration the incentive of Malice, 
which while it is equally useless to the self as com- 
passion, makes the pain of others its ultimate purpose. 
We are now, however, in a position, by including 
it, to state the above proof more completely, and 
rigorously, as follows : — 

There are only three fundamental springs of human 
conduct, and all possible motives arise from one or 
other of these. They are : 



172 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

(a) Egoism ; which desires the weal of the self, 
and is limitless. 

{b) Malice ; which desires the woe of others, and 
may develop to the utmost cruelty. 

(c) Compassion ; which desires the weal of others, 
and may rise to nobleness and magnanimity. 

Every human act is referable to one of these 
springs ; although two of them may work together. 
Now, as we have assumed that actions of moral worth 
are in point of fact realities ; it follows that they 
also must proceed from one of these primal sources. 
But, by the eighth axiom, they cannot arise from the 
first, and still less from the second ; since all conduct 
springing from the latter is morally worthless, while 
the offshoots of the former are in part neither good 
nor bad in themselves. Hence they must have 
their origin in the third incentive ; and this will be 
established a posteriori in the sequel. 

(2) Direct sympathy with another is limited to 
his sufferings, and is not immediately awakened by 
his well-being : the latter per se leaves us indifferent. 
J. J. Rousseau in his Emile (Bk. IV.) expresses the 
same view : " Premiere maxime : il rHest pas dans 
le coeur hwnain^ de se mettre a la place des gens, 
qui sont plus heureux que nous, mais seulement de 
ceuxy qui sont plus d plaindre,""^ ^ etc. 

The reason of this is that pain or suffering, which 
includes all want, privation, need, indeed every wish, 
is positive, and works directly on the consciousness. 

* First maxim : it is not in our hearts to identify ourselves 
with those who are happier than we are, but only with those 
who are less happy. 



THE ONLY TRUE MORAL INCENTIVE. 173 

Whereas the nature of satisfaction, of enjoyment, of 
happiness, and the like, consists solely in the fact 
that a hardship is done away with, a pain lulled : 
whence their effect is negative. We thus see why 
need or desire is the condition of every pleasure. 
Plato understood this well enough, and only excepted 
sweet odours, and intellectual enjoyment. {De Rep., 
IX., p. 264 sq., edit. Bipont.) ^ And Voltaire says : 
" Jl 7^ est pas de vrais plaisirs, qiCavec de vrais 
besoins^^ Pain, then, is positive, and makes itself 
known by itself : satisfaction or pleasure is negative — 
simply the removal of the former. This principle 
explains the fact that only the suffering, the want, 
the danger, the helplessness of another awakens our 
sympathy directly and as such. The lucky or con- 
tented man, as such, leaves us indifferent — in reality 
because his state is negative ; he is without pain, 
indigence, or distress. We may of course take pleasure 
in tjie success, the well-being, the enjoyment of 
'others : but if we do, it is a secondary pleasure, and 
caused by our having previously sorrowed over their 
sufferings and privations. Or else we share the joy 
and happiness of a man, not as such, but because, 
and in so far as, he is our child, father, friend, relation, 
servant, subject, etc. In a word, the good fortune, 
or pleasure of another, purely as such, does not 
arouse in us the same direct sympathy as is certainly 
elicited by his misfortune, privation, or misery, purely 
as such. If even on our own behalf it is only suffering 
(under which must be reckoned all wants, needs, 

^ Stallbaum : p. 584, %(\.— {Translator.) 

* There are no real pleasures, without real needs. 



174 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

wishes, and even ennui) that stirs our activity ; and 
if contentment and prosperity fill us with indolence 
and lazy repose ; why should it not be the same 
when others are concerned ? For (as we have seen) 
our sympathy rests on an identification of ourselves 
with them. Indeed, the sight of success and enjoy- 
ment, purely as such, is very apt to raise the envy, 
to which every man is prone, and which has its 
place among the antimoral forces enumerated above. 

In connection with the exposition of Compassion 
here given, as the coming into play of motives 
directly occasioned by another's calamity, I take the 
opportunity of condemning the mistake of Cassina,^ 
which has been so often repeated. His view is that 
compassion arises from a sudden hallucination, which 
makes us put ourselves in the place of the sufferer, 
and then imagine that we are undergoing Ms pain 
in own own person. This is not in the least the 
case. The conviction never leaves us for a moment 
that he is the sufferer, not we ; and it is precisely 
in his person, not in ours, that we feel the distress 
which afflicts us. We sufier with him, and there- 
fore in him ; we feel his trouble as Ms, and are 
not under the delusion that it is ours ; indeed, the 
happier we are, the greater the contrast between 
our own state and his, the more we are open to the 
promptings of Compassion. The explanation of the 
possibility of this extraordinary phaenomenon is, 
however, not so easy ; nor is it to be reached by the 
path of pure psychology, as Cassina supposed. The 

* V. bis Saggio AtkhHUco sidla Compassione, 1V88 ; German 
translation by Pockels, 1790. 



THE ONLY TRUE MORAL INCENTIVE. 175 

key can be fnrnislied by Metaphysics alone ; and this I 
shall attempt to give in the last Part of the present 
treatise. 

I now tarn to consider the derivation of actions 
of real moral worth from the source which has been 
indicated. The general rule by which to test such 
conduct, and which, consequently, is the leading 
principle of Ethics, I have already enlarged upon 
in the foregoing Part, and enunciated as follows : 
Neminem laede ; immo omnes, quantum potes, juva. 
(Do harm to no one ; but rather help all people, 
as far as lies in your power.) As this formula 
contains two clauses, so the actions corresponding 
to it fall naturally into two classes. 



CHAPTER VL 

THE VIETUR OF JUSTICE. 

If we look more closely at this process called Com- 
passion, which we have shown to be the primary- 
ethical phaenomenon, we remark at once that there 
are two distinct degrees in which another's suffering 
may become directly my motive, that is, may urge 
me to do something, or to leave it undone. The 
first degree of Compassion is seen when, by counter- 
acting egoistic and malicious motives, it keeps me 
from bringing pain on another, and from becoming 
myself the cause of trouble, which so far does not 
exist. The other higher degree is manifested, when 
it works positively, and incites me to active help. 
The distinction between the so-called duties of law 
and duties of virtue, better described as justice and 
loving-kindness, which was effected by Kant in such 
a forced and artificial manner, here results entirely 
of itself ; whence the correctness of the principle 
is attested. It is the natural, unmistakable, and 
sharp separation between negative and positive, be- 
tween doing no harm, and helping. The terms in 
common use — namely, '' the duties of law," and " the 
duties of virtue," (the latter being also called 
" duties of love," or " imperfect duties/') are in the 

176 



THE VIRTUE OF JUSTICE. 177 

first place faulty because they co-ordinate the genus 
with the species ; for justice is one of the virtues. 
And next, they owe their origin to the mistake of 
giving a nauch too wide extension to the idea " Duty " ; 
which I shall reduce to its proper limits below. In 
place, therefore, of these duties I put two virtues ; 
the one, justice, and the other, loving-kindness ; and 
I name them cardinal virtues, since from them all 
others not only in fact proceed, but also may be 
theoretically derived. Both have their root in natural 
Compassion. And this Compassion is an undeniable 
fact of human consciousness, is an essential part of 
it, and does not depend on assumptions, conceptions, 
religions, dogmas, myths, training, and education. 
On the contrary, it is original and immediate, and 
lies in human nature itself. It consequently remains 
unchanged under all circumstances, and reveals itself 
in every land, and at all times. This is why appeal 
is everywhere confidently made to it, as to something 
necessarily present in every man ; and it is never 
an attribute of the " strange gods." ^ As he, who 
appears to be without compassion, is called inhuman ; 
so " humanity " is often used as its synonyme. 

The first degree, then, in which this natural and 
genuine moral incentive shows itself is only negative, 
Originally we are all disposed to injustice and violence, 
because our need, our desire, our anger and hate 

' Thus, when the first gleam of Mitleid stole into her heart, 
Briinnhilde could no longer remain a Walkiire ; and Wotan's 
end comes, when by the same solvent he is at length set 
free from the delusion of the priitcipium individtcationis. — 
{Trcmslator.) 

12 



178 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

pass into the consciousness directly, and hence have 
the Jus primi occupantis. (The right of the first 
occupant.) Whereas the sufferings of others, caused 
by our injustice and violence, enter the consciousness 
indirectly, that is, by the secondary channel of a mental 
picture, and not till they are understood by experience. 
Thus Seneca (Ep. 50) says : Ad neminem ante bona 
mens venit, quam mala. (Good feelings never come 
before bad ones.) In its first degree, therefore, 
Compassion opposes and bafiles the design to which 
I am urged by the antimoral forces dwelling within 
me, and which will bring trouble on a fellow-being. 
It calls out to me : " Stop ! " and encircles the 
other as with a fence, so as to protect him from 
the injury which otherwise my egoism or malice 
would lead me to inflict on him. So arises out of 
this first degree of compassion the rule : Neminem 
laede. (Do harm to no one.) This is the fundamental 
principle of the virtue of justice, and here alone is 
to be found its origin, pure and simple, — an origin 
which is truly moral, and free from all extraneous 
admixture. Otherwise derived, justice would have 
to rest on Egoism, — a reductio ad absurdum. If my 
nature is susceptible of Compassion up to this 
point, then it will avail to keep me back, whenever 
I should like to use others' pain as a means 
to obtain my ends ; equally, whether this pain be 
immediate, or an after-consequence, whether it be 
effected directly, or indirectly, through intermediate 
links. I shall therefore lay hands on the property as 
little as on the person of another, and avoid causing 
him distress, no less mental than bodily. I shall thus 



THE VIRTUE OF JUSTICE. 179 

not only abstain from doing him physical injury, but 
also, with equal care I shall guard against inflicting on 
him the suffering of mind, which . mortification and 
calumny, anxiety and vexation so surely work. The 
same sense of Compassion will check me from gratify- 
ing my desires at the cost of women's happiness for life, 
or from seducing another man's wife, or from ruining 
youths morally and physically by tempting them 
to paederastia. Not that it is at all necessary in 
each single case that Compassion should be definitely 
excited ; indeed it would often come too late ; but 
rather the rule : Neminem laede, is formed by noble 
minds out of the knowledge, gained once for all, 
of the injury which every unjust act necessarily 
entails upon others, and which is aggravated by 
the feeling of having to endure wrong through a 
force majeure. Such natures are led by reflecting 
reason to carry out this principle with unswerving 
resolution. They respect the rights of every man, 
and abstain from all encroachment on them ; they 
keep themselves free from self-reproach, by refus- 
ing to be the cause of others' trouble ; they do 
not shift on to shoulders not their own, by force 
or by trickery, the burdens and sorrows of life, 
which circumstances bring to every one ; they prefer 
to bear themselves the portions allotted to them, 
so as not to double those of their neighbours. 
For although generalising formulae, and abstract 
knowledge of whatever kind, are not in the least 
the cause, or the real basis of morality ; these are 
nevertheless indispensable for a moral course of life. 
They are the cistern or reservoir, in which the habit 



180 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

of mind, that springs from the fount of all morality 
(a fount not at all moments flowing), may be stored 
up, thence to be drawn off, as occasion requires. 
There is thus an analogy between things moral and 
things physiological ; among many instances of which 
we need only mention that of the gall-bladder, which 
is used for keeping the secretion of the liver. Without 
firmly held principles we should inevitably be at 
the mercy of the antiraoral incentives, directly they 
are roused to activity by external influences ; and 
self-control lies precisely in steadfast adherence and 
obedience to such principles, despite the motives 
which oppose them. 

In general, the feminine half of humanity is 
inferior to the masculine in the virtue of justice, 
and its derivatives, uprightness, conscientiousness, 
etc. ; the explanation is found in the fact that, 
owing to the weakness of its reasoning powers the 
former is much less capable than the latter of 
understanding and holding to general laws, and of 
taking them as a guiding thread. Hence injustice 
and falseness are women's besetting sins, and lies 
their proper element. On the other hand, they 
surpass men in the virtue of loving-kindness ; because 
usually the stimulus to this is intuitive, and con- 
sequently appeals directly to the sense of Compassion, 
of which females are much more susceptible than 
males. For the former nothing but what is intuitive, 
present, and immediately real has a true existence ; 
that which is knowable only by means of concepts, 
as for instance, the absent, the distant, the past, 
the future, they do not readily grasp. We thus find 



THE VIRTUE OF JUSTICE. 181 

compensation here, as in so much else ; justice 
is more the masculine, loving-kindness more the 
feminine virtue. The mere idea of seeing women 
sitting on the judges' bench raises a smile ; but the 
sisters of mercy far excel the brothers of charity. 
Now animals, as they have no power of gaining 
knowledge by reason, that is, of forming abstract 
ideas, are entirely incapable of fixed resolutions, to 
say nothing of principles ; they consequently totally 
lack self-control, and are helplessly given over to 
external impressions and internal impulses. This 
is why they have no conscious morality ; although 
the different species show great contrasts of good 
and evil in their characters, and as regards the 
highest races these are traceable even in individuals. 

From the foregoing considerations we see that in 
the single acts of the just man Compassion works 
only indirectly through his formulated principles, and 
not so much actu as potentid ; much in the same way 
as in statics the greater length of one of the scale- 
beams, owing to its greater power of motion, balances 
the smaller weight attached to it with the larger on 
the other side, and works, while at rest, only potentid, 
not actu ; yet with the same efficiency. 

Nevertheless, Compassion is always ready to pass 
into active operation. Therefore, whenever, in special 
cases, the established rule shows signs of breaking 
down, the one incentive (for we exclude of course those 
based on Egoism), which is capable of infusing fresh 
life into it, is that drawn from the fountain-head 
itself — Compassion. This is true not only where it 
is a question of personal violence, but also where 



182 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

property is concerned, for instance, when any one 
feels the desire to keep some valuable object which 
he has found. In such cases, — if we set aside all 
motives prompted by worldly wisdom, and by religion 
— nothing brings a man back so easily to the path 
of justice, as the realisation of the trouble, the grief, 
the lamentation of the loser. It is because this is 
felt to be true, that, when publicity is given to the 
loss of money, the assurance is so often added that 
the loser is a poor man, a servant, etc. 

It is hoped that these considerations have made 
it clear that, however contrary appearances may be 
at first sight, yet undoubtedly justice, as a genuine 
and voluntary virtue has its origin in Compassion. 
But if any one should suppose such a soil too barren 
and meagre to bear this great cardinal virtue, let him 
reflect on what is said above, and remember how 
small is the amount of true, spontaneous, unselfish, 
unfeigned justice among men ; how the real thing 
only occurs as a surprising excej^tion, and how, to 
its counterfeit, — the justice that rests on mere worldly 
wisdom and is everywhere published abroad — it is 
related, both in quality and quantity, as gold is to 
copper. I should like to call the one StKatoa-vvr] 
'7rdvBr]fxo<i (common, ordinary justice), the other ovpavia 
(heavenly justice).^ For the latter is she, who, accord- 
ing to Hesiod,^ leaves the earth in the iron age, to 
dwell with the celestial gods. To produce such a 

' There is here an allusion to the wdvbrjfxos "Epas and Ovpavia 
in Plato's SymiMsium. V. Chap. 8, sq. Edit.- Schmelzer : 
Weidmann, Berlin, 1882. — (Translator.) 

' V. Hesiod, Opera et Dies, 174-201. — (Tra/nslator.) 



THE VIRTUE OF JUSTICE. 183 

rare exotic as this the root we have indicated is 
surely vigorous enough. 

It will now be seen that injustice or wrong always 
consists in working harm on another. Therefore 
the conception of wrong is positive, and antecedent 
to the conception of right, which is negative, and 
simply denotes the actions performable without injury 
to others ; in other words, without wrong being done. 
That to this class belongs also whatever is effected 
with no other object than that of warding off from 
oneself meditated mischief is an easy inference. For 
no participation in another's interests, and no sym- 
pathy for him, can require me to let myself be 
harmed by him, that is, to undergo wrong. The 
theory that right is negative, in contradistinction 
to wrong as positive, we find supported by Hugo 
Grotius, the father of philosophical jurisprndence. 
The definition of justice which he gives at the be- 
ginning of his work, De Jure Belli et Pads (Bk. I., 
chap. 1., § 3), runs as follows : — Jus hie nihil aliud^ 
quam quod justum est, signijicat, idque negante magis 
sensu, quam aiente, utjus sit, quod injustum non est} 
The negative character of justice is also established, 
little as it may appear, even by the familiar formula : 
" Give to each one his own." Now, there is no need 
to give a man his own, if he has it. The real 
meaning is therefore : " Take from none his own." 
Since the requirements of justice are only negative, 
they may be effected by coercion ; for the Neminem 

' Justice here denotes nothing else than that which is just, 
and this, rather in a negative than in a positive sense ; so that 
what is not unjust is to be regarded as justice. 



184 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

laede can be practised by all alike. The coercive 
apparatus is the state, whose sole raison d'etre is to 
protect its subjects, individually from each other, and 
collectively from external foes. It is true that a few- 
German would-be philosophers of this venal age 
wish to distort the state into an institution for the 
spread of morality, education, and edifying instruction. 
But such a view contains, lurking in the background, 
the Jesuitical aim of doing away with jjersonal freedom 
and individual development, and of making men 
mere wheels in a huge Chinese governmental and 
religious machine. And this is the road that once 
led to Inquisitions, to Autos-da-f6, and religious wars. 
Frederick the Great showed that he at least never 
wished to tread it, when he said : " In my land every 
one shall care for his own salvation, as he himself 
thinks best." Nevertheless, we still see everywhere 
(with the more apparent than real exception of North 
America) that the state undertakes to provide for 
the metaphysical needs of its members. The govern- 
ments appear to have adopted as their guiding 
principle the tenet of Qiiintus Curtius : Nulla res 
efficacius multitudinem regit, quam superstitio : alio- 
quin impotenSf saeva, mutabilis ; ubi vana religione 
capta est, melius vatibus, quam ducibus suis paret. 
We have seen that " wrong " and " right " are 
convertible synonymes of " to do harm " and " to 

' There is no more efficient instrument in ruling the masses 
than superstition. Without this they have no self-control ; 
they are brutish ; they are changeable ; but once they are 
caught by some vain form of religion, they lend a more willing 
ear to its soothsayers than to their own leaders. 



THE VIRTUE OF JUSTICE. 185 

refrain from doing it," and that under " right " is 
included the warding off of injury from oneself. 
It will be obvious that these conceptions are inde- 
pendent of, and antecedent to, all positive legislation. 
There is, therefore, a pure ethical right, or natural 
right, and a pure doctrine of right, detached from 
all positive statutes. The first principles of this 
doctrine have no doubt an empirical origin, so far 
as they arise from the idea of harm done, but per se 
they rest on the pure understanding, which a priori 
furnishes ready to hand the axiom : causa causae 
est causa effectus. (The cause of a cause is the cause 
of the effect.) Taken in this connection the words 
mean : if any one desires to injure me, it is not I, 
but he, that is the cause of whatever I am obliged 
to do in self-defence ; and I can consequently oppose 
all encroachments on his part, without wronging him. 
Here we have, so to say, a law of moral repercussion. 
Thus it comes about that the union of the empirical 
idea of injury done with the axiom supplied by the 
pure understanding, gives rise to the fundamental con- 
ceptions of wrong and right, which every one grasps 
a primi, and learns by actual trial to immediately 
adopt. The empiric, who denies this, and refuses 
to accept anything bat the verdict of experience, may 
be referred to the testimony of the savage races, 
who all distinguish between wrong and right quite 
correctly, often indeed with nice precision ; as is 
strikingly manifested when they are engaged in 
bartering and other transactions with Europeans, or 
visit their ships. They are bold and self-assured, 
when they are in the right ; but uneasy, when they 



186 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

know they are wrong. In disputes a just settlement 
satisfies them, whereas unjust procedure drives them 
to war. The Doctrine of Right is a branch of Ethics, 
whose function is to determine those actions which 
may not be performed, unless one wishes to injure 
others, that is, to be guilty of wrong-doing ; and 
here the active part played is kept in view. But 
legislation applies this chapter of moral science 
conversely, that is, with reference to the passive side 
of the question, and declares that the same actions 
need not be endured, since no one ought to have 
wrong inflicted on him. To frustrate such con- 
duct the state constructs the complete edifice of 
the law, as positive Right. Its intention is that 
no one shall suffer wrong ; the intention of the 
Doctrine of Moral Right is that no one shall do 
wrong.^ 

If by unjust action I molest some one, whether in 
his person, his freedom, his property, or his honour, 
the wrong as regards quality remains the same. But 
with respect to quantity it may vary very much. This 
difi'erence in the amount of wrong efiected appears not 
to have been as yet investigated by moralists, although 
it is everywhere recognised in real life, because the 
censure passed is always proportional to the harm 
inflicted. So also with just actions, the right done 
is constant in quality, but not in quantity To explain 
this better : he, who when dying of starvation steals a 
loaf, commits a wrong ; but how small is this wrong 
in comparison with the act of an opulent proprietor, 

' The Doctrine of Eight in detail may be found in Die 
Welt ah Wille imd Vorstellung, vol. i,, § 62. 



