“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:
THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, PART 1
PREFACE AND GENERAL INTRODUCTION
TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, PART 2
COGNITION, CONTENT, AND THE A PRIORI: A STUDY IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF MIND AND KNOWLEDGE
THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, PART 3
DEEP FREEDOM AND REAL PERSONS: A STUDY IN METAPHYSICS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A Note on References
1. Introduction: Freedom, Life, and Persons’ Lives
2. Beyond Mechanism: The Dynamics of Life
3. From Biology to Agency
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
4. Neither/Nor: The Negative Case for Natural Libertarianism
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
5. Either/Or: Deep Freedom and Principled Authenticity
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
6. Minded Animalism I: What Real Persons Really Are
6.1 From Deep Freedom to Real Persons
6.2 Real Persons
6.3 Necessary and Sufficient Conditions for Real Personhood
7. Minded Animalism II: From Parfit to Real Personal Identity
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
In the fullness of time, the complete, downloadable text of each part of THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION will also be made available on APP.
A NOTE ON REFERENCES
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.
THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, PART 3
DEEP FREEDOM AND REAL PERSONS: A STUDY IN METAPHYSICS
Chapter 3 From Biology to Agency
Freedom in the practical sense is the independence of the power of choice (Willkür) from necessitation by impulses of sensibility. For a power of choice is sensible insofar as it is pathologically affected (through moving-causes of sensibility); it is called an animal power of choice (arbitrium brutum) if it can be pathologically necessitated. The human power of choice is indeed an arbitrium sensitivum, yet not brutum, but liberum, because sensibility does not render its action necessary, but in the human being there is a faculty of determining oneself from oneself, independently of necessitation by sensible impulses. (CPR A534/B562)
Practical freedom can be proved through experience. For it is not merely that which stimulates the senses, i.e., immediate affects them, that determines human choice, but we always have a capacity to overcome impressions on our sensory faculty of desire by representations of that which is useful or injurious even in a more remote way; but these considerations about that which in regard to our whole condition is desirable, i.e., good and useful, depend on reason. Hence this also yields laws that are imperatives, i.e., objective laws of freedom, and that say what ought to happen, even though it never does happen…. We thus cognize practical freedom through experience, as one of the natural causes, namely a causality of reason in the determination of the will. (CPR A802-803/B830-831)
THE HUMAN BEING AS A BEING IN THE WORLD, SELF-LIMITED THROUGH NATURE AND DUTY. (OP 21: 34)
It is only because a person has volitions of the second order that he is capable both of enjoying and lacking freedom of the will.
Section 3.0 Introduction
In this chapter, building on and extending the neo-Aristotelian and contemporary Kantian dynamicist philosophy of biology that I worked out and defended in chapter 2, I will work out and defend a corresponding contemporary Kantian theory of practical freedom.
“Practical freedom” in Kant’s terminology is what I have been calling free agency (= free will + practical agency). Free agency in this sense presupposes, but also significantly exceeds, what Kant calls “transcendental freedom,” or what I have been calling deep freedom, ultimate sourcehood, or up-to-me-ness. More precisely, however, free agency also includes the capacity for what Kant calls “autonomy,” or rational self-legislation, as well as the capacity for what the Existentialists, and more recently Harry Frankfurt,[ii] have called “authenticity,” “purity of heart,” or “wholeheartedness.” The fusion of the capacities for autonomy in the Kantian sense and for purity of heart or wholeheartedness is what I will call the complex capacity for principled authenticity. I think that this contemporary Kantian conception of free agency, as the metaphysical fusion of our complex capacities for deep freedom and principled authenticity, is not only fully intelligible, and philosophically liberating—by virtue of its anti-mechanist/natural- pietist and non-intellectualist foundations, and its heavy-duty downstream ethical and political implications (see especially sections 3.2 to 3.3, as following on from sections 2.2 to 2.5)—but also objectively true, and I will argue for it as such.
[i] H. Frankfurt, “Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person,” in H. Frankfurt, The Importance of What We Care About (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1988), pp. 11-25, at p. 19.
[ii] See, e.g., H. Frankfurt, “Identification and Wholeheartedness,” in The Importance of What We Care About, pp. 159-176; and H. Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 2004).
