Hegel. The Philosophical Propadeutic. 1808-1811

Elucidation of the Introduction

1. Objects are particular somethings through their determinations as sensuous objects, for example, through their shape, size, weight, colour, through the more or less firm combination of its parts, through the purpose for which they are used, etc. If one, in his conception of it, takes away the determinations of an object, this process is called Abstraction. There remains after the process a less determined object: i.e. an Abstract Object. If, however, I conceive of only one of these determinations, this is called an Abstract Representation [or Abstract Idea]. The object left in its completeness of determination is called a Concrete Object. When I abstract all the determinations I have left only the conception of the absolutely Abstract Object. When one says ‘Thing’, though he may mean something quite definite, he says only something quite indefinite since our thought reduces an actual something to this abstraction of mere ‘Thing’.

Sensuous Perception is in part external, in part internal. Through external [Sensuous Perception] we perceive things which are outside us in time and space, things which we distinguish from ourselves. Through the internal Sensuous Perception we take note of the states and conditions which belong in part to our bodies and in part to our souls. One part of the Sensuous World contains such objects and their determinations, as, for example, colours, that is, objects that have a sensuous basis and have received a mental form. If I say, ‘This table is black’, I speak in the first place of this single concrete object but, secondly, the predicate ‘black’ which I affirm of it is a general [quality] which belongs not merely to this single object but to several objects. ‘Black’ is a simple idea. We cognize a real concrete object immediately. This act of immediate apprehension is called Intuition.

A general Abstract Idea is therefore a mediated Idea for the reason that I know it by means of another, i.e. by means of abstraction or the omission of other determinations which are found united in the Concrete Object. A Concrete Idea is said to be analysed when the determinations which are united in it as concrete are separated. The intelligible world receives its content from Spirit [i.e. from the activity of the Mind], and this content consists of pure universal Ideas such, for example, as Being, Nothing, Attribute, Essence, etc.

2. The first source of our knowledge is called Experience. To Experience belongs this important feature: that we ourselves have perceived it. A distinction must however, be drawn between Perception and Experience. Perception has for its object only a single something which is determined in one way this moment and in another way the next moment. If I repeat the Perception, and in the repeated perceptions take note of what remains the same and hold it fast, this operation is properly termed Experience. Experience contains, for the most part, laws: i.e. [just] such a connection of two phenomena that if one is extant, the other one must result from it in all cases. The Experience contains, however, only the mere generality of such a phenomenon and not the necessity of the connection. Experience teaches only that things are or happen thus and so but not the reasons, not the ‘why’ thereof.

Since there are a multitude of objects concerning which we can have no Experience, for example the past, we are obliged to have recourse to the Authority of others. Moreover, these objects which we hold for true upon the Authority of others are objects of Experience (i.e. empirical objects). We believe them upon the Authority of others which is probable. We often hold as probable that which is really improbable and what is improbable often turns out to be the truth. (An event receives its confirmation chiefly through its results and through the manifold circumstances connected with our experience of it. Those who narrate to us an event must be trustworthy, that is, they must have been in a position where it was possible for them to have knowledge of it. We draw conclusions from the tone and manner in which they relate the event, in regard to their degree of earnestness or the selfish purpose subserved by it. When writers, under the reign of a tyrant, are lavish in his praises, we at once pronounce them to be flatterers. But if one makes special mention of a good quality or deed of his enemy we are the more ready to believe his statements.)

Experience, therefore, teaches only how objects are constituted and not how they must be or how they ought to be. This latter knowledge comes only from a concept of the Essence or Idea of the object, a knowledge of it as a whole. And this latter knowledge alone is true knowledge. Since we must learn the grounds of an object from its Concept, a knowledge of it in its entire compass, so too, if we would learn the character of the Lawful, Moral and Religious, we must have recourse to the Concepts thereof.

In determining what is right and good we may at first hold to Experience and that too of the most external kind, namely, the way of the world. We can see there what passes for right and good or what proves itself to be right and good. Upon this phase it is to be remarked (a) that in order to know what deeds are right or good and what are wrong or wicked, one presupposes himself to be in possession of the Concept of the Right [Lawful] and Good and (b) if anyone chose to hold to that which the way of the world showed to be current as right and good he would not arrive at anything definite. All would depend upon the view with which he undertook the investigation. In the course of the world, wherein there occurs such a variety of events, each one can find his own particular view justified be it ever so peculiar.

