Tải bản đầy đủ - 0trang
§2. The Free Power of Choice
neity of the will (i.e., freedom). But the moral law, in the judgment of reason, is itself an incentive, and whoever makes it his maxim is morally good.”
The three predispositions, however they may affect us, cannot determine our will unless they are incorporated into our maxims by our free
power of choice. This is Kant’s principle of elective will,4 a basic principle
of his moral psychology. It means that while we must take each of the
three predispositions as given (we cannot alter or eradicate them), we can
and must order them: that is, we must decide through our power of choice
the priority and weight these predispositions are to have in our supremely
regulative principles as shown in our deliberations and conduct. Whether
we have a morally good or bad will depends on that ordering.
. Now, our free power of choice has but certain alternatives available
to it. The number of predispositions, and the ways in which they can be
ordered, limit the scope of our free power of choice in adopting a fundamental character. If our human nature had but one predisposition, there would
be no choice at all; and in the absence of all predispositions, our nature
would be empty and the power of choice would have nothing on which
to operate (Rel I : ).5 There is, however, a special limit on our power
of choice, namely, that we cannot repudiate the predisposition to personality. This has the consequence that we cannot exempt ourselves from the
moral law, as Satan is said to have done (Rel I : ). Kant says: “The
[Moral] Law . . . forces itself upon [us] irresistibly in virtue of [our] moral
predisposition; and were no other incentive working in opposition, [we]
would adopt the law into [our] supreme maxim as the sufﬁcient determining ground of [our] will [free power of choice].” This is an important remark. Kant is saying that if all the predispositions were to line up on the
same side, then the predisposition to personality would always be adopted
by us as supreme and as having unconditional priority. This outcome is
determined by our nature as persons.
One might think that since we know that the predispositions conﬂict,
this feature of our nature is not signiﬁcant. It brings out, however, the
uniqueness of the predisposition to personality, namely, that it is the only
4. The idea of elective will we noted earlier in connection with Kant’s idea of a pure will in
Kant I:§ and II:§–.
5. This is how I understand Kant’s saying that in the absence of all incentives the power of
choice (Willkuăr) cannot be determined.
predisposition ﬁt to serve in a supremely regulative role. Moreover, since
we cannot repudiate the moral law, we cannot choose to be devils and to
act against that law for its own sake (Rel I : ). We cannot reverse,
so to speak, the predisposition to personality by adopting evil as our good.
The limit of human perversity lies in changing the moral order among
the predispositions; when we do this, we give inappropriate weight in our
deliberations to reasons grounded on the predispositions of humanity and
animality. We neglect the moral law and ignore the voice of conscience.
But conscience can never be silenced so long as the powers of moral personality are alive in us. They are a ﬁxed basis in our persons for a principle
of identiﬁcation: we cannot help but identify with the predisposition to
personality and its moral law.
. We have still to consider an essential feature of the moral psychology
of the Religion. I refer to Kant’s view that the basic features of the original
predispositions establish a moral order of priority (sittliche Ordnung). This
order ranks the predisposition to personality as unconditionally prior and
the others as unconditionally subordinate. As we saw above, our free power
of choice may not follow that moral order, but its freedom, as Kant deﬁnes
it, consists in its power to do so.
Let’s review the features of the predispositions that Kant seems to think
specify the appropriate ordering for persons with the power of free choice.
Two features we have already noted.
The ﬁrst is that the predisposition to personality is unconditionally good
and incorruptible, by which I take Kant to mean that no vices can be grafted
onto it (as can be done with the predispositions to animality and humanity)
and our free power of choice cannot reverse it.
The second is that by including the moral law as an aspect, the predisposition to personality is the only one suited to be ranked as unconditionally prior.
It contains the only practical principle that can be supremely regulative.
Note that in each case the comparison is between the predisposition to
personality and the other two predispositions. Kant is not saying, for example, that only the moral law, and not some other moral principle—for example, a principle of perfection—is suited to be supremely regulative. To say
this would go against what we said earlier (in Kant VII:§.), that it is a
mistake to hold that only the moral law can specify a uniﬁed and shared
. There is a third important feature of the predisposition to personality. It is mentioned when Kant excludes certain explanations of human
wickedness and perversity. He says (Rel I : ):
Neither can the ground of this evil . . . be placed in a corruption of
the morally legislative reason [the predisposition to personality]—as if
reason could destroy the authority of the very law which is its own
or deny the obligation arising therefrom; this is absolutely impossible.
To conceive of oneself as a freely acting being and yet as exempt from
the law which is appropriate to such a being (the moral law) would
be tantamount to conceiving a cause operating without any laws whatsoever. . . . [T]his is a self-contradiction.
