“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
4.7 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 4.7 Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death?
Finally, here is Step 4 in the negative case for Natural Libertarianism.
Patrick Henry’s notoriously pugnacious political libertarian dilemma—Give me liberty or give me death!—of course means: either one has political liberty in the 18th century American sense, or else life is not worth living. This is clearly a false dichotomy. Even in an 18th century context, it is simply false that the American way of life was the freest way of life. Consider, e.g., the moral scandal of slavery. In fact, even in that historical context, there were other ways to be (relatively) politically free in a (relatively) morally acceptable way,[i] without the moral scandal of slavery, and also have a life worth living. For example, you could have become a United Empire Loyalist and moved to Canada, like my Hanna forebears did.[ii]
Now leaving my family history and mock-serious pro-United Empire Loyalism/Canadianism aside, my serious, basic metaphysical point here is that there is a correspondingly sharp and interestingly analogous dilemma posed by Classical Libertarians in the free will debate : either Classical Libertarianism is true (“live free”), or else Universal Natural Determinism is true—and then your rational agentive life is not worth living (“or die!”). My critical response to this Classical Libertarian dilemma is essentially of the same form as my semi-facetious “So why not become a United Empire Loyalist and move to Canada?” response to Henry’s political libertarian dilemma. The Classical Libertarian dilemma is clearly a false metaphysical dichotomy, because it is entirely possible for you to be deeply free and have a rational agentive life worth living, even if, as I believe, Classical Libertarianism and Universal Natural Determinism are both false. For example, you can affirm Natural Libertarianism. Natural Libertarianism supplies a metaphysically robust conception of free will that is neither inflated (dualist) nor deflated (reductive or non-reductive physicalist).
Defenders of Classical Libertarianism standardly hold:
either (i) that free agents exist as individual substances and uncaused causes that cause things, whether by means of reasons or not,
either (ia) from outside any series of events in spacetime (classical agent causationism),
or (ib) from inside spacetime, but not by means of event-causation, even including events such as the agent’s having reasons (non-classical agent causationism),[iii]
or (ii) that free agents exist over and above spatiotemporal nature, and their agency is explained by reasons, always including the belief in alternative possibilities, but they do not cause anything, even by indeterministic means (non-causalism[iv]),
or (iii) that free agents exist inside space and time and can cause things by means of indeterministic natural processes (event-causal indeterminism[v]).
I will now briefly and critically consider each of these in turn.
The obvious problem with classical agent causationism is that it entails either dualist interactionism or non-standard causal overdetermination.
According to dualist interactionism, the mental and the physical are essentially distinct kinds of substance that also interact causally. But since all real causal relations (arguably) involve necessitation, and since two essentially different substances can only ever be related contingently, it follows that causal interaction between two essentially different kinds of substance is either impossible or else entirely metaphysically mysterious. Furthermore, as Kim has persuasively argued, since according to dualist interactionism, distinct mental substances are immaterial and non-spatial, yet real causal relations clearly require the spatiotemporal individuation of causes and effects, then it seems impossible for it (i.e., dualist interactionism) to account for the “causal pairing” of real causes and real effects.[vi]
Now it is prima facie arguable, and has in fact been argued by some recent or contemporary philosophers, that systematic non-standard causal overdetermination, in which an appeal is made to higher-level “supervenience laws” and “ceteris paribus laws” of the special sciences, avoids violating the causal-explanatory exclusion principle, and can legitimately constitute a second complete and independent causal explanation for a given physical or mental event.[vii] But on the contrary, however, no matter how sophisticated the theory of systematic non-standard overdetermination is, nevertheless this theory fails to do the required job. Indeed, Kim’s explanatory causal exclusion argument, when supplemented by his supervenience causal exclusion argument, clearly rules out systematic non-standard causal overdetermination.
