Kant is the first philosopher for self-sacrifice on principle

Kant is the first philosopher of self-sacrifice to advance this ethics as a matter of philosophic principle, explicit, self- conscious, uncompromised—essentially uncontradicted by any remnants of the Greek, pro-self viewpoint….

If men lived the sort of life Kant demands, who or what would gain from it? Nothing and no one. The concept of “gain” has been expunged from morality. For Kant, it is the dutiful sacrifice as such that constitutes a man’s claim to virtue; the welfare of any recipient is morally incidental. Virtue, for Kant, is not the service of an interest—neither of the self nor of God nor of others. (A man can claim moral credit for service to others in this view, not because they benefit, but only insofar as he loses.)

Here is the essence and climax of the ethics of self- sacrifice, finally, after two thousand years, come to full, philosophic expression in the Western world: your interests—of whatever kind, including the interest in being moral—are a mark of moral imperfection because they are interests. Your desires, regardless of their content, deserve no respect because they are desires. Do your duty, which is yours because you have desires, and which is sublime because, unadulterated by the stigma of any gain, it shines forth unsullied, in loss, pain, conflict, torture. Sacrifice the thing you want, without beneficiaries, supernatural or social; sacrifice your values, your self-interest, your happiness, your self, because they are your values, your self-interest, your happiness, your self; sacrifice them to morality, i.e., to the noumenal dimension, i.e., to nothing knowable or conceivable to man, i.e., as far as man living on this earth is concerned, to nothing.

The moral commandment is: thou shalt sacrifice, sacrifice everything, sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice, as an end in itself.

 

Tags: