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On Dignity
by [?]

Thus in the affective movements in which nature (instinct) acts the first and seeks to do without the will, or to draw it violently to its side, the morality of character cannot manifest itself but by its resistance, and there is but one means of preventing the instinct from restraining the liberty of the will: it is to restrain the instinct itself. Thus we can only have agreement between the law of reason and the affective phenomena, under the condition of putting both in discord with the exigencies of instinct. And as nature never gives way to moral reasons, and recalls her claims, and as on her side, consequently, all remains in the same state, in whatever manner the will acts towards her, it results that there is no possible accord between the inclination and duty, between reason and sense; and that here man cannot act at the same time with all his being and with all the harmony of his nature, but exclusively with his reasonable nature. Thus in these sorts of actions we could not find moral beauty, because an action is morally good only as far as inclination has taken part in it, and here the inclination protests against much more than it concurs with it. But these actions have moral grandeur, because all that testifies to a preponderating authority exercised over the sensuous nature has grandeur, and grandeur is found only there.

It is, then, in the affective movements that this great soul of which we speak transforms itself and becomes sublime; and it is the touchstone to distinguish the soul truly great from what is called a good heart, or from the virtue of temperament. When in man the inclination is ranged on the side of morality only because morality itself is happily on the side of inclination, it will happen that the instinct of nature in the affective movements will exercise upon the will a full empire, and if a sacrifice is necessary it is the moral nature, and not the sensuous nature, that will make it. If, on the contrary, it is reason itself which has made the inclination pass to the side of duty (which is the case in the fine character), and which has only confided the rudder to the sensuous nature, it will be always able to retake it as soon as the instinct should misuse its full powers. Thus the virtue of temperament in the affective movements falls back to the state of simple production of nature, whilst the noble soul passes to heroism and rises to the rank of pure intelligence.

The rule over the instincts by moral force is the emancipation of mind, and the expression by which this independence presents itself to the eyes in the world of phenomena is what is called dignity.

To consider this rigorously: the moral force in man is susceptible of no representation, for the super-sensuous could not explain itself by a phenomenon that falls under the sense; but it can be represented indirectly to the mind by sensuous signs, and this is actually the case with dignity in the configuration of man.

When the instinct of nature is excited, it is accompanied just as the heart in its moral emotions is, by certain movements of the body, which sometimes go before the will, sometimes, even as movements purely sympathetic, escape altogether its empire. In fact, as neither sensation, nor the desire, nor aversion, are subject to the free arbitration of man, man has no right over the physical movements which immediately depend on it. But the instinct does not confine itself to simple desire; it presses, it advances, it endeavors to realize its object; and if it does not meet in the autonomy of the mind an energetic resistance, it will even anticipate it, it will itself take the initiative of those sorts of acts over which the will alone has the right to pronounce. For the instinct of conservation tends without ceasing to usurp the legislative powers in the domain of the will, and its efforts go to exercise over man a domination as absolute as over the beast. There are, then, two sorts of distinct movements, which, in themselves and by their origin, in each affective phenomenon, arise in man by the instinct of conservation: those firstly which immediately proceed from sensation, and which, consequently, are quite involuntary; then those which in principle could and would be voluntary, but from which the blind instinct of nature takes all freedom. The first refer to the affection itself, and are united necessarily with it; the others respond rather to the cause and to the object of the affections, and are thus accidental and susceptible of modification, and cannot be mistaken for infallible signs of the affective phenomena. But as both one and the other, when once the object is determined, are equally necessary to the instinct of nature, so they assist, both one and the other, the expression of affective phenomena; a necessary competition, in order that the expression should be complete and form a harmonious whole.