The Rational Human Condition 3, Deep Freedom and Real Persons: A Study in Metaphysics, Section 3.2–Kant’s Biological Theory of Freedom.

“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 Life Does 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     

Next Installment                                                                                                          

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 3  From Biology to Agency

Section 3.2  Kant’s Biological Theory of Freedom

Kant was the first post-Newtonian philosopher to attempt to face up directly and fully to the basic philosophical problems of free will and Universal Natural Determinism. Prior to the 18th century, philosophers had always addressed issues about free will in the context of either classical Fatalism or Universal Divine Determinism—i.e., in the context of “God-soaked” metaphysics, or what Kant calls transcendental theology. But as Kant so brilliantly saw, by the middle of the 18th century the philosophical context for thinking about free will had decisively shifted from transcendental theology to deterministic, mechanistic natural science, i.e., to Newtonian mathematical physics. In that new context, other 18th century post-Newtonian philosophers, like Hume, focused almost exclusively on trying to provide a phenomenology or philosophical psychology of free will, as opposed to a metaphysics of free will.[i] But neither pre-18th century philosophers nor other 18th century post-Newtonian philosophers had clearly framed the free will problem as a puzzle both about explaining the possibility of free will in a universally determined, essentially mechanical natural world and also about the compatibility or incompatibility of free will and Universal Natural Determinism. That was one of Kant’s most brilliant contributions to the philosophy of free will.

Otherwise put, Kant was the first post-Newtonian philosopher to see clearly and distinctly that Incompatibilism is consistent with Hard Determinism and Classical Libertarianism alike, both of which, in turn, are mistakenly committed to a deeper philosophical mistake. This deeper mistake, according to Kant, is the failure to distinguish metaphysically and epistemically between appearances (aka phenomena) and things-in-themselves (aka noumena). And that failure leads directly to a logico-metaphysical antinomy, the Third Antinomy of Pure Reason. But above all, this deeper mistake inevitably hides the real philosophical significance of Compatibilism. In chapters 4 and 5 below, I will carefully lay out and critically discuss the basic competing positions in the free will debate, including Divine Fatalism, Universal Divine Determinism, Hard Determinism, Classical Libertarianism (including its agent-causal, non-causal, and event-causal indeterminist versions), and various versions of Incompatibilism and Compatibilism. The crucial point in the present context is just that Kant was brilliantly unique by trying to address both the metaphysics and the phenomenology/philosophical psychology of free will on the one hand, and also the classical Compatibilism vs. classical Incompatibilism dilemma on the other, within the new non-theological, post-Newtonian context of mechanistic Universal Natural Determinism.

In the rest of this section, I will focus on explaining and defending a new interpretation of Kant’s theory of what he calls “transcendental freedom.” Kant’s theory of transcendental freedom is his metaphysics of free will. Transcendental freedom is how a rational animal or person can, “from itself” (von selbst) (CPR A533/B561), be the spontaneous mental cause of certain natural events or processes. If I am that rational animal or person, then insofar as I am transcendentally free, it follows that certain events or processes in physical nature are up to me—or to use Kant’s own phrase, in meiner Gewalt, literally: “in my control” or “in my power” (CPrR 5: 94-95). So otherwise put, transcendental freedom is deep freedom of the will, up-to-me-ness, or as it were (since it does not quite scan in grammatically correct German), In-Meiner-Gewalt-Sein.

In this connection I will argue, contrary to standard interpretations,[ii] that Kant’s theory of transcendental freedom entails neither a classically incompatibilist Timeless Agency theory nor a classically compatibilist Regulative Idea theory, and also that it thereby constitutes what Hodgson, in a text I used as an epigraph for chapter 1, aptly calls a  “third alternative” to the all-too-familiar and seemingly exhaustive dichotomy between Incompatibilism and Compatibilism. This third alternative is a version of Incompatibilistic Compatibilism that I call Kant’s Biological Theory of Freedom.

Then in the next section, I will focus on explaining and defending a contemporary Kantian theory of practical freedom or free agency, against the backdrop of Kant’s Biological Theory of Freedom.

Practical freedom presupposes transcendental freedom, and can be defined in a negative way as the independence of first-order volition, or the “power of choice” (Willkür), from necessitation by sensible impulses (CPR A533/B561). But practical freedom is also necessarily equivalent to what Kant calls “autonomy”: “the moral law expresses nothing other than the autonomy of pure practical reason, that is, [practical] freedom” (CPrR 5: 33). Practical freedom or autonomy is how a transcendentally free person can choose or do things by means of her subjective experience, or consciousness, of recognizing the Categorical Imperative or moral law as a desire-overriding, strictly universal, a priori, categorically normative, non-instrumental practical reason that has both motivating and justifying force. In turn, the special fact of this subjective experience, or consciousness, of autonomous agency is what Kant calls the “fact of reason” (Faktum der Vernunft):

The consciousness of this fundamental law [of pure practical reason, which says: so act that the maxim of your will could always hold at the same time as a principle of universal law giving] may be called a fact of reason, since one cannot ferret it out from antecedent data of reason, such as the consciousness of freedom (for this is not antecedently given), and since it forces itself upon us as a synthetic proposition a priori based on no pure or empirical intuition… In order to regard this law without any misinterpretation as given, one must note that it is not an empirical fact, but the sole fact of pure reason, which by it proclaims itself as originating law. (CPrR 5: 31, underlining added).

So otherwise put, practical freedom or autonomy is rational causation. In this connection I will argue, again contrary to standard interpretations, that a Kantian theory of practical freedom or autonomy entails a special form of internalism about practical reasons that shares something important with Hume’s theory of practical reasoning.

The basic link between the topics of the two sections—thus the basic link between Kant’s Biological Theory of Freedom and the contemporary Kantian theory of practical freedom/free agency that I will develop—is Kant’s theory of teleology, i.e., his theory of value-laden ends or purposes, and goal-directed activity. More specifically, in the rest of this section, I will spell out and philosophically exploit Kant’s theory of natural teleology in the two Introductions and second half of the Critique of the Power of Judgment; and then in section 3.3, correspondingly, I will spell out and philosophically exploit his theory of moral teleology in the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, the Critique of Practical Reason, Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, and the Metaphysics of Morals.