But there is, secondly, an internal experience concerning the Right [Legal], Good and Religious. We judge upon our Sentiment [Gemüt] or Feeling [Gefühl] that a deed of this or that character is good or bad. Moreover, we have a Feeling of Religion; we are affected religiously. What Feeling says of the deed by way of approval or disapproval contains merely the immediate expression, or the mere assurance, that something is so or is not so. Feeling gives no reasons for its decision, nor does it decide with reference to reasons. What kind of Feeling we have, of approval or of disapproval, is the mere experience of a Sentiment. Feeling is, however, inconstant and changeable. It is at one time in one state and at another in a different one. Feeling is, in short, something subjective. An object of Feeling is my object as a particular individual. If I say: ‘I feel thus about it’ or ‘It is my sentiment toward it’, I then say only what belongs to me as an individual. I leave undecided whether it is also the same in other persons. When I, upon any occasion, appeal simply to my Feeling, I do not desire to enter upon the reasons [and] consequently upon universal relations. I withdraw myself within myself and express only what concerns me and not what is in-and-for-itself objective and universal. The Objective, or the universal, is the Intelligible, or the Concept [Notion].

If anyone wishes to know truly what a rose or a pink or an oak is, that is, if he wishes to grasp it in its Concept [or Idea], he must first grasp the higher Concept which lies at its base, namely that of Plant; and further, in order to grasp the Concept of the ‘plant’, one must again grasp the higher Concept whereupon the Concept of the ‘plant’ depends, and this is the Concept of an Organic Body. In order to have the representation [idea] of bodies, surfaces, lines, and points, one must have recourse to the Concept of Space, since Space is the generic thereof; hence bodies, surfaces, etc. are only particular determinations of Space. In the same manner the present, past and future presuppose Time as their generic ground. And so it is with Laws, Duties and Religion; they are merely particular determinations of Consciousness, which is their generic ground.

3. In the first stage of Consciousness we are usually aware of the object before us, that is, we are aware only of the object not of ourselves. But it is essentially in these things that the ‘I’ [Ego] exists. In so far as we think simply of an object we have a Consciousness, that is, a consciousness of the object. In so far as we think of Consciousness we are conscious of Consciousness, that is, we have a consciousness of Consciousness. In our ordinary life we have consciousness but we are not conscious that we are a Consciousness; there is much in use that is even corporeal of which we are unconscious; for example, the vital functions which minister to our self-preservation we possess without being conscious of their precise constitution, this we only acquire through Science. Also, from a spiritual standpoint, we are much more than we know. The external objects of our Consciousness are those which we distinguish from ourselves and to which we ascribe an independent existence. The inner objects, on the other hand, are determinations or faculties, [i.e.] powers of the Ego. They do not subsist in separation from one another but only in the Ego. Consciousness functions theoretically or practically.

4. Theoretical Consciousness considers that which is and leaves it as it is. Practical [Consciousness], on the other hand, is the active consciousness which does not leave what is as it is but produces changes therein and produces from itself determinations and objects. In Consciousness, therefore, two things are present: myself and the object; I am determined by the object or the object is determined by me. In the former case my relationship is theoretical [and in the latter case practical]. [In Theoretical Consciousness] I take up the determinations of the object as they are. I leave the object as it is and seek to make my ideas conform to it. I have determinations in myself and the object also has determinations within it. The content of the Idea about the object should conform to what the object is. The determinations of the object in-itself are rules for me. The truth of my Ideas consists in their correspondence with the constitution and the determinations of the object. The law for our Consciousness, in so far as it is theoretical, is that it must not be completely passive but must direct its activity to receiving the object. Something can be an object for our perception without our having on that account a consciousness of it when we do not direct our activity to it. This activity in reception is called Attention.

