Commentary on Political Economy

Friday 30 January 2015

"Mirror To The World": Schopenhauer's Metaphysical Ethics

As I indicated earlier, I am working on a piece re-examining the concept of Freedom, especially as it relates to the notion of "market" in economic theory. Because this piece is taking longer than I intended, I am posting some preliminary notes I had made on Schopenhauer's critique of Kantian ethics in "The Basis of Morality" or Grundprobleme der Ethik, which can be regarded as the philosophical groundwork for the de-struction of the Classical notion of Freedom, with its apotheosis in the Freiheit of Classical German Idealism vehemently chastised by Schopenhauer and later by Nietzsche as "astute theology". Cheers.

This is not to deny the merits of philosophical speculation. But it is as foolish as it is futile to believe that we can “ab-stract” or “asport” ourselves from the materiality of life, from its immanence, and “transcend” it so as “to com-prehend” it: - because the “com-prehension” oozes out of the “trans-scension” (as Kierkegaard admonished Hegel – existence oozes out through the meshes of his philosophical net). Schopenhauer returns to the identification of metaphysics and ethics in the introduction to “The Basis”, and in so doing he absorbs the latter into the former – precisely by taking that “neutral” standpoint, by seeking to stand outside morality and therefore outside the “corpor-reality” of being, of life. Nietzsche will flagellate him not for this, but for re-smuggling the ethical concepts back into the “immoralist” conception of the Will (cf ‘TotI’, part on “untimely thinker”); because instead of “accepting Life”, Schop “the pessimist, the decadent, the nihilist” recants his nihilism for the comfort of “sympathy” (Mitleid – “with-pain” or “co-suffering”), an ethics akin to that of Christianity. What Nietzsche denies is mostly this “renegade”, “apostatic” flight from nihilism, not pursuing it to the end, not so much the notion of “the Will”, which returns as “Will to Power”, which is the “acceptance” of the “World”, the affirmation of “Life”, not its rejection and Entsagung, “renunciation”.


Schop. intimates from the outset that “ethics” must be derived from “metaphysics”, as Kant prescribed (Grndl.d.Met.d.Sittens).


His own Basis of Morality

contains a vigorous attack upon the fundamental principles

of Kant's ethical theory. According to him, Kant "founds . . .

his moral principle not on any provable fact of consciousness,

such as an inner natural disposition, nor yet upon any objective

relation of things in the external world, . . . but on pure

Reason, which ... is taken, not as it really and exclusively

is,—an intellectual faculty of man,

— but as a self-existent hypostatic

essence, yet without the smallest authority."^ The second

Critique inconsistently retains what was declared untenable

in the 'Transcendental Dialectic', by the obvious subterfuge of

raising the speculative reason into a genus, and then deducing

from it a second species, practical reason,—a procedure similar

to that accounting for the origin of immaterial substance, and

as inconsistent as it is useless in the solution of the ethical

problem.^ Through the road of knowledge, through understanding

and reason, we can arrive at perception and conception

respectively; but cognition is always restricted to phenomena,

the thing-in-itself is unknowable.

•G., Ill, pp. 510, 511; Basis of Morality, tr. by A. B. Bullock, London, 1903.

pp. 44, 45. For a fuller discussion of this problem, cf. the writer's article on

"Schopenhauer's Criticism of Kant's Theory of Ethics," The Philosophical

Review, Vol. XIX, No. 5, Sept., 1910, pp. 512-534-

2G.. Ill, pp. SI I ff.; Bullock, pp. 45 ff.

'C/. R. Behm, Vergleichung der kantischen und schopenhauerischen Lehre in

Ansehung der Kausalitdt, Heidelberg, 1892, p. 39.



The “Grundprobleme der Ethik” opens with the Machiavelli-Hobbesian distinction between what men “ought” to do and what they “actually” (wirklich) do. The inability of Kant “to bridge the gap” between the Ding an sich and Pure Reason, indeed the very “formal purity” of that Reason that could found its essence only upon the postulate of an all-encompassing transcendental “Freedom” at the end of the causal chain immanent to human intuition and the Verstand “subject to rules” – this very “gap” or distinction (Unterschied) that Schop. recognized as Kant’s “greatest contribution” to metaphysics can be “bridged” only by the “force” (a fortiori) of human experience -  the principle of sufficient reason, according to which the fact that something exists is the very “ground” or “reason” for its existence.



It is at this point that Schopenhauer makes what he regards

as his own great contribution to philosophical thought; here

it is that Schopenhauer's philosophy joins onto the Kantian,

or rather springs from it as from its parent stem.^ "Upon

the path of the idea one can never get beyond the idea; it is

a rounded-off whole, and has in its own resources no clue leading

to the nature of the thing in itself, which is toto genere different

•G., Ill, pp. 510, 511; Basis of Morality, tr. by A. B. Bullock, London, 1903.

pp. 44, 45. For a fuller discussion of this problem, cf. the writer's article on

"Schopenhauer's Criticism of Kant's Theory of Ethics," The Philosophical

Review, Vol. XIX, No. 5, Sept., 1910, pp. 512-534-

2G.. Ill, pp. SI I ff.; Bullock, pp. 45 ff.

