Kant’s System of Ethics in its Relation to Schiller’s Ethical Views

  • Hans Reiner
Part of the Phaenomenologica book series (PHAE, volume 93)


Our undertaking does not require even a nearly complete account of Kant’s ethics, and indeed it would not be expedient to give one. We need only to present Kant’s chief views as clearly as we can, so that we shall have a groundwork for the critique to follow; anything merely secondary may be disregarded.


Moral Action Pure Reason Categorical Imperative Moral Good Imperative Form 
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  1. 1.
    Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, p. 445. (Translators note: For translations of passages from the Groundwork and the Critique of Practical Reason, I have relied on H.J. Paton (New York, 1964) and L. W. Beck (New York, 1956) respectively. In some places I depart from their translations without remark. Page references to these and other works by Kant are to the Akademie - Ausgabe. The pagination of this edition is also given by Paton and Beck. - A small t, b, or m after a page number refers the reader to the top, bottom, or middle of the page.)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ibid., p. 394; cf. pp. 399 b., 400 t., and 435 m.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ibid, p. 394.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Ibid., pp. 394, 397–401, 403 f., 407, 415, 426 ff., 435 f., 439, 449 f., and 454; no fewerGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Groundwork, p. 393.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Critique of Practical Reason, pp. 21 f. Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Ibid., pp. 32 and 81; The Metaphysics of Morals, p. 379.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Critique of Pure Reason, B 263.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Critique of Practical Reason, p. 19.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Groundwork, p. 424.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Ibid., p. 412. For a similar definition see p. 427.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Critique of Practical Reason, p. 119 b. and Critique of Pure Reason, A 405, B 356.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Groundwork, p. 414.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Critique of Practical Reason, p. 30. Cf. Groundwork, p. 421.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Groundwork, p. 423.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    The widespread view that the categorical imperative only prohibits is thus a misconcep-tion, like the view that it is without any contentGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Ibid., p. 416. Cf. p. 435 m. and Critique of Practical Reason, pp. 71 m., 116, and 147.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Ibid., p. 441. Cf. Critique of Practical Reason, p. 34.Google Scholar
  19. 18a.
    Critique of Practical Reason, p. 34.Google Scholar
  20. 19.
    Groundwork, p. 436 ff. Cf. Critique of Practical Reason, pp. 56 ff. and 67 ff.Google Scholar
  21. 20.
    Ibid., p. 429.Google Scholar
  22. 21.
    Ibid., pp. 429t. and 431.Google Scholar
  23. 22.
    Ibid., pp. 437–8.Google Scholar
  24. 1.
    Critique of Practical Reason, pp. 71 b. and 81 m.Google Scholar
  25. 2.
    Groundwork, p. 4601.; Critique of Practical Reason, pp. 75 and 80; The Metaphysics of Morals, pp. 390/400.Google Scholar
  26. 2a.
    The Metaphysics of Morals, Introduction.Google Scholar
  27. 3.
    Critique of Practical Reason, pp. 38–40.Google Scholar
  28. 4.
    Groundwork, p. 401 n.Google Scholar
  29. 5.
    This follows mediately, but especially clearly, from the Critique of Practical Reason, p. 23 n. 1.Google Scholar
  30. 5a.
    Ibid., p. 76.Google Scholar
  31. 6.
    Most of them are on pp. 397–399.Google Scholar
  32. 7.
    Groundwork, p. 398.Google Scholar
  33. 8.
    Compare Schiller’s witty distich in “Die Philosophen”: “Gerne dien ich den Freunden, doch tu ich es leider mit Neigung,/ Und so wurmt es mir oft, daβ ich nicht tugendhaft bin”. “Always glad to help a friend, yet sadly I am so inclined,/ And so this often vexes me, not being virtuous”. Even today this misinterpretation survives, as the following remarks from H.A. Korff, Geist der Goethezeit, II, 298 t. show: “there is no doubting, then, that a man acts morally only when he suppresses his inclinations from a sense of duty. About this Schiller and Kant…agree completely...” O. Walzel expresses much the same view in his introduction to Schiller’s Philosophische Schriften (Säkular-Ausgabe) XI, xl: “Kant’s categorical imperative demands of men that they should let each of their actions be preceded by a struggle in which the law of duty prevails over sensuous inclinations”.Google Scholar
  34. 9.
    Religion within the Bounds of Reason Alone, pp. 29/30.Google Scholar
  35. 10.
    Ibid., p. 36.Google Scholar
  36. 11.
    Ibid., p. 22.Google Scholar
  37. 12.
    Ibid., p. 32.Google Scholar
  38. 1.
    First published in Neue Thalia (1793). References are to Schillers Philosophische Schriften und Gedichte, ed. Eugen Kühnemann, 3rd edition (Leipzig, 1922), pp. 95–157.Google Scholar
  39. 2.
    Ibid., p. 131.Google Scholar
  40. 3.
    Ibid., pp. 130/1.Google Scholar
  41. 4.
    Ibid., p. 128.Google Scholar
  42. 5.
    Ibid., pp. 128/9.Google Scholar
  43. 6.
    Ibid., p. 132.Google Scholar
  44. 7.