5. The Ideas which we acquire through Attention we excite in ourselves through the power of Imagination, whose activity consists in this: that it calls up in connection with the intuition of one object the image of another in some way or other linked with it. It is not necessary that the object, to which the Imagination links the image of another, be present; it may be present only in an idea of it. The most extensive work of the Imagination is Language. Language consists in external signs and sounds through which one makes known what he thinks, feels or senses. Language consists in Words, which are nothing else than signs of thoughts. For these signs there are again found in writing other signs called letters. They make known our thoughts without our having to speak them. Hieroglyphic writing is distinguished from the Alphabetic by its direct presentation of entire thoughts. [Translator’s Note: Though this passage was written before the Rosetta Stone was discovered and is therefore no longer valid in respect of Egyptian hieroglyphs, Hegel’s comments are still valid for other Asiatic forms of hieroglyphic writing.] In Speech a certain sound is sensuously present and therein we have the intuition of a sound. But we do not stop at this because our Imagination links to it the idea of an absent object. Here then we have two different objects, a sensuous determination and another idea linked to it. Here the idea counts solely as the essence and as the meaning of what is sensuously present which is thus a mere sign. The given content confronts a content which we have produced.

6. In ordinary life, the expressions to have an Idea and to Think [vorstellen as opposed to denken] are used interchangeably and we thus dignify with the name of thought what is only the product of imagination. In ‘Ideas’ of this sort we have an object before us in its external and unessential existence. In Thinking, on the contrary, we separate from the object its external, merely unessential side, and consider the object merely in its essence. Thinking penetrates through the external phenomenon to the internal nature of the thing and makes it its object. It leaves the contingent side of the thing out of consideration. It takes up a subject not as it is in immediate appearance, but severs the unessential from the essential and thus abstracts from it. In Intuition we have single objects before us. Thinking brings them into relation with each other or compares them. In Comparison it singles out what they have in common with each other and omits that by which they differ and thus it retains only universal ideas. The universal Idea contains less determinateness than the single object which belongs under this universal, since one arrives at the universal only by leaving out something from the single thing; on the other hand, the universal includes more under it or has a much greater extension. In so far as Thinking produces a universal object, the activity of abstracting belongs to it and hence it has the Form of the universal (as, for example, in the universal object ‘Man’.) But the content of the universal object does not belong to it as an activity of abstracting but is given to Thinking and is independent of it and present on its own account.

To Thinking there belong manifold determinations which express a connection between the manifold phenomena that is universal and necessary. The connection as it exists in Sensuous Intuition is merely an external or contingent one, which may or may not be in any particular form. A stone, for example, makes by its fall an impression upon a yielding mass. In the Sensuous Intuition is contained the fact of the falling of the stone and the fact of an impression made in the yielding mass where the stone touched it. These two phenomena, the falling of the stone and the impression on the yielding mass, have a succession in time. But this connection contains, as yet, no necessity: on the contrary it is possible, for all that is therein stated, that the one might have happened under the same conditions without the other following it. When, on the contrary, the relation of these two phenomena to each other is determined as cause and effect, or as the relation of Causality, then this connection is a necessary one or a connection of the Understanding. This entails that under the same conditions, if one happens, the other is contained in it.

These determinations are the forms of Thinking. The Mind posits them solely through its own activity but they are at the same time determinations of existing things [zugleich Bestimmungen des Seienden]. We come first by Reflection to distinguish what is Ground and Consequent, Internal and External, Essential and Unessential. The Mind is not at first conscious that it posits these determinations by its own free will, but thinks that it [Mind] expresses in them [these determinations] something which is present without its assistance.

7. Whenever we speak of the Ego or the Mind as receiving determinations we presuppose its previous indeterminateness. The determinations of the Mind always belong to the Mind even though it has received them from other objects. Although something may be in the Mind which came from without as a content not dependent upon the Mind, yet the form always belongs to the latter; e.g. although in the Imagination the material may be derived from Sensuous Intuition, the form consists in the method in which this material is combined in a different manner from that present in the original intuition. In a pure Concept, e.g. that of animal, the specific content belongs to Experience but the universal element in it is the form which comes from the Mind.

This form is thus of the Mind’s own determining. The essential difference between the theoretical and the practical functions of the Mind consists in this: that in the theoretical the form alone is determined by the Mind while, on the other hand, in the practical function the content also proceeds from the Mind. In Right, for example, the content is personal freedom. This belongs to the Mind. The practical function recognizes determinations as its own in so far as it wills them. Even if they are alien determinations, or given from without, they must cease to be alien in so far as I will them: I change the content into mine and posit it through myself.

