Chapter 12 Moral Imagination

Chapter 12 Moral Imagination
    (Darwinism
           and Morality)


        [1] A free spirit
            acts according to
          his impulses,
             that is, according to
          intuitions
             selected
                from the totality
                   of his world
                       of ideas by thinking.

    For an unfree spirit,
       the reason
          why
             he singles out
                a particular intuition
           from his world
               of ideas
                   in order to make it
                      the basis
                         of an action,
       lies
          in the world
             of percepts
            given
               to him,
       that is,
           in his past
              experiences.

    He recalls,
       before coming
           to a decision,
       what someone else
          has done
             or recommended
                as suitable
               in a comparable case,
       or
          what
         God
            has commanded to be done
           in such a case,
              and so on,
           and
         he acts accordingly.

    For a free spirit,
       these prior conditions
          are not
             the only impulses
           to action.

    He makes
          a completely first-hand decision.

    What
         others
              have done in such
          a case
             worries him
           as little
              as what
             they have decreed.

    He has purely ideal
        reasons
           which
              lead him
          to select
             from the sum
                of his concepts
          just one
             in particular,
       and
          then
         to translate
            it
           into action.

    But
         his action will belong
            to perceptible reality.

    What
         he achieves
              will thus
                  be identical
           with a quite
               definite content
           of perception.

    The concept
        will have
           to realize itself
              in a single concrete occurrence.

    As a concept
         it will not be able
            to contain
               this particular event.

    It will refer
        to the event
            only in the same way
                as a concept
                   is
                      in general
                     related
                        to a percept,
                           for example,
                              the concept
                                 of the lion
            to a particular lion.

    The link
        between concept
            and percept
           is the mental picture.

    For the unfree spirit,
       this link
          is given
             from the outset.

    Motives
        are
           present
              in his consciousness
                 from the outset
                    in the form
                       of mental pictures.

    Whenever
        there is
           something
              he wants
                 to carry out,
       he does it
          as he
         has seen it done,
       or
          as he
             has been told
          to do
              it
           in the particular case.

    Hence
         authority
            works
        best
           through examples,
       that is, through providing quite
           definite
              particular actions
           for the consciousness
               of the unfree spirit.

    A Christian
        acts not so
           much according to the teaching
              as according to
                 the example
                    of the Savior.

    Rules
         have
            less
               value
           for acting positively
          than
               for refraining
                   from certain actions.

    Laws
         take on
            the form of general concepts only
         when
             they forbid actions,
       but not
          when
             they prescribe them.

    Laws concerning
         what
             he ought to do
                must be given
           to the unfree spirit
               in quite concrete form:
           Clean the street
               in front
                   of your door!

    Pay your taxes,
       amounting
           to the sum
          here given,
       to the Tax Office
           at X!
       and so on.

    Conceptual form
        belongs
           to laws
               for inhibiting actions:
           Thou shalt not steal!

    Thou shalt not commit
          adultery!

    These laws, too,
       influence
           the unfree spirit
              only by means
                 of a concrete mental
                    picture,
                   for example,
                      that
                         of the appropriate secular punishment,
                   or the pangs
                      of conscience,
                   or eternal damnation,
       and so on.

    [2] Whenever
         the impulse for an action
            is
               present
                  in a general conceptual form
        (for example,
           Thou shalt do good
               to thy fellow men!

    Thou shalt live
         so that
             thou best promotest
                thy welfare!)
           then
               for each particular
                  case the concrete mental
                picture
                   of the action
        (the relation
           of the concept
               to a content
                   of perception)
           must first be found.

    For the free
        spirit
           who is impelled
              by no example,
      nor fear
          of punishment
              or the like,
      this translation
          of the concept
              into a mental picture
                 is always necessary.
 
    [3] Man produces concrete mental pictures
        from the sum
            of his ideas
                chiefly by means
                   of the imagination.

    Therefore
         what the free spirit
            needs in order to realize his ideas,
           in order to be effective,
       is moral imagination.

    This is the source
        of the free spirit's action.

