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Chapter VI: The Origin of Evil in the Will

Man is a mystery because he faces the Ultimate, the Infinite, the Absolute—in all its wondrous manifold, with all its complications and oppositions, and especially with the most astounding and most perplexing opposition of being itself and not-being (or nothing). Man is a mystery, because he is a thinking mind and faces the mystery of himself. Man is a mystery precisely because he not only is, but also knows himself to be a mystery. Being and awareness are not to be separated in the case of man, for man is the peculiar being he is just because he knows himself or because he is a self.

As a self, man is under obligation to determine himself; he is not like all other things in the world determined by his “nature.” In a way he has no nature at all, because he has a will. By nature, man is neither good nor bad; he is good or bad by his will. The will is the center of man's moral self. Through his will he makes himself the man he is. He determines his “nature,” his individual character. Man is essentially an individual, and as an individual he is his will.

Man is a mystery because he is aware of the ultimate mystery and therefore participates in the ultimacy of being, not only as all other things and beings do, but spiritually. But it is his will that bears the burden of this participation. Man's will is not a mere part of his organic body like his physiological functions and instincts. The will, like the intellect and imagination, is an avenue whereby man can stride toward his infinite goal. But this privilege makes man's will responsible to itself; it makes him the moral being he is. It endows him with the gift of freedom—the most fateful of all gifts, for man can abuse it and destroy it. Freedom of the will means that the will is not determined by anything else but determines itself. Indeed, this is the intrinsic essence of the will: to determine itself, and therefore to be free. Thus will as will is free. Determinism of the will would deprive the will of its very nature. A will that is the effect of other causes and circumstances is no longer a will: it is the tool of masters other than the person who wills, be they outer or inner forces or energies, be they impressions or impulses.

But true as this undoubtedly is, it is also a very problematic statement. No observation nor investigation can ever test it, can either confirm or deny it, for freedom does not belong to the empirical world of causes and effects, it does not belong to the world we can investigate by means of the natural sciences. Freedom is neither a psychological nor a biological property of man (as Bergson erroneously teaches). Just because man's will qua will determines itself, it cannot be a link in the causal chain of nature; will is supernatural. The supernatural does not need to be sought in metaphysics and religion, it is already present in man's own will and self. But just for this reason the will is a problematic entity or property. It is correctly spoken of neither an entity nor a property, it is no natural endowment of man, it is rather a spiritual requirement, a moral postulate. We ought to will; we are called upon to make decisions and to accept responsibility for our actions. The will is a moral organ, indeed it is the center and the very spring of man's morality, or immorality. Man is not really free, he ought to act as a free will.

Man hovers between nature and the ultimate, between the finite world of causes and effects and the infinite goal of his striving, between his relative aims and the final end. It is this duality that generates all the struggles, the troubles, the miseries and the tragedies of man's life; but it is also the source of all its glory and splendor. The origin of moral evil is identical with the origin of faith. Man hovers between the extremes of his being a creature of nature and his being a creature of God. But this division within him is by no means a clear and clean distinction. On the contrary, his dual nature is both a complete fusion and a fateful confusion. He is never and in no respect solely finite, and he is never and in no respect solely infinite. He is always both finite and infinite, natural and divine, subject to causality and challenged to freedom. He is infinite even in his most animal impulses and instincts: he can control them, he can exceed them, he can suppress them, he can modify them, he can refine them, and so forth. And he is finite still in his most sublime and elevated feelings and aspirations; a certain “earthly residue remains”:

When every element

The mind's high forces

Have seized, subdued, and blent,

No Angel divorces

Twin-natures single grown,

That inly mate them:

Eternal love, alone,

Can separate them.1

It is this dual nature that begets the duplicity of good and evil in volition and action.