More explicitly, my basic critical reply to the theory of systematic overdetermination is this: In relevantly similar possible worlds in which all the higher-level supervenience laws or ceteris paribus laws and thus all the higher-level mental properties, that are postulated by the systematic overdeterminationist hypothesis, are all “stripped out,” by conceiving them to be missing in that world, then exactly the same physical event is still brought about by the lower-level causal laws together with fundamental physical facts, in exactly the same lower-level way. It is true that the “fat” possible world, with its higher-level laws and higher-level properties, will be quite different in its informational and extrinsic structural architecture from a relevantly similar “skinny” world that lacks these extra laws and properties. But the informational and extrinsic structural architecture, in and of itself, does no causally efficacious work: the efficacious causal powers of the physical event itself, together with any other efficacious fundamental physical cause(s) it might have, is essentially the same in the “fat” possible world as it is in the “skinny” possible world. Therefore the addition of higher-level laws and higher-level properties makes no real or causally efficacious difference whatsoever to what actually happens in the actual sequence—although to be sure, again, it will make an informational and extrinsic structural difference to the “fat” world, by making it informationally and extrinsically structurally “fatter.” But that difference is epiphenomenal. So no matter how sophisticated the systematic non-standard overdeterminationist’s theoretical account of causal relevance might be, causal relevance is still not the same as causal efficacy. What is needed for the causal efficacy of the mental and free agency is an immanent or intrinsic structural difference that spontaneously brings new self-organizing, organismic, and finegrainedly normatively attuned patterns of material movement and/or energy-flow into existence.
Therefore, classical agent-causationist Classical Libertarianism, whether dualist-interactionist or systematic non-standard overdeterminationist, is unacceptable. According to Natural Libertarianism, by sharp contrast, free agents are not non-spatiotemporal “metaphysically lonely substances” of any sort: they are instead nothing more and nothing less than immanently-structured life-processes of rational animals, dynamically emergent from the non-mechanical, non-equilibrium thermodynamics of energy-flows.
A similar problem afflicts non-classical agent-causationist Classical Libertarianism. Although non-classical agent-causal Classical Libertarians explicitly postulate the existence of agent-substances inside spacetime, and thereby avoid Kim’s causal pairing problem, they still have a serious metaphysically inflationary problem, which is this. If agent causation takes place from inside spacetime, but it cannot occur by means of events, even including events such as the agent’s having reasons, then how can it occur? In short, whereas classical agent causation is a transcendent, or extra-spatiotemporal, metaphysical mystery, non-classical agent causation is merely an immanent, or infra-spatiotemporal, metaphysical mystery, with no real advance in intelligibility or power of philosophical explanation. All appeals to metaphysical mysteries, transcendent or immanent, are philosophically inflationary—mere postulation of what is explanatorily otiose.
Still, there is something philosophically important about “the very idea” of agent causation. Bracketting its problematic commitment to agent-substances, the very idea of agent causation is the idea of an undetermined, person-originating, non-spatiotemporal or spatiotemporal, spontaneous, intentional causal source. “Agent causation” is certainly conceptually coherent and intelligible, even if metaphysically mysterious, inflationary, and false. But as a coherent and intelligible conceptual possibility, bracketting its substance-based metaphysics, it shows us that the complete series of settled facts about the past, together with all the general causal laws of nature, can necessarily underdetermine rational human intentional agency, which entails non-determinism with respect to the agent’s choices and acts. Now it would have to be a logically independent thesis, of either classical or non-classical agent-causationist Inflationary Libertarianism, that free will satisfies The Open-Future Rule, which thereby also entails indeterminism. In other words, either classical or non-classical agent-causationist Inflationary Libertarianism is an agency-centered denial of Universal Natural Determinism and consistent with either partial natural indeterminism (i.e., the existence of some indeterministic facts or processes in nature) or Universal Natural Indeterminism. But it does not itself entail indeterminism—unless, of course, satisfaction of The Open-Future Rule is explicitly added as a further thesis. So non-deterministic agency does not, in and of itself, entail indeterministic agency.