As I have noted already, Kant was the first post-Newtonian philosopher of free will to face up explicitly and fully to the two basic free will problems (i.e., free will vs determinism, and Incompatibilism vs. Compatibilism). And I think that everyone who works on either Kant’s metaphysics or the free will problem more generally, would agree with that claim. But from there on in, it is not so simple. For it is well known to contemporary Kantians, and especially to contemporary Kantian ethicists, that in scholarly space there exist at least two sharply distinct, competing versions of Kant’s theory of freedom, each of which has a fairly solid grounding in Kant’s texts: The Timeless Agency Theory,[iii] and The Regulative Idea Theory.[iv]

The Timeless Agency Theory adopts the classical Two World or Two Object Theory of the noumena vs. phenomena distinction and asserts that a noumenal subject is autonomous in that it has absolutely spontaneous causal efficacy, or nomological sufficiency, with respect to its self-legislating positively noumenal will, apart from all alien causes and all sensible impulses, from or for the sake of the Categorical Imperative. More precisely, our autonomy consists in our causing, from outside of time and space, phenomenal human behavioral movements (in outer sense) and psychological processes (in inner sense) that are themselves independently necessarily causally mechanically determined by general causal laws of nature plus the settled empirical facts about the past. The Timeless Agency Theory is supported primarily by texts drawn from the Critique of Pure Reason (esp. CPR A538-558/B566-586).

By contrast, The Regulative Idea Theory adopts the neoclassical Two Aspect or Two Standpoint Theory of the noumena vs. phenomena distinction and says that we are required by our innate capacity for practical reason to believe or take ourselves to be acting morally only under the rational Idea—i.e., the consistently thinkable, but not empirically cognizable, noumenal representation—of our own practical freedom or autonomy. The Regulative Idea Theory is supported primarily by section III of Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals.

Both The Timeless Agency Theory and The Regulative Idea Theory have some serious problems, however.

On the one hand, it is crucial to note that the texts that best support The Timeless Agency Theory are explicitly said by Kant to demonstrate only the bare conceivability and logical consistency of the notions of freedom and Universal Natural Determinism, and neither the reality or actual existence, nor the real, non-logical, “strong metaphysical,” or synthetic possibility of freedom:

Do freedom and natural necessity in one and the same action contradict each another? And this we have answered sufficiently when we showed that since in freedom a relation is possible to conditions of a kind entirely different from those in natural necessity, the law of the latter does not affect the former; hence each is independent of the other, and can take place without being disturbed by the other…. It should be noted here that we have not been trying to establish the reality of freedom, as a faculty that contains the causes of appearance in our world of sense…. Further, we have not even tried to prove the possibility of freedom; for this would have not succeeded either, because from mere concepts a priori we cannot cognize anything about the possibility of any real ground or any causality. (CPR A557-558/B585-586, underlining added)

In turn, the most serious problem with The Timeless Agency Theory is that timeless agency is in fact really, non-logically, strongly metaphysically, or synthetically a priori impossible, even though it remains consistently thinkable or conceivable, and thus logically possible. If all phenomenal events are independently necessarily determined by natural laws together with antecedent facts, then the noumenal causality of the will implies what is nowadays called the non-standard causal overdetermination of phenomenal human behavioral movements in outer sense and psychological processes in inner sense.

The thesis of “non-standard” causal overdetermination says:

(i) there can be two ontologically distinct nomologically sufficient causes of the same event, such that one of the two causes is physical and one of the two causes is extra-physical, and each of which can operate in the absence of the other, and correspondingly

(ii) there can be two complete and independent causal explanations of the same event.

By contrast, “standard” causal overdetermination postulates two distinct sufficient physical causes of the same event, and correspondingly two complete and independent physical causal explanations of the same event. The usual lurid example of standard or physical causal overdetermination is two snipers and one fatal wound, but a more commonplace example is a cautious man’s single pair of trousers being completely and independently held up by a belt and suspenders. Obviously, this sort of causal phenomenon is not especially philosophically worrying.

In the case of non-standard or extra-physical causal overdetermination, however, as I noted in a slightly different context in section 2.3, and as Jaegwon Kim has compellingly argued, there is a knock-down worry. If there already is a nomologically sufficient physical cause of some event, and if, correspondingly, there already is a complete and independent physical causal explanation of that same event, then this cause and that causal explanation together necessarily exclude there being any other distinct, and specifically extra-physical, nomologically sufficient cause or causal explanation of the same event.[v] So the non-standard causal overdetermination implied by The Timeless Agency Theory, although consistently thinkable or conceivable and logically possible, is non-logically, strongly metaphysically, or synthetically a priori necessarily ruled out.

On the other hand, it is also crucial to note that the texts which best support The Regulative Idea Theory are explicitly said by Kant to demonstrate only that “freedom must be presupposed (vorausgesetzt) as a property of the will of all rational beings” (GMM 4: 447, underlining added) and also only that “all human beings think of themselves as having free will” (GMM 4: 455, underlining added), as opposed to our having “cognition” (Erkenntnis) of free will or “scientific knowledge” (Wissen) of it, both of which are denied to us. Correspondingly,  the most serious problem with The Regulative Idea Theory is that even if it were true, it just does not do the philosophical work required of the noumenal causation vs. phenomenal causation distinction. This is precisely because it does not entail either the reality or the real possibility of freedom of the will, but instead entails only at best our belief or faith (Glaube) in its reality or real possibility. Such an entailment is not only ontologically deflationary but also, arguably, it does not even epistemically justify that belief. For according to Kant, as per the Postulates of Practical Reason in the second Critique, our belief in freedom is only a self-evident practical belief, not a theoretical belief—in effect, a mode of rational faith or “moral certainty” (CPR A829/B857). In turn, a belief is held with moral certainty, according to Kant, if and only if it is a sufficiently warranted practical commitment that is nevertheless held by us on “theoretically insufficient” grounds, and “if I know with certainty that no one else can know of any other conditions that lead to the proposed end”:

