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§4. The Manichean Moral Psychology

§4. The Manichean Moral Psychology

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     ,  

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

to do.

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


[  ]

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§4. The Manichean Moral Psychology

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