Rousseau and Kant on Envy
Ronald L. Weed
ABSTRACT: One can learn a great deal about the relative priorities in any moral theory by understanding how these priorities are conveyed in the perpetually vexing challenge of moral education. Rousseau and Kant are two thinkers whose distinctly modern retrieval of classical virtue was animated by overlapping yet diverging grievances with classical philosophy. One common enemy of Rousseauian and Kantian virtue found in classical thought is the moral vice of envy. This essay argues that whereas Rousseau chastises the vice of envy, replacing it with the central virtue of pity, Kant redirects the vice of envy towards the more salutary virtue of magnanimity during adolescence and beneficence in the adult. The consideration of sympathy in its full moral and educational context in Kant-over and against Rousseaus emphasis on pity as the central corrective to the vice of envy-underscores the extent of the differences between Rousseau and Kant on this issue. The common criticism of Rousseau and Kant on the problem of envy is animated by some common concerns, but their understandings of it as a problem require responses that are deceptively different in their substance.
"It follows from this that we are attached to our fellows less by the sentiment of their pleasures than by the sentiment of their pains, for we see for better in the later, the identity of our natures with theirs and the guarantees of their attachment to us. If our common needs unite us by interest, our common miseries unite us by affection. The sight of a happy man inspires in others less love than envy. They would gladly accuse him of usurping a right he can not have in giving himself an exclusive happiness; and amour-propre suffers, too in making us feel that this man has no need of us. But who does not pity the unhappy man whom he sees suffering? Who would not want to deliver him from his ills if it only cost a wish for that? Imagination puts us in the place of the miserable man rather than in that of the happy man. We feel that one of these conditions touches us more closely than the other. Pity is sweet because in putting ourselves in the place of one who suffers, we nevertheless feel the pleasure of not suffering as he does. Envy is bitter because the sight a happy man, far from putting the envious man in his place, makes the envious man regret not being there. It seems that the one exempts us from the ills he suffers, and the other takes from us the good he enjoys. Do you wish, then, to excite and nourish in the heart of a young man the first movements of nascent sensibility and turn his character towards beneficence and goodness? Do not put the seeds of pride vanity, and envy in him by the deceptive image of the happiness of men" (Rousseau, Emile).
"But this last is envy. We then only seek to impute faults to others, in order that we may compare favorably with them. Thus the spirit of emulation, wrongly applied arouses envy. Emulation may occasionally be used to a good purpose, as when we tell a child, in order to convince him of the possibility of performing a certain task, that other could easily do it. We must on no account allow one child to humiliate another. We must seek to avoid every form of pride which is founded upon the superiority of fortune. At the same time we must seek to cultivate frankness in the child. This is an unassuming confidence in himself, the possession of which places him in a position to exhibit his talents in a becoming manner. This self confidence is to be distinguished from insolence, which is really indifference to the judgment of others" (Kant, Education).
In order to understand moral education in Kants Education this work can be compared with other important selections on moral education from the Doctrine of the Method of Pure Practical Reason in part two of the Critique of Practical Reason as well as the Doctrine of the Method of Ethics and Doctrine of the Elements of Ethics (II) from the Metaphysics of Morals. The later selections, where the discussion of the vice of envy contrasts with the virtue of beneficence and the related virtues of gratitude and sympathy is a departure from the Education; there the vice of envy is contrasted with the virtue of magnanimity and the related virtues of benevolence and self command. The discrepancy between these two accounts of envy and its corresponding virtues is a problem that reveals something about the purpose and context of moral education in its final stages. This discrepancy shows that a version of beneficence supported by gratitude and sympathy in the morally responsible adult must itself be supported by a corresponding version of beneficence that more appropriately falls under the name of magnanimity in the final stages of moral education.(*) Kants treatment of the more adult virtue of beneficence would demand a corresponding virtue of magnanimity in the later stages of moral education, and therefore fall under the name of magnanimity instead of beneficence. This emphasizes both the confident and bold character of self assertion that supports moral autonomy. It also emphasizes the necessary vigor that the supporting virtues of self command and benevolence provide in the corresponding birth of gratitude and sympathy, as adult virtues that support the adult virtue of beneficence. This essay argues that whereas Rousseau chastises the vice of envy, replacing it with the central virtue of pity, Kant redirects the vice of envy towards what he considers the more salutary adolescent virtue of magnanimity during adolescence, and redirects the vice of envy toward what he considers the more salutary adult virtue of beneficence in the adult.
The consideration of sympathy in its full moral and educational context in Kant, over and against Rousseaus emphasis on pity as the central corrective to the vice of envy, underscores the extent of the differences between Rousseau and Kant on this issue. The common criticism of Rousseau and Kant on the problem of envy is animated by some common concerns, but their understandings of it as a problem require responses that are deceptively different in their substance.
Rousseau, Pity, and the Solitary Self
The puzzling problem of human connectedness in Rousseaus thought is the problem of a divided self. The self that is divided in civil society is the same self whose solitude in the state of nature preserves its goodness. And what preserves the goodness of man in the state of nature cannot protect even the most anonymous person in civil society, since any form of peaceful solitude is only possible because society provides it. So somewhere between the pristine goodness of a self long forgotten and the dividedness of a self poisoned by the very existence of society lies the self Rousseau describes in his writings. It is this intractable problem of a self that is always in some way alienated that energizes his particular discussion of pity and envy.