Only in a practical relation, however, can taking something that is theoretically insufficient to be true be called believing (Glauben). This practical aim is either that of skill or morality, the former for arbitrary and contingent ends, the latter, however, for absolutely necessary ends. Once an end is proposed, then the conditions  for attaining it are hypothetically necessary. This necessity is subjectively but still only comparatively sufficient if I do not know of any other conditions at all under which  the end could be attained; but it is sufficient absolutely and for everyone if I know with certainty that no onel else can know of any other conditions that lead to the proposed end. (CPR A823/B851, underlining added)

In other words, this morally certain belief could still be theoretically or scientifically false—either in the sense of natural science or physics, or in the sense of the non-natural science of metaphysics—and thus also epistemically wrong, since knowledge is sufficiently justified true belief. For all we know, and for all that The Regulative Idea Theory says, then, we could still be nothing but deterministic natural automata and real-world Turing machines, moist robots, or “meat puppets,” in the tragic situation of epiphenomenally dreaming that we are free, but with no more causal power of our own than a turnspit.

For these reasons, it seems to me that both The Timeless Agency Theory and The Regulative Idea Theory are very likely to be objectively false, whatever else we may think about the question of which theory most accurately reflects Kant’s own considered views about freedom of the will.

In contrast to these theories, as I have mentioned, I want to develop and defend Kant’s Biological Theory of Freedom.[vi] Just like The Timeless Agency Theory and The Regulative Idea Theory, The Biological Theory also has a fairly solid grounding in Kant’s texts, although it is primarily supported by texts drawn from what I have called Kant’s “post-Critical” period after 1787,[vii] especially including the Critique of the Power of Judgment and the Opus postumum. But The Biological Theory differs sharply from the other two theories in that (i) it avoids their basic serious problems and (ii) arguably, it is fairly close to being objectively true. So I think that we should prefer it both on grounds of inference to the best (i.e., most rationally charitable, by our own philosophical lights) interpretation, and also for independent philosophical reasons.

In a nutshell, The Biological Theory says that transcendental freedom of the will in the occurrent sense—that is, deep freedom or up-to-me-ness, as actually occurring—is a far-from-equilibrium, spatiotemporally asymmetric, complex, self-organizing thermodynamic process. And the most direct way of recognizing Kant’s commitment to The Biological Theory is to see that for him, human persons are rational human animals, whose capacity for free will is fully metaphysically continuous with their animality:

The human being, as animal, belongs to the world, but, as person, also to the beings who are capable of rights—and, consequently, have freedom of the will. Which ability essentially differentiates [the human being] from all other beings; mens is innate to [the human being]. (OP 21:36, underlining added)

This also makes Kant a defender of liberal naturalism,[viii] which, as we have seen in chapters 1-2, says that the irreducible but also non-dualistic mental properties of rational minded animals are as basic in nature as biological properties, and metaphysically continuous with them. Another name for liberal naturalism is “objective idealism.” Objective idealism is sharply distinct both from subjective idealism, which says that the world is nothing a phenomenal mental construction of an individual cognizer (as defended, e.g., by Berkeley, the neo-Kantians, early Carnap, C.I. Lewis, and Nelson Goodman) and also from absolute idealism, which says that the world is nothing but a giant mind, its thought-forms, and its thought-processes (as defended, e.g., by Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel). As opposed to either subjective idealism or absolute idealism, liberal naturalism, aka objective idealism, is necessarily equivalent with a commitment to “empirical realism” in Kant’s sense and also to an objective, metaphysically modest version of Kant’s transcendental idealism that I call weak or counterfactual transcendental idealism.[ix] The thesis shared by the weak-or-counterfactual-transcendental-idealist Kant, me, and other liberal naturalists is that irreducible, aprioristic, non-instrumental, conscious, intentional, caring, rational, deeply free, agential  mindedness grows naturally in the manifestly real physical world, in organisms whose lives have an appropriately high level of non-mechanical thermodynamic complexity and self-organization. The manifestly real natural physical world necessarily includes our real possibility and is immanently structured for the dynamic emergence of lives like ours and minds like ours. Or in Nagel’s formulation: “rational intelligibility is at the root of the natural order.”[x]

In my opinion, Nagel unfortunately overstates his case in this context by immediately comparing his view to those of Schelling, Hegel, and absolute idealism more generally, in the second half of the same sentence:

The view that rational intelligibility is at the root of the natural order makes me, in a broad sense, an idealist—not a subjective idealist, since it doesn’t amount to the claim that all reality is ultimately appearance—but an objective idealist in the tradition … [xi] of certain post-Kantians, such as Schelling and Hegel, who are usually called absolute idealists.

But then in the very next paragraph, Nagel re-states his view so that it comes out instead, more carefully and modestly, as, in effect, liberal naturalism and weak or counterfactual transcendental idealism: “nature is such as to give rise to conscious beings with minds; and it is such as to be comprehensible to such beings.”

Right, bang on. Nature is not nothing but a giant mind. Instead,  manifestly real physical nature is such that, necessarily, it is really possible for creatures like us to emerge dynamically, and also such that, were we to exist, then we would be able to perceive it and know it directly, to some non-trivial extent. In effect, liberal naturalism is simply a robust modal inference,

from (i) the true fact that rational minded animals like us actually exist in the natural world,

to (ii) our possibility in that natural world (actuality entails possibility),

to (iii) the necessity of that possibility (possibly P entails necessarily possibly P, as captured and codified in the modal system S5),

hence:  (iv) necessarily, the actual natural world is such that rational minded animals like us are necessarily possible.[xii]

That is the view that the weak-or-counterfactual-transcendental-idealist Kant, I, other liberal naturalists, and Nagel all share.

