‘Perhaps self-knowledge is instead a duty that we can never fully abide by, and what is needed is a permanent enquiry into the relationship between moral perfection and our own action…’Moral cognition on one’s self, which seeks to penetrate into the abyss of one’s heart which are quite difficult to fathom, is the beginning of all human wisdom (Kant, 1797:562).

But what you might encounter during such an enquiry is a tendency towards self-deception.’

‘So the only thing the individual can do is to know his or her own heart as best as they can and try to come to grips with the eternal struggle that takes place within it….This is why Kant insists on a permanent discontent with morality and describes virtue as ‘a moral disposition in conflict’. Ethics is painful, not only because it urges you to consider the darker aspects of your moral disposition but also because it is intrinsically related to a restriction and the constraint of self.’

‘The less a human being can be compelled physically, the more he can be compelled morally, the freer he is. In the Critique of Practical Reason, Kant writes that freedom of the will is the only principle underlying moral laws and the duties ensuing from them.

Habit, culture, tradition merely open the door to a huge diversity of different justifications so freedom must be independent of such contexts. Kant describes this as an inner freedom that grounds all virtue.’


The things you learn from a textbook can surprise you.

One time in a blogpost, I wrote that I don’t believe in reliance on religion, and I believe there is nothing more powerful than the human will. It is quite an experience to read what I excerpted above, and realise that that epiphany of mine is actually sort of in line with what Kant wrote about.

This makes a whole lot more sense to me than…say, the Bible, and the ten commandments, and all that. Not that the Bible is not a useful benchmark or guidance, but when you have read that jazz, you think: Why should somebody tell me what’s right and what’s wrong? Why can’t I be a good person on my own accord?

Christianity might tell you, oh it’s because you can never be morally perfect, human beings are sinners by nature, only God is perfect and therefore you should listen to what God tells you to do.

But can’t I independently strive for perfection, while being fully aware that I will never be morally perfect, and that my environment and inner selfishness will always creep up on me, but never giving up on my ideals and intention to be a good person? What if I have ‘the courage to make use of my own understanding’? Can’t I rely on that instead?

Ideals are not there for you to achieve, but they are there for you to strive towards. So while I may never be perfect, I am perfectly willing to let my intention to be a good person be a lifelong experiment of moral conflict and inward reflection.

On the side of my notes I summarised the following:

‘Kant is not trying to propose some kind of codified ethics, but rather, he stresses upon the importance of FREEDOM via inward reflection/acknowledgment of

– your own weaknesses

– how your values are under ifluence of habit, culture, tradition, peers

– how you need to be aware of these things and consciously struggle against it to make use of your own understanding’

This is the ‘inner freedom that grounds all virtue’. This is why I think that there is nothing more powerful than the human will.

I.e., if you are stuck in a rut, if you feel miserable about the way you are living your life because you are (aware that you are) addicted to some substance or sex/ not studying hard enough/ insecure or attention-seeking and therefore sometimes selfish/ mean/ rude/ having illicit feelings when you are in a relationship…

Suck it up, get over yourself, and do something about it.