Theoretical Activity starts from something externally present and converts it into an Idea. Practical Activity, on the other hand, starts from an internal determination. This is called resolve, intention, or direction and makes the internal actually external and gives to it existence. This transition from an internal determination to externality is called Act.

9. The Act is, in general terms, a union of the internal and external. The internal determination, from which it begins, has to be cancelled and made external as far as its form is concerned, which form is that of a mere internal. The content of this determination is still to remain [after negation of the form]; e.g. the intention to build a house is an internal determination whose form consists in this: that it is only an intention at first; the content includes the plan of the house. If the form now is here cancelled, the content will still remain. The house which is to be built according to the intention and that which is built according to the plan are the same house.

Conversely, the Act is likewise a sublation of externality as it is immediately present; e.g. the building of a house necessitates a change in a variety of ways, of the ground, the building-stone, the wood, and the other materials. The shape of the external is changed; it is brought into quite other combinations than existed before. These changes happen in conformity to a purpose, to wit, the plan of the house with which internal something the external is to be made to harmonize.

10. Animals, too, stand in a practical relation to that which is external to them. They act from instinct, with designs and purposes to realize, and thus rationally. Since they do this unconsciously, however, we cannot properly speak of them as authors of Voluntary Acts. They have Desires and Impulses, but no Rational Will. In speaking of man’s impulses and desires, it is usual to include the Will. But, more accurately speaking, the Will is to be distinguished from Desire. The Will, in distinction from Desire, is called the Higher Appetite. With animals even Instinct is to be distinguished from their impulses and desires, for though Instinct is an acting from Impulse and Desire it, however, does not terminate with its immediate externalization but has a further, and for the animal likewise necessary, result. It is an acting in which there is involved also a relation to something else; e.g. the hoarding up of grain by many animals. This is not yet quite properly to be called an Act, but it contains a design in it, namely, provision for the future.

Impulse is, in the first place, something internal, something which begins a movement from itself, or produces a change by its own power. Impulse proceeds from itself. Although it may be awakened by external circumstances, yet it existed already without regard to them; it is not produced by them. Mechanical causes produce mere external or mechanical effects which are completely determined by their causes, in which therefore nothing is contained which is not already present in the cause; e.g. if I give motion to a body, the motion imparted to it is all that it has, or if I paint a body, it has nothing else than the colour imparted to it. On the contrary, if I act upon a living creature my influence upon it becomes something quite different from what it was in me. The activity of the living creature is aroused by my act and it exhibits its own peculiarity in reacting against it.

In the second place. Impulse is (a) limited in respect to content [and] (b) is contingent as regards the aspect of its gratification, since it is dependent upon external circumstances. Impulse does not transcend its purpose [end] and is therefore spoken of as blind. It gratifies itself, let the consequences be what they may.

Man does not make his own Impulses, he simply has them; in other words, they belong to his nature. Nature is, however, under the rule of necessity because everything in Nature is limited, relative or exists only in relation to something else. But what exists only in relation to something else is not for-itself but dependent upon others. It has its ground in that [something else] and is a necessitated being. In so far as man has immediately determined Impulses he is subjected to Nature, and conducts himself as a necessitated and unfree being.

11. But man can, as a thinking being, reflect upon his impulses which have in themselves necessity for him. Reflection signifies, in general, the cutting off from or reduction [Abkürzung] of the immediate. Reflection (in respect of light) consists in this, that the rays [of light] which, in-themselves, beam forth in straight lines are bent back from this direction. Mind has Reflection. It is not confined to the immediate but may transcend it and proceed to something else; e.g. from the event before it, it may proceed to form an idea of its consequences or of a similar event or also of its causes. When the Mind goes out to something immediate it has removed the same from itself. It has reflected itself into itself. It has gone into itself. It has recognized the immediate as a conditioned, or limited, in as much as it opposes to it another. It is, therefore, a very great difference whether one is or has something and whether he knows that he is or has it; for example, ignorance or rudeness of the sentiments or of behaviour are limitations which one may have without knowing it. In so far as one reflects or knows of them he must know of their opposite. Reflection upon them is already a first step beyond them.

