The Rational Human Condition 3, Deep Freedom and Real Persons: A Study in Metaphysics, Section 1.2–Deep Freedom and Principled Authenticity.

“The Human Condition,” by Thomas Whitaker/Prison Arts Coalition

THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION is a five-part, four-book series, including:

PART 1: Preface and General Introduction

PART 2: Cognition, Content, and the A Priori: A Study in the Philosophy of Mind and Knowledge

PART 3:  Deep Freedom and Real Persons: A Study in Metaphysics

PART 4: Kantian Ethics and Human Existence: A Study in Moral Philosophy

PART 5:  Kant, Agnosticism, and Anarchism: A Theological-Political Treatise

Its author is ROBERT HANNA:




Section 1.0  What It Is

Section 1.1  Bounded in a Nutshell

Section 1.2  Rational Anthropology vs. Analytic Metaphysics, the Standard Picture, and Scientific Naturalism

Section 1.3  Philosophy and Its History: No Deep Difference

Section 1.4  Works of Philosophy vs. Philosophical Theories: Presentational Hylomorphism and Polymorphism

Section 1.5  Analytic Philosophy, Continental Philosophy, and Rational Anthropology

Section 1.6  What is a Rational Human Animal?

Section 1.7  An Important Worry and a Preliminary Reply

Section 1.8  The Biggest Windmills

The Complete, Downloadable Text of THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, PART 1



The Complete, Downloadable Text of THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, PART 2




A Note on References

1.  Introduction: Freedom, Life, and Persons’ Lives  

1.0 Natural Libertarianism and Minded Animalism

1.1 Incompatibilistic Compatibilism

1.2 Deep Freedom and Principled Authenticity

1.3 The Central Claim of this Book, and Previews                                         

 2.  Beyond Mechanism: The Dynamics of Life

2.0 Introduction

2.1 Immanent Structuralism

2.2 Natural Mechanism, Computability, and Anti-Mechanism

2.3 Kant’s Anti-Mechanism, Kantian Anti-Mechanism, Vitalism, and Emergentism

2.4 On the Representation of Life

2.5 Kantian Non-Conceptualism and the Dynamicist Model of Life

2.6 Inverted Life, Suspended Life, and Non-Local Life: How LifeDoes Not Strongly Supervene on the Physical, and Why

2.7 Conclusion                                                                                                                  

3.  From Biology to Agency          

3.0 Introduction

3.1 Two-Dimensional Rational Normativity

3.2 Kant’s Biological Theory of Freedom

3.3 Practical-Freedom-in-Life: Kantian Non-Intellectualism

3.4 The Rationality of the Heart: Principled Authenticity

3.5 Conclusion                                                                                                       

4.  Neither/Nor: The Negative Case for Natural Libertarianism

4.0 Introduction                                                                                                                 

4.1 The Intuitive Definition of Free Will

4.2 The Four Metaphysical Horsemen of the Apocalypse

4.3 The Three Standard Options, Natural Mechanism, and The Fourfold Knot of Free Agency

4.4 Three Arguments for Classical Incompatibilism, and In-the-Zone Compatibilism

4.5 Three Arguments for Local Incompatibilism with Respect to Natural Mechanism

4.6 Sympathy for the Devil: Compatibilism Reconsidered

4.7 Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death?

4.8 Too Hard to Live With: Strawson’s Basic Argument, Hard Determinism, and Hard Incompatibilism

4.9 Conclusion                                                                                                        

5.  Either/Or: Deep Freedom and Principled Authenticity          

5.0 Introduction

5.1 The Internal Structure of Deep Freedom

5.2 From Frankfurt Back to Kierkegaard: How to Have a Live Option, or Kierkegaardian Either/Or, Without Alternative Possibilities

5.3 Psychological Freedom, Deep Freedom, and Principled Authenticity

5.4 Conclusion                                                                                                       

6.  Minded Animalism I: What Real Persons Really Are

6.0 Introduction

6.1 From Deep Freedom to Real Persons

6.2 Real Persons

6.3 Necessary and Sufficient Conditions for Real Personhood

6.4 Conclusion                                                                                                       

7.  Minded Animalism II: From Parfit to Real Personal Identity          

7.0 Introduction

7.1 Parfit’s Theory: Six Basic Claims

7.2 Against and Beyond Parfit 1: Two Reasons, and The Minded Animalist Criterion of Personal Identity

7.3 Against and Beyond Parfit 2: Four More Reasons

7.4 Conclusion                                                                                                                   

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In the fullness of time, the complete, downloadable text of each part of THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION will also be made available on APP.


