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The Origin of the Moral Ought and its Relations to Inclination and Willing

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

Abstract

The ethical problem this book has undertaken to resolve is that of the foundation of the moral ought or duty; and we have said that especial attention would be paid to the relations of the moral ought to “inclination” and willing. We shall have to begin our work (in accordance with the principles of method set forth in the last chapter) with an exhibition and description of those forms of moral consciousness in which the moral ought comes to givenness. We must not try to explain, that is, to interpret and analyse, the grounds of the moral ought until we have established with certainty that there is such a thing and have a clear idea of it in our minds. The purpose of the exhibition will be to provide against our falling short of our goal to explain the grounds of the moral ought because our explanation has overlooked important constituents of the thing we want to explain. The description will be necessary especially in order to shed light on what phenomena of our consciousness of the moral ought can be considered (or asserted to be) general in the sense that they occur frequently among all men (or at least frequently in the circle of men covered by our empirical study).

Keywords

Moral Judgement Moral Obligation Moral Decision Moral Life Moral Consciousness 
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References

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    A number of works on the subject of conscience have been published since the appearance of Stoker’s book, most of them in Switzerland. A few of these are: The second edition of P. Häberlin’s booklet Über das Gewissen (Basle, 1930); H. Schmalenbach, “Das Gewissen”, Festschrift für K. Joel (Basle, 1934); W. Bremi, Was ist das Gewissen? (Zurich, 1934); Af. Nachmansohn, Wesen und Formen des Gewissens (Vienna, 1937). I have only had an opportunity to look over the works by Häberlin and Schmalenbach. The researches reported in this chapter differ from Häberlin’s (so far as I can see) mainly in the respect that our analysis for determining the relation between duty and inclination is more complete. Schmalenbach does not touch on this question at all. Nevertheless he does offer some very subtle descriptions of phenomena; an examination of them is omitted here because it would distract us from our problem.Google Scholar
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    Kant defines inclination to the effect that it is “the dependency of the faculty of desire on sensations” (Groundwork, p. 413 n).Google Scholar
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    A metaphysics of morality (which will be especially a metaphysics of value) is planned for the 3rd part of my ethics (the present book contains all of the first part thereof except a critique of some opponents).Google Scholar
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  23. 9.
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  30. 15a.
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    This difference between relative and absolute values has already been described in a similar way by Nicolai Hartmann, in Chapter 15 of his Ethik. However Hartmann did not notice the fundamental importance of this difference to ethics; this will be shown below.Google Scholar
  32. 17.
    Instead of the terms “objectively important” and “subjectively important”, “fruitiv - objective” and “fruitiv-subjective” appear in the German edition of 1951, “fruitiv” often being left off. Since 1955 I have ceased to use the latter terms in favor of the former, which seem to me better. (Appended note, 1970).Google Scholar
  33. 18.
    Cf. On this difference my lecture “Das Prinzip von Gut und Böse” (Freiburg, 1949).Google Scholar
  34. 1.
    A critique of value ethics from the point of view of Thomism is attempted by M. Witt- mann in his book Die moderne Wertethik (1940).Google Scholar
  35. 2.
    For example, in F.J. von Rintelen, Der Wertgedanke in der europaischen Geistesent- wicklung (1932); Joh. Lotz “Sein und Wert”, Zeitschrift fur katholische Theologie (1933); and Th. Steinbiichel, Die philosophischen Grundlagen der katholischen Sittenlehre, 3rd ed. (1947).Google Scholar
  36. 3.
    First published in the year-book Geistige Überlieferung (1942); the book edition was published at Bern, 1947.Google Scholar
  37. 4.
    First published in the book edition of Platons Lehre von der Wahrheit; now available also as a reprint (Frankfort, 1949). An English translation by F. Capuzzi and J. Glenn Gray, and titled “Letter on Humanism”, is included in M. Heidegger, Basic Writings (New York, 1977), pp. 193–242. The quotation is from this translation, p. 228.Google Scholar
  38. 5.
