"Our truest, deepest self is completely free. It is not crippled or compromised by past actions or concerned with identity or status. It comprehends that it has no need to fear the earthly world, and therefore, it has no need to build itself up through fame or wealth or conquest."
"My goal: complete liberation from form and symbols, context and logic.
Away with motivic work!
Away with harmony as the cement of my architecture!
Harmony is expression and nothing more.
Away with pathos!
Away with 24 pound protracted scores!
My music must be short.
Lean! In two notes, not built, but “expressed”.
And the result is, I hope, without stylized and sterilized drawn-out sentiment.
That is not how man feels; it is impossible to feel only one emotion.
Man has many feelings, thousands at a time, and these feelings add up no more than apples and pears add up. Each goes its own way.
This multicoloured, polymorphic, illogical nature of our feelings, and their associations, a rush of blood, reactions in our senses, in our nerves; I must have this in my music.
It should be an expression of feeling, as if really were the feeling, full of unconscious connections, not some perception of “conscious logic”.
Now I have said it, and they may burn me."
"He creates you in the wombs of your mothers, creation after creation, within three darknesses."
The Divine Darkness is the shroud that surrounds the unknowable Essence of God.
164. When, therefore, Moses grew in knowledge, he declared that he had seen God in the darkness, that is, that he had then come to know that what is divine is beyond all knowledge and comprehension, for the text says, ‘Moses approached the dark cloud where God was.’ What God? He who ‘made darkness his hiding place,’ as David says, who also was initiated into the mysteries in the same inner sanctuary.
"God in Nature, A Weed by the Wall"
We are given the following scenario:
Matthew Donnelly was a physicist whose work exposed him to harmful radiation for some thirty years. As a result, he contracted a virulent form of radiation cancer; he lost part of his jaw, upper lip, nose, his left hand, and two fingers on his right hand. He also became blind and began to suffer constant, excruciating pain. His physicians said that he had about one year to live. Donnelly decided that he did not want to go on living in this condition. One witness said that “he could be seen lying in bed with his teeth clinched and beads of perspiration standing out on his forehead.” Knowing that he was going to die soon and wanting to escape continued torment, Donnelly begged his three brothers to kill him. Two refused. The youngest brother, Harold, did not. Harold entered his brother’s hospital room with a concealed pistol and shot Matthew to death (Borrowed verbatim with some minor revisions from James Rachels, The Elements of Moral Philosophy , p. 93.)
In light of what is given, there are three components to analyze: Matthew’s request to die, the brothers’ refusal to act, and Harold’s action. The purpose of this analysis is to determine the moral worth of these actions according to Immanuel Kant’s Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals. Notice that we call the moral worth of actions into question and not the moral worth of the rational beings behind these actions, for, “man and, in general, every rational being exists as an end in himself and not merely as a means to be arbitrarily used by this or that will. In all his actions,..he must always be regarded at the same time as an end” (Kant, p. 45). In addition to elaborating on the absolute worth of rational beings, this analysis discloses the reasons why Matthew’s plead for death is unmoral, and why the brothers’ refusal to act may or may not be moral depending on the nature of their maxim. Furthermore, regarding Harold’s act, this analysis offers two options. Depending on how Harold perceives himself, Harold’s act is either a merely unmoral act or, better yet, a hyper-moral act that elevates him as a sovereign over the realm of ends, thus willing an entire world of potential ideals into reality and “bringing Heaven on earth”.
First, let us consider Matthew Donnelly’s request to die. As it has been stated, “Knowing that he was going to die soon and wanting to escape continued torment, Donnelly begged his three brothers to kill him”. Entrapped in continuous torture, “with his teeth clinched and beads of perspiration standing out on his forehead”, Matthew believes it is not contrary to his duty to himself to beg for death. According to Kant, this is his maxim: “for love of myself, I make it my principle to shorten my life when by a longer duration it threatens more evil than satisfaction” (p. 38). Because one must act as though their maxim were to become a universal law of nature in order for their action to be considered moral (p. 38), Matthew’s request to die cannot be moral, for, “one immediately sees a contradiction in a system of nature whose law would be to destroy life by the feeling whose special office is to impel the improvement of life” (p. 39). Because ending one’s life for the sake of improving one’s life is a contradiction, Matthew’s maxim cannot exist as a universal law of nature. For this reason, despite all of his suffering, the request Matthew makes to his brothers is not moral.
