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HEGEL'S ATTITDE TO KANT'S ETHICS

by T. M. Knox, St. Andrews


In bis Lectures on the History of Philosophy
1
), Hegel described himself
s a Lutheran? with no less justice he might have claimed to be
f
in
ethics
2
), a Kantian. It is true that bis orthodoxy may be suspect in
theology and ethics alike, and there may now seem to be an air of paradox
about the assertion that Hegel was essentially a Kantian in ethics. Never-
theless, this is the paradox which I propose to defend.
The Charge that Hegel had no ethics was made against him in bis own
lifetime (W.XVIII.XX) and has often been repeated. What he published on
the topics whidi Kant discussed at length in bis ethical works is small in
bulk, but the fundamental reason for this seems to me to be that he was
substantially in agreement with Kant and had nothing new to say on the
subject. The general impression that Hegel was not a Kantian in ethics
arises from concentrating too much attention on bis commoner criticisms
of Kant and too little on their context and drift. He Tisually indicates that
bis criticisms are secondary by going out of bis way to pay a tribute to
Kant's undying merit in ethics
3
). The criticisms often do not affect the
substance of Kant's doctrine, but only details, and more frequently still
the object of Hegel's attack is the insufficiency of morality s such, not
of Kant's view of morality, or the contradictions in moral experience itself,
not in Kant's Interpretation of it. Hegel's quarrel with Kant was not that
Kant was mistaken about niprality but that he did not clearly Supplement
bis teaching with a doctrine of Sittlichkeit.
This general thesis I propose to argue by considering (a) Hegel's clear
devotion to Kant in bis early writings and the ground of bis revolt against
bim, (b) those passages in Hegel which might be adduced against me,
namely bis chief published criticisms of Kant's ethics, and (c) his concep-
tion of Sittlichkeit, which in substance is not so far removed from Kant's
way of thinking s is sometimes supposed.
1
) Werke, XIII. 89. I quote, from Glockner's edition, the volume and page
of the original edition. -~ ,
2
) I use the word in its ordinary English sense. Where I have occasion to
allude to Hegel's own distinction between Moralitt and Sittlichkeit l use the
German words.
3
) Hegel deplored the neglect of Kant by his contemporaries (W. XVII. 238.
cf, III. 52). He never minimised his own debt to Kant's philosophy: was
brought up on it' (Letter to Duboc, 30 July 1822).
70
With the exception of Th. L. Haering, to whose monumental work all
students of Hegel are indebted, readers of Hegel's Theologische Jugend-
Schriften have found in the papers written at Berne the dominating in-
fluence of Kant. Hegel had studied the three Critiques at Tbingen and he
resumed their study at Berne in 1794, but his main interest until 1800 was
concentrated on religion and theology, history and politics; and although
it was Kant who stimulated him to write iii Berne, the Stimulus came not
from the Critiques but from the essay on 'Religion within the Sounds of
>Reason alone. Hegel's writings in 17956
4
), are inspired almost entirely
iby this essay.
Religion, Kant maintained, is, on its subjective side, the knowledge of
all our duties s divine commands (Pt. IV. l, ad iniL). Revealed religion
would hold that our duties are duties because they are divinely command-
ed, but a natural or rational religion recognises that duty is the law of
man's own reason, so that man does not need to have it revealed to him
or to be provided with any motive for observing the moral law over and
iabove reverence for the law itself. A rational religion, while not required
for morality, may nevertheless be implied by it and be an aid to it by the
strengthening of our moral motives through the idea of God s a moral
lawgiver. Kant proceeds to consider what religious beliefs oan be justified
by reason unaided and to carry on a polemic against all attempts to base
faith on a special revelation, on historical facts or on miracles, s well s
against the tyranny of priests and the fetishism of religious observances,
s if any acts could be pleasing to God except the fulfilment of moral
duties! The Christian religion should be purified of dross by rational
criticism, and Kant goes on to show how some of its leading doctrines can
be reinterpreted s rational instead of s given or positive or statutory.
In particular, "Christianity has the great advantage over Judaism of being
presented to us s issuing from the mouth of its first teacher s a moral
religion, and hence, being thus intimately associated with reason, could
be disseminated to all ages and all pupils by reason alone, without any
historical learning
11
(Pt. IV. 1. I. ad. fin.).