THE VIRTUE OF JUSTICE. 187 

who, in whatever way, despoils a poor man of his last 
penny 1 Again : the rich person who pays his hired 
labourer, acts justly ; but how insignificant is this piece 
of justice when contrasted with that of a penniless 
toiler, who voluntarily returns to its wealthy owner 
a purse of gold which he has found ! The measure, 
however, of this striking difference in the quantity 
of justice, and injustice (the quality being always 
constant), is not direct and absolute, as on a graduated 
scale ; it is indirect and relative, like the ratio of 
sines and tangents. I give therefore the following 
definition : the amount of injustice in my conduct 
varies as the amount of evil, which I thereby bring 
on another, divided by the amount of advantage, 
which I myself gain ; and the amount of justice in 
my conduct varies as the amount of advantage, which 
injury done to another brings me, divided by the 
amount of harm which he thereby suffers. 

We have further to notice a double form of injustice 
which is specifically different from the simple kind, be 
it never so great. This variety may be detected by 
the fact that the amount of indignation shown by 
disinterested witnesses, which is always proportional 
to the amount of wrong inflicted, never reaches the 
maximum except when it is present. We then see 
how the deed is loathed, as something revolting and 
heinous, as an a<yo<i {i.e., abomination), before which, 
as it were, the gods veil their faces. Double injustice 
occurs when some one, after definitely undertaking 
the obligation of protecting his friend, master, client, 
etc., in a special way, not only is guilty of non-fulfilment 
of that duty (which of itself would be injurious to the 



188 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

other, and therefore a wrong) ; but when, in addition, 
he turns round, and attacks the man, and strikes at 
the very spot which he promised to guard. Instances 
are : the appointed watch, or guide, who becomes an 
assassin ; the trusted caretaker, who becomes a thief ; 
the guardian, who robs his ward of her property ; 
the lawyer, who prevaricates ; the judge, who is 
corruptible ; the adviser, who deliberately gives some 
fatal counsel. All such conduct is known by the 
name of treachery, and is viewed with abhorrence by 
the whole world. Hence Dante puts traitors in the 
lowest circle of Hell, where Satan himself is found 
{Inferno : xi, 61-66). 

As we have here had occasion to mention the 
word " obligation," this is the place to determine 
the conception of Duty, which is so often spoken of 
both in Ethics and in real life, but with too wide 
an extension of meaning. We have seen that wrong 
always signifies injury done to another, whether it 
be in his person, his freedom, his property, or 
his lionour. The consequence appears to be that 
every wrong must imply a positive aggression, and 
so a definite act. Only there are actions, the 
simple omission of which constitutes a wrong ; and 
these are Duties. This is the true philosophic 
definition of the conception " Duty," — a term which 
loses its characteristic note, and hence becomes 
valueless, if it is used (as hitherto it has been in 
Moral Science) to designate all praiseworthy conduct. 
It is forgotten that " Duty " ^ necessarily means a 

' Duty = TO 8iov = le devoir =Pfiicht [cf. plight, O. H. G. 
plegcmj. — ( Translator. ) 



THE VIRTUE OF JUSTICE. 189 

debt which is owing, being thus an action, by the 
simple omission of which another suffers harm, that 
is, a wrong comes about. Clearly in this case the 
injury only takes place through the person, who 
neglects the duty, having distinctly pledged or bound 
himself to it. Consequently all duties depend on 
an obligation which has been entered into. This, 
as a rule, takes the form of a definite, if some- 
times tacit, agreement between two parties : as for 
instance, between prince and people, government and 
its servants, master and man, lawyer and client, 
physician and patient ; in a word, between any and 
every one who undertakes to perform some task, 
and his employer in the widest sense of the word. 
Hence every duty involves a right ; since no one 
undertakes an obligation without a motive, which 
means, in this case, without seeing some advantage 
for himself. There is only one obligation that I 
know of which is not subject to an agreement, but arises 
directly and solely through an act ; this is because 
one of the persons with whom it has to do was not 
in existence when it was contracted. I refer to the 
duty of parents towards their children. Whoever 
brings a child into the world, has incumbent on him 
the duty of supporting his offspring, until the latter is 
able to maintain himself ; and should this time never 
come, owing to incapacity from blindness, deformity, 
cretinism, and the like, neither does the duty ever 
come to an end. It is clear that merely by failing to 
provide for the needs of his son, that is, by a simple 
omission, the father would injure him, indeed jeopardise 
his life. Children's duty towards their parents is 



190 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

not SO direct and imperative. It rests on the fact 
that, as ever}^ duty involves a right, parents also 
mnst have some just claim on their issue. This 
is the foundation of the duty of filial obedience, 
which, however, in course of time ceases simultaneously 
with the right out of which it sprang. It is replaced 
by gratitude for that which was done by father and 
mother over and above their strict duty. Neverthe- 
less, " although ingratitude is a hateful, often indeed 
a revolting vice, gratitude cannot be called a duty; 
because its omission inflicts no injury on the other 
side, and is therefore no wrong. Otherwise we should 
have to suppose that in his heart of hearts the 
benefactor aims at maldng a good bargain. It 
should he noticed that reparation made for harm 
done may also be regarded as a duty arising directly 
through an action. This, however, is something purely 
negative, as it is nothing but an attempt to remove 
and blot out the consequences of an unjust deed, as 
a thing that ought never to have taken place. Be 
it also observed tliat equity ^ is the foe of justice, 
and often comes into harsh collision with it ; so 
that the former ought only to be admitted within 
certain limits. The German is a friend of equity, 
while the Englishman holds to justice. 

The law of motivation is just as strict as that 
of physical causality, and hence involves the same 

* The word here translated " equity " {Billigheit : Lat. 
aequitas) means the sense of fairness, or of natural justice 
which determines what is fitting and due in all human 
relations, as opposed to justice {Gerechtigkeit) taken as 
positive written law. — {Translator.) 



THE VIRTUE OF JUSTICE. 191 

irresistible necessity. Consequently wrong may be 
compassed not only by violence, but also by cunning. 
If by violence I am able to kill or rob another, or compel 
him to obey me, I can equally use cunning to 
accomplish the same ends ; that is, I can place false 
motives before his intellect, by reason of which he 
must do what otherwise he would not. These false 
motives are effected by lies. In reality lies are 
unjustifiable solely in so far as they are instruments 
of cunning, in other words, of compulsion, by means 
of motivation.^ And this is precisely their function, 
as a rule. For, in the first place, I cannot tell a false- 
liood without a motive, and this motive will certainly 
be, with the rarest exceptions, an unjust one ; namely, 
the intention of holding others, over whom I have 
no power, under my will, that is, of coercing them 
through the agency of motivation. Also in mere ex- 
aggerations and untruthful bombast there is the same 
purpose at work ; for, by employing such language, 
a man tries to place himself higher in the sight 
of others than is his due. The binding force of a 
promise or a compact is contained in the fact that, if 
it be not observed, it is a deliberate lie, pronounced 
in the most solemn manner, — a lie, whose intention 
(that of putting others under moral compulsion) is, 
in this case, all the clearer, because its motive, the 
desired performance of something on the other side, 
is expressly declared. The contemptible part of the 

' Motivation is defined in Part II,, Chapter VIIL, as " the 
law of Causality acting through the medium of the intellect." 
It is thus the law of the determination of conduct by 
motives. — {Translator.) 



192 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

fraud is that hypocrisy is used to disarm the victim 
before he is attacked. The highest point of villainy 
is reached in treachery, which, as we have seen, is a 
double injustice, and is always regarded with loathing. 
It is, then, obvious that, jnst as I am not wrong, 
that is, right in resisting violence by violence, so 
where violence is not feasible, or it appears more 
convenient, I am at liberty to resort to cunning ; 
accordingly, whenever I am entitled to use force, I 
may, if I please, employ falsehood ; for instance, against 
robbers and miscreants of every sort, whom in this 
way I entice into a trap. Hence a promise which is 
extorted by violence is not binding. But, as a matter 
of fact, the right to avail myself of lies extends 
further. It occurs whenever an unjustifiable question 
is asked, which has to do with my private, or business 
affairs, and is hence prompted by curiosity ; for to 
answer it, or even to put it off by the suspicion- 
awakening words, " I can't tell you," would expose 
me to danger. Here an untruth is the indispensable 
weapon against unwarranted inquisitiveness, whose 
motive is hardly ever a well-meaning one. For, just as 
I have the right to oppose the apparent bad will of 
another, and to anticipate with physical resistance, 
to the danger of my would-be aggressor, the physical 
violence presumably thence resulting ; so that, for 
instance, as a precaution, I can protect my garden 
wall with sharp spikes, let loose savage dogs in my 
court at night, and even, if circumstances require it, 
set man-traps and spring-guns, for the evil conse- 
quences of which the burglar has only himself to 
thank : — if I have the right to do this, then I am 



THE VIRTUE OF JUSTICE. 193 

equally authorised in keeping secret, at any price, that 
which, if known, would lay me bare to the attack 
of others. And 1 have good reason for acting thus, 
because, in moral, no less than in physical, relations, 
1 am driven to assume that the bad will of others 
is very possible, and must therefore take all necessary 
preventive measures beforehand. Whence Ariosto 
says : — 

Quantunque il simvlar sia le piit volte 
Jiipreso, e dia di mala niente indict, 
Si trova pure in molte cose e molte 
Avere fatti evidenti henefici, 
E danni e biusmi e morti avei'e tolte : 
Che nan conversiani' semjyre con gli amid. 
In questa assai piii oscura che serena 
Vita mortal, tutta d'invidia plena} 

—Orl. Fur., IV., 1. 

I may, then, without any injustice match cunning 
with cunning, and anticipate all crafty encroachments 
on me, even if they be only probable ; and I need 
neither render an account to him who unwarrantably 
pries into my personal circumstances, nor by replying : 
" I cannot answer this," show him the spot where I 

* However much we're won't to blame a lie, 
As index of a mind estranged from right, 
Yet times unnumber'd it hath shap'd results 
Of good most evident ; disgrace and loss, 
It chang'd ; e'en death it cheated. For with friends, 
Alas ! not always in this mortal life, 
Where envy fills all hearts, and gloom prevails 
Much more than light, are we in converse join'd. 

— {Translator.) 
13 



194 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

have a secret, which perilous to me, and perhaps 
advantageous to him, in any case puts me in his 
power, if divulged : Scire volunt secreta domus, atque 
inde timeri. (They wish to know family secrets, and 
thus become feared.) On the contrary, I am justified 
in putting him off with a lie, involving danger to 
himself, in case he is thereby led into a mistake that 
works him harm. Indeed, a falsehood is the only 
means of opposing inquisitive and suspicious curiosity ; 
to meet which it is the one weapon of necessary self- 
defence. " Ask me no questions, and I'll tell yon no 
lies " is here the right maxim. For among the 
English, who regard the reproach of being a liar as 
the deepest insult, and who on that account are really 
more truthful than other nations, all unjustifiable 
questions, having to do with another's affairs, are 
looked upon as a piece of ill-breeding, which is denoted 
by the expression, " to ask questions." Certainly 
every sensible person, even when he is of the strictest 
rectitude, follows the principle above set forth. 
Suppose, for instance, such a one is returning from 
a remote spot, where he has raised a sum of money ; 
and suppose an unknown traveller joins him, and 
after the customary " whither " and " whence " 
gradually proceeds to inquire what may have taken 
him to that place ; the former will undoubtedly give 
a false answer in order to avoid the danger of robbery. 
Again : if a man be found in the house of another, 
whose daughter he is wooing ; and he is asked the 
cause of his unexpected presence ; unless he has 
entirely lost his head, he will not give the true reason, 
but unhesitatingly invent a pretext. And the cases are 



THE VIRTUE OF JUSTICE. 195 

numberless in which every reasonable being tells an 
untruth, without the least scruple of conscience. It is 
this view of the matter alone that removes the crying 
contradiction between the morality which is taught, 
and that which is daily practised, even by the best 
and most upright of men. At the same time, the 
restriction of a falsehood to the single purpose of self- 
defence must be rigidly observed ; for otherwise this 
doctrine would admit of terrible abuse, a lie being in 
itself a very dangerous instrument. But just as, even 
in time of public peace, the law allows every one to 
carry weapons and to use them, when required for 
self-defence, so Ethics permits lies to be employed 
for the same purpose, and — be it observed — for this 
one purpose only. Every mendacious word is a wrong, 
excepting only when the occasion arises of defending 
oneself against violence or cunning. Hence justice 
requires truthfulness towards all men. But the entirely 
unconditional and unreserved condemnation of lies, as 
properly involved in their nature, is sufficiently refuted 
by well known facts. Thus, there are cases where a 
falsehood is a duty, especially for doctors ; and there 
are magnanimous lies, as, for instance, that of the 
Marquis Posa in Don Carlos,^ or that in the Gerusa- 
lemme Liberata^ II., 22 ; ^ they occur, indeed, whenever 
a man wills to take on himself the guilt of another ; 
and lastly, Jesus Christ himself is reported {John 

^ Vide, Schiller's Don Carlos : Act V., So. 3. — {Translator.) 
' " Magnanima menzogna, or quando e tl vero 

SI hello che si possa a te 2»'eporre ? " 
Cf. also the Horatian splendid mendax. Carm. III., 11, 
35. — {Translator.) 



196 THE BASIS OF MORALITY, 

vii. 8 ; cf. ver. 10) on one occasion to have inten- 
tionally told an untrutli. The reader will remember 
that Campanella, in his Poesie Filosqfiche (Delia 
Bellezza: Madr. 9), does not hesitate to say : " Bello 
e il mentir^ se a fare gran bev! si trovar ^ On the 
other hand, the current teaching as regards necessary 
falsehoods is a wretched patch on the dress of a 
poverty-stricken morality. Kant is responsible for 
the theory found in many text-books, which derives 
the unjustifiableness of lies from man's faculty of 
speech ; but the arguments are so tame, childish and 
absurd that one might well be tempted, if only to 
pour contempt on them, to join sides with the devil, 
and say with Talleyrand ; Vhomme a regu la parole 
pour pouvoir cacher sa pensee? The unqualified and 
boundless horror shown by Kant for falsehoods, 
whenever he has the opportunity, is due either to 
affectation, or to prejudice. In the chapter of his 
" Tugendlehre^'' dealing with lies, he loads them 
with every kind of defamatory epithet, bat does 
not adduce a single adequate reason for their con- 
demnation ; which would have been more to the 
point. Declamation is easier than demonstration, 
and to moralise less difficult than to be sincere. 
Kant would have done better to open the vials of 
his wrath on that vice which takes pleasure in seeing 
others suifer ; it is the latter, and not a falsehood, 
which is truly fiendish. For malignant joy is the exact 

* 'Tis well to lie, an there result much good therefrom. 
Vide., Opere di Tommaso Campanella, da Alessandro d'Ancona, 
Torino, 1854. — {Translator.) 

" Man has received the gift of language, so as to be able to 
conceal his thoughts. 



THE VIRTUE OF JUSTICE. 197 

opposite of Compassion, and nothing else but powerless 
cruelty, which, unable itself to bring about the misery- 
it so gladly beholds others enduring, is thankful to 
Tvxv for having done so instead. According to the 
code of knightly honour, the reproach of being a liar 
is of extreme gravity, and only to be washed out with 
the accuser's blood. Now this obtains, not because 
the lie is wrong in itself, since, were such the reason, 
to accuse a man of an injury done by violence would 
certainly be regarded as equally outrageous, — which 
is not the case, as every one knows ; but it is due to 
that principle of chivalry, which in reality bases right 
on might ; so that whoever, when trying to work 
mischief, has recourse to falsehood, proves that he 
lacks either power, or the requisite courage. Every 
untruth bears witness of his fear ; and this is why a 
fatal verdict is passed on him. 



CHAPTER VII. 

THE VIRTUE OF LOVING-KINDNESS. 

Thus justice is the primary and essentially cardinal 
virtue. Ancient philosophers recognised it as such, 
but made it co-ordinate with three others unsuitably 
chosen.^ Loving-kindness (caritas, dydirr]) was not 
as yet ranked as a virtue. Plato himself, who rises 
highest in moral science, reaches only so far as 
voluntary, disinterested justice. It is true that 
loving-kindness has existed at all times in practice 
and in fact ; but it was reserved for Christianity, — 
whose greatest service is seen in this — to theoretically 
formulate, and expressly advance it not only as a 
virtue, but as the queen of all ; and to extend it even to 
enemies. We are thinking of course only of Europe. 
For in Asia, a thousand years before, the bound- 
less love of one's neighbour had been prescribed 
and taught, as well as practised: the Vedas^ are 

' Plato taught that Justice (diKaioo-vvr]) includes in itself 
the three other virtues of Wisdom (<Tocf)ia), Fortitude {dvdpeia\ 
and Temperance (aacppoa-vvT]). With Aristotle, too, Justice is 
the chief of virtues ; while the Stoic doctrine is that Virtue 
is manifested in four leading co-ordinate forms : Wisdom, 
Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance. — (Translator.) 

' There are four Vedas : the Big- Veda, Yajur- Veda, Sdvia- 
Veda, and Atharva-Veda.— {Translator.) 

198 



THE VIRTUE OF LOVING-KINDNESS. 199 

full of it; while in the Dharma-Sastra,^ Itihasa,^ 
and Parana^ it constantly recurs, to say nothing of 
the preaching of ^akya-muni, the Buddha. And to 
be quite accurate we must admit that there are 
traces to be found among the Greeks and Romans 
of a recommendation to follow loving-kindness ; for 
instance, in Cicero, De Finibus, V., 23 ; * and also 
in Pythagoras, according to lamblichus, De vita 
Pyihagoraey chap. 33.* My task is now to give a 
philosophical derivation of this virtue from the 
principle I have laid down. 

It has been demonstrated in Chapter Y. of this 
Part, that the sense of Compassion, however much its 
origin is shrouded in mystery, is the one and sole cause 
whereby the suflfering I sae in another, of itself, and 
as such, becomes directly my motive ; and we have 
seen that the first stage of this process is negative. 

^ Dharmm-^astra (" a law book ") : the body or code of 
Hindu law. — {Translator.) 

* Itihdsa (iti-ha-asa, " so indeed it is ") : talk, legend, tradi- 
tional accounts of former events, heroic history ; e.g., the 
Maha-bharata. — {Translator.) 

^ Purdna (ancient, legendary) : the name given to certain 
well-known sacred works, eighteen in number, comprising 
the whole body of modern Hindu mythology. V. Monier 
Williams' Sanskrit Dictionary. — (Translator.) 

* Ipsa CARITAS generis humani, qitae nata a primo satu, 
quod a procreatoribus nati diliguntur, et tota dormis conjiigio 
et stirpe conjungitur, serjnt sensim foras, cognationihus 
primum, turn affinitatihus, deinde amicitiis, post vicinitatihus 
turn civibus et iis, qui publice socii atque amid sunt, deinde 

TOTIUS COMPLEXU GENTIS HUMAN AE. 

* This chapter describes the Pythagorean ^wXt'a navrav rrpos 
iiravTas, which comes very near to loving-kindness. It 
contains also certain koKo. t^s (fnXias TeKfirjpia. — (Translator.) 



200 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

The second degree is sharply distinguished from the 
first, through the positive character of the actions 
resulting therefrom ; for at this point Compassion 
does more than keep me back from injuring my 
neighbour ; it impels me to help him. And according 
as, on the one hand, my sense of direct participation 
is keen and deep, and, on the other hand, the distress 
is great and urgent, so shall I be constrained by 
this motive, which (be it noted) is purely and wholly 
moral, to make a greater or less sacrifice in order to 
meet the need or the calamity which I observe ; and 
this sacrifice may involve the expenditure of my 
bodily or mental powers, the loss of my property, 
freedom, or even life. So that in this direct 
suflfering with another, which rests on no arguments 
and requires none, is found the one simple origin of 
loving-kindness, caritas, dydirr)' in other words, that 
virtue whose rule is : Omnes, quantum potes, juva 
(help all people, as far as lies in your power) ; 
and from which all those actions proceed which are 
prescribed by Ethics under the name of duties of 
virtue, otherwise called duties of love, or imperfect 
duties. It is solely by direct and, as it were, 
instinctive participation in the sufiferings which we 
see, in other words, by Compassion, that conduct 
so defined is occasioned ; at least when it can be 
said to have moral worth, that is, be declared free 
from all egoistic motives, and when on that account 
it awakens in us that inward contentment which is 
called a good, satisfied, approving conscience, and 
elicits from the spectator (not without making him 
cast a humiliating glance at himself), that remark- 



THE VIRTUE OF LOVJNG-KINDNESS. 201 

able commendation, respect, and admiration which are 
too well-known to be denied. 

