Jacques Maritain Center: Ethics Without God?

How God enters the Ethics that Didn't Allow for Him. Starting from Kant

Luciano Sesta

The recent international events, bringing to the forefront the question of the just (or even holy) wars, seem to have raised again an impassioned interest for the ethical question and its foundation in God. From all over the world peace has been invoked as a universal value that everybody should accept independently on his or her culture, religion, and political views. Even God's credibility has been called into play: the true God, people said, cannot be a war-monger. The collective moral conscience seems therefore animated by the conviction that the moral law is independent on the will of God, which is perceived as binding only as far as it prescribes what we already consider as our duty. From this viewpoint, the intervention of God is necessary because of the human incapability to realize what, even without God, is recognized as morally good.

In this paper, I will not address either the metaphysical question of the existence of God or the relationship between ethics and religion.{1} Rather, I want to focus on the complex equilibrium between Kant's concept of ethical autonomy -- that the moral law presents as a "fact of reason" -- and the necessary reference to God as postulated by practical reason.

In what follows, after explaining shortly how Kant postulates the existence of God in the Critique of the practical reason, I will focus first of all on the autonomy of the practical reason. This autonomy does not exclude God from ethics but only from the ethics' foundation, which for Kant coincides with the categorical imperative. Rational autonomy, therefore, does not mean lack of theological reference. Rather, reason is for Kant the only protection of the theological reference, as it is the criterion to distinguish good from evil, and so the true religion from the false religion and the true divine commandment from the false divine commandment. Without reason faith could be either misunderstood or exploited to the advantage of individual or collective interests.{2}

Second, I will address the relationship between the moral duty intended as a precept of the pure reason, on the one hand, and the duty understood as a divine command, on the other. I will underline that Kant can easily introduce the obligation as a "fact of the reason," independently on a reference to the will of God. Finally, I will offer some considerations on the plausibility of Kant's proposal. I will argue, not only that the appeal to God is almost inevitable in an ethics with categorical imperatives, but also that Kant's rationalistic way of appealing to God runs the risk of losing the strength it is supposed to have, ending up re-proposing, theologically in disguise, the limits of the pure reason.{3}

1. The existence of God as a postulate of pure practical reason

In Kant's ethics, as everybody knows, the statement concerning the existence of God is postulated before the highest good, which consists of both moral virtue and happiness -- whereas moral virtue is the supreme good (oberste Gut), the uniting of virtue and happiness is the highest good (höchste Gut). The practical reason prescribes universal and necessary rules, and therefore, leaving out any kind of subjective preference and interests linked to empirical circumstances concerning mainly the eagerness for happiness -- the actions carried out to achieve happiness never have a value in itself but, only as far as they allow the achievement of the objective expected. We, therefore, either have a pure rational principle, which order to act beyond circumstances and goals, or the will can be considered bound to moral law as mere consequence of a law-obeying rule. Kant thinks that some actions are carried out for the strictly observance of law idea without any particular concern in the consequences. The paradoxical question is that those actions, which are not meant for happiness, make man worthy to obtain it.

For Kant therefore "morals is not properly the doctrine of how we are to make ourselves happy but of how we are to become worthy of happiness" (KpV, 130; 108). This way "to need happiness, to be also worthy of it, and yet not to participate in it cannot be consistent with the perfect volition of a rational being" (KpV, 110; 92-93), and this "not merely in the partial eyes of a person who makes himself an end but even in the judgment of an impartial reason (unparteiischen Vernunft), which regards a person in the world generally as an end in itself". Therefore, is the same "moral law [that] commands me to make the highest possible good in a world the final object of all my conduct" (KpV, 129; 108); even if we deal with a sort of good that "yet not on what is effected by man . . . but on what is received, on what he can hope for but can not bring to pass" (RL, 275; 407; 165).{4}

Well, in the world as we know it, no right proportion is given between virtue and happiness, however, that proportion is morally necessary. Somebody who sacrifices his/her interests to moral duty is not automatically happy, since nature does not depend upon human freedom. The highest good condition is therefore "the existence of a cause of all nature, distinct from nature, which contains the ground (Grund ) of this connection, namely of the exact correspondence of happiness with morality" (KpV, 253; 125; 104).

The strength which allows the agreement between nature and man's moral aspirations, cannot come from an impersonal cosmic being, but a "being (Wesen)" able to delve with understanding (Intelligenz) into the innermost man's intentions, in order to recognize the adaptation on the moral law. At the same time, such a being has to able to attain moral good, since it is only in that way that happiness will be granted as a reward. But God represents the only possible condition without which that cannot happen "which one ought to set unfailingly as the aim of one's conduct" (KpV, 39; 5, 4). We must get to the conclusion that "it is morally necessary to assume the existence of God" (KpV, 255; 105; 125).{5} Kant however notes that,

Moreover, it is not to be understood by this that it is necessary to assume the existence of God as a ground of all obligation in general (for this rests, as has been sufficiently shown, solely on the autonomy of reason itself). What belongs to duty here is only the striving to produce and promote the highest good in the world, the possibility of which can therefore be postulated, while our reason finds this thinkable only on the presupposition of a supreme intelligence; to assume the existence of this supreme intelligence is thus connected (verbunden) with the consciousness of our duty (KpV, 255; 125; 105).

As we can notice from this quotation, we can find a happy ambiguity in Kant (probably due to the paradoxical condition as Christian in the Enlightenment times); in accordance with that we can come to a conclusion by saying that ethics needs God since it can do without it. Going throughtly the independence of practical reason, it is indeed possible to perceive the finiteness, and, therefore that "need" (Bedürfniss) to go "beyond (über) the moral law itself" (RL, 53; XI; Preface to the first edition), going towards God's participation to fulfil how our highest good. The act of reason by which moral duty is recognized does not imply any reference to God's transcendence at either the level of knowledge or the level of motives for action. However, the peculiar depiction of morality as "the sole fact of pure reason" (das einzige Faktum der reinen Vernunft) opens up a metaphysical sphere in which it is not only possible but morally necessary to affirm the existence of God. This approach, while restating the autonomy of practical reason (which, after all, is no more than the autonomy of the second cause), recognizes that it is impossible for this autonomy, marked as it is by finiteness, to make the reference to God superfluous.{6}

2. Autonomy versus independence: "the need of reason"

Since theoretical reason is unable to either prove or disprove the existence of God, practical reason must therefore affirm it. In the brief What is Orientation in Thinking? (1786) the affirmation of the existence of God is a "right of the need of the reason" (das Recht des Bedürfnisses der Vernunft).{7} Nevertheless, this affirmation of God does not permit a cognition (erkennen) of God in itself (an sich), but only a postulation of this existence due to a need of practical reason.

This thesis, which maintains the coexistence of the autonomy of reason in relation to the Absolute of religion, has embarrassed more than just one interpreter.{8} In answer to this O. Höffe has written: "Who considers the role of religion in Kant's ethics extends to recognize the ethical principle of autonomy, and to reject faith in God, or at least to refute through this faith the ethics of autonomy."{9} Kant, nevertheless, doesn't counter this notion of autonomy against God, but against the heteronomy. That is the assumption of a suppression of desire as a motive towards action. All actions that imply an object of desire -- even when this object is happiness, or a communion with God -- do not have a universal and unconditional value, because they imply a subjective preference. The only moral motive of the act is to respect (Achtung) the law, which is not founded on the nature of things or on God, but on the immanent order of reason.{10} Only pure reason is immediately (unmittelbar) practical, and it presents an unconditional duty that does not prescribe an action as a means for reaching a goal. It refers, instead "only to the will, without regard to what is attained by its causality" (KpV, 67; 21; 19).

When will obeys the command of pure reason it is freed from all circumstances empirical and thus renders itself free and autonomous. However this autonomy is not equivalent to an exaltation without limits.{11} In fact, the law of reason is not a disposition of reason:

If moral law were not given us (in uns gegeben) for a long time already, no reason could ever discover it (RL, 17; 87; 21).