For convenience, throughout the five-part four book series, The Rational Human Condition—comprising 1. the Preface and General Introduction, 2. Cognition, Content, and the A Priori, 3. Deep Freedom and Real Persons, 4. Kantian Ethics and Human Existence, and 5. Kant, Agnosticism, and Anarchism—I refer to Kant’s works infratextually in parentheses. The citations include both an abbreviation of the English title and the corresponding volume and page numbers in the standard “Akademie” edition of Kant’s works: Kants gesammelte Schriften, edited by the Königlich Preussischen (now Deutschen) Akademie der Wissenschaften (Berlin: G. Reimer [now de Gruyter], 1902-). I generally follow the standard English translations, but have occasionally modified them where appropriate. For references to the first Critique, I follow the common practice of giving page numbers from the A (1781) and B (1787) German editions only. Here is a list of the relevant abbreviations and English translations:

BL       “The Blomberg Logic.” In Immanuel Kant: Lectures on Logic. Trans. J.M. Young. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992. Pp. 5-246.

C         Immanuel Kant: Correspondence, 1759-99. Trans. A. Zweig. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1999.

CPJ      Critique of the Power of Judgment. Trans. P. Guyer and E. Matthews. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000.

CPR    Critique of Pure Reason. Trans. P. Guyer and A. Wood. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997.

CPrR   Critique of Practical Reason. Trans. M. Gregor. In Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996. Pp. 139-271.

DiS      “Concerning the Ultimate Ground of the Differentiation of Directions in Space.” Trans. D. Walford and R. Meerbote. In Immanuel Kant: Theoretical Philosophy: 1755-1770. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992.  Pp. 365-372.

DSS     “Dreams of a Spirit-Seer Elucidated by Dreams of Metaphysics.” Trans. D. Walford and R. Meerbote. In Immanuel Kant: Theoretical Philosophy: 1755-1770. Pp. 301-359.

EAT    “The End of All Things.” Trans. A. Wood and G. Di Giovanni. In Immanuel Kant: Religion and Rational Theology. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996. Pp. 221-231.

GMM  Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. Trans. M. Gregor. In Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy. Pp. 43-108.

ID        “On the Form and Principles of the Sensible and Intelligible World (Inaugural Dissertation).” Trans. D. Walford and R. Meerbote. In Immanuel Kant: Theoretical Philosophy: 1755-1770. Pp. 373-416.

IUH     “Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim.” Trans. A. Wood. In Immanuel Kant: Anthropology, History, and Eduction. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007. Pp. 107-120.

JL         “The Jäsche Logic.” Trans. J.M. Young. In Immanuel Kant: Lectures on Logic. Pp. 519-640.

LE       Immanuel Kant: Lectures on Ethics. Trans. P. Heath. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997.

MFNS Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science. Trans. M. Friedman. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004.

MM     Metaphysics of Morals. Trans. M. Gregor. In Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy. Pp. 365-603.

OP       Immanuel Kant: Opus postumum. Trans.  E. Förster and M. Rosen. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1993.

OT       “What Does It Mean to Orient Oneself in Thinking?” Trans. A. Wood. In Immanuel Kant: Religion and Rational Theology. Pp. 7-18.

Prol     Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics. Trans. G. Hatfield. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004.

PP       “Toward Perpetual Peace.” Trans. M. Gregor. In Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy. Pp. 317-351.

Rel       Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason. Trans. A. Wood and G. Di Giovanni. In Immanuel Kant: Religion and Rational Theology. Pp. 57-215.

RTL     “On a Supposed Right to Lie from Philanthropy.” Trans. M. Gregor. In Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy. Pp. 611-615.

VL       “The Vienna Logic,” Trans. J.M. Young. In Immanuel Kant: Lectures on Logic. Pp. 251-377.

WE      “An Answer to the Question: ‘What is Enlightenment?’” Trans. M. Gregor. In Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy. Pp. 17-22.




