The Highest Level of Motive
- DRSteiner in Ch. 8 writes:
<< Kreyenbuhl characterizes this driving force [ a concept, not a
representation, feeling or perception ] as practical apriori, that is, an
impulse to action springing
directly from my intuition.
It is clear that in the strictest sense of the word, such an impulse can no
longer be considered as belonging to the characterological disposition. For
here what acts as driving force is no longer something merely individual in
me, but is the ideal and therefore the universal content of my intuition. As
soon as I see the justification for making this content the foundation and
starting-point of an action, I pass over into willing, irrespective of
whether I had the concept already, or whether it enters my consciousness only
immediately before acting, that is, irrespective of whether or not it was alr
eady present in me as disposition.
An action is a real act of will only when a momentary impulse of action, in
the form of a concept or representation, influences the characterological
disposition. Such an impulse then becomes the motive of will.
Motives of morality are representations and concepts. There are philosophers
of ethics who also see in feeling a motive for morality; they maintain, for
example, that the aim of moral conduct is the furtherance of the greatest
possible quantity of pleasure in the individual who acts. But in itself a
pleasure cannot be a motive; only a represented pleasure can. The
representation of a future feeling, but not the feeling itself, can influence
my characterological disposition. For in the moment of acting the feeling
itself is not yet there; moreover it is to be produced by the action.
The representation of one's own or someone else's welfare, however, is
rightly regarded as a motive of will. The principle: through one's deed to
bring about the greatest amount of pleasure for oneself, that is, to attain
personal advantage, is egoism. It is striven for either by ruthlessly
considering only one's own welfare, even at the cost of the happiness of
others (pure egoism), or by furthering the welfare of others because
indirectly one expects a favorable influence upon one's own self through the
happiness of others, or because one fears to endanger one's own interest by
injuring others (morality of prudence). The particular content of egoistical
principles of morality will depend upon what representations a person has of
his own or of another's happiness. A person will determine the content of his
egoistical striving according to what he considers to be the good things in
life (luxury, hope of happiness, deliverance from various misfortunes, etc.).
Another motive is the purely conceptual content of actions. This content does
not refer to a particular action only, as in the case of the representation
of one's own pleasures, but to the reason for an action derived from a system
of moral principles. In the form of abstract concepts these moral principles
may govern moral life without the single individual troubling himself about
the origin of the concepts. In that case, we simply feel the subjection to
the moral concept which, like a command, overshadows our deeds as a moral
necessity. The reason for this necessity we leave to those who demand our
moral subjection, that is, to the moral authority we acknowledge (the head of
the family, the state, social custom, the authority of the church, divine
revelation). A particular instance of these moral principles is when the
command announces itself to us, not through an external authority, but
through our own inner being (moral autonomy). In this case, within ourselves
we sense the voice to which we have to submit. This voice finds expression in
It means moral progress when man does not simply take the command of an outer
or inner authority as motive for his action, but strives to recognize the
reason why a particular principle of conduct should act as motive in him.
This is the advance from morality based on authority, to conduct based on
moral insight. At this level of morality the person will consider the needs
of moral life and will let this knowledge determine his actions. Such needs
are: 1) the greatest possible welfare of humanity, purely for its own sake;
2) the progress of culture, or the moral development of mankind to ever
greater perfection; 3) the realization of individual aims of morality, which
are grasped purely intuitively.
The greatest possible welfare of humanity will naturally be understood
differently by different people. The above principle does not refer to a
definite representation of this welfare, but to the fact that each person who
acknowledges this principle strives to do what in his opinion best furthers
the welfare of humanity.
The progress of culture is seen as a special instance of the above-mentioned
moral principle by those who connect feelings of pleasure with the advantages
of culture, but they will have to accept into the bargain the decline and
destruction of much that also contributes to the welfare of mankind. However,
it is also possible that in the progress of culture someone sees a moral
necessity, quite apart from the feeling of pleasure connected with it. Then
for him, the progress of culture is a particular moral principle, distinct
from the one mentioned previously.
The principle of the general welfare, as well as that of the progress of
culture, is based upon a representation, that is, upon how one relates the
content of moral ideas to certain experiences (perceptions). But the highest
thinkable principle of morality is one which contains no such relation from
the start, but springs from the source of pure intuition and only afterward
seeks the relation to perceptions (to life). Here the decision as to what is
to be willed proceeds from a different sphere than that of the previous
examples. In all his conduct, one in favor of the principle of the general
welfare will first ask what his ideals will contribute to this general
welfare. He who acknowledges the moral principle of the progress of culture,
will do the same. But at this level he could do something even higher: if in
a particular case he were not to proceed from one single definite aim of
morality, but were to recognize a certain value in all principles of morality
and were always to ask whether the one or the other would be more important
here. It may happen that in certain circumstances one considers the progress
of culture, in others, the general welfare, and in yet others, the
furtherance of his own welfare, to be the right aim and motive of his
actions. But when all such reasons take second place, then first and foremost
the conceptual intuition itself comes into consideration. When this happens,
then all other motives retreat from the leading position and the idea-content
of the action alone is effective as its motive.... >>
*******So because thinking is unversal, not subjective, a pure idea gained by
intuition made into a motive is no longer individual but goes beyond the
person. The Idea acts, not the personality. "Not I, but Christ in me."
> *******So because thinking is unversal, not subjective, aAnd it seems that 'action' must include those acts restricted
> pure idea gained by
> intuition made into a motive is no longer individual but
> goes beyond the
> person. The Idea acts, not the personality. "Not I, but
> Christ in me."
to the realm of thinking. I seem to always make a mental
picture of bodily movments when I read the word 'action', but
I keep reminding myself that simply facing certain ideas
directly often requires massive courage and will and are as
full of action as handing somebody a flower.
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