Immanuel Kant - Self Mastery

Duties To Oneself
Immanuel Kant
(1724 - 1804)
Biographical Info
 Born in Konigsberg, Prussia - now Kalingrad,
Russia, near Sweden.
 Kant lectured at the University of Konisgsberg
in mathemathics, logic, geography, history, &
 One can literally follow in his footsteps today
on “Philosopher’s Walk,” the path he traveled
daily in contemplation and exercise.
Individual Morality
Kant was eager to describe ethics as not
only our duty to others, but primarily to
ourselves as well.
Since we are free beings, we have to
self-limit in order to protect ourselves
from ourselves - in the process we
protect others as well.
Individual Morality, continued
We should act in a way that allows us
the fullest freedom/control at all times.
In Kant’s system, any act which
incapacitates our ability to do so is
wrong: this includes drinking or eating in
excess, anger, theft, etc.
Proper Self Respect
 It is both our right and our responsibility to
consider ourselves equals to everyone else:
neither better nor worse, but equal - this limits
transgressions against and by the Self.
 If we feel we are lacking, it should always be
in terms of failing to protect ourselves from
ourselves, never in comparing ourselves to
Self Mastery
We accomplish this choice to remain
balanced with the world, what Kant calls
Self Mastery, through 3 processes:
This involves taking a close look at our
priorities, and doing away with those
priorities that are selfish.
By checking with ourselves on a daily
basis to root out selfish motives, we
begin to arrive at Self Mastery.
We must also develop a healthy mind
and body: the state of our body affects
the mind, which influences our thinking,
which defines our actions.
Striving for perfection of body translates
to a perfection of conduct: base, fleeting
pleasures should be traded for those
which result in long term benefits.
This involves taking a close look at our
actions on a daily basis, and their cause:
good intentions that protect the self, or
bad intentions that don’t.
Further, good intentions must translate
into good actions, or they are worthless.
Ills & Wickedness
The opposite of ill is well-being: ills are
those realities beyond our control which
negatively affect us.
The opposite of wickedness is good
conduct: wickedness is defined by those
realities within our control which
negatively affect us.
Ills & Wickedness, continued
For Kant, ills are to be endured in a way
that maintains our freedom/control: we
do not let misfortune cause us to act in
ways which ultimately bring us suffering.
Wickedness, on the other hand, must be
cause for concern: evil, particularly our
own, should disturb us.
Necessities & Amenities
 Kant suggests a focus on what is necessary
vs. what is amenable: we must be content with
necessities, and never allow amenities to take
a position alongside those things we need.
 In this way, we maintain our dignity and
humanity, and limit being affected by ills or
acting wickedly, always cognizant of our
Cheerful Courage
Ultimately, for Kant, the idea is to adopt
an attitude of cheerful courage: we
should neither greatly limit our pleasure
nor revel in it. From a positive frame of
mind, we face adversity, diminish
wickedness, and stay true to our Self.
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