At the same time, when the rational being obligates himself, he does not arbitrarily create the obligation but presupposes it as already given -- one who keeps promises does not create the obligation to fidelity. Only when the law is a product of reason does moral obligation not have an absolute normative character but only a procedural one.{12} Not by chance, Kant defines the autonomy "as a free will which . . . must (mu() necessarily be able at the same time to agree to that to which it is to subject itself (unterwerfen soll)" (KpV, 265, 132; 110). Ethical autonomy, therefore, doesn't coincide with independence. This holds true, not just in the case of reason, which requires the existence of God for the highest good to be realized, as in the case of will, which needs moral law to be free.

3. The evidence of the moral law as unconditional practical necessity

Kant thinks, in accordance with Hume's law, that "from any consideration of a thing or concept, whatever it might be, it is possible to deduce what should be done" (SP, 245). For this motive, in the Critique of Practical Reason moral law is one "fact of reason" of which "objective reality . . . cannot be proved by any deduction, any effort of theoretical reason, speculatively or empirically supported" (KpV, 117, 47; 41). In speculative knowledge, the impossibility to demonstrate the moral law is a defect of legitimacy, while from a practical point-of-view it is the sign of a character unconditioned of law. Thus,

. . . However, in order to avoid misinterpretation in regarding this law as given (als gegeben), it must be noted carefully that it is not an empirical fact but the sole fact of the pure reason (das einzige Faktum der reinen Vernunft) which, by it, announces itself as originally lawgiving (KpV, 89, 31; 28-29).

Pure reason is "originally" and "immediately" lawgiving because its normative character, is not deduced by a principle, but coincides with the "done" irreducible of the moral conscience.{13} Reason obliges the will without threatening anything, and likewise, without considering sentiments and the possible consequences of the action. It excludes any principle which is not in accordance with the law and enacts a complete ethical autonomy:

To know (erkennen) what both the duty of the man, the ethic doesn't need of the idea of a being superior, neither it has need, to induce (beobachten) the man to complete this duty, to turn to a different incentive from the same moral law (RL, Vorrede zur ersten Auflage, IV; 3). {14}

What is morally good does not have the need, to bind the conscience, of anything other than what is morally good. The same divine will is conceived as holy and perfect only through the moral point-of- view. The moral, therefore, is the principle of divine holiness (and not the contrary). If the case were not so, the divine command would lose its dignity:

As far as practical reason has the right to guide us, we shall not regard actions as obligatory because they are commands of God, but shall regard them as divine commands because we are intrinsically obligated to them (KrV, B 847; 745).

As has written J. De Finance, "The knowledge of the divine commandment, to create an obligation, implies [.] the obligation to obey God. We suppress this: it doesn't leave us anything, but, a speculative knowledge without taking leave of our freedom, as . . . the orders of a power without authority."{15} Likewise, McIntyre:

On Kant's view it can never follow from the fact that God commands us to do such-and-such that we ought to do such-and-such. In order for us to reach such a conclusion justifiably we would also have to know that we always ought to do what God commands. But this last we could not know unless we ourselves possessed a standard of moral judgment independent of God's commandments by means of which we could judge God's deeds and words and so find the latter morally worthy of obedience.{16}

Never-the-less the commands of God do not become "redundant", as McIntyre believes. The categorical imperatives are able, in fact, to find in the reference to God an opportunity to exercise a greater influence on the human will (as well as the necessary condition for the realization of the highest good){17}:

Knowledge of God is, therefore, necessary to make the moral law effective, but it is not necessary for the mere apprehension of those laws. (VU, 40)

The idea that the autonomy of practical reason excludes any reference to the divine command is therefore incorrect{18}.

4. The case of Abraham

Moral judgment therefore remains a fact of the practical reason. God's commands, when coinciding with this judgment, can reinforce the sense of obligation but not in any way establish it.

