Return to Kant, Immanuel

In theory, Kant states, a man deserves moral credit for an action done from duty, even if his inclinations also favor it—but only insofar as the latter are incidental and play no role in his motivation. But in practice, Kant maintains, whenever the two coincide no one can know that he has escaped the influence of inclination. For all practical purposes, therefore, a moral man must have no private stake in the outcome of his actions, no personal motive, no expectation of profit or gain of any kind.

Even then, however, he cannot be sure that no fragment of desire is “secretly” moving him. The far clearer case, the one case in which a man can at least come close to knowing that he is moral, occurs when the man’s desires clash with his duty and he acts in defiance of his desires.

Copyright © 1986 by Harry Binswanger. Introduction copyright © 1986 by Leonard Peikoff. All rights reserved. For information address New American Library.


Excerpts from The Ominous Parallels, by Leonard Peikoff. Copyright © 1982 by Leonard Peikoff. Reprinted with permission of Stein and Day Publishers. Excerpts from The Romantic Manifesto, by Ayn Rand. Copyright © 1971, by The Objectivist. Reprinted with permission of Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. Excerpts from Atlas Shrugged, copyright © 1957 by Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead, copyright © 1943 by Ayn Rand, and For the New Intellectual, copyright © 1961 by Ayn Rand. Reprinted by permission of the Estate of Ayn Rand. Excerpts from Philosophy: Who Needs It, by Ayn Rand. Copyright © 1982 by Leonard Peikoff, Executor, Estate of Ayn Rand. Reprinted by permission of the Estate of Ayn Rand. Excerpts from “The Philosophy of Objectivism” lecture series. Copyright © 1976 by Leonard Peikoff. Reprinted by permission. Excerpts from Alvin Toffler’s interview with Ayn Rand, which first appeared in Playboy magazine. Copyright © 1964. Reprinted by permission of Alvin Toffler. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Plume, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc.