Freedom and Reason According to Kant Essay

Pages: 5 (1539 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: Black Studies - Philosophy

Freedom and Reason According to Kant

Immanuel Kant's perspective in regard to the connection between reason and freedom is particularly controversial, as the Prussian philosopher considered that being purely rational is basically the same as being free. It is certainly difficult to understand how one's natural ability to put across pure reasonable thinking can influence the respective person in behaving in a particular way (regardless of the morality of that respective act). Kant actually considers that reason is capable of defining freedom, considering that it takes people farther than the empirical domain and frees them from its restrictions. It appears that Kant is somewhat contradicting himself when he claims that freedom should be independent from reason consequent to saying that the two are essentially the same.

The Categorical Imperative is one of the most significant elements in Kantian philosophy, given that the Prussian philosopher considered that people act on the basis of a higher moral law, one that is instilled in every individual and that can actually be identified as the cause for free will (even with the fact that this means that free will is not actually free) For Kant, reason influences free will, with people deciding to act in a particular way depending on their reason. Reason, as Kant sees it, acts against freedom. This is because the latter cannot possibly exist concomitantly with the former. It is basically impossible for one to consider the existence of reason without any cause. In contrast, freedom surely exists without a cause, as people exercise their free will without being any cause for their behavior. Free will is thus responsible for the thinking it puts across. Freedom does not influence people in behaving in a particular way, as it simply provides them with a set of options from which they are able to choose

One of the main reasons for which Kant is certain that there is a relationship between reason and freedom is the fact that people would put across incoherent behavior if freedom were to act on its own and without reason to limit it. In spite of the fact that the philosopher is very optimistic concerning people and reason as a whole, he acknowledges the fact that outside factors can sometimes intervene and influence the way that particular people think and behave.

Kant is unable to define reason and this is one of the principal motives for which he has little troubles in liking it to freedom. In Kant's opinion, freedom and reason are interdependent, with reason being unable to act without freedom and freedom influencing people in behaving illogically without reason. However, it is impossible for one to concomitantly think of himself or herself as being the subject of a causal law and as being capable to use his or her free will in determining how he or she will behave. One's behavior is (to the respective individual) the result of his or her personal choices, and, in trying to motivate these choices, this person would most probably relate to reason as being the tool he or she used. Even with that, in order for someone to exercise his or her free will, the person needs to consider the fact that reason is essentially free. Kant, in particular, considered that in order for reason to be in accordance to society's values, it is in its best interest for it to be connected to freedom. From Kant's point-of-view, reason would have to exist without an actual cause so as for it to be recognized as being connected to freedom (Immanuel Kant: Metaphysics).

Kant wants to break away from the traditional view of freedom by claiming that for one to be free the respective person does not actually have to act in accordance to his or her personal desires, as he or her has to follow his or her rational principles. These rational principles are, in turn, based on how that person wants the rest of the world to behave, basically meaning that one will commit a particular act only if he or she considers that that act would be compliant with universal laws. Moral acts can be considered to be the result of reason coming together with free will. A person committing a moral act is uses reason and decides to commit that respective act as a result of his of her freedom to do so (http://www.jcu.edu/philosophy/gensler/ms/kant -- 00.htm).

Some mistakenly consider that reason is the same as morality, failing to observe that reason can actually be the cause of immoral acts. For example, an individual can use reason with the purpose of improving his or her social status through performing immoral deeds and with no regard to the effect that his or her actions have on other people. This is primarily a result of the fact that this person exercised the concept of free will. In Kant's opinion, reason was, however, influential in making people perform good deeds. "Reason's goal isn't to produce happiness (it's a poor means to this end), but to produce a will that's good in itself. Happiness, the satisfaction of all our desires, is too indeterminate to be a workable guide. Good will isn't the sole and complete good, but it's the highest good and the condition of the worthiness to be happy. The complete good is happiness combined with good will" (http://www.jcu.edu/philosophy/gensler/ms/kant -- 00.htm). Kant believed that reason acted objectively and that it assisted people in behaving morally.

People's judgment reflects the fact that there is reason behind freedom, with individuals behaving on account of what their reasoning dictates. Freedom is thus caused by reason when considering things from Kant's point-of-view. However, this would mean that people should deny the concept of transcendental freedom, and, eventually, that they would eliminate all practical freedom in the process. Kant's opinion concerning the relationship between freedom and reason is against his support in regard to incompatibilism. Free will would not exist if the universe would be determined and it would thus be pointless for Kant to discuss the connection between these two factors. If one were to consider Kant's view concerning reason and freedom, the respective person would realize that accepting this relationship would basically mean to accept the fact that morality does not exist. "Hence the inadequacy of the compatibilist conception of human freedom as merely a special form of ordinary empirical causality; this Kant rejects as a 'wretched subterfuge' which can deliver only the 'freedom of a turnspit'" (Gardner 258). Kant can actually be considered to be a compatibilist incompatibilist, as he accepts free will and reason to be compatible and he also accepts the two as being incompatible.

Kant apparently considers that a free person is a reasonable persona and that a reasonable person is perfectly explainable. Kant's theory is not necessarily meant to be explained by using traditional thinking, as it can most probably be explained (or one can at least attempt to do so) by relating to innovative thinking. Firstly, accepting Kant's perspective about the relationship between reason and freedom would mean that one is willing to take on innovative concepts, especially given that philosophy as a whole tends to disagree with the philosopher's claims. Kant believed that all people are inclined to subject to a particular type of reasoning, even with the fact that some of them refrain from doing so.

One of people's most important goals is to become rational animals in a society where everyone puts across rational behavior and where everything is perfect. Kant's Categorical Imperative perfectly explains this, as the philosopher promoted the belief that it was only normal for an individual to want to behave similar to the "normal" people that he or she came across, as he or she subconsciously knew that it was best for them and for society as a whole… [END OF PREVIEW]

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