    Frankfort, 1950. The essays are translated by William Lovitt under the titles “The Age of the World Picture” and “The Word of Nietzsche: ‘God is Dead’” in M. Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays (New York, 1977), pp. 115–154 and pp. 53–112. The quotations are from Lovitt’s translations, p. 142, p. 66, pp. 71–2, p. 103, and p. 108.Google Scholar
  39. 6.
    Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkt, Chapter Eight (= Von der Klassifikation der psychischen Phänomene, Chapter Four), § 3.Google Scholar
  40. 7.
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  41. 8.
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  43. 10.
    The passage is quoted in German translation by Jonas Cohn in Wertwissenschaft (Stuttgart, 1932), p. XI, and the English is printed as a motto on the titel-page.Google Scholar
  44. 11.
    The term “agathos” is applied by neither Plato nor Aristotle to inanimate things such as tools, but “arete” is used thus, the term signifying the fitness that makes any entity that possesses it a good example of its kind. The connection between “agathos” and “arete” (in addition to being apparent in the stem of the words “areion” and “aristos”) is pointed out by Plato in the Gorgias, 506 d and by Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics, B. 5. On this cf. J. Stenzel, Platon der Erzieher (1928), p. 123.Google Scholar
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    The connection between the terms is obviously this, that the fitness which characterizes an entity as agathos is as much the object of a striving as the agathon, and therefore satisfies a need. However goodness in the sense of fitness, since such goodness is also the fulfilment of a possibility of Being, in represented solely as the goal of a striving by the entity to whose nature the fitness belongs. The agathon on the other hand is most often striven after by other beings, to whom it seems useful.Google Scholar
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  48. 15.
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    pp. 427ff.Google Scholar
  51. 18.
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    Chief passages: Mikrokosmos, 1st impression, I, 261, 268ff., and 275; Grundziige der praktischen Philosophie, § 8. Other attempts by Lotze at defining value can be passed over here. Cf. F. Bamberger, Untersuchungen zur Entstehung des Wertproblems in der Philosophie des 19. Jahrhunderts, I (Halle, 1924).Google Scholar
  53. 20.
    Die Stellung des Menschen im Kosmos, 2nd impression (1947), pp. 36f.Google Scholar
  54. 21.
    The referring of value to needs has been criticized also by Meinong and others, who have shown that there is no general conformity of value with needs (as was alleged by others before Heidegger). Cf. Zur Grundlegung der allgemeinen Werttheorie, (Graz, 1923), pp. 12–19.Google Scholar
  55. 22.
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    The presence of Being in the ill and the untenableness of declaring it to be a mere deficiency are pointed out by Aloys Wenzl in his book Philosophic der Freiheit (Munich, 1947), pp. 199f. Moreover he shows the way (indicated before him by Schiller in Don Carlos) of “justifying” divine providence in view of the existence of evil: the ill (especially evil) is permitted for the sake of freedom, since it is essential to freedom that it can be misused, and the ill is a consequence of misused freedom.Google Scholar
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    Cf. Being and Time, pp. 84, 87, 191ff., 58, 121.Google Scholar
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    On “Grundprobleme der Phanomenologie” during the winter semester of 1919–20. I may mention here that from 1919 to 1923 and from 1927 to 1930 I attended some of Heidegger’s lectures and took part in seminars conducted by him. He was, then, my principal teacher after Husserl (under whom I took my doctor’s degree). I confess with pleasure my debt to Heidegger for many insights and much of my philosophical education; a debt easily gathered from my earlier publications Phänomenologie und menschliche Existenz (Halle, 1931), Das Phänomen des Glaubens (Halle, 1934), and Die Existenz der Wissenschaft (Halle, 1934). But this ought not to keep me from expressing certain objections, which I have long entertained, to some principles of his philosophy, and which only gradually became clear to me.Google Scholar
  60. 27.
    This raises the question how far the whole of Heidegger’s philosophy is being pushed backwards in the direction of the critical realism opposed by him, i.e. in the direction of Nicolai Hartmann’s ontology. This question cannot be inquired into here. Appended note, 1973: The above criticism is aimed at Heidegger’s position in Being and Time, i.e. before his so-called Kehre. It does not apply to his position thereafter, since the Kehre has headed him towards a (I admit, entirely new) kind of realism.Google Scholar
  61. 28.