While Matthew’s request to die is unmoral, the moral worth of his brothers’ refusal is a separate issue. In other words, the unmoral request of Matthew does not make his brothers’ refusal a moral act. Refusing to kill Matthew, there can be two possible maxims. One maxim is dictated by a fear of punishment; the other is dictated by respect for the law. If the brothers refuse to kill their brother because they fear the repercussions that follow such an act, their act is unmoral, since, “the moral worth of an action does not lie in the effect which is expected from it or in any principle of action which has to borrow its motive from this expected effect” (p. 17). On the other hand, if the brothers do not feel inclined to refuse Matthew’s request in order to evade consequences, but rather respect some higher principle that thwarts such inclinations, their act is moral. This holds true because, “an act from duty wholly excludes the influence of inclination and therewith every object of the will, nothing remains which can determine the will objectively except law and subjectively except pure respect for this practical law” (p. 16). Perhaps Matthew’s brothers understand the law that, “if an unfortunate man, strong in soul, is indignant rather than despondent or dejected over his fate and wishes for death, and yet preserves his life without loving it and from neither inclination nor fear but from duty—then his maxim has moral merit” (p. 14). As one can see, the moral worth of an action is dependent on the nature of one’s maxim, whether or not one acts from duty or inclination. One’s act is moral when done for no reason other than duty alone.
Now, we direct our focus toward the final act of Harold. Harold made the decision to heed Matthew’s desperate cries and put his brother out of his misery, regardless of what consequences were to follow. Harold’s maxim is clearly willed independent of its effects. In addition, he appears to sympathize with his brother in a manner one ought to be sympathetic towards others (p. 40). While some may argue that Harold’s maxim cannot be a universal law since, similar to Matthew’s maxim, Harold feels the need to improve Matthew’s life by destroying it (p. 39), one cannot help but wonder if Matthew’s life is already “destroyed”. Earlier, we had no problem accepting the principle that, “one immediately sees a contradiction in a system of nature whose law would be to destroy life by the feeling whose special office is to impel the improvement of life” (p. 39). However, we must now ask ourselves what exactly does it mean to destroy life? When Kant reveals the contradiction of seeking to improve life by destroying it, he is responding to the following example: “A man who is reduced to despair by a series of evils feels a weariness with life but is still in possession of his reason sufficiently to ask whether it would not be contrary to his duty to himself to take his own life” (p. 38). Since Matthew is a man still in possession of reason to will the maxim that it is better for him to die than to live, to which Kant responds that it is contradictory to seek the improvement of life by destroying it, Kant must be suggesting that Matthew’s life still has yet to be truly destroyed and one may judge that Harold is the one who destroys it.
However, this conclusion brings us to an impasse. While Kant suggests that the contradiction of seeking to improve life by destroying it “would not exist as nature…that maxim cannot obtain as a law of nature” (p. 39), Kant also states that sympathy for others is a law of nature (p. 40). This means that Harold is just as unnatural when he refuses to act on his sympathy as he is when he takes the initiative to meet the cries of his brother, putting him in a situation where he cannot possibly be moral or will a universal law of nature. At present, this means one of two things: either nature’s laws are contradictory or Harold is alleviating the suffering of a man whose life is truly destroyed, despite what Kant may insinuate. Another thinker once said, “God never jests with us, and will not compromise the end of nature by permitting any inconsequence in its procession…The wheels and springs of man are all set to the hypothesis of the permanence of nature. We are not built like a ship to be tossed, but like a house to stand” (Emerson, Nature, p. 63). Since nature’s laws must remain consistent, let us conclude that Matthew’s life must already be destroyed in order to avoid the impasse into which we had just fallen. Thus, Harold’s action cannot be unmoral for the same reasons as Matthew’s request. Harold’s action may be moral after all.