'C/. R. Behm, Vergleichung der kantischen und schopenhauerischen Lehre in

Ansehung der Kausalitdt, Heidelberg, 1892, p. 39.



from it. If we were merely perceiving beings, the way to the

thing in itself would be absolutely cut off from us. Only the

other side of our own being can disclose to us the other side of

the inner being of things. This path I have followed."^ Kant

is correct in holding that we are unable to arrive at the ultimate

reality of things by the road of knowledge; but he then proceeds

to deny the possibility of all metaphysics, thus ignoring,

in his Critique of Pure Reason, the paramount ontological significance

of non-cognitive experience.

iG., I. p. 638; H.K., II. p. 118. Cf. G., IV, p. lis-



The chain of causality, therefore, cannot be abstracted from a false infinity “at the end of which” there must be a “transcendental” substance or category that can “com-prehend” it as its toto genere “op-posite” (ob-ject or Gegen-stand) – the “freedom” and “reason” upon which Kant wishes to erect or “found” both Pure Reason as the rational entity and Practical Reason as the “ethical moment” of Pure Reason whereby the “free will” is “governed” by “rational rules” that lead to the “Categorical Imperative”. To indulge in such abstraction is “to posit” unjustifiably the very “conclusion” that we are seeking to prove. Not only is the Categorical Imperative nowhere to be seen “empirically”, in reality; but also nowhere is it “written”: it is a delusion both empirically in terms of observable human nature and formally in terms of the internal consistency of its “ethical content or Diktats”. Furthermore, Kant presumes to extend the “a priori synthetic” from the world of physical events (where also it can be challenged as inapplicable) to that of morality. Schop has easy play of this argument – a simple non sequitur. For there is no causal relation whatsoever between an action and a “rule of action”: one cannot be inferred apodictically from the other except as a tautology devoid of content or as vacuous exhortation (wishful thinking). Indeed, if the “rule of action” is defined in “pure” terms, it then lacks all “practical” content whatsoever – in other words, “pure reason” voids “practical reason” of its raison d’etre. Pure ethics is a mirage. (See ‘Basis’, p99 to 103.)


We shall therefore with all

the greater interest and curiosity await the solution

of the problem he [Kant] has set himself, namely, how

something is to arise out of nothing, that is,' how

out of purely a priori conceptions, which contain

nothing empirical or material, the laws of material

human action are to grow up. (Basis, p56.)



had it been wished to use Reason, instead of deifying

it, such assertions as these must long ago have been

met by the simple remark that, if man, by virtue

of a special organ, furnished by his Reason, for

solving the riddle of the world, possessed an innate

metaphysics that only required development ; in that


case there would have to be just as complete agreement

on metaphysical matters as on the truths

of arithmetic and geometry ; and this would make

it totally impossible that there should exist on the

earth a large number of radically different religions,

and a still larger number of radically different

systems of philosophy.


It is on this ground that Schop attacks the “transcendental idealism” of Kant (‘Basis’, ch4). And this is where one can see the similarity with Heidegger’s notion of “transcendental imagination” as a bridge between “pure intuition” and “understanding” where the latter remains, unequivocally, a purely mechanical function that cannot be elevated to “Pure Reason” (see my ‘Heidegger’s Kantbuch’). These criticisms had already appeared in the “Essay on Freedom of the Will”. Kantian Practical Reason is initially the offspring of the “freedom” of the will, but soon under the “regulative principle” of Pure Reason becomes subordinated to a “Logic” that Schop shows is only “instrumental” and “phenomenic” - that is belongs only to the Verstand/Vernunft as a “mechanical” application of “formal reasoning” (conception) to “the world as Vorstellung” (perception). (See ‘Basis’, ch4, c. p73, with reference to intuition and causality or “sufficient reason”.) Thus, pure reason pretends to arrogate to itself the “right” to dictate “categorical imperatives” that rule the conduct of the will! The dichotomy of “lower” heteronomous “perceptive intuition” and “higher” autonomous “pure reason” Schop correctly traces back to Descartes’s influence on Kant, a “transcendental” distinction rejected by Spinoza (see ‘Note’ at end of Ch4 of ‘Basis’). For Schop., this is the height of imposture, the sublime Ohnmacht of the Ratio-Ordo – the impotent pretence of “moral Theology”. (Heidegger makes an identical criticism – without even acknowledging Schop! See my ‘H’s Kbuch’.)



If we wish to reach the real origin of this hypothesis

of Practical Reason, we must trace its descent a

little further back. We shall find that it is derived


from a doctrine, which Kant totally confuted, but

which nevertheless, in this connection, lies secretly

(indeed he himself is not aware of it) at the root

of his assumption of a Practical Reason with its

Imperatives and its Autonomy—a reminiscence of

a former mode of thought. I mean the so-called

Rational Psychology, according to which man is

composed of two entirely heterogeneous substances

—the material body, and the immaterial soul. Plato

was the first to formulate this dogma, and he endeavoured

to prove it as an objective truth. But it

was Descartes who, by working it out with scientific

exactness, perfectly developed and completed it.

And this is just what brought its fallacy to light, as

demonstrated by Spinoza, Locke, and Kant successively.