The centrality of envy as a social malady that only pity can correct must first be understood by considering the core tenets of his social diagnosis. First of all, what is it about amour soi (self love) in the state of nature that is able to persist and be extended into civil society, but in a way that can only usher in its corruption into amour propre (self love misunderstood)? The natural love for ones self that the individual in the state of nature possessed is always good and in conformity with order. But the harmony that self love in the state of nature generously supplies is only salutary there because our needs there are so limited; and consequently so easy to satisfy there. A self that is so undeveloped, solitary, and primitive is easy to love. The fundamental expression of self love in this state is the passion of self preservation. This is the most fundamental expression of self love because it is what sustains the only kind of love a solitary man can possess in the state of nature. The fashioning of nature preserves the goodness of self love by maintaining its conformity with order. Nature, consequently, directs the preservation we owe to ourselves with that love.
Nature is such a generous provider of goodness, prior to society, because the needs of the self we love there are so limited, that our self preservation is never a threat to our goodness. The needs of a self that is solitary, primitive, and content hardly demand us to look beyond what is already to familiar to us. For this reason, we love those things, that like the self we love so much, help preserve us. Rousseau argues that "The love of oneself is always good and always in conformity with order. Since each man is specially entrusted with his own preservation, the first and most important of his cares is and ought to be to watch over it constantly. And how could he watch over it if he did not take the greatest interest in it? Therefore, we have to love ourselves to preserve ourselves; and it follows immediately from the same sentiment that we love what preserves us".(1) It isnt difficult for a self with few needs to preserve himself without harm to himself or the rest of the world. But more importantly, it is easy for the individual to love himself when he can imagine that everything around him also loves him. This is easier to imagine when ones needs are limited and localized because, then, there are few impediments to their satisfaction. What little the external world may do to either help or (more likely) not thwart the simple needs of the solitary self can only remind him of his own self love, and how well that external world fosters it. Nature seems to actively lavish so much goodness upon us prior to society because it passively with holds those needs born in society. The limits of the individuals needs prior to society guarantee the abundance of a self love, whose active preservation brings nothing bad into the world. It also guarantees an abundance of self love that imagines the external world that loves us too much to harm us.
It is the proliferation of these needs that distorts the natural equilibrium between self love and goodness, giving rise to "amour-propre" or self love misunderstood. But what gives birth to amour-propre from an innocent state of simple solitary need? It is the comparisons from the extension of our relations as a self to other individuals that brings, not new needs, but false needs; not to mention the duties which their realization would demand. Rousseau argues that
The solitude of the state of nature is not only a separation from other selves that limits and localizes the needs of the self. It is a separation from the awareness of other selves that have wills to compare with our own will. It is precisely these comparisons, nomatter how sharp or dull they may be, that transform our self love from a state of contented, albeit sheltered, benevolence to a state of divided love amour-propre. When we try to think of ourselves we can only think of others. When we try to think of others we can only think of ourselves. This is due to the latent problem of organizing a community of individuals, whose fundamental principle of self love cannot accommodate the love of other selves. But nevertheless, this kind of community demands a level of connectedness that can only bring comparisons between those individuals. More specifically, what it is about self love that cannot accommodate the love of other individuals is the exclusive character of our self love. The self we love prior to society demands as much love as the individual can give himself. There is no other self in the state of nature to compete with the love we exclusively owe to ourselves. But when our awareness is such that we can make comparisons, the self that has been spoiled by the vigorous exclusivity of its own love, demands the same exclusivity from others. But any other individual cannot love another self as much as that other self, without betraying that individuals own demand for love, from, at very least, himself. The departure of the individual from the state of nature, and the kind of self love which that state can so generously supply, brings with it a demand of self love that no other self can equally supply. Rousseau summarizes:
The inevitable comparisons between individuals modifies the natural passion of self love in such a way that multiplies our needs, while frustrating their satisfaction. That is to say, that comparisons among individuals unleash so many needs because those comparisons energize an imagination that sparks so many false needs. It is those false needs, driven by the imagination, that inspire the prejudices of society according to Rousseau. The benign needs in the state of nature protect the individual from qualities like vanity, envy, greed, pride, bitterness, and hatred because the self, there, only desires what is familiar. The imagination enables the self to extend its desires well beyond its immediate range of experience, thereby sensitizing it to desires that may be difficult to realize. More importantly, the imagination enables us to compare ourselves to others so far removed from our experience, needs, and capabilities that it sparks needs whose origins are the judgments of others false needs. The power of the imagination to remove us from our immediate needs can, for that reason, sensitize us to the genuine needs of others as well as new (false) needs in ourselves. Whatever the case may be, this quality of the imagination is particularly powerful yet ambiguous in the case of love. The inevitable comparisons, which the imagination gives us speedier access to, intensifies the range of comparisons that love, particularly erotic love, gives us access to. Rousseau describes the psychology of comparisons brought by love for another:
Love for another always makes us subject to the opinions of others, including our beloved, even though our most passionate love our love of self demands that others be subject to it. Erotic love brings the deepest dependency of the individual to society. This is because our self love demands exclusive preference from a whole society of individuals bonded by opinion of others, in order to merely love the other. Our necessary proximity to the beloved, in the case of erotic love, unleashes these social passions more directly than any other human attachment. The imagination helps attach us to those objects which our nascent longings would never find. The transports of the imagination can more intensely deepen the dependence on society that erotic love already engenders. This is because the whole range of experiences in society under which love makes us subject, may or may not be actually held. The imagination can induce the individual into thinking that he has access to the opinions of others, including their opinions of us, in a way that reality could never induce. Therefore, the range of perceived opinions under which any individual may become subject are dangerously multiplied for Rousseau, when the unwitting collaboration of love and prejudices of society unleashes the imagination.
