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§4. The Manichean Moral Psychology
the practical point of view, it would seem to be impossible to think of
ourselves as all equally responsible while some behave far better than others. We would lack suitable reasons for holding responsible those who
Of course, we could say that while our predisposition to act from the
moral law as members of the intelligible world is constant and pure, our
natural desires and inclinations can be of many different strengths and directions in view of our situation in the natural world. Our actual conduct, we
might say, is settled by the balance of forces generated by those desires,
the strength and direction of which depend on circumstances. People who
do what is right are people whose predisposition to act from the moral law
is not overridden by the direction and force of their natural desires; people
who act badly suffer the opposite fate. We get the familiar moral fatalism
of the Manichean view, which surely Kant must avoid.
. The Augustinian moral psychology overcomes these defects by attributing to the self a free power of choice and enough complexity for a satisfactory account of responsibility. There is no longer a dualism between a good
self and a bad self—two selves each with only a single predisposition, with
the predisposition of one being liable to clash with that of the other—but
one self with three predispositions, all of which are dispositions to good.
Moreover, these predispositions have an appropriate moral order suitable
for free persons capable of acting from pure practical reason. The origin of
moral evil, then, lies not in a bad self with its natural desires but solely in
the free power of choice, which may change the moral order of the dispositions and determine what we count as appropriate reasons in deciding what
As for how to understand these moral psychologies, I believe that we
should see them as ways of conceiving of our moral nature from the practical point of view, and so how to think of ourselves when we are acting
under the idea of freedom. They are not, as such, empirical accounts of
human psychology, nor subject to the usual criteria of empirical truth.
Rather, they belong to different ways of characterizing the reﬂective selfconsciousness of pure practical reason; as such they embody different ideal
conceptions of the person.
Thus, as we have said, when acting under the idea of freedom on the
Augustinian view, we cannot regard our fundamental character (the order[ ]
ing that determines the weight of reasons) as a social artifact or as the
upshot of merely psychological laws and happenstance. Our scheme of reasons may be different from others’, but we are to regard ourselves, not
forces for which we are not accountable, as having made them so. Otherwise we would abandon free reason. Here clearly a certain ideal of the
person is involved, not a psychological theory.
This doesn’t mean that the reasonableness of this ideal is not subject
to criteria and cannot be checked. For it may be incompatible with our
considered judgments on due reﬂection and therefore rejected. It may prove
foolish and hopelessly impracticable, given the way we really are. However,
this is to be decided not by prior argument, but by whether we can actually
accept the ideal of the person on due consideration and whether we can
afﬁrm living in accordance with it. Kant thinks that we can, since for him
the ideal of pure reason can show itself in deed.
§. The Roots of Moral Motivation in Our Person
. Now we can consider the fourth condition of there being pure practical
reason. So, at last, we are almost home. I believe that Kant’s idea is the
following: it is only if we arrange our predispositions according to the moral
order that we act from the sole principle appropriate for us in view of
our special status in the world. Kant’s basic moral conception is that of an
aristocracy including each as a free and equal person. It is not an aristocracy
of nature or of social class, or an aristocracy of intellect or beauty or of
unusual achievement. Nor is it, as one might carelessly think, an aristocracy
of moral character and moral worth.
Rather, it is an aristocracy of all. It comprises all reasonable and rational
persons, whose powers of reason deﬁne our standing and are counted as
belonging to persons in all walks of life, the privileges of none. Indeed,
these powers characterize us as a natural kind—that of humanity—as intelligences with moral sensibility animating human bodies belonging to the
natural order, but who are not merely of it.
At the end of the Canon (KR B), Kant replies to the objection that
the two articles of practical faith (the belief in God and immortality) are
not much to establish after the great labor of giving a critique of reason.
Surely the common understanding could have achieved this much without
help from philosophy! In reply, he says:
Do you really require that a mode of knowledge which concerns all
men should transcend the common understanding, and should only
be revealed to you by philosophers? Precisely what you ﬁnd fault with
is the best conﬁrmation of the correctness of [what I have said]. For
we have thereby revealed to us, what could not at the start have been
foreseen, namely, that in matters that concern all men without distinction nature is not guilty of any partial distribution of her gifts, and that
in regard to the essential ends of human nature the highest philosophy
cannot advance further than is possible under the guidance which nature has bestowed even upon the most ordinary understanding.
. Now, our special status in the world does not mean that we also
inhabit a different realm, conceived as ontologically separate from the order
of nature. It means rather that we are capable of thought, feeling, and conduct grounded in and governed by the powers of theoretical and practical
reason. It also means that we can live in a moral world, and to do so, we
need only live by the principles of pure practical reason and thus in accordance with the moral order rooted in our predispositions and appropriate
to our nature. Persons in a realm of ends display before themselves and
one another their glorious status as free persons situated, as it were, above
the order of nature, in the sense that they can act independently of that
order in the pursuit of personal and social ideals as authorized and required
by the moral law of their reason.
On the other hand, the law from which we act does not imply the
rejection of the natural world. To the contrary, it is a law that, when acted
upon by everyone, gives to the world of nature the form of an intelligible
world (KP :f.), a world that allows ample scope for our natural desires
and affections (permissible ends), so that a realized realm of ends is not
only a moral world but also, under reasonably favorable conditions, a happy
world (KR B).
Kant’s underlying conviction is that once we fully understand this moral
conception and dwell upon it in our thought, once we fully understand
ourselves as members of a possible realm of ends and have this conception
of ourselves, we cannot help but be deeply moved to identify with that
ideal and to act in accordance with that conception. This is a fact about us
rooted in our nature as depicted in the Religion, a fact which philosophy
enables us to understand. Kant’s most lyrical and elevated passages are those
in which he describes the profound effects on us of a clear grasp of the
moral law and how it shows our independence of nature.
Once philosophy shows that understanding the moral ideal leads to
identifying with it and acting according to it, we see that the last condition
(d) for the existence of pure practical reason is met: the moral law can be
a sufﬁcient motive for us, whatever our natural desires. This is the point
of the two examples Kant describes in the second Critique (KP :): the ﬁrst
brings out that natural desires cannot override the love of life, the second
that the conception-dependent desire to act from the moral law can do so.
Kant believes that he has shown that all four conditions are satisﬁed, and
so there is indeed pure practical reason. The view of the second Critique is
strengthened once he works out in the Religion a more adequate moral
psychology. Thus our account of the doctrine of the fact of reason is now