Kant’s theory of transcendental freedom is also fundamentally based on his notion of “spontaneity.” For him, X is spontaneous if and only if X is a conscious mental event that expresses some acts or operations of a creature, and X is:

(i) causal-dynamically unprecedented, in the two-part sense that

(ia) conscious mental events of those specific sorts have never actually happened before, and

(ib) the settled empirical facts about the past together with the general causal laws of nature do not provide nomologically sufficient conditions for the existence or specific character of those conscious mental events,

(ii) underdetermined by external sensory informational inputs, and also by prior desires, even though it may have been triggered by those very inputs or motivated by those very desires,

(iii) creative in the sense of being recursively constructive, or able to generate infinitely complex outputs from finite resources,  and also

(iv) self-guiding. (CPR A51/B75, B130, B132, B152, A445-447/B473-475)

Furthermore, spontaneity can be either relative or absolute. Relative spontaneity requires inputs to the rational conscious mind, whereas absolute spontaneity allows the rational conscious mind to generate its own outputs without any triggering inputs. For example, rational human a priori cognition is only relatively spontaneous, because it requires sensory inputs via empirical intuition, whereas an “intellectual intuition,” if it existed, would be absolutely spontaneous, because it could cause the objects of its thoughts to exist just by thinking them (CPR A19-22/B33-36, B71-72).

Now according to Kant, the concept of a cause analytically entails the concept of its effect, and the general schematized pure concept of CAUSE says that something X (the cause) necessitates something else Y (its effect) in time according to a necessary rule or law. Or equivalently, according to Kant, to say that X causes its effect Y is to say that X is nomologically sufficient for Y in time (CPR B112, A144/B183). Then X is a relatively or absolutely spontaneous cause of its effect Y if and only if:

(i) X is nomologically sufficient for Y in time, and

(ii) X is a conscious mental event that is necessarily unprecedented, underdetermined by external sensory inputs and desires, creative, and self-guiding.

Finally, absolutely spontaneous mental causation is the same as transcendental freedom:

By freedom in the cosmological sense … I understand the faculty of beginning a state from itself  (von selbst), the causality of which does not in turn stand under another cause determining it in time in accordance with the law of nature. Freedom in this signification is a pure transcendental idea, which, first, contains nothing borrowed from experience, and second, the object of which cannot be given determinately in any experience…. But since in such a way no absolute totality of [natural] conditions in causal relations is forthcoming, reason creates the idea of a spontaneity, which could start to act from itself, without needing to be preceded by any other cause that in turn determines it to action according to the law of causal connection. (CPR A533/B561, underlining added)

Although transcendental freedom is a particularly robust kind of mental causation, in the second Critique Kant sharply distinguishes transcendental freedom from mere psychological freedom:

These determining representations [i.e., instincts or motives] themselves have the ground of their existence in time and indeed in the antecedent state, and  in a preceding state, and so forth, these determinations may be internal and they may have psychological instead of mechanical causality, this is, produce actions by means of representations and not by bodily movements; they are always determining grounds of the causality of a being insofar as its existence is determinable in time and therefore under conditions of past time, which are thus, when the subject is to act, no longer within his control and which may therefore bring with them psychological freedom (if one wants to use this term for a merely internal chain of representations in the soul) but nevertheless natural necessity, leaving no room for transcendental freedom which must be thought of as independence from everything empirical and so from nature generally, whether regarded as an object of inner sense in time only or also as an object of outer sense in both space and time; without this freedom (in the latter and proper sense), which alone is practical a priori, no moral law is possible and no imputation in accordance with it. (CPrR 5: 96-97, underlining added)

Psychological freedom has two dimensions.

First, in its negative dimension, psychological freedom is the subject’s consciousness of choosing or acting without being prevented, and without inner or outer compulsion.

And second, in its positive dimension, psychological freedom is the subject’s consciousness of creativity and vitality.

So transcendental freedom is the spontaneity of consciousness,[xiii] whereas psychological freedom is the consciousness of spontaneity. As Kant explicitly points out, and as Hume and Leibniz also noted in anticipation of contemporary Compatibilism (aka “Soft Determinism”), it is both logically and metaphysically possible to be psychologically free without being transcendentally free. This is what Kant very aptly and famously calls “the freedom of a turnspit” (CPrR 5: 97), or as I characterized it above, the epiphenomenal dreams of a mere wind-up toy. So psychological freedom is not a sufficient condition of transcendental freedom. Nevertheless, according to Kant, psychological freedom remains a necessary condition of transcendental freedom, just insofar as it is the veridical, essentially non-conceptual “feeling of life” (see sections 2.3 and 2.4 above)—that is, the pre-reflective first-order consciousness, or subjective experience, of creative, vital animal embodiment, in inner and/or outer sense. No one could be transcendentally free and also at the same time undergo the subjective experience of constantly being prevented from choosing or acting, or of constantly being inwardly or outwardly compelled to choose or act, and of being uncreative and lifeless in those very choices and acts, hence robotic and zombie-like, as, e.g., in certain forms of schizophrenia. Indeed, as the second Analogy of Experience explicitly shows, psychological freedom in both its negative and positive dimensions is necessarily built into the correct mental representation of any objective causal sequence, via what Kant calls “the subjective sequence of apprehension,” whose ordering is not only always subjectively experienced as “entirely arbitrary” (ganz beliebig) and not necessitated, but also as being a direct function of the lively—hence creative and vital—shifts of conscious attention in the rational minded animal:

In the … example of a house my perceptions could have begun at its rooftop an ended at the ground, but also could have begun below and ended above; likewise I could have apprehended the manifold of empirical intuition from the right or from the left…. [The subjective sequence of apprehension] is entirely arbitrary. (CPR A193/B238)

When we correctly ascribe transcendental freedom specifically to the will of a rational human animal or human person, then,

in addition to (i) the metaphysically positive factor of absolute spontaneity, which confers deep freedom or up-to-me-ness on the person’s choices and acts, and also in addition to

(ii) the phenomenology of psychological freedom, which provides

(iia) the subjective experience of being unprevented and uncompelled in one’s choices and acts, and also