The rough importance of the imagination and burgeoning awareness of love in the formation of the critical social virtue of pity cannot be underestimated. It is no accident in Rousseaus discussion of pity that it directly follows his discussion of puberty. This is because a moral education in pity is fundamentally an education of the imagination. It is the premature drawings of love that deform the imagination and ultimately ones own self love. But a more carefully controlled moral education would cultivate the bond of friendship which attaches us to our fellows in a more salutary way. This kind of education attempts to preserve the goodness that the state of nature so easily provides by vindicating the imagination in civil society. Rousseau identifies what it is in the imagination that should and shouldnt be vindicated as follows:
The imagination can attach us to those things beyond our immediate needs, either for good or ill. In the state of nature the imagination is innocuous because it is simple and modest. But there it has an ambiguous potential that can foster socially positive virtues like pity or socially destructive vices like such as pride, vanity, and envy. It would go without saying for Rousseau that the fact that these are social virtues or vices means that they are thereby artificial and subjugating ones. But that isnt to say that our state of social dependence cannot be made less afflicting or more consistent with natural goodness and freedom. It is this latent prescription for social virtue or vice, already built into the human heart in the state of nature, that can minimize the impact of the society; a society no one can live without. It is the plasticity of the imagination not our inevitably artificial connectedness to others that powerfully extends our self love to those others, for better or for worse.
The imagination serves us for the better when it helps us pity others. But when the imagination helps us envy others it helps no one. The imagination can help us pity others without deepening our dependence on society because it also helps us to love ourselves. The sufficiency of our self love in the state of nature required neither envy or pity. We had no one to envy because we only knew ourselves. And we had no one to pity, including ourselves, because our solitude denied us the knowledge of what is pitiable. But since the nature of self love for Rousseau is such that it cant retain its absolute sufficiency in civil society, the functional basis of our social attachments are similarly modified. It is our weakness that is our social bond now that we have left the sufficiency of the state of nature; that sufficiency having been our strength. Rousseau says that "it is mans weakness which makes him sociable; it is our common miseries which turn our hearts to humanity".(6) Now that our weakness is our bond in society we must depend on others in society and the prejudices bred there. But our common weakness doesnt make us forget the demands of self love that nature gave us and which society can never extinguish. Pity can gratify that self love in one without subduing it in another. The weakness we share demands that we care for one another. But one aspect of that weakness is our self love itself. Pity, therefore, provides for the weakness we share, while also gratifying the self love we can never share. Rousseau elaborates:
The respective virtues and vices of pity and envy stem from their sensitivity to the self. When we envy it reminds us of what we have less than the other and what we dont have everything that the other person has. When we pity it reminds us of what we dont have whatever it is that is pitiable and what we do have; and, no matter how little that may be, it is always better then the best things or status in life when suffering is attached to it. Since both pity and envy build on self love, their respective virtues and vices are not that they build on self love, but how they build on self love. And the kind of self love that envy sensitizes deepens our dependence on society through comparisons our self love cannot bear. Pity sensitizes our self love in a way that is also dependent on society and comparisons. But the comparisons that pity breeds emphasize a kind of dependence that flatters our self love, without obscuring our common weakness. With some of these principles for moral education Rousseau undertakes an education concerned with suffering a suffering that every one with an imagination can benefit from.
Kant on the Social Stages of Education, and the Context of Education
Kant writes on education in the Critique of Practical Reason, and his Metaphysics of Morals as extensions of his wider discussions of morality, ethics, and reason. But the work where he exclusively discusses education is his book, Education. This work discusses education in the context of a childs gradual transition through childhood, into adolescence, and then culminating in adulthood where moral responsibility has a chance to flower. The virtues and vices addressed in this work are framed in terms of the specific exigencies of each stage in the pupils development and education. The virtues and vices discussed in Kants other writings are more clearly directed towards a general discussion of virtue and vice. Where they agree with the Education they tend to follow the pedagogical concerns of the Education, for example the Doctrine of the Method of Ethics. Where they dont so clearly agree in the Doctrine of the Method of Pure Practical Reason and the "Doctrine of the Elements of Ethics in the Metaphysics of Morals their discussion isnt so closely tailored to the distinct stages in a students development. The context of Kants writings on education bring shape to their apparent discrepancies. What is clear in Kants writings on education, whatever the context, is that they underscore the importance of a few virtues, over and against other vices. One of the important vices Kant addresses in his varying contexts on moral education is envy. But addressing this problem, as uniform as his criticisms of it may be, involves an understanding of his less uniform but concerted effort to emphasize a set of closely corresponding virtues at odds with envy. His relative emphasis of these virtues, to whatever extent they may diverge from one text of Kant to the next, cohere more when the context of the Education is clarified.
Education, according to Kant, involves the home and the state, but is undertaken neither strictly speaking in the home (to the exclusion of the state) nor by the state without the collaboration of the home. Public education always involves parental guidance in the home because ultimately this education culminates in the moral education lived out in the home. The "object" of public education, says Kant, is the "improvement of home education".(8) But if education in the home didnt require some kind of direction and guidance itself, then the public quality of the education wouldnt be emphasized so profoundly. Kant maintains that "Home education fosters family failings, and continues those failings into the next generation".(9) No education could flourish without the harmonious collaboration of parents and the state. But since the driving concerns of parents and the state do not, in their collaboration, bring about a universal concern for goodness, their role together must be carefully structured. Kant says that " Parents care for the home, rulers for the state. Neither aim for universal good and the perfection of which man is destined".(10) Education must direct man, including potential parents and political leaders, towards the universal good in a public spirited way without being absorbed into the specific function of the home or the state.