It was demonstrated by Spinoza ; because his

philosophy consists chiefly in the refutation of his

master's twofold dualism, and because he entirely and

expressly denied the two Substances of Descartes,

and took as his main principle the following proposition

: " Substantia cogitans et substantia extensa

una eademque est substantia, quae jam sub hoc, jam

sub illo attributo comprehenditur.''^

^ It was demonstrated

by Locke ; for he combated the theory of

innate ideas, derived all knowledge from the sensuous,

and taught that it is not impossible that Matter

should think. And lastly, it was demonstrated by

* The thinking substance, and substance in extension are

one and the self-same substance, which is contained now

under the latter attribute {i.e., extension), now under the

former {i.e., the attribute of thinking).

—Ethica, Part II.,Prop. 7. Corollary.


Kant, in his Kritik der Rationalen Psychologies as

given in the first edition. Leibnitz and Wolff were

the champions on the bad side ; and this brought

Leibnitz the undeserved honour of being compared

to the great Plato, who was really so unlike him.



Tsanoff at p65:

Nevertheless, Kant's theory of freedom, untenable though

it is in its technical form, serves to indicate his realization of the

inadequate and incomplete character of his epistemology and its

implications. The doctrine of the transcendental freedom of

man's will recognizes implicitly, Schopenhauer maintains, that

in man necessity is phenomenal only, and that in him the thing-in-

itself manifests its inner nature in the form of Will. "What,

then, Kant teaches of the phenomenon of man and his action

my teaching extends to all phenomena in nature, in that it makes

the will as a thing-in-itself their foundation. "^ For man is not

toto genere different from the rest of experience, but differs only

in degree. The World as Idea is, as Kant says, purely phenomenal;

but it does not exhaust reality. "As the world is in one

aspect entirely idea, so in another it is entirely will. A reality

which is neither of these two, but an object in itself (into which

the thing in itself has unfortunately dwindled in the hands of

Kant), is the phantom of a dream, and its acceptance is an ignis

fatuus in philosophy."^ The path of objective knowledge does

not lead us to the real nature of things, and so far Schopenhauer

is in thorough agreement with Kant. But "the thing in itself can,

as such, only come into consciousness quite directly, in this way,

that it is itself conscious of itself; to wish to know it objectively

is to desire something contradictory."* The thing-in-itself

is unknowable, precisely because it is not a matter of knowledge

but is in its inmost essence Will.

iG., I. p. 638; H.K., II. p. 118. Cf. G., IV, p. 115

2G.. II, pp. 201-202; H.K., II, p. 377.

'G., I, p. 3S; H.K.. I, p. 5

*G., II, p. 227; H.K.. II, p. 405.



It follows quite obviously that when Schop is asking Kant for the “e-vidence”, the “observability” of his “Moral Law”, he is already placing Kant’s Ethics “fuori giuoco”, “off-side”, by asking the impossible: the “scientific” demonstration of a “deontological” rule. Kant, for his part, had made the opposite error: – the petitio principii of “do what is moral because it is moral”, whence Schop’s objection rifled from the outset: “Who tells you?” (ch2, ‘Basis’), or “where is it inscribed?” (P52, ch4, ‘Basis’) But from this point “morality” can only be understood as “praxis”, because we too can ask Schop – why must morality be written somewhere or be a “physical or natural” observable and e-vident reality? We cannot turn Kant’s Freedom (the will) into Necessity (the Categorical Imperative, which is another version of “reciprocity” or lex commutativa, as Schop shows on p85): but the will must be “applied” and there is a “judgement” we must make on how to do this whereby we do not turn the “freedom of the will” (poter volere) into another “necessity” (volere potere). An “obligation” that is “absolute” is a contradictio in adjecto (‘Basis’, pp32-3) because it turns heteronomy (obligation, something “external” and “constraining” the will) into autonomy (a free decision of the will), whereby the free will constrains itself! – And so goes the circulus vitiosus.


The ancients, then, equally with the moderns, Plato

being the single exception, agree in making virtue

only a means to an end. Indeed, strictly speaking,

even Kant banished Eudaemonism from Ethics more

in appearance than in reality, for between virtue and

happiness he still leaves a certain mysterious connection;

—there is an obscure and difficult passage in

his doctrine of the Highest Good, where they occur

together ; while it is a patent fact that the course of

virtue runs entirely counter to that of happiness.

But, passing over this, we may say that with Kant

the ethical principle appears as something quite independent

of experience and its teaching ; it is transcendental,

or metaphysical. He recognises that human

conduct possesses a significance that oversteps all

possibility of experience, and is therefore actually the

bridge leading to that which he calls the "intelligible

" ^ world, the mundus noumenon^ the world of

Things in themselves.

The fame, which the Kantian Ethics has won, is

due not only to this higher level, which it reached,

Vorstellung, that is, The World as Will and Idea ;

" Idea"

being used much as eibaXov sometimes is (cf. Xen. Sym.,

4, 21), in the sense of "an image in the mind," " a mental



' It seems better to keep this technical word than to

attempt a cumbrous periphrasis. The meaning is perfectly

clear. The sensibilia {phaenomena) are opposed to the intelligibilia

(noumena), which compose the transcendental

world. So the individual, in so far as he is a phaenomenon,

has an empirical character ; in so far as he is a noumenon,

his character is intelligible {intelligibilis). The mundus intelligibilis,

or mundus noumenon is the Kocrfxos noetos of

New Platonism.—(Translator.)


but also to the moral purity and loftiness of its



Kant's proton pseudos (first false step) lies in his

conception of Ethics itself, and this is found very

clearly expressed on page 62 (R., p. 54) : " In a

system of practical philosophy we are not concerned

with adducing reasons for that which takes place,

but with formulating laws regarding that which

ought to take place, even if it never does take

place." This is at once a distinct petitio principii.