But if a beneficent action have any other motive 
whatever, then it must be egoistic, if not actually 
malicious. For as the fundamental springs of all 
human conduct (v. Chapter V. of this Part), are three, 
namely, Egoism, Malice, Compassion ; so the various 
motives which are capable of affecting men may be 
grouped under three general heads : (1) one's own weal ; 
(2) others' woe ; (3) others' weal. Now if the motive 
of a kind act does not belong to the third class, it must 
of course be found in the first or second. To the 
second it is occasionally to be ascribed ; for instance, 
if I do good to some one, in order to vex another, 
to whom I am hostile ; or to make the latter's 
sufferings more acute ; or, it may be, to put to 
shame a third person, who refrained from helping ; 
or lastly, to inflict a mortification on the man whom 
I benefit. But it much more usually springs from 
the first class. And this is the case whenever, in 
doing some good, I have in view my own weal, no 
matter how remote or indirect it may be ; that is, 
whenever I am influenced by the thought of reward 
whether in this, or in another, world, or by the hope 
of winning high esteem, and of gaining a reputation 
for nobleness of character ; or again, when I reflect 
that the person, whom I now aid, may one day be 
able to assist me in return, or otherwise be of some 
service and benefit ; or when, lastly, I am guided 
by the consideration that I must keep the rules of 
magnanimity and beneficence, because I too may on 
some occasion profit thereby. In a word, my motive 



202 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

is egoistic as sooii as it is anything other than the 
purely objective desire of simply knowing, without 
any ulterior purpose, that my neighbour is helped, 
delivered from his distress and need, or freed from 
his suffering. If such an aim — shorn, as it is, of 
all subjectivity — be really mine, then, and then only, 
have I given proof of that loving-kindness, caritas, 
aydin], which it is the great and distinguishing merit 
of Christianity to have preached. It should be ob- 
served, in this connection, that the injunctions which 
the Gospel adds to its commandment of love, e.g., 
fjurj rypcoTco 7] apL(n€pd aov, TV TTOcel Tj Be^id aov (let 
not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth), 
and the like, are, in point of fact, based on a 
consciousness of the conclusion I have here reached, — 
namely, that another's distress, of itself alone, without 
any further consideration, must be my motive, if 
what I do is to be of moral value. And in the same 
place {Matth. vi. 2) we find it stated with perfect 
truth that ostentations almsgivers direxovatv rov 
fiLcrdov avTwv. (Get in full — exhaust their reward.) 
Although, in this respect too, the Vedas shed on 
us the light of a higher teaching. They repeatedly 
declare that he, who desires any sort of recompense 
for his work, is still wandering in the path of dark- 
ness, and not yet ripe for deliverance. If any one 
should ask me what he gets from a charitable act, 
my answer in all sincerity would be : " This, that 
the lot of the poor man you relieve is just so much 
the lighter ; otherwise absolutely nothing. If you 
are not satisfied, and feel that such is not a suflfi- 
cient end, then your wish was not to give alms, 



THE VIRTUE OF LOVING-KINDNESS. 203 

but to make a purchase ; and you have effected a 
bad bargain. But if the one thing you are concerned 
with is that he should feel the pressure of poverty 
less ; then you have gained your object ; you have 
diminished his suffering, and you see exactly how 
far your gift is requited." 

Now, how is it possible that trouble which is not 
mine, and by which I am untouched, should become 
as direct a motive to me as if it were my own, and 
incite me to action ? As already explained, only 
through the fact that, although it comes before 
me merely as something outside myself, by means 
of the external medium of sight or hearing ; I am, 
nevertheless, sensible of it with the sufferer ; I feel 
it as my own, not indeed in myself, but in Mm 
And so what Calderon said comes to pass : 

que entre el ver 
Padecer y el 2:>adecer 
Ningwrui distancia habia. 
{No Siempre lo Peor es Gierto. Jorn. II., Esc. 9.) * 

This, however, presupposes that to a certain extent 
I have become identified with the other, and con- 
sequently that the barrier between the ego and the 
non-ego is, for the moment, broken down. It is then, 
and then only, that I make his interests, his need, 
his distress, his suffering directly my own ; it is then 
that • the empirical picture I have of him vanishes, 

* For between the view 
Of pain, and pain itself, I never knew 
A distance he. 
It is not Always the Worst that is Certain : Act II., 
So. 9.— {Translator.) 



204 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

and I no longer see the stranger, who is entirely 
unlike myself, and to whom I am indifferent ; but 
I share his pain in him, despite the certainty that 
his skin does not enclose my nerves. Only in this 
way is it possible for his woe, Ms distress to become a 
motive for me ; otherwise I should be influenced solely 
by my own. This process . is, I repeat, mysterious. 
For it is one which Eeason can give no direct account 
of, and its causes lie outside the field of experience. 
And yet it is of daily occurrence. Every one has 
often felt its working within himself; even to the 
most hard-hearted and selfish it is not unknown. 
Each day that passes brings it before our eyes, in 
single acts, on a small scale ; whenever a man, by 
direct impulse, without much reflection, helps a 
fellow-creature and comes to his aid, sometimes even 
exposing himself to the most imminent peril for the 
sake of one he has never seen before, and this, with- 
out once thinking of anything but the fact that 
he witnesses another's great distress and danger. It 
was manifested on a large scale, when after long 
consideration, and many a stormy debate, the noble- 
hearted British nation gave twenty millions of pounds 
to ransom the negroes in its colonies, with the 
approbation and joy of a whole world. If any one 
refuses to recognise in Compassion the cause of this 
deed, magnificent as it is in its grand proportions, 
and prefers to ascribe it to Christianity ; let him 
remember that in the whole of the New Testament 
not one word is said against slavery, though at that 
time it was practically universal ; and further, that 
as late as a.d. I860, in North America, when the 



THE VIRTUE OF LOVING-KINDNESS. 205 

qnestion was being discnssed, a man was found who 
thought to strengthen his case by appealing to the 
fact that Abraham and Jacob kept slaves I 

What will be in each separate case the practical 
effect of this mysterious inner process may be left 
to Ethics to analyse, in chapters and paragraphs 
entitled " Duties of Virtue," " Duties of Love," 
" Imperfect Duties," or whatever other name be used. 
The root, the -basis of all these is the one here 
indicated ; for out of it arises the primary precept : 
Omnes, quantum potes^ juva ; from which in turn 
everything else required can very easily be deduced ; 
just as out of the Neminem laede — the first half of 
my principle — all duties of justice are derivable. 
Ethics is in truth the easiest of all sciences. And 
this is only to be expected, since it is incumbent on 
each person to construct it for himself, and himself 
form the rule for every case, as it occurs, out of 
the fundamental law which lies deep in his heart ; 
for few have leisure and patience enough to learn 
a ready-made system of Morals. From justice and 
loving-kindness spring all the other virtues ; for which 
reason these two may properly be called cardinal, and 
the disclosure of their origin lays the corner-stone 
of Moral Science. The entire ethical content of 
the Old Testament is justice ; loving-kindness being 
that of the New. The latter is the Katvr] ivroXr) (the 
new commandment \_John xiii. 34] ), which accord- 
ing to Paul (Romans xiii. 8-10) includes all Christian 
virtues. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

THE PKOOF NOW GIVEN CONFIRMED 
BY EXPERIENCE. 

The truth I have here laid down, that Compassion 
is the sole non-egoistic stimulus, and therefore the 
only really moral one, is a strange, indeed almost 
incomprehensible paradox. I shall hope, therefore, 
to render it less extraordinary to the reader, if I 
show that it is confirmed by experience, and by the 
universal testimony of human sentiment. 

(1) For this purpose I shall, in the first place, 
state an imaginary case, which in the present investi- 
gation may serve as an experimentum crucis ^ (a crucial 
test). But not to make the matter too easy, I shall 
take no instance of loving-kindness, but rather a 
breach of lawful right, and that of the worse kind. 

' This term appears to have been first used by Newton 
and Boyle. The sense is undoubtedly derived from Bacon's 
phrase "'instantia crwa's," which is one of his "Prerogative 
Instances." Vide, Novum Organum : Lib. II., xxxvi., where it 
is explained as follows : Inter Praerogativas Instantiarum 
ponemus loco decimo qtiarto Instantias Crucis ; translato 
vocabulo a Grucihus, quae erectae in Biviis, indicant et signant 
viarum separationes. Has etiam Instantias Decisorias et 
Judiciales, et in Casibus nonnullis Instantias Oraculi et 
Mandati, appellare consuevimus, etc. — (Translator.) 

206 



THE PEOOF CONFIRMED BY EXPERIENCE. 207 

Let US suppose two young people, Cains and Titus, 
to be passionately in love, each with a different girl, 
and that both are completely thwarted- by two other 
men who are preferred because of certain external 
circumstances. They have both resolved to put their 
rivals out of the way, and are perfectly secure from 
every chance of detection, even from all suspicion. 
But when they come to actually prepare for the 
murder, each of them, after an inward struggle, 
draws back. They are now to give us a truthful and 
clear account of the reasons why they abandoned 
their project. As for Caius, I leave it entirely to 
the reader to choose what motive he likes. It may 
be that religious grounds checked him ; for in- 
stance, the thought of the Divine Will, of future 
retribution, of the judgment to come, etc. Or perhaps 
he may say : "I reflected that the principle I was 
going to apply in this case would not be adapted to 
provide a rule universally valid for all possible 
rational beings ; because I should have treated my 
rival only as a means, and not at the same time as 
an end." Or, following Fichte, he may deliver 
himself as follows : " Every human life is a means 
towards realising the moral law ; consequently, I 
cannot, without being indifferent to this realisation, 
destroy a being ordained to do his part in effecting 
it." — (Sittenlehre, p. 373.) (This scruple, be it ob- 
served in passing, he might well overcome by the 
hope of soon producing a new instrument of the moral 
law, when once in possession of his beloved.) Or, 
again, he may speak after the fashion of Wollaston : 
" I considered that such an action would be the 



208 THE BASIS OF MORALITY, 

expression of a false tenet." Or like Hatcheson : " The 
Moral Sense, whose perceptions, equally with those 
of every other sense, admit of no final explanation, 
forbade me to commit such a deed." Or like Adam 
Smith : " I foresaw that my act would awaken no 
sympathy with me in the minds of the spectators." 
Or his language may be borrowed from Christian 
Wolff : " I recognised that I should thereby advance 
neither the work of making myself perfect, nor the 
same process in any one else." Or from Spinoza : 
" Homini nihil utilius komine : ergo hominem interimere 
noluir (To man nothing is more useful than man : 
therefore I was unwilling to destroy a man.) In 
short, he may say what one pleases. But Titus, 
whose explanation is supplied by myself, will speak 
as follows : " When I came to make arrangements 
for the work, and so, for the moment, had to occupy 
myself not with my own passion, but with my rival ; 
then for the first time I saw clearly what was going 
to happen to him. But simultaneously I was seized 
with compassion and pity; sorrow for him laid hold 
upon me, and overmastered me : I could not strike the 
blow." Now I ask every honest and unprejudiced 
reader : Which of these two is the better man ? To 
which would he prefer to entrust his own destiny? 
Which is restrained by the purer motive? Conse- 
quently, where does the basis of morality lie ? 

(2) There is nothing that revolts our moral sense 
so much as cruelty. Every other offence we can 
pardon, but not cruelty. The reason is found in the 
fact that cruelty is the exact opposite of Compassion. 
When we hear of intensely cruel conduct, as, for 



THE PROOF CONFIRMED BY EXPERIENCE. 209 

instance, the act, which has just been recorded in 
the papers, of a mother, who murdered her little 
son of five years, by pouring boiling oil into his 
throat, and her younger child, by burying it alive ; 
or what was recently reported from Algiers : how a 
casual dispute between a Spaniard and an Algerine 
ended in a fight ; and how the latter, having van- 
quished the other, tore out the whole of his lower 
jaw bone, and carried it off as a trophy, leaving his 
adversary still alive ; — when we hear of cruelty like 
this, we are seized with horror, and exclaim : " How 
is it possible to do such a thing ? " Now, let me 
ask what this question signifies. Does it mean : 
" How is it possible to fear so little the punishments 
of the future life ? " It is difficult to admit this 
interpretation. Then perhaps it intends to say : 
" How is it possible to act according to a principle 
which is so absolutely unfitted to become a general 
law for all rational beings ? " Certainly not. Or, 
once more : " How is it possible to neglect so utterly 
one's own perfection as well as that of another ? " 
This is equally unimaginable. The sense of the 
question is assuredly nothing but this : " How is 
it possible to be so utterly bereft of compassion ? " 
The conclusion is that when an action is characterised 
by an extraordinary absence of compassion, it bears 
the certain stamp of the deepest depravity and loath- 
someness. Hence Compassion is the true moral 
incentive. 

(3) The ethical basis, or the original moral stimulus, 
which I have disclosed, is the only one that can be 
justly said to have a real and extended sphere of 

14 



210 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

effective influence. No one will surely venture to 
maintain as much of all the other moral principles 
that philosophers have set up ; for these are composed 
of abstract, sometimes even of hair-splitting propo- 
sitions, with no foundation other than an artificial 
combination of ideas ; such that their application 
to actual conduct would often incline to the comic. 
A good action, inspired solely by Kant's Moral Prin- 
ciple, would be at bottom the work of philosophic 
pedantry ; or else would lead the doer into self- 
deception, through his reason interpreting conduct, 
which had other, perhaps nobler, incentives, as the 
product of the Categorical Imperative, and of the 
conception of Duty, which, as we have seen, rests 
on nothing. But not only is it true that the philo- 
sophic moral principles, purely theoretical as they 
are, have seldom any operative power ; of those 
established by religion, and expressly framed for 
practical purposes, it is equally difficult to predicate 
any marked efficiency. The chief evidence of this lies 
in the fact that in spite of the great religious differ- 
ences in the world, the amount of morality, or rather 
of immorality, shows no corresponding variation, but 
in essentials is pretty much the same everywhere. 
Only it is important not to confound rudeness and 
refinement with morality and immorality. The re- 
ligion of Hellas had an exceedingly small moral 
tendency, — it hardly went further than respect for 
oaths. No dogma was taught, and no system of 
Ethics publicly preached ; nevertheless, all things 
considered, it does not appear that the Greeks were 
morally inferior to the men of the Christian era. The 



THE PROOF CONFIRMED BY EXPERIENCE. 211 

morality of Christianity is of a mnch higher kind than 
that of any other religion which previously appeared 
in Europe. But if any one should believe for this 
reason that European morals have improved pro- 
portionally, and that now at any rate they surpass 
what obtains elsewhere, it would not be difficult to 
demonstrate that among the Mohammedans, Guebres, 
Hindus, and Buddhists, there is at least as much 
honesty, fidelity, toleration, gentleness, beneficence, 
nobleness, and self-denial as among Christian peoples. 
Indeed, the scale will be found rather to turn unfavour- 
ably for Christendom, when we put into the balance 
the long list of inhuman cruelties which have con- 
stantly been perpetrated within its limits and often 
in its name. We need only recall for a moment the 
numerous religious wars ; the crusades that nothing 
can justify ; the extirpation of a large part of the 
American aborigines, and the peopling of that con- 
tinent by negroes, brought over from Africa, without 
the shadow of a right, torn from their families, their 
country, their hemisphere, and, as slaves, condemned 
for life to forced labour ; the tireless persecution of 
heretics ; the unspeakable atrocities of the Inquisition, 
that cried aloud to heaven ; the Massacre of St. 
Bartholomew ; the execution of 18,000 persons in 
the Netherlands by the Duke of Alva ; and these are 
but a few facts among many. Speaking generally, 

^ According to Buxton {The African Slave-trade, 1839), 
their number is even now yearly increased by about 150,000 
freshly imported ; and to these more than 200,000 must be 
added, who perish miserably at the time of their capture, or 
on the voyage. 



212 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

however, if we compare with the performances of its 
followers the excellent morality which Christianity, 
and, more or less, every creed preaches, and then 
try to imagine how far theory would become practice, 
if crime were not impeded by the secular arm of the 
state ; nay more, what would probably happen, if, for 
only one day all laws should be suspended ; we shall 
be obliged to confess that the effect of the various 
religions on Morals is in fact very small. This is 
of course due to weakness of faith. Theoretically, 
and so long as it is only a question of piety in the 
abstract, every one supposes his belief to be firm 
enough. Only the searching touch-stone of all our 
convictions is — what we do. When the moment for 
acting arrives, and our faith has to be tested by 
great self-denial and heavy sacrifices, then its feeble- 
ness becomes evident. If a man is seriously planning 
some evil, he has already broken the bounds of true 
and pure morality. Thenceforward the chief restraint 
that checks him is invariably the dread of justice 
and the police. Should he be so hopeful of escap- 
ing detection as to cast such fears aside, the next 
barrier that meets him is regard for his honour. If 
this second rampart be crossed, there is very little 
likelihood, after both these powerful hindrances are 
withdrawn, that any religious dogma will appeal 
to him strongly enough to keep him back from the 
deed. For if he be not frightened by near and 
immediate dangers, he will hardly be curbed by 
terrors which are distant, and rest merely on belief. 
Moreover, there is a positive objection that may be 
brought against all good conduct proceeding solely from 



THE PROOF CONFIRMED BY EXPERIENCE. 213 

religious conviction ; it is not purged of self-interest, 
but done out of regard for reward and punishment, and 
hence can have no purely moral value. This view we 
find very clearly expressed in a letter of the celebrated 
Grand-Duke of Weimar, Karl August, He writes : 
" Baron Weyhers was himself of opinion that he, who 
is good through religion, and not by natural inclina- 
tion, must be a bad fellow at heart. In vino Veritas.''^ ^ 
— {Letters to J. H. Merck ; No. 229.) But now let us 
turn to the moral incentive which I have disclosed. 
Who ventures for a moment to deny that it displays 
a marked and truly wonderful inlluence at all times, 
among all peoples, in all circumstances of life ; even 
when constitutional law is suspended, and the horrors 
of revolutions and wars fill the air ; in small things 
and in great, every day and every hour ? Who will 
refuse to admit that it is constantly preventing much 
wrong, and calling into existence many a good action, 
often quite unexpectedly, and where there is no hope 
of reward ? Is there any one who will gainsay the 
fact that, where it and it alone has been operative, 
we all with deep respect and emotion unreservedly 
recognise the presence of genuine moral worth ? 

(4) Boundless compassion for all living beings 
is the surest and most certain guarantee of pure moral 
conduct, and needs no casuistry. Whoever is filled 
with it will assuredly injure no one, do harm to no 
one, encroach on no man's rights ; he will rather have 

* I.e., under the influence of wine one speaks the truth. Cf. 
Pliny, Nat. Hist, xiv., chap. 22, § 28, 141, edit. Teubner ; 
vvlgoque Veritas jam attrihuta vino est. Gk. olvos koi 
akr]6fui. V. Paroemiographi, edit. Gaisford. — {Translator.) 



214 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

regard for every one, forgive every one, help every 
one as far as he can, and all his actions will bear the 
stamp of justice and loving-kindness. On the other 
hand, if we try to say : " This man is virtuous, but 
he is a stranger to Compassion " ; or : " he is an 
unjust and malicious man, yet. very compassionate ;" 
the contradiction at once leaps to light. In former 
times the English plays used to finish with a petition 
for the King. The old Indian dramas close with 
these words : " May all living beings be delivered 
from pain." Tastes differ ; but in my opinion there 
is no more beautiful prayer than this. 

