Freedom in the Eyes of Kant Essay
Freedom in the Eyes of Kant
Term freedom implies various aspects and is seen as man’s endowments and thoughts within his parameter and his relationship with himself, his society and his environment. Various sociologists and theorist have their own interpretations and thoughts on what constitute freedom for a man. Whether in Rome or Greece, there has been constant transformation of Greek thoughts and methodologies on the concept of freedom. Epicurians thought that, “No bodily thing was born for us to use, Nature had no such aim, but what was born creates the use.
” (Carus & Humphries, 143) There is nothing in this universe that has been created for us to use but what has been born naturally becomes an essential element for us. From this doctrine, freedom gets its new meaning implying we are part of the nature and to the nature we owe our existence and our freedom is also based on this natural concept. From this concept, westerners began to analyze their thoughts on freedom and what is a true freedom?
In sixteenth century, the whole concept of freedom was constantly changed. Changes occurred when the concept of slavery began to shake foundations of very core of humanity. The westerners began to seek the freedom of human beings from the jaws of slavery. From the 16th to 18th century, world saw considerable change: the beginning of modern era- a period when people began to see themselves free, free from autocracy, dictatorship and even more freedom from slavery.
His mental attitude as observed was, “A reasonable man is always happy if he has what is necessary for him according to his condition [his place in the social order], that is to say, if he has the protection of the laws, and can live as his father lived before him: so that one of the essential things to the good of a nation is being governed in one constant and uniform manner. ” (Rempel, Online edition) According to an ordinary man of the eighteenth century, his freedom lies in the will to live according to norms of the society and follow what is traditionally inherited for him.
But literature and philosophical writers saw the new dawn of day, as there was a spontaneous over flow of significant thoughts of freedom emerging from their literary works. In the backdrop of this scenario, philosophers undertook social outlook of man in defining freedom. What is an essence of freedom in the eyes of philosophers in itself involves various paradoxes. Immanuel Kant, a product of eighteenth century looked at the freedom from various perspectives but he visualized these perspectives from the individual’s inner self: how human beings himself adjust to his actions from the angle of his preconceived notions.
For Kant, freedom is “the power of self determination, and as absolute self activity. ”(Heidegger, 16) In the general sense as according to Kant, freedom is an activity that arises from within human beings and takes a spontaneous movement. In other words, it implies that freedom does not mean any dictates of law from any society or surrounding or environment established by human’s themselves because Kantian said, “The human will is…[free] be cause sensibility does not necessitate its action. There is a man a power of self determination, independent of any coercion through sensuous impulses.
”(Heidegger, 17) If we ask a question, is there a general characterization of freedom? Then the answer is no as we cannot put freedom under any category, because even Kant said that no one can prove freedom as something actual or something in a real sense. We all are confined into the domains of moral laws to fundamentally actualize our freedom. All the types of freedom man presupposes like the spontaneity of the understanding, autonomy of reason, free play of faculties in judgments of taste and the political freedom to think for oneself, run on the basis of the moral laws.
We ensure and follow the freedom on the basis of this morality. For Kant, both the freedom and morality are same. A person follows his free will on basis of the morality. In the other words, freedom implies independence of any wish based on conditions. Kant’s concept of morality shows deep contradiction to what is known today as compatibilist theories on freedom. These theories try to combine determinism and freedom. You can follow your own terms in doing what you feel determined by your own inner nature that in turn is determined by the moral duty that you feel you have.
If we feel that we have certain moral duty on us, then we also feel ourselves free to obey these moral duties. John Locke, in his The Second Treatise of Civil Government, maintains moral duty arises when we consider duty for others. It is, “respect for the autonomy of others, which means allowing the free exercise of the innocent, competent will of others in regard to their own interests. ” (Ross, Online Edition) Kant formulated moral law on the ground of involving duty towards one self and towards others. This conception of human nature dates back to St. Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle.
When we see in our practical life and look around our world, since centuries what we have been following are certain laws or moral codes and we have been taught our freedom is all based on the dictum of these moral laws. Here lies the most paradox situation. If we follow societies’ moral codes, then where will be our freedom as the true freedom implies when we have all the rights to do any thing under this blue sky but moral laws restrain us in performing our own free will and if Kant says freedom entails in following our own moral laws, is itself questionable.