(iib) the subjective experience of being creative and vital in the very same choices and acts, there is also

(iii) a metaphysically negative dimension of freedom which guarantees that the person’s choices and acts occur independently of all “alien causes,” that is, independently of all pathological inner and unowned outer sources of nomologically sufficient compulsion:

The will is a kind of causality that living beings have so far as they are rational. Freedom would then be that property whereby this causality can be active, independently of alien causes determining it; just as natural necessity is a property characterizing the causality of all non-rational beings—the property of being determined to activity by the influence of alien causes. The above definition of freedom is negative. (GMM 4: 446, underlining added)

This is where “practical freedom” comes onto the scene. Practical freedom presupposes but also exceeds transcendental freedom, in that practical freedom is the absolute spontaneity of the will not only independently of all alien causes, but also independently of all sensible impulses (i.e., empirical, first-order desires):

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, underlining added)

As I mentioned above, however, this appeal to practical freedom’s necessary underdetermination by empirical, first-order affects is merely a negative characterization of it. As positively characterized, practical freedom also involves the capacity for self-legislation in conformity with, and for the sake of, the Categorical Imperative or moral law. Or in other words, practical freedom in the normatively low-bar, qualifying, or capacity sense is also necessarily equivalent with autonomy (GMM 4: 440-441, 446-463) in the normatively  low-bar, qualifying, or capacity sense.

It may seem, on the face of it, that there is and should be no direct connection whatsoever between the person’s absolutely spontaneous, psychologically free, autonomous will, and her actual existence in physical nature. That is the basic idea behind the ontologically dualist, Classical agent-causal Libertarian theory, according to which the freely willing person, as an agent-cause, necessarily stands outside the natural causal order of events in spacetime.[xiv] Indeed, Kant is often cited as a paradigmatic defender of the Classical agent-causal Libertarian theory—as per The Timeless Agency Theory.[xv] But in fact Kant himself explicitly asserts otherwise:

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, underlining added)

Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and reverence, the more often and more steadily one reflects on them: the starry heavens above me [i.e., nature] and the moral law within me [i.e., freedom]. I do not need to search for them and merely conjecture them as though they were veiled in obscurity or in the transcendent region beyond my horizon; I see them before me and connect them immediately with the consciousness of my existence. (CPrR 5: 161-162)

Now although there is an incalculable gulf fixed between the domain of the concept of nature, as the sensible, and the domain of the concept of freedom, as the supersensible…: yet the latter should have an influence on the former, namely the concept of freedom should make the end that is imposed by its laws real in the sensible world; and nature must consequently also be able to be conceived in such a way that the lawfulness of its form is at least in agreement with the possibility of the ends that are to be realized in it in accordance with the laws of freedom. (CPJ 5: 176, underlining added)

In other words, Kant is explicitly saying that transcendental freedom is not only really possible but also even real, full-stop, i.e., actually and really, “as one of the natural causes” that is sensibly and “immediately,” hence intuitionally and essentially non-conceptually, verified, in this case by “the consciousness of my existence.” So for Kant there is a natural piety[xvi] Cogito: I feel dual reverence for outer nature and inner morality, therefore I exist as a free, real cause of natural events.

I will now reconstruct Kant’s reasoning for this perhaps very surprising thesis, and in so doing, argue that his theory of transcendental freedom can be very plausibly—and philosophically most defensibly—interpreted as a biologically-based, Kantian Non-Conceptualist theory. As I mentioned above, I shall be drawing primarily on texts from Kant’s post-Critical period after 1787, and in particular from the third Critique.

As we saw in sections 2.3 and 2.4 above, Kant argues in the two Introductions to the Critique of the Power of Judgment and again in the second half of the book, that the concepts LIFE and ORGANISM, and in particular the concept of a “natural purpose” (Naturzweck) or living organism, are not ordinary empirical concepts applying to naturally-mechanized physical matter, or to naturally-mechanized material objects, and that they invoke a type of causation that cannot be cognized or known by means of any natural science or Naturwissenschaft, where the paradigm of a natural science or Naturwissenschaft is classical Newtonian deterministic-mechanistic mathematical physics:

For a body to be judged as a natural purpose in itself and in accordance with its internal possibility, it is required that its parts reciprocally produce each other, as far as both their form and their combination is concerned, and thus produce a whole out of their own causality, the concept of which, conversely is in turn the cause (in a being that would possess the causality according to concepts appropriate for such a product) of it in accordance with a principle; consequently the connection of efficient causes could at the same time be judged as an effect though final causes. In such a product of nature each part is conceived as if it exists only through all the others, thus as if existing for the sake of the others and on account of the whole, i.e., as an instrument (organ), which is, however, not sufficient (for it could also be an instrument of art, and thus represented as possible at all only as a purpose); rather it must be thought of as an organ that produces the other parts (consequently each produces the others reciprocally), which cannot be the case in any instrument of art, but only of nature, which provides all the matter for instruments (even those of art): only then and on that account can such a product, as an organized and self-organizing being, be called a natural purpose. (CPJ 5: 373-374, underlining added)

Strictly speaking, the organization of nature is … not analogous with any causality that we are cognitively acquainted with (kennen). (CPJ 5: 375, underlining added)

Now because the causality of living organisms is uncognizable and unknowable by means of deterministic-mechanistic natural science, the basic concepts of biology are merely “regulative” or “hypothetical” concepts of reason, that is, heuristic, logical-fictional, or analogical concepts employed in our everyday encounters with the natural world, for purposes of the unification and promotion of natural scientific inquiry (CPJ 5: 369-415; see also CPR A642-647/B670-675).[xvii] This makes the notion of the causality of living organisms at best a merely conceptual, epistemological, and projectivist notion, and not a metaphysical notion. For example, Korsgaard writes:

[T]he way we conceptualize the world, the way we organize it into a world of various objects, guarantees that it will appear to be teleologically organized at the level of those objects.