Section 3.1 Two-Dimensional Rational Normativity
In this chapter and throughout the rest of the book, I will presuppose a certain basic background conception of normativity that I call The Two-Dimensional Conception of Rational Normativity, aka The 2D Conception, that I originally introduced in Cognition, Content, and the A Priori, section 1.2.
What is rational normativity? As I am using this notion, rational normativity is the following irreducible two-part fact:
(i) that all rational animals or real persons have aims, commitments, ends, goals, ideals, and values (hence, as rational animals, they are also teleological animals), and
(ii) that these rational animals or real persons naturally treat their aims, commitments, ends, goals, ideals, and values (hence, as rational and teleological animals, they naturally treat these telic targets)
(iia) as rules or principles for guiding theoretical inquiry and practical enterprises,
(iib) as reasons for justifying beliefs and intentional actions, and also
(iic) as standards for critical evaluation and judgment.
Furthermore, rational normativity in this sense can be
either (i) instrumental, i.e., conditional, hypothetical, desired for the sake of some further desired end, pragmatic, prudential, or consequence-based,
or (ii) non-instrumental, i.e., unconditional, categorical, desired for its own sake as an end-in-itself, non-pragmatic, non-prudential, and obtain no-matter-what-the-consequences.
As such, norms provide reasons for belief, cognition, knowledge, and intentional action; and categorical norms provide overriding reasons for belief, cognition, knowledge, and intentional action. Categorical norms are perfectly consistent with norms that are instrumental, conditional, desired for the sake of other ends, pragmatic, prudential, or obtain only in virtue of good consequences. Nevertheless, categorical norms are necessarily underdetermined by all other sorts of norms, and therefore cannot be assimilated to or replaced by those other sorts of norms.
Granting this general teleological conception of rational normativity and rational norms as a theoretical backdrop, then as I see it, there are two importantly distinct kinds of rational normative standards:
(i) minimal or nonideal standards, which specify a “low-bar” set of goals, targets, principles, or rules, below which normatively evaluable activity cannot and does not occur at all, and which therefore jointly constitute a qualifying level of normativity, and
(ii) maximal or ideal standards, which necessarily include and presuppose the (satisfaction of the) minimal, non-ideal, or low-bar standards, but also specify a further “high-bar” set of goals, targets, principles, or rules, below which normatively evaluable activity indeed occurs, but is always more or less imperfect, and in certain relevant respects, bad activity, and above which more or less perfected, and in the relevant respects, fully good activity occurs, and which therefore jointly constitute a perfectionist level of normativity.
So if I am correct, then:
(i) all rational normativity includes both low-bar or qualifying standards and also high-bar or perfectionist standards,
(ii) the satisfaction of the high-bar standards necessarily requires the satisfaction of the low-bar standards,
(iii) the satisfaction of the low-bar standards is not in itself sufficient for the satisfaction of the high-bar standards, but also
(iv) failing to satisfy the high-bar standards is not in itself sufficient for failing to satisfy the low-bar standards.
This, in a nutshell, is The 2D Conception.
One fundamental implication of The 2D Conception, captured in clause (iv), is that it opens up the philosophically and evaluatively important possibility that intentional activities, or persons, can fail to meet the maximal, ideal, or high-bar standards without thereby failing to meet the minimal, nonideal, or low-bar standards. In this way, correspondingly, intentional activities, or persons, can fail to meet the high-bar standards without thereby falling off the scale of normative evaluability, and without ruling out appropriate attribution or acceptance of active responsibility, which in turn go necessarily together with the possibility of rational learning and improvement. In other words, you can fall substantially short of being perfect, without also getting off the hook of being rationally obligated to at least trying to do it significantly better, or to at least trying to be a significantly better person, the next time around.
Here is another fundamental implication of The 2D Conception. Just because someone fails to be maximally or ideally logically rational, by occasionally or even quite often failing to have correct logical insights, or by occasionally or even quite often committing logical fallacies in theoretical reasoning, it does not follow that this person is logically irrational, provided that she meets the minimal, nonideal, or low-bar standards of possessing basic logical knowing capacities and basic logical reasoning capacities. These basic capacities can, if correctly used, be perfected and realized, under appropriate other-things-being-equal conditions, and then at least sometimes meet at least some of the maximal, ideal, or high-bar logical reasoning standards, such as knowing logical truths, and carrying out consistent, valid, and sound inferences.