Hegel accepts all this. The fragment printed in Nohl pp. 6071 fre-
quently eciioes Kant's phraseology and repeats his illustrations. The im-
portant point is that Kant's essay on Religion (1792) presupposes the
ethical doctrine expounded in the Critique of Practical Reason (1788), and
Hegel is following Kant in both religion and ethics. Kant had suggested
that an attempt to harmonise the teadiing of Jesus with the holiest teaching
of reason was not only a possibility but bounden duty (Pt. II. 2), and
Hegel set himself to this task by writing a life of Jesus, exhibiting him
s a human moral teacher proclaiming a doctrine wholly in accordance
with Kant's ethics. Presumably sudi a document might be regarded s
contributing to the moral education of mankind by being the scriptures
of a new rational religion. In any event, Hegel took pains with his task,
4
) Theologische Jugendschffen (Nohl)
f
pp. 60213,
71
though the result of discharging the duty laid on him by his master may
eventually have helped to convince him that there was something wrong
with the enterprise.
In a similar spirit of discipleship he wrote his essay on the Positivity
of the Christian Religion, in order to answer the question: Granted that,
s Kant averred, the teaching of Jesus was in conformity with pure
reason, how is it that the teaching of orthodox Christianity has become
so authoritative and "positive"?
In both of these essays the problem is Kantian: their background is the
Kantian distinction between the positive law of legality and the natural
or rational law of morality: and their spirit is Kantian, s is shown espe-
cially by the conclusion of the second essay (Nohl, 2112) where the
Christian religion s taught by the Churdi is said to afford objective
motives which are not the law itself, i. e. is positive and not rational. Both
essays rest on Kantian doctrine about religion, about the teaching of
Jesus, and about morality, but the significant thing for Hegel's develop-
ment is that the essays subject this doctrine to the test of history. Kant
had not taken history seriously enough, and in effect he admitted s much
when he said that "a moral use may be made of an historical statement in
Scripture without considering what the author's meaning was: historical
knowledge which has no universally valid moral bearings belongs to the
adiaphora" (Pt. L IV., fn. ad. f in.).
Between the Kantian essays and The Spirit of Christianity (1798) there
is a gulf so wide that the later essay, written s it is with such assurance,
such passion, and such independence of mind, may seem at first s if it
could scarcely have come from the same pen. When he wrote this essay,
Hegel had come to believe that Kant was wrong not only about the teach-
ing of Jesus and the spirit of the Christian religion, but about religion
altogether.-He had discovered that moral experience (about which, s he
continued to believe, Kant was right) was one thing, religious experience
(about which Kant was wrong) another; that Jesus was a religious teacher,
not merely a moral one? and that an historian's eye was needed to discern
alike the meaning of Christianity and the deficiencies of orthodoxy.
What was it that produced the revolution in Hegers thinking between
what I have called the Kantian essays and all his later works? Like other
revolutions it was not unheralded. Even in the Kantian essays there are
occasional hints of a more original line of thought. But what was it that
led Hegel to develop them, to reorientate his thinking, to renounce Kants
guidance in religion, and to produce work in a new spirit altogether?
Some would answer: the influence of Hlderlin. The answer is unsatis-
factory because it would still be necessary to ask what it was that made
Hegel so susceptible to that influence at that time. The two men had
been friends for ten years at least, and although Hegel's poem Eleusis,
addressed to Hlderlin, has been quoted s evidence that he shared his
friend's romantic and pantheistic ideas in August 1796, it is perfectly
clear from Hegel's other contemporary writings that what the poem
expresses is the spirit of the addressee and not of the author. Contrast it,
72
E H *
^o for example, with the almost exactly contemporary diary of bis tour in
V. the Bernese Oberland
5
). The poem is an early example of H egel's remark-
, J{ able skill in adopting another's point of view and accurately describing
'? iv, what is seen from it. In the diary he speaks in propria persona: in Eleusis
^.;, the mask he wears is H lderlin's.