Impulses, as natural determinations, are limitations. Through reflection upon them man begins to transcend them. The first Reflection concerns the means, whether they are commensurate with the impulse, whether the impulse will be gratified through the means; whether, in the second place, the means are not too important to be sacrificed for this impulse. Reflection compares the different impulses and their purposes with the fundamental end and purpose of Being. The purposes of the special impulses are limited but they contribute, each in its own way, to the attainment of the fundamental purpose. One, however, is better adapted for this than another. Hence Reflection has to compare impulses and ascertain which are more closely allied to the fundamental purpose and are best adapted to aid its realization by their gratification. In Reflection begins the transition from lower forms of appetite to the higher. Man is, in Reflection, no longer a mere natural being and stands no longer in the sphere of necessity. Something is necessary when only this and not something else can happen. Reflection has before it not only the one immediate object but also another or its opposite.

12. This Reflection just described is, however, a merely relative affair. Although it transcends the finite, yet it always arrives again at the finite; e.g. when we exceed the limits of one place in space there rises before us another portion of space, greater than before, but it is always only a finite space that thus arises, ad infinitum. Likewise, when we go back in time beyond the present into the past we can imagine a period often thousand or thirty thousand years. Though such reflection proceeds from one particular point in space or time to another, yet it never gets beyond space or time. Such is also the case in the Reflection which is both practical and relational. It leaves some one immediate inclination, desire or impulse and proceeds to another one, and in the end abandons this one also. In so far as it is relative it only falls again into another impulse, moves round and round in a circle of appetites and does not elevate itself above the sphere of impulses as a whole.

The practical Absolute Reflection, however, does elevate itself above this entire sphere of the finite; in other words, it abandons the sphere of the lower appetites, in which man is determined by nature and dependent on the outside world. Finitude consists, on the whole, in this: that something has a limit, i.e., that here its non-being is posited or that here it stops, that through this limit it is related to an ‘other’. Infinite Reflection, however, consists, in this: that the Ego is no longer related to another, but is related to itself; in other words is its own object. This pure relation to myself is the Ego, the root of the Infinite Being itself. It is the perfect abstraction from all that is finite.

The Ego as such has no content which is immediate, i.e. given to it by nature, but its sole content is itself. This pure Form is, at the same time, its content: (a) every content given by nature is something limited: but the Ego is unlimited; (b) the content given by nature is immediate: the pure Ego, however, has no immediate content for the reason that the pure Ego only is by means of the complete abstraction from everything else.

13. In the first place the Ego is the purely indeterminate. It is able, however, by means of reflection, to pass over from indeterminateness to determinateness, e.g. to seeing, hearing, etc. In this determinateness it has become non-self-identical, but it has still remained in its indeterminateness; i.e. it is able, at will, to withdraw into itself again. At this place enters the Act of Resolving [Volition] for Reflection precedes it and consists in this; that the Ego has before it several determinations indefinite as to number and yet each of these must be in one of two predicaments: it necessarily is or is not a determination of the something under consideration. The Act of Resolution cancels that of Reflection, the process to and fro from one to the other, and fixes on a determinateness and makes it its own. The fundamental condition necessary to the Act of Resolving, the possibility of making up one’s mind to do something or even of reflecting prior to the act, is the absolute indeterminateness of the Ego.

14. The Freedom of the Will is freedom in general, and all other freedoms are mere species thereof. When the expression ‘Freedom of the Will’ is used, it is not meant that apart from the Will there is a force or property or faculty which possesses freedom. Just as when the omnipotence of God is spoken of it is not understood that there are still other beings besides him who possess omnipotence. There is also civil freedom, freedom of the press, political and religious freedom. These species of freedom belong to the universal concept of Freedom in so far as it applies to special objects. Religious Freedom consists in this: that religious ideas, religious deeds, are not forced upon me, that is, that there are in them only such determinations as I recognize as my own and make my own. A religion which is forced upon me, or in relation to which I cannot act as a free being, is not my own, but remains alien to me. The Political Freedom of a people consists in this: that they form for themselves their own State and decide what is to be valid as the national will, and that this be done either by the whole people themselves or by those who belong to the people, and who, since every other citizen has the same rights as themselves, can be acknowledged by the people as their own [i.e. as their representatives].