Who tells you that there are laws to which our

conduct ought to be subject ? Who tells you that

that ought to take place, which in fact never does

take place ? What justification have you for making

this assumption at the outset, and consequently

for forcing upon us, as the only possible one, a

system of Ethics couched in the imperative terms of

legislation ? I say, in contradistinction to Kant, that

the student of Ethics, and no less the philosopher

in general, must content himself with explaining and

interpreting that which is given, in other words,

that which really is, or takes place, so as to obtain

an understanding of it, and I maintain furthermore

that there is plenty to do in this direction, much

more than has hitherto been done, after the lapse


of thousands of years.


Every obligation derives all sense and meaning

simply and solely from its relation to threatened

punishment or promised reward. Hence, long before

Kant was thought of, Locke says : " For since it

would be utterly in vain, to suppose a rule set to

the free actions of man, without annexing to it some

enforcement of good and evil to determine his will ;

we must, wherever we suppose a law, suppose also

some reward or punishment annexed to that law

{Essay on the Human Understanding, Bk. II., ch. 33,

§ 6). What ought to be done is therefore necessarily

conditioned by punishment or reward ; consequently,

to use Kant's language, it is essentially and inevitably


hypothetical, and never, as he maintains, categorical.

If we think away these conditions, the conception

of obligation becomes void of sense ; hence absolute

obligation is most certainly a contradictio in adjecto.

A commanding voice, whether it come from within,

or from without, cannot possibly be imagined except

as threatening or promising. Consequently obedience

to it, which may be wise or foolish according to

circumstances, is yet always actuated by selfishness,

and therefore morally worthless.

The complete unthinkableness and nonsense of

this conception of an unconditioned obligation, which

lies at the root of the Kantian Ethics, appears

later in the system itself, namely in the Kritik der

Praktiscken Vernunft: just as some concealed poison

in an organism cannot remain hid, but sooner or later

must come out and show itself. For this obligation,

said to be so unconditioned, nevertheless postulates

more than one condition in the background ; it assumes

a rewarder, a reward, and the immortality of the

person to be rewarded.

This is of course unavoidable, if one really makes

Duty and Obligation the fundamental conception of

Ethics ; for these ideas are essentially relative, and

depend for their significance on the threatened penalty

or the promised reward. The guerdon which is

assumed to be in store for virtue shows clearly enough

that only in appearance she works for nothing. It

is, however, put forward modestly veiled, under the

name of the Highest Good, which is the union of

Virtue and Happiness. But this is at bottom nothing

else but a morality that derives its origin from


Happiness, which means, a morality resting on selfishness.

In other words, it is Eudaemonism, which

Kant had solemnly thrust out of the front door of

his system as an intruder, only to let it creep in

again by the postern under the name of the Highest

Good. This is how the assumption of unconditioned

absolute obligation, concealing as it does a contradiction,

avenges itself. Conditioned obligation, on

the other hand, cannot of course be any first principle

for Ethics, since everything done out of regard for

reward or punishment is necessarily an egoistic

transaction, and as such is without any real moral

value. All this makes it clear that a nobler and

wider view of Ethics is needed, if we are in earnest

about our endeavour to truly account for the significance

of human conduct—a significance which

extends beyond phaenomena and is eternal.


Metaphysical Foundation of Ethics


Schop’s discussion of the link between ethics and metaphysics, before he undertakes the “foundations of ethics” in Part 3, are described so tersely in Ch7 as to make this possibly the best summary of his philosophy I have encountered; thus, it is important to sift through it carefully.


The strict and absolute necessity of the acts of

Will, determined by motives as they arise, was first

shown by Hobbes, then by Spinoza, and Hume, and

also by Dietrich von Holbach in his Systeme de la

Nature ; and lastly by Priestley it was most completely

and precisely demonstrated. This point,

indeed, has been so clearly proved, and placed beyond

' V. Note on " intelligible " in Chapter I. of this Part.




all doubt, that it must be reckoned among the

number of perfectly established truths, and only crass

ignorance could continue to speak of a freedom,

of a liberum arbitrium indifferentiae (a free and

indifferent choice) in the individual acts of men. Nor

did Kant, owing to the irrefutable reasoning of his

predecessors, hesitate to consider the Will as fast

bound in the chains of Necessity, the matter admitting,

as he thought, of no further dispute or doubt. This

is proved by all the passages in which he speaks of

freedom only from the theoretical standpoint. Nevertheless,

it is true that our actions are attended with

a consciousness of independence and original initiative,

which makes us recognise them as our own

work, and every one with ineradicable certainty

feels that he is the real author of his conduct, and

morally responsible for it. But since responsibility

implies the possibility of having acted otherwise,

which possibility means freedom in some sort or

manner; therefore in the consciousness of responsibility

is indirectly involved also the consciousness

of freedom. The key to resolve the contradiction,

that thus arises out of the nature of the case, was

at last found by Kant through the distinction he

drew with profound acumen, between phaenomena

and the Thing in itself (das Ding an sich). This

distinction is the very core of his whole philosophy,

and its greatest merit.