    Therefore it
        is only men
           with moral
              imagination
                 who are,
                    strictly speaking,
                   morally productive.

    Those
         who merely preach morality,
       that is,
          people
             who merely spin
           out moral rules
               without being able
          to condense them
             into concrete mental
            pictures,
       are morally unproductive.

    They are like
         those critics
             who can explain very intelligibly
         what
             a work of art
                ought to be like,
       but
          who are themselves incapable
             of even
                the slightest productive effort.
 
    [4] Moral imagination,
       in order to realize
           its mental picture,
       must set
          to work
             in a definite sphere
                of percepts.

    Human action
        does not create
           percepts,
       but transforms
           already existing percepts
        and gives them
           a new form.

    In order to be able
          to transform
              a definite object
           of perception,
       or a sum
           of such objects,
       in accordance
           with a moral mental
              picture,
       one must have grasped
           the principle
              at work
                 within the percept picture,
       that is,
          the way it
             has hitherto worked,
       to which
           one wants to give
          a new form
             or a new direction.

    Further,
       it is necessary
          to discover
              the procedure
         by which
             it is possible
          to change
              the given principle
           into a new one.

    This part
        of effective moral
       activity
         depends
        on knowledge
            of the particular world
                of phenomena
      with which
          one is concerned.

    We shall,
       therefore,
          look for it
             in some branch
                of learning
                   in general.

    Moral action,
       then,
          presupposes,
       in addition
           to the faculty
               of having moral ideas
                   (moral intuition)
                      and moral imagination,
       the ability
          to transform
              the world
           of percepts
               without violating
                   the natural laws
         by which
             these are connected.

    This ability
        is
           moral technique.

    It can be learnt
        in the same sense
       in which any kind
         of knowledge
            can be learnt.

    Generally speaking,
       men are
          better able
             to find
                concepts
           for the existing world
          than
              to evolve productively,
                 out of their imagination,
       the not-yet-existing actions
           of the future.

    Hence
         it is perfectly possible
            for men
           without moral
               imagination
              to receive
                  such mental pictures
               from others,
       and
          to embody them skillfully
             into the actual world.

    Conversely,
       it may happen
          that men
             with moral
                imagination
          lack technical skill,
       and must make use of other
           men
              for the realization
                 of their mental pictures.
 
    [5] In so far
        as knowledge
            of the objects
                within our sphere
                    of action
                       is necessary
                          for acting morally,
      our action
         depends
            upon such knowledge.

    What
         we are concerned
            with here
               are laws
           of nature.

    We are dealing
        with natural science,
       not ethics.
 
    [6]
         Moral imagination
             and the faculty of having
                moral ideas can become objects
           of knowledge
          only
         after they
            have been produced
               by the individual.

    By then,
       however,
          they no longer
             regulate life,
       for
          they have already regulated it.

    They must now be regarded
        as effective causes,
       like all others
          (they are purposes
             only
         for the subject).

    We therefore deal with them
         as with a natural history
            of moral ideas.
 
    [7] Ethics
        as a science
            that sets standards,
      in addition
          to this,
      cannot exist.
 
    [8] Some people
        have wanted
           to maintain
              the standard-setting (normative) character
           of moral laws,
       at least
           in so far
          as they
              have understood ethics
                 in the sense
                    of dietetics,
       which deduces general rules
           from the organism's requirements
               in life
                   as a basis
                       for influencing
                      the body
                         in a particular way
        (e.g.,
           Paulsen,
              in his System der Ethik).

    This comparison
        is false,
       because
          our moral life
             is not comparable
           with the life
               of the organism.

    The functioning
        of the organism
           occurs
        without any action
            on our part;
        we come upon
            its laws
               in the world ready-made
             and can therefore seek them
                   and apply them
          when found.

    Moral laws,
       on the other hand,
          are first created
             by us.

    We cannot apply them until
         we have created them.

    The error
        arises
           through the fact
         that,
       as regards their content,
          moral laws
             are not newly created
           at every moment,
       but are inherited.