Kant expresses this relationship between the moral law and God, through his declaration that God is not the author (Urheber), but only the legislator (Gesetzgeber) of the moral law:

Except in the case of contingent laws, the lawgiver is not their author; he merely declares that they are in accordance with his will. It follows that no one, not even God, can be the author of the laws of morality, since they have no origin in his will, but instead a practical necessity. . . . But the moral laws can nevertheless be subject to a lawgiver. There can exist a being which has the power and authority to execute these laws . . . . This being is therefore the lawgiver, though not the author of the laws (VU, 51-52){19}.

This 'resistance' of "practical necessity" also in front of God, maintains adherent the conscience of duty to the value of what it prescribes. If the foundation of duty is something other than the same duty, the moral good cannot have a value in itself, but only in other. In order that will can conform to the law, is enough the conscience of an absolute value (absolute Werth). This value arouses a feeling of respect (Achtung) for the law and that is the only true moral motive. If, in order to morally act, different conditions are required by the intrinsic value of the law, there would be only hypothetical imperatives and the value of every action would be relative. Thus, in the case of the ethic founded upon divine will there would only be hypothetical imperatives of the type: if you fear or love God you must treat the other as a end in himself because this is what he wants; rather than categorical imperatives of the type: you must, in every case, treat the other as an end in itself. But if the said imperative doesn't categorically impose, morality remains exposed to a game of subjective preferences or the fanaticism (Schwärmerei) disguised as faith. So writes Kant:

If to determine the will to complete actions conforming to the law there is need of motives (Triebfedern) different from the same law [.] it is merely accidental (züfallig) that these motives coincide with the law, because they could equally well incite its violation (RL, 23; 97; 26).

The biblical story of the sacrifice of Isaac (Gn 22), that Kant re-relates in The conflict of the faculties (1798), represents the risks and difficulties that morally derive from a direct theological foundation, un-mediated by the autonomy of practical reason. The biblical episode allows to appreciate that reference to the divine command, in order to oblige the will, can, sometimes, suspend its immediate bond with reason. But the suspension of this bond not is a foundation of obligation, but rather a potential destruction of the moral order. This is confirmed by the fact that if Abram obeys his own duty as father, not because this duty expresses inherent goodness (an sich gut), but because it is the command of God, -- if God was to order so, Abram could kill his own child. Here, Kant adds:

Abram would have had to answer to this presumed divine voice: "That I don't have to kill my good son, it is absolutely certain; but that you might be God, appearing before me now, I'm not and cannot be certain of that", even if such voice played again from the tall one some sky (visible) (CF, 272, in note).

Kant is convinced that the same God cannot to (one would perhaps be more accurate in saying "he cannot to, because he doesn't want to") going against the moral law that prevents from killing of an innocent one. The absolute moral not only has incontestable evidence before the creator, but, allows the idea of God to be protected from any false images that a misunderstanding of his will might produce: the true God and saint of the promise cannot be the God that demands the killing Isaac{20}. Kant doesn't hesitate to call "holy" (heilige) the unquestionability of the moral law:

It now follows of itself that in the order of ends the human being [.] is an end in itself, that is, can never be used merely as a means by anyone (not even by God) without being at the same time himself an end; and that humanity in our person must, accordingly, be holy to ourselves: for he is the subject of the moral law and so of that which is holy in itself, on account of which and in agreement with which alone can anything be called holy (KpV, 265; 131-132; 109-110).

This doesn't mean that moral law is a super-divine or super-human metaphysical entity, but rather that it is able to present itself as a form of grammar in the relationship of God and man. Also, as a code that allows interpretation of the divine will without the risk of mistaking it for that of Satan (see RL 217; 120; ).{21}

4. Results. Between primacy of the practical reason and theological rationalism

At the end of the Dialectic of pure practical reason there is exaltation for the limits of reason in front of God's mystery. Through these, the miracle can occur of a liberally-done action in respect for duty, without the prospect of some advantage or profit. If we could have a speculative certainty of divine existence, all our actions would be dictated by the fear of threat, or by the desire of promises connected to his highest justice. Kant, with Pascalian accent, concludes to say that "the inscrutable wisdom by which we exist is not less worthy of veneration in what it has denied us than in what it has granted us" (KpV, 295, 147; 122). Only in this contrast, can human freedom act without self-interest, acquiring, under the eyes of the same God, the highest and most meritorious value. In Kant's ethics, paradoxically, the quality of the relationship between man and God depends on the absence of God.