15. Such expressions as these are often used: ‘My will has been determined by these motives, circumstances, incitements, or inducements.’ This expression implies that I have stood in a passive relation [to these motives, etc.]. In truth, however, the Ego did not stand in a merely passive relation but was essentially active therein. The Will, that is, accepted these circumstances as motives and allowed them validity as motives. The causal relation here does not apply. The circumstances do not stand in the relation of cause nor my Will in that of effect. In the causal relation the effect follows necessarily when the cause is given. As reflection, however, I can transcend each and every determination which is posited by the circumstances. In so far as a man pleads in his defence that he was led astray through circumstances, incitements, etc. and, by this plea, [hopes] to rid himself of the consequences of his deed, he lowers himself to the state of an unfree, natural being; while, in truth, his deed is always his own and not that of another or the effect of something outside himself. Circumstances or motives have only so much control over man as he himself gives to them.

The determinations of the Lower Appetites are natural determinations. In so far, it seems to be neither necessary nor possible for man to make them his own. Simply as natural determinations they do not belong to his Will or to his freedom, for the essence of his Will is that nothing be in it which he has not made his own. He, therefore, is able to regard what belongs to his nature as something alien, so that, consequently, it is only in him, only belongs to him in so far as he makes it his own or follows with his volition his natural impulses.

16. To hold a man responsible for an Act means to impute or attribute to him guilt or innocence. Children who are still in a state of nature cannot be held responsible for their deeds, nor can crazy people or idiots.

17. In the distinction of Deed from Act [Tat and Handlung] lies the distinction between the ideas of moral responsibility as they are presented in the tragedies of the ancients and those current in our own time. In the former, among the ancients, Deed was attributed in its entire extent to man. He had to do penance for the entire compass of his actions and no distinction was made if he was conscious of only one aspect of his act and unconscious of the others. He was considered as having an absolute knowledge and not [merely] a relative and contingent knowledge, [in that] whatever he did was considered as his own Deed. Part of him was referred to another Being; e.g. Ajax, when he slew the oxen and sheep of the Greeks in a state of insanity and rage caused by his not receiving the arms of Achilles, did not attribute his crime to his madness, as though he were another being while insane, but he took the whole deed upon himself as its author and slew himself from shame.

18. If the Will were not universal there could be, properly speaking, no actual statutes and nothing which could be imposed as obligatory upon all. Each one could act according to his own pleasure and would not respect the pleasure of others. That the Will is universal flows from the concept of its freedom. Men, considered as they are in the world, show themselves very different in character, customs, inclinations and particular sentiments that is, they differ in their Will. They are by this different individuals and differ by nature from each other. Each one has natural abilities and determinations which others lack. These differences between individuals do not concern the Will in itself, for it is free. Freedom consists precisely in the indeterminate-ness of the Will or in the fact that it has no determined nature in it. The Will by itself is thus a Universal Will. The particularity or individuality of man does not stand in the way of the universality of the Will but is subordinated to it. An Act which is good legally or morally, although done by some one individual, is assented to by all others. They thus recognize themselves, or their own wills, in it. It is the same case here as with works of art. Even those who could never produce such a work find expressed in it their own nature. Such a work shows itself, therefore, as truly universal. It receives the greater applause the less it exhibits the idiosyncrasy of its author.

It can be the case that one is unconscious of his Universal Will. He may believe, indeed, that it is directly opposed to his Will, even though it is his [true] Will. The criminal who is punished may wish, of course, that the punishment be warded off but the Universal Will brings with it the decree that the criminal shall be punished. It must be assumed that the Absolute Will of the criminal demands that he shall be punished. In so far as he is punished the demand is made that he shall see that he is punished justly and, if he sees this, although he may wish to be freed from the punishment as an external suffering yet, in so far as he concedes that he is justly punished, his Universal Will approves of the punishment.

19. The Will-of-Choice [Arbitrariness] is freedom, but only formal freedom or freedom in so far as one’s Will relates to something limited. Two aspects must here be distinguished: (a) in how far the Will does not remain identical with itself in it and (b) in how far it does remain so.

(a) In so far as the Will wills something it has a determined, limited content. It is, in so far, non-identical with itself because it is here actually determined, although in-and-for-itself it is undetermined. The limited content which it has taken up is therefore something else than it itself; e.g. if I will to go or to see, I become a going or a seeing one. I thus enter a relation not identical to myself, since the going and seeing is something limited and not identical with the Ego.