Chapter 1  Introduction: Freedom, Life, and Persons’ Lives

Section 1.2  Deep Freedom and Principled Authenticity

Here, finally, is a third way of putting the very same basic idea behind Natural Libertarianism. Natural Libertarianism is a specifically contemporary Kantian theory of free will and practical agency,[i] and it also includes a metaphysical interpretation of a specifically Kierkegaardian conception of choice. I will explicate and defend the contemporary Kantian theory of free will and practical agency in the next two chapters. But for the moment I want to focus on the Kierkegaardian part of the theory. My Kierkegaardian conception of choice says that choice essentially entails only a strict “Either/Or,” even when, in context, this does not include “alternative possibilities” in the classical sense of “branching futures” or “open doors”:

Yes, I see it all now perfectly: there are two possible situations—one can do either this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: Do it or do not do it—you will regret both…. I say simply Either/Or.[ii]

According to the classical branching futures or open doors conception of alternative possibilities, it is a necessary condition of free will and moral responsibility alike, with respect to any of my choices or acts, that I be able to choose or do X or Y, holding everything else about the world fixed—even if I have no personal interest whatsoever in choosing or doing X-or-Y, nor any reasons whatsoever for choosing or doing X-or-Y, and even if, on the contrary, all my personal interest and all my reasons are centered on choosing or doing X alone, assuming that I am personally interested in or have any reasons to choose or do anything at all in that context. Prima facie, that seems absurd: why should free will and moral responsibility ever require the existence of utterly irrelevant alternatives? So the other conception, the one that I will defend, is the Kierkegaardian Either/Or conception:

The choice itself is crucial for the content of the personality: through the choice the personality submerges itself in that which is being chosen, and when it does not choose, it withers away in atrophy.

The Either/Or I have advanced is, therefore, in a certain sense absolute, for it is between choosing and not choosing. But since the choice is absolute, the Either/Or is absolute…. I wish only to force you to the point where the necessity of making a choice manifests itself and therefore to consider existence  under ethical qualifications.[iii]

By sharp contrast to the branching-futures or open-doors conception, then, the Kierkegaardian Either/Or conception says that as long as there is at least one sure thing I can choose or do, or not, namely X, then I can either commit myself to X, or not. I will call this X, the one sure thing I can choose or do, or not, the live option. Otherwise put, I am saying that insofar as I have free will, then over and above any abilities whatsoever that I might have at any given time to choose or do X or to choose or do Y, hence over and above any real alternative possibilities there may or may not be in that context, there remains another more fundamental capacity I have, which is just the capacity at that time either to exercise my ability to choose or do the live option X, or not exercise my ability to choose or do the live option X, and this is my capacity for self-commitment, or for what Kierkegaard calls “choosing myself.”[iv]

According to the Kierkegaardian Either/Or conception, then, for the purposes of free will and moral responsibility it simply does not matter either metaphysically or epistemically whether, in that context, there is any alternative Y to my choosing or doing X. This is because sometimes, as a matter of fact, in that context, there really is only one thing, X, the live option, that I can choose or do, or not, because any other physically possible branching-future or open-door alternatives have been temporarily shut down or closed. To use Locke’s famous example, it might be that I am unknowingly inside a room whose door is locked from the outside—nevertheless it may also be that I never seriously consider anything but staying inside that room. So then I freely choose to stay in the room, or not, as the case may be.

And sometimes, even when, in context, there really are several things I could possibly choose or do, or not, in fact there is only one thing I would ever really want to choose or do,  or not, or ever really have any reason to choose or do, or not, namely X, the live option for me in that context. For example, it is just an actual historical, psychological, honest-to-goodness fact about me that I never seriously considered any career other than talking, teaching, and writing philosophy, once I encountered serious philosophy in late high school and college. I fell in love with it like I had been hit by a ton of bricks, complete with shakes, shivers, and sleepless nights thinking about the right and the good, beauty, truth, knowledge, logic, the mind-body problem, freedom and determinism, life-changing metaphysics more generally, Plato’s Dialogues, Kant’s first Critique, or Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. Philosophy was the only thing I ever really wanted to do “for a living.” It was the only live option for me: alternative possibilities were completely irrelevant to me in that context. It was only a question of whether I would really and truly choose and do philosophy—or not, game over. So all I ever wanted, vocationally speaking, was one door that I could open, or refrain from opening.[v]

