Kant, Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysic

So the incessant action through which matter fills

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Unformatted text preview: or impossible it may be to make the latter kind (freedom) comprehensible. In ·the realm of· appearance every effect is an event, something that happens in time; so according to the universal law of nature it must be preceded by a cause, some state of which leads to the event according to a constant law. But the cause’s entering into this state that gives it its causal power must likewise take place or happen; the cause must have begun to act, for without that the effect’s following from it cannot conceived. ·Without such a beginning·, the effect, as well as the effectiveness of the cause, would have to have existed always. This yields the result: 60 ŸThe state of the cause that makes it effective must also have started among appearances, being an event (just as the effect is), and so have been caused in its turn, and so on ·backwards for ever·. Which in turn yields the further result: ŸThe condition that governs the coming-into-effectiveness of causes must be natural necessity. If on the other hand, certain causes of appearances have the property of being free, then freedom must be a capacity for starting these appearances - these events - spontaneously; there is no such event as the cause’s starting to be effective, and thus no need for anything outside the cause to prod it into starting to be effective. But in that case the cause must have its effectiveness in a manner that doesn’t place it in time; so it can’t be an appearance, and must be considered a thing in itself, with only its effects being appearances.14 If we can without contradiction think of beings of the understanding ·choices, decisions, etc.· - as exercising such an influence on appearances, then ·that enables us to have the second part of the following two-part story·: ŸNatural necessity is what links all causes to all effects ·when both cause and effect belong· in the world of the senses. ŸFreedom is possessed by any cause that is not itself an appearance though it underlies an appearance. So nature and freedom can without contradiction be attributed to the very same thing, but in different relations - on one side as an appearance, on the other as a thing in itself. We have in us a faculty that is not merely Ÿconnected with its subjective determining grounds that are the natural causes of its actions, and is in that way the faculty of a being that belongs to appearances, but is also Ÿconnected to objective grounds (that are only Ideas), being connected to them in that they can determine [here = ‘influence’] this faculty - a connection expressed by the word ought. ·To spell that out a little in more familiar terms: When a person decides how to act on some occasion, the question ‘Why did he make that decision?’ - a request to know what determined him to make it - can have answers to two entirely different kinds. ŸOne kind explains the decision in terms of his prior state of mind, and the psychological laws that -----------------------------------14 The only acceptable use of the Idea of freedom is in ·thinking about· the relation of the intellectual (as cause) to appearance (as effect) - ·the relation between what a person chooses and how his body moves·. So the incessant action through which matter fills its space - ·acting so as to keep other matter out of that place· - though it takes place from an internal principle, can’t be an exercise of freedom. Nor can we find a concept of freedom that is suitable for purely rational beings such as God. For his action, though independent of external determining causes (because it is only his immanent or caused-from-within action that I am talking about), is determined in his eternal reason, that is, in the divine nature ·which never changes·. It is only if something is to start by an action, so that the effect occurs in the time-series or in the world of our senses (e.g., the beginning of the world), that the question arises of whether Ÿthe effectiveness of the cause must in its turn have been started, or whether instead Ÿthe cause can initiate an effect without its own effectiveness beginning. In the former case the concept of this causality is a concept of natural necessity, in the latter, that of freedom. From this you will see that in explaining freedom as the faculty of starting an event spontaneously I have exactly hit the notion which is the problem of metaphysics. 61 led from that to his decision. ŸThe other kind explains the decision in terms of his reasons for it, his beliefs about what he ought to do. The former kind of answer invokes natural necessity; the second doesn’t, because it doesn’t explain the decision as an event arising from prior events; it is the second that takes us out of the realm of appearance, and makes room for freedom·. This faculty - ·the one involved in the second kind of answer· - is called reason, and, to the extent that we consider a man exclusively in the light of his reason viewed as responding to objective judgments about what he ought to do, to that extent we are not viewing him as a being of sense - ·an inhabitant of the world of our senses· - because this freedom ·or responsiveness to the ‘ought’ thought·...
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This note was uploaded on 03/12/2013 for the course PHIL 105 taught by Professor Mendetta during the Spring '13 term at SUNY Stony Brook.

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