^ The revolution in H egel's thinking came abou-t because, during bis first
i e
" : two years in 'unhappy Frankfurt
1 6
)
f
in order to eure himself of melan-
! : diolia, he worked with all bis energies at Greek literature and philosophy,
^ .r s well s at history and politics, and theh brought the result of these
Ji
|studies to bear anew on the reinterpretation of the life and message of
f Jesus.
] | The root of H egel's entire difference from Kant lies in this reorienta-
ition of his thought in Frankfurt. Kant was not much interested in the
Greek philosophers, and he was more devoted to physical science than to
history, although his essay on the latter topic showed how alert his uni-
, yersal mind was to the importance of a new and growing discipline. But
< henceforward every one of H egel's major works is a history, and his
' philosophy owes s much to Plato and Aristotle s to Kant. It was, how-
lever, his religious insight bove all that separated him from Kant. H is
early theologiQal writings have been called " antitheologicar by an acute
critic
7
), but this is only partly just. All these writings, especially the
later of them, throb with a religious conviction which is absent from Kant's
cautious essay. They attack orthodoxy indeed, in terms similar to those
used by Kant and many other writers of the Aufklrung, but what H egel
wishes to substitute for orthodoxy is not a dry rationalism but a living
religious faith, carried out in practice in a rationally ordered social com-
munity. The basis of this faith is a doctrine of the H oly Spirit The spirit
of man, his reason, is the oandle of the Lord, and its powers are thus not
subject to the limitations which Kant had placed on them in the first
Critique. Doubtless these limitations left room for faith, but unfortunately,
in H egel's view, not only for a rational faith founded on the postulates
of practical reason, but also for the whole panoply of orthodoxy, s the
Tbingen theologians had quickly realised. H egel's eirenicon between
faith and reason thus depends on regarding reason s free from limitations,
and it is because the self-legislating reason of Kant's ethioal works has
this freedom that H egel never renounced their leading principles.
II
But was H egel not a constant critic of the second Ctique? H is
published criticisms of Kant's ethics are directed against this work alone
amongst Kant's writings on the subject, and the chief of them must now
be examined.
* ) H aering, who mentions everything eise, omits this diary: nor, so far s
I know, has any other writer on Eleusis seen that the diary is the best commen-
tary on it.
e
) Letter to Sinclair, mid-October 1810.
7
) W-A. Kaufmann in Philosophiert Review, 1951, p. 460.
73
In the essay on the Scientific Ways of Treating Natural Law Hegel's
argument is: Kant argues correctly that practical reason is concemed with
the form of moral action, the correspondence of the form of our maxim
with the universal mo>ral law of duty. The inference, however, ought to
be that practical reason should content itself with saying what duty in
general is and ought not to try to provide a touchstone for recognising
what act is a duty on a particular occasion, for Kant had held (K. d. . V.,
A. 589) that while pure reason could say whait truth is in general, it
could not provide a test of the truth of any given Statement of fact. But
in relation to practical reason, Kant falls "to draw the same inference, and
he attempts (vainly, in Hegel's view) to give guidance in practice by
telling us to act so that the maxim of our action can hold good s a
principle of universal legislation; and the commonest understanding, he
holds, can readily discern what form of maxim is adapted for this pur-
pose: for if I prbpose to appropriate a deposit which is in my hands and ]|
whose owner had died without leaving any evidence of it, I must ask myself
whether I can legislate that everyone may deny a deposit of which no
one can produce a proof, and I soon see that I cannot. The law would
annihilate itself, because if it existed there would be no deposits. Hegel
points out that the argument s stated lacks cogency. ^What the non-
existence of deposits contradicts is not reason or the universal law, but
the existence of other, equally specific and limited, social and legal insti-
tutions, and only on some undisclosed assumption about the worth of
these will a law leading to the non-existence of deposits be morally
inadmissible on Kant's principles (W. I. 349 ff.). The criticism, so far s it
goes, is sound, and it is not the least of Professor H. J. Paton's Services to
Kantian scholarship that he has brought out clearly what Kant's assump-
tions are
8
), and expounded the totality of Kant's'ethical teaching and not
merely those isolated aspects of it which Hegel and many critics have
selected for examination.