Now on the supposition that either of these sorts of situation actually obtains in some context—i.e., the Lockean No-Real-Alternatives sort of situation in which staying inside the locked room, with no real alternatives, is all someone ever really wants, or the Single-Minded-Option sort of situation in which opening one door, the one single-minded option, is all that someone ever really wants or has any reasons to choose or do, or not—and if I am that person, then X is my live option and if and only if:

(1) I can commit myself to choosing or doing X, or not, (or: I could have committed myself to choosing or doing X, or not),

 (2) X would never actually happen unless I were to choose it or do it, (or: X  would never have actually happened unless I had chosen it or done it), and

 (3) I actually choose and do X, or not (or: I actually chose and did X, or not),

from which it directly follows that I am (or: was) still fully free and fully morally responsible for choosing or doing X, or not. So, in particular, if X happens (or: happened), then it flows (or: flowed) directly and ultimately from my self-commitment to it.

My idea is that this metaphysically-interpreted Kierkegaardian conception, when taken together with the contemporary Kantian conception of anti-mechanism, free will, and practical agency, that I will spell out in chapters 2 to 5 below, jointly yield what I call deep freedom of the will. Otherwise put, if I am deeply free, then I am the ultimate source of all my choices and intentional acts, and those choices and acts are all up to me, for better or worse. If whatever I choose and do were ultimately caused either by The Big Bang or by a more local environmental process or state of the physical world, then I would be distally or proximally determined and not deeply free. That, again, is Local Incompatibilism and its incorporation of The Manifest Image. But at the same time, I can freely choose and do whatever I freely choose and do, only as presupposing and as necessarily enabled by the fact there is a fairly massive background of deterministic general causal laws—especially including the Conservation Laws—and deterministic processes that I can exploit for my own natural purposes, together with some indeterministic natural automata, out there in the natural world, always assuming, of course, that the local natural conditions are propitious, such that I have sufficient non-deterministic “natural open space” for my “live options,” and that I have a far-from-equilibrium, spatially orientable, temporally irreversible, complex, self-organizing, organismic thermodynamic life that necessarily includes my consciousness, intentionality, caring, and rationality as its specific dominant immanent structures. That, again, is Non-Local Compatibilism, and its incorporation of The Scientific Image.

One last very important point in this connection. If Natural Libertarianism is correct, then because our deep freedom is freedom-in-life, it follows that as long as you are consciously, intentionally, caringly, and rationally alive, then the scope of your free agency is always a matter of varying amounts of natural open space, more or less, and is never merely binary or “on-off”—like a glorified light switch. In my opinion, you are not just a glorified light switch. You are not just a Turing machine, even a fleshy one tricked out with all sorts of epiphenomenal “reasons responsive” bells and whistles. Your life is not necessarily determined in all its natural properties and causal powers by means of a closed set of Turing-computable algorithms expressing all the deterministic or stochastic general causal laws of nature, especially including the Conservation Laws, together with all settled matter and/or energy-facts about the past, especially including The Big Bang. In addition to all your computational abilities and processes, in addition to all your “reasons responsive” mechanisms, and most fundamentally, you are a far-from-equilibrium, spatiotemporally asymmetric, complex, self-organizing, organismic thermodynamic system with fine-grained normative attunement, and a minded animal, and therefore you are capable of and physically realize various spontaneously generated, non-mechanical, and uncomputable—and in particular, naturally purposive or teleological—processes. Above all, you are a rational human minded animal and a real human person with always at least one “live option” available to you—Either/Or. This is true even when the amount of “natural open space” that is currently actually available to you, by dint of brute factual circumstances and bad luck, has been reduced almost (but not quite) to zero, and when what A.N. Whitehead so aptly called “the goading urgencies of contingent happenings” have been, as it were, merrily rammed down your throat. As long as you are consciously, intentionally, caringly, and rationally alive, as long as you can still breathe, feel, desire, emote, and think, then there is always something you can choose and do, or refrain from so choosing or doing, even if it is only just choosing your affirmation or denial of whatever the rest of the world is merrily ramming down your throat at that moment. As long as you are consciously, intentionally, caringly, and rationally alive, you can always have purity of heart. You can always be single-minded. You can always be wholehearted. You can always choose yourself. You can always change your life. You can always be authentic.