(5) Also from separate matters of detail it may 
be inferred that the original stimulus of true morality 
is Compassion. For instance, to make a man lose 
a hundred thalers, by legal tricks involving no 
danger, is equally unjust, whether he be rich or poor ; 
but in the latter case the rapping of conscience is 
much louder, the censure of disinterested witnesses 
more emphatic. Aristotle was well aware of this, 
and said : Beivorepov Be icrri rov drv^ovvra, rj rov 
evTVxovvra, dSiKeiv. (It is worse to injure a man 
in adversity than one who is prosperous.) — {Probl. 
xxix. 2.) If the man have wealth, self-reproach is 
proportionally faint, and grows still fainter, if it be 
the treasury that has been overreached ; for state 
coffers can form no object of Compassion. It thus 
appears that the grounds for self-accusation as well 
as for the spectators' blame are not furnished directly 
by the infringement of the law, but chiefly by the 
suffering thereby brought upon others. The violation 
of right, by itself and as such, which is involved in 



THE PROOF CONFIRMED BY EXPERIENCE, 215 

cheating the exchequer, (to take the above instance,) 
will be disapproved by the conscience alike of actor 
and witness ; but only because, and in so far as, the 
rule of respecting every right, which forms the sine 
qua non of all honourable conduct, is in consequence 
broken. The stricture passed will, in fact, be in- 
direct and limited. If, however, it be a confidential 
employe in the service that commits the fraud, the 
case assumes quite another aspect ; it then has all 
the specific attributes of, and belongs to, that class 
of actions described above, whose characteristic is 
a double injustice. The analysis here given explains 
why the worst charge which can ever be brought 
against rapacious extortioners and legal sharpers is, 
that they appropriate for themselves the goods of 
widows and orphans. The reason appears in the 
fact that the latter, more than others, owing to their 
helplessness, might be expected to excite Compassion 
in the most callous heart. Hence we conclude that 
the entire absence of this sense is sufficient to lower 
a man to the last degree of villainy. 

(6) Compassion is the root no less of justice than 
of loving-kindness ; but it is more clearly evidenced 
in the latter than in the former. We never receive 
proofs of genuine loving-kindness on the part of others, 
so long as we are in all respects prosperous. The 
happy man may, no doubt, often hear the words of 
good- will on his relations' and friends' lips ; but 
the expression of that pure, disinterested, objective 
participation in the condition and lot of others, which 
loving-kindness begets, is reserved for him who is 
stricken with some sorrow or suffering, whatever 



216 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

it be. For the fortunate as such we do not feel 
sympathy ; unless they have some other claim on 
us, they remain alien to our hearts : habeant sibi sua. 
(They may keep their own affairs, pleasures, etc., to 
themselves.) Nay, if a man has many advantages 
over others, he will easily become an object of envy, 
which is ready, should he once fall from his height 
of prosperity, to turn into malignant joy. Neverthe- 
less this menace is, for the most part, not fulfilled ; 
the Sophoclean yeXaxrc S' ix^poi (his enemies laugh) 
does not generally become an actual fact. As soon 
as the day of ruin comes to one of fortune's spoiled 
children, there usually takes place a great transforma- 
tion in the minds of his acquaintances, which for us 
in this connection is very instructive. In the first 
place this change clearly reveals the real nature of 
the interest that the friends of his happiness took 
in him : diffugiunt cadis cum faece siccatis amici. 
(When the casks are drained to the dregs, one's 
friends run away.)^ On the other hand, the exultation 
of those who envied his prosperity, the mocking laugh 
of malicious satisfaction, which he feared more than 
adversity itself, and the contemplation of which he 
could not face, are things usually spared him. Jealousy 
is appeased, and disappears with its cause ; while 
Compassion which takes its place is the parent of 
loving-kindness. Those who were envious of, and 
hostile to, a man in the full tide of success, after his 
downfall, have not seldom become his friends, ready 
to protect, comfort, and help. Who has not, at least 
in a small way, himself experienced something of the 
' Hor., Garm., I., 35, 26. — (Translator.) 



THE PROOF CONFIBMED BY EXPERIENCE. 217 

sort ? Where is the man, who, when overtaken by 
some calamity, of whatever nature, has not noticed 
with surprise how the persons that previously had 
displayed the greatest coldness, nay, ill-will towards 
him, then came forward with unfeigned sympathy ? 
For misfortune is the condition of Compassion, and 
Compassion the source of loving-kindness. When our 
wrath is kindled against a person, nothing quenches 
it so quickly, even when it is righteous, as the words : 
" He is an unfortunate man." And the reason is 
obvious : Compassion is to anger as water to fire. 
Therefore, whoever would fain have nothing to repent 
of, let him listen to my advice. When he is inflamed 
with rage, and meditates doing some one a grievous 
injury, he should bring the thing vividly before his 
mind, as a fait accompli ; he should clearly picture 
to himself this other fellow-being tormented with 
mental or bodily pain, or struggling with need and 
misery ; so that he is forced to exclaim : " This is 
my work ! " Such thoughts as these, if anything, 
will avail to moderate his wrath. For Compassion 
is the true antidote of anger ; and by practising on 
oneself this artifice of the imagination, one awakes 
beforehand, while there is yet time, 

la pitie, dont la voix, 
Alors qv!on est veng^, fait entendre ses lais} 

— (Voltaire, Semiramis, V. 6.) 

And in general, the hatred we may cherish for 
others is overcome by nothing so easily as by our 
taking a point of view whence they can appeal to our 

' Compassion, who with no uncertain tone, 
The work of vengeance done, her laws makes known. 



218 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

Compassion. The reason indeed why parents, as a 
rale, specially love the sickly one of their children 
is because the sight of it perpetually stirs their 
Compassion. 

(7) There is another proof that the moral incentive 
disclosed by me is the true one. I mean the fact 
that animals also are included under its protecting 
aegis. In the other European systems of Ethics no 
place is found for them, — strange and inexcusable as 
this may appear. It is asserted that beasts have 
no rights ; the illusion is harboured that our conduct, 
so far as they are concerned, has no moral significance, 
or, as it is put in the language of these codes, that 
" there are no duties to be fulfilled towards animals." 
Such a view is one of revolting coarseness, a barbarism 
of the West, whose source is Judaism. In philosophy, 
however, it rests on the assumption, despite all 
evidence to the contrary, of the radical difference 
between man and beast,— a doctrine which, as is well 
known, was proclaimed with more trenchant emphasis 
by Descartes than by any one else : it was indeed the 
necessary consequence of his mistakes. When Leibnitz 
and Wolff, following out the Cartesian view, built up 
out of abstract ideas their Rational Psychology, and 
constructed a deathless anima rationalis (rational 
soul) ; then the natural claims of the animal kingdom 
visibly rose up against this exclusive privilege, this 
human patent of immortality, and Nature, as always 
in such circumstances, entered her silent protest. 
Our philosophers, owing to the qualms of their 
intellectual conscience, were soon forced to seek aid 
for their Rational Psychology from the empirical 



THE PROOF CONFIRMED BY EXPERIENCE. 219 

method ; they accordingly tried to reveal the exist- 
ence of a vast chasm, an immeasurable gulf between 
animals and men, in order to represent them, in the 
teeth of opposing testimony, as existences essentially 
different. These efforts did not escape the ridicule 
of Boileau ; for we find him saying : 

Le& cmxTnavx ont-ils des university ? 
Voit-on fleurir chez eux des quatre factdt^s ? ' 

Such a supposition would end in animals being 
pronounced incapable of distinguishing themselves 
from the external world, and of having any self- 
consciousness, any ego ! As answer to such absurd 
tenets, it would only be necessary to point to the 
boundless Egoism innate in every animal, even the 
smallest and humblest ; this amply proves how 
perfectly they are conscious of their self, as opposed 
to the world, which lies outside it. If any one of the 
Cartesian persuasion, with views like these in his 
head, should find himself in the claws of a tiger, 
he would be taught in the most forcible manner 
what a sharp distinction such a beast draws between 
his ego and the non-ego. Corresponding to these 
philosophical fallacies we notice a peculiar sophism 
in the speech of many peoples, especially the Germans. 
For the commonest matters connected with the 
processes of life, — for food, drink, conception, the 
bringing forth of young ; for death, and the dead 
body ; such languages have special words applicable 
only to animals, not to men. In this way the 

' Have beasts, forsooth, their universities, 
Endowed, Uke ours, with all four faculties? 



220 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

necessity of using the same terms for botli is avoided, 
and the perfect identity of the thing concealed under 
verbal differences. Now, since the ancient tongues 
show no trace of such a dual mode of expression, 
but frankly denote the same things by the same 
words ; it follows that this miserable artifice is 
beyond all doubt the work of European priestcraft, 
which, in its profanity, knows no limit to its dis- 
avowal of, and blasphemy against, the Eternal Reality 
that lives in every animal. Thus was laid the founda- 
tion of that harshness and cruelty towards beasts 
which is customary in Europe, and on which a native 
of the Asiatic uplands could not look without righteous 
horror. In English this infamous invention is not to 
be found ; assuredly because the Saxons, when they 
conquered England, were not yet Christians. Neverthe- 
less the English language shows something analogous 
in the strange fact that it makes all animals of the 
neuter gender, the pronoun " it " being employed 
for them, just as if they were lifeless things. This 
idiom has a very objectionable sound, especially in 
the case of dogs, monkeys, and other Primates, and 
is unmistakably a priestly trick, designed to reduce 
beasts to the level of inanimate objects. The ancient 
Egyptians, who dedicated all their days to religion, 
were accustomed to place in the same vault with 
a human mummy that of an ibis, a crocodile, etc.; 
in Europe it is a crime, an abomination to bury a 
faithful dog beside the resting-place of his master, 
though it is there perhaps that he, with a fidelity 
and attachment unknown to the sons of men, awaited 
his own end. To a recognition of the identity, in all 



THE PROOF CONFIRMED BY EXPERIENCE. 221 

essentials, of the phaenomena which we call " man " 
and " beast," nothing leads more surely than the study 
of zoology and anatomy. What shall we say then, 
when in these days (1839) a canting dissector has 
been found, who presumes to insist on an absolute 
and radical dijBference between human beings and 
animals, and who goes so far as to attack and 
calumniate honest zoologists that keep aloof from 
all priestly guile, eye-service, and hypocrisy, and dare 
to follow the leading of nature and of truth ? 

Those persons must indeed be totally blind, or 
else completely chloroformed by the foetor Judaicus 
(Jewish stench), who do not discern that the truly 
essential and fundamental part in man and beast is 
identically the same thing. That which distinguishes 
the one from the other does not lie in the primary 
and original principle, in the inner nature, in the 
kernel of the two phaenomena (this kernel being 
in both alike the Will of the individual) ; it is found 
in what is secondary, in the intellect, in the degree of 
perceptive capacity. It is true that the latter is incom- 
parably higher in man, by reason of his added faculty 
of abstract knowledge, called Reason ; nevertheless 
this superiority is traceable solely to a greater cerebral 
development, in other words, to the corporeal difference, 
which is quantitative, not qualitative, of a single 
part, the brain. In all other respects the similarity 
between men and animals, both psychical and bodily, 
is sufficiently striking. So that we must remind 
our judaised friends in the West, who despise animals, 
and idolise Reason, that if they were suckled by their 
mothers, so also was the dog by Ms. Even Kant fell 



222 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

into this common mistake of his age, and of his 
country, and I have already administered the censure ^ 
which it is impossible to withhold. The fact that 
Christian morality takes no thought for beasts is a 
defect in the system which is better admitted than 
perpetuated. One's astonishment is, however, all 
the greater, because, with this exception, it shows 
the closest agreement with the Ethics of Brahmanism 
and Buddhism, being only less strongly expressed, 
and not carried to the last consequences imposed by 
logic. On the whole, there seems little room for 
doubting that, in common with the idea of a god 
become man, or Avatar,^ it has an Asiatic origin, and 
probably came to Judaea by way of Egypt ; so that 
Christianity would be a secondary reflection of the 
primordial light that shone in India, which, falling 
first on Egypt, was unhappily refracted from its 
ruins upon Jewish soil. An apt symbol of the insen- 
sibility of Christian Ethics to animals, while in other 
points its similarity to the Indian is so great, may 
be found in the circumstance that John the Baptist 
comes before us in all respects like a Hindu 
Sannyasin,' except that he is clothed in skins : a 
thing which would be, as is well known, an abomina- 
tion in the eyes of every follower of Brahmanism 
or Buddhism. The Koyal Society of Calcutta only 

» V. Part II., Chapter VI. 

* Avatara (ava-tri to descend), descent of a deity from 
heaven ; e.g., the ten incarnations of Vishnu. V. Monier 
Williams' Somskrit Dictionary. — {Translator.) 

* Sannyasin (one who lays down, or resigns), an ascetic ; 
a religious mendicant, or Brahman of the fourth order. V. 
Monier Williams' Sanskrit Dictionary. — {Translator.) 



THE PROOF CONFIRMED BY EXPERIENCE. 223 

received their copy of the Vedas on their distinctly 
promising that they would not have it bound in 
leather, after European fashion. In silken binding, 
therefore, it is now to be seen on the shelves of their 
librar3^ Again : the Gospel story of Peter's draught 
of fishes, which the Saviour blesses so signally that the 
boats are overladen, and begin to sink {Luke v. 1-10), 
forms a characteristic contrast to what is related of 
Pythagoras. It is said that the latter, initiated as he 
was in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, bought the 
draught from the fishermen, while the net was still 
under water, in order to at once set at liberty the captive 
denizens of the sea. (Apuleius : Be Magia, p. 36 : 
edit. Bipont.) ^ Compassion for animals is intimately 
connected with goodness of character, and it may 
be confidently asserted that he, who is cruel to living 
creatures, cannot be a good man. Moreover, this 
compassion manifestly flows from the same source 
whence arise the virtues of justice and loving- 
kindness towards men. Thus, for instance, people 
of delicate sensitiveness, on realising that in a fit 
of ill-humour, or anger, or under the influence of 
wine, they punished their dog, their horse, their ape 
undeservedly, or unnecessarily, or excessively, are 
seized with the same remorse, feel the same dissatis- 
faction with themselves, as when they are conscious 

' V. Apuleius : Apologia sive De Magia Liber (Lipsiae, 
Teubner, 1900 : page 41, chap, xxxi) : Pythagoram . . . memoriae 
prodiderunt, cum animaduertisset proxime Metajxyntum in 
litore Italiae sitae, quam subsiciuam Graeciam fecerat, a 
quibusdam piscatoribtis eiierricvlum trahi, fortunam, iactus 
eiiis emisse et pretio dato iussisse, ilico piscis eos qui capti 
tenebantur solui retibits et reddi profundo. — {Translator.) 



224 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

of having done some wrong to one of their fellows. 
The only difference — a purely nominal one — is that 
in the latter case this remorse, this dissatisfaction 
is called the voice of conscience rising in rebuke. 
I remember having read of an Englishman, who, 
when hunting in India, had killed a monkey, that 
he could not forget the dying look which the creature 
cast on him ; so that he never fired at these animals 
again. Another sportsman, William Harris by name, 
a true Nimrod, has much the same story to tell. 
During the years 1836-7 he travelled far into the heart 
of Africa, merely to indulge his passion for the chase. 
A passage in his book, published at Bombay in 1838, 
describes how he shot his first elephant, a female. 
Next morning on going to look for his game, he found 
that all the elephants had fled from the neighbour- 
hood, except a young one which had spent the night 
beside its dead mother. Seeing the huntsmen, it 
forgot all fear, and came to meet them, with the 
clearest and most lively signs of disconsolate grief, 
and put its tiny trunk about them, as if to beg 
for help. " Then," says Harris, " I was filled with 
"real remorse for what I had done, and felt as if I 
had committed a murder." 

The English nation, with its fine sensibility, is, in 
fact, distinguished above all others for extraordinary 
compassion towards animals, which appears at every 
opportunity, and is so strong that, despite the " cold 
superstition " which otherwise degrades them, these 
Anglo-Saxons have been led through its operation to 
fill up by legislation the lacuna that their religion 
leaves in morality. For this gap is precisely the 



THE PROOF CONFIRMED BY EXPERIENCE. 225 

reason why in Europe and America there is need 
of societies for the protection of animals, which are 
entirely dependent on the law for their efficiency. In 
Asia the religions themselves suffice, consequently no 
one there ever thinks of such associations. Meanwhile 
Europeans are awakening more and more to a sense 
that beasts have rights, in proportion as the strange 
notion is being gradually overcome and outgrown, 
that the animal kingdom came into existence solely 
for the benefit and pleasure of man. This view, ^ with 
the corollary that non- human living creatures are to be 
regarded merely as things, is at the root of the rough 
and altogether reckless treatment of them, which 
obtains in the West. To the honour, then, of the 
English be it said that they are the first people who 
have, in downright earnest, extended the protecting 
arm of the law to animals : in England the mis- 
creant, that commits an outrage on beasts, has to 
pay for it, equally whether they are his own or 
not. Nor is this all. There exists in London the 
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 
a corporate body voluntarily formed, which, without 
state assistance, and at great cost, is of no small 
service in lessening the tale of tortures inflicted on 
animals. Its emissaries are ubiquitous, and keep 
secret watch in order to inform against the tor- 
mentors of dumb, sensitive creatures ; and such 
persons have therefore good reason to stand in 
fear of them.^ At all the steep bridges in London 

' In Vol. II. of my Parerga, § 177, I have shown that its 
origin can be traced to the Old Testament. 

^ How seriously the matter is being taken up may be 
seen from the following case which is quite recent. I quote 

15 



226 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

this Society stations a pair of horses, which without 
any charge is attached to heavy freight-waggons. 
Is not this admirable ? Does it not elicit our ap- 
proval, as unfailingly as any beneficent action 
towards men ? Also the Philanthropic Society of 
London has done its part. In 1837 it offered a prize 
of £30 for the best exposition of the moral reasons 
which exist to keep men from torturing animals. 
The line of argument, however, had to be taken almost 
exclusively from Christianity, whereby the difficulty 
of the task was, of course, increased ; but two years 

from the Birmingham Journal of December, 1839. "Arrest 
of a company of eighty-four abettors of dog-fights. — It had 
come to the knowledge of the Society of Animals' Friends 
that the Square in Fox Street, Birmingham, was yesterday 
to be the scene of a dog- fight. Measures were accordingly 
taken to secure the assistance of the police, and a strong 
detachment of constables was sent to the spot. At the right 
moment all the persons present were arrested. These precious 
conspirators were then handcuffed together in pairs, and the 
whole party was made fast by a long rope passing between 
each couple. In this fashion they were marched off to the 
Police Station, where mayor and magistrate were sitting in 
readiness for them. The two ringleaders were condemned to 
pay, each, a fine of £l, and 8s. 6(i. costs ; in default, to undergo 
14 days' hard labour." The coxcombs whose habit is never 
to miss noble sport of this sort, must have looked somewhat 
crestfallen in the midst of the procession. But the Titnes 
of April 6, 1855, p. 6, supplies a still more striking instance 
from the present day ; and here we find the paper itself 
assuming judicial functions, and imposing the right punish- 
ment. It recounts the case of a very wealthy Scotch baronet's 
daughter. The matter had been brought before the law, and 
the evidence showed that the girl had used a cudgel and knife 
on her horse with the greatest cruelty; for which she was 
ordered to pay a fine of £5. But for one in her position 
such a sum means nothing, and she would practically have 



THE PROOF CONFIRMED BY EXPERIENCE. 227 

later, in 1839, Mr. Macnamara was the successfnl 
competitor. At Philadelphia there is an Animals' 
Friends' Society, having the same aims ; and it is 
to the President of the latter that a book called 
Philozoia ; or, Moral Rejections on the Actual Con- 
dition of Animals, and the Means of Improving the 
Same (Brussels, 1839), has been dedicated by its 
author, T. Forster. It is original and well written. 
Mr. Forster earnestly commends to his readers the 
humane treatment of animals. As an Englishman he 
naturally tries to strengthen his position by the 
support of the Bible ; but he is on slippery ground, 

got off scot-free, had not the Times intervened to inflict 
on her a proper correction, such as she would really feel. 
It twice mentions the young lady's name in full, printing 
it in large type, and concludes as follows : " We cannot help 
saying that a few months' imprisonment mth the addition of 
an occasional whipping administered in private, but by the 
most muscular woman in Hampshire, would have been a much 
more suitable penalty for Miss M. N. A wretched being of 
this sort has forfeited all the consideration and the privileges 
that attach to her sex ; we cannot regard her any longer 
as a woman." These newspaper paragraphs I would especially 
recommend to the notice of the associations now formed in 
Germany against cruelty to animals ; for they show what 
hnes should be adopted, in order to reach some solid result. 
At the same time I desire to express my cordial appreciation 
of the praiseworthy zeal shown by Herrn Hofrath Perner, of 
Munich, who has entirely devoted himself to this branch of 
well-doing, and succeeded in arousing interest in it all over 
the country. [It should be observed that the first portion of 
this note belongs to the earliest edition of the work, published 
September, 1840 ; the latter part was written for the second 
edition, which appeared in August, 1860. This explains why 
Schopenhauer says that the first instance, dated 1839, is " quite 
recent," and that the second, dated 1855, is taken " from the 
present day." — {Translate'.)] 