    “Bonum et ens sunt idem secundum rem; sed differunt secundum rationem… Ratio enim boni in hoc consistit, quod sit aliquid appetibile”. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I, q. 5, a. 1. Google Scholar
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    Summa Theologica, I, q. 5, a. 6.Google Scholar
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    This treatment of Thomistic ethics had to be kept extremely short so as not to explode the framework which alone enabled us to consider it in this book. A full discussion including other points of Thomistic ethics besides those touched on here is in preparation.Google Scholar
  64. 1.
    This is not to say that the words “responsibility” and “honor” are invariably used in modern German in keeping with the definitions proposed here. But that German usage does agree roughly with our distinction seems to me beyond doubt. This is truer still of the expressions “a sense of responsibility” and “a sense of honor”. At all events we are entitled to indicate by our definitions of words any important real differences that we find; and we have all the more right to do so when the definitions are consonant with an apparent tendency in German usage.Google Scholar
  65. 2.
    Cf. Formalismus, p. 22 (in Husserl’s Jahrbuch I, Part Two, p. 426). For a similar passage cf. Wesen und Formen der Sympathie (Bonn, 1923), pp. 188f.Google Scholar
  66. 2.
    Cf. Scheler’s Formalismus, especially pp. 20f. and 84ff. (in Husserl’s Jahrbuch, I, 424f. and 488ff.)Google Scholar
  67. 3.
    On the question of value superiority two special writings from Hartmann’s school are available besides Scheler’s and N. Hartmann’s own inquiries: Gerda von Bredow, Sittlicher Wert und Realwert (Göttingen, 1947) and Meta Hübler, “Werthöhe und Wertstärke in der Ethik von Nicolai Hartmann”, Philosophische Studien (1950) vol. II, nos 1 and 2. The latter is merely an account and interpretation of Hartmann’s position. G. v. Bredow expressly concentrates in her investigations on the problem of “situation”. But, because she is chiefly concerned, like Hartmann, with values attaching to conduct (values of virtue), rather than with values attaching to the goals and consequences of action, none of the principles brought out on the following pages are discovered by her inquiries.Google Scholar
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    The aspect of the probability of need is thus connected with temporal pressingness, just as the other principles of value superiority here set forth stand in relations of various kinds to each other. These relations however cannot be treated in any detail here.Google Scholar
  69. 1.
    The goal and foreseeable consequences of a course of conduct are admittedly separated by a considerable difference in the nature of their moral importance; for my willing an objectively important value or disvalue for its own sake has not the same moral weight as my accepting it as an additional consequence of something that is willed for its own sake.Google Scholar
  70. 2.
    Theological ethics has not always been so far as it is generally at present (in both denominations) from the insight that only a value attaching to God, and only an “absolute” value (in the sense defined above in § 20), can endow Him with the character of a genuine moral authority (and not His position as Creator). This insight is contained clearly enough, if only implicitly, for example, in the following sentence from Bonaventura: “Ad opera bona tria nos incitant, scilicet: 1. lex naturae…2. ratio…,3. gratia, quae dicitserviendum esse Deo, quia summe bonus…” (Compendium Theologiae veritatis, Lib. V, cap. II). On the relation of theonomic ethics to purely philosophical - axionomic morality cf. my essay “Zur Frage, Sittlichkeit und Religion”, Die Sammlung (August, 1947).Google Scholar
  71. 3.
    Naturally only from a certain age on.Google Scholar
  72. 1.
    O.F. Bollnow, in a worthwhile essay on “Einfache Sittlichkeit” (published in Die Sam- mlung during its first year, 1945–6, and now available also in a collection of essays with the same title, and published at Gottingen, 1947), puts forward the view that the word “duty” has only the narrower of the meanings given to it here. However he does see cause to include among special duties “duties of humanity”, and in consequence explodes the limit he puts on the use of the word. And it is but a short step from here to accepting the opinion set forth above, that a narrow and a wide meaning of “duty” must be distinguished from each other, in keeping with modern German usage. Incidentally Bollnow also uses the word in its wide sense in some passages (cf. pp. 169, 170, and 173).Google Scholar
  73. 2.