    Those
         that we
            have taken over
               from our ancestors
            appear
               to be given,
       like the natural laws
           of the organism.

    But
         a later generation
            will certainly not be justified
           in applying them
         as if they
            were dietetic rules.

    For
         they apply
            to individuals
               and not,
       as natural laws do,
          to specimens
             of a general type.

    Considered
        as an organism,
       I am such
          a generic specimen and I
              shall live
                 in accordance
                    with nature
              if
                 I apply the natural laws
                    of my general type
                       to my particular case;
           as a moral being,
       I am an individual
           and
        have laws
           of my very own.

    [9] This view
        appears
           to contradict
              the fundamental doctrine
           of modern
          natural science known
             as the theory
                of evolution.

    But
         it only appears
            to do so.

    Evolution
        is understood
           to mean
              the real development
                 of the later
               out of the earlier
                  in accordance
                     with natural law.

    In the organic world,
       evolution
          is understood
             to mean
                that the later (more perfect)
                   organic forms
                are real descendants
                   of the earlier (imperfect) forms,
       and
          have developed
             from them in accordance
           with natural laws.

    The adherents
        of the theory
            of organic evolution ought
       really to picture to themselves
           that there was once
               a time
                  on our earth
               when a being
                   could have followed
                      with his own
      eyes the gradual development
         of reptiles
            out of proto-amniotes,
      had
         he been able
            to be there
          at the time
              as an observer,
      endowed
          with a sufficiently long span
              of life.

    Similarly,
       evolutionists
          ought to picture
             to themselves
          that a being
             could have watched
           the development
              of the solar system
                 out of the Kant-Laplace
               primordial nebula,
       had
          he been able
             to remain
           in a suitable spot out
               in the cosmic world ether
                   during that infinitely long time.

    That
         with such mental pictures,
       the nature
           of both
         the proto-amniotes
            and the Kant-Laplace cosmic nebula
        would have
           to be thought
              of differently from the way
             the materialist thinkers do,
       is here irrelevant.

    But
         no evolutionist should ever dream
            of maintaining
          that
             he could get
                the concept
                   of the reptile,
       with all
           its characteristics,
       out of his concept
           of the proto-amniotic animal,
       if he
          had never seen
             a reptile.

    Just
         as little would
            it be possible
               to derive
                  the solar system
               from the concept
                   of the Kant-Laplace nebula,
       if this
          concept of a primordial nebula
             is thought of
          as being directly determined only
             by the percept
                of the primordial nebula.

    In other words,
       if the evolutionist
          is to think consistently,
       he is bound to maintain
          that later phases
             of evolution
                do actually result
           from earlier ones,
       and
          that once
             we have been given
                the concept
                   of the imperfect
               and
                  that
                     of the perfect,
       we can see the connection;
          but
             on no account
            should
               he agree
                  that the concept attained
                     from the earlier is,
                   in itself,
                      sufficient
                         for evolving
               the later
                  out of it.

    From this
          it follows for ethics
         that,
       though
          we can certainly see
             the connection
           between later moral concepts
               and earlier,
       we cannot get even
           a single new moral idea
              out of the earlier ones.

    As a moral being,
       the individual
          produces his own content.

    For the student
        of ethics,
       the content thus produced
          is just
             as much
          a given thing as reptiles
             are a given thing
           for the scientist.

    Reptiles
          have developed
             out of proto-amniotes,
       but
          the scientist cannot get
             the concept
           of reptiles
               out of the concept
                   of the proto-amniotes.

    Later moral ideas
          evolve out of earlier,
       but
          the student of ethics
             cannot get
                the moral concepts
           of a later civilization
               out of those
                  of an earlier one.

    The confusion
        arises because,
           as scientists,
              we start
                 with the facts
               before us,
           and
         then
            get to know them,
       whereas
           in moral action
         we ourselves first
              create the facts
             which
                we
         then get to know.

    In the process
        of evolution
            of the moral world order
               we accomplish
                  something that,
      at a lower level,
         is accomplished
            by nature:
      we alter
          something perceptible.

