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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: December 2019

5 - From the “Great Light” to the “Silent Decade”: Kant’s Thoughts on Free Will 1769–1780


During this extended period Kant published only one work of philosophical import: On Form and Principles of the Sensible and Intelligible World (1770) [De mundi sensibilis atque intelligibilis forma et principiis] (henceforth referred to as the Dissertation); and it does not contain a single direct reference to the free will problem. Nevertheless, it is evident from the transcripts of his lectures and the Reflexionen from this period that it was a time in which Kant paid considerable attention to this topic, as well as many others that became central to his later thought. Moreover, despite Kant’s silence on the topic in the Dissertation, which followed shortly after the epiphany of the “Great Light,” (1769), the main results of this work cannot be ignored here, since they played a decisive role in Kant’s subsequent treatment of the problem. The aim of this chapter is to trace the development of Kant’s thoughts on free will during this period and it is divided into four parts. The first considers the nature and significance of the “Great Light” and its bearing on the Dissertation; the second and lengthiest, largely (but not always) following the chronology adopted by Adickes, examines the accounts contained in Kant’s numerous Reflexionen from the period; while the third and fourth analyze his views expressed in his lectures on metaphysics and practical philosophy respectively,