Rational Deliberation and the Sense of Freedom

Dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles (1995)
Dana Kay Nelkin
University of California, San Diego
In this dissertation, I offer an interpretation and defense of the following argument for the claim that we--together with all rational deliberators--are free: rational deliberators necessarily possess a sense of freedom in virtue of their nature as rational deliberators, and if rational deliberators, in virtue of their nature as rational deliberators, necessarily possess a sense of freedom, then they are free. Therefore, rational deliberators are free. ;I offer two related arguments for , each of which is inspired by the Kantian view that reason cannot be the source of an illusory idea. Each argument appeals to a different aspect of reason. The first turns on the idea that reason is a guide to truth, and so could not be such as to lead inevitably to a false sense of ourselves. The second turns on the idea that reason could not lead to an epistemic state which is unresponsive to reasons, and that if there were rational deliberators who were unfree, the sense of freedom would be unresponsive to reasons. ;I then canvass a variety of interpretations of , and argue that several of them rest on a mistaken conception of rational deliberation. I ultimately adopt and defend a reading of according to which all rational deliberators are epistemically committed to the proposition that their actions are up to them in such a way that they are accountable for them. This reading of rests on an understanding of rational deliberation as an activity, the point of which is to act for good reasons. Identifying the correct understanding of rational deliberation allows us to see that the very activity of rational deliberation is rationalized by a sense of freedom, and hence that is true. ;I consider a number of objections to the argument, including the claim that entails that a skeptic who believes that she is not free has contradictory beliefs, and, hence, is irrational. In reply, I argue that the attribution of a certain sort of irrationality in this case is intelligible and provides the best account of the skeptic's situation
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