    The ethical standard thus
        cannot start,
       like a law
           of nature,
              by being known,
           but
              only by
            being created.

    Only when it
        is there,
       can it become
          an object
             of knowledge.
 
    [10] But can
         we not
            then make
           the old
              a measure
                 for the new?

    Is not every man
        compelled
           to measure
              the products
           of his moral imagination
               by the standard
                  of traditional moral doctrines?

    For something
          that should reveal itself
             as morally productive,
       this would be just
           as absurd
               as to want
              to measure
                 a new form
           in nature
               by an old one
                  and say that,
       because reptiles
          do not conform
             to the proto-amniotes,
       they are
          an unjustifiable (pathological) form.
 
    [11] Ethical individualism,
       then,
          is not
             in opposition
                to a rightly understood theory
                   of evolution,
       but follows directly
           from it.

    Haeckel's genealogical tree,
       from protozoa
           up to man
              as an organic being,
       ought to be capable
           of being continued
              without an interruption
                 of natural law
                    and without a break
               in the uniformity
                   of evolution,
       up to
          the individual
             as a being that is moral
           in a definite sense.

    But
         on no account
            could the nature
           of a descendant species
        be deduced from the nature
           of an ancestral one.

    However true it
        is
           that the moral ideas
              of the individual
           have perceptibly developed out of those
              of his ancestors,
       it is equally true
          that the individual
             is morally barren
         unless he
            has moral ideas
           of his own.
 
    [12] The same ethical individualism
          that
             I have developed
                on the basis
               of views
          already given
              could also be derived
                 from the theory
                    of evolution.

    The final conviction
        would be
           the same;
       only the path
          by which
             it was reached
                would be different.
 
    [13] The appearance
        of completely new moral ideas
            through moral
      imagination is,
      for the theory
          of evolution,
      no more miraculous
         than the development
            of a new animal species
               out of an old one ;
      only,
         as a monistic view
            of the world,
      this theory
         must reject,
      in morality
         as in science,
      every transcendental (metaphysical)
         influence,
      every influence
         that is merely inferred
            and cannot be experienced ideally.

    In doing so,
       the theory
          follows
             the same principle that guides it
         when
             it seeks
                the causes
           of new organic forms
               without invoking
              the interference
                 of an extra-mundane Being
              who produces every new species,
       in accordance
           with a new creative thought,
       by supernatural influence.

    Just
         as monism
            has
          no use
             for supernatural creative
            thoughts
           in explaining
          living organisms,
       so
          it is equally impossible
             for it
          to derive
              the moral world order
           from causes
         which
              do not lie
           within the experienceable world.

    It cannot admit
          that the moral nature
             of will
            is completely accounted
               for
                   by being traced
                      back
           to a continuous supernatural influence
               upon moral life
        (divine government
           of the world
               from the outside),
           or
               to an act
                   of revelation
                       at a particular moment
                           in history
            (giving
               of the ten commandments),
                  or
                     to God's appearance
                        on the earth (as Christ).

    What happens
        to man,
           and in man,
        through all this,
           becomes a moral element only
      when,
         in human experience,
            it becomes
       an individual's own.

    For monism,
       moral
          processes
        are products
           of the world like everything else
              that exists,
       and their causes
          must be sought
             in the world,
           that is, in man,
              since man
                 is the bearer
           of morality.

    [14] Ethical individualism,
       then,
          is the crowning
             feature
                of the edifice
             that Darwin
                 and Haeckel
            have striven
               to build for natural science.

    It is spiritualized
          theory of evolution
             carried over
           into moral life.
 
    [15] Anyone who,
       in a narrow-minded way,
          restricts
             the concept
                of the natural
           from the outset
               to an arbitrarily limited
                  sphere
            may easily conclude
               that there is no room
           in it
              for free individual action.

    The consistent evolutionist
        cannot fall
           a prey
               to such narrow-mindedness.

