Kant's Critique of Practical Reason and Other Works on the Theory of Ethics

By Immanuel Kant; Thomas Kingsmill Abbott | Go to book overview

(195) CHAPTER III.
OF THE MOTIVES OF PURE PRACTICAL REASON.

WHAT is essential in the moral worth of actions is that the moral law should directly determine the will. If the determination of the will takes place in conformity indeed to the moral law, but only by means of a feeling, no matter of what kind, which has to be presupposed in order that the law may be sufficient to determine the will, and therefore not for the sake of the law, then the action will possess legality, but not morality. Now, if we understand by motive [or spring ] (elater animi) the subjective ground of determination of the will of a being whose Reason does not necessarily conform to the objective law, by virtue of its own nature, then it will follow, first, that no motives can be attributed to the Divine will, and that the motives of the human will (as well as that of every created rational being) can never be anything else than the moral law, and consequently that the objective principle of determination must always and alone be also the subjectively sufficient determining principle of the action (196), if this is not merely to fulfil the letter of the law, without containing its spirit.1

Since then, for the purpose of giving the moral law influence over the will, we must not seek for any other motives that might enable us to dispense with the motive of the law itself, because that would produce mere hypocrisy, without consistency; and it is even dangerous to allow other motives (for instance, that of interest) even to co-operate along with the moral law; hence nothing is left us but to determine carefully

____________________
1
We may say of every action that conforms to the law, but is not done for the sake of the law, that it is morally good in the letter, not in the spirit (the intention).

-164-

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