228 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

and meets with such poor success that he ends by 
catching at the following ingenious position : Jesus 
Christ (he says) was born in a stable among oxen 
and asses ; which was meant to indicate symbolically 
that we ought to regard the beasts as our brothers, 
and treat them accordingly. All that I have here 
adduced sufficiently proves that the moral chord, of 
which we are speaking, is now at length beginning 
to vibrate also in the West. For the rest, we may 
observe that compassion for sentient beings is not to 
carry us to the length of abstaining from flesh, like 
the Brahmans. This is because, by a natural law, 
capacity for pain keeps pace with the intelligence ; 
consequently men, by going without animal food, 
especially in the North, would suffer more than 
beasts do through a quick death, which is always 
unforeseen ; although the latter ought to be made 
still easier by means of chloroform. Indeed without 
meat nourishment mankind would be quite unable 
to withstand the rigours of the Northern climate. 
The same reasoning explains, too, why we are right 
in making animals work for us ; it is only when 
they are subjected to an excessive amount of toil 
that cruelty begins. 

(8) It is perhaps not impossible to investigate and 
explain metaphysically the ultimate cause of that 
Compassion in which alone all non-egoistic conduct 
can have its source ; but let us for the moment 
put aside such inquiries, and consider the phaenome- 
non in question, from the empirical point of view, 
simply as a natural arrangement. Now if Nature's 
intention was to soften as much as possible the 



THE PROOF CONFIRMED BY EXPERIENCE. 229 

numberless sufferings of every sort, to which our 
life is exposed, and which no one altogether escapes ; 
if she wished to provide some counterbalance for the 
burning Egoism, which fills all beings, and often 
develops into malice ; it will at once strike every 
one as obvious that she could not have chosen any 
method more effectual than that of planting in the 
human heart the wonderful disposition, which inclines 
one man to share the pain of another, and from 
which proceeds the voice that bids us, in tones strong 
and unmistakable, take thought for our neighbour ; 
calling, at one time, " Protect ! " at another, " Help ! " 
Assuredly, from the mutual succour thus arising, 
there was more to be hoped for, towards the attain- 
ment of universal well-being, than from a stern Com- 
mand of duty, couched in general, abstract terms, — 
the product of certain reasoning processes, and of 
artificial combinations of conceptions. From such an 
Imperative, indeed, all the less result could be expected 
because to the rough human unit general propositions 
and abstract truths are unintelligible, the concrete 
only having some meaning for him. And it should 
be remembered that mankind in its entirety, a very 
small part alone excepted, has always been rude, 
and must remain so, since the large amount of bodily 
toil, which for the race as a whole is inevitable, leaves 
no time for mental culture. Whereas, in order to 
awaken that sense, which has been proved to be the 
sole source of disinterested action, and consequently 
the true basis of Morals, there is no need of abstract 
knowledge, but only of intuitive perception, of the 
simple comprehension of a concrete case. To this 



230 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

Compassion is at. once responsive, without the media- 
tion of other thoughts. 

(9) The following circumstance will be found in 
complete accord with the last paragraph. The 
foundation, which I have given to Ethics, leaves me 
without a forerunner among the School Philosophers ; 
indeed, my position is paradoxical, as far as their teach- 
ing goes, and many of them, for instance, the Stoics 
(Seneca, De dementia, II., 5), Spinoza (Et/iica, IV., 
prop. 50), and Kant {Kritik der Praktiscken Vernunft, 
p. 213 ; R. p. 257) only notice the motive of t'om- 
passion to utterly reject and contemn it. On the 
other hand, my basis is supported by the authority 
of the greatest moralist of modern times ; for such, 
undoubtedly, J. J. Rousseau is, — that profound reader 
of the human heart, who drew his wisdom not from 
books, but from life, and intended his doctrine not 
for the professorial chair, but for humanity ; he, the 
foe of all prejudice, the foster-child of nature, whom 
alone she endowed with the gift of being able to 
moralise without tediousness, because he hit the truth 
and stirred the heart. I shall therefore venture here 
to cite some passages from his works in support of 
my theory, observing that, so far, I have been as 
sparing as possible with regard to quotations. 

In the Discours sur VOrigine de VIncgalitc, p. 91 
(edit. Bipont.), he says : 11 y a un autre principe, 
que Hobbes n'a point apergu, et qui ayant 6te donne 
a Vhortime pour adoucir, en certaines circonatances, la 
ferocitS de son a^mour-propre, tempere Vardeur quil 
a pour son bien-etre par un£ repugnance in nee a 
VOIR SOUFFRIR SON SEMBLABLE. Je ne crois pas 



THE PROOF CONFIRMED BY EXPERIENCE. 231 

avoir aucune contradiction a craindre en accordant a 
Uhomme la seule vertu naturelle qu'ait ete force 
de reconnaitre le detracteur le plus outrS des vertua 
humaines. Je parle de la pitie, etc.} 

P. 92 : Mandeville a bien senti qu'avec toute leur 
TThorale les homines n'eussent jamais ete que des mon- 
stres, si la nocture n£ leur eut donne la piti^ a I'appui 
de la raison : mais il n'a jpas vu, que de cette seule 

QUALITE DEGOULENT TOUTES LES VERTUS SOC TALES, 

qu'il vent disputer aux hommes. En effet, qu'est-ce 
que la generosite, la clemence, Vhumanite, sinon 
LA PITIE, ajppliquee aux faibles, aux coupables, on a 
Vespece humaine en gSTiSral? La bienveillance et 
Vamitie Tneme sont, a le bien prendre, des productions 
d\ine pitie constante, JlxSe sur un objet particulier; 
car desirei' que quelqu'un ne souffre poird, qu'est-ce 
autre chose, que desirer qu'il soit heureux? . . . La 
commiseration sera d^auta^it plus eniergique, que 
V ANIMAL SPEGTATEUR S'iDENTiFiERA plus intimement 

avec V ANIMAL SOUFFRANT^ 

' There is another principle which Hobbes did not perceive 
at all. It was implanted in man in order to soften, in certain 
circumstances, the fierceness of his self-love, and it moderates 
the ardour, which he feels for his own well-being, by producing 
a certain innate aversion to the sight of a fellow-creature's 
sufering. In attributing to man the onl]/ Tiatural virtue, 
which even the most advanced scepticism has been forced to 
recognise, I stand, assuredly, in no fear of any contradiction. 
I allude to compassion, etc. 

* Mandeville was right in thinking that with all their 
systems of morality, men would never have been anything but 
monsters, if nature had not given them compassion to support 
their reason ; but he failed to see that from this one quality 
spi'ing all the social virtues, which he was unwiUing to credit 



232 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

P. 94 : II est done bien certain, que la pitie est 
un sentiment naturel, qui, moderant dans chaque 
individu Vamour de soi-meme, concourt a la conserva- 
tion rautuelle de toute Vespece. C^est elle, qui dans 
VMat de nature, tient lieu de lois, de moeurs, et de 
vertus, avec cet avantage, que nul ne sera tente de 
d^soh&ir a sa douce voix: c'est elle, qui detournera 
tout sauvage rohuste d'enlever a un faible enfant, ou 
a un vieillard infirme, sa subsistence acquise avec peine, 
si lui rneme espere pouvoir trouver la sienne ailleurs : 
c^est elle qui, au lieu de cette maxime sublime de 
justice raisonnee : " Fais a autrui comm,e tu veux qu'on 
te fasse ; " inspire a tous les hommes cette autre 
maxime de bonte naturelle, bien moins parfaite, mais 
plus utile peut-etre que la prScedente : " Fais ton 
bien avec le moindre mal d'autrui qu'il est possible." 
Cest, en un mot, dans ce sentiment naturel 
plut6t, que dans les arguments subtils, qu'il 
faut chercher la cause de la repugnance qu'eprouverait 
tout homme a mal faire, meme independamment des 
maximes de l'6ducation} 

mankind with. In reality, what is generosity, clemency, 
humanity, if not compassion, applied to the weak, to the 
guilty, or to the human race, as a whole ? Even benevolence 
and friendship, if we look at the matter rightly," are seen to 
result from a constant compassion, directed upon a particular 
object ; for to desire that some one should not suffer is nothing 
else than to desire that he should be happy. . . The more closely 
the living spectator identifies hiviself with the living sufferer, 
the more active does pity become. 

' It is, then, quite certain that compassion is a natural feeling, 
which checking, as it does, the love of self in each individual, 
helps by a reciprocal process to preserve the whole race. This 
it is, which in the state of nature, takes the place of laws, 



THE PROOF CONFIRMED BY EXPERIENCE. 233 

Let this be compared with what he says in Emile, 
Bk. IV., pp. 115-120 (edit. Bipont.), where the follow- 
ing passage occurs among others : — 

En effet, comment nous laissons-nous 6mouvoir d la 
pitie, si ce n'est en nous transportant hors de nous 
et en nous identifiant avec v animal souffrant: 
EN QuiTTANT, pouv ainsi dire, notre etre, pour 
PRENDRE LE siEN? Nous ne souffvons qu^autant que 
nous jugeons quHl souffre : CE nest pas dans nous, 
CPEST DANS LUi, que nous souffrons . . . offrir au 
jeune homme des objets, sur lesquels puisse agir la 
force expansive de son coeur, qui le dilatent, qui 
Vetendent sur les autres etres, qui le f assent partout 
SE RETRouvER HORS DE LUI; barter avec soin ceux, 
qui le resserrent, le concentrent, et tendent le ressort 

DU MOI HUMAIN, etc.^ 

customs, and virtues, with the added advantage that no one 
will be tempted to disobey its gentle voice ; this it is, which 
will restrain every able-bodied savage, provided he hope to 
find his own livelihood elsewhere, from robbing a weak child, 
or depriving an infirm old man of the subsistence won by hard 
toil ; this it is, which inspires all men, not indeed with that 
sublime maxim of reasoned justice: "Do to others as you 
would they should do unto you ; " but with another rule of 
natural goodness, no doubt less perfect, but perhaps more 
useful, namely : " Do what is good for yourself with the least 
possible harm to others." In a word, it is in this natural 
feeling rather than in subtle arguments that we must look 
for the reason of the repugnance with which every one is 
accustomed to view bad conduct, quite independently of the 
principles laid down by education. 

* In fact, how is it that we let ourselves be moved to pity, 
if not by getting out of our own consciousness, and becoming 
identified with the living stiferer ; by leaving, so to say, our 
own being, and entenng into his ? We do not suffer, except 



234 THE BASI8 OF MORALITY. 

Inside the pale of the Schools, as above remarked, 
there is not a single authority in favour of my posi- 
tion ; but outside, I have other testimony to cite, in 
addition to Rousseau's. The Chinese admit five 
cardinal virtues (Tschang), of which the chief is 
Compassion (Sin). The other four are : justice, courtesy, 
wisdom, and sincerity.^ Similarly, among the Hindus, 
we find that on the tablets placed to the memory 
of dead chieftains, compassion for men and animals 
takes the first place in the record of their virtues. 
At Athens there was an altar to Compassion in the 
Agora, as we know from Pausanias, I. 17 : 'AOrjvaiot^ 
Be ev rf} ayopa ecTTL ^EXiov /8&)/a6?, c5, fiaXiara deoiv 
e? avOpooTTivov jSiov Kol fji,eTa^o\a<i irpay/xdrcov on u>- 
<fie\,tfjbo<;, fWvoL ri/jLa'i 'EXktjvcov vefiovcnv ^Adrjudtot,.^ 

as we suppose he suffers ; it is not in us, it is in him, that we 
suffer . . . offer a young man objects, on which the expansive 
force of his heart can act ; objects such as may enlarge his 
nature, and incline it to go out to other beings, in whom he 
may everywhere find himself again. Keep carefully away 
those things which narrow his view, and make him self-centred, 
and which tighten the strings of the human ego. [Tendent le 
ressort (stretch the spring) du moi humain : i.e., stimulate the 
egoistic tendency. — (Translator.)] 

' Journal Asiatique, Vol. ix., p. 62. Cf. Meng-Tseu (other- 
wise called Mencius), edited by Stanislas Julien, 1824, Bk. 1, 
§ 45 ; also Meng-Tseu in the Livres Sacres de VOrient, by 
Panthier p. 281. 

V. Dictionnaire Frangais — Latin — Chinois, par Paul Pemy 
(Didot Frferes, Paris, 1869) ; where the five cardinal virtues 
( ?r , ffi) are transliterated : oti chAng. V. also: A Syllabic 
Dictionary of the Chinese Language ; by S. Wells Williams, 
LL.B. (Shanghai: 1874); where Sin (Sin), i.e., humanity, 
love of one's neighbour, is written Sin'. — {Translator.^ 

^ The Athenians have an altar in their Agora to Compassion ; 



THE PROOF CONFIRMED BY EXPERIENCE. 235 

Lucian also mentions this altar in the Timon, § 99.^ A 
phrase of Phocion, preserved by Stobaeus, describes 
Compassion as the most sacred thing in human life : 
0VT€ i^ lepov j3cofi6v, ovre eK t^? dvdpcoinvrj'i <f>v(Tea>^ 
a(f>aipeT€ov top ^Xeov.^ In the Sapientia Indorum, 
the Greek translation of the Paiica-tantra, we read 
(Section 3, p. 220) : Aeyerat yap, (09 Trpcorr] rwv 
aperoiv 77 iXerjfioavvr).^ It is clear, then, that the 
real source of morality has been distinctly recog- 
nised at all times and in all countries ; Europe 
alone excepted, owing to the/oeto?^ Judaicus (Jewish 
stench), which here pervades everything, and is 
the reason why the Western races require for the 
object of their obedience a command of duty, a moral 
law, an imperative, in short, an order and decree. 
They remain wedded to this habit of thought, and 



for this deity, they believe, is of all the gods the most helpful 
in human life, and its vicissitudes. They are the only Greeks 
who have instituted this cultus. — {Translator.) 

^ V. Lucian, Tivion, chap. 42 (Ausgewahlte Schriften des 
Lvjcian, edit. Julius Somnierbrodt ; Weidmann, Berlin, 1872, 

p. 75) : (fjiXos fie ^ ^evos ^ iraipos fj 'EXfov fi(0(i6s vffkos noKvs. 

V. also ApoUodorus (edit. J, Bekker) ; 2, 8, 1. 3, 7, 1. Dem. 
(edit. Eeisk.), 57. Scholiast on Soph. Oed. Col., 258. — 
{Translator.) 

* A temple must not be despoiled of its altar, nor human 
nature of compassion. V. Joannis Stobaei Anthologium, 
edit. Curtius Wachsmuth et Otto Hense ; Weidmann, Berlin, 
1894 ; Vol. III., p. 20, Nr. 52.— {Translator.) 

^ The chief of virtues is said to be Compassion. The Panca- 
tantra is a well-known collection of moral stories and fables 
in five {pancan) books or chapters {tantra\ from which the 
author of the Hitojxidesa drew a large portion of his materials. 
F. Monier Williams' Sanskrit Dictionary. — {Translator.) 



236 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

refuse to open their eyes to the fact that such a view 
is, after all, based upon nothing but Egosim. Of 
course, now and then, isolated individuals of fine 
perception have felt the truth, and given it utterance : 
such a one was Rousseau ; and such, Lessing. In a 
letter written by the latter in 1756 we read : " The 
best man, and the one most likely to excel in all 
social virtues, in all forms of magnanimity, is he 
who is most compassionate." 



CHAPTER IX. 

ON THE ETHICAL DIFFERENCE OF CHARACTER. 

There still remains a qnestion to be resolved, before 
the basis which I have given to Ethics can be 
presented in all its completeness. It is this. On 
what does the great difference in the moral behaviour 
of men rest ? If Compassion be the original incentive 
of all true, that is, disinterested justice and loving- 
kindness ; how comes it that some are, while others 
are not, influenced thereby ? Are we to suppose 
that Ethics, which discloses the moral stimulus, is 
also capable of setting it in motion ? Can Ethics 
fashion the hard-hearted man anew, so that he be- 
comes compassionate, and, as a consequence, just 
and humane ? Certainly not. The difference of 
character is innate, and ineradicable. The wicked 
man is born with his wickedness as much as the 
serpent is with its poison-fangs and glands, nor can 
the former change his nature a whit more than the 
latter.^ Velle non discitur (to use one's will is 
not a thing that can be taught) is a saying of Nero's 
tutor. In the Meno, Plato minutely investigates 

* Cf- Jeremiah xiii. 23. — (Translator.) 
237 



238 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

the nature of virtue, and inquires whether it can, 
or cannot, be taught. He quotes a passage from 
Theognis : 

dXXa dibdaKcov 
Ot/TTOTc Troii^(Tfis Tov KUKov uvbp dyadov, 
(But thou wilt ne'er, 
By teaching make the bad man virtuous.) 

and finally reaches this conclusion : apeTr) av etr) ovre 
(pvcrei,, oijTe ScBaKjov. aWa deia ^oipa irapaytyvofiePT], 
avev vov, oh av TrapayiyvrjTai.^ Here the terms 
^vaei and deca fjboCpa form a distinction, in my opinion, 
much the same as that between " pliysical " and 
" metaphysical." Socrates, the father of Ethics, if 
we may trust Aristotle, declared that ovk i(f> y) p,lv 
yevecrdai to airovhaiov^ eTvai, rj <^av\ois} (^Moralia 
Magna, i. 9.) Moreover, Aristotle himself expresses 
the same view : Traat yap BoKel eKucrra rcov rjdSiv 
virdp^eiv <f>V(rei tto)?' /cat yap SUaioi, Kal acoippovtKol, 
Ka\ ToXka e^ofiev €v6v<i e/c yeverij^i.^ {Et/i. Nicom. 
vi. 13.) We find also a similar conviction very decidedly 
expressed in the fragments attributed to the Pytha- 

' Virtue would appear not to come naturally {i.e., through 
the physical order of things), nor can it be taught; but in 
whomsoever it dwells, there it is present, apart from the 
intellect, under divine ordinance. [V. Platonis Opera, edit. 
Didot, Paris, 1856 ; Vol. I. Meno, 96 and 99, ad fin.— 
{Translator.)] 
^ It is not in our power to be either good or bad. ■■^' i 

^ For it appears that the different characters of all men 
are in some way implanted in them by nature ; if we are just, 
and temperate, and otherwise virtuous, we are so straightway 
from our birth. 



ON THE ETHICAL DIFFERENCE OF CHARACTER. 239 

gorean Arcliytas, and preserved by Stobaens in the 
Florilegium (Chap. i. § 77).^ If not authentic, they are 
certainly very old. Orelli gives them in his Opuscula 
Graecorum Sententiosa et Moralia. There (Vol. II., 
p. 240) we read in the Dorian dialect as follows : — 
Ta<i yap Xcr/ot^ Kol airohei^eaiv '7roTL')(p(ofMeva<i apeTa<i 
Biov i7ricrTd/jui<i Trorayopevev, aperav Be, rav tjOikuv koI 
^ekrla-rav e^tv rSi a\6<yoii fiipeo<i Td<; '\lrv)(^a<;^ Ka9^ 
av Kol TTOLoi TLve<i rifxev XeyofieOa Kara ro r}6o<i, olov 
iXevdipioi, SUaioL Kal <T(o<^pove<i.^ On examining the 
virtues and vices, as summarised by Aristotle in the De 
Virtutibus et Vitiis, it will be found that all of tliem, 
without exception, are not properly thinkable unless 
assumed to be inborn qualities, and that only as such 
can they be genuine. If, in consequence of reasoned 
reflection, we take them as voluntary, they are then 
seen to lose their reality, and pass into the region 
of empty forms ; whence it immediately follows that 
their permanence and resistance under the storm 
and stress of circumstance could not be counted 
on. And the same is true of the virtue of loving- 
kindness, of which Aristotle, in common with all 
the ancients, knows nothing. Montaigne keeps, of 
course, his sceptical tone, but he practically agrees 



' V. Joannis Stobaei Florilegium, edit. Meineke, publ. 
Lipsiae, Teubner, 1855 ; Vol. I., p. 33, 1. 14, sqq. — (Translator.) 

^ For the so-called virtues, that require reasoning and demon- 
stration, ought to be called sciences. By the term " virtue " 
we mean rather a certain moral and excellent disposition of 
the sovTs unreasoning part. This disposition determines the 
character which we show, and in accordance with which we 
are called generous, just, or temperate. 