    He cannot let
          the natural course of evolution
             terminate with the ape,
       and allow man
           to have
               a "supernatural" origin;
       in his very
          search
             for the natural progenitors
                of man,
       he is bound
           to seek spirit
               in nature;
       again,
          he cannot stop short
             at the organic functions
                of man,
       and take only these
           as natural,
       but must go on
          to regard
              the free moral life
           as the spiritual continuation
               of organic life.
 
    [16] If
         he is
            to keep
           to his fundamental principles,
       the evolutionist
          can state
             only
         that the present form
            of moral
          action
             evolves
           from other forms
               of activity
                   in the world;
       the characterizing
           of an action
        (see footnote),
           that is,
          whether it
              is a free one,
           he must leave
               to the immediate observation
                   of the action.

    In fact,
       he maintains only
          that men
              have developed
                 out of ancestors that
            were not yet human.

    What men
          are actually like
             must be determined
           by observation
               of men themselves.

    The results
        of this observation
           cannot contradict
        the properly understood history
           of evolution.

    Only the assertion
        that the results
       are such as to exclude
          a natural ordering
             of the world
           would contradict recent trends
          in the natural sciences.
 
    Footnote:
       That we
           speak of thoughts
              (ethical ideas)
                 as objects
               of observation
                  is fully justified.

    For,
       although
           during the activity
               of thinking
                   the products
                      of thinking
                         do not appear
               at the same time
                   in the field
                       of observation,
       they can nevertheless become
          objects
             of observation afterwards.

    And
         it is
            in this way
               that we
                  have arrived
               at our characterization
                   of action.
 
    [17] Ethical individualism
        has
           nothing
              to fear
                 from a natural science
             that understands itself:
       for observation
          shows that
         the perfect form
            of human action
               has freedom
           as its characteristic quality.

    This freedom
        must be allowed
           to the human will,
       in so far
           as the will realizes purely
          ideal intuitions.

    For these intuitions
        are not the results
           of a necessity acting
               upon them from
                   without,
       but are due
           only to themselves.

    If
         a man
            finds
          that an action
             is the image
           of such
              an ideal intuition,
       then he
          feels it to be free.

    In this characteristic
        of an action
           lies its freedom.
 
    [18] What
        are
           we to say,
              from this standpoint,
           about the distinction
        mentioned earlier
           between the two propositions,
        "To be free means
           to be
              able
                 to do as one
             wills"
           and,
              "To be
                 at liberty
                    to desire or not
                       to desire
                          is the real proposition involved
                   in the dogma
                       of freewill"?

    Hamerling bases
        his view
           of free
       will precisely
          on this distinction,
      by declaring
         the first statement
            to be correct
        but the second
           to be an absurd tautology.

    He says,
        "I can do
           as I will.

    But
         to say
             I can want as I
          will is an empty tautology."

    Whether
         I am able
            to do,
       that is,
          to translate into reality,
             what
         I will,
            that is,
         what
             I have set
                before myself as my idea
                   of action,
       depends
           on external circumstances
               and on my technical skill.

    To be
         free
        means
           to be
         able
            of one's own accord
          to determine
             by moral imagination
                those mental
            pictures (motives)
         which
            underlie the action.

    Freedom is impossible
         if anything other
             then myself
        (mechanical
              process
            or merely inferred
          extra-mundane God)
             determines
          my moral ideas.

    In other words,
       I am free only
          when I myself
             produce these mental pictures,
       not
          when
             I am merely able
          to carry
             out the motives
                which another
                   being
                has implanted
                   in me.

    A free
        being
            is
          one
             who can want
         what
             he himself considers right.

    Whoever does anything other
          than
         what
             he wants
                must be impelled
           to it
              by motives
             which
                  do not lie
               within him.

    Such
         a man
            is unfree
           in his action.

    To be at liberty
          to want
         what
             one considers
                  right
               or
             what
                 one considers wrong,
       would therefore mean
          to be
         at liberty
            to be free or unfree.

    This is,
       of course,
          just
             as absurd
           as to see freedom
               in the ability
              to do
         what
             one is compelled
           to will.

