The Metaphysical Elements of Ethics eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 46 pages of information about The Metaphysical Elements of Ethics.

Although the conformity of actions to justice (i.e., to be an upright man) is nothing meritorious, yet the conformity of the maxim of such actions regarded as duties, that is, reverence for justice is meritorious.  For by this the man makes the right of humanity or of men his own end, and thereby enlarges his notion of duty beyond that of indebtedness (officium debiti), since although another man by virtue of his rights can demand that my actions shall conform to the law, he cannot demand that the law shall also contain the spring of these actions.  The same thing is true of the general ethical command, “Act dutifully from a sense of duty.”  To fix this disposition firmly in one’s mind and to quicken it is, as in the former case, meritorious, because it goes beyond the law of duty in actions and makes the law in itself the spring.

But just for or reason, those duties also must be reckoned as of indeterminate obligation, in respect of which there exists a subjective principle which ethically rewards them; or to bring them as near as possible to the notion of a strict obligation, a principle of susceptibility of this reward according to the law of virtue; namely, a moral pleasure which goes beyond mere satisfaction with oneself (which may be merely negative), and of which it is proudly said that in this consciousness virtue is its own reward.

{Introduction ^paragraph 70}

When this merit is a merit of the man in respect of other men of promoting their natural ends, which are recognized as such by all men (making their happiness his own), we might call it the sweet merit, the consciousness of which creates a moral enjoyment in which men are by sympathy inclined to revel; whereas the bitter merit of promoting the true welfare of other men, even though they should not recognize it as such (in the case of the unthankful and ungrateful), has commonly no such reaction, but only produces a satisfaction with one’s self, although in the latter case this would be even greater.

VIII.  Exposition of the Duties of Virtue as Intermediate Duties

(1) Our own perfection as an end which is also a duty

{Introduction ^paragraph 75}

(a) Physical perfection; that is, cultivation of all our faculties generally for the promotion of the ends set before us by reason.  That this is a duty, and therefore an end in itself, and that the effort to effect this even without regard to the advantage that it secures us, is based, not on a conditional (pragmatic), but an unconditional (moral) imperative, may be seen from the following consideration.  The power of proposing to ourselves an end is the characteristic of humanity (as distinguished from the brutes).  With the end of humanity in our own person is therefore combined the rational will, and consequently the duty of deserving well of humanity by culture generally, by acquiring or advancing the power to carry out all sorts of possible ends, so far as this power is to be found in man; that is, it is a duty to cultivate the crude capacities of our nature, since it is by that cultivation that the animal is raised to man, therefore it is a duty in itself.

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The Metaphysical Elements of Ethics from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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