    Ibid., p. 129. The expression “the conformity of a will to duty” is not here in keeping with Kant’s usage. “Conformity to duty” is Kant’s German expression for mere “legality”, that is, for the outward accordance of an action with duty, and Schiller (as the context shows) obviously means “morality”, that is, conduct “from a sense of duty”.Google Scholar
  45. 7a.
    Ibid., p. 129.Google Scholar
  46. 8.
    Ibid., p. 130.Google Scholar
  47. 9.
    Ibid., pp. 129/30.Google Scholar
  48. 10.
    Ibid., p. 133.Google Scholar
  49. 11.
    Ibid., p. 134. Google Scholar
  50. 12.
    Ibid., p. 136.Google Scholar
  51. 13.
    Ibid., pp. 139/40.Google Scholar
  52. 14.
    Ibid., p. 141.Google Scholar
  53. 15.
    Ibid., p. 149.Google Scholar
  54. 16.
    Ibid., p. 133.Google Scholar
  55. 17.
    Ibid., p. 148.Google Scholar
  56. 1.
    Cf. the end of § 3 above.Google Scholar
  57. 2.
    Kant’s rigorism, as we have said, consists in the view that there is no intermediate between good and evil, and that inclination is therefore an evil incentive, and must be resisted, even when it would actuate us jointly with respect for the law. Schiller objects to this, it is true. But Schiller did not want to prove merely that the concurrence of inclination and duty as motives was not evil, or that there was an intermediate between good and evil. Schiller believed, and he was concerned to show, that the concurrence of inclination as an incentive with the incentive of duty could be morally good; and this does not at all make him a “latitudinarian” such as Kant contrasts with the “rigorist” (Religion, p. 22). Schiller has therefore every right to hope that he has not become a latitudinarian by representing the claims of sensibility (On Grace and Dignity, p. 129). But, because Kant opened his answer to Schiller with the catch-phrase “rigorist manner of decision-making”, his ethics has since been spoken of generally as a rigorism not in the sense in which he defined the term, but in the light of his disagreement with Schiller, that is, as a rejection of the idea that inclination can have a moral function.Google Scholar
  58. 3.
    On Grace and Dignity, pp. 130/1.Google Scholar
  59. 4.
    Ibid., p. 130.Google Scholar
  60. 5.
    Critique of Pure Reason, B 838 t.; cf. Groundwork, p. 438 b.Google Scholar
  61. 6.
    Groundwork, p. 401 n.Google Scholar
  62. 7.
    The Metaphysics of Morals, p. 380 m.Google Scholar
  63. 8.
    Ibid., pp. 401–403 and 448 ff.; cf. Critique of Practical Reason, p. 83.Google Scholar
  64. 9.
    Vorländer, Kant, Schiller, Goethe, 2nd impression p. 103.Google Scholar
  65. 1.
    Cf. § 1 above.Google Scholar
  66. 2.
    H. Cysarz’s judgement of what has been written about Schiller’s relation as a “theoretician” to Kant is therefore not unfair: “The very greatest part of what has been printed on this question is utterly worthless”. Schiller, p. 44.Google Scholar
  67. 3.
    Cf. O.F. Bollnow’s essay “Was heißt einen Schriftsteller besser verstehen, als er sich selbst verstanden hat?” Deutsche Vierteljahresschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte (1940), pp. 117 ff. Reprinted in Bollnow, Das Verstehen (Mainz, 1949).Google Scholar
  68. 4.
    Critique of Judgement, § 59.Google Scholar
  69. 5.
    On Grace and Dignity, p. 130.Google Scholar
  70. 6.
    Bruno Bauch notices (Vorländer and Kühnemann do not) that Schiller contradicts himself by making this demand. Cf. Bauch, “Schiller und die Idee der Freiheit”, Kantstudien X (1905), pp. 356 and 360. However he touches on this point only very briefly, and rejects Schiller’s demand out of hand as inconsistent with Kantian principles. Bauch praises Schiller then only for urging us “to esteem all of a man”, which demand compensated Kant’s having paid too little attention to the “extra-moral sphere” (Ibid., p. 363).Google Scholar
  71. 7.
    Die Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der reinen Vernunft, ed. Vorländer, p. LXIV; cf. Lose Blätter aus Kants Nachlaß. Google Scholar
  72. 8.
    Cf. especially at p. 107 b. in On Grace and Dignity: “The domain of the mind extends (sc. in man) as far as nature is alive (sc. in him)... Not only the tools of the will, but tools that the will has no power to command directly, are influenced at least indirectly by it. The mind governs them not only intentionally, when it acts, but also unintentionally, when it feels”.Google Scholar
  73. 9.
    Ibid., p. 133.Google Scholar
  74. 10.
    Schillers philosophische Schriften und Gedichte, p. 50. Google Scholar
  75. 11.
    H.A. Korff’s account in Geist der Goethezeit (Leipzig, 1927–29) II, 298 is fairly ac- curate on this point, though he does use the terms “morality” and “moral” without resolving their ambiguity entirely.Google Scholar
  76. 12.
    Friedrich Schiller, On the Aesthetic Education of Man - in a Series of Letters, ed. and trans. Elizabeth M. Wilkinson and L.A. Willoughby (Oxford, 1967), p. 215.Google Scholar
  77. 13.
    Ibid., p. 217.Google Scholar
  78. 14.
    Ibid., p. 219.Google Scholar
  79. 15.
    Ibid., p. 187.Google Scholar
  80. 16.
    I thank Prof. Dr. Herbert Cysarz for calling my attention to the letter. Vorländer, as I later discovered, also quotes from it in Kant, Schiller, Goethe, p. 42.Google Scholar

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© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, The Hague 1983

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  • Hans Reiner

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