Or in other words, given The 2D Conception, even if a great many or even most people very often or even mostly are lacking in logical insight, and frequently commit logical fallacies in theoretical reasoning, nevertheless it does not follow that “people are logically irrational animals,” provided that they still possess online logical knowing and logical reasoning capacities.[i] If this is so, then they minimally qualify for logical knowledge and for logical reasoning activity and for normative evaluability in this crucial domain of their lives as rational human animals. In the real world and on the ground, to be sure, as “human, all too human” animals, they may on the whole be quite unsuccessful at logical knowledge and logical reasoning. But at the same time, they are still to some extent rationally responsible for their own logical failings and errors, and in direct proportion to that level of responsibility, still capable of logical learning and logical improvement. Their logico-cognitive situation is far from perfect, but neither is it rationally hopeless, nor is it really impossible.
Correspondingly, and even more importantly, just because someone fails to be maximally or ideally morally or practically rational, by occasionally or even quite often choosing and acting immorally, and by occasionally or even quite often committing mistakes in practical reasoning, it does not follow that this person is morally or practically irrational, provided that she meets the minimal, nonideal, or low-bar standards of possessing the basic online capacity for free will, and basic moral/practical reasoning capacities. These basic capacities can, if correctly used, be perfected and realized, under appropriate other-things-being-equal conditions, and then at least sometimes meet at least some of the maximal, ideal, or high-bar moral rationality standards, such as at least occasionally choosing and doing the right things for the right reasons. Or in other words, given The 2D Conception, even if a great many or even most people very often or even mostly make wicked choices and do wicked things, and frequently make serious mistakes in moral or practical reasoning, it does not follow that “people are morally or practically irrational animals,” provided that they still possess online free volitional and moral/practical reasoning capacities. If this is so, then they minimally qualify for morally right choice and action, and for good practical reasoning activity, and for normative evaluability in this crucial domain of their lives as rational human animals. In the real world and on the ground, to be sure, as “human, all too human” animals, they may on the whole be quite unsuccessful at right choice or action and good moral reasoning. But at the same time they are still to some extent rationally responsible for their own errors, and in direct proportion to that level of rational responsibility, also capable of moral learning and improvement. Their moral-practical situation is far from perfect, but neither is it rationally hopeless nor is it really impossible.
More generally, then, the all-too-common, facile, and overhasty “inference-to-human-irrationality”—whether in the form of logical, moral, or practical irrationality, or in the form of some other supposed basic incapacity of human animals per se, e.g., epistemic irrationality, emotional irrationality, etc.—from the actual fact of more or less widespread error, or of more or less widespread imperfectly conducted activity, is itself simply an informal fallacy, and, ironically enough, therefore a “logical sin”[ii] that the fallacious inference to human irrationality will not itself excuse, based essentially on a failure to recognize the fundamental and synoptic character of The 2D Conception.
These points, in turn, make it possible to see very clearly the fundamental flaw in what I will call The One-Dimensional Conception of Rational Normativity, aka The 1D Conception, no matter how plausible and sophisticated the theories that fall under this rubric might otherwise be. According to The 1D Conception, any failure to meet the maximal, ideal, or high-bar standards of rational normativity, or at the very least any failure to try to meet the high-bar standards, entails non-rationality, non-agency, and non-responsibility. Notice here, too, that the “trying” that is required or obligatory according to The 2D Conception, is just endeavoring to learn and improve one’s logical, moral, practical, etc., performance relative to the perfectionist standard, and relative to the normative “distance” between the minimal/nonideal and maximal/ideal standards.
According to The 2D Conception, then, you are not rationally obligated even to try to be perfect, because perfection is always supererogatory, no matter how wonderful it might be—which may come as somewhat of a relief to you. You are rationally obligated only to try to learn and to improve your logical, moral, practical, etc., performance relative to the perfectionist standard, and relative to the normative “distance” between the minimal/nonideal and maximal/ideal standards. That is, according to the sane perfectionism included in The 2D Conception, you are rationally obligated only to try to ameliorate your imperfections, and better yourself by significant improvement, not rationally obligated either to try to become perfect, or to be perfect. Perfection, although a maximal or ideal rational-agent-centered normative standard, nevertheless exceeds what is rationally obligatory for rational, “human, all too human” animals like us. In Kantian language, perfection is a regulative standard, not a constitutive standard (CPR A642-668/670-696). Trying to change your life for the better is fully good enough: you don’t have to (even try to be) be the best. The alternative is an insane perfectionism that is, in effect, covertly designed to guarantee failure for most agents in most contexts of agency in this thoroughly nonideal world. Thus to extend Voltaire’s famous aphorism, “the best is the enemy of the good,”[iii] according to the ameliorative (im)perfectionism I am proposing on the basis of the 2D Conception, the better is the good’s best friend.