Man, as a self and as opposed to nature, has a relationship to the truth about nature; he can discern the difference between true and false without being engaged in the practical consequences of the truth or untruth of his judgments; he can develop a purely theoretical interest which is the presupposition of any scientific research and discovery. The difference between good and evil is still more closely connected with man's transcendental self. Whereas the opposition of true and false concerns man's knowledge, that of good and evil concerns his self directly, his value or worthlessness as a person. Man is a self and a person, because he is not only a part of nature, but a self-dependent being; he is able and obliged to determine himself, he is responsible for his actions. This self-dependence is the strongest indication of man's unique position relative to all other creatures belonging to nature. All of them are subject to certain rules; they obey these rules without knowing them and without willing them. Man also is subject to the laws of nature, but as far as he is man, he is conscious of the opposition of good and evil and, in accordance with this consciousness, acts either morally or immorally. The opposition of these values is no natural one. They belong to the specific human world and to the specific human consciousness.

It is the peculiarity of man's condition that he lives in the objective world but does not live for the sake of this world or of any purpose originating in this world. Rather does man live face to face with the universal mystery, striving after the true and the good. These are inseparably connected. The good is the true in the field of practical willing and acting; and the true is the good in the field of theoretical and speculative thinking and knowing. The true and the good both are related to the mystery of man, for they indicate the direction in which man moves toward the synthesis he cannot find or establish within his experience and in his mind. Man is divided by the oppositions of true and false, of good and evil, because he cannot overcome the distance between himself and ultimate truth or ultimate goodness; or because he cannot accomplish his own synthesis and his own self. Man lives a manifold and divided career; he lives in many different strata. He is divided against himself. This peculiar condition is the origin both of error and of evil.

Good and evil are value-predicates applied to man's conduct and ends. At first sight one may think that the moral opposition can be derived from our natural life or at least can be classified in the same kind of order as all the other natural oppositions. Nature seems to be based on contrasts, as was observed by the philosophers of nature in the earliest period of Greek thought. The sensory qualities, like warm and cold, light and dark, and so on; the spatial determinations like large and small, high and low, and so on; the numeric contrasts of odd or even, plus and minus; the polarities of magnetism and electricity; finally the polarity of sex; these all show the contrasts which are characteristic of nature. We can pursue this characteristic further in the range of feeling: pleasure and pain, joy and grief and, arising from those, the instincts to seek this and avoid that, the impulses of attraction and repulsion. Again we find contrasts between the so-called passions, the polarity which Descartes and Spinoza used for the rational construction of a natural system of all human passions. Closely connected with the contrast of feelings and affections are those—important for human life and ethical decisions and actions of the will—contrasts between the useful and the harmful, between the pleasant and the unpleasant, between fortune and misfortune. Does not the contrast between good and evil belong to the same series? Is it not grounded in nature as are those others? Is then a special investigation into the origin of evil necessary? Is not evil explicable in the same way as pain, hatred, misfortune, and other untoward things?

It cannot be denied that natural contrasts profoundly penetrate human life, as they do all life. The recognition of this fact must, however, not blind us to the differences that exist between the natural and the moral kind of contrast. As far as the natural polarities are concerned, whether organic or inorganic, each has both its poles equally within nature, so that there can be no question of one opposite being ranked above the other. The sensory, spatial, physical, and biological contrasts do not ensue from any contrasts of value nor do they include such value-predicates. The psychological opposites are subject to a certain kind of valuation; but this valuation is not related to the value of the self and the person, it concerns only the weal or woe of an individual. To be sure, passions and affectations can become the object of moral valuation, but then the contrast of good and evil is presupposed in, and not derived from, them. Harm, pain, adversity do not affect the worth of him who suffers from them. Envy, hate, revengefulness, jealousy can have injurious effects on the life and weal of the persons involved, but it is not this effect which is the object of our moral blame, but the motive behind them. This motive betrays a bad character, and this character is the source of evil actions.

The character of a man is centered in his will. A man of bad character does not will in accordance with those ends which he considers good. He is, therefore, divided within himself. The contrast of good and evil concerns the direction of the will. The good will is directed, or rather the person of good will directs himself toward the good, or toward what seems to him the good. The person of evil will refuses to direct himself toward the good. Good and evil are not properly contrasting directions of the will, for the good will alone has a direction, whereas the bad will has none. Evil is, therefore, negative in quite different sense from the negative element in nature, even from the negative elements among the feelings.