240 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

with the venerable authorities above quoted, when 
he says : Serait-il vrai, que pour etre bon tout a 
fait, il nous le faille itre par occulte, naturelle et 
universelle proprietc, sans loi, sans raison, sans 
exemple?^ — (Liv. II., chap. 11.) Lichtenberg hits 
the mark exactly in his Vermischte Schriften, (v. 
Moralische Bermerkungen). He writes : " All virtue 
arising from premeditation is not worth much. 
What is wanted is feeling or habit." Lastly, 
it should be noted that Christianity itself, in its 
original teaching, recognises, and bears witness to 
this inherent, immutable difference between character 
and character. In the Sermon on the Mount we 
find the allegory of the fruit which is determined 
by the nature of the tree that bears it (^Luke 
vi. 43, 44 ; cf. Matthew vii. 16-18) ; and then in 
the following verse (Luke vi. 45), we read : 6 aya66<i 
dvOpcoTTO^ CK Tov ayudov drjaavpov t?}? KapBia^ avrov 
nrpo^epet to wyaOov koX 6 'iTov'qpo<i di>6p(07ro<; e/c tov 
TTOvrjpoi) 6r)aavpov rrj<i Kaphiaf; aviov Trpocpepei Toirovr^pov^ 
(Of. Matthew xii. 35.) 

But it was Kant who first completely cleared up 
this important point through his profound doctrine 
of the empirical and intelligible ^ character. He 

' Are we to believe it true that we can only be thoroughly 
good by virtue of a certain occult, natural, and universal 
faculty, without law, without reason, without precedent? 

^ The good man out of the good treasure of his heart 
bringeth forth that which is good ; and the evil man out of 
the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is 
evil. 

' V. Note on "intelligible," Part. XL, Chapter L— 
{Translator.) 



ON THE ETHICAL DIFFERENCE OF CHARACTER. 241 

showed that the empirical character, which manifests 
itself in time and in multiplicity of action, is a 
phaenomenon ; while the reality behind it is the 
intelligible character, which, being the essential 
constitution of the Thing in itself underlying the 
phaenomenon, is independent of time, space, plurality, 
and change. In this way alone can be explained what 
is so astonishing, and yet so well known to all who 
have learnt life's lessons, — the fixed nnchangeable- 
ness of human character. There are certain ethical 
writers, whose aim is the moral improvement of men, 
and who talk of progress made in the path of virtue ; 
but their assurances are always met and victoriously 
confuted by the irrefragable facts of experience, which 
prove that virtue is nature's work and cannot be 
inculcated. The character is an original datum, 
immutable, and incapable of any amelioration through 
correction by the intellect. " Now, were this not so ; 
and further : if (as the above-mentioned dull-headed 
preachers maintain) an improvement of the character, 
and hence " a constant advance towards the good " 
were possible by means of moral instruction ; then, 
unless we are prepared to suppose that all the various 
religious institutions, and all the efforts of the 
moralists fail in their purpose, we should certainly 
expect to find that the older half of mankind, at least 
on an average, is distinctly better than the younger. 
This, however, is so far from being the case, that it 
is not to the old, who have, as we see, grown worse 
by experience, but to the young that we look for 
something good. It may happen that in his old age 
one man appears somewhat better, another worse, 

16 



242 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

than he was in his youth. But the reason is not 
far to seek. It is simply because with length of days 
the intelligence by constant correction becomes riper, 
and hence the character stands out in purer and 
clearer shape ; while early life is a prey to ignorance, 
mistakes, and chimeras, which now present false 
motives, and now veil the real. For a fuller explana- 
tion I would refer the reader to the principles laid 
down in Chapter III. of the preceding Essay, on " The 
Freedom of the Will." ^ It is true that among convicts 
the young have a large majority ; but this is because, 
when a tendency to crime exists in the character, it 
soon finds a way of expressing itself in acts, and of 
reaching its goal — the galleys, or the gibbet ; while 
he, whom all the inducements to wrong doing, which 
a long life offers, have failed to lead astray, is not 
likely to fall at the eleventh hour. Hence the 
respect paid to age is, in my opinion, due to the 
fact that the old are considered to have passed 
through a test of sixty or seventy years, and kept 
their integrity unsullied ; for this of course is the 
sine qua non of the honour accorded them. These 
things are too well known for any one, in real life, 
to be misled by the promises of the moralists we 
have spoken of. He who has once been proved guilty 
of evil-doing, is never again trusted, just as the noble 
nature, of which a man has once given evidence, 
is always confidently believed in, whatever else may 

* Die Freiheit des Willens and the present treatise were 
published by Schopenhauer together, under the title of Die 
Beiden Grundprohleme der Ethik. V. Introduction, p. xv., 
note. — {TroMslator.) 



ON THE ETHICAL DIFFERENCE OF CHARACTER. 243 

have changed. Operari sequitur esse (what one 
does follows from what one is) forms, as we have 
seen in Part II., Chapter YIII., a pregnant tenet 
of the Schoolmen. Everything in the world works 
according to the unchangeable constitution of which 
its being, its essentia is composed. And man is no 
exception. As the individual is, so will he, so must 
he, act : and the liberum arhitrium indifferentiae 
(free and indifferent choice) is an invention of 
philosophy in her childhood, long since exploded ; 
although there are some old women, in doctor's 
academicals, who still like to drag it about with them. 
The three fundamental springs of human action — 
Egoism, Malice, Compassion — are inherent in every 
one in different and strangely unequal proportions. 
Their combination in any given case determines the 
weight of the motives that present themselves, and 
shapes the resulting line of conduct. To an egoistic 
character egoistic motives alone appeal, and those, 
which suggest either compassion or malice, have no 
appreciable effect. Thus, a man of this type will 
sacrifice his interests as little to take vengeance on 
his foes, as to help his friends. Another, whose 
nature is highly susceptible to malicious motives, 
will not shrink from doing great harm to himself, so 
only he may injure his neighbour. For there are char- 
acters which take such delight in working mischief 
on others, that they forget their own loss, which is 
perhaps, equal to what they inflict. One may say of 
such : Dum alteri noceat sui negligens ^ (disregarding 
himself so long as he injures the other). These are 
* Seneca, De Ira, I. 1. 



244 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

the people that plunge with passionate joy into the 
battle in which they expect to receive quite as many 
wounds as they deal ; indeed, experience not seldom 
testifies that they are ready deliberately, first to 
kill the man who thwarts their purposes, and then 
themselves, in order to escape the penalty of the law. 
On the other hand, goodness of heart consists of a 
deeply felt, all-embracing Compassion for everything 
that has breath, and especially for man ; because, in 
proportion as the intelligence develops, capacity for 
pain increases ; and hence, the countless sufferings 
of human beings, in mind and body, have a much 
stronger claim to Compassion than those of animals, 
which are only physical, and in any case less acute. 
This goodness of heart, therefore, in the first place 
restrains a man from doing any sort of harm to 
others, and, next, it bids him give succour whenever 
and wherever he sees distress. And the path of 
Compassion may lead as far in one direction as Malice 
does in the other. Certain rare characters of fine 
sensibility take to heart the calamities of others more 
than their own, so that they make sacrifices, which, 
it may be, entail on themselves a greater amount of 
sufiering than that removed from those they benefit. 
Nay, in cases where several, or, perhaps, a large 
number of persons, at one time, can be helped in this 
way, such men do not, if need be, flinch from absolute 
self-effacement. Arnold von Winkelried was one 
of these. So was Paulinus, Bishop of Nola, in the 
fifth century, when the Vandals crossed over from 
Africa and invaded Italy. Of him we read in Johann 
von Miiller's Weltgeschichte (Bk. X., chap. 10) 



ON THE ETHICAL DIFFERENCE OF CHARACTER. 245 

that " in order to ransom some of the prisoners, 
he had already disposed of all the church plate, 
his own and his friends' private property. Then, on 
seeing the anguish of a widow, whose only son 
was being carried off, he offered himself for servitude 
in the other's stead. For whoever was of suitable 
age, and had not fallen by the sword, was taken 
captive to Carthage." 

There is, then, an enormous difference between 
character and character. Being original and innate, 
it measures the responsiveness of the individual to 
this or that motive, and those alone, to which he 
is specially sensitive, will appeal to him with any- 
thing like compelling force. As in chemistry, with 
unchangeable certainty, one substance reacts only 
upon acids., another only upon alkalies, so, with equal 
invariablenes^, different natures respond to different 
stimuli. The motives suggesting loving-kindness, 
which stir so deeply a good disposition, can, of them- 
selves, effect nothing in a heart that listens only to 
the promptings of Egoism. If it be wished to induce 
the egoist to act with beneficence and humanity, this 
can be done but in one way : he must be made 
to believe that the assuaging of others' suffering 
will, somehow or other, surely turn out to his own 
advantage. What, indeed, are most moral systems 
but attempts of different kinds in this direction ? 
But such procedure only misleads, does not better, 
the will. To make a real improvement, it would 
be necessary to transform the entire nature of the 
individual's susceptibility for motives. Thus, from 
one we should have to remove his indifference to the 



246 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

suffering of others as such ; from another, the delight 
which he feels in causing pain ; from a third, the 
natural tendency which makes him regard the smallest 
increase of his own well-being as so far outweighing 
all other motives, that the latter become as dust in 
the balance. Only it is far easier to change lead into 
gold than to accomplish such a task. For it means 
the turning round, so to say, of a man's heart in his 
body, the remoulding of his very being. In point 
of fact, all that can be done is to clear the intellect, 
correct the judgment, and so bring him to a better 
comprehension of the objective realities and actual 
relations of life. This effected, the only result gained 
is that his will reveals itself more logically, distinctly, 
and decidedly, with no false ring in its utterance. 
It should be noted that just as many a good act rests 
at bottom on false motives, on well-meant, yet illusory 
representations of an advantage to be obtained thereby 
in this, or another, world ; so not a few misdeeds are 
due solely to an imperfect understanding of the con- 
ditions of human life. It is on this latter truth that 
the American penitentiary system is based. Here 
the aim is not, to improve the heart, but simply, 
to educate the head of the criminal, so that he may 
intellectually come to perceive that prosperity is more 
surely, indeed more easily, reached by work and 
honesty than by idleness and knavery. 

By the proper presentment of motives legality may 
be secured, but not morality. It is possible to remodel 
what one does, but not what one wills to do ; and 
it is to the will alone that real moral worth belongs. 
It is not possible to change the goal which the will 



ON THE ETHICAL DIFFERENCE OF CHARACTER. 247 

strives after, but only the path expected to lead 
thither. Instruction may alter the selection of means, 
but not the choice of the ultimate object which the 
individual keeps before him in all he does ; tliis is 
determined by his will in accordance with its original 
nature. It is true that the egoist may be brought 
to understand that, if he gives up certain small 
advantages, he will gain greater ; and the malicious 
man may be taught that by injuring others he will 
injure himself still more. But Egoism itself, and 
Malice itself, will never be argued out of a person ; 
as little as a cat can be talked out of her inclination 
for mice. Similarly with goodness of heart. If the 
judgment be trained, if the relations and conditions 
of life become understood, in a word, if the intellect 
be enlightened ; the character dominated by loving- 
kindness will be led to express itself more consistently 
and completely than it otherwise could. This happens 
when we perceive the remoter consequences which 
our conduct has for others : the sufferings, perhaps, 
that overtake them indirectly, and only after lapse 
of time, through one act or another of ours, which 
we had no idea was so harmful. It occurs, too, when 
we come to discern the evil results of many a well- 
meant action, as, for instance, the screening of a 
criminal ; and it is especially true when we realise 
that the Neminem laede (injure no one) has in all 
cases precedence over the Omnes juva (help all men). 
In this sense there is undoubtedly such a thing as 
a moral education, an ethical training capable of 
making men better. But it goes only as far as I 
have indicated, and its limits are quickly discovered. 



248 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

The head is filled with the light of knowledge ; the 
heart remains unimproved. The fundamental and 
determining element, in things moral, no less than 
in things intellectual, and things physical, is that 
which is inborn. Art is always subordinate, and can 
only lend a helping hand. Each man is, what he 
is, as it were, " by the grace of God," jure divino, 
Oela fioipa (by divine dispensation). 

Du hist am Unde—WAS du bist. 

Setz' dir Perriicken auf von Millionen LocJcen, 

Setz' deinen Fuss auf ellenhohe Socken : 

Du BLEIBST DOCH IMMER WAS DU BIST} 

But the reader, I am sure, has long been wishing to 
put the question : Where, then, does blame and merit 
come in ? The answer is fully contained in Part II., 
(Chapter VIII., to which I therefore beg to call 
particular attention. It is there tliat the explanation, 
which otherwise would now follow, found a natural 
place ; because the matter is closely connected with 
Kant's doctrine of the co-existence of Freedom and 
Necessity. Our investigation led to the conclusion 
that, once the motives are brought into play, the 
Operari (what is done) is a thing of absolute 
necessity ; consequently, Freedom, the existence of 
which is betokened solely by the sense of responsi- 
bility, cannot but belong to the Esse (what one is). 
No doubt the reproaches of conscience have to do, 

' In spite of all, thou art still — wliat thou art. 
Though "wigs with countless curls thy head-gear be, 
Though shoes an ell in height adorn thy feet : 
JJndiancfd thou eer remainest what thou art. 

V. Goethe's Faust, Part I., Studirzimmer. — (Translator.) 



ON THE ETHICAL DIFFERENCE OF CHARACTER. 249 

in the first place, and ostensibly, with our acts, but 
through these they, in reality, reach down to what 
we are ; for what we do is the only indisputable 
index of what we are, and reflects our character just 
as faithfully as symptoms betray the malady. Hence 
it is to this Esse, to what we are, that blame and 
merit must ultimately be attributed. Whatever we 
esteem and love, or else despise and hate, in others, 
is not a changeable, transient appearance, but some- 
thing constant, stable, and persistent ; it is that 
which they are. If we find reason to alter our first 
opinion about any one, we do not suppose that he 
is changed, but that we have been mistaken in him. 
In like manner, when we are pleased or displeased 
with our own conduct, we say that we are satisfied 
or dissatisfied with ourselves, meaning, in reality, 
with that which we are, and are unalterably, irre- 
versibly ; and the same is true with regard to our 
intellectual qualities, nay, it even applies to the 
physiognomy. How is it possible, then, for blame 
and merit to lie otherwise than in what we are ? As 
we saw in Part II., Chapter VII., Conscience is that 
register of our acts, which is always growing longer, 
and therefore that acquaintance with ourselves which 
every day becomes more complete. Conscience con- 
cerns itself directly with all that we do ; when, at 
one time, actuated by Egoism, or perhaps Malice, 
we turn a deaf ear to Compassion, which bids us at 
least refrain from harming others, if we will not 
afford them help and protection ; or when again, at 
another time, we overcome the first two incentives, 
and listen to the voice of the third. Both cases 



250 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

measure the distinction we draw between ourselves 
and others. And on this distinction depends in tlie 
last resort the degree of our morality or immorality, 
that is, of our justice and loving-kindness, or the 
reverse. Little by little the number of those 
actions, whose testimony is significant on this point, 
accumulates in the storehouse of our memory ; and 
thus the lineaments of our character are depicted 
with ever greater clearness, and a true knowledge of 
ourselves is nearer attainment. And out of such 
knowledge there springs a sense of satisfaction, or 
dissatisfaction with ourselves, with that which we 
are, according as we have been ruled by Egoism, 
by Malice, or else by Compassion ; in other words, 
according as the difference we have made between 
ourselves and others is greater or smaller. And 
when we look outside ourselves, it is by the same 
standard that we judge those about us ; and we be- 
come acquainted with their character — less perfectly 
indeed — yet by the same empirical method as we 
employ with reference to our own. In this case our 
feelings take the form of praise, approval, respect, or, 
on the other hand, of reproach, displeasure, contempt, 
and they are the objective translation, so to say, 
of the subjective satisfaction or dissatisfaction (the 
latter deepening perhaps into remorse), which arises 
in us when we sit in judgment on ourselves. Lastly, 
there is the evidence of language. We find certain 
constantly occurring forms of speech which bear 
eloquent testimony to the fact that the blame we 
cast upon others is in reality directed against their 
unchangeable character, touching but superficially 



ON THE ETHICAL DIFFERENCE OF CHARACTER. 251 

what tliey do ; that virtue and vice are practically, 
if tacitly, regarded as inherent unalterable qualities. 
The following are some of these expressions : Jetzt 
sehe ich, wie du bist ! (Now I know your nature !) 
In dir habe ich mich geirrt. (I was mistaken 
in you.) " Now I see what you are ! " Voild 
donCj comme tu es ! (This, then, is what you are 1) 
So bin ich nicht ! (I am not a person of that 
sort !) Ich bin nicht der Mann, der fdhig ware, 
Sie zu hintergehen. (I am not the man to impose 
upon you.) Also : les Ames bien n^es (persons' well- 
born, i.e., noble-minded), the Spanish bien nacido ; 
€vy€VTJ<; (properly " well-born "), evyiveca (properly 
" nobility of birth ") used for " virtuous " and 
" virtue " ; generosioris animi amicus (a friend of 
lofty mind. Generosus : lit. " of noble birth "), etc. 

Reason is a necessary condition for conscience, 
but only because without the former a clear and 
connected recollection is impossible. From its very 
nature conscience does not speak till after the act ; 
hence we talk of being arraigned before its bar. 
Strictly speaking, it is improper to say that con- 
science speaks beforehand ; for it can only do so 
indirectly ; that is, when the remembrance of par- 
ticular cases in the past leads us, through reflection, 
to disapprove of some analogous course of action, 
while yet in embryo. 

Such is the ethical fact as delivered by conscious- 
ness. It forms of itself a metaphysical problem, 
which does not directly belong to the present question, 
but which will be touched on in the last part. 

Conscience, then, is nothing else than the acquaint- 



252 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

ance we make with our own changeless character 
through the instrumentality of our acts. A little 
consideration will show that this definition har- 
monises perfectly with, and hence receives additional 
confirmation from, what I have here specially em- 
phasised : namely, the fact that susceptibility for the 
motives of Egoism, of Malice, and of Compassion, 
which is so widely dissimilar in different individuals, 
and on which the whole moral value of a man 
depends, cannot be interpreted by anything else, 
nor be gained, or removed, by instruction, as if it 
were something born in time, and therefore variable, 
and subject to chance. On the contrary, we have 
seen that it is innate and fixed, an ultimate datum, 
admitting of no farther explanation. Thus an entire 
life, with the whole of its manifold activity, may 
be likened to a clock-dial, that marks every move- 
ment of the internal works, as they were made once 
for all ; or it resembles a mirror, wherein alone, 
with the eye of his intellect, each person sees re- 
flected the . essential nature of his own Will, that 
is, the core of his being. 

Whoever takes the trouble to thoroughly think 
out what has been put forward here, and in Part. II., 
Chapter VIII., will discover in the foundation given by 
me to Ethics a logical consecution, a rounded com- 
pleteness, wanting to all other theories ; to say 
nothing of the consonance of my view with the facts 
of experience, — a consonance which he will look for 
in vain elsewhere. For only the truth can uniformly 
and consistently agree with itself and with nature ; 
while all false principles are internally at variance with 



ON THE ETHICAL DHfFERENCE OF CHARACTER. 253 

themselves, and externally contradict the testimony 
of experience, which at every step records its silent 
protest. 

I am perfectly aware that the truths advanced 
in this Essay, and particularly here at the close, 
strike directly at many deeply rooted prejudices and 
mistakes, and especially at those attaching to a certain 
rudimentary system of morals, now much in vogqe, 
and suitable for elementary schools. But I cannot 
own to feeling any penitence or regret. For, in the 
first place, I am addressing neither children, nor the 
profanum vulgus, but an Academy of light and 
learning. Their inquiry is a purely theoretical one, 
concerned with the ultimate fundamental verities 
of Ethics ; and to a most serious question a serious 
answer is undoubtedly expected. And secondly, in 
my opinion, there can be no such thing as harmless 
mistakes, still less privileged or useful ones. On 
the contrary, every error works infinitely more evil 
than good. If, however, it is wished to make existing 
prepossessions the standard of truth, or the boundary 
beyond which its investigation is not to go, then 
it would be more honest to abolish philosophical 
Faculties and Academies altogether. For where no 
reality exists, there also no semblance of it should be. 



part IV. 

ON THE METAPHYSICAL EXPLANA- 
TION OE THE PEIMAL ETHICAL 
PHAENOMENON. 



CHAPTER I. 

HOW THIS APPENDIX MUST BE UNDERSTOOD. 