In any case, as an excellent contemporary defender of The 1D Conception, in Self-Constitution, Christine Korsgaard writes:
I am eventually going to argue that bad actions, defective actions, are ones that fail to constitute their agents as the unified authors of their actions.
[T]he hypothetical and categorical imperatives are constitutive principles of volition and action. Unless we conform to them—unless we are at least trying to conform to them—we are not willing or acting at all.
The Groundwork portrays bad action as heteronomous action. Commentators often complain that if that is supposed to mean action that is caused by external forces, it is impossible to see how people are ever responsible for bad action. But of course the problem is much deeper than that, for if a person’s movements are caused by external forces, it is not clear why we should call them actions at all.
It is the essential nature of action that it has a certain metaphysical property—autonomy in Kant’s argument, constitutional unity in Plato’s. This explains why action must meet the normative standard: it just isn’t action if it doesn’t. But it also seem as of it explains it rather too well, for it seems to imply that only good action really is action , and that there is nothing left for bad action to be. [iv]
Or in other words, according to Korsgaard, if you are not meeting or not trying to meet the classical perfectionist standards of human rationality, then you are a rationally defective and irrational animal, and off the hook. For example, if you fail to reason or fail to try to reason in a classical-logic-perfectionist way—i.e., fail to conform fully to all the semantic or inferential standards of, say, classical sentential logic, or classical first-order predicate logic—then you are not in any sense a rational or responsible logical agent. Or if you fail to choose or act, or fail to try to choose or act, in a morally or practically classically perfectionist way—i.e., by having a good will in Kant’s sense (GMM 4:393) (CPrR 5: 110), i.e., by occurrently partially or completely realizing autonomy—then you are not in any sense a rational or responsible moral or practical agent. Disastrously, these results of One-Dimensionalism play directly into the hands of radical logical, moral, practical, and other sorts of skeptics, since as a matter of fact no actual rational human animal ever manages to meet or try to meet all or even most of the high-bar standards of rational normativity, but instead is doing extremely well, and indeed is doing something supererogatory and morally heroic, if she ever manages to meet or try to meet even some of them. How convenient for the radical skeptic, then, that most or all of us, most or all of the time, turn out to be irrational animals.
Perhaps even more disastrously, these untoward results of One-Dimensionalism also play directly into the hands of individual “human, all too human” intentional agents looking for a fast track out of their everyday logical, moral, practical, etc., difficulties in a thoroughly nonideal world. How convenient for me, sinner that I am, that falling far short of rational perfection or falling far short of trying for rational perfection should entail the suspension of my responsibility. —If 1D Rational Normativity is Dead, then Everything is Permitted, and in turn I can simply take the nihilist’s way out and then do the wrong thing without compunction, like the pathetically wicked character Smerdyakov in The Brothers Karamazov:
“Take that money away with you, sir,” Smerdyakov said with a sigh.
“Of course, I’ll take it! But why are you giving it to me if you committed a murder to get it?” Ivan asked, looking at him with intense surprise.
“I don’t want it at all,” Smerdyakov said in a shaking voice, with a wave of the hand.
“I did have an idea of starting a new life in Moscow, but that was just a dream, sir, and mostly because ‘everything is permitted’. This you did teach me, sir, for you talked to me a lot about such things: for if there’s no everlasting God [i.e., 1D Rational Normativity + Divine Command Ethics], there’s no such thing as virtue, and there’s no need of it at all. Yes, sir, you were right about that. That’s the way I reasoned.”[v]
For all these reasons, it is clear that The 1D Conception of Rational Normativity is false, and also plausibly arguable that The 2D Conception is true.
[i] See, e.g., R. Hanna, Rationality and Logic (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006), esp. the Introduction, ch. 5, and ch. 7.
[iii] Voltaire, “La Bégeule,” lines 1-2:
Dans ses écrits, un sage Italien
Dit que le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.
[iv] See, e.g., C. Korsgaard, Self-Constitution: Agency, Identity, and Integrity (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2009), pp. 31, 81, 91, and 160.
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