April 8, 2012
I get and understand the import of the consciousness of the moral law which is identical with the recognition of freedom, as prompted by the former. I know this law is binding on me. But as a rational being I have to ask myself, “what purpose does this serve for me? I know I am bound and would hate myself to disobey, but still, what’s in it for me, besides not hating myself?”
So we have to assume there is a purpose to the moral law, for otherwise, even though it would always still command us, it wouldn’t make any sense. Being commanded to ignore my happiness and do something anyway? I don’t have to do it and do it anyway and it causes me pain?
So how to reconcile this? There can be only a single purpose for the moral law for the human race, namely the highest possible good where there is perfect morality and perfect and commensurate happiness. There has to be a purpose, and since the highest good is the only possible purpose, obviously it is the purpose. The highest good is the purpose and entire point of the moral law. That’s what the moral consciousness is directed toward and is aiming at, the marriage of moral perfection and commensurate perfection in happiness, i.e., the highest good.
And so what is the relationship between the moral consciousness and the highest good? The highest good is the morally necessary purpose of the moral law. It is necessary because without it the moral law would be inane; but we know it is not inane for we know that we are free., i.e., actually imposed upon by this law. Therefore, because the moral law is not inane, we know that it is aimed at the highest good in this world, that which we must use our freedom to achieve.
Thus: I will that there be the highest good in the world and with it the soul and God (as it necessary conditions), and I will that I be free. This then would become the consciousness of the moral act. I’m expressing the willed fact of the highest good via this very act. I am reflecting this highest good.
So we know we ought to be promoting the highest good in this world. Indeed we are morally obligated to assert and promote the highest good (and for the simple reason that without that very purpose, the moral law cannot be defended and would end up a quaint and incidental vanity).
In other words, it is only by virtue of the Idea of the highest good that the moral and prudence drives can be unified in a person and focused on a single object, where the moral act becomes also the most prudent act (regarding personal happiness). Without the highest good the moral act has to be considered as pointless. Therefore the highest good is the purpose of the moral act.
Kant hastens to note that the soul and God and freedom, while recognized now practically as actual objects, add nothing to theoretical or speculative reason. So this does not affect the sciences, but only the scientist, but then only as a practical and morally inclined person.
Filed under: Kant