In Kant, one can therefore appreciate how the question of God is decidedly transferred from a speculative horizon -- within which it tires in vain to furnish an incontrovertible demonstration of his existence -- to a practical horizon. In this practical horizon, the affirmation of God is inseparable from human freedom{22}. In fact, if the theoretical reason is unable to either disprove or clearly show the existence of God, the moral interest (moralisch Interesse) becomes "a deciding ground (Entscheidungsgrund)" in order to resolve the "irresolution of speculative reason" (KpV, 289, 145; 120).

But, in Kant's system we can see underneath an inevitable difficulty. He insists in emphasising that the law doesn't need God to motivate the human will to morally act. Nevertheless, Kant seems to recognize that moral law is only apparently autonomous, because if God didn't guarantee the possibility of the highest good, the moral law would remain a meaning-less idea.

There is, however, the need to question, with regards this curious rehabilitation of God as necessary guarantor of morality. More so, because it has been exclusively introduced as a "fact of reason."{23} The absence of God staggers the autonomy of the "fact of reason," which cannot to be held "in the limits of reason alone." In Religion within the limits of reason alone, Kant writes that moral law, presenting itself as an irreducible datum of the conscience, "attests a divine origin" (eine göttliche Abkunft) (RL 58; 141). In Metaphysics of Moral, nearly recognizing that an absolute imperative is already a trace of the absolute of God, Kant defines the moral conscience "like responsibility before a holy being distinguished by ourselves, but intimately present within us" (MC, 300). As if God were "always implicated (although in an obscure way) in the moral self-consciousness" (MC, 300) and not just postulated as guarantee of the highest good.{24}

On one hand, formalizing this mysterious divine presence in the moral conscience would mean a breaking of the autonomy of practical reason. Invoking the existence of God on the other, when the whole power of human freedom is consumed, risks introducing him as a sort of transcendental "stopgap" (plug) of reason. With the purpose to assure the highest good, the intervention of God is, in fact, due a priori, fruit of an almost juridical mechanism of reward, of which God is a gear, however supreme. As it is easy to notice, God risks to become a prolongation of human demands -- too human -- moulded by an ethic that is perhaps not as pure as the historical-social conditionings and philosophical presuppositions, as Kant had thought. The rational faith of Kant seems to lose its object, directing itself more toward the highest good through God rather than towards God himself, and ends up feeding its difficulties without ever leaving a juridical vision of reason and faith.

Otherwise, in the Christian perspective that has withstood Enlightenment therapy, the record doesn't belong to ethics, and to man's effort, but to the gift of God. The holiness as perfection of moral life, and the happiness as crowning of this perfection, are not granted but free.{25} God is not, first of all and fundamentally, the answer to the problem of virtue so far un-compensated by a suitable happiness, as if its essence consisted in the ability to meet human limits. God is certainly this, but can also be seen as more than a simple projection of the demands of human reason. In fact God, with his initiative, transcends and transfigures these demands. Often, this whole field of questions regarding Kant, derive from a typically rationalist anxiety to be justified, in the presence of the non-believer.

Concluding, in terms of the difficult equilibrium between the autonomy of ethics and theological foundation: the normative character of moral law is certainly recognized through pure reason, without the need to be explicitly related to God. The initial absence of God is, for Kant, the other face of human freedom. In such, this absence is not an exclusion of God, but rather the premise for a morally characterized recognition of him.


SP = I. Kant, Inquiry Concerning the Distinctiveness of the Principles of Natural Theology and Morals, (Ricerca sulla distinzione dei principi della teologia naturale e della morale, in Scritti precritici, a cura di P. Carabellese, Laterza, Bari 1990);

VU = I. Kant, Lectures on Ethics, translated by Louis Infield, New York, Harper, 1963.