    But
         this last
            is just
         what
             Hamerling
                maintains
             when
                 he says,
        "It is perfectly true
             that the will
          is always determined by motives,
             but it
            is absurd
          to say
             that
                on this account
             it is unfree;
           for a greater freedom
              can
          neither
              be desired
           nor conceived
              than the freedom
                  to realize
                      oneself
               in proportion
                   to one's own strength
                       and determination."

    In deed it can!

    It is certainly possible
        to desire
            a greater freedom,
      and this
          for the first time
             the true one:
          namely,
      to decide
          for oneself
        the motives
           for one's will.
 
    [19] Under certain
        conditions
           a man
        may be induced
           to abandon
              the execution
           of his will.

    To allow
        others
       to prescribe
          to him
      what
          he ought to do
      -- in other words,
          to want
             what another,
          and not
             he himself,
          considers right --
             to this
                 a man
                    will submit only
                  to the extent
                that he
                   does not feel free.
 
    [20] External
        powers
           may prevent me
              from doing
                 as I will.

    Then
         they simply condemn me
            to do nothing or
          to be unfree.

    Not until
          they would enslave my spirit,
       drive my motives
           out of my head,
       and put
           their own motives
              in the place
                 of mine,
       do
          they really aim
             at making me unfree.

    For this reason
          the Church
              sets itself not
                 only against the mere doing,
       but
          especially against the impure
             thoughts,
       that is,
          the motives
             of my action.

    The Church
        makes me unfree
           if,
              for her,
           all
         those motives
            she has not herself enunciated
               seem impure.

    A Church
        or other community
       produces unfreedom
          when its priests
             or teachers
         make themselves into keepers
            of consciences,
      that is,
         when the faithful
            are obliged to go
          to them
              (to the confessional)
                 for the motives
                    of their actions.

    Author's addition,
       1918

 
    [1]
         In these chapters
            on the human
               will
             I have shown
         what man
            can experience
           in his actions
         so that,
            through this experience,
       he comes
          to be aware:
       My will
          is free.

    It is particularly significant
         that
            the right
          to call
              an act
           of will free
              arises
           from the experience
              that an ideal intuition comes
                 to realization
                    in the act of will.

    This experience
        can only be
           the result
              of an observation,
           and is so,
              in the sense
         that
             we observe
                our will
           on a path
               of development
                   towards the goal
         where
             it becomes possible
           for an act
               of will
              to be sustained
                 by purely ideal intuition.

    This goal
        can be reached,
       because
           in ideal intuition nothing else
              is
                 at work
         but its own self-sustaining essence.

    When such
         an intuition
            is
        present
           in human consciousness,
       then it
          has not been developed
             out of the processes
                of the organism,
       but
          rather the organic activity
             has withdrawn
                to make
                   room
               for the ideal activity
        (see Chapter 9).

    When
         I observe
            an act
           of will
              that is
          an image
             of an intuition,
       then
          from this act
             of will too all organically
                necessary activity
                   has withdrawn.

    The act
        of will
           is free.

    This freedom of the will
          cannot be observed by anyone
         who is unable
            to see how
               the free act
           of will
              consists
           in the fact that,
              firstly,
           through the intuitive element,
              the activity
        that is necessary
           for the human organism
              is checked
                 and repressed,
       and
          then replaced
             by the spiritual activity
                of the idea-filled will.

    Only those
         who cannot make
            this observation
               of the twofold nature
                  of a free act
                     of will,
       believe that every act
           of will
              is unfree.

    Those
         who
            can make
          this observation win through
             to the recognition
         that man
            is unfree
           in so far
               as he cannot complete
                   the process
                      of suppressing
                         the organic activity;
           but that this unfreedom
              tends towards freedom,
       and
          that this freedom
             is by no means
           an abstract ideal
         but is a directive force inherent
            in human nature.

    Man is
          free
             to the extent
         that he
            is able
          to realize
             in his acts
                of will
                   the same mood
               of soul that lives
                   in him
         when
             he becomes aware
                of the forming
           of purely ideal (spiritual) Intuitions.