In any event Hegers criticism here touches one aspect only of Kant's
doctrine and not its main principles. His final point in this essay is one
that he repeated later (W. v. 320 ff. Cf. 234, Zusatz): moral effort
aims at its own cancellation, so that the moral will remains finite, despite
the universality of the moral law which it issues. The aim of moral action
is to remove evil; but if it succeeds there is no longer any need for it;
diarity constantly endeavours to remove the occasion for its exercise.
As the Dialectic of the Critique of Practical Reason shows, Kant was not
unaware of the problem. But the important point is that Hegel is not
questioning Kant's theory of moral experience? he is accepting it and
simply arguing that there must be a higher, experience in wihich its con-
tradictions are transcended.
The two other explicit criticisms of Kant which require attention are
those in the Encyclopaedia 54 and the Philosophie des Rechts, 135.
These are likewise based essentially on passages in the Critique l
Practical Reason. They take no account of the Metaphysik der Sitten;
8
) The Categorical Imperative, pp. 149157.
74 . !
.
and nowhere in Hegel's writings, .so far s I know, is there *any reference
|al all, even implicit, to the Grundlegung der Metaphysik der Sitten. The
Grundlegung was published when Hegel was fifteen and it is not impos-
sible that he ignored it altogether. This is unfortunate, for Kant's concep-
tion of a Kingdom of Ends, expounded more fully in that eesay than in his
later works, must have interested him, even if he may have thought it
difficult to reconcile with some of the Statements in the second Critique
which come in for most of his criticism. Kant has always suffered from
critics who have failed to realise that he was wont to expound his views
gradually, beginning on a foundation of common sense, and then modifying
Jiis starting point bit by bit; but Hegel at least ought to have sympathised
with this method and adjusted his criticism accordingly. But the target of his
criticisms was precisely those elements in Kant's doctrine which had been
most popularised by Fichte and which therefore had become commonplace
in the literature of Hegel's own day; these criticisms of his appeared
(1821 and 1827) between 30 and 40 years after the publication of the
second Crilique. Nowhere does Hegel profess to expound Kant's ethics
s a whole
9
] or to subject the whole of his writings on this subject to
detailed examination.
Nevertheless, it must be admitted that in these passages in his publish-
ed works, Hegel is less than fair to Kant, unless he uses Kant's name
simply to describe certain views which his contempcraries had come to
regard s the kernel of his master's teaching. The brden of Hegel's
criticism is that although Kant was right to emphasise the pure uncondi-
tioned self-determination of the will s he root of duty, he could not
extract from his formulae any doctrine of determinate duties, Thus he
had to throw away all he had gained in superseding eudaemonism by
reducing ethics to an empty formalism and the pieaching of duty for
duty's sake.
In order to justify this criticism a critic would have to plead that Hegel
was dealing only with the second Critique, that he was attadiing great
importance to Kant's own preference for the first formulation of the
categorical imperative, and that he was taking some of Kant's Statements
at their face value without considering their context or what modification
they received in other contexts. The plea would be an admission that
justice was not being done to the many-sidedness of Kant's doctrine, but
it would be doing less than justice to Hegel's attitude to Kant's ethics to
suppose that these criticisms represent it adequately. To discover what
his attitude is, it is necessary to look at other passages in Hegel where
the relation between the moral consciousness and the religious, and be-
tween Moralitt and Sittlichkeit, comes to the fore, and others again (un~
published in his lifetime) in whidi he expounds his own moral doctrine.
) The History of Philosophy might have been expected to contain such an
exposition, but the second Critique is the only one of Kant's ethical writings
whidi it mentions. Hegel's criticisms there are in substance simar to those
summarised in the following paragraph. .
75
III
In the Enc. Logic 234 there is a direct transition from morality, ex-
pounded mainly s Kant had expounded it, to religion; it is in the latter
that the contradictions of the former are resolved. The same is true in
the Phenomenology where Hegel Sketches, s he did later in the Philoso-
phie des Rechts 140, the dangers to which an ethical iridividoialism may
be exposed if, ignoring the complexities of Kant's teadhing, it emphasises
the individual's moral convictions alone. But in Enc. Phil. d. Geistes
508 ff. and in Phil. d. Rechts the transition is from morality to Sittlich-
keit, while religion is a higher sphere still. The difference between these
two transitions, however, is more apparent than real, because the
diaracteristically Hegelian conception of Sittlichkeit is religious in essence
and is intelligible only if its religious origin and background is kept in
view.