Education must also be much more private than the home and much more public than the state to accommodate the aims Kant envisions for education. Education must be quite private since it rests or falls on how well every individual succeeds at eventually making good moral choices, not to mention those pre-moral actions their education demands. Education must also be quite public since it must be organized for people across generations. The civic spiritedness it demands must be harnessed not merely for the universal good it does in one generation, but for the universal good only possible with the collaboration of several generations. The following Education text captures this emphasis:
The accumulated insights of many generations can facilitate good education. But can it guarantee goodness? Only the individual can achieve goodness. Yet an endless supply of good willed deeds from generations of individuals will never reach its educational potential without the organized efforts between those generations.
The urgency of an education that already stretches the horizon of the public and private in this way is all the more impending for Kant when our goodness as humans depend on such an education. Kant identifies that dependence as follows: "it is through good education that all good arises in the world rudiments of evil are not to be found in the disposition of man. Evil is the result of nature not being brought under control.(12) Unlike Rousseau, where education can protect us from the evil that society brings, Kant envisions an education whose virtues tame the unruliness that leads to evil in society. Education is also indispensable to humanity because of the permanence of the chaos that flourishes in the absence of an education with teeth. As Kant says, "if a man be allowed to follow his own will in youth, without opposition, a certain lawlessness will cling to him throughout his life".(13) The impact of an education that doesnt take root is irreversible, according to Kant. So much more pressing, then, is the only activity that during a few short years can most easily direct the youth towards goodness a good education. A good education is something that parents, students, citizens, and the state cant flourish without. But the range of elements which a good education must harmoniously embrace the concerns of the state and parents, the attention of individuals, and the cooperation of generations must be successfully embraced.
The public and private elements in this education are themselves elements in the larger history towards universal good. Education engenders human progress towards that universal good in discrete historical phases. It is no surprise then that the individual progress of each student occurs in distinct phases. In each of these phases the educational aims differ based on the students stage of development. According to Kant " there are many germs undeveloped in man, and those natural gifts must be developed in due proportion to see that he fulfills his destiny.(14) The first phase is when the student is most subject to discipline. The crucial aim during this period is that the individual learn to restrain his animal nature from undermining his manhood.(15) Secondly, the education should teach the student about culture. Through information and instruction culture draws out his abilities in the world. More importantly this phase of the education develops abilities adaptable to different ends.(16) When the first two phases of education have been realized in the life of the student, there is a turn towards the specific education of morality. While the third phase isnt a moral phase, it leads directly into the moral phase. In this phase of education the students relation to others in society becomes crucial. The art of discretion enables the student to conduct himself in society by being liked and gaining influence.(17) While this stage doesnt foster deception it does attempt to foster reserve, and ultimately civility. For the ability to conduct oneself well around others involves knowing how to understand the unspoken subtleties in society. The discipline and culture established in the first two phases anticipates the kind of refinement taught in this third phase. But all three phases anticipate the fourth stage of education where moral training flourishes. This is the period before adulthood and the full moral responsibility that adulthood brings. According to Kant "man cant be fitted for any end, the disposition must be trained to choose none but good ends".(18) The aim of this period is that the student as an individual choose ends that are good. This phase is distinct from discipline or culture where training builds the humanity of students by their taming of unruliness, and their preparation for many ends. Moral training prepares the student for the moral autonomy that generations of public and private cooperation can support, but which only the individual can realize.
Kant on Virtue and Vice: Strenth, Self Overcoming, and the Adolescent All Too Adolescent
The discrete stages of education elaborated here are filled out more thoroughly in his discussion on Practical Education where he says they most explicitly culminate in an education for morality. Kant develops the complexion of the virtues and vices which moral education should treat in this chapter. The components in the practical education which Kant identifies there are components whose development lead into a deliberate discussion of moral virtue and vice. The introduction to the Practical Education anticipates the following summary of virtue and vice close to the end of that section:
It is no accident that Kant introduces a configuration of virtues and vices related to freedom in a work concerned with moral education. It is hard to understand the extent to which this configuration of virtue and vice, inculcated in the way Kant describes, is consistent with the kind of morality and freedom Kant explains in his other writings. Even harder to understand is why this particular configuration of virtue and vice establishes the kind of morality which Kant describes in this and other works. But if one takes the view that this is an education concerned with morality, in preparation for morality, but not identical with morality, this discussion seems more coherent. In this sense, the vice of envy corresponds to the virtue of magnanimity because an education concerned with the craving of honor must encourage or discourage good and poor examples of honor. In this sense education may foster expressions of magnanimity as pure virtue or merely as outgrowths of the craving for honor under the name of virtue. The educators discouragement of envy may be a discouragement that draws from the students craving for honor, and thereby induce an honor driven repulsion for envy. But the educators discouragement of envy may also be a discouragement that lends itself to a purer dislike of envy. The vice of ingratitude similarly finds its counterpart in virtue as benevolence. Along the same lines, joy at the misfortune of others is a vice whose virtue is self command. Whatever the configuration of the virtues and vices may be, and whatever the degree of moral freedom that configuration may enable or not enable in the student, this practical education is a moral education for morality without being identical with it.
Before considering the configuration of those virtues and vices and their relationship to Kants other writings on morality and education more should be said about Kants discussion on Practical Education as it develops into the summary of the virtues and vices just quoted. Just prior to moral education a child must be taught discretion. Since the stage of education where discretion is emphasized is just prior to moral education, Kants discussion of it may underline what moral education, proper, does and doesnt add to the earlier stages in moral education generally speaking. Kant introduces his discussion of discretion as follows:
In this selection Kant maintains that the student must cultivate discretion by learning how to both disguise his feelings and at the same time learn how to read the character of others. The kind of reservation that can successfully disguise ones own feelings, yet also allow one to read someone elses character, requires prudence. The apathy of not being concerned with someone elses character nor what others think of our own character (the appearance of which might be shaped by the visibility of our apathetically unrestrained feelings) must be avoided. The boldness of a temper too concerned with someone elses character, to the exclusion of ones own apparent character, or a temper too concerned with our own feelings (instead of their restraint), to the exclusion of someone elses character, must also be moderated. Prudence balances the tepidness of indifference and the boldness of temper. The drives which prudence balances are all involved in the self concealment and reading of others which Kant calls discretion. But in this context prudence is more like courage. Apathy must be balanced by courageous self assertion and boldness of temper moderated by courageous restraint. The courageous quality of prudence is important in the stage of education prior to moral education strictly speaking, yet it carries on into moral education proper.