It is altogether arbitrary to call anything in nature negative. Light is just as much the negative of dark as dark of light. Negative feelings are indeed negative as far as they relate to the life or welfare of the individual, but as feelings they are, after all, definite qualities, each with a content and by no means merely the privation of their positive counterparts. Evil, on the other hand, is nothing but the negation of good, though it be an active negation, a negation practiced by the will and not by the judging or thinking understanding only. The good is a positive goal and it is a particular content of the good will in a particular case, it is a definite aim of the person who wills it. Evil, on the contrary, is not such a goal and not such a content of the will; it is in fact the active negation of direction as such; it is what a person wills when he does not follow the direction of the good. The will cannot be directed toward evil because evil indicates no direction at all. One cannot therefore co-ordinate good with evil and place them upon the same level, as one co-ordinates warm and cold, positive and negative electricity, odd and even, or joy and grief, love and hate, pleasure and pain, the useful and the harmful. The good is direction, aim, demand, norm, and standard of moral conduct; evil is the refusal of the will to follow the good: it is intrinsically negative.

There is the good and there is the good will; and there is the evil will, but there is not such a thing as the evil. The good indicates the direction toward the unification of the individual self within itself and with every other self or with the community. Evil indicates no direction at all; it lacks any goal; it indicates nothing but the attitude of that will which resists acting in accordance with the good. The evil will acts without ultimate direction whatsoever, following individual impulses, passions, affectations, inclinations and interests. It is a disorderly will, a will without any order save that which is forced on the will by those merely individual motives.

Man does not will the evil, he wills something which is opposed to the good. He wills it in spite of the fact that it is opposed, but not because it is evil. On the other hand, man can will the good because it is the good, indeed the good man is the man who wills the good for good's sake, regardless of the consequences that may ensue for himself or for other people. The evil deed is that deed which has been done although the actor acknowledges that it is evil. No human being, not even the worst and most wicked, wants evil because it is evil. On the contrary, any human being has a special reason whenever he commits a crime or violates a norm or acts viciously. And he indulges his desires or passions although he knows that it is evil to do so. It is the mythical person of the Devil alone who does the evil for its own sake, or (for there is no evil goal as such) who destroys the good just because it is good.

The good is a goal never completely reached; the evil is no goal at all, it is a quality of the evil will only. There are evil purposes, evil intentions, evil motives and actions; but there is no evil which corresponds to the good as such. This cardinal moral contrast is rooted in the mystery of man. If man could not envisage the good as the ultimate goal of his actions and of all his purposes, he could not offer resistance to it; he could not become evil. The idea of order in the field of the practical reason originates from man's unique position in the world; and the idea of disorder likewise. Only man can attach himself to the good, as he can reject or defy it; only man can follow the right way or abandon it. The very concept of a right way rests on the concept of an infinite goal that we can approach by the determination of our will, by the direction of our activity. Although we cannot define the content of this goal in universal terms, nevertheless it directs us in our concrete consciousness in every concrete situation of life.

The universal content is hidden from us, because it is the ultimate mystery which looms behind the idea of the good, as it looms behind the idea of the true. But without the idea of the good we could never speak of any good purpose or will or action, of any good motive or character or man. The good would turn out to be the useful or the expedient only, it would refer to certain ends derived from the objective world, our natural desires or needs, or from other necessities. The idea of the infinite good alone lifts us above the level of all other beings and bestows upon man his specific dignity and the idea of the infinite value of the human person as such. It is the universal mystery which makes possible these ideas, because man is able to strive after the infinite good only by visualizing that mystery.

