Not a member?     Existing members login below:
Holidays Offer

The Phenomenology of Mind

him good. To do this we have to distinguish what the evil is, what is the appropriate good to meet this evil,
and what in general his well−being consists in; i.e. we have to love him intelligently. Unintelligent love will
do him harm perhaps more than hatred. Intelligent, veritable (wesentlich) well−doing is, however, in its
richest and most important form the intelligent universal action of the state−−an action compared with which
the action of a particular individual as such is something altogether so trifling that it is hardly worth talking
about. The action of the state is in this connexion of such great weight and strength that if the action of the
individual were to oppose it, and either sought to be straightway and deliberately (fer sich) criminal, or out of
love for another wanted to cheat the universal out of the right and claim which it has upon him, such action
would be useless and would inevitably be annihilated. Hence all that well−doing, which lies in sentiment and
feeling, can mean is an action wholly and solely particular, a help at need, which is as contingent as it is
momentary. Chance determines not merely its occasion, but also whether it is a "work" at all, whether it is
not at once dissipated again, and whether it does not itself really turn to evil. Thus this sort of action for the
good of others, which is given out as necessary, is so constituted that it may just as likely not exist as exist; is
such that if the occasion by chance arises, it may possibly be a "work", may possibly be good, but just as
likely may not. This law, therefore, has as little of a universal content as the first above considered, and fails
to express anything substantial, something objectively real per se (an und fer sich), which it should do if it is
to be an absolute ethical law. In other words, such laws never get further than the "ought to be", they have no
actual reality; they are not laws, but merely commands.
It is, however, in point of fact, clear from the very nature of the case that we must renounce all claim to an
absolute universal content. For every specific determination which the simple substance (and its very nature
consists in being simple) might obtain is inadequate to its nature. The command itself in its simple
absoluteness expresses immediate ethical existence; the distinction appearing in it is a specific determinate
element, and thus a content standing under the absolute universality of this simple existence. Since, then, an
absolute content must thus be renounced, formal universality is the only kind that is possible and suitable,
and this means merely that it is not to contradict itself. For universality devoid of content is formal; and an
absolute content amounts to a distinction which is no distinction, i.e. means absence of content.(2)
In default of all content there is thus nothing left with which to make a law but the bare form of universality,
in fact, the mere tautology of consciousness, a tautology which stands over against the content, and consists
in a knowledge, not of the content actually existing, the content proper, but of its ultimate essence only, a
knowledge of its self−identity.
The ethical inner essence is consequently not itself ipso facto a content, but only a standard for deciding
whether a content is capable of being a law or not, i.e. whether the content does not contradict itself. Reason
as law−giver is reduced to being reason as criterion; instead of laying down laws reason now only tests what
is laid down.
1. Cp. Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals: Sect. 1 Critique of Practical Reason: Analytic c. 3.
2. The above criticism applies to Kant's "categorical imperative".
A DIFFERENCE within the bare and simple ethical substance is for it an accident, which, in the case of
determinate commands, as we saw, appeared as contingency in the knowledge of the circumstances and
contingency in action. The comparison of that simple existence with the determinateness which was
inadequate to its nature took place in us; and the simple substance was then seen to be formal universality or
pure consciousness which holds itself free from and in opposition to the content, and is a knowledge of that
content as something determinate. The universality in this way remains the same as what the objectified