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Five Concepts of Freedom in Kant

  • Lewis White Beck
Chapter
Part of the Nijhoff International Philosophy Series book series (NIPS, volume 28)

Abstract

In Kant’s works I can distinguish at least five important conceptions of freedom. In part they overlap, some are inconsistent with others, and some presuppose others. Kant’s nomenclature for them is variable, and for some of them he has no name at all. Three of them appear to me to be untenable, and the others which are more promising are hardly more than merely adumbrated by Kant. In The Actor and the Spectator I gave a fuller development of these latter conceptions, and though I briefly indicated their Kantian character I did not show their Kantian provenance. After briefly presenting the better-known Kantian conceptions of freedom, I shall devote the remainder of the paper to documenting, elaborating, and defending the fifth conception, and showing its relation to Stephan Körner’s.

Keywords

Practical Reason Free Action Moral Action Pure Reason Natural Causality 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Footnotes

  1. 1.
    Critique of Pure Reason A802–B830; Critique of Practical Reason, Akademie ed., V, 96–97.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Nicomachean Ethics, Book III, Ch.1.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See Critique of Pure Reason A8O3–B831. On different interpretations of this passage, see my Commentary on Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason, p. 190, note 40.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Critique of Practical Reason, 96, 97.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    ibid, Section 5.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    ibid, p.4, note.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    ibid, Sections 5,6.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    ibid, Section 8.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Metaphysics of Morals, Ak.ed. VI, 226.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Critique of Judgement, Section 5 Ak.ed. V, 210.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Critique of Practical Reason, 36.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    ibid, Section 8 end.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone, Ak.ed. VI, 31.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, Ak.ed. IV, 448.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Recension zu Schulz’s Sittenlehre, Ak.ed. VIII, 14. Körner, Proceedings of the British Academy LIII, 203 (1967), finds a like thought in Kant’s Reflexion 4904.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Being and Nothingness (New York, 1956) p.40. Kant accepts no excuse (Critique of Pure Reason A555–B583; Critique of Practical Reason, 98). A more indulgent attitude to human weakness and the strength of nature is found in the note to Critique of Pure Reason A551–B579.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    In The Actor and the Spectator I have argued that it is self-confirming only in the case of assent to an argument concerning the causation or reasons for this assent.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Critique of Pure Reason A534–B562; Critique of Practical Reason, passim.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Only the logical possibility, not the real possibility or the actuality, is established, according to Critique of Pure Reason A558–B586.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Critique of Pure Reason B xxix.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Critique of Practical Reason, 99.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Critique of Pure Reason A553–B581.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Critique of Practical Reason, 99.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Critique of Practical Reason, 132. The three postulates are not cognate. Those of immortality and the existence of God are necessary for the summum bonum, while that of freedom is necessary for morality itself. See my Commentary, Ch.14.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Critique of Pure Reason A550–B578.Google Scholar
  26. 26a.
    This is not the place to reconstruct the theory of the thing in itself and the noumenon along the lines presupposed in the present discussion. Though Kant often writes almost as if the thing in itself were a Lockean substance (an “unknown cause of my sensations”) and as if the phenomena and things in themselves were numerically different things of different ontological kinds, he also writes as if the thing perceived can be thought (not known) as existing in itself without regard to the forms under which it is known. Regarded in this way the very thing perceived is the thing in itself. We perceive the thing itself but not as it is in itself. As an object of thought but not of knowledge, it is properly called noumenon; as an object of perceptual knowledge, it is properly called phenomenon. The denial of the two-world theory in favour of a two-aspect theory (the phenomenonal and noumenal character of a single thing) was undertaken in my Commentary on Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason, pp.192ff., and has been ably supported by Gerold Prauss, Erscheinung bei Kant (Berlin, 1971) and Kant und das Problem der Dinge an sich (Bonn, 1974);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 26b.
    Henry E. Allison “Things in Themselves, Noumena and the Transcendental Object,” Dialectica 32 (1978) 41–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 27.
    The previous footnote has pointed out the relation between thing in itself and noumenon. These terms may have the same denotation, but their connotations are quite different. If we do not identify them, and if we deny ontological dualism between either of them and a phenomenal object, and if we think with Kant of reason (as “the higher faculty of desire”) as especially concerned with morals and of understanding as exclusively a cognitive faculty, then it makes perfectly good sense to say that a human being as an object of ethical judgment, and thus as a free agent, is a homo noumenon. This does not mean that he is a ghostly non-temporal, non-spatial unknowable Ding an sich. This accords with Kant’s own usage in the Rechtslehre (Ak.ed. VI, 335). Thus, after all, it is the noumenal man who gets hanged.Google Scholar
  29. 28.
    Critique of Judgment, Sections 70–76.Google Scholar
  30. 29.
    Once (Critique of Pure Reason A798–B826) he called the antithesis of the Third Antinomy a maxim, but he did not exploit this meaning. The word “regulative” as applied to the Analogies of Experience is stated (A180–B223) not to have the significance which later the Critique of Judgment ascribed to it.Google Scholar
  31. 30.
    I do not speak contemptuously of the seminar room and the lecture hall, but the kinds of investigations which go on in them are not designed to discover actual causes of behavior, and my argument is that when we are convinced that we know the actual causes we must rescind the imputation of freedom, whereas in the philosophical lecture hall we can entertain a schematic, abstract, compatibilism, which Körner (op. cit., 209) wittily compares to eating one’s cake and having it too. In The Actor and the Spectator (pp.105–107) I pushed the analogy with the principle of complementarity to the point of showing that the conditions under which a specific, concrete causal explanation of an action is given prevent its being a free action, and not merely add another conceptual determination which prevent its being interpreted as a free actionGoogle Scholar

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© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Dordrecht 1987

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  • Lewis White Beck

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