The Fable of Discretionary Freedom.—The history of the feelings, on the basis of which we make everyone responsible, hence, the so-called moral feelings, is traceable in the following leading phases. At first single actions are termed good or bad without any reference to their motive, but solely because of the utilitarian or prejudicial consequences they have for the community. In time, however, the origin of these designations is forgotten [but] it is imagined that action in itself, without reference to its consequences, contains the property "good" or "bad": with the same error according to which language designates the stone itself as hard[ness] the tree itself as green[ness]—for the reason, therefore, that what is a consequence is comprehended as a cause. Accordingly, the good[ness] or bad[ness] is incorporated into the motive and [any] deed by itself is regarded as morally ambiguous. A step further is taken, and the predication good or bad is no longer made of the particular motives but of the entire nature of a man, out of which motive grows as grow the plants out of the soil. Thus man is successively made responsible for his [particular] acts, then for his [course of] conduct, then for his motives and finally for his nature. Now, at last, is it discovered that this nature, even, cannot be responsible, inasmuch as it is only and wholly a necessary consequence and is synthesised out of the elements and influence of past and present things: therefore, that man is to be made responsible for nothing, neither for his nature, nor his motives, nor his [course of] conduct nor his [particular] acts. By this [process] is gained the knowledge that the history of moral estimates is the history of error, of the error of responsibility: as is whatever rests upon the error of the freedom of the will. Schopenhauer concluded just the other way, thus: since certain actions bring depression ("consciousness of guilt") in their train, there must, then, exist responsibility, for there would be no basis for this depression at hand if all man's affairs did not follow their course of necessity—as they do, indeed, according to the opinion of this philosopher, follow their course—but man himself, subject to the same necessity, would be just the man that he is—which Schopenhauer denies.

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