    This would not be so only if there happened to be in the company either at least 20 other fathers (each of them with no fewer than 8 young children) or 20 other men with equally important obligations.Google Scholar
  74. 1.
    The meaning of Rousseau’s volonté générale was not understood adequately by him, nor has it yet been adequately understood. Cf. my essay “Rousseau’s Idee des Contrat social und die Freiheit der Staatsbürger”, Archiv für Rechts- und Sozialphilosophie (1950–51), no. 1.Google Scholar
  75. 2.
    7th and 8th impressions (1906), vol. I, 367.Google Scholar
  76. 3.
    2nd impression (1947), p. 8.Google Scholar
  77. 4.
    At the same time, with such general judgements it is not a matter of indifference who per- forms the conduct judged in the sense that one’s personal situation, which includes one’s personal abilities, is unimportant.Google Scholar
  78. 4a.
    Further, the generalization of a maxim to the point that it becomes a law is so understood that the latter becomes a law for all (finite) moral persons, and not, as on Kant’s view of his formula, a law for subhuman nature also.Google Scholar
  79. 5.
    That is not to say that all the moral judgements I perform are by nature irrevocable. Naturally it is possible to make a mistake here, and so there is the necessity of correcting mistakes once they are noticed. But this has nothing to do with the fact that the reasonable moral judgements I make myself are of necessity as valid for me as I think them to be relatively to others in the same position. On this point Kwan has misunderstood me completely in his dissertation, which was mentioned above (§ 19, n. 3). Google Scholar
  80. 6.
    For more on the Golden Rule cf. Chapter 5, and also my essay of that title, which appeared in the Zeitschrift für philosophische Forschung (1948), vol. III, no. 1.Google Scholar
  81. 1.
    “From respect for the law I submit myself to myself. In this act of submitting myself to myself, I am as I myself... In submitting to the law, I submit myself to myself as pure reason. In this act of submitting myself to myself, I raise myself to myself, as the free being who determines itself. This peculiar raising of oneself to oneself by submission reveals the I in its ‘dignity’… Respect is accordingly the I’s manner of being itself, in consequence of which it ‘does not cast off the hero in its soul’. Respect is the I’s manner of being responsible to itself, is the genuine being-of -oneself”. Kant und das Problem der Metaphysik, 1st edition (1929), p. 151.Google Scholar
  82. 2.
    Critique of Pure Reason, B836 and 841; Critique of Practical Reason, p. 130, cf. pp. 110 and 129.Google Scholar
  83. 1.
  84. 2.
    Cf. the essay “Falsche Ehrbegriffe” by Eduard Spranger in nos. 5 and 6, 1947, of the Deutscher Rundschau. Here the main forms of such misuse, especially as practiced by the holders of power in Germany’s recent past, are examined critically.Google Scholar
  85. 1.
  86. 2.
  87. 3.
    Cf. on this § 4 above.Google Scholar
  88. 1.
    For a closer inquiry into the possible connection of good and evil with the morally right and false cf. my lecture “Das Prinzip von Gut und Böse” (Freiburg, 1949), pp. 20–23. By our distinction of good and evil from morally right and false, if at the same time the true relation between them is established, the way, we believe, is prepared for solving an old problem touched on by David Baumgardt under the title “Gesinnungsethik oder Erfolgsethik”, in Philosophische Studien (1949) no. 1. The merit of Baumgardt’s essay, namely that he calls attention once again to this old and hitherto unresolved problem, is much diminished by the fact that he not only resolves, but states, it incorrectly. For it cannot be a matter here of an Either- Or, but only one of finding the right synthesis. Especially on this point the reader is urged to refer to my essay.Google Scholar
  89. 2.