Nothing I’m saying here is incompatible with a Darwinian account of how the world became populated with items fit to be thus conceptualized.[xviii]

In other words, the regulative use of the concept of the causality of living organisms implies a Two-Aspects-Theory-style Compatibilism, i.e., a Kantian version of Soft Determinism, via asserting, on the one hand, the pragmatic usefulness or even the practical necessity of teleological judgments based on teleological concepts, and on the other hand, the truth of Universal Natural Determinism and Natural Mechanism.

But here is another place where I significantly part company with standard contemporary interpretations of Kant’s Critical philosophy in general, and of his philosophy of biology in particular. Suppose it is true that Kant is committed to the thesis that teleological judgments and teleological concepts are only regulative, not constitutive. Nevertheless, on fully Kantian (Non-Conceptualist) grounds we can still assert that organismic life—and in particular, the organismic life of my own animal body—is directly cognized by essentially non-conceptual, non-propositional, or non-epistemic, and thus non-judgment-based means. Indeed, as I mentioned in section 2.5 above, according to Kant in the First Part of the third Critique, the feelings of pleasure and pain, bodily affects including bodily desires and drives, and proprioceptive feelings, jointly constitute “the feeling of life” (CPJ 5: 204, 278), or the feeling of embodied vitality. Now the feeling of life is primed by the judgment of taste, but not constituted by the judgment of taste, Furthermore, as we also saw in sections 2.3, 2.4, and 2.5 above, according to Kant there is an essential connection between the affective-emotional psychological life of my mind, and the biological life of my own body:

[L]ife is the subjective condition of all our possible experience. (P 4: 335)

Life without the feeling of the corporeal organ is merely consciousness of one’s existence, but not a feeling of well- or ill-being, i.e., the promotion or inhibition of the powers of life; because the mind for itself is entirely life (the principle of life itself), and hindrances and promotions must be sought outside it, though in the human being himself, hence in combination with his body.  (CPJ 5: 278, underlining added)

So in these ways, according to Kant, biological life is metaphysically continuous with the essentially embodied conscious, intentional, caring, rational human mind. Otherwise put, our essentially non-conceptual, phenomenal, affective-emotional consciousness in inner sense necessarily entails the existence of biological life as far-from-equilibrium, spatiotemporally asymmetric, complex, self-organizing, minded animal, thermodynamic process. So for Kant there is also an animal faith[xix] Cogito: I feel things “in my bones,” therefore I exist as a minded living organism. In other words, conscious, intentional, caring, rational human beings are, necessarily, also living organisms.

This is a crucially important point that bears repeating. The semantic and epistemic constraints that Kant explicitly places on teleological judgments and concepts about distal material objects in space in the context of biological science as he understood it—namely, that such judgments involving such concepts are always regulative and not constitutive—do not apply to the human conscious experience of living organismic embodiment. This subjective experience is essentially non-conceptual or intuitional, and affective-emotional in character, and therefore essentially not conceptual, propositional, epistemic, or judgment-based. So, again, I think that there is a fundamentally important Kantian distinction to be drawn between:

(i) teleological judgment, which is inherently neither directly referential nor existentially-committed, because it is inherently based on concepts and also regulative, and

(ii) teleological consciousness or subjective experience, in the special mode of essentially non-conceptual contents or intuitions, in inner sense, which are inherently both directly referential, and also existentially committed, hence veridical.

According to my reading of Kant’s view, more precisely then, I actually have veridical, teleological, inner and outer sense intuitions—i.e., veridical, teleological, essentially non-conceptual conscious or subjective experiences—of my own organismic, value-laden, goal-directed, embodied biological life as a (rational) human minded animal. In this way, even if teleological judgments and concepts have only a regulative use, and even if the truth of judgments about natural purposes and the truth of mechanistic, deterministic Newtonian physical science as a theory are incompatible—which is the source of The Dialectic of Teleological Judgment—nevertheless, I still can, and in fact still really do, have an essentially non-conceptual, non-propositional, non-epistemic, non-judgment-based teleological biophenomenology that is veridical and therefore constitutive.

It follows from all this that there are real organismic, value-laden, goal-directed biological facts in physical nature, amongst which are all the mental facts of minded animal life. It is just that I cannot scientifically know these biological and biophenomenological facts via physical theories that are exclusively based on naturally mechanistic, deterministic principles. But I can still truly consciously feel at least some of these biological and biophenomenological facts, by truly consciously feeling, “in my bones,” my own essentially embodied minded animal life. Furthermore, and most importantly of all for the present purposes of argument, by way of these teleological intuitions or veridical teleological essentially non-conceptual cognitions, according to Kant, and according to me, I can also truly consciously feel my own transcendental freedom:

Sensible life has, with respect to the intelligible consciousness of its existence, (consciousness of freedom), the absolute unity of a phenomenon, which, so far as it contains merely appearances of the disposition that the moral law is concerned with (appearances of the character), must be appraised not in accordance with the natural necessity that belongs to it as appearance but in accordance with the absolute spontaneity of freedom. (CPrR 5: 99, underlining added)

This is natural piety and animal faith in action. In other words, Kant’s natural piety Cogito and his animal faith Cogito turn out to be one and the same.

In view of these points, as I am understanding him, Kant regards empirical psychology as a constitutive and nomological yet also non-deterministic and non-mechanistic “life science” of the human minded animal. Otherwise put, empirical anthropology and empirical psychology jointly constitute one Kantian “moral science” (Geisteswissenschaft)—call it “empirical anthropsychology”—that is inherently not a mechanistic, deterministic Newtonian mathematical physics, or “natural science” (Naturwissenschaft). To be sure, Kantian empirical anthropsychology contains unique “psycho-psycho” laws that strictly govern the real phenomenological facts of inner sense,[xx] which, we now recognize, must also be real biophenomenological facts. Nevertheless, these biophenomenological facts in empirical anthropsychology cannot be arithmetically analyzed:

The empirical doctrine of the soul must always remain … removed … from the rank of what may be called a natural science proper. This is because mathematics is inapplicable to the phenomena of the inner sense and their laws…. It can, therefore, never become anything more than a historical (and, as such, as much as possible) systematic natural doctrine of the inner sense, i.e., a natural description of the soul, but not a science of the soul. (MFNS 4: 471, underlining added)

Moreover, I believe that we can also charitably reconstruct Kant’s rationale for holding this important thesis, in the following way.