Schop sees a contradiction: “man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains”. Again we find here Hobbes’s “in foro interno” and “externo” distinction – the Cartesian inheritance. But, as we will see, it is Schop’s “trans-mutation” of Kant’s distinction that will enable him to dis-card the Cartesian ego (oops!). Objectively, human actions can be described “casuistically”, either in mechanical manner or else in terms of “conditioning”. The operari can be described objectively, behaviouristically or “positively” (Comte) so that the principle of sufficient reason applies. The “motives” behind the operari are knowable, discernible – even manipulable, if so wished. And yet we know that at the “source” of this operari must lie an “ultimate cause” that is impossible to identify, either empirically or even (contra Kant) a priori. The reason is that this “ultimate cause” must be toto genere, toto caelo different from the causal chain of events, the sufficient reason.


This is what lies behind the Scholastic “operari sequitur esse” – in other words, “actions follow being”. This is so because “the totality” of the causal chain cannot be “com-prehended” through yet another “link” in the chain (an “elephant” or “camel” on the back of which the world rests) or what Heidegger would style as an “intra-mundane” or “intra-temporal”, therefore “spatial”, cause. There is an “antinomy” (here comes Lukacs) between Freedom and Necessity, which Schop incorrectly calls a “contradiction” almost in a Hegelian sense. If everything is “determined”, what determines the determined?


For Schop, the greatness of Kant, “the greatest merit of his entire philosophy [consists in drawing] the distinction… between phaenomena and the Ding an sich”. Kant does not, like Aristotle, nominate a “causa causans”, because that would be to pose as “meta-ta-physika” an “original source” (a pleonasm), a “primus inter pares of beings”, which is a “bad infinite”. We need not (!) a Fichtean “projectio per hiatus irrationalem”, but rather a veritable “force” or “spring”, the “esse”, of this causal chain – a “source” that “is” the causal chain (Heidegger’s “pure now-sequence”) but “intuited” ec-statically, as “being-outside-itself”. And this is precisely how that “esse” is to be under-stood, com-prehended. The “esse” is the “nature” of the operari but it is not another “being”, it is not another “link”. Rather, it is “the being of being”, the “dimension” of being, its “horizon”.


The individual, with his immutable, innate character,

strictly determined in all his modes of expression

by the law of Causality, which, as acting through

the medium of the intellect, is here called by the


name of Motivation,—the individual so constituted

is only the phaenomenon (Erscheinung). The Thing

in itself which underlies this phaenomenon is outside

of Time and Space, consequently free from all

succession and plurality, one, and changeless. Its

constitution in itself is the intelligible character,

which is equally present in all the acts of the

individual, and stamped on every one of them,

like the impress of a signet on a thousand seals.

The empirical character of the phaenomenon—the

character which manifests itself in time, and in

succession of acts—is thus determined by the intelligible

character ; and consequently, the individual,

as phaenomenon, in all his modes of expression,

which are called forth by motives, must show the

invariableness of a natural law. Whence it results

that all his actions are governed by strict necessity.


Not “Motivation”, then, explains human behaviour, but “character”, which is as inscrutable and impenetrable as – nay, it “is” the Thing in itself! Whereas Kant identified the Ding an sich with the Ob-ject, Schop has turned it into a “transcendental Sub-ject” with a special… “character”. Kant had derived the Subject from the need for Freedom to comprehend Necessity, because Necessity “in-vokes” Freedom. And this “Freedom” is the very Ratio, the Pure Reason, that makes possible the a priori synthetic judgements derived from our pure intuition and are filtered through the understanding. Pure Reason is the rule-making faculty that is conscious of its ability to make rules, and that is therefore “auto-nomous” because subject only to its own “rules”, to “Logic”. The Ding an sich therefore is the Ob-ject that is “perceptible” only as “phenomena” that are “regulated” ultimately by “rules” emanating from Pure Reason.


It is here that Schop departs from this antinomic “triumvirate”, this “unholy trinity” (all good things come in threes”, he quipped in ‘WWR’) – the Subject, the Object, and the Phenomena.


The theory itself, and the whole question regarding

the nature of Freedom, can be better

understood if we view them in connection with a

general truth, which I think, is most concisely

expressed by a formula frequently occurring in the

scholastic writings : Operari sequitur esse. In other

words, everything in the world operates in accordance

with what it is, in accordance with its inherent

nature, in which, consequently, all its modes of

expression are already contained potentially, while

actually they are manifested when elicited by external

causes ; so that external causes are the means

whereby the essential constitution of the thing is

* I.e., What is done is a consequence of that which is.


revealed. And the modes of expression so resulting

form the empirical character ; whereas its hidden,

ultimate basis, which is inaccessible to experience,

is the intelligible character, that is, the real nature

'per se of the particular thing in question. Man

forms no exception to the rest of nature ; he too

has a changeless character, which, however, is strictly

individual and different in each case. This character

is of course empirical as far as we can grasp it, and

therefore only phaenomenal ; while the intelligible

character is whatever may be the real nature in

itself of the person. His actions one and all, being,

as regards their external constitution, determined

by motives, can never be shaped otherwise than in

accordance with the unchangeable individual character.

