Book III: The Moral Ideal and Moral Progress.

Chapter I: Good and Moral Good.


It may seem that in the preceding section we have gone off prematurely into an account of virtue and vice, in respect at once of the common ground of their possibility and of their essential difference, without the due preliminary explanation of the relation between reason and will. A very little reflection, however, on what has been said will show the way in which this relation is conceived. By will is understood, as has been explained, an effort (or capacity for such effort) on the part of a self-conscious subject to satisfy itself: by reason, in the practical sense, the capacity on the part of such a subject to conceive a better state of itself as an end to be attained by action. This is what will and reason are severally taken to imply in the most primitive form in which they appear in us. A being without capacity for such effort or such conception would not, upon our theory, be considered to have will or reason. In this most primitive form they are alike modes of that eternal principle of self-objectification which we hold to be reproducing itself in man through the medium of an animal organism, and of which the action is equally necessary to knowledge and to morality. There is thus essentially or in principle an identity between reason and will; and widely as they become divergent in the actual history of men (in the sense that the objects where good is actually sought are often not those where reason, even as in the person seeking them, pronounces that it is to be found), still the true development of man, the only development in which the capabilities of his heaven-born nature can be actualised, lies in the direction of union between the developed will and the developed reason. It consists in so living that the objects in which self-satisfaction is habitually sought contribute to the realisation of a true idea of what is best for man--such an idea as our reason would have when it had come to be all which it has the possibility of becoming, and which, as in God, it is. (§177 ¶1)