Although this conception is not explicitly taught by Hegel until 1817
(in the first edition of the Encyclopaedia), it is foreshadowed in some of
the Jena writings fifteen years earlier, and it has its roots in his thinking
when he was writing The Spirit of Christianity in 1798 and liberating
himself from the preponderating influence of Kant's view of religion.
Hegel's problem in this essay is to expound the nature and signi-
ficance of the moral teaching of Jesus. He begins by contrasting it with
the Mosaic law and the teaching of Kant (Nohl, 262266). The Mosaic
law he regards s a set of arbitrary commands which might be issued by a
master to a slave. He takes it for granted, like a good pupil of Kant, that
this heteronomy of the human will is below the moral level. "Against
purely objective commands Jesus set something totally -alien to them,
namely the subjective in general", i. e. not human passivity and slavery
but a unified ideal life confirmed -and expressed in deeds. "We might
have expected him", Hegel writes (i. e. if we were Kantians, convinced
by the Religion essay)
f
"to show that any ought, qua a product of reason
s the capacity for universality, loses its positivity and heteronomy, so
that the thing commanded is revealed s grounded in an autonomy of
the human will'. But by this line of argument, positivity is only partially
removed. Kant had contrasted the slavery of obedience to ritual com-
mands with the freedom of the man who listens to his own command of
duty. But the difference is really between two kinds of slavery; tihe former
has his lord outside himself while the latter carries his lord in himself,
yet is at the same time his own slave. One who wished to restore man's
humanity in its entirety could not possibly have taken a course like
this; for the individual would be torn against himself; the cleavage
between inclination and reason would not be healed.
What Hegel is saying here is not that Kant's analysis of duty and
moral experience is mistaken, but that there is an experience of a differ-
ent kind which 'transcends it. In the Kantian conception of virtue the
Opposition between universal and particular remains, the one s master
the other s mastered. Jesus Supplements the deficiency of the law
r
or
fulfils it, by a unification of law and inclination in love? or s Hegel
76
was fond of puttmg it
f
for the "ought" of the moral law Jesus substitutes
an "is".
Although Hegel's quotations from Kant in this passage are taken
; partly from Religion and partly from the second Critique, he must also
: have in mind the Metaphysik der Sitten which was published in 1797
? and which he analysed and criticised in a paper, now lost, dated
> , August 1798, i . e. shortly prior to the composition of The Spirit of
Christianity. This work rests on the clear distinction between Morality
and Legality which Hegel praised Kant for having made (
!
W. XIV. 47) and
L it is Kant's conception of Legality which Hegel really has in view when
l
;
; he is considering the Mosaic law. In this work too Hegel may have found
i j the clearest warrant for regarding the struggle between reason and in-
clination s one essential diaracteristic of moral experience. "The concept
of duty is in principle the concept of a compulsion exercised by the law
on the freedom of aibitrariness (Willkr). This compulsion the moral
imperative announces by its categorical claim. Even when men recognise
the claim they are bad enough to fulfil it unwillingly, against their in-
clination. And it is in this that the compulsion consists. Thus in man's
heart there are natural hindrances and forces resistant to the fulfi lment
of duty, and these have to be fought and conquered"
10
).
Hegel may perhaps be right in thinking that beyond this experience
of tension, which is diaracteristic of human morality with its im-
perfections, there is a higher type of experience still in which the law
is 'fulfilled' in love. But this is not a measure of Hegers difference from
Kant; on the contrary, it is Kantian doctrine too. While Kant held that
a holy will was beyond human capacity to attain, the doctrine of 'fulfilment
1
is expressed in a remarkable passage near the end of Das Ende aller
Dinge (1794): "When it comes not to recognising duty but fulfilling it,
love, s the free acceptance of another's will, is an indispensable comple-
ment (Ergnzungsstck) of the imperfection of human nature. Without
the aid of this motive, not much reliance could be placed on duty's
command ahme". (This accords with Kant's general view that the com-
mand of duty is clear even though it may never be fai thfully obeyed.)
