Graduate studies at Western
|Abstract||Great knowledge, skill, and judgment have gone into Allen Wood’s extraction from Kant’s texts, and partial defence, of a certain theory of freedom (see preceding essay). I shall later mention one respect in which I am not sure he has got Kant right, but otherwise the interpretation is flawless. I shall argue, however, that although it is worthwhile to identify Kant’s theory of freedom as Wood has helped us to do, the theory itself is worthless. I shall not list the reasons that Wood anticipates being brought against the theory. I do have those too, being unconvinced that the concepts of noumenon and of timeless agency are really intelligible. When Kant says of a noumenon that “nothing happens in it” and yet that it “of itself begins its effects in the sensible world” (B 569), he implies that there is a making-begin which is not a happening; and I cannot understand that as anything but a contradiction. Kant himself has trouble relating timeless choices to the temporal world. On the one hand, “at the point in time when I act, I am never free” (KPV 94g 98e); on the other, “In the moment when he utters the lie, the guilt is entirely his” (B 585). Never mind. For present purpose I concede noumena, timeless agency, non-Humean causation - the lot. With all of that granted, the theory is still worthless. According to the theory, a free choice by my intelligible character causes me to have empirical character E. How can this be so, if there is also a deterministic causal explanation for my possession of E? How can a free choice cause this part of the natural causal chain without breaking the chain? Wood answers on Kant’s behalf that my intelligible choice causes not only my possession of E but also a complete natural causal history for my possession of E. Kant didn’t ever actually say this but Wood thinks that Kant’s theory “must” be construed in this way. I’m not sure that it must, but in the meantime I shall assume that it is. One significant fact about my character E is that I have beliefs about the Holocaust..|
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