And that is just as well, since, as we saw above, “indeterministic agency” is in effect an oxymoron, like “accidental knowledge.” This is because, when metaphysical indeterminism is included in any version of Libertarianism, it yields agency-undermining luck, just as the classical analysis of knowledge as justified true belief leaves itself open, Gettier-wise, to knowledge-undermining luck. Therefore both Universal Natural Determinism and either partial indeterminism or Universal Natural Indeterminism alike can be false, at least with respect to the choices and acts of rational human intentional agents, even though non-determinism is true. In still other words, either partial natural indeterminism or Universal Natural Indeterminism is the contrary of Universal Natural Determinism, not its contradictory. They cannot both be true, but they can both be false.
This two-part point—
(i) that non-deterministic agency does not, in and of itself, entail indeterministic agency, and
(ii) that the very idea of “indeterministic agency” is in itself oxymoronically incoherent and false
—is a somewhat subtle one. But it is also an extremely important, detachable dialectical point for my purposes. This is because, as I have argued already in chapters 2 and 3, and as I will argue again later in chapter 5, the naturally self-determining, far-from-equilibrium, spatiotemporally asymmetric, complex, self-organizing, organismic, finegrainedly normatively attuned thermodynamic events that are inherently characteristic of the lives of rational human animals or real human persons, are inherently both non-deterministic and also non-indeterministic. For the basic events in our own real agential and real human personal lives are all naturally purposive, or naturally teleological, thereby underdetermined by all the general causal natural laws, especially the Conservation Laws, together with all the settled quantity-of-matter-and/or-energy facts about the past, especially The Big Bang, and inherently uncomputable. So all the real agential events in our lives are not naturally mechanized events. Correspondingly, the genuine contradictories in this debate are not Universal Natural Determinism and Universal Natural Indeterminism, which are merely contrary versions of Natural Mechanism, but instead Natural Mechanism and Anti-Mechanism.
By contrast to classical or non-classical agent-causationist Classical Libertarianism, the other two standard versions of Classical Libertarianism—non-causalism and event-causal indeterminism—both strictly entail either a partial version of Natural Indeterminism, namely the belief in indeterministic alternative possibilities, or else Universal Natural Indeterminism. Nevertheless, there is also at least one very powerful argument against both Non-Causal Indeterminism and Event-Causal Indeterminism alike. It is another Source Incompatibilist argument, but this time to the effect that indeterminism is as apt to be as inconsistent with deep freedom, ultimate sourcehood, or up-to-me-ness as Universal Natural Determinism is, with respect to the existence and specific character of the particular natural events and processes in the actual sequences in which intentional agency occurs. So it makes essentially the same point as local incompatibilism with respect to Natural Mechanism: If an agent’s choices or acts were inherently the result of chance or randomness, even under probabilistic or statistical laws, then those choices and acts would really be the movements of a stochastic natural automaton, biochemical puppet, and moist robot, and not the agent’s own choosings or doings.[viii] In short, either believing in or ontically postulating metaphysical indeterminism at the causal source of intentional action is not only metaphysically inflationary but also inherently agency-undermining.
Again: there is no good reason whatsoever to think that a creature has free will, just because a significant indeterministic simple or complex event happens inside her brain, as opposed to its happening ten miles away, or as opposed to its happening at the level of microphysical particles and forces, where her brain does not even exist as a single entity, a living vital organ. Otherwise put, locating a significant indeterministic simple or complex event inside the brain of a mature, healthy human organism does not, in and of itself, confer intentional agency on that organism. Indeed and on the contrary, locating such an event inside the brain of a mature, healthy human organism seems massively more likely to rob that human being of her agency, as in the case of a seizure. So merely adding the causal-functional equivalent of a seizure to a creature that is expressing the “reactive attitudes” or implementing a “reasons-sensitive” guidance-control mechanism, does not an agent make. This is sometimes called “the disappearing agent problem.” But in fact it is simply the fundamental problem of agency-undermining luck again, now in a slightly different rhetorical guise.[ix] Therefore Classical Libertarianism, to the extent that it either believes-in or ontically postulates indeterminism at the agentive source—as opposed to a mere non-determinism that can also equally be consistently combined with non-indeterminism, and with natural purposiveness or natural teleology—and whether this indeterminism is non-causal or event-causal, is ultimately incoherent and false.