Evil has its origin in the center of man's self, i.e., in his will. The phenomenon of evil, in the moral sense, rests on the consciousness of knowing the right way and not choosing it. Of course, the phenomenon of moral error cannot be disputed. All moral education aims at the improvement of moral judgment and knowledge. Clear conceptions and the ability to find out the best way in a concrete moral situation are important factors in the formation of the will; intellect and reason are of great importance to moral conduct. But the inner disposition and direction of the will itself is the proper object of moral valuation. Conscience is the judge, not of the truth of my knowledge concerning the circumstances of a concrete situation, and not even of the truth or untruth of my moral judgment, but rather of my will and my motive. I condemn myself, not because I erred in comprehending the facts or future developments in the situation where I acted; not because I misconstrued my duty; but because I did not act in accordance with my view of my duty. And I act with a good conscience when I examine all the foundations of my moral decision as carefully as possible, and then act as my moral reason commands me to do. The agreement between my own moral insight and the concept of my duty on the one hand, and the actual volition, on the other hand, is the basis of a good conscience and the proof of the moral value of my action.

To be sure, there are certain moral defects which do not depend directly and obviously on the decision of the will. They seem to originate in a bad constitution or natural disposition which works without intention or deliberate decision. These deficiencies are the counterpart of those unconscious virtues which may distinguish an individual, like gifts of nature; the less the individual knows about them, the more beautifully they adorn him, and the better he, therefore, pleases others. That is the reason why we are less severe in condemning the moral defects of children or people who have not been well educated. This phenomenon corroborates the general principle. Weaknesses of character, all defects or vices do not become morally objectionable until our conscience becomes aware of them, until the will copes with them in combat and is defeated in the struggle. Distinctions can certainly be made within the phenomenon of evil; and one could reserve the term “evil” for the grosser manifestations of that will which acts in contrast with the good in itself. But that would be a matter of terminology only. The decisive point is that wherever it is a question of moral badness the will acts against its own better judgment. Sometimes this better judgment may not be in the foreground of self-consciousness at the moment of willing, it may be dimmed by the desires which oppose it, or it may be put aside as a disturbing element in the sweep of passion and desire; or the will may defy the better judgment and deceive itself by doing so. In all these cases the phenomenon of evil is not altered in any way; it always consists in disagreement between knowledge and will, in the revolt of the will against the commandment of the good.

Evil arises in man because he is a self and can and should determine himself, i.e., his own will. But how can evil arise in the self, when the self is the basis of man's superiority over nature, when man's dignity depends on his being a self, when man is a self by virtue of his striving after the infinite good? How can man fall away from himself and become subject to those motives which characterize him not as a self but as a being that is determined by nature like the animal? This is the special mystery of evil which must be traced to the mystery of man.

Man strives after the good for its own sake. He does not strive for evil, because it is something negative that cannot become the goal of the will. He succumbs to evil, he surrenders to the temptation. The phenomenon is so well known that it may seem curious to discern a mystery in it. What could be less mysterious than the weakness of the will which allows itself to be misled by the temptation of pleasure, by the idea of advantages of one kind or another, by passions or idleness, to neglect its duties and, in fact, to refuse to do what reason and conscience clearly enough prescribe? That is, indeed, what happens daily as every man well knows.

But our familiarity with this phenomenon does nothing to change the fact that the mind is confronted with an intricate problem when it tries to analyze carefully what happens therein. For if the will is will only because it determines and guides itself, how can it allow itself to be determined and misled? How can it succumb to evil without ceasing at the same time to be will, and falling back to the level of nature, where will and sin and guilt do not exist at all? As we have shown before, the phenomenon of evil exhibits no such retrogressive step. It is the will itself that becomes evil and yields to temptation thus surrendering itself. If the will were a natural force within the soul and able to contend with other forces, such as the passions, the desires; if it could conquer or be defeated in the struggle; the phenomenon of evil would be a natural occurrence, similar to physical or chemical processes. But the will is, by its very nature, not such a natural force. It is will in contrast to everything that is determined by necessity; its essence is self-determination. How can that which essentially determines itself cease to determine itself and instead allow itself to be overwhelmed and determined by motives arising in the soul with natural necessity?