Education prepares the student for morality the way that courageous prudence prepares the temperament of a person with good character. Kant emphasizes the role that endurance and renunciation play in the forming of this character as follows:
Unlike Rousseau who seeks to elevate those natural passions and subdue those passions society catalyses, Kant seeks to chasten those desires and inclinations that would become passions by their unharnessed growth. The endurance of continued self overcoming and the renunciation of new kinds of self overcoming require courage. A temperament prepared in this way in the person with good character is a temperament well prepared for morality. One striking example of the preparation of the persons temperament is Kants negative example of sympathy:
In this example sympathy is a temperament that can be fostered or subdued in the formation of character. Unlike a temperament towards a bold temper, it doesnt lead to the active aims of accomplishment either as the persistence of good character, or as the obstinacy of poor character; but instead, the passive obstinacy of poor character. In this sense, it is sympathetic temperament that is more like apathy in its tendency to be at odds with the aim of character formation, as stated above. Perhaps it is in this sense that Kant considers sympathy an evil. Whatever the sense may be in which sympathy is an evil for Kant, it is a temperament that weakens that formation of character in moral education. The fact that Kant emphasizes courageous prudence in the discussion just preceding this one may explain why ones temperament in general is so crucial to a character formation grounded in action. A sympathetic temperament need not require much endurance, nor much renunciation, since the very core of this temperament is in the immediacy of fellow feeling. Unlike discretion, which is also a temperament Kant discusses, sympathy does not generally require the exercise of affective restraint (lest it be inauthentic, and then not full sympathy) or endurance (lest it be insincere). The negative example of sympathy sheds light on what is similar between the stage of moral education where the student acquires discretion and the stage of moral education where the student is most directly prepared for morality. The common thread of courageously minded prudence explains what unifies the last stages of character formation, as well as the fabric of those temperaments fostering the formation of that character.
The virtues and vices Kant then proceeds to highlight in Practical Education should be understood in light of the preceding account of character formation. The kind of character which moral education should form is one that is magnanimous not envious. All of Kants texts agree on the reasons that envy is a likely vice in moral education, but disagree on the kind of virtue that should replace it. The section on Practical Education maintains that envy is a vice created by the tendency for students to compare themselves with one another instead of their reason. A moral education always involves the students proximity to other students (particularly in the final phase), visible adult role models, heroes and villains of their time, as well as memorable and infamous people from past generations. That the scale of a good education demands many collaborators individuals who will inevitably provide material for comparisons does not mean that those collaborators should be objects of emulation. Kant underscores this tendency for the vice of envy to be bred by comparisons:
The reason that the inevitable conditions for comparison may lead to the wrong kind of emulation is consistently and similarly elaborated in other works of Kant. Comparisons lead to envy because of the tendency to evaluate ourselves based on the performance of others, whether the performance of others has any direct connection to our actual or perceived status or not. Kant defines envy in the Doctrine of the Elements of Ethics in the Metaphysics of Morals as follows:
The misconstrued opinion of others and ourselves that comparisons can bring is a vice because this misconstrued view of ourself, in particular, short circuits the process of developing maxims of virtue. That is, an estimation of others so wrought with excess and malice, that ones own estimation is thereby distorted, compromises the integrity of maxims our character will tend to form. Kant discusses this in the Doctrine of the Method of Ethics in the Metaphysics of Morals.
Wherever the varying contexts of Kants discussion may diverge in their precise diagnoses of envy, and consequently their exact responses to it, all of those contexts agree that the unavoidable comparisons in moral education can lead to the vice of envy.
Ambiguities in the Birth of Adult Virtue: Sociable Comparisons or Strong Benevolence?