KrV = I. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, translated by W. S. Pluhar, Hackett Publishing Company, Indianapolis/Cambridge 1984 (Critica della ragion pura, a cura di G. Colli, Adelphi, Milano 1976);

I. Kant, What is Orientation in Thinking?, (Che cosa significa orientarsi nel pensiero, a cura di F. Volpi, Adelphi, Milano 1996);

KpV = I. Kant, Kritik der praktischen Vernunft, in Kants gesammelte Schriften, hrsg. W. de Gruyter, Berlin, 1900, Bd. V; Critique of Pratical Reason, translated and edited by M. Gregor, Cambridge University Press 1997 (Critica della ragion pratica, a cura di V. Mathieu, Bompiani, Milano 2000);

KU = I. Kant, The Critique of judgement, translated by J. C. Meredith, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1952 (Critica del giudizio, a cura di A. Gargiulo, Laterza, Bari 1997).

RL = I. Kant, Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, New York, Harper & Row, Publishers 1960, (La religione nei limiti della semplice ragione, a cura di V. Cicero e M. Roncoroni, Bompiani, Milano 2001);

MC = I. Kant, Metaphysics of Morals, (La metafisica dei costumi, a cura di G. Vidari, Laterza, Roma-Bari 2001;

CF = I. Kant, The Conflict of the Faculties, (Il conflitto delle facoltà, in Scritti di filosofia della religione, a cura di G. Riconda, Mursia, Milano 1989).

{1} The whole work of Kant is measured with the matter of God in the context of the relationship between ethics and religion. The most mature texts of the critical period, where the matter is treated methodically, are the Critique of the pure reason (1781 and 1787), the Critique of the practical reason (1788) and above all Religion within the limits of reason alone (1794). The abbreviations of Kant's works (sometimes with the pages of Italian, English and German translation) are in the finally bibliography.

{2} This autonomy implies rather the necessity, typical of the seventeenth-century rationalistic deism, that the theological reference shapes itself beginning from the same reason and not from one some revelation or faith.

{3} In many points of his work Kant has certainly impoverished the Christian revelation, reducing it to one "religion in the limits of the reason alone". It is also true, however, that Kant's intent has not been of reducing faith, rather extending its sense beyond its historical manifestation, hooking it to a rational nucleus that allowed to express to the best its universality. In the Preface to The conflict of the faculties, explaining the title of the work on the religion, Kant writes: "This title was intentionally formulated so, so that essay would not be understood in the sense that it had to explain the religion only on the base of the reason (without revelation): this in fact it would have been excessive conceitedness, . . . but in the sense that in this work I wanted to introduce, under a coherent framework, only that in the text of the religion revealed for faith . . . it can also be recognized through the only reason" (CF, 231).

{4} Perhaps, one does not have to hasten to see in this exigency to recompose desire and reason, only a defect of anthropological dualism of Kant. Such a exigency is also sign that Kant has perceived the unity of man, but he has not set it as an acquired datum, rather than a task.

{5} So, in the Critique of pure reason, Kant writes that the practical postulate "amounts to the conclusion that there is something [God] . . . because something ought to occur; knowing ultimately amounts to the conclusion that there is something . . . because something does occur" (KrV, B 834; 736).

{6} In this sense, the Christianity is for Kant "the sole that rigorously answers to the demands of the practical reason", since along again, in theological-supernatural terms, what the autonomous use of the reason has already shaped in purely ethical terms. Kant allows to shine through this amazing affinity between the results of the practical investigation and the doctrine of the Christian faith in a passage that is worthwhile to bring for wide, sees the lucidity with which it synthesizes the essential matter: "the Christian principle of morals itself is not theological (and so heteronomy); it is instead autonomy of pure practical reason by itself, since it does not make cognition of God and his will the basis of these laws but only of the attainment of the highest good subject to the condition of observing these laws and since it places even the proper incentive to observing them not in the results wished for but in the representation of duty alone, faithful observance of which alone constitutes worthiness to acquire the latter" (KpV, 261, 129; 107).