But it is also true that man is a social animal and is dependent on others for every of his needs and desires. This intrinsic nature of human beings resulted in the formation of societies and civilizations, where every one man is dependent on every other person for the fulfillment of his needs. If each and every person follows his own free thoughts, there will be only chaos therefore what must need to be followed are the moral duties and within these moral duties all our lives are dependent on.
What is more significant for the Kant is that we are rational human beings. But being human being as a rational is also a disputable matter when it comes to homosexuality and sodomy. When we go entirely by Kant’s views, we cannot take into consideration homosexuals and the question arises: is there anything rational that moves in contradiction to these practices? Even if we choose ourselves things we want to do, we cannot in our endeavor do so without considering its causes. When we think in practical terms, moral laws do not actualize us to activate free will.
If we take up the spontaneity of understanding by Kant, it is spontaneous movement of our thoughts and these three thoughts originate from the faculties of mind that can arose from the possibilities of sense, imagination and appreciation. (Savre, 163) He further developed the view that “Understanding is nothing but the unity of appreciation in relation to the synthesis of imagination”. (Savre, 164) In understanding of any action, Kant’s basic assumption lies in the power of logic thinking, in other words reasoning. The reasoning can also take many forms.
Reason is a sort of systematically following of laws and principles and is a source of morality and feeling of our consciousness towards freedom. Reason for Kant is both logical as well as magnificent way to express freedom. When we look at every aspect from logical viewpoint and notion, it paves the way for certain conclusions and as transcendental faculty; it makes us go into the inner depth of our mind and to analyze things through the power of intuition. Kant gave very concrete differentiation between reason and understanding. He said that understanding is concerned with finitude whereas reason with infinite.
Understanding is something that we consider something concrete and with understanding, there is no scope for, as said by Kant, synthetic cognition from conceptions that is why it is finitude. Understanding simply means to grasp what is shown to us and in our environment where as reason is a flow of thoughts. We can also say that understanding is the faculty of rules whereas reason is the faculty of principles. We may generalize that reason is closer to freedom than understanding as we are not bound by any rules though both are the different sides of same coin.
It is our spontaneous understanding of one aspect that leads to reasoning. Freedom also lies in our judgment of other objects and things around us according to Kant are the free play of faculties in judgments of taste. For e. g. Let us take up beauty. We all have universal appeal for beauty. Others regard beauty as a subjective thing considered being as private preference but for Kant beauty is very objective and universal. Beauty is not just physical feature but it is the way we react towards that beautiful object.
We are judging ourselves in our judgment of object and this involves our feeling towards the object but with universal claim. This individual judgment should be free from any restriction or any moral constraint and they are in turn symbol of moral freedom. As no one else except individual person is involved in the feeling and judgment of taste, it’s an individual autonomy. This free play is in a state between imagination and understanding. You understand the object and it is your freedom and free play of judgment that dictates you that the object is beautiful.
The main difference between free play of judgment and other types of judgment is based on its core principles. This type of freedom is enshrined within you and takes place in same situations and same circumstances in every human being. In short Kant stated that, “Free play of judgments of taste can have the ‘quantity’ of universality and the ‘modality’ of necessity while retaining the ‘quality’ of independence from direct moral interest and ‘relation’ to merely subjective, cognitive interests rather than objective, practical ones”. (Guyer, Online Edition)
As the democracy as form of government has emerged in several places, man has all the freedom of the political thinking. Kant held the view that every one has a freedom to deliver his political thoughts and enter into any social contract in political sphere. Kant separates the political rights with political thoughts from what we call morals. These are the most important kinds of freedom focused by Kant, but there are many different aspects of freedom that Kant ignored. Kant also postulated what is known as Science of Right followed and pursued by Jurists or jurisconsultus.
Jurists or juriconsuluts have practical knowledge of legislations and laws enshrined in the subject whereas, as said by Kant, the rights and laws when looked from theoretical perspective come under the category pure science of right. He further said that, “The science of right thus designates the philosophical and systematic knowledge of the principles of natural right. And it is from this science that the immutable principles of all positive legislation must be derived by practical jurists and lawgivers.
”(Kant, Online Edition) The science of right also enshrines within itself freedom: this freedom entails freedom on account of his being human, independent of any binding and he is justly right to attain this freedom, and which according to Kant is unimpeachable. Inherent within the man is also the right of common action-all the activities that bring the men together without infringing each other’s rights. Humans have right to convey their thoughts, narrate anything to other or promise truthfully or falsely and honestly or dishonestly and on the other hand it is right of others whether they accept it or reject their messages or actions.