Kants diagnosis in the Practical Education of why the spirit of emulation may lead to envy is not as consistent with other selections on this topic. In Practical Education he suggest that there is a way to encourage emulation without necessarily inspiring envy. There Kant argues that the educator can encourage the student to emulate a certain virtue whose realization in some students demonstrate how accessible that virtue is to others. This emulation would have to show how far removed those other students are from themselves realizing that virtue. In this sense, the student can compare himself with "a concept of his reason" and still emulate a certain action, consistent with his reason, but realized in another student. The student properly emulates this action because its demonstration in the other student(s) conveys how accessible the comparisons of reason can be. Kant says that " Emulation may occasionally be used to good purpose, as when we tell a child , in order to convince him of the possibility of performing a certain task, that another could easily do it. We must on no account allow one child to humiliate the another. We must seek to avoid every form of pride which is founded upon the superiority of fortune".(26) According to the Kant in the Practical Education its our concept of reason that fruitfully humbles us not the success of others.(27) By comparing ourselves with our reason we know how much we should be and how far we fall from that standard. When the human tendency to make comparisons is harnessed in this way then the students personal understanding of his deficiencies can enable him to emulate actions in others that are accessible to him. Kant underscores the salutary effect that reason supplies when it humbles the individual. " We only excite envy in a child by telling him to compare his own worth with the worth of others. He ought rather to compare himself with a concept of his reason. For humility is really nothing else than the comparing of our own worth with the standard of moral perfection.(28) Thus, for instance, the Christian religion makes people humble, not by preaching humility, but by teaching them to compare themselves with the highest pattern of perfection". The discussion of comparisons in the Doctrine of Method of Pure Practical Reason in the Critique of Practical Reason emphasizes the value of comparisons between individuals because those comparisons, even the most vigorous comparisons, vindicate the integrity of the standard of morality reason preserves. Kant elaborates that:
The moral scrutiny that comparisons between individuals can engender, according to this analysis, only confirms the loftiness of virtue that reason supports. And one of the reasons that virtue is so impervious to such comparisons is because reason is such a powerful representative of virtue. Kant continues in the Critique of Practical Reason:
Like Kants account of comparisons in Practical Education his account in the Critique of Practical Reason emphasizes the importance of the role reason plays in making morally salutary comparisons. But in the later account, comparisons between individuals (particularly individuals that history has deemed laudable) do not help to cultivate virtue by complementing reasons guidance through the visible and accessible models of virtue. The moral comparisons that Kant highlights here are ones that, by the vigor of their scrutiny, sharpen the guidance of reason in making pure uncompromised comparisons. The Doctrine of the Method of Ethics in Metaphysics of Morals also concerns itself with the importance of reasons role in shaping morally salutary comparisons. But unlike the Practical Education and (even less like) the Critique of Practical Reason, this selection more positively endorses the benefit of comparisons in the cultivation of virtue. Kant argues that:
Kant continues along this line as follows:
To whatever extent an education employing moral examples may trigger envy, Kant argues with various shades of emphasis, that moral examples can still be positively employed in moral education.
The virtue Kant emphasizes in the Education in response to the vice of envy is magnanimity. The magnanimity Kant stresses there is the outgrowth of a moral education where action is central to character formation. As argued earlier, the kind of temperament that a courageous prudence supports will build action laden character. This position is consistent with his careful presentation of moral examples and positive emulation in the Practical Education. The encouragement of actions accessible to each student is not morally harmful to those students lacking the virtues those actions require. This is because reason teaches the student what he is lacking. Kant says that "A man will only reproach himself if he has the idea of mankind before his eyes. In this idea he finds an original, with which he compares himself".(33) Any comparison with another student is simply an invitation to perform an action easily performed, instead of a reminder of what that student lacks. In this section, moral action as the basis of character formation is more important than any other of his educational writings. But moral examples are only feeble enticements to perform the actions to which reason more powerfully attaches us. So the actions in this kind of character formation rely on reason as a more salutary motivator than envy. The courageous prudence of not relying on the estimation of others supports the mild version of moral emulation that Kant espouses here. This is because that courageous reliance on reason as the standard for comparisons dilutes what envy moral emulation entices. And since envy is an active and outward outgrowth of jealousy (a mere disposition), according to Kant, a moral formation concerned with action would emphasize a correspondingly active and outward virtue. The kind of actions this outward and active virtue attaches to not only relies on courageous prudence, to avoid undue reliance on the estimation of others, but to rely on the estimation of others. Like the social skill of discretion, courageous prudence draws the individual out of himself and his indifference to the views of others, since his indifference only avoids envy by dissolving the attachments that can arouse envy. Magnanimity then is the outward and active virtue that is the mean between insolence and envy. But what goes under the name of magnanimity is more like self confidence and self possession than what Aristotle might mean by the term. Kant situates the virtue as follows:
The virtue that Kant describes here is the virtue that Kant places under the name of magnanimity in the terse paragraph on virtue and vice which follows this one. That self confidence, frankness, and self possession would fall under the name of magnanimity brings context to the kind of character formation Kant intends in this discussion. This is a formation of character more based on action than other sections in his educational writings, yet a moral education as critical of moral examples as most of those other educational writings. In this sense, a magnanimity built upon frankness and self confidence fits the demands of action and outwardness and the restrictions of an education wary of moral emulation.
The two virtues and vices related to envy and magnanimity in the Education are the virtues of benevolence and self command and their respective vices, ingratitude and joy at the misfortune of others. Self Command is a virtue that is similar to magnanimity understood as frankness and self confidence, because they both draw upon self restraint and control in similar ways. But what is it about the vices of envy and joy at the misfortune of others that requires the action centered virtues of self restraint? Both vices are related to the same problem Kant observes, an immoderate concern for the estimation of others. The pre-moral skill of discretion, or the balance between self restraint and the reading of others character, devolves into a malicious reading of others character due to that absence of restraint. In the case of envy, the restraint that the ever humbling comparisons with reason supplied to the individual becomes an unrestrained concern, that the others we compare to ourselves will overshadow us. In the case of joy at the misfortune of others, the unrestrained attention towards those that may overshadow us leads to joy at the failings of others. Our lack of restraint enables our consequent malicious preoccupation with others to produce sadness in us when others succeed and joy in us when they fail. Whether it will be the vice of envy or joy at the misfortune of others only depends on the actions of those around us. Magnanimity and self command, by contrast, are virtues built upon the directed and controlled actions in cooperation with others, without the infectious comparisons with those others.