It is evident from the context that "love
11
here is not the "pathologica!"
love of which Kant speaks elsewhere but love s in the teaching of Jesus.
For Kant, s for Hegel, there is a higher sphere than that of law, a sphere
wherein the law is "fulfilled" by the love of God.
This sphere is visualised by them both s a religioois sphere. This is
recognised by Kant e. g. at the close of the Metaphysik der Sitten and
earlier in his L ectures on Ethics (Eng.'tr. p. 35: "It is only in the observ-
ance of the divine law that ethics and law coincide"). Hegel takes a
similar line, first in the Spirit of Christianity where he describes the
spirit of Jesus s a "spirit raised above morality"
n
), and secondly in
the Propdeutik (W. XVIIL 203): "The essence of true religion is love.
Love is essentially a disposition (Gesinnung), the implicit recognition
10
) Pt. I/. Einl. z. Tagendlehre I. But see Kant's footnote. .
w
) Nohl, p. 266. My footnote to my translation (Chicago, 1948) explaining
this s meaning 'above Kant's theory of morality' is mistaken.
77'
of the truth of the human will... Love is itself away above moral con-
siderations: Mary anoints Christ instead of giving to the poor
r
and Christ
approves". For Kant, however, this sphere above morality is beyond the
reach of human reason, and man's will can never become the holy will
in which there is a complete coincidence between inclination and law;
while for Hegel the scope of reason is wider and man's ability to rise
above morality is greater. In his view it is open to man to rise above
the moral experience typified by "ought" there is a moral law and man
ought to school himself to obey it to the "is", the experience in which
man "lives" the law instead of being tmder it
12
). Against all attempts
to base morality on sentiment, or to justif y the subjective dictates of
an individual conscience, however unschooled, Hegel always uses Kantian
arguments. But, although he accepts the cleavage between Law and
Morality which is vital to the Metaphysik der Sitten, he believes he can
point to human experiences in which this cleavage is overcome and a
higher synthesis can and ought to be achieved.
Amongst the experiences which Hegel might adduce are marriage and
a man's attitude to his Professional calling (Letter to Niethammer,
10 October 1811).
The basis of a true marriage (i. e. of a marriage whidi exemplifies
Sittlichkeit) is not love s a romantic feeling (for that may perish and
the marriage will be dissoluble) nor, s Kant had supposed, a contract,
but a f usion of love and duty in a reverence for an eternal ideal. The
parties are then so devoted to their union that the individuality of both
is transcended in a living relationship wherein duties are fulfilled without
any thought of them. Inclination and law are perf ectly coincident (Phil,
d. Rechts. 161 f f .).
A similar coincidence may occur in the life of a Professional man, s
it doubtless did in Hegel's own experience of his Professional work. A
mein utterly devoted to a cause or an Institution does not spare himself;
his day to day duties come bef ore him s the ordinary routine of his
af f airs and he carries them out selflessly, cheerfully, devotedly. His in-
clinations chime in with his duties so that he f ulf ils them single-mindedly?
there is no tension, no awareness of Opposing inner forces'. There may
well be no consciousness of "ought
1
' at all until his strength fails and
he is tempted of the devil to idleness, or until courage sinks and he feels
God-forsaken. Moreover, his devotion to his cause, or Institution, is not
merely the bringing into being of what ought to existj his activity,
animated by this devotion, is at the same time the existence of the cause,
the maintenance of the Institution. 'Ought'
1
has given place to "is".
Mere devotion to a calling, however, is. not enough; there must be
devotion to an ideal of goodness which transcends it. Hegel is trying to
describe an experience which is moral and more, not an experience with-
out a moral content. Hitler may have had devotion such s has just
been described,* but that does not exempt him f rom moral blame. The
point of Hegel's teaching, and we have seen that there are similar hints
12
) E. Weil in Deucalion, 5 (Neuciiatel, 1955) p. 106.
78
in Kant, is that it is the love of God .which transforms the moral conscious-
ness of Ihe individual and makes. it possible for him to rise to the fusion
of inclination and law in devotion to a supra-individual end.