If the process of evil volition were nothing but the failure of a force of the soul in a struggle with other forces, the human self would not be concerned with it at all, and would have no part therein. More than that, there would be no self. Why should man distinguish one force of his soul from all others, call it his self, conceive of it as being, and feel it to be, his real I? Why should he blame himself when one force is defeated and others are victorious? Indeed, he could not make himself responsible, accuse himself, condemn himself. All those phenomena would be completely unintelligible, mere self-deceptions, or rather, not even that, for even self-deception presupposes the existence of a self!

The mysteriousness of evil arises from this very fact: that the will, contrary to its own nature and essence, can, like any mental element, get involved in a struggle with these factors and suffer defeat in this struggle. Or, putting it differently, it arises from the fact that, on the one hand, our self cannot become a mere part of the soul, that it cannot lose the characteristic quality of selfhood; and that, on the other hand, it can (though retaining that quality) yet sacrifice itself to parts or elements of the soul; or, that it can abandon and disown itself. This is the origin of a bad conscience, of internal conflict, of remorse and repentance. These phenomena cannot be ignored nor explained away; in fact they even serve to emphasize the mystery of evil.

The bad will, in succumbing to temptations, is by no means merely overwhelmed by impulses, desires, etc., but it turns against itself, it negates and perverts itself by negating the good. For the self and the good are inseparably connected; not in the sense taught by some philosophers that man is good by nature, but in the sense that man is a self by virtue of his spiritual awareness of the ultimate good. This awareness alone bestows on man his self-dependence and, therefore, his very self. The more man forsakes the path of the good, the more he sacrifices the direction and continuity of his will, the unity and harmony of his various desires and impulses, and steers toward indefinite shores. He loses his character and his self. The good grants man his self.

On the other hand, it is the self that is willing and acting also when man fails and transgresses. The bad will is will after all, and the will, as such, always determines itself. Willing is self-determination. The will, therefore, is always connected with understanding or reason, both coalesce in the personality of an individual. Reason envisages the right way and the will does or does not conform to it. A will without reason, a “blind will,” is the device of the “blind” psychologist or metaphysician like Schopenhauer. But though connected with reason the will is not bound to follow reason, it is not rational in this sense. On the contrary, the will can turn against reason and insight, against itself, against the self whose will it is. How can one comprehend the bad will without falling victim to contradiction?

The bad will does not cease to be a will, even when it abandons reason, the good and the self. By means of thought and cognition it sets for itself its own aims, it seeks and grasps the means of their achievement. And in the course of this scheming and activity it can develop immense psychological and physical energy, pertinacity, patience and cool resolution, which become, as it were, virtues in the service of evil. In fact vice becomes more vicious the less it acts from a sudden impulse or passion, factors which are taken into account as extenuating circumstances in a verdict or the punishment of crime. The will remains more than ever responsible when, in abandonment of its real goal, namely the good, it allows itself to be led astray and, though misled, retains leadership; when determined, it determines itself; acting with a bad conscience and against moral reason, it yet is not merely driven passively but conceives and pursues its aims as an active agent—the will of course is always active—with intelligent judgment and deliberate choice. In this falsification of its own nature it still remains a will which falls short of its own selfhood. Evil volition is, therefore, a self-contradiction. It is a process of getting involved in a conflict with oneself, a self-destruction of that unity which a man possesses as a self. The result is the disruption of the self into an accusing and an accused, a judging and a judged, a condemning and a condemned, a phenomenon which is known to everyone under the name “bad conscience.”

The knowing and deliberate rejection of the good turns the will into an enemy. As one perverts his will in turning it away from the good, the good, too, turns away from him and perverts itself into the form of a law which punishes him. In this respect St. Paul is right when he says that sin and the moral law are inseparable.2 The good, as such, is not law. It is a shortcoming of Kant's ethical doctrine to convert the good into the law of pure practical reason. The Greeks, and especially Plato, had superior insight when they proclaimed the good to be the highest goal and standard of human life. On the other hand, Kant is in accordance with the Christian outlook in so far as this, too, connects law and morality inseparably. In fact, Kant had benefited through the experience of Christianity. He is a Christian thinker in that he assumes as his ethical principle the moral law because the law alone makes possible that deeper conception and consciousness of sin in which the phenomenon of evil finds its ultimate expression. But Kant adopted the Christian position without adopting at the same time the Christian conception of the primacy of faith, and of the law as a commandment given man by God. In that respect, therefore, the Platonic idea of the good, which in fact represents the idea of God in the system of Plato, is more adequate to Christian thought.