(b) But in relation to the Form I stand in identity with myself or am free still, since I, all the while, distinguish this state of determination from myself as something alien, for the acts of going and seeing are not posited in me by nature but by myself in my own will. In so far as this is the case it is evidently no alien affair because it is made my own and I have my own will in it.

This freedom is only formal freedom because, together with my self-identity, there is present also, at the same time, non-identity with myself or, in other words, there is a limited content in the Ego. When in common life we speak of freedom, we ordinarily understand, under the expression caprice or relative freedom, the liberty to do or to refrain from doing something or other. In the limited Will we can have formal freedom in so far as we distinguish the particular content of our Will from ourselves or reflect upon it, that is, in so far as we are also beyond and above it. If we are in a passion or if we act through a natural impulse we have no formal freedom. Since our Ego, in this emotion, gives itself up wholly it seems to us to be something unlimited [or infinite]. Our Ego is not out[side] of it and does not separate itself from it.

20. The Absolute Free Will distinguishes itself from the Relatively Free Will or Will-of-Choice [Arbitrariness] through this: the Absolute Will has only itself for object, while the Relative Will has something limited. With the Relative Will, with, for example, the appetite, the object of that Will [its content] is all that concerns it. But the Absolute [Will] must be carefully distinguished from Wilfulness. The latter has this in common with the Absolute Will: that it concerns itself not merely with the object but also with the will as Will, insisting that its will as such shall be respected. A distinction is here to be made. The stubborn [wilful] man insists on his will simply because it is his will, without offering a rational ground for it, i.e. without showing his will to have general validity. While strength of will is necessary, such as holds unwaveringly by a rational purpose, on the other hand mere stubbornness, such as arises from idiosyncrasy and is repulsive toward others, is to be detested. The true Free Will has no contingent content. It alone is not contingent.

21. The Pure Will has nothing to do with particularity. In so far as particularity comes into the Will it is Arbitrariness, for Arbitrariness has a limited interest and takes its determinations from natural impulses and inclinations. Such a content is a given one and is not posited absolutely through the will. The fundamental principle of the Will is, therefore, that its freedom be established and preserved. Besides this it has indeed many different kinds of determinations: it has a variety of definite purposes, regulations, conditions, etc., but these are not purposes of the Will in-and-for-itself. Still they are purposes for the reason that they are means and conditions for the realization of the freedom of the Will, which [realization] demands regulations and laws for the purpose of restraining caprice and inclination or mere ‘good pleasure’. In a word, the impulses and appetites which relate to mere natural ends, e.g. Education, has for its end the elevation of man to an independent state of existence: i.e. to that existence wherein he is a Free Will. On this view many restraints are imposed upon the desires and likings of children. They must learn to obey and consequently to annul their mere individual or particular wills and, moreover, [to annul also] to this end their sensuous inclinations and appetites that, by this means, their Will may become free.

22. Firstly, Man is a free being. This constitutes the fundamental characteristic of his nature. Nevertheless, besides freedom he has other necessary wants, special purposes and impulses, e.g. the impulse for knowledge, for the preservation of his life, health, etc. In these special determinations Law has not man as such for its object. It has not the design to further him in the pursuit of the same or to afford him special help therein.

Secondly, Law does not depend upon one’s motives. One may do something with the best of intentions and yet the deed be not lawful and just for all this but wrong. On the other hand an act, for example the maintenance of my property, may be perfectly lawful and yet I have a bad motive since I may have sought not what was just and lawful but the injury of another. Upon Law as such the intention or motive has no influence.

Thirdly, it is not a matter of conviction as to whether that which I perform is right or wrong. This holds particularly with regard to punishment. Although an effort is made to convince the criminal that he has violated what is Law, yet his conviction or non-conviction has no influence on the justice that is meted out to him.

Finally, Law pays no regard to the disposition or sentiment under whose influence anything is done. It very often happens that one does what is right merely through fear of punishment or fear of unpleasant consequences, such, for instance, as the loss of reputation or credit. Or it happens that one does right from the conviction that he will be rewarded in another life. Law, however, as such, is independent of these sentiments and convictions.

23. Law must be distinguished from Morality. Something may be well enough from a legal point of view which is not allowable from a moral point of view. The Law grants me the disposition of my property without determining how I shall dispose of it, but Morality contains determinations which restrain me in this respect. It may seem as though Morality permitted many things which the Law does not, but Morality demands not merely the observance of Justice towards others but requires also that the disposition to do right shall be present, that the law shall be respected as Law. Morality demands first that the legal right shall be obeyed and where it ceases enters moral determination.