In the foregoing pages the moral incentive (Com- 
passion) has been established as a fact, and I have 
shown that from it alone can proceed unselfish justice 
and genuine loving-kindness, and that on these two 
cardinal v-irtnes all the rest depend. Now, for the 
purpose of supplying Ethics with a foundation, this 
is sufficient, in a certain sense ; that is, in so far 
as Moral Science necessarily requires to be supported 
by some actual and demonstrable basis, whether 
existing in the external world, or in the consciousness. 
The only alternative is to tread in the footsteps that 
so many of my predecessors have left, in other words, 
to choose arbitrarily some proposition or other, — some 
bare and abstract formula — and make it the source 
of all that morality prescribes ; or, like Kant, to 
sublimate a mere idea, that of law, into the key-stone 
of the ethical arch. But, dismissing this method 
for the reasons discussed above, in the Second Part, 
the investigation proposed by the Royal Society 
appears to me now completed. For their question, 
as it stands, deals only with the foundation of Ethics ; 
as to a possible metaphysical explanation of this 
foundation nothing whatever is asked. Nevertheless, 

257 17 



258 THE BASIS OF MORALITY, 

at the point we have reached, I am very sensible 
that the human spirit can find no abiding satisfaction, 
no real repose. As in all branches of practical 
research, so also in Ethical Science, when all is 
said, man is inevitably confronted with an ultimate 
phaenomenon, which while it renders an account of 
everything that it includes, and everything deduc- 
ible from it, remains itself an unexplained riddle. 
So that here, as elsewhere, the want is felt of a 
final interpretation (which, obviously, cannot but be 
metaphysical) of the ultimate data, as such, and 
through these, — if they be taken in their entirety — 
of the world. And here, too, this want finds utterance 
in the question : How is it that, what is present to 
our senses, and grasped by our intellect, is as it is, 
and not otherwise ? And how does the character 
of the phaenomenon, as manifest to us, shape itself 
out of the essential nature of things ? Indeed, in 
Moral Science the need of a metaphysical basis is 
more urgent than in any other, because all systems, 
philosophical no less than religious, are at one in 
persistently attaching to conduct not only an ethical, 
but also a metaphysical significance, which, passing 
beyond the mere appearance of things, transcends 
every possibility of experience, and therefore stands 
in the closest connection with human destiny and 
with the whole cosmic process. For if life (it is 
averred) have a meaning, then the supreme goal 
to which it points is undoubtedly ethical. Nor is 
this view a bare unsupported theory ; it is sufficiently 
established by the undeniable fact that, as death 
draws nigh, the thoughts of each individual assume 



HOW THIS APPENDIX MUST BE UNDERSTOOD. 259 

a moral trend, equally whether he be credulous of 
religions dogmas, or not ; he is manifestly anxious 
to wind up the affairs of his life, now verging to 
its end, entirely from the moral standpoint. In 
this particular the testimony of the ancients is of 
special value, standing, as they do, outside the pale 
of Christian influence. I shall therefore here quote 
a remarkable passage preserved by Stobaeus, in his 
Florilegium (chap. 44, §. 20). It has been attri- 
buted to the earliest Hellenic lawgiver, Zaleucus, 
though, according to Bentley and Heyne, its source 
is Pythagorean. The language is graphic and un- 
mistakable. Ael Ttdeadat irpo ofx/jbaTcov rov Kaipov 
TovTov, iv (p 'yl'yveraL ro re\o<i eKacrTw r^? aTraXXaT^? 
Tov t,y)v. Ildai yap ifnrLTTTei fierafxeXeia Tot<i /MeXXovcrt 
reXevrdv, fji€p.P7]/Jbeuoi<i oiv rjhLKrjKacn, koX opfjurj rov 
^ov\e<j6ai trdvra 'rreirpdyOai SiKalox; avTol<i} 

Furthermore, to come to an historical personage, 
we find Pericles, on his death-bed, unwilling to 
hear anything about his great achievements, and 
only anxious to know that he had never brought 
trouble on a citizen. (Plutarch, Life of Pericles.) 
Turning to modern times, if a very different case 
may be placed beside the preceding, I remember 
having noticed in a report of depositions made 

' We ought to realise as if before our eyes that moment 
of time when the end comes to each one for deliverance from 
living. Because all who are about to die are seized with 
repentance, remembering, as they do, their unjust deeds, and 
being filled with the wish that they had always acted justly. — 
'AiraXXayi] = EHlisung. V. Joannes Stobeaus, Florilegium, 
edit. Meineke ; publ. Lipsiae : Teubner, 1855. Vol. ii., p. 
164, 1. 7 sqq. — {Translator.) 



260 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

before an English jury the following occurrence. A 
rongh negro lad, fifteen years old, had been mortally 
injured in some brawl on board a ship. As he was 
dying, he eagerly begged that all his companions 
might be fetched in haste : he wanted to ask if he 
had ever vexed or insulted any one of them, and 
after hearing that he had not, his mind appeared 
greatly relieved. It is indeed the uniform teaching 
of experience that those near death wish to be 
reconciled with every one before they pass away. 

But there is evidence of another kind that Ethics 
can only be finally explained by Metaphysics. It is 
well known that, while the author of an intellectual 
performance, — even should it be a supreme master- 
piece — is quite willing to take whatever remuneration 
he can get, those, on the other hand, who have done 
something morally excellent, almost without exception, 
refuse compensation for it. The latter fact is specially 
observable where conduct rises to the heroic. For 
instance, when a man at the risk of his life has 
saved another, or perhaps many, from destruction, as 
a rule, he simply declines all reward, poor though 
he may be ; because he instinctively feels that the 
metaphysical value of his act would be thereby 
impaired. At the end of Biirger's song, " The Brave 
Man," we find a poetical presentment of this psycho- 
logical process. Nor does the reality, for the most 
part, diifer at all from the ideal, as I have frequently 
noticed in English papers. Conduct of this kind 
occurs in every part of the world, and independently 
of all religious difierences. In human beings there is 
an undeniable ethical tendency, rooted (however uncon- 



HOW THIS APPENDIX MUST BE UNDERSTOOD. 261 

sciously) in Metaphysics, and without an explanation 
of life on these lines, no religion could gain standing- 
ground ; for it is by virtue of their ethical side that 
they all alike keep their hold on the mind. Every 
religion makes its body of dogmas the basis of the 
moral incentive which each man feels, but which he 
does not, on that account, understand ; and it unites 
the two so closely, that they appear to be inseparable. 
Indeed the priests take special pains to proclaim 
unbelief and immorality as one and the same thing. 
The reason is thus apparent, why believers regard 
unbelievers as ideutical with the vicious, and why ex- 
pressions such as "godless," "atheistic," "unchristian," 
" heretic," etc., are used as synonymes for moral 
depravity. The religions have, in fact, a sufficiently 
easy task. Faith is the principle they start from. 
Hence they are in a position to simply insist on 
its application to their dogmas, and this, even to 
the point of employing threats. But philosophy 
has no such convenient instrument ready to hand. If 
the different systems be examined, it will be found 
that the situation is beset with difficulties, both as 
regards the foundation to be provided for Ethics, and 
in relation to the point of connection discoverable in 
any such foundation with the given metaphysical theory. 
And yet, — as I have emphasised in the introduction, 
with an appeal to the authority of Wolff and Kant — 
we are under the stringent necessity of obtaining 
from Metaphysics a support for Moral Science. 

Now, of all the problems that the human intellect 
has to grapple with, that of Metaphysics is by far 
the hardest ; so much so that it is regarded by many 



262 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

thinkers as absolutely insoluble. Apart from this, 
in the present case, I labour under the special dis- 
advantage which the form of a detached monograph 
involves. In other words, I am not at liberty to start 
from some definite metaphysical system, of which I 
may be an adherent ; because, if I did, either it would 
have to be expounded in detail, which would take 
too much space ; or else there would be the necessity 
of supposing it granted and unquestioned, — an exceed- 
ingly precarious proceeding. The consequence is that 
I am as little able to use the synthetic method here 
as in the foregoing Part. Analysis alone is possible : 
that is, I must work backwards from the effects 
to their cause, and not vice versa. This stern obliga- 
tion, however, of having at the outset no previous 
hypothesis, no standpoint other than the commonly 
accepted one, made the discovery of the ethical basis 
so laborious that, as I look back upon the task, I 
seem to have accomplished some wondrous feat of 
dexterity, not unlike that of a man who executes with 
subtlest skill in mid air what otherwise is only done 
on a solid support. But now that we have come to 
the question whether there can be given a metaphysical 
explanation of the foundation obtained, the difficulty 
of proceeding without any assumption becomes so 
enormous, that but one course appears to me open, 
namely, to attempt nothing beyond a general sketch 
of the subject. I shall, therefore, indicate rather 
than elaborate the line of thought : I shall point 
out the way leading to the goal, but not follow it 
thither ; in short, I shall present but a very small 
part of what, under other circumstances, could be 



HOW THIS APPENDIX MUST BE UNDERSTOOD. 263 

adduced. In adopting this attitude for the reasons 
stated, 1 wish, before beginning, to emphatically 
remark, that in any case the actual problem put for- 
ward has now been solved ; consequently, that what 
I here add is an opus supererogationis, an appendix 
to be given and taken entirely at will. 



CHAPTER IL' 

THE METAPHYSICAL GROUNDWORK. 

So far all our steps have been supported by the firm 
rock of experience. But at this point it fails us, and 
the solid earth sinks from under our feet, as we 
press forward in our search after a final theoretical 
satisfaction, there, where no experience can ever by 
any possibility penetrate ; and happy shall we be, 
if perchance we gain one hint, one transient gleam, 
that may bring us a certain measure of content. 
What, however, shall not desert us is the honesty 
that has hitherto attended onr procedure. We sball 
not make shift with dreams, and serve up fairy tales, 
after the fashion of the so-called post-Kantian 
philosophers ; nor shall we, like them, seek, by a 
wordy exuberance, to impose upon the reader, and 
cast dust in his eyes. A little is all we promise ; 
but that little will be presented in perfect sincerity. 

The principle, which we discovered to be the final 
explanation of Ethics, now in turn itself requires 
explaining ; so that our present problem has to deal 
with that natural Compassion, which in every man 
is innate and indestructible, and which has been 
shown to be the sole source of non-egoistic conduct, 
this kind alone being of real moral worth. Now 

264 



THE METAPHYSICAL GROUNDWORK. 265 

many modern thinkers treat the conceptions of Good 
and Bad as simple, that is, as neither needing, nor 
admitting any elucidation, and then they go on, for 
the most part, to talk very mysteriously and devoutly 
of an " Idea of the Good," out of which they make 
a pedestal for their moral system, or at least a cloak 
for their poverty.^ Hence I am obliged in this 
connection to point out parenthetically, that these 
conceptions are anything but simple, much less a 
priori ; that they in fact express a relation, and are 
derived from the commonest daily experience. What- 
ever is in conformity with the desires of any individual 
will, is, relatively to it, termed good ; for instance, 
good food, good roads, a good omen ; the contrary is 
called bad, and, in the case of living beings, malicious. 
And so one, who by virtue of his character, has no 
wish to oppose what others strive after, but rather, 
as far as he reasonably may, shows himself favourable 
and helpful to them ; one, who, instead of injuring, 
assists his neighbours, and promotes their interests, 
when he can ; is named by the latter, in respect to 
themselves, a good man ; the term good being applied 
to him in the sense of the above definition, and from 
•their own point of view, which is thus relative, 

* The conception of the Good^ in its purity, is an vltimate 
one, " an absolute Idea, whose substance loses itseK in 
infinity." — (Bouterweck : Praktische Ajihorismen, p. 54.) 

It is obvious that this writer Avould hke to transform the 
familiar, nay, trivial conception " Good " into a sort of AtiVtrj;?, 
to be set up as an idol in his temple. [AtiVerrfs- lit., *' fallen 
from Zeus " ; and so " heaven-sent," " a thing of divine origin." 
Cf. Hom., II. XVI., 174 ; Od. IV. 477. Eur., Bacch., 1268.— 
{Translator.y] 



266 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

empirical, and centred in the passive subject. Now, 
if we examine the nature of such a man, not only 
as it affects others, but as it is in itself, we are 
enabled by the foregoing exposition to perceive that 
the virtues of justice and loving-kindness, which he 
practises, are due to a direct participation in weal 
and woe external to himself ; and we have learnt 
that the source of such participation is Compassion. 
If, further, we pause to consider what is the essential 
part in this type of character, we shall certainly find 
it to lie in the fact that such a person draws less dis- 
tinction between himself and others than is usually done. 
In the eyes of the malicious individual this 
difference is so great that he takes direct delight 
in the spectacle of suffering, — a delight, which he 
accordingly seeks without thought of any other benefit 
to himself, nay, sometimes, even to his own hurt. 
From the egoist's point of view the same difference is 
still large enough to make him bring much trouble on 
his neighbours, in order to obtain a small personal 
advantage. Hence for both of these, between the 
ego, which is limited to their own persons, and the 
non-ego, which includes all the rest of the world, 
there is fixed a great gulf, a mighty abyss : Pereat 
mundus, dum ego salvus sim (the world may perish, 
provided I be safe), is their maxim. For the good 
man, on the contrary, this distinction is by no means 
so pronounced ; indeed, in the case of magnanimous 
deeds, it appears to become a vanishing quantity, be- 
cause then the weal of another is advanced at the cost 
of the benefactor, the self of another placed on an 
equality with his own. And when it is a question of 



THE METAPHYSICAL GROUNDWORK. 267 

saving a number of fellow-beings, total self-obliteration 
may be developed, the one giving his life for many. 

The inquiry now presents itself, whether the latter 
way of looking at the relation subsisting between 
the ego and the non-ego, which forms the mainspring 
of a good man's conduct, is mistaken and due to an 
illusion ; or whether the error does not rather attach 
to the opposite view, on which Egoism and Malice 
are based. 

No doubt the theory lying at the root of Egoism 
is, from the empirical standpoint, perfectly justified. 
From the testimony of experience, the distinction 
between one's own person and that of another appears 
to be absolute. I do not occupy the same space as 
my neighbour, and this difference, which separates 
me from him physically, separates me also from his 
weal and woe. But in the first place, it should be 
observed that the knowledge we have of our own 
selves is by no means exhaustive and transparent to 
its depths. By means of the intuition, which the 
brain constructs out of the data supplied by the 
senses, that is to say, in an indirect manner, we 
recognise our body as an object in space ; through 
an inward perception, we are aware of the continuous 
series of our desires, of our volitions, which arise 
through the agency of external motives ; and finally, 
we come to discern the manifold movements, now 
stronger, now weaker, of our will itself, to which 
all feelings from within are ultimately traceable. 
And that is all : for the perceiving faculty is not in 
its turn perceived. On the contrary, the real sub- 
stratum of our whole phaenomenal nature, our inmost 



268 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

essence in itself, that which wills and perceives, is 
not accessible to us. We see only the outward side 
of the ego ; its inward part is veiled in darkness. 
Consequently, the knowledge we possess of ourselves 
is in no sort radical and complete, but rather very 
superficial. The larger and more important part of 
our being remains unknown, and forms a riddle to 
speculate about ; or, as Kant puts it : " The ego 
knows itself only as a phaenomenon ; of its real 
essence, whatever that may be, it has no knowledge." 
Now, as regards that side of the self which falls 
within our ken, we are, undoubtedly, sharply dis- 
tinguished, each from the other ; but it does not 
follow therefrom that the same is trne of the re- 
mainder, which, shrouded in impenetrable obscurity, 
is yet, in fact, the very substance of which we consist. 
There remains at least the possibility that the latter 
is in all men uniform and identical. 

What is the explanation of all plurality, of all 
numerical diversity of existence ? Time and Space. 
Indeed it is only through the latter that the former 
is possible : because the concept " many " inevitably 
connotes the idea either of succession (time), or of 
relative position (space). Now, since a homogeneous 
plurality is composed of Individuals, I call Space and 
Time, as being the conditions of multiplicity, the 
principium individuationis (the principle of individua- 
tion) ; and I do not here pause to consider whether this 
expression was exactly so employed by the Schoolmen. 

If in the disclosures which Kant's wonderful 
acumen gave to the world there is anything true 
beyond the shadow of a doubt, this is to be found 



THE METAPHYSICAL GROUNDWORK. 269 

in the Transcendental Aesthetics, that is to say, 
in his doctrine of the ideality of Space and Time. 
On snch solid foundations is the stractnre built that 
no one has been able to raise even an apparent 
objection. It is Kant's triumph, and belongs to 
the very small number of metaphysical theories which 
may be regarded as really proved, and as actual 
conquests in that field of research. It teaches us 
that Space and Time are the forms of our own 
faculty of intuition, to which they consequently 
belong, and not to the objects thereby perceived ; 
and further, that they can in no way be a condition 
of things in themselves, but rather attach only to 
their mode of appearing, such as is alone possible 
for us who have a consciousness of the external 
world determined by strictly physiological limits. 
Now, if to the Thing in itself, that is, to the Reality 
underlying the kosmos, as we perceive it. Time and 
Space are foreign ; so also must multiplicity be. 
Consequently that which is objectivated in the count- 
less phaenomena of this world of the senses cannot 
but be a unity, a single indivisible entity, manifested 
in each and all of them. And conversely, the web 
of plurality, woven in the loom of Time and Space, 
is not the Thing in itself, but only its appearance- 
form. Externally to the thinking subject, this appear- 
ance-form, as such, has no existence ; it is merely 
an attribute of our consciousness, bounded, as the 
latter is, by manifold conditions, indeed, depending 
on an organic function. 

The view of things as above stated, — that all 
plurality is only apparent, that in the endless series 



270 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

of individuals, passing simultaneously and successively 
into and out of life, generation after generation, 
age after age, there is but one and the same entity 
really existing, which is present and identical in all 
alike ; — this theory, I say, was of course known 
long before Kant ; indeed, it may be carried back 
to the remotest antiquity. It is the alpha and 
omega of the oldest book in the world, the sacred 
Vedas, whose dogmatic part, or ratlier esoteric 
teaching, is found in the Upanishads.^ There, in 
almost every page this profound doctrine lies 

' The genineness of the Oupnek'hat has been disputed on 
the ground of certain marginal glosses which were added by 
Mohammedan copyists, and then interpolated in the text. 
It has, however, been fully established by the Sanskrit scholar, 
F. H. H. Windischmann (junior) in his Sancara, sive de 
TJceologumenis Vedanticorum, 1833, p. xix ; and also by 
Bochinger in his book De la Vie Contemplalive chez les 
Indous, 1831, p. 12. The reader though ignorant of Sanskrit, 
may yet convince himself that Anquctil Duperron's word 
for word Latin translation of the Persian version of the 
Upanishads made by the martyr of this creed, the Sultan 
D&rd-Shukoh, is based on a thorough and exact knowledge 
of the language. He has only to compare it with recent 
translations of some of the Upanishads by Rammohun Koy, 
by Foley, and especially with that of Colebrooke, as also 
with Roer's, (the latest). These writers are obviously 
groping in obscurity, and driven to make shift with hazy 
conjectures, so that without doubt their work is much less 
accurate. More will be found on this subject in Vol. II. of 
the /'arer(7a, chap. 16, § 184. [F. The Upanishads, translated 
by Max Miiller, in The Sacred Books of the East, Vols. I. and 
XV. Cf. also Max Miiller, The Science of Language, Vol. I., 
p. 171, Now that an adequate translation of the original 
exists, the Oupnek'hat has only an historical interest. 
The value which Schopenhauer attached to the Upanishads 
is very clearly expressed also in the Welt als Wille and 



THE METAPHYSICAL GROUNDWORK. 271 

enshrined ; with tireless repetition, in countless 
adaptations, by many varied parables and similes 
it is expounded and inculcated. That such was, more- 
over, the fount whence Pythagoras drew his wisdom, 
cannot be doubted, despite the scanty knowledge we 
possess of what he taught. That it formed practically 
the central point in the whole philosophy of the 
Eleatic School, is likewise a familiar fact. Later 
on, the New Platonists were steeped in the same, 
one of their chief tenets being : Bia ttjv evorrjTa 
airavTcov •jrdaaf} '>^v')(a<i fjLiav elvat. (All souls are 
one, because all things form a unity.) In the ninth 
century we find it unexpectedly appearing in Europe. 
It kindles the spirit of no less a divine than Joliannes 
Scotus Erigena, who endeavours to clothe it witli the 
forms and terminology of the Christian religion. 
Among the Mohammedans we detect it again in the 
rapt mysticism of the Stifi.^ In the West Giordano 
Bruno cannot resist the impulse to utter it aloud ; 
but his reward is a death of shame and torture. 
And at the same time we find the Christian Mystics 
losing themselves in it, against their own will and 

Vorstellung, Preface to the first Edition ; and in the Parerga, 
II., chap, xvi., § \M.— {Translator. )] 

' For the Slifi, more correctly Suf iy a sect which ap- 
peared already in the first century of the Hijrah, the reader is 
referred to : Tholuck's Bliithensammlung aus der Morgen- 
laiuUschen Mystih (Berlin, 1825) ; Tholuck's Sdfisvius, sive 
Theosoj)hia Persarum Pantheistica (Berlin, 1821); Kremer's 
Oeschichte der Hefi^rscheivden Ideen des Isldms (Leipzig, 1868) ; 
Palmer's Onental Mysticism (London, 1867) ; Gobineau's Les 
Religions et les Philosophies dans VAsie Centrale (2nd edit. 
Paris, 1866) ; A Dictionary of Islam, by T. P. Hughes (London, 
1885), p. 608 ^({({.—{Translator.) 



