Title: The Metaphysical Elements of Ethics
Author: Immanuel Kant
Release Date: May, 2004 [EBook #5684] [Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule] [This file was first posted on August 7, 2002]
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The metaphysical elements of ethics
by Immanuel Kant
translated by Thomas Kingsmill Abbott
If there exists on any subject a philosophy (that is, a system of rational knowledge based on concepts), then there must also be for this philosophy a system of pure rational concepts, independent of any condition of intuition, in other words, a metaphysic. It may be asked whether metaphysical elements are required also for every practical philosophy, which is the doctrine of duties, and therefore also for Ethics, in order to be able to present it as a true science (systematically), not merely as an aggregate of separate doctrines (fragmentarily). As regards pure jurisprudence, no one will question this requirement; for it concerns only what is formal in the elective will, which has to be limited in its external relations according to laws of freedom; without regarding any end which is the matter of this will. Here, therefore, deontology is a mere scientific doctrine (doctrina scientiae). *
* One who is acquainted with practical philosophy is not, therefore, a practical philosopher. The latter is he who makes the rational end the principle of his actions, while at the same time he joins with this the necessary knowledge which, as it aims at action, must not be spun out into the most subtile threads of metaphysic, unless a legal duty is in question; in which case meum and tuum must be accurately determined in the balance of justice, on the principle of equality of action and action, which requires something like mathematical proportion, but not in the case of a mere ethical duty. For in this case the question is not only to know what it is a duty to do (a thing which on account of the ends that all men naturally have can be easily decided), but the chief point is the inner principle of the will namely that the consciousness of this duty be also the spring of action, in order that we may be able to say of the man who joins to his knowledge this principle of wisdom that he is a practical philosopher.