{7} In one note of the Dialectics of the practical pure reason Kant distinguishes among need founded upon the inclination (auf Neigung) and rational need (Vernunftbedürfnis). While to the first one it doesn't necessarily correspond a real object, for which it can also be desired what it doesn't exist, in the need of the reason it deals with necessarily admitting this without that there could not be the duty, undeniable, to promote the highest good (KpV, 287, 144; 119).

{8} J. Habermas has drastically affirmed that "with his concept of autonomy Kant destroys the traditional image of a filial dependence from God" (J. Habermas, Fede e sapere, in Il futuro della natura umana. I rischi di una genetica liberale, Einaudi, Torino 2002, p. 107).

{9} O. Höffe, Immanuel Kant, Il Mulino, Bologna 1986, pp. 232-233.

{10} A. Léonard, Le fondement de la morale. Essai d'éthique philosophique, Cerf, Paris 1991, tr. it. Il fondamento della morale. Saggio di etica filosofica, San Paolo, Cinisello Balsamo 1994, p. 158. Léonard, that starts from a Thomistic perspective avowedly, believes that here Kant has said something definitive about the essence of the moral norm, and that is that it resides "in the conformity of the human action to the reason", for which "it is the reason, through its practical judgment, that formally constitutes the moral order" (p. 169).

{11} There are, on this subject, many studies that has the tendency to recognize, on the wake of the masterly one (however debatable) reading of Heidegger, that the autonomy of the practical reason, dictating the ethical prescription, does not coincide with a sort of production of the moral law, that would introduce the reason as a metaphysical self-sufficient power, unaware of that limits that Kant became tired to assign it. Cf. M. Heidegger, Kant und das Problem der Metaphysik, V. Klostermann, Frankfurt a.M. 1976, § 29; P. Ric?ur, Soi-même comme un autre, Seuil, Paris 1990; A. Renaut, Kant aujourd'hui, Aubier, Paris 1997; J. Rogozinsky, Le don de la loi. Kant et l'enigme de l'éthique, PUF, Paris 2001.

{12} The unavailability of the law is recalled in more points of the work of Kant. The relationship between the will and the law is defined as a relationship of dependence (Abhängigkeit) and the man is introduced as legislator (Gesetzgeber) and subject (Untertan) of the moral command, but not leader (Oberhaupt) (KpV, 179-181). Kant, therefore, defines the moral law as "fact of reason" not in the sense that it is produced by the reason -- inferred "from precedents rational data (aus vorhergehende Datis der Vernunft)" -- but in the sense that "it is given in the reason ("gegeben ist in der reinen Vernunft", esp. 121). It doesn't seem therefore that the Faktum can be here read in constructivist terms. In a text of the Reflexionen zur Moralphilosophie is read that in the practical field there is an idea that we have not done ourselves, but it is within us: "machen wir uns nicht selbst, sie liegt in uns gegeben" (RMP, 6957, p. 213). In the constructivist hypothesis the fact of reason would be from time to time the result of an intersubjective agreement, regulated by the rational calculation of the contractors, where the validity of the law is submitted to the consent, rather than being its measure (cfr. J. Rawls, Kantian Constructivism in Moral Theory, "Journal of Philosophy", LXXVII, 1980, pp. 515 and ss).

{13} On the fact of reason Rawls writes: "[the fact of reason] is the fact that in our common moral consciousness we recognize and acknowledge the moral law as a supremely authoritative and immediately directive for us" (J. Rawls, Themes in Kant's Moral Philosophy, in E. Förster ed., Kant's Transcendental Deductions, Stanford University Press, 1989, p. 102).

{14} "So far as morality is based upon the conception of man as a free agent who, just because he is free, binds himself through his reason to unconditioned laws, it stands in need reither of the idea of another being over him, for him to apprehend his duty, nor of an incentive other than the law itself, for him to do his duty".

{15} J. De Finance, Éthique Générale, Presses de l'Université Grégorienne, Roma 1967, Etica generale, tr. it. by G. Modica, Edizioni del Circito, Cassano-Bari 1975, p. 219. De Finance concludes: "In no case . . . God or the commandment of God, can be for us the immediate principle of the moral obligation as such . . .; its knowledge is not therefore required for an authentic obligation" (p. 222).