As we have already seen, the merely subjective temporal ordering of conscious states, or subjective experiences, in inner sense is “entirely arbitrary” (ganz beliebig) (CPR A193/B238), according to the desires and choices of the conscious, intentional, caring, rational human animal. The radical open-endedness of possible orderings in inner sense, in turn, means that the set of all mental biophenomena cannot be put into a one-to-one correspondence with the set of natural numbers, or reconstructed as Turing-computable functions of Primitive Recursive Arithmetic. Kant’s interestingly restricted (pre-Peano, pre-Frege) conception of arithmetic,[xxi] together with the Axioms of Intuition and the Anticipations of Perception—i.e., the mathematical synthetic a priori principles of pure understanding (CPR A160-162/B199-201)—and the Analogies of Experience, show that the mechanistic theory of Universal Natural Determinism, as Kant understood it, requires the simple primitive recursive arithmetization of causal processes in time. But as we saw in section 2.4 above, given Gödel’s incompleteness theorems together with The Church-Turing Thesis, it follows that mathematical truth, whether in Peano Arithmetic or dynamical systems theory, is inherently uncomputable or non-mechanical. Furthermore, given my Leibniz-inspired and Searle-inspired Arm-Waving Room Argument in section 2.2 above, it follows that the intentional body-movements of rational human animals instantiate inherently uncomputable and non-mechanical biological and biophenomenological functions. Thus for Kant, and also correspondingly for me, a neo-Aristotelian and contemporary Kantian dynamicist, the anthropsychological laws of rational human animal life cannot be either deterministic or more generally naturally mechanized. Furthermore since essentially embodied human mental life entails biological life, it follows directly from Kant’s mind-in-life thesis and contemporary dynamical systems theory, together with Gödel’s incompleteness theorems and The Church-Turing Thesis, together with The Arm-Waving Room Argument, that that not only can there never be a Newton of a blade of grass, but also even more importantly that there can never be a Newton, Church, or a Turing of either biological life or the rational human minded animal.

So yet again, we can clearly see that our rational human minded animal life, especially including the exercise of our power of choice or Willkür, cannot be naturally mechanized,[xxii] precisely because it is an inherently uncomputable, self-organizing, living organismic process, and precisely because its immanent structure, our conscious freedom, is inherently a form of life.

There is an instructive contrast here to be drawn between what I am claiming on the one hand, and J.R. Lucas’s famously controversial thesis that Gödel’s incompleteness results entail the existence of freedom of the will on the other.[xxiii] It is to be particularly emphasized that I do not accept Lucas’s argument that Gödel’s incompleteness results, on their own, without supplementation by several other substantive epsistemic and metaphysical premises, entail the existence of free will: that is too strong a thesis. All I am accepting is Lucas’s subsidiary thesis that, from Gödel’s incompleteness results, plus our authentic a priori knowledge of some strictly logically unprovable (in any Principia Mathematica-style logical system, plus enough axioms of Peano Arithmetic), but still rationally intuitable truths of mathematics—e.g., arguably,[xxiv] Goldbach’s conjecture, and the Continuum Hypothesis—it follows that the rational human mind is not essentially a digital computer. And from that thesis, together with the mind-in-life thesis, the non-deterministic interpretation of non-equilibrium/complex systems thermodynamics, the dynamicist model of life, and the concept of Natural Mechanism, it also follows there exist some non-mechanical natural processes, namely precisely those natural mental processes that are constitutive of our authentic a priori knowledge of some logically unprovable truths of mathematics.

How does this all apply to Kant’s theory of transcendental freedom? The answer is that according to The Biological Theory of Freedom, even if all the inert, non-living parts of macroscopic material nature, as metaphysically described by the three Analogies of Experience, do indeed fall under the general causal laws of classical mechanistic, deterministic Newtonian mathematical physics, nevertheless the existence of these deterministic natural automata is fully consistent with and indeed is also metaphysically presupposed by the instantiation of an irreducibly different set of properties in the special (but not in any way supernatural) kind of living organism that is the rational human animal. This is a set of irreducible, non-dualist, non-supervenient, inherently non-mechanical, uncomputable, conscious, intentional, caring, a priori, and categorically normative properties, whose precise pattern of instantiations constitutes both that animal’s power of choice and also its transcendental and practical freedom of the will, or its autonomy. And it also brings into existence ontologically and dynamically emergent, complex, self-organizing, living organismic thermodynamic processes, and also conscious, intentional, caring, spontaneously causally efficacious, nomologically one-off, or one-time-only, facts about the essentially embodied agency of rational human minded animals.

These natural facts about rational human animal body movements are thereby non-locally compatibilistic but also locally incompatibilistic in the ways I spelled out in section 1.2 above. That is, none of the general causal laws of nature are ever violated by these animal movements, and in fact they are actually presupposed by these animal movements, but at the same time, neither the existence nor the specific character of these animal movements in the present or the future is entailed or necessitated by all the general causal mechanical laws, especially including the Conservation Laws, together with the settled quantity-of-matter-and/or-energy facts about the past, especially including The Big Bang. And that is precisely because these rational human animal body movements are caused by our transcendental freedom, which is a non-empirical or a priori but still fully natural biological and neurobiological fact about us. In this way, rational human animals are not deterministic (or for that matter, indeterministic) natural automata or machines, and correspondingly they therefore are real persons. Indeed, in the Critique of Practical Reason Kant explicitly asserts that rational personhood (Persönlichkeit) itself is essentially

freedom and independence from the mechanism of nature regarded as a capacity of a being subject to special laws (pure practical laws given by its own reason). (CPrR 5: 87, underlining added)

In this way, the source-incompatibilistic difference between,

on the one hand, (i) the general causal mechanical laws of nature,

and on the other hand, (ii) the non-deterministic, non-mechanical, one-off or one-time-only laws of rational human minded animal intentional body movement, guided by categorically normative moral laws,

is itself perfectly consistent with the thesis that these two different types of laws are fully compatible in a world in which type-(i) laws apply to all and only things that strictly obey the Conservation Laws, Big-Bang-causation, and Turing computable algorithms, and more generally are naturally deterministic or indeterministic processes, whereas type-(ii) laws apply to all and only rational minded animals, or real persons, is itself the metaphysical core of Kant’s Biological Theory of Freedom. This perfectly consistent conjunction of Local Incompatibilism together with Non-Local Compatibilism, insofar as it is entailed by Kant’s Biological Theory of Freedom, is what I also call “Kant’s Incompatibilistic Compatibilism.”


