“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
4. Neither/Nor: The Negative Case for Natural Libertarianism
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 4 Neither Nor: The Negative Case for Natural Libertarianism
Section 4.6 Sympathy for the Devil: Compatibilism Reconsidered
Now for Step 3 of the negative case for Natural Libertarianism. There is something more that needs to be said about the philosophical motives for classical Compatibilism, for which I have a certain sympathy—although, obviously, my sympathy is critically tempered by the three arguments I just gave in section 4.5 for local incompatibilism with respect to Natural Mechanism, not to mention the other three arguments against classical Compatibilism that I spelled out in section 4.4. But as they say, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. What I mean is that even though Local Incompatibilism is true, and therefore classical Compatibilism is false, it also seems to me that classical Compatibilism effectively expresses three very important thoughts, all of which also play directly into my further claim that the specially restricted thesis of Non-Local Compatibilism is still true.
The first very important thought in classical Compatibilism, especially in its common guise as Soft Determinism, is that in order to face up to the fact of Universal Natural Determinism and the corresponding theoretical threats of Hard Determinism, Hard Incompatibilism, and the “Semi” part of Semi-Compatibilism as forms of classical Incompatibilism, we must hold that our free will, real human personhood, intentional agency, causal responsibility and (deep[i]) (non-)moral responsibility, consciousness, intentionality, caring, desiring, self-consciousness, and rationality, all inseparably belong to a complete conceptual, metaphysical, and moral package. Lose any one of them and then you lose all of them, and thereby you also lose yourself. This seems to be a particularly important advantage of classical Compatibilism/Soft Determinism over the “Semi” part of Semi-Compatibilism, which quite unintuitively detaches free will from the rest of the complete package that defines us as us, rational “human, all too human” animals.
The second very important thought in classical Compatibilism/Soft Determinism, now in order to face up to the theoretical threat of Classical Libertarianism as another form of classical Incompatibilism, especially in its classical Agent Causation version (for details, see section 4.7 below), is that any adequate account of the metaphysics of free agency must also be logically, metaphysically, and epistemically consistent with the deliverances of the exact sciences—that is, mathematics, basic physics, basic chemistry, and basic biology, amongst which, given my earlier arguments, I would obviously want to have special attention drawn to mathematics and biology.[ii] More precisely, defenders of classical Compatibilism/Soft Determinism are saying that our free agency must directly engage with the causally efficacious natural world as it is correctly described by our best mathematical physics. Otherwise our free agency is nothing but metaphysical hocus pocus.[iii] Indeed, as we have seen, and as Kim has very effectively shown, without this direct engagement, then the causally efficacious natural world as it is described by our best mathematical physics both causally and explanatorily excludes our free agency, by both causally and explanatorily excluding mental causation.[iv]
And the third very important thought in classical Compatibilism/Soft Determinism is a fundamental challenge to any version of Classical Libertarianism, whether classically agent-causal, event-causal indeterminist, or non-causal:
If your version of Libertarianism requires, as a necessary condition of free will, that one must be able to choose (or must believe that you can choose) Y as an alternative possibility even though everything about one’s past, one’s character, one’s personality, one’s desires, the configuration of one’s will, and one’s patterns of practical knowing and reasoning are centered and focused on one’s choosing and doing X, so that one’s choice of Y would be utterly out of character, unwanted, and irrational, precisely because it is merely a matter of sheer accident or luck, then your theory of free will is incoherent and false.
In other words, if your version of Libertarianism is either explicitly indeterministic, or in any case committed to alternative possibilities, then your theory of free will is incoherent and false. Significantly, there is a deep formal analogy between this fundamental luck-based challenge to Libertarianism and the famous Gettier fundamental challenge to the classical conception of knowledge according to which knowledge is justified true belief:[v]
If your account of knowledge requires, as a necessary condition of one’s justified true belief, that it be possible for the connection between one’s conscious-evidence-based reason for believing and the truth of one’s belief, to be merely a matter of sheer accident or luck, then your theory of knowledge is incoherent and false.
