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Johann Gottlieb Fichte addresses Creuzer’s skeptical concerns in this highly critical review published in 1793. Fichte specifically considers Creuzer’s assertion that the capacity to determine oneself to moral and immoral action violates the principle of sufficient reason. Fichte dismisses the objection as having already been refuted by Reinhold in the second volume of the latter’s Letters on the Kantian Philosophy. In that work Reinhold argues that it is absurd to inquire after an objective ground through which the free will determined itself to a given action because it is supposedly intrinsic to the freedom of our will that it have the capacity to determine itself independently of objective grounds. Furthermore, Fichte affirms Reinhold’s claim that the (logical variant) of the principle of sufficient reason demands not that all existents have an external cause, but only that nothing be thought without a ground. Although Fichte agrees with Reinhold that reason has a very real ground to think of freedom as an absolute cause, he criticizes Reinhold for supposedly naturalizing the will’s supersensible capacity of self-determination.
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.
In his 1789 On Determinism and Moral Freedom, Snell treats the compatibility of determinism and morality. Drawing on Kant’s distinction between the empirical and intelligible character, Snell tackles the issue of how the determinism of the phenomenal world can be reconciled with freedom, specifically with respect to the capacity to do otherwise. Anticipating the contemporary charge that intelligible freedom understood as entailing the capacity to do otherwise would contradict the causal connection of appearances, Snell advances a Leibnizian interpretation of Kant’s account of free will and rejects the proposition that an indeterministic conception of the capacity to do otherwise is a necessary condition for moral imputation. He defines freedom principally as the absence of external constraint and argues that this in no way infringes upon the hypothetical necessity of occurrences in the world of sense. Furthermore, Snell maintains that the agent’s consciousness and inner feeling of self that his action is the expression of his own self-activity is all that is required for morality and moral imputation.
Carl Christian Erhard Schmid’s Lexicon for the Easier Use of the Kantian Writings defines technical terms in the Critical philosophy. The lexicon offers insight into Schmid’s understanding of the concepts relevant to free will and anticipates his later position that freedom is restricted to moral actions. The text is particularly noteworthy for its entry on autonomy. There Schmid asserts that free actions and morally good actions are synonymous.
In his “General Overview of the Most Recent Philosophical Literature” (1797), Schelling considers Reinhold’s claim that the will must be separate from practical reason in light of Kant’s treatment of the distinction between the will and the power of choice. By divorcing the will from reason, Reinhold supposedly cannot account for our obligation under the moral law. Schelling observes that the discrepancy between Kant’s claim that the will is neither free nor unfree and Reinhold’s assertion that the will is free only insofar as it has the capacity to be good or evil is rooted in the nature of the will itself. Kant’s and Reinhold’s variance is, as it were, the result of a partial perspective of an issue properly conceived of only through a unified standpoint. Kant considers the will insofar as it is not an object of consciousness, Reinhold insofar as it occurs in consciousness. For Schelling, these seemingly disparate perspectives are integrated in the recognition that the power of choice is the appearance of an absolute will and, as such, indicates the action through which what is intellectual becomes empirical, the absolute becomes an object, and the infinite becomes finite.
In his 1790 Attempt at a Moral Philosophy, Schmid presents his doctrine of intelligible fatalism. He makes the Kantian claim that consciousness of the moral law entails that reason is capable of determining the will independently of sensibility, a capacity which Schmid calls moral freedom. Moral actions bear the imprint of reason’s self-activity whereas immoral actions are the result of a lack of reason’s activity. Drawing on Ulrich’s claims that there is no middle path between chance and necessity and that chance is irrational, Schmid holds that there must be some ground for reason’s failure to determine the will in the case of immoral action. Accordingly, Schmid posits intelligible obstacles which prevent reason’s efficacy in determining the will. Despite the thoroughgoing necessity of all actions as a result of intelligible forces, Schmid holds that imputation is still possible because the agent is unaware of those forces.
Kant’s preliminary notes for the Introduction to the Metaphysical Foundations of the Doctrine of Right offer insight into his claims in the published text and his attempt to differentiate the legislative and executive moments of volition. In these notes Kant addresses the distinction between the will and the power of choice as well as the definition and scope of freedom of the power of choice. However, rather than settle the question of whether the capacity to choose to transgress the moral law belongs to freedom of the will, several of Kant’s statements seem to contradict. On the one hand, he claims that the free power of choice can be determined only by the law of the subject’s own causality and that there is no unlawful volition. On the other hand, he asserts that the power of choice is free to observe or transgress the law’s command. While Kant claims that only the power of choice, not the will, can be considered free, he also states that the will is free in another sense insofar as it is lawgiving. The context of these apparently conflicting claims suggest a nuanced account of freedom of the will and offer material for further scholarship.