In order that an act may have moral value Insight is necessary into its nature [as to] whether it be right or wrong, good or evil. What one terms the innocence of children or of uncivilized nations is not yet Morality. Children or such uncivilized nations escape the commission of a multitude of bad acts because they have no ideas of them: i.e. because the essential relations are not yet extant under which alone such deeds are possible. Such non-committal of evil acts has no moral value. But they do perform acts which are not in accordance with Morality and yet, for the reason that no insight exists into their nature [as to] whether they are good or bad, they are not strictly Moral acts.

Private conviction stands opposed to the mere faith in the authority of another. If my act is to have moral value my conviction must enter into the act. The act must be mine in a whole sense. If I act on the authority of another my act is not fully my own; it is the act of an alien conviction in me.

There are, however, relations in which the moral aspect consists precisely in being obedient and acting according to the authority of another. Originally man followed his natural inclinations without reflection or else with reflections that were one-sided, wrong, unjust and under the dominion of the senses. In this condition the best thing for him was to learn to obey, for the reason that his will was not yet a rational one. Through this obedience the negative advantage is gained that he learns to renounce his sensuous appetites and only through such obedience can man attain to independence and freedom. In this sphere he always follows another, whether it be his own will, still immersed in the senses, or whether it be the will of another. As a natural creature he stands under the dominion of external things and his inclinations and appetites are something immediate [and] not free or something alien to his true will. The one who is obedient to the Law of Reason is obedient from the point of view of his unessential nature only, which stands under the dominion of that which is alien to him. On the other hand he is independent self-determination, for this Law has its root in his essence.

The Disposition [Gesinnung] is thus in the moral realm an essential element. It consists in this: that one does his duty for its own sake. It is, therefore, an immoral motive to do anything out of fear of punishment or in order to preserve another’s good opinion. This is a heterogeneous motive, for it is not from the nature of the thing itself. In such a case one does not consider the Law as something in-and-for-itself but as dependent upon external determinations.

Yet the consideration whether an action is to be punished or rewarded, although the consequences do not constitute the value of a deed, is of importance. The consequences of a good act may sometimes involve much that is evil and, on the contrary, an evil act involve much good. The thinking upon the consequences of an act is important, for the reason that one does not remain standing by an immediate point of view but proceeds beyond it. Through its manifold consideration one is led to the nature of Acts.

According to the standpoint of Law man is his own object as an absolutely free existence; according to the moral standpoint on the contrary he is self-object, an individual in his special existence, a member of the family, a friend, a particular character, etc. If the external circumstances in which one man stands with another are so situated that he fulfils his vocation, that is his Fortune. This well-being depends partly on his own will and partly upon external circumstances and other men. Morality has, also, the particular existence or well-being of man for its object and demands not only that man be left in his abstract freedom but that his happiness be promoted. Well-being, as the adaptation of the external to our internal being, we call Pleasure. Happiness is not a mere individual pleasure but an enduring condition [which is] in part the actual Pleasure itself [and], in part also, the circumstances and means through which one always has, at will, the ability to create a state of comfort and pleasure for himself. The latter form is the pleasure of the mind. In Happiness, however, as in Pleasure, there lies the idea of good fortune [good luck]: that it is an accidental matter whether or no the external circumstances agree with the internal determinations of the desires. Blessedness, on the contrary, consists in this: that no fortune [luck] pertains to it: i.e. that in it the agreement of the external existence with the internal desire is not accidental. Blessedness can be predicated only of God, in whom willing and accomplishment of his absolute power is the same. For man, however, the harmony of the external with his internal is limited and contingent. In this he is dependent.

24. The Moral Will, in regard to its disposition and conviction, is imperfect. It is a Will which aims at perfection but (a) is driven towards the attainment of the same through the impulses of sensuousness and individuality and (b) has not the adequate means in its power and is, therefore, limited to bringing about the good of others.

In Religion, on the contrary, we consider the Divine Being the perfection of the Will, according to its two aspects, namely [a] the perfection of the disposition which no longer has any alien impulses within and [b] the perfection of the power to attain holy ends [or purposes].


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