The related vice of ingratitude corresponds to the virtue of benevolence or satisfaction in the happiness of others. Ingratitude, according to Kant, is an unwillingness to appreciate others because that appreciation may involve attachments that would put us under obligation to them.(35) The appreciation of others which might make us subject to others is more specifically described as a satisfaction in the happiness of others, that we can equally direct towards others; also described as benevolence.(36) The function of ingratitude, negatively speaking, and benevolence, positively speaking, is to be the layer of moral education that shapes the kind of attachment shared between the student and others. The other two layers of virtue and vice shape the configuration of that attachment to society, for good or ill. But without some kind of virtue and vice related to control that basic social attachment itself, there is nothing for envy and magnanimity, on the one hand, or joy at the misfortune of others and self command, on the other hand, to configure. In this sense, the equal concern for the happiness in others ties the student to others in a way that supports the virtue of self command. For without an equal, albeit undifferentiated, attachment for others the virtue of self command would be much easier, since the self one commands may be the only self one is concerned with. Self command supports the virtue of magnanimity insofar as the frank self confidence that drives it requires enough self possession to be more or less frank, or more or less confident in our actions.
This relationship of the virtues and vices in the Education is different from the relationship of the virtues and vices Kant elaborates in the Metaphysics of Morals where the vices of envy and joy at the misfortune of others correspond respectively to the virtues of beneficence and sympathy.(37) What isnt different is the virtue that attaches the individual to others gratitude or benevolence. The attachment benevolence supports in the Education enables self command and magnanimity to function, whereas benevolence in the Metaphysics of Morals enables sympathy and beneficence to function. Magnanimity and beneficence are both outworking of benevolence, if one understands it as the virtue that attaches the individual to others by equal concern for them. Kant explains how beneficence is the concrete outworking of benevolence:
The bond that benevolent concern affords the individual is not with a society whose happiness he can make his own end, at least on an equal basis; after all, beneficent actions are always finite actions. So in the case of the Metaphysics of Morals, the benevolence it shares with the Education and the Metaphysics of Morals treats the active vice of envy with virtues that are equally active, but nevertheless different kinds of active virtues. Beneficence concerns making the happiness of others ones own end, whereas magnanimity is a frank self confidence.
Rousseau and Kant on Sympathy: Malicious Sentimentality or Active Beneficence?
The most telling difference between these two alternative configurations of virtue and vice is the role that sympathy plays in the Metaphysics of Morals in contrast to the Education. In the Practical Education section of the Education Kant refers to sympathy as an evil that amounts to idle lamentation and rarely translates into compassion. Kant also says that "children ought not to be full of feeling, but full of the idea of duty. Many people, indeed become hardhearted, where once they were pitiful, because they have so often been deceived".(39) In other words, a moral education interested in character that is formed by action must emphasize those virtues grounded in action. To the extent that the cultivation of sympathetic feelings distracts the student from the virtues that would transform those feelings into actions, they soon become feelings of hard heartedness. While the Critique of Practical Reason describes a different relationship of moral comparisons to moral education than the Education, it does agree with this criticism of sympathy in moral education. And while in the Critique of Practical Reason Kant points to over lofty moral examples and magnanimity in the Aristotelian sense of it, as the source of ungrounded affections, he describes the immoderate character of those sentiments similarly. He argues that:
An education that emphasizes character formation of this kind must develop temperaments where courageous prudence moderates the wrong kind of attachments to others. In this sense, sympathy is like envy and joy at the misfortune of others. While the absence of self restraint fuels the petty malice of envy and joy at the misfortune of others, the unruly non-restraint of sympathetic feelings can only fuel feeble and fleeting benevolence. The courageous prudence of self restraint, which the moral education of the Education hopes to foster, aims for virtues like frank self confidence and the self command that supports it. These are the configurations of virtue and vice that prepare the adolescent for morality.
The positive endorsements of sympathy in the Metaphysics of Morals are endorsements more for sympathys conversion into beneficence. More importantly, the beneficence that benevolence and sympathy support is an active virtue like magnanimity. But the kind of active virtue suited for the development of a child and adolescent may not be the kind of active virtue suited for an adult. The self directedeness of Kants magnanimity develops strengths in the student without developing disaffected strengths in the student. This is the kind of moral preparation that may cultivate a more stable version of beneficence than childhood can according to Kant. And that the moral responsibility adulthood entails would require distinct phases of preparation is the most consistent claim of the Education.
The problem of envy is a profound problem for Rousseau and Kant. While both thinkers differ in their estimation of the role society plays in the sowing of envy, both agree that the individual tends to be divided in society. Kant similarly identifies something like Rousseaus "amour-propre" in moral examples and comparisons in society. The very worth of the individual can be deformed by his immoderate, unrestrained dependence on the judgments of others. But since society isnt to be blamed for this tendency, society may be able to support positive forms of emulation. How that can be fostered and what its moral value might be is harder to understand in Kant. Rousseaus assignment of so much blame on the institutional and informal prejudices of society offers only radical and illusive hopes to vindicate this condition in society. Kants more moderate assessment of the moral harm in society allows more tangible hope in the progress history prepares.
Whatever common ground Rousseau and Kant share in their assessment of the factors that inspire envy becomes more pronouncedly stressed in their responses to those factors. On educational terms their differences are starkly at odds in their approach to sympathy. Whether the aim in Kant is beneficence or magnanimity, benevolence similarly attaches individuals to others. This fundamental bond is fostered not by vain comparisons but by the humbling function of our reason, which thereby supports this bond. In Rousseau it is the fundamental passion of self love that ties humans together. But unlike Kant, it is the transports of the imagination that preserves self love in the inevitable dependencies society brings. By imagining what is to be pitied in others, instead of what is to be envied in others, the individual can preserve his natural self worth. By embracing the unavoidable fact of comparisons and orchestrating only favorable comparisons the student can be cautiously socialized. Kant treats as a vice precisely what Rousseau treats as a virtue, the joy in the suffering of others. This joy is only an indirect joy for Rousseau since those sufferings are sufferings the observer is glad to not have. Nevertheless, the virtuous sweetness of pity in Rousseau is quite similar to the vice of finding joy in the failings of others in Kant. Where the imagination can multiply beneficial comparisons in Rousseau, reason can distill these comparisons into one daunting comparison that of perfection. In this way, reason more graciously supports benevolence by humbling the individual and supplying a more stable basis for compassion as an adult. In short, Rousseau and Kant consider the problem of envy with common concerns, but their precise assessment of those problems and, even more, their diverging responses to those problems reveal how deceptively different their educational philosophies can be.
