Self-consciousness and freedom

Tomis Kapitan
Indiana University, Bloomington (PhD)
As practical beings, we act with a sense of freedom, or, to use Kant’s memorable phrase, “unter der Idee der Freiheit.” This attitude is present whenever we are deciding what to do, and it is most clearly revealed when we reflect on what we take for granted while deliberating. Consider a young man, Imad, who lives under an oppressive military occupation and deliberates about whether to join the resistance, leave the country, or continue quietly in his studies hoping that the occupation will be eliminated through the efforts of others. Taking any of these alternatives is likely to have momentous consequences upon his physical safety, his self-esteem, and realization of his goals. Yet, he can no longer tolerate his indecision and feels that he must commit himself somehow. One thing is apparent; Imad faces alternative courses of action, each of which he regards as open for him to undertake at the time. Were he to come to believe of any of the alternatives that it is no longer a genuine option, he would cease deliberating about whether to take it. An agent’s “sense” or “awareness” of personal freedom is nothing more than a presumption of open alternatives made explicit in reflection. But what exactly is its content? What does one accept in presuming a course of action to be “open”? To fix..
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