272 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

intention, whenever and wherever we read of them ! ^ 
Spinoza's name is identified with it. Lastly, in onr own 
days, after Kant had annihilated the old dogmatism, 
and the world stood aghast at its smoking ruins, 
the same teaching was revived in Schelling's eclectic 
philosophy. The latter took all the systems of 
Plotinus, Spinoza, Kant, and Jacob Boehm, and 
mixing them together with the results of modern 
Natural Science, speedily served up a dish sufficient 
to satisfy for the moment the pressing needs of his 
contemporaries ; and then proceeded to perform a 
series of variations on the original theme. The con- 
sequence is that in the learned circles of Germany 
this line of thought has come to be generally ac- 
cepted ; indeed even among people of ordinary ednca- 
tion, it is almost universally diffused.^ A solitary 
exception is formed by the University philosophers 
of the present day. They have the hard task of 
fighting what is called Pantheism, Being brought 

' This is too well-known to need verification by references. 
The Gantico del Sole by St. Francis of Assist sounds almost like 
a passage from the Upanishadsor the Bhagavadgit^. 
— (^Translator.) 

^ Onpeut assez long temps, chez notre esp^ce, 
Fermer la porte a la liaison. 

Mais, des qvJelle entre avec adresse, 
Elle reste dans la maison, 

Et hientot elle en est maitresse. 

— (Voltaire.) 

(We men may, doubtless, all our lives 

To Reason bar the door. 
But if to enter she contrives, 

The house she leaves no more, 
And soon as mistress there presides.) 



THE METAPHYSICAL GROUNDWORK. 273 

throngh the stress of battle into great embarrassment 
and difficulty, they anxiously catch now at the most 
pitiful sophisms, now at phrases of choicest bombast, 
so only they may patch together some sort of re- 
spectable disguise, wherein to dress up the favourite 
petticoat Philosophy, that has duly received official 
sanction. In a word, the '^Ev koI ttcLv ^ has been in 
all ages the laughing-stock of fools, for the wise a 
subject of perpetual meditation. Nevertheless, the 
strict demonstration of this theory is only to be 
obtained from the Kantian teaching, as I have just 
shown. Kant himself did not carry it out ; after 
the fashion of clever orators, he only gave the 
premises, leaving to his hearers the pleasure of 
drawing the conclusion. 

Now if plurality and difference belong only to the 
appearance-form; if there is but one and the same 
Entity manifested in all living things : it follows that, 
when we obliterate the distinction between the ego 
and the non-ego, we are not the sport of an illusion. 
Rather are we so, when we maintain the reality of 
individuation, — a thing the Hindus call May&,^ that 
is, a deceptive vision, a phantasma. The former 
theory we have found to be the actual source of the 
phaenomenon of Compassion ; indeed Compassion is 
nothing but its translation into definite expression. 
This, therefore, is what I should regard as the 
metaphysical foundation of Ethics, and should describe 

' To ti/ = the eternal Reality outside Time and Space 
To nap = the phaenomenal universe. — {Translator.) 

*M%^ is "the delusive reflection of the true eternal 
Entity"— (Translator.) 

18 



274 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

it as the sense which identifies the ego with the 
non-ego, so that the individual directly recognises 
in another his own self, his true and very being. 
From this standpoint the profoundest teaching of 
theory pushed to its furthest limits may be shown 
in the end to harmonise perfectly with the rules 
of justice and loving-kindness, as exercised ; and 
conversely, it will be clear that practical philosophers, 
that is, the upright, the beneficent, the magnanimous, 
do but declare through their acts the same truth 
as the man of speculation wins by laborious research, 
by the loftiest flights of intellect. Meanwhile moral 
excellence stands higher than all theoretical sapience. 
The latter is at best nothing but a very unfinished 
and partial structure, and only by the circuitous path 
of reasoning attains the goal which the former reaches 
in one step. He who is morally noble, however 
deficient in mental penetration, reveals by his conduct 
the deepest insight, the truest wisdom ; and puts to 
shame the most accomplished and learned genius, if the 
Mter's acts betray that his heart is yet a stranger to 
this great principle, — the metaphysical unity of life. 

" Individuation is real. The principium individua- 
tionis, with the consequent distinction of individuals, 
is the order of things in themselves. Each living 
unit is an entity radically difierent from all others. 
In my own self alone I have my true being ; every- 
thing outside it belongs to the non-ego, and is foreign 
to me." This is the creed to the truth of which flesh 
and bone bear witness : which is at the root of all 
egoism, and which finds its objective expression in 
every loveless, unjust, or malicious act. 



THE METAPHYSICAL GROUNDWORK. 275 

" Individuation is merely an appearance, born of 
Space and Time ; the latter being nothing else than 
the forms under which the external world necessarily 
manifests itself to me, conditioned as they are by 
my brain's faculty of perception. Hence also the 
plurality and difference of individuals is but a 
phaenomenon, that is, exists only as my mental 
picture. My true inmost being subsists in every 
living thing, just as really, as directly as in my own 
consciousness it is evidenced only to myself." 
This is the higher knowledge : for which there is 
in Sanskrit the standing formula, tat tvam asi, " that 
art thou."^ Out of the depths of human nature it 
wells up in the shape of Compassion, and is therefore 
the source of all genuine, that is, disinterested 
virtue, being, so to say, incarnate in every good 
deed. It is this which in the last resort is invoked, 
whenever we appeal to gentleness, to loving-kindness ; 
whenever we pray for mercy instead of justice. For 
such appeal, such prayer is in reality the effort to re- 
mind a fellow-being of the ultimate truth that we are 
all one and the same entity. On the other hand. 
Egoism and its derivatives, envy, hatred, the spirit of 
persecution, hardness of heart, revenge, pleasure at the 
sight of suffering, and cruelty, all claim support from 
the other view of things, and seek their justification in 
it. The emotion and joy we experience when we hear 
of, still more, when we see, and most of all, when 

' This expression is used in the Brahmanical philosophy 
to denote the relation between the world-fiction as a whole 
and its individualised parts. V. A. E. Gough, Philosophy of 
the Upanishads, 1882. — (Translator.) 



276 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

we ourselves do, a noble act, are at bottom traceable 
to tbe feeling of certainty such a deed gives, that, 
beyond all plurality and distinction of individuals, 
which the principium individuationis, like a kaleido- 
scope, shows us in ever-shifting evanescent forms, 
there is an underlying unity, not only truly existing, 
but actually accessible to us ; for lo ! in tangible, 
objective form, it stands before our sight. 

Of these two mental attitudes, according as the 
one or the other is adopted, so the ^CkCa (Love) or the 
velKO'i (Hatred) of Empedocles appears between man 
and man. If any one, who is animated by vecKO';, could 
forcibly break in upon his most detested foe, and 
compel him to lay bare the inmost recesses of his 
heart ; to his surprise, he would find again in the 
latter his very self. For just as in dreams, all the 
persons that appear to us are but the masked images 
of ourselves ; so in the dream of our waking life, it 
is our own being which looks on us from out our 
neighbours' eyes, — though this is not equally easy 
to discern. Nevertheless, tat tvam asi. 

The preponderance of either mode of viewing life 
not only determines single acts ; it shapes a man's 
whole nature and temperament. Hence the radical 
difference of mental habit between the good character 
and the bad. The latter feels everywhere that a 
thick wall of partition hedges him off from all others. 
For him the world is an absolute non-ego, and his 
relation to it an essentially hostile one ; consequently, 
the key-note of his disposition is hatred, suspicion, 
envy, and pleasure in seeing distress. The good 
character, on the other hand, lives in an external 



THE METAPHYSICAL GROUNDWORK. 277 

world homogeneous with his own being ; the rest of 
mankind is not in his eyes a non-ego ; he thinks of it 
rather as " myself once more." He therefore stands 
on an essentially amicable footing with every one : 
he is conscious of being, in his inmost nature, akin 
to the whole human race,^ takes direct interest in 
their weal and woe, and confidently assumes in their 
case the same interest in him. This is the source 
of his deep inward peace, and of that happy, calm, 
contented manner, which goes out on those around 
him, and is as the "presence of a good diffused." 
Whereas the bad character in time of trouble has 
no trust in the help of his fellow-creatures. If he 
invokes aid, he does so without confidence : obtained, 
he feels no real gratitude for it ; because he can 
hardly discern therein anything but the effect of 
others' folly. For he is simply incapable of recognis- 
ing his own self in some one else ; and this, even 
after it has furnished the most incontestible signs 
of existence in that other person : on which fact the 
repulsive nature of all unthankfulness in reality de- 
pends. The moral isolation, which thus naturally 
and inevitably encompasses the bad man, is often the 
cause of his becoming the victim of despair. The 
good man, on the contrary, will appeal to his neigh- 
bours for assistance, with an assurance equal to the 
consciousness he has of being ready himself to help 
them. As I have said : to the one type, humanity is 
a non-ego ; to the other, " myself once more." The 
magnanimous character, who forgives his enemy, 

• Homo sum : humani nil a me alienum puto. Terence, 
Heaut., I. 1, "ib.— {Translator.) 



278 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

and returns good for evil, rises to the sublime, and 
receives the highest meed of praise ; because he 
recognises his real self even there where it is most 
conspicuously disowned. 

Every purely beneficent act all help entirely and 
genuinely unselfish, being, as such, exclusively inspired 
by another's distress, is, in fact, if we probe the 
matter to the bottom, a dark enigma, a piece of 
mysticism put into practice ; inasmuch as it springs 
out of, and finds its only true explanation in, the 
same higher knowledge that constitutes the essence 
of whatever is mystical. 

For how, otherwise than metaphysically, are we 
to account for even the smallest offering of alms made 
with absolutely no other object than that of lessening 
the want which afliicts a fellow-creatare ? Such an 
act is only conceivable, only possible, in so far as 
the giver knows that it is his very self which stands 
before him, clad in the garments of suffering ; in 
other words, so far as he recognises the essential part 
of his own being, under a form not his own.i It now 
becomes apparent, why in the foregoing part I have 
called Compassion the great mystery of Ethics. 

He, who goes to meet death for his fatherland, has 
freed himself from the illusion which limits a man's 
existence to his own person. Such a one has broken 
the fetters of the principium individuationis. In his 

' It is probable that many, perhaps, most cases of truly 
disinterested Compassion — when they really occur — are due 
not to any conscious knowledge of this sort, but to an 
unconscious impulse springing from the ultimate unity of all 
living things, and acting, so to say, automatically. — {Translator:) 



THE METAPHYSICAL GROUNDWORK. 279 

widened, enlightened nature he embraces all hia 
conntrymen, and in them lives on and on. Nay, he 
reaches forward to, and merges himself in the genera- 
tions yet unborn, for whom he works ; and he regards 
death as a wink of the eyelids, so momentary that 
it does not interrupt the sight. 

We may here sum up the characteristics of the 
two human types above indicated. To the Egoist all 
other people are uniformly and intrinsically strangers. 
In point of fact, he considers nothing to be truly real, 
except his own person, and regards the rest of man- 
kind practically as troops of phantoms, to whom he 
assigns merely a relative existence, so far as they 
may be instruments to serve, or barriers to obstruct, 
his purposes ; the result being an immeasurable diflfer- 
ence, a vast gulf between his ego on the one side, and 
the non-ego on the other. In a word, he lives ex- 
clusively centred in his own individuality, and on his 
death-day he sees all reality, indeed the whole world, 
coming to an end along with himself.^ Whereas the 
Altruist discerns in all other persons, nay, in every 
living thing, his own entity, and feels therefore that 
his being is commingled, is identical with the being 
of whatever is alive. By death he loses only a small 
part of himself. Patting off the narrow limitations 
of the individual, he passes into the larger life of all 
mankind, in whom he always recognised, and, recog- 
nising, loved, his very self; and the illusion of Time 
and Space, which separated his consciousness from 
that of others, vanishes. These two opposite modes 

' Cf . Richard Wagner : Jes%is von Nazareth ; pp. 79-90. — 
{Translator.) 



280 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

of viewing the world are probably the chief, though 
not indeed the sole cause of the difference we find 
between very good and exceptionally bad men, as to 
the manner in which they meet their last hour. 

In all ages Truth, poor thing, has been put to 
shame for being paradoxical ; and yet it is not her 
fault. She cannot assume the form of Error seated 
on his throne of world-wide sovereignty. So then, 
with a sigh, she looks up to her tutelary god, 
Time, who nods assurance to her of future victory and 
glory, but whose wings beat the air so slowly with 
their mighty strokes, that the individual perishes 
or ever the day of triumph be come. Hence I, 
too, am perfectly aware of the paradox which this 
metaphysical explanation of the ultimate ethical 
phaenomenon must present to Western minds, accus- 
tomed, as they are, to very different methods of 
providing Morals with a basis. Nevertheless, I cannot 
offer violence to the truth. All that is possible 
for me to do, out of consideration for European 
blindness, is to assert once more, and demonstrate 
by actual quotation, that the Metaphysics of Ethics, 
which I have here suggested, was thousands of years 
ago the fundamental princii)le of Indian wisdom. 
And to this wisdom I point back, as Copernicus did 
to the Pythagorean cosmic system, which was sup- 
pressed by Aristotle and Ptolemaeus. In the 
Bhagavadglta (Lectio XIII. ; 27, 28), according to 
A. W. von Schlegel's translation, we find the following 
passage : Eunclem in omnibus animantibus consis- 
temtem summum dominum, istis pereuntibus haud 
pereuntem qui cernit, is vere cernit. Eundem vero 



THE METAPHYSICAL GROUNDWORK. 281 

cernens ubique praesentem dominum, non violat semei 
ipsum sua ipsius culpa : exinde pergit ad summum 
iter} 

With these hints towards the elaboration of a 
metaphysical basis for Ethics I must close, although 
an important step still remains to be taken. The 
latter would presuppose a further advance in Moral 
Science itself ; and this can hardly be made, because 
in the West the highest aim of Ethics is reached 
in the theory of justice and virtue. What lies 
beyond is unknown, or at any rate ignored. The 
omission, therefore, is unavoidable ; and the reader 

* That man is endowed with true insight who sees that the 
same ruling power is inherent in all things, and that when 
these perish, it perishes not. For if he discerns the same 
ruling power everywhere present, he does not degrade himself 
by his own fault : thence he passes to the highest path. — For 
the £hagavadf/itd the reader is referred to Vol. VIII. of The 
Sacred Books of the East (Oxford : Clarendon Press), where 
(p. 105) this passage is translated as follows : — " He sees 
(truly) who sees the supreme lord abiding alike in all entities, 
and not destroyed though they are destroyed. For he who 
sees the lord abiding everywhere alike, does not destroy him- 
self * by himself, and then reaches the highest goal." 

* "Not to have true knowledge, is equivalent to self- 
destruction." 

Cf. Fauche : Le Maha-Bharata : Paris, 1867 ; Vol. VII., p. 
128:— 

" Celui-lk possfede une vue nette des choses, qui voit ce 
principe souverain en tous les etres d'une manifere 6gale, et 
leur survivre, quand ils p^rissent. II ne se fait aucum tort 
k soi-nieme par cette vue d'un principe qui subsiste egalement 
partout : puis, aprfes cette vie, il entre dans la voie superieure." 

The obscurity of Schlegel's Latin in the second sentence 
is sufficiently removed by these more recent translations. — 
{Translator.) 



282 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

need feel no surprise, if the above slight outline of 
the Metaphysics of Ethics does not bring into view — 
even remotely — the corner-stone of the whole meta- 
physical edifice, nor reveal the connection of all 
the parts composing the Divina Commedia. Such 
a presentment, moreover, is involved neither in the 
question set, nor in my own plan. A man cannot 
say everything in one day, and should not answer 
more than he is asked. 

He who tries to promote human knowledge and 
insight is destined to always encounter the opposition 
of his age, which is like the dead weight of some 
mass that has to be dragged along : there on the 
ground it lies, a huge inert deformity, defying all 
efforts to quicken its shape with new life. But such 
a one must take comfort from the certainty that, 
although prejudices beset his patli, yet the truth is 
with him. And Truth does but wait for her ally, 
Time, to join her ; once he is at her side, she is 
perfectly sure of victory, which, if to-day delayed, 
will be won to-morrow. 



JUDICIUM 

REGIAE DANICAE SCIENTIARUM SOCIETATIS. 

QuABSTioNEM auno 1837 propositam, '''' utrum philo- 
sophiae moralis fons et fundamentum in idea morali- 
tatis, quae immediate conscientia contineatur^ et ceteris 
notionibus fundamentalibus, quae ex ilia prodeant, 
explicandis quaerenda sint, an in alio cognoscendi 
principio^'' unus tantum scriptor explicare conatus 
est, cujus commentationem, germanico sermone com- 
positam, et his terbis notatam : " Moral predigen 
1ST LEicHT, Moral begrunden ist schwer," praemio 
dignam judicare nequivimus. Omisso enim eo, quod 
potissimum postulabatur, hoc expeti putavit, ut princi- 
pium aliquod ethicae conderetur, itaque earn partem 
commentationis suae, in qua principii ethicae a se 
propositi et metaphysicae suae nexum exponit, appen- 
dicis loco habuit, in qua plus quam postulatum esset 
praestaret, quum tamen ipsum thema ejusmodi disputa- 
tionemjiagitaretyin qua velpraecipuo loco metaphysicae 
et ethicae nexu^ consider aretur. Quod autem scriptor 
in sympathia fundamentum ethicae constituere conatus 
est, neque ipsa disserendi forma nobis satisfecit, neque 
reapse, hoc fundamentum sufficere, evicit ; quin ipse 
contra esse confteri coactus est. Neque reticendum 
videtur, plures recentioris aetatis summos philosophos 

283 



284 THE BASIS OF MORALITY. 

tarn indecenter commemorari, ut justam et gravem 
offensionem habeat. 

JUDGMENT OF THE DANISH EOYAL SOCIETY OF 
SCIENCES. 

In 1837 the following question was set as subject for 
a Prize Essay : " Is the fountain and basis of Morals 
to be sought for in an idea of morality which lies 
directly in the consciousness (or conscience), and in 
the analysis of the other leading ethical conceptions 
which arise from it ? Or is it to be found in some 
other source of knowledge ? " There was only one 
competitor ; but his dissertation, written in German, 
and bearing the motto : "7b preach Morality is easy^ 
to found it is difficult,^'' ^ we cannot adjudge worthy 
of the Prize. He has omitted to deal with the 
essential part of the question, apparently thinking 
that he was asked to establish some fundamental 
principle of Ethics. Consequently, that part of the 
treatise, which explains how the moral basis he 
proposes is related to his system of metaphysics, 
we find relegated to an appendix, as an " opus 
supererogationis,'^ although it was precisely the con- 
nection between Metaphysics and Ethics that our 
question required to be put in the first and foremost 

' The Academy has been good enough to insert the second 
" is " on its own account, by way of proving the truth of 
Longinus' theory ( V. De Suhlimitate : chap. 39, ad Jin.), that 
the addition or subtraction of a single syllable is sufficient 
to destroy the whole force of a sentence. [ V. Longinus : De 
Suhlimitate Lihellus ; edit. Joannes Vahlen, Bonnae, 1887. — 
{Translator.')] 



REGIAE DANICAE SCIENTIARUM SOCIETATIS. 285 

place. The writer attempts to show that compassion 
is the ultimate source of morality ; but neither does 
his mode of discussion appear satisfactory to us, nor 
has he, in point of fact, succeeded in proving that 
such a foundation is adequate. Indeed he himself 
is obliged to admit that it is not.^ Lastly, the Society 
cannot pass over in silence the fact that he mentions 
several recent philosophers of the highest standing 
in an unseemly manner, such as to justly occasion 
serious offence. 

* I suppose this is the meaning of contra esse conjiteri. — 
{Translator.) 



Printed hy Ilazell, Watson Jc Viney, Ld., London and Aylttbuiy. 



iy l9^^ 



.: SOUTHERN REG!ONA_ 



A 000 675 879 i % 



University of California 

SOUTHERN REGIONAL LIBRARY FACILITY 

305 De Neve Drive - Parking Lot 17 • Box 951388 

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA 90095-1388 

Return this material to the library from which it was borrowed.