So just as the Gettier challenge clearly and distinctly reveals that classical epistemology must include an anti-luck condition on justified true believing,[vi] or else give up the “knowledge game,” so too this luck-based challenge from classical Compatibilism/Soft Determinism clearly and distinctly reveals that the minimal Libertarian rejection of determinism as incompatible with agency—i.e., the miminal Libertarian acceptance of non-determinism—must also include an anti-luck condition on free choosing and doing, or else give up the “agency game,” due to the equal and opposite incompatibility of agency with indeterminism.[vii]
I fully accept all three of these important thoughts in classical Compatibilism/Soft Determinism, and consider them to be central conditions of adequacy on any correct theory of free agency. Correspondingly, there is at least one non-trivial sense in which Natural Libertarianism is closely akin to classical Compatibilism/Soft Determinism. Given Natural Libertarianism, it is true that in any possible world, if all the settled facts about the past were exactly the same as in the actual world, and if all the general causal laws of nature were exactly the same as in the actual world, and if I, the agent, in that world, am exactly the same as I am in the actual world,[viii] then as a matter of causal necessity all my future choices and acts would also be exactly the same as in the actual world. So Natural Libertarianism, in this special “hyper-actualist” respect, has the same modal profile and modal metaphysics as classical Compatibilism/Soft Determinism. Moreover, it seems to me to be very close to what Nietzsche means by “the myth of eternal recurrence.”[ix]
The “hyper-actualist” or “eternally recurrent” modal scenario offered by this description of Natural Libertarianism, in effect, collapses all the nomologically possible worlds governed by Universal Natural Determinism onto the one and only actual sequence. This actual sequence is indexically fixed by my complete, finite, and unique far-from-equilibrium, spatiotemporally asymmetric, complex, self-organizing, organismic, finegrainedly normatively attuned thermodynamic life as a rational human animal or real human person, up to and including that very moment, including my deep freedom, practical agency, and deep moral responsibility—in short, my free agency. But the crucial point is that the “hyper-actualist” or “eternally recurrent” modal scenario makes all the actual facts about my life, including my free agency, essential to my life. Otherwise put, in a certain “hyper-actualist” and “eternally recurrent” sense I am “naturally determined.” But at the same time, in this special sense, I am naturally determined only by myself and by my very own agentive form of life. Nothing but “me, myself, and I” is determining me: no one and nothing else is doing it, and certainly not The Big Bang. So my being “naturally determined” in this special sense is really nothing more and nothing less than natural self-determination. My complete, finite, and unique far-from-equilibrium, spatiotemporally asymmetric, complex, self-organizing, organismic, finegrainedly normatively attuned thermodynamic actual-sequence life as a rational human animal or real human person and a free agent, up to and including any given moment, for better or for worse, is not accidentally but instead essentially my own life.
This, in turn, yields my response to the luck-based challenge to Classical Libertarianism from classical Compatibilism/Soft Determinism: The anti-luck condition on free choosing and doing is satisfied by Natural Libertarianism, precisely because the agent herself is essentially involved in all choosing and doing. That is, whenever the agent chooses or does not choose X, or does or does not do X, then this fact necessarily flows from the actual-sequence agent herself and has nothing inherently to do with classical indeterministic “alternative possibilities.” This in turn is because, as the well-known “Frankfurt-style counterexamples” (see section 5.2 below) clearly show, deep (non-)moral responsibility—and thus, according to Natural Libertarianism, deep freedom—are both perfectly possible in the absence, in context, of any classical indeterministic alternative possibilities. The metaphysical bottom-line, then, is that the agent, as agent, cannot be alienated from her own choices and doings. Agency-undermining luck is thereby ruled out.
As long as that remains true, then there is also no danger of my causal activities and my causal powers being absorbed into the fairly massive deterministic backdrop that necessarily supports all my causally efficacious choices and doings, which would of course mean my death as a free agent, by virtue of my being metaphysically converted into a deterministic natural automaton. So although the modal profile and modal metaphysics of this “hyper-actualist” or “eternally recurrent” situation are strictly speaking consistent with Universal Natural Determinism, in a space of possible worlds that has been collapsed onto the one and only actual sequence; and although this deeply important fact even further justifies my calling my view Natural Libertarianism; of course it is not really what the defenders of Universal Natural Determinism have had in mind—except, perhaps, for those few non-classical, non-standard defenders of Compatibilism who are also defenders of, or fellow travelers with, Existentialism, e.g., Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, the Tractarian Wittgenstein, Sartre, and (in some of his metaphysical moods) Frankfurt. Otherwise put as a single metaphysical equation:
“Hyper-actualist” or “eternally recurrent” Compatibilism + Existentialism + The Essential Embodiment Theory + deep freedom + deep (non-)moral responsibility + Kantian practical agency = Natural Libertarianism.