[i] See, e.g., J. Harris, Of Liberty and Necessity: The Free Will Debate in Eighteenth Century British Philosophy (Oxford: Clarendon/OUP, 2005).

[ii] See section 1.2, n. [i].

[iii] See, e.g., Allison, Kant’s Theory of Freedom, pp. 47-53; Pereboom, “Kant on Transcendental Freedom”; Watkins, Kant and the Metaphysics of Causality, chs. 5-6; and Wood, “Kant’s Compatibilism.”

[iv] See, e.g., Kant’s Theory of Freedom, ch. 13; and A. Wood, Kant’s Ethical Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1999), pp. 180-182.

[v] See section 2.6, n. [v].

[vi] Strictly speaking, The Biological Theory of Transcendental Freedom is just one part of a more comprehensive interpretation of Kant’s theory of freedom that I call The Embodied Agency Theory.  See Hanna, Kant, Science, and Human Nature, ch. 8.

[vii] See R. Hanna, “Kant, Causation, and Freedom,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 36 (2006): 281-306. See also B. Hall, The Post-Critical Kant (London: Routledge, 2015).

[viii]  See sections 1.1 and 2.3. See also D.R. Griffin, Untying the World-Knot: G. Rosenberg, A Place for Consciousness (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2004), pp. 8-10.

[ix] See Hanna, Kant and the Foundations of Analytic Philosophy, sections 2.3 to 2.4; Hanna, Kant, Science, and Human Nature, section 6.1; and Hanna, Cognition, Content, and the A Priori, section 7.3.

[x] Nagel, Mind and Cosmos, p. 17.

[xi] Oddly enough, in the text I’ve elided, Nagel has “Plato and perhaps also….” But maybe he’s thinking of the Neoplatonists, who would indeed count as predecessors of the absolute idealists; or maybe he’s thinking of McDowell’s neo-Hegelian “naturalized platonism.”

[xii] See Hanna, Cognition, Content, and the A Priori, p. 341.

[xiii] See R. Hanna and E. Thompson, “Neurophenomenology and the Spontaneity of Consciousness,” in E. Thompson (ed.), The Problem of Consciousness (Calgary, AL: University of Alberta Press, 2005), pp. 133-162.

[xiv] See, e.g., R. Chisholm, “Human Freedom and the Self,” in Watson (ed.), Free Will, pp. 26-37; R. Clarke, “Agent Causation and Event Causation in the Production of Free Action,” Philosophical Topics 24 (1996): 19-48; and T. O’Connor, Persons and Causes (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2000).

[xv] See, e.g., Watkins, Kant and the Metaphysics of Causality.

[xvi] See section 2.3.

[xvii] See, e.g., A. Breitenbach, “Two Views on Nature: A Solution to Kant’s Antinomy of Mechanism and Teology,” British Journal for the History of Philosophy 16 (2008): 351-369; A. Breitenbach, “Telelogy in Biology: A Kantian Perspective,” Kant Yearbook 1 (2009): 31-56; H. Ginsborg, “Kant on Understanding Organisms as Natural Purposes,” in E. Watkins (ed.), Kant and the Sciences  (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2001), pp. 231-258; P. Guyer, Kant’s System of Nature and Freedom (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2005), chs. 5 and 13; and J. Kreines, “The Inexplicability of Kant’s Naturzweck: Kant on Teleology, Explanation, and Biology,” Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 87 (2005): 270-311.

[xviii] Korsgaard, Self-Constitution, p. 39, underlining added.

[xix] See G. Santayana, Skepticism and Animal Faith (New York: Dover, 1955).

[xx] For Kant, laws do not have to be semantically insensitive to contextual conditions or mentalistic facts in order to be necessary and strict, since they can also be non-logically or synthetically necessary, that is, restrictedly necessary. See Hanna, Kant and the Foundations of Analytic Philosophy, ch. 5. Fodor calls such psychological laws “ceteris paribus laws”: see his “Making Mind Matter More,” in J. Fodor, A Theory of Content and Other Essays (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990), 137-159. Where Kant and Fodor would strongly disagree is that for Kant, these synthetically necessary psychological laws are wholly particular and one-time-only or “one-off,” not general, whereas for Fodor they must be general laws.

[xxi] See, e.g., R. Hanna, “Mathematics for Humans: Kant’s Philosophy of Arithmetic Revisited,” European Journal of Philosophy 10 (2002): 328-353; and Hanna, Kant, Science, and Human Nature, ch. 6.

[xxii] See also K. Westphal, Kant’s Transcendental Proof of Realism (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004), pp. 229-243.

[xxiii] See also Lucas, The Freedom of the Will; chs. 24-30; and Lucas, “Minds, Machines, and Gödel.”

[xxiv] Of course, I could be wrong that the Goldbach conjecture and the Continuum Hypothesis are logically unprovable: at the moment, they are merely unproven. But it might be that they are unproven because they are logically unprovable, and that this, in turn, is because pure spatiotemporal intuition is required for their meaning, their truth, and our knowing them a priori. In that case, they would be synthetic a priori truths, not analytic or logical truths, and their logical unprovability would be philosophically explained. For some tentative thoughts along these lines about the rational knowability and modal status of the Continuum Hypothesis, see Hanna, Cognition, Content, and the A Priori, section 8.2.

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