In all these aspects of freedom for Kant, humans express the best is the freedom of the free play of the faculties in judgments of taste as Guyer in “Kant on Freedom, Law, and Happiness” says, “We are entitled to our own happiness only if we exercise freedom, freely chosen actions. ” (Guyer, 124) In faculties’ of judgment, it is we who are decision makers and make interpretations on basis of our own reasons. In other types of freedom still we are bound by one law or other but here too there is a certain essence of moral law that plays which is universal.
We cannot interpret to anybody anything, we have certain moral and ethical duties on how we have to address others and interpret other things. This kind of human freedom is quite plausible and satisfying. According to Guyer, it is only this freedom that induces us to follow moral laws because we are all human beings and are social animals and our humanity requires us to respect others, which is a theory of respect and it in-turn involves good will. This faculty of the freedom and fair play of judgment is part of the nature.
But as Kant says there is a great gulf between the “realm of the concept of nature” and the “concept of freedom”. (Guyer, 27) He further said that “the concept of freedom determines nothing in regard to the theoretical cognition of nature; the concept of nature likewise determines nothing in regard to the practical laws of freedom. ” (Guyer, 27) This faculty of judgment is a middle-way between the concept of nature and freedom which makes it possible to create a link between what is purposeful natural and what is purposeful theoretical.
It makes us move from the law-engulfed world of freedom towards what is purely and in true sense and spirit natural. (Guyer, 27) Kant’s critique of teleological judgment has raised the question to what extent is it legitimate to think of nature in teleological terms, in other words, in terms of ends, goals and purposes. After assuming all the possibilities and views of Newtonian science and other teleological judgments, he said that if study of organism is a part of natural science then all the products viewed by nature should not be considered as artifacts but as natural products.
He further stated that still they should not be considered merely as essential forces of matter but should be considered in teleological terms. Anything what is produced naturally or designed have an end, as Kant stated, “It is required that its parts altogether reciprocally produced one another, as far as both their form and combination is concerned, and thus produce a whole out of their own casuality. ” (Ginsborg, 5) He said all the natural objects are considered to have a natural end, and the entire end must be “cause and effect of itself. ” (Ginsborg, 5) For e.
g. Trees are free beings that reproduce its species and the parts of trees stand depended and are in relation to each other, leaves perform the function of taking care of tree whereas tree in turn produces leaves, but this concept is different than watch. Watch does follow first two conditions but does not follow the third. It is not possible for the wheel in the watch to produce another wheel, and still less one watch does not produce other watches, and when we have to compare it is not possible for a watch to repair itself or to replace the removed parts.
But Kant said that “An organized being is thus not a mere machine, because that has solely moving force [bewegende Kraft]; rather it possesses formative force, and indeed of a kind which it communicates to kinds of matter [Materien] which not have it (it organizes them), thus a self-propagating formative force, which cannot be explained through the capacity for movement (mechanism) alone. ” (Ginsborg, 5) From these points it is true that nature is viewed teleologically, and there are free beings like watch, which are not natural but mechanical and can be considered beyond nature as man invented it but its conduct is quite natural.
WORKS CITED Carus, Titus Lucretius & Humphries, Rolfe. “The Way Things are: The De Rerum Natura of Titus Lucretius Carus” Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1968. Ginsborg, Hannah. “Kant’s biological teleology and its philosophical significance” Available: http://209. 85. 175. 104/search? q=cache:-DckacXj2cQJ:https://itunes. berkeley. edu/file/10/Kants_Biological_Teleology. pdf+Kant%27s+biological+teleology+and+its+philosophical+significance&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=in, June 17, 2008
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Rempel, Gerherd. “18th Century Social Order:Peasants and Aristos”. (Internet) Available: http://mars. wnec. edu/~grempel/courses/wc2/lectures/peasantsaristos. html, June 15, 2008 Ross, Kelley L. “The Fallacies of Egoism and Altruism, and the Fundamental Principle of Morality” Internet (2007) Available: http://www. friesian. com/moral-1. htm, June 17, 2008. Svare, Helge. “Body and Practice in Kant”. Netherlands: Springer, 2006.
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 2 December 2016
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