Kant secularized the religious image of God as the moral lawgiver and substituted for this image the concept of the autonomy of pure practical reason. Thus he has eliminated the idea of the good completely. This elimination is by no means possible or justified. We have to return to the Platonic doctrine which, indeed, is the doctrine of almost all ethical thinkers after Plato. On the other hand, we must respect the deeper conception of evil as interpreted by the biblical imagination. We can solve the problem which thus arises by taking refuge in the consciousness of the universal mystery which in fact cannot be neglected without damaging and weakening the whole fabric of philosophy.

The idea of the good as representing the direction in which man moves because he is aware of the mystery which confronts him and which makes him man and self cannot be dismissed. It is the cardinal principle of all ethical thought. The moral law presupposes the idea of a goal to be pursued by the will, a goal which does not depend on any natural urge or impulse or on any purpose derived from the objective world and belonging to it. This goal is the good, as such. This goal converts itself into a commandment or into a prohibition only because man can act in a direction contrary to it. The good enlarges the horizon of reason toward the infinite, toward a point beyond the limit of reason. Like truth, it makes reason transcendental.

The law is a law of reason only in so far as it has a rational form, but it is not given by reason. As the forms of objective knowledge originate in truth as the ultimate unity of spirit and nature, so the form of ethical knowledge originates in the good. Of course, the good could not appear in the form of a law or a universal imperative without having been represented by reason to the frail will of man. But it is also true that the good itself could not even be the good in itself or the universal, the ultimate, the infinite good, if reason did not conceive it; and even the universal mystery is universal only because it is formed by reason. Without reason man is not able to grasp the universal mystery at all. But this truth does not mean that reason generates the universal mystery or the universal good. It generates neither the categories of the objective world nor the moral law. Man, it is true, denies reason if he transgresses against the moral law; but at the same time he acts in a manner hostile to the good. The moral law is not only his law, the law of his reason, it is the transformed good itself; in the language of religion: it is the commandment of God.

Indeed, the moral law, as conceived by Kant, is the mere form of a law. It has no content at all. Now, the content of the moral law is the good, as specified by the concrete situation. This content, as such, has not the form of an imperative until an opposing purpose or motive turns it into such a form. It is the content of every purpose of the good will; indeed, the will is good only because it has this purpose. And since the will as such wills the good, because this aim of the will makes it a will, no will but the good will can become a bad or evil will. The will is good, not by nature, but by itself; but the will is subject to perversion, the bad will is the will perverted by itself. Nothing can pervert the will but the will itself; for the will is, as will, self-determining and not determined by anything that has not become the purpose or the intention of the will.

The will, it is true, is not autonomous for it depends on the insight of reason. The good will cannot will what it pleases but it is obliged to will in accordance with the good as acknowledged by reason. The freedom of the good will is not a matter of arbitrary choice. On the contrary, the path of the good is narrow, and the good will very often has no choice whatsoever. The freedom of the good will means that the will is not determined to act as its impulses and passions urge it to act. It is urged by itself to act in accordance with the good. This kind of urge is felt as the command of the moral law or of God. The urge of the good appears as a command only by virtue of the will's self-determination. An animal, not being a self, cannot acknowledge a command as the content of his own purpose and cannot determine himself by obeying the command. This is the prerogative of man alone; this is the mystery of man as compared with all other creatures of nature. This privilege makes man supernatural, or as the Bible says, created in the image of God.