(*) This paper will consider the difference between "pity" and "sympathy" by considering their philosophical context. When comparing their uses to one another, insofar as their meaning corresponds to similar phenomonoa, they will be used interchangeably.
(1) J.J. Rousseau, Emile, trans. Allan Bloom (Basic Books, 1979) 211.
(2) J.J. Rousseau, Emile, trans. Allan Bloom ( Basic Books, 1979) 213.
(3) J.J. Rousseau, Emile, trans. Allan Bloom ( Basic Books, 1979) 214.
(4) J.J. Rousseau, Emile, trans. Allan Bloom ( Basic Books, 1979) 215.
(5) J.J. Rousseau, Emile, trans. Allan Bloom ( Basic Books, 1979) 220.
(6) J.J. Rousseau, Emile, trans. Allan Bloom ( Basic Books, 1979) 221.
(7) J.J. Rousseau, Emile, trans. Allan Bloom ( Basic Books, 1979) 221.
(8) Immanuel Kant, Education, trans. Anette Churton (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1960) 14-15.
(9) Immanuel Kant, Education, trans. Annete Churton (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1960) 24-25.
(10) Immanuel Kant, Education, trans. Annete Churton (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1960) 25.
(11) Immanuel Kant, Education, trans. Annete Churton (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1960) 11.
(12) Immanuel Kant, Education, trans. Annete Churton (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1960) 15.
(13) Immanuel Kant, Education, trans. Annete Churton (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1960) 15.
(14) Immanuel Kant, Education, trans. Annete Churton (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1960) 9.
(15) Immanuel Kant, Education, trans. Annete Churton (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1960) 18.
(16) Immanuel Kant, Education, trans. Annete Churton (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1960) 19.
(17) Immanuel Kant, Education, trans. Annete Churton (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1960) 19.
(18) Immanuel Kant, Education, trans. Annete Churton (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1960) 20.
(19) Immanuel Kant, Education, trans. Annete Churton (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1960) 108. A full discussion of virtues and vices in the education would include not only the formal cravings in their tripartite division of lusts (honor, power, and ambition), as well as the corresponding divisions of vices (magnanimity, benevolence, and self command) and virtues (envy, ingratitude, joy at the misfortune of others), but the material cravings of sexual indulgence, enjoyment of good things, and social intercourse, and the division of vices (injustice, unfaithfulness, and dissoluteness) and virtues (honesty, propriety, and peaceableness) which respectively correspond to those cravings. The third division of cravings, a combination of the formal and material cravings according to Kant, the love of life, health, and ease similarly find vices (unkindness, niggardliness, and idleness) and virtues (honorableness, modesty, and contentment) which respectively correspond to those cravings. This can be seen in the following diagram:
(20) Immanuel Kant, Education, trans. Annete Churton (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1960) 95-96.
(21) Immanuel Kant, Education, trans. Annete Churton (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1960) 96-97.
(22) Immanuel Kant, Education, trans. Annete Churton (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1960) 99-100.
(23) Immanuel Kant, Education, trans. Annette Churton (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1960) 106.
(24) Immaneul Kant, Metaphysics of Morals, trans. Mary J. Gregor (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 576.
(25) Immaneul Kant, Metaphysics of Morals, trans. Mary J. Gregor (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 593.
(26) Immanuel Kant, Education, trans. Annette Churton (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1960) 106.
(27) Immanuel Kant, Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone, trans. Theodore Greene, and Hoyt H. Hudson ( New York: Harper and Row, 1960) 22-23.
(28) Immaneul Kant, Education, trans. Annete Churton (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1960) 105.
(29) Immaneul Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, trans. Mary J. Gregor (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 263.
(30) Immaneul Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, trans. Mary J. Gregor (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 262.
(31) Immaneul Kant, Metaphysics of Morals, trans. Mary J. Gregor (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 591.
(32) Immaneul Kant, Metaphysics of Morals, trans. Mary J. Gregor (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 593.
(33) Immaneul Kant, Education, trans. Annete Churton (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1960) 103.
(34) Immaneul Kant, Education, trans. Annete Churton (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1960) 105-106.
(35) Immaneul Kant, Metaphysics of Morals, trans. Mary J. Gregor (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 577.
(36) Immaneul Kant, Metaphysics of Morals, trans. Mary J. Gregor (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 570-571.
(37) The following illustration lists the relationship of virtue and vice in both texts.
Configuration of Virtue and Vice in the Education versus Metaphysics of Morals:
(38) Immaneul Kant, Metaphysics of Morals, trans. Mary J. Gregor (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 570-57.
(39) Immanuel Kant, Education, trans. Annete Churton (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1960) 104.
(40) Immaneul Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, trans. Mary J. Gregor (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 263-264.
(1) Kant, Immanuel, Critique of Practical Reason. Trans. Mary J. Gregor. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
(2) Kant, Immanuel, Education. Trans. Annette Churton. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1960.
(3) Kant, Immanuel, Metaphysics of Morals. Trans. Mary J. Gregor. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
(4) Kant, Immanuel, Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone. Trans. Mary J. Gregor. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
(5) Rousseau, J.J., Emile. Trans. Allan Bloom. Basic Books, 1979.