The ﬁrst sentence of this passage connects with the two features noted
above. To understand the second sentence, recall that Kant thinks:
(a) That when we engage in, and act from, pure practical reasoning,
we must always act under the idea of freedom and think of ourselves as
free, although, of course, only from a practical point of view (Gr III: [–
]; KP :). In so doing, we do not think of ourselves as exempt from
the principles of reason appropriate to us as free.
(b) That the moral law is the only law that discloses to us not only our
independence of the natural order but also of a prior and given order of
In virtue of our capacity to incorporate it into our maxims and to act
from it, the moral law is, therefore, the only principle that fully discloses
to us our freedom and autonomy. We may take Kant to say that the ordering of our predispositions ranking the predisposition to personality unconditionally prior is the only ranking that is appropriate to us as persons with
a free power of choice. It is the principle that fully expresses our nature as
. The fourth, and last, feature of our moral psychology relevant to the
ordering of predispositions is that this psychology provides a permanent
basis of identiﬁcation with the ideal conception of the person founded on
that ordering. This psychology Kant regards as belonging to us as reasonable
and rational; it characterizes our nature and we cannot change it. We can
never altogether repress the pure practical interest we take in being the
kind of person who lives up to the conception of our person expressed by
the appropriate ordering of predispositions.
Our identiﬁcation with that ideal is disclosed in our moral feelings when
we are at fault; these are described by Kant not primarily as feelings of
obligation and guilt but as feelings of (moral) shame and self-reproach. His
doctrine is not one of a legitimate authority that enacts principles for us
to obey, but one of mutuality and self-respect in a moral community of
equal persons ordered by public principles of practical reason.
Finally, the moral order of our predispositions does not reﬂect an antecedent order of values known to us by rational intuition, an order given
apart from our conception of ourselves as persons endowed with the powers of pure practical reason, moral feeling, and the power of free choice.
Rather, this moral order is rooted in the predispositions of our persons and
their characteristic features and the possibilities of their combination into
an appropriate ranking. Kant’s moral psychology in Book I of the Religion
goes with his constructivist moral conception and answers to its essential
§. The Rational Representation of the Origin of Evil
. We have seen that the ordering of predispositions we adopt is, in effect,
the adoption of a moral character. But we must be careful how this is to
be understood. Kant sometimes views this adoption as how we must represent to ourselves the way our character has arisen: we are to see it as something we have made and within our free power of choice (Rel I :–
[–]). This means that we are not to regard our fundamental character
as determined in time: that is, we are not to regard it as a social artifact,
or as determined by psychological laws, or as the product of happenstance,
and the like. As reasonable and rational, we are to view our character, the
ordering of our predispositions, as a matter up to us, given our free power
of choice and the absolute spontaneity of reason.
How can we understand the thought that we are not to view our character as determined by causal conditions in the course of time? I suggest that
it is simply a part of the beliefs and attitudes toward ourselves as we act
under the idea of freedom. For in our deliberating under the idea of free[ ]
dom, the order of our predispositions is shown in what we count as reasons,
in the weight we give them. Our fundamental character (what Kant calls
our intelligible character) is mirrored in our moral thought. Now, as we
have seen, in acting under the idea of freedom, we must regard our reason
as free and guided by its own principles. The same must hold for what we
count as reasons and their relative weight.
Kant’s thought is that if we regard our fundamental character as a social
artifact, or as the result of psychological laws and accidental contingencies,
we would also not regard our reason as free; and this we cannot do. Two
people who so regarded themselves and whose systems of reasons were at
odds could only observe to one another: “Subjected as we were to different
circumstances, our fundamental characters were formed in different ways.
There’s nothing more to say.” It is this thought that Kant rejects. Our
scheme of reasons may be different from others’, but we must regard ourselves, not forces for which we are not accountable, as having made them
so. It is an evasion of our responsibility to say that we are constituted this
way or that by nature or society or by anything external to our reason and
will.6 He says (Rel I : ):
In the search for the rational origin of evil actions, every such action
must be regarded as though the individual had fallen into it directly
from a state of innocence. . . . He should have refrained from that
action whatever the temporal circumstances and entanglements; for
through no cause in the world can he cease to be a freely acting being.
. . . But this merely amounts to saying that man need not involve
himself in the evasion of seeking to establish whether or not the consequences [of his free actions] are free, since there exists in the free . . .
action, which was their cause, sufﬁcient ground for holding him accountable.
. Kant distinguishes between our intelligible (fundamental) character
and our empirical character. The latter he thinks of as manifesting in experience the causality of reason, so that our choice of an intelligible character
6. See also what Kant says against a preformation system of pure reason in the ﬁrst Critique