As a man is, so he his bound to act. Hence

for a given person in every single case, there is

absolutely only one way of acting possible : Operari

sequitur esse.


The Kantian Ding an sich, then, is not “the Ob-ject”. It is the “intelligible character” of the “empirical objectification”, of the operari and of “the World”, so that now the Ding an sich is no longer a “Thing”: it is an “entity” a “force” that comes from within ex-per-ience, that ob-jectifies and extrinsic-ates itself in the world; it is something “outside Time and Space” because it “originates” with them! This would be the equivalent of Kant’s transcendental subject were it not for the fact that it is not a “Subject”, not an “entelechy” or an “essent” or even a “faculty”: it is a “force”, a Welt-prinzip; it is “Life as a force”; it is “the Will”.


It follows that there is no hiatus or chasm or lacuna between Subject and Object and that therefore “Phenomena” or “Representations” are not “images” or “aspects” of the Object as “perceived” by the Subject but are instead “objectifications” of the Will itself – they are a subject-object unity. No “Object” or “Reality” stands “behind” the phenomena. Instead, the phenomena are the “actuality” (Wirklichkeit), the manifestation of the Will. That is how human activity can be both “free and responsible” and “necessary and motivated” at one and the same time. (Again, no contradiction, in the Kantian conception; it was merely an “antinomy”.)


Freedom belongs only to the intelligible

character, not to the empirical. The operari

(conduct) of a given individual is necessarily

determined externally by motives, internally by his

character ; therefore everything that he does necessarily

takes place. But in his esse (i.e., in what

he is), there, we find Freedom. He might have

been something different ; and guilt or merit attaches

to that which he is. All that he does follows

from what he is, as a mere corollary. Through

Kant's doctrine we are freed from the primary error

of connecting Necessity with esse (what one is),

and Freedom with operari (what one does) ; we

' I.e., his acts are a consequence of what he is.


become aware that this is a misplacement of terms,

and that exactly the inverse arrangement is the

true one. Hence it is clear that the moral responsibility

of a man, while it first of all, and obviously,

of course, touches what he does, yet at bottom

touches what he is ; because, what he is being the

original datum, his conduct, as motives arise, could

never take any other course than that which it

actually does take.


To the extent that the awareness of the “autonomy” of “esse” is recognized, the Kantian perspective applies: whereas before it was in the realm of “action”, in the operari, that “freedom” was located, whilst the “nature” or “character” or “essence” (esse, Wesen) was interpreted as “necessity”, as “determinant”, now instead it is the former that is “necessary” or “conditioned” and the latter that is “free” or “unconditioned”, not even “regulated” a priori.


So that it is the esse (what one is) which in reality is accused by

conscience, while the operari (what one does) supplies

the incriminating evidence. Since we are only

conscious of Freedom through the sense of responsibility;

therefore where the latter lies the former must


also be ; in the esse (in one's being). It is the

operari (what one does) that is subject to necessity.

But we can only get to know ourselves, as well as

others empirically ; we have no a priori knowledge

of our character.


But this is where the analogy with Kant ends – because Kant never distinguishes between “the transcendental subject” and “mechanical action”: the one is “the subject” of the other. In Schop, on the contrary, there is no “Subject” to take this “responsibility”: there is only a “sense of responsibility”, but no actual identification of an “authorial entity” that assumes it. So when Schop claims that “it is through Kant’s doctrine” that we reach this inversion, he is really saying that “Kant’s doctrine” (the distinction between Ding an sich and phenomenon) has allowed him to reach this inversion – but only by radically re-directing Kant’s distinction “inwards” toward “the sentient organs”, past pure intuition and into “the Will”!


In a “Note” on “The Theory of Freedom”, Schop elucidates the scope of his inversion and, in the process, gives us an insight in his thinking process and a delightful link with Heidegger:


He who is capable of recognising the essential

part of a thought, though clothed in a dress very

different from what he is familiar with, will see,

as I do, that this Kantian doctrine of the intelligible

and empirical character is a piece of insight already

possessed by Plato. The difference is, that with Kant

it is sublimated to an abstract clearness ; with Plato

it is treated mythically, and connected with metempsychosis

[in that the soul chooses which body to inhabit],

because, as he did not perceive the ideality

of Time, he could only represent it under a temporal



This is extremely interesting: for we can see how Heidegger had simply “to stand outside” this “temporal form” and hypostatize “time” as the horizon of “the Will” or the Platonic “soul”, so that now these are transmuted into “Da-sein”, that is, pure intuition in the horizon of time, “being” understood not as “temporal form” – “intra-temporally” – but as “outside itself”, as “ec-static” being, as “ec-sistence”, being… “there”. But by con-fining himself strictly to this “horizon of time”, Heidegger avoids all the problems that entangle Schop immediately. First and foremost, how can the Will “objectify” itself? Second, what “differentiates” the Will in its “worldly” objectifications? Third, how can the Will lack “identity” or “agency” and still be “active”? Fourth, is the Will then not yet another qualitas occulta?