[i] Those (no doubt!) few of us who are existential Kantian cosmopolitan anarchists do not accept that the State or State-like institutions, as such, are rationally or morally justified, and also believe that the very idea of political authority as an independent source of obligation, permission, and impermissibility, detached from universal moral principles, is a deeply dangerous philosophical, cognitive, and cultural illusion. See, e.g., Hanna, “Exiting the State and Debunking the State of Nature,” Con-Textos Kantianos 5 (2017), available online at URL = <https://www.con-textoskantianos.net/index.php/revista/article/view/228>; Hanna, “Radical Enlightenment: Existential Kantian Cosmopolitan Anarchism, With a Quasi-Federalist Concluding Postscript”; and Hanna, Kant, Agnosticism, and Anarchism. Hence, strictly speaking, it is impossible to live fully autonomously in any State or State-like institution, in any historical context, contemporary Canada included. That’s what I call the thesis of “radical enlightenment.” But I will bracket that fairly uncompromising thought for the sake of the analogy-based metaphysical point I want to make here. In any case, obviously, some real-world States are significantly more enlightened and liberated, and therefore much better places for people to live, in certain basic respects, than others.
[ii] Honesty also requires me to admit that some of my Hanna forebears stayed in the USA, and that one of them, John Hanna, was a pall bearer in Lincoln’s funeral, and later an Illinois congressman….
[iii] 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; T. O’Connor, Persons and Causes (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2000); and Lowe, Personal Agency.
On some interpretations, Kant is a defender of Classical classical-agent-causal Libertarianism; see, e.g., Watkins, Kant and the Metaphysics of Causality. And on some interpretations, Steward is a Classical Libertarian who also defends a non-classical–agent-causal theory; see, e.g., Y. Cohen, Agential Settling Requires a Conscious Intention,” Journal of Cognition and Neuroethics 3 (2015): 139-155, and J. Runyan, “Events, Agents, and Settling Whether and How One Intervenes,” Philosophical Studies, forthcoming, available online at URL = <https://www.academia.edu/16002768/Agents_events_and_settling_whether_one_intervenes_and_how>. In my opinion, however, because of their views about anti-mechanism and their direct appeals to embodied, animal agency, neither Kant nor Steward is a defender of Classical Libertarianism, whether classical-agent-causal or non-classical-agent-causal. As I read them, Kant and Steward are both saying that intentional agents are immanently-structured life-processes of a certain special kind, not Cartesian substances. This makes them neo-Aristotelian hylomorphists, and in effect, Natural Libertarians.
[vi] Kim, Physicalism, or Something Near Enough, ch. 3.
[vii] See, e.g., C. List and P. Menzies, “Nonreductive Physicalism and the Limits of the Exclusion Principle,” Journal of Philosophy 106 (2009): 475-502. See also Hanna and Maiese, Embodied Minds in Action, pp. 292-294.
[ix] This is the basic problem with Kane’s and Hodgson’s otherwise very interesting versions of causal indeterminism—see note [v] above. My own diagnosis of what has gone wrong here is that they confuse naturally mechanistic indeterminism (i.e., natural chance or randomness, according to probabilistic or statistical laws) with non–determinism-plus-non–indeterminism (i.e., natural purposiveness or natural teleology, which is perfectly coherent with agential existence and rational teleology) since both want (i) to deny determinism at the agential source, yet both also want (ii) to rule out causal randomness or agency-undermining luck at the agential source. Nevertheless, naturally mechanistic indeterminism makes the conjunction of (i) and (ii) inconsistent. Only naturally purposive or naturally teleological non-determinism at the source of agency will make them compatible.
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