According to Kant, if Harold does not believe that he is an end in himself, his act is unmoral. As has been said, “man and, in general, every rational being exists as an end in himself and not merely as a means to be arbitrarily used by this or that will. In all his action, whether they are directed toward himself or toward other rational beings, he must always be regarded at the same time as an end” (Kant, p. 45). Seeing as Harold acts for the sake of his brother regardless of any consequences to follow his act, it is safe to say that Harold regards Matthew as an end in himself. While this in itself is noble, we must consider whether Harold equally regards himself as an end. In answering Matthew’s request to die, is he exclusively means to an end separate from himself? It would certainly seem so; but why is this unmoral? Kant provides us with two reasons. First, “man…is not a thing, and thus not something to be used merely as a means; he must always be regarded in all his actions as an end in himself” (p. 46). Insofar as man is a rational being, he possesses an absolute worth that is independent of any actions that he commits or that are otherwise imposed upon him by his fellow men. Also, “with regard to contingent duty to oneself, it is not sufficient that the action not conflict with humanity in our person as an end in itself; it must also harmonize with it” (p. 47). In other words, the duty Harold feels towards Matthew must harmonize with the duty Harold has toward himself. Regardless of what reason we attribute to the un-morality of discarding the duty to oneself, it is apparent that Harold’s maxim does not harmonize with the duty he has to himself. Harold therefore over-steps the supreme limiting condition of his freedom (p. 48), the harmonization between duty to others and duty to self insofar as these are ends, and thus his action is unmoral.
On the contrary, is it possible that Harold does in fact see himself as an end? What if we are to interpret a different meaning from Kant’s principle that, “the ends of any person, who is an end in himself, must as far as possible be also my ends, if that conception of an end in itself is to have its full effect on me” ( p. 47)? Could it be that, in meeting the duty to his dying brother, Harold is meeting the duty to himself? Perhaps Harold regards these duties as one and the same. Thus, by answering the pleading cries of his tortured brother, Harold, as a “universal legislator” (p. 49), wills the universal law that the duty to others and the duty to self are so harmonious that they are one and the same, insinuating that all rational beings, as they are ends in themselves, are all but one end alone. In fact, Harold revises the common law that systematically unites all rational beings, in turn redefining the realm of ends1 (p. 50). He now belongs to this realm of ends as its sovereign, because he has taken the initiative to act in accord with the universal law that he proposes without being subject to any other will but his own (p. 50). By being the sovereign of the realm of ends who unites all rational beings as one and the same end, Harold also unites the realm of ends with the realm of nature, transforming the realm of ends from potentiality to actuality. While this does not give further value to the realm of ends, as it is autonomous by its definition, it “receives a strong urge in its favor” (p. 56) since the realm of ends is no longer a mere idea, but true reality. Now, what are we to call this principle that Harold exhibits? What do we name this union of ends, this actualization through the sovereign willing his universal legislation? Let us call it “practical love”, for only this love is capable of being commanded (p. 15). That being said, when Harold commits his act of practical love, he regards his brother and himself as the same end, legislating this universal law of unity among all rational beings, thereby acting as a sovereign of the realm of ends and uniting this realm with the realm of nature. At this very moment, Harold is “God in nature” while appearing to be as unmoral as “a weed by the wall” (Emerson, Circles, p. 229). This ironic image holds true for any rational being who exhibits practical love.
The moral scenario, in light of Kant’s Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals,enforces the principle that the moral worth of an action is dependent upon the maxim one wills by committing the action. If one’s act is done for any reason at all except for its own sake, the act is not moral. When one acts independent of all things, because he perceives something inherently choiceworthy for himself and others in his action, his act is moral. However, there is no act with higher moral worth than the act of practical love. While Matthew’s maxim lies mired in his own suffering, and the brothers turn aside for whatever reason they do, Harold fixes his eyes on not what is seen, but rather what is unseen and resting in pure potential, waiting for practical love to actualize it. Harold understands that, “if any man thinks he slays, and if another thinks he is slain, neither knows the ways of truth. The Eternal in man cannot kill: the Eternal in man cannot die. He is never born, and he never dies. He is in Eternity: he is forevermore” (Bhagavad Gita, 2:19-20). This is precisely what Kant means he says, “the essence of things is not changed by their external relations, and without reference to these relations a man must be judged only by what constitutes his absolute worth, and this is true whoever his judge may be, even if it be the Supreme Being” (Kant, p. 56). The unseen, absolute worth of man is the object of the highest morality, practical love, and when one takes on this morality and realizes that he is the sovereign of his absolute worth, he understands that he and the Supreme Being are one.
1The realm of ends is a “systematic union of different rational beings through common laws” (p. 50) made “possible only by maxims” (p. 55) that the rational beings have willed as universal laws. This realm exists a priori, as pure potential that is independent from the realm of nature (actuality).