But classical Compatibilism/Soft Determinism is not the same as “hyper-actualist” or “eternally recurrent” Compatibilism, just as, although for opposite reasons, classical Compatibilism/Soft Determinism is not the same as Non-Local Compatibilism. My two-part, rationally charitable, semi-concessive, pro-Compatibilist point here is simply that:
(i) Natural Libertarianism shares some non-trivial modal metaphysics with some non-classical, non-standard versions of Compatibilism/Soft Determinism, and
(ii) Natural Libertarianism also thereby incorporates some non-trivial aspects of classical Compatibilism/Soft Determinism.
And this is sufficient sympathy for the devil.
In any case, and now moving on, if classical Compatibilism/Soft Determinism, Semi-Compatibilism, and Revisionism are all false, due to the truth of local incompatibilism with respect to Natural Mechanism, then that still leaves Classical Libertarianism, Hard Determinism, and Hard Incompatibilism to be critically considered.
[i] Classical compatibilists and soft determinists typically plump for shallow moral responsibility over deep moral responsibility. But this is not strictly required for their view. See, e.g., Frankfurt, The Importance of What We Care About. And for a different, non-Frankfurtian version of deep (non-)moral responsibility within the compatibilist/soft determinist tradition, see S. Wolf, “Sanity and the Metaphysics of Responsibility,” in F.D. Schoeman (ed.), Responsibility, Character, and the Emotions: New Essays in Moral Psychology (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1987), pp. 46-62. My own view, as per section 4.5, is that deep (non-)moral responsibility is locally incompatible with Natural Mechanism. So the compatibilists/soft determinists who favor deep (non-)moral responsibility are in fact committed to an implicit inconsistency, and are in this dilemma: either give up deep (non-)moral responsibility and retain consistency with compatibilism/soft determinism, or else hold onto deep (non-)moral responsibility and go over to Natural Libertarianism. Obviously I think that they should opt for the second alternative.
[iii] See also Hobart, “Free Will as Involving Determinism and Inconceivable Without It.”
[iv] See section 4.4, notes [xx]-[xxxi].
[v] See E. Gettier, “Is Justfied True Belief Knowledge?,” Analysis 23 (1963): 121-123.
[vi] See, e.g., D. Pritchard, “Anti-Luck Virtue Epistemology,” Journal of Philosophy 109 (2012): 247-179. Pritchard also persuasively argues that in addition to the satisfaction of an externalist anti-luck condition, a further virtue-epistemic “cognitive abilities” condition must also be satisfied in order for justified true belief to count as authentic knowledge. In the free will case, the analogue of the epistemic “abilities” component is built into the capacity for self-commitment to a live option, or Kierkegaardian Either/Or. My own analysis of knowledge, presented in chapter 1 of Cognition, Content, and the A Priori, also calls for a third condition to be satisfied in order for justified true belief to count as authentic knowledge, namely an internalist “intrinsically-compelling-conscious-evidence” or “self-evidence” condition. In the free will case, the analogue of the epistemic “self-evidence” condition is built into the ownership condition.
[viii] By this, I mean that my complete, finite, and unique far-from-equilibrium, spatiotemporally asymmetric, complex, self-organizing, organismic, finegrainedly normatively attuned thermodynamic life as a rational human animal or real human person up to and including that very moment is completely replicated, right down to the most hyper-finegrained specific characters of my current vital processes and conscious experiences, and, as a direct consequence, that the complete set of special “one-off” or “one-time-only” causal laws that inherently govern my life up to that very point is also exactly the same as in the actual world.
[ix] See, e.g., F. Nietzsche, The Gay Science, in The Portable Nietzsche, trans. W. Kaufmann (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1983), pp. 101-102, §341.
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