Egoism as manifestation of the Will


If indeed the “empirical” or observable side of human action can form “the basis [Grundwerke] of morality”, if the Will is unobservable yet knowable intuitively as the qualitas occulta, the “life-force” or “impetus” behind its objectification as “the world”, it follows that our theory of ethics cannot start from “quod homines facere debeant”, but rather from “quod facere solent”. The Kantian Sollen and the “Moral Theology” to which it gives rise disappear from view – we are led back to the perspective of Machiavelli and Hobbes.


The objection will perhaps be raised that Ethics

is not concerned with what men actually do, but

that it is the science which treats of what their

conduct ought to be. Now this is exactly the position


which I deny. In the critical part of the present

treatise I have sufficiently demonstrated that the conception

of ought, in other words, the imperative form of

Ethics, is valid only in theological morals, outside of

which it loses all sense and meaning. The end which

I place before Ethical Science is to point out all the

varied moral lines of human conduct ; to explain

them ; and to trace them to their ultimate source.

Consequently there remains no way of discovering

the basis of Ethics except the empirical.


Now, the objective historical observation of human beings leads us to the conclusion that what keeps human beings from harming one another is the overwhelming force of the State: take away the State and all the “moral rules” and ethical standards quickly fall apart, revealing a desolate landscape of aggression, the Hobbesian bellum omnium contra omnes:



In describing “Egoism” as the overriding motivation empirically observable as inducing human action, Schop offers us at the same time the most dramatic description of the operari of the Will:


The chief and fundamental incentive in man, as in

animals, is Egoism, that is, the urgent impulse to

exist, and exist under the best circumstances.


this Egoism is, both in animals and men, connected

in the closest way with their very essence and being ;

indeed, it is one and the same thing. For this reason

all human actions, as a rule, have their origin in

Egoism, and to it, accordingly, we must always first

turn, when we try to find the explanation of any

given line of conduct ; just as, when the endeavour

is made to guide a man in any direction, the means

to this end are universally calculated with reference

to the same all-powerful motive. Egoism is, from

its nature, limitless. The individual is filled with

the unqualified desire of preserving his life, and of

keeping it free from all pain, under which is included

all want and privation. He wishes to have the

greatest possible amount of pleasurable existence,

and every gratification that he is capable of appreciating

; indeed, he attempts, if possible, to evolve fresh

capacities for enjoyment. Everything that opposes

the strivings of his Egoism awakens his dislike, his

anger, his hate : this is the mortal enemy, which

he tries to annihilate.


It appears from this that Schop is no longer basing himself on empirical observation, but rather is extrapolating from his original metaphysical intuition of the Ding an sich as the Will to live. It is the “introspectivity” of this intuition and its “temporal form” that makes it solipsistic. Because the Will is inscrutable and unobservable, only intelligible, it follows that its “objectification” is boundless, unlimited – that its élan can be checked only by other “Wills to live” manifesting themselves as “the world”. It follows that the only limit to the objectification of the Will is posed by contrary Wills.


The ultimate reason of this lies in the fact that

every one is directly conscious of himself, but of

others only indirectly, through his mind's eye ; and

the direct impression asserts its right. In other

words, it is in consequence of the subjectivity which

is essential to our consciousness that each person

is himself the whole world ; for all that is objective

exists only indirectly, as simply the mental

picture of the subject ; whence it comes about that

everything is invariably expressed in terms of self-consciousness.


There is a certain looseness in Schop’s terminology. We must distinguish between the mental or intellectual ability of individuals as a manifestation of the Will and the Will itself. They are two different things in that the Will is a force, an impetus, an élan – it must not be confused with a “subject” or an “ego” or with “self-consciousness”. These “objectifications” may induce in the “body” a sense of “identity”, but in fact this identity is only a by-product of the objectification, of the “phenomenality” of the Will in the world constituted by other Wills which pose a limit to its objectification.


The only world which the individual

really grasps, and of which he has certain knowledge,

he carries in himself, as a mirrored image fashioned

by his brain ; and he is, therefore, its centre. Consequently

he is all in all to himself ; and since he


feels that he contains within his ego all that is real,

nothing can be of greater importance to him than his

own self.^ Moreover this supremely important self, this

microcosm, to which the macrocosm stands in relation

as its mere modification or accident,—this, which is

the individual's whole world, he knows perfectly well

must be destroyed by death ; which is therefore for

him equivalent to the destruction of all things.

Such, then, are the elements out of which, on the

basis of the Will to live, Egoism grows up, and like a

broad trench it forms a perennial separation between

man and man.


The necessary outcome is that each individual (body) must be restrained by an “external force” from the threat of mutual annihilation:


Now, unless


external force (under which must be included every

source of fear whether of human or superhuman

powers), or else the real moral incentive is in

effective operation, it is certain that Egoism always

pursues its purposes with unqualified directness ;

hence without these checks, considering the countless

number of egoistic individuals, the bellum omnium

contra omnes ^ would be the order of the day, and

prove the ruin of all. Thus is explained the early

construction by reflecting reason of state government,

which, arising, as it does, from a mutual fear of

reciprocal violence, obviates the disastrous consequences

of the general Egoism, as far as it is

possible to do by negative procedure.