There is, however, another kind of freedom expressed in evil action of the will. This action is arbitrary indeed. It is based on the faculty of self-determination, but it misuses this prerogative and perverts it so that freedom is changed into its opposite. Both kinds of freedom depend on each other. If there is no freedom in choosing the good, there can be no freedom in refusing it. It is the same freedom at the basis of both the good act and the evil act, but it is employed for contrary ends. The use which characterizes the good action makes man harmonious, because it agrees with the core of his selfhood and with the goal of his striving. In following this goal, man liberates himself from the controlling power of his natural desires and impulses; he becomes master of his will. He acts by means of his freedom on freedom's behalf. If he declines to choose the good, he makes himself the slave of his animal nature. He uses the privileged state of his humanity to abandon this state. He could not abandon it without being free to do so. Herein lies the paradox of the evil will.

The evil will originates in the self-perversion of the good will. Man sacrifices his freedom by means of his freedom. Man could not fall away from his privileged state if he were not free to follow the good. But the reverse also is true: man could not be free to pursue the good without being able to refuse this loyalty. The idea of moral freedom, therefore, includes the idea of its possible misuse. The origin of moral evil in the will is rooted in the very nature of man's morality. Man would not be a self, could he not fail in realizing his selfhood. Selfhood involves the possibility of man's moral failure, since he can never act in full accordance with the good as long as he is what he is: a finite being striving after the good but never attaining it completely.

But this necessity by no means explains the origin of evil; the phenomenon of evil represents a contradiction not to be solved by insight into its origin. It is not only a theoretical contradiction that confronts the moral philosopher, it is at the same time a practical or a personal contradiction in which every human being is entangled when he acts sinfully. In doing evil one denies one's will by means of the will. Deliberately I betray my liberty. I deceive myself. I act as my own bitterest enemy. In a bad conscience I feel the reality of this contradiction as a trial in which I (as the author of my transgression) am accused by myself (as that self which strives after the good and which represents my real self). Thus moral evil splits the personality at its roots and provokes a struggle that can never be compounded. The self has no authority to pardon or to acquit the self that has committed the transgression. The self cannot reconcile itself. Accuser and defendant remain at odds, and the soul (that is, the whole self, which consists of the real and the appearing self) remains divided against itself. There is no solution of this contradiction, neither a practical nor a theoretical one.3

This unsolved and insoluble contradiction that implies the metaphysical opposition of being and not-being, of the finite and the infinite, of nature and spirit, of the objective world and the subjective self compels the thinking mind to appeal to faith as the highest tribunal. Not the moral will but divine love alone can disentangle this “nest of antinomies” as Kant calls it. Man reaches the utter limit of his own capacity, when he meets those opposites in himself. Not only as a thinking, but also as a willing, striving, and acting being, not only in intellect and understanding, but also in will and conscience, he is torn asunder, and neither his reason nor his will, neither thought nor action, can make him whole again, and complete what is incomplete.

Kant is right in saying that there is a practical solution only, and not a theoretical one, of the speculative ultimate problem. But this practical solution is not practical in the sense of practical or moral reason; it is practical only in so far as it is not theoretical—neither scientific nor philosophic, not a solution of theoretical, but also not a solution of practical reason, instead a solution brought about by faith alone. Faith can solve the ultimate problem, and reconcile the will rent by itself, just because it transcends reason. Faith alone can reconcile the self with itself, just because faith transcends the entire sphere of the self and enters the sphere of ultimate unity. Not reason, but faith performs the highest work. This work can no longer be considered as the performance of disunited man, but rather as springing from the ultimate and original unity itself: as a gift of Him who is the giver of all spiritual gifts.

  • 1.

    Faust II, Act V, Scene VII.

  • 2.

    Romans, VII, 7 ff.

  • 3.

    Cf. Shakespeare, Richard III:

    “What! do I fear myself? there's none else by:
    Richard loves Richard; that is, I am I.
    Is there a murderer here? No. Yes; I am:
    Then fly: what? from myself? Great reason why;
    Lest I revenge. What myself upon myself?”
    And so on.

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