    A pleasure in destroying can be combined with such a will. But this pleasure is not striven after as a subjective value. For it is not at all a goal that one strives after by one’s action, but only a (pleasant) accompaniment thereof. Nicolai Hartmann is of the opinion (Ethik, Chapter 39 e) that man wills what is repugnant to some value never for its own sake, but only in order to attain something of positive value. “He who injures does not will the injury of another, but his own profit”. A being capable of willing what is repugnant to value for its own sake, Hartmann says, is familiar to us only in the idea of “Satan”. Characterologists will, I regret to say, scarcely be able to agree with this optimistic view of mankind. The desire for revenge and acts of revenge, for example, which are very common among men, can be explained only partly by a striving after retributive justice. And again there are the human phenomena of pure and groundless joy at the misfortunes of others, and also pure envy, which begrudges another his property or well-being, and takes pleasure in the destruction thereof though nothing is to be gained by it. It is also a matter of fact that some men take pleasure in the pointless tormenting of animals, as is the gruesome lust of some to see other men suffer.Google Scholar
  90. 3.
    Our definition of the nature of this form of evil agrees, then, for the most part (not completely) with Kant’s of the nature of evil in general.Google Scholar
  91. 4.
    The latter term must not be confused with that of “conduct-values”.Google Scholar
  92. 5.
    Bravery has so far been used as an illustration of direction-values. But it is not essential to bravery to be such.Google Scholar
  93. 6.
    In this sense Kant is right in maintaining that, when all is said, nothing is morally good except a “good will” (Groundwork, p. 393). To Scheler, who rejects this, and contends that the self in its Being is rather ultimately and originally good, we can object that the self realizes its goodness or evilness only through judgements by the will.Google Scholar
  94. 7.
    Once again the reader is referred to the detailed treatment of these possibilities in my book Freiheit, Wollen und Aktivitdt. (Cf. especially the passages listed in the subject index under the catchword “Machtbereich”). Google Scholar
  95. 8.
    The only one notable for having held this view after Schiller is Herbart. Google Scholar
  96. 9.
    Kant’s view is nevertheless not so very different from that here set forth, though it might seem to be so in the light of his fundamental definitions for distinguishing the good from the beautiful (The Critique of Judgement, §§ 2–5). For, as the beauty of man is an “adherent” beauty (Ibid., § 16), it is quite possible to take an “interest” in it, and this interest is capable of being carried over to moral beauty. A critique of this side of Kant’s theory cannot be given here, but has to be reserved for a later, supplementary inquiry.Google Scholar
  97. 1.
    Cf. on attitudes my book Freiheit, Wollen und Aktivität, § 28.Google Scholar
  98. 2.
    On this cf. Ph. Lersch, Der Aufbau des Charakters, 2nd ed. p. 25, and also A. Wellek, Das Problem des seelischen Seins (Leipzig, 1941, 2nd ed. Meisenheim, 1952).Google Scholar
  99. 3.
    This connection is nearly touched on by Kant in The Metaphysics of Morals, in Section IX of the Introduction to the Philosophy of Virtue, where Kant points out that every maxim of an action contains a purpose. Seeing that there are general purposes, which are pursued not only by a single action, but during one’s entire life, and that Kant brings out two purposes of this very kind in The Metaphysics of Morals (the happiness of others and one’s own perfection), the embodiment of maxims in permanent habits of the will is obviously taken for granted here.Google Scholar
  100. 1.
    Cf. § 20 above.Google Scholar
  101. 2.
    § 22 above.Google Scholar
  102. 3.
    The distinction between these two sources has nothing to do with that drawn by Henri Bergson in his work Les deux sources de la morale et de la religion. The general view of morality set forth in the present book does bear many similarities in substance to what Bergson represents as the second “source” of consciousness of the moral ought. On the other hand, what is declared to be a consciousness of the moral ought in the discussion of his first “source”, that consciousness being referred to habit and various mistakes and confusions, has in our opinion hardly anything to do with real morality. That and how a moral ought is connected, contrary to Bergson’s opinion, with the true content of morality, which he comes upon in his second source, our analyses show. Only this ought remains inconspicuous and unnoticed when it is not opposed to willing and inclination. And this is obviously the reason why it has been overlooked by Bergson and many other philosophers.Google Scholar

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© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, The Hague 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hans Reiner

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