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Immanuel Kant, Introduction to the Metaphysics of Morals, 1797

from V - Freedom and Choice

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 March 2022

Edited and translated by
Jörg Noller
Affiliation:
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munchen
John Walsh
Affiliation:
Martin Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Germany
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Summary

In the Introduction to the Metaphysical Foundations of the Doctrine of Right, Kant assigns the will the function of giving laws and identifies it with practical reason. As merely lawgiving, Kant maintains, the will is neither free nor unfree: only the power of choice can be called free by virtue of its relation to action through maxims. Kant argues that this freedom cannot be defined as the capacity to choose for or against the moral law because this phenomenon of choice pertains to the human being qua appearance and therefore cannot define freedom, which is necessarily intelligible. For Kant, the negative concept of freedom of the power of choice consists in independence from determination by sensible impulses and the positive concept consists in the ability of pure reason to be practical. Furthermore, he claims that the possibility of deviating from the moral law is an incapacity (Unvermögen). Thus, Kant seems to hold that freedom is restricted to moral action. Nevertheless, there is room for interpretation: Kant’s remark might not be a blanket statement about free will per se but a specific claim about its definition. The matter is still contested in the secondary literature.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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