Although Kant was prepared to see in the love of God Ihe complement.
of duty
r
nevertheless, in the Professional devotion which has just been
described he saw two dangers: Suppose that such a devotee were asked
whether he did what he did because he enjoyed it or because it was
bis duty. He might reply that he did it from mere love of order. In that
event he would be thinking that he was above the thought of duty, like
a volunteer, s if he wanted to do of his own pleasure what he needed
;no command to do. This would be to forget the discipline of reason and
to pretend to be sovereign in the Kingdom of Ends, not merely a subject
in it. On the other band, he might reply that he did his work for the
love of God, in fulfilment of God's will. In that event, he might be claiming
holiness, a perfect purity of will and disposition, and this would be a
self-conceit readily leading to a religious fanaticism. The only safe route
for man to follow is to recognise his finitude and his limitations and take
the moral law s the only guide in his conduct The proper moral con-
dition which he can and outjht to attain is virtue, not holiness
13
). The
argument is typical of Kant's 'caution and humility.
It might be possible to be less cautious without being less humble,
if it be less caiutious to accept more of the Gospel than Kant did. Hegel
did accept more, but he may not have been humble enough. In criticising
the passage in the Critique oi Practical Reason from whidi I have just
been quoting, Hegel points out (Nohl, p. 267) that Kant's exegesis of the
Gospel command "Love God, and they neighbour s thyself" res-ts on
taking this command out of its religious context and treating it s a
merely moral precept. And we have already seen how Hegel, by writing
a Life of Jesus on Kantian lines, had come to realise that Kant was
mistaken in endeavouring to twist the moral teaching of Jesus into the
teadiing of the categorical imperative. To this insight Hegel held fast.
He clings also, s has already been said, to his doctrine of the Holy
Spirit, "The Kingdom of God is within you". He can thus hold that when
man elevates himself to the Christian religion or to the philosophy which
expounds explicitly the content of that religion, the chasm between trans-
cendence and immanence is bridged, and he attains unity and lives single-
mindedly (Enc. 234, Zusatz) in the rational order which is from ever-
lasting to everlasting and in which all men find fll satisfaction by living
its laws. In other words this "ethical liie
u
is the Kingdom of God on
earth. This is the key to Hegel's conception of Sittlichkeit.
For Kant the Kingdom of Ends remains an ideal? but for Hegel it is
being progressively actualised in the process of history. along with the
progress of the human spirit. Plato's Republic describes the rational
order in the form in which it was actualised in Greece and so portrays
the essential substance of Greek moral and political life (W. VIII. 17).
Since his day
f
owing chiefly to the Christian revelation, man has advanced
u
) K.p.V. PL l, III, von den Triebfedern der r.p.V., ad fin.
79.
in self-knowledge; in particular he has come to recognise himself s an
individual, s a self-legislating moral will. The forms of his social life
have changed accordingly; his deeper knowledge of himself is also a
deeper knowledge of what the rational social order, or Kingdom of
Ends is. And this knowledge Hegel expounds in the third part of the
Philosophie des Rechts where the state described is no existing state but
the rational substance of political life in the world of Hegel's day. "Thus
far has consciousness advanced" (W. IX. 546). Further advances will reveal
new aspects of the ideal, and pari passu the ideal will be actualised
anew in a higher form still. Deeper self-knowledge is at the same time
a deeper knowledge of the will of God -and it is. achieved step by step
along with the further realisation of God's purpose on earth. Hegel's
conception of Sittlichkeit might thus be described s a philosophical
distillation of a religioois insight into the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom
of Ends is not an ideal towards which we ought.to struggle ad infinitum
without ever reaching it; it is already present s the rational essence of
social and political life, so that, given religious faith or philosophical
insight, we can live within it here and now.