By a categorical contrast, inauthenticity is comporting yourself as if you were a natural automaton—as if you were really and truly a biochemical puppet or moist robot, a fleshy deterministic or indeterministic Turing machine running a complicated decision-theoretic program, relentlessly causally conserving total quantities of matter and/or energy, relentlessly furthering the causal impact of The Big Bang, and not really and truly alive; as if you were not a real person; as if you could never think or choose or act for yourself; and as if you did not really have the capacity for deep freedom and for achieving or realizing principled authenticity, at least partially and to some salient degree or extent.

That is the deep metaphysical and moral insight offered by Kierkegaard. Later, we will see that essentially the same deep morally-driven insight about the metaphysical relationships between natural science (including physics, chemistry, biology, and neurobiology) and the natural universe, free agency, real personhood, morality, authenticity, and inauthenticity is also developed in slightly different ways by Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Camus, Sartre, and Harry Frankfurt. But above all, this deep insight is developed by Kant, at least as I understand him, in full view of the classical 19th, 20th, and 21st century Analytic and existential-phenomenological (aka “Continental”) traditions in philosophy that have flowed as bifurcating (and now, seemingly, never-to-be-reunited) branches from the core Kantian and post-Kantian (including German idealist and neo-Kantian) European philosophical tradition. A consensus in belief among several great thinkers, no matter how great they might be, does not of course entail the truth of that belief. Indeed, shared belief, in and of itself, does not entail truth of any sort, except, of course, the truth that there are some shared beliefs—no matter what cultural relativists and social constructivists may say. Nevertheless, I do think that in this case, collectively, Kant, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Camus, Sartre, and Frankfurt, as I understand them, are all onto some things of fundamental importance about the nature of our rational human animal lives. Those shared thoughts will make a number of special guest appearances as this book goes on; and then down the road a little, in Kantian Ethics and Human Existence and in Kant, Agnosticism, and Anarchism, I also spell out in detail what I take to be their ultimate moral, theological, and political pay-offs.


[i] For some recent attempts to reconstruct Kant’s theory of freedom, see H. Allison, Kant’s Theory of Freedom (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990); R. Hanna, Kant, Science, and Human Nature (Oxford: Clarendon/OUP, 2006), ch. 8; R. Hanna, “Kant, Causation, and Freedom,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 36 (2006): 281-306; R. Hanna, “Freedom, Teleology, and Rational Causation,” in Kant Yearbook 1 (2009): 99-142; H. Hudson, Kant’s Compatibilism (Ithaca, NY; Cornell Univ. Press, 1990); D. Pereboom, “Kant on Transcendental Freedom,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 73 (2006): 537-67; E. Watkins, Kant and the Metaphysics of Causality (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2005); and A. Wood, “Kant’s Compatibilism,”in A. Wood (ed.), Self and Nature in Kant’s Philosophy (New York: Cornell Univ. Press, 1984), pp. 73-101.

[ii] Kierkegaard, “Either/Or, A Fragment of Life,” p. 72.

[iii] Kierkegaard, “Either/Or, A Fragment of Life,” pp. 72 and 76.

[iv] Kierkegaard, “Either/Or, A Fragment of Life,” pp. 79-80. See also R. Clarke, “Dispositions, Abilities to Act, and Free Will: The New Dispositionalism,” Mind 118 (2009): 323-351, esp. 346-349.

[v] Forty years later, this remains absolutely true. I will add two other important qualifications, however. First, I distinguish sharply between (i) doing real philosophy, and (ii) being a professional academic philosopher who is paid by a private or public institution to teach, publish papers and books, do committee work and professional service, get along with obnoxious colleagues, mindlessly obey the rationally unjustified coercive moralistic commands of administrators, etc., etc. It is not unreasonable to love (i) but despise (ii). Second, as the doomed Montgomery Clift character so correctly and wisely observes in From Here to Eternity (directed by F. Zinneman, 1953), just because you love something with all your heart, that doesn’t mean it is ever going to love you back.

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