Of course, Schop fails to explain how this “reflecting reason” can manage the “early construction of state government”. In this we see the inferiority of Schop’s theoretical construct to Hobbes’s, superior for its theorization of the “alienation” of individual freedom, its subtler empiricist theory of the self, and more “scientific” mechanicism, and the “historical” antecedent of civil war in the status naturae prior to the status civilis. Schop’s “negative procedure” (part of the negatives Denken) still serves to highlight the “hypothetical” status of the bellum civium and the “conventional” “early construction” of the State. But whereas his construction is exclusively “conventional”, Hobbes manages to present his “Commonwealth” as a historical “state by acquisition” precisely by combining the Necessity of self-interest with the “forum internum” of reason in the “willful alienation” of Freedom in the “ultima ratio” of self-preservation. This is something Schop’s Will and his critique of “Freedom” cannot do (cf Cacciari, ‘DCP’, p64).


Now, the “early construction” involves two elements: “reflecting reason”, which represents “Egoism guided into self-interest”, and the assumption of “possession” into this “early construction of state government”, which is the status civilis.


The term Eigennutz (self-interest) denotes Egoism, so far as

the latter is guided by reason, which enables it, by

means of reflection, to prosecute its purposes system-


atically; so that animals may be called egoistic,

but not self-interested (eigennutzig). I shall therefore

retain the word Egoism for the general idea.


Schop next tackles the question of property rights, and he seems to follow Hobbes once again:


In point of fact, the general correctness of conduct which is

adopted in human intercourse, and insisted on as

a rule no less immovable than the hills, depends

principally on two external necessities ; first, on legal

ordinance, by virtue of which the rights of every

man are protected by public authority ; and secondly,

on the recognised need of possessing civil honour,

-in other words, a good name, in order to advance

in the world….

Such are the two custodians that keep guard on

the correct conduct of people, without which, to

speak frankly, we should be in a sad case, especially

with reference to property, this central point in human

life, around which the chief part of its energy and


activity revolves. For the purely ethical motives to

integrity, assuming that they exist, cannot as a rule

be applied, except very indirectly, to the question of

ownership as guaranteed by the state. These motives,

in fact, have a direct and essential bearing only on

natural right ; with positive right their connection is

merely indirect, in so far as the latter is based on the

former. Natural right, however, attaches to no other

property than that which has been gained by one's own

exertion ; because, when this is seized, the owner is

at the same time robbed of all the efforts he expended

in acquiring it. The theory of preoccupancy I reject

absolutely, but cannot here set forth its refutation.^

Now of course all estate based on positive right ought

ultimately and in the last instance (it matters not

how many intermediate links are involved) to rest

on the natural right of possession. But what a

distance there is, in most cases, between the title deeds,

that belong to our civil life, and this natural

right—their original source !


But then, how can altruistic or compassionate behaviour be explained? For this also is observable:


But, for this

to be possible, I must in some way or other be

identified with him ; that is, the difference between

myself and him, which is the precise raison d'etre

of my Egoism, must be removed, at least to a certain


extent. Now, since I do not live in his skin, there

remains only the knowledge, that is, the mental

picture, I have of him, as the possible means whereby

I can so far identify myself with him, that

my action declares the difference to be practically

effaced. The process here analysed is not a dream,

a fancy floating in the air ; it is perfectly real, and

by no means infrequent. It is, what we see every

day,—the phaenomenon of Compassion ; in other words,

the direct participation, independent of all ulterior

considerations, in the sufferings of another, leading to

sympathetic assistance in the effort to prevent or remove

them ; whereon in the last resort all satisfaction and all

well-being and happiness depend. It is this Compassion

alone which is the real basis of all voluntary justice

and all genuine loving-kindness. Only so far as an

action springs therefrom, has it moral value ; and all

conduct that proceeds from any other motive whatever

has none.


So the question now turns on how this “difference” or “wall” between persons that is constituted by Egoism can be removed.


No doubt this operation is astonishing, indeed hardly

comprehensible. It is, in fact, the great mystery of

Ethics, its original phaenomenon, and the boundary

stone, past which only transcendental speculation may

dare to take a step. Herein we see the wall of

partition, which, according to the light of nature (as

reason is called by old theologians), entirely separates

being from being, broken down, and the non-ego to


a certain extent identified with the ego. I wish for

the moment to leave the metaphysical explanation

of this enigma untouched, and first to inquire

whether all acts of voluntary justice and true loving kindness

really arise from it. If so, our problem

will be solved, for we shall have found the ultimate

basis of morality, and shown that it lies in human

nature itself. This foundation, however, in its turn

cannot form a problem of Ethics, but rather, like

every other ultimate fact as such, of Metaphysics.

Only the solution, that the latter offers of the

primary ethical phaenomenon, lies outside the limits

of the question put by the Danish Royal Society,

which is concerned solely with the basis ; so that

the transcendental explanation can be given merely

as a voluntary and unessential appendix.


Thus, the breaching of “the wall of partition” separating “ego from non-ego” is possible: but the possibility can be accounted for only by metaphysics, not by ethics. The scope of ethics starts from its “basis”, and the basis “lies in human nature”. All that matters for ethics is that the source of certain ethical behaviour can be established empirically. But the foundation of that source is to be found in metaphysics.


No comments:

Post a Comment