Nevertheless it seems plain that it is for religious faith -alone that
"ought" gives place to "is", and then only fitfully. Hegel seeks to out-
soar the limitations of human life and to live in a realm where all conflict
has been overcome, but can he succeed? Consider, for example, one of
the contradiotions which he finds in moral experience; the categorical
imperative is Universal, while, a given duty is particular, and there may
be difficulty in deciding what precise act here and now is our duty,
because duties may confliot (Enc. 508). Kemt did not overlook the
problem, but his treatment of it is more bold than convincing: "Two
opposite rules cannot be necessary at the same time, but if it is a duty
to act according to one of them it is then inconsistent with duty to act
according to the other; it" follows that a conflict of duties is in-
conceivable"
14
). Even if it be granted that one act and one only is my
duty in a given Situation, so that one rule and one mle only is necessary
therein, Kant is not telling us how on his principles we ought to decide
in a given Situation which of two maxims, both conformable to the
categorical imperative, we are to adopt if < the Situation is such that we
cannot act on both, though it is situations of this kind which give rise
to the most acute moral perplexity, It may be held that the task of a moral
philosopher is to say what duty is and not to teil me what my duty is
here and now, but is this answer open to Kant who said that no far-
reaching penetration is required to discover what my duty is: I have but
to ask myself whether I can will that my maxim should also be a uni-
versal law?
15
).
The difficulty may be specially acute for Kant who may have over-
emphasised the place of ,rule or law in ethics. But it may be asked whether
the difficulty is.^ny less acute for Hegel. In a perfect world the conflict
of duties which is characteristic of moral experience may disappear, but
14
) Metaphysik der Sitten, Pt. l. Einleitung in die Md.S., IV.
1
) e.g. Grundlegung, section I, and K.p.V. I. I. 4.
80
even if marriage and a Professional oalling provide instances of an ex-
perience in whidi law and inclination coincide and the thought of duty
vanishes, may these two spheres not conflict? In this imperfect world
emergencies occur -and in one of them Professional duty may have to
be sacrificed on the altar of marital duty
r
or vice versa. In such an emer-
gency "is" vanishes -and "ought" reappears.
Hegel knew this perfectly well, even if his published writings often
give a different impression. His conception of Sittlichkeit derives, I have
been arguing, from the essay on The Spirit o f Christianity, and the final
sentence of that essay reads (Nohl, 342): The fate in this world of the
ideal which Jesus taught is that "Church and State
r
worship and life,
piety and virtue, spiritual and mundane action, can never dissolve into
cne". In other words, the fusion of morality with religion in a higher
sphere of Sittlichkeit remains an ideal. The saint and the philosopher,
however confident their faith or profound their insight, are still human
beings, and the world in which human beings live is not the world of
Hegel's Wirklichkeit but the imperfect and often irrational world of
ReaJifi. However happy Hegel was in his family circle or in his pro-
fessional work
r
however well ordered his life in these spheres, however
secure his religious faith and however unruffled, in his study, his philo-
sophic calm, the world of Realitt pressed hardly enough on him when
he left his study for the University of Berlin and found himself involved
in difficulties with colleagues s unloving s they were irrational. When
more than one privat-docent of his acquaintance was dismissed by the
government s politically suspect, Hegel was far from resigned and far
from inactive. And his action was on the plane of Mo ralitt. In the last
resort Sittlichkeit remains for him just s rnuch an ideal s the Kingdom
of Ends did for Kant, and it is an ideal of the same sort, one with a
religious basis. No doubt the ideal was present in the real world s its
essential substance, but could Kant not have s-aid the same about the
Kingdom of Ends, which after all was not merely a far-off divine event
but an operative ideal in the midst of human society? Hegel might say
that Kant, like Moses, only saw the promised land, while he himself
lived in it As philosopher or believer he may have done, but in practical
ffairs and in education he was well enough aware that imperfection
existed and "ought to be
11
removed. Kants ethics had not been trans-
cended, still less discarded;
This is nowhere more clear than in Hegel's educational practice, it
is here that his dependence on Kant's ethics is most obvious and most
complete. When his fiancee had to * be taught that happiness was not
man's diief aim, he addressed a long letter to her which, s Glckner
(Hegel, L 309) says "would do honour to any Kantian". As Rector of the
Gymnasium at Nrnberg, he taught philosophy to his pupils, and his
lecture notes have survived. The seyenty printed pages (W. XVIIL 376)
summarising his instruction to the Junior Class on Law, Duty, and Religion
contain the longest and the clearest exppsition which he has provided
of his ethics. But for their conciseness they might almost have been
written by the author of the Metaphysik der Sitten.
81,