{16} A. McIntyre, After virtue. A study in moral theory, University of Notre Dame Press, Indiana 1981, pp. 44-45 tr. it. Dopo la virtù. Saggio di teoria morale, edited by P. Capriolo, Feltrinelli, Milano 1988, p. 62.

{17} In the Canon of the pure reason, where Kant was still convinced that the conscience of the moral law, although autonomous, was not enough to motivate the will, and that for this, it is necessary to make reference to God, the only one able "to give effect" (effekt geben) to the will (KrV, 791, 796). The Canon dates back to the first edition of the Critique (1781). With the publication of the Groundwork of the Metaphysik of Morals (1785), Kant brings the doctrine of the complete autonomy of the practical reason to conclusion, both in the cognitive order and in that motivational one.

{18} In more formal terms: either the divine precept that founds the moral is recognised morally, and therefore cannot found the moral; or it is not moral and, in the last case, the will may be forced to act, only for moral motives. Practical reason is therefore autonomous, but not in how it excludes reference to God, rather because it alone constitutes the foundation of the moral character of this reference. It is not a chance that Kant writes: "the moral law leads through the concept of the highest good, as the object and the final end of pure practical reason, to religion, that is, to the recognition of all duties as divine commands" (KpV, 261; 129; 107-108).

{19} There is who has interpreted this Kant's idea as a doctrine of natural law, since to think that a law without a legislator-author is absurd, is typical conviction of positive law theory (cf. S. Landucci, La metaetica di Kant nella Critica della ragion pratica, in G. Tognini, edited by, Introduzione all'etica di Kant, NIS, 1993, p. 167). It perhaps needs to observe as the Kant's conception of the divine will fault of anthropomorphism. We can think that the necessity of the law, rather than being incompatible with the divine will, it is a faithful expression of it. The arbitrariness and the necessity of the moral law can coexist, a parte Dei, as gratuitousness, or as expression, rational and free, of ordo amoris. It is alone in the case of the human will that an unconditional practical necessity is incompatible with the arbitrary will.

{20} If it were not possible to distinguish the voice of God from the voice of the pure practical reason, not only the good carried out by man and that one from God, would not longer be distinguishable but, above all, the voice of duty would be compromised from "all the defects of our insight into the divine nature" (all of this that is of defective in our knowledge of the divine nature). The result of this confusion is for Kant the fanaticism, the superstition and the moral laxity (cf. KU, § 89).

{21} On this last aspect and on the relationship between Kant and Kierkegaard in the optics of a suspension of the ethics meant to prove faith, see G. Modica, Fede libertà peccato. Figure ed esiti della "prova" in Kierkegaard, Palumbo, Palermo 1992, pp. 77 and ss.

{22} G. Ferretti, Ontologia e teologia in Kant, Rosenberg & Sellier, Torino 1997, p. 215.

{23} Kant's ethical humanism, contrarily to the idealistic results and empiricists of the modern parable, renounces either to deify the man or to reduce him to a mere bundle of feelings. Man's intermediate position, rational being but ended, prevents to liquidate his finite nature as much his aspiration to the infinity.

{24} A passage of the Metaphysics of morals introduces the whole difficulty to distinguish clearly the voice of the practical reason from God's one: "The fact is that we cannot become well intuitable the moral obligation (the moral constraint) without representing us another being and its wishes (of which the legislative reason and only the interpreter), that is without representing us God. But this duty related to God (properly to the idea that we form there of such a Being) . . . it is not the objective obligation to lend certain services to another, but only the subjective obligation to strengthen the moral impulse in our own legislative reason " (MC, 368).

{25} Therefore the autonomy of the reason and of the human dimension doesn't fail: "so that the man can receive this 'free gift', he must have his consistence, and in this sense, one consistent 'nature' also independently from this gift. Without this nature the gift would not become free and contingent; it would belong to the man's definition " (A. Léonard, esp., p. 315).