Kant's Critique of Practical Reason and Other Works on the Theory of Ethics

By Thomas Kingsmill Abbott; Immanuel Kant | Go to book overview

[78] THIRD SECTION.
TRANSITION FROM THE METAPHYSIC OF MORALS TO THE CRITIQUE OF PURE PRACTICAL REASON.

The Concept of Freedom is the Key that explains the Autonomy of the Will.

THE will is a kind of causality belonging to living beings in so far as they are rational, and freedom would be this property of such causality that it can be efficient, independently on foreign causes determining it; just as physical necessity is the property that the causality of all irrational beings has of being determined to activity by the influence of foreign causes.

The preceding definition of freedom is negative, and therefore unfruitful for the discovery of its essence; but it leads to a positive conception which is so much the more full and fruitful. Since the conception of causality involves that of laws, according to which, by something that we call cause, something else, namely the effect, must be produced [laid down];1 hence, although freedom is not a property of the will depending on physical laws, yet it is not for that reason lawless; on the contrary it must be a causality acting according to immutable laws, but of a peculiar kind; otherwise a free will would be an absurdity. Physical necessity (79) is a heteronomy of the efficient causes, for every effect is possible only according to this law, that something else determines the efficient cause to exert its causality. What else then can freedom of the will be but autonomy, that is the property of the will to be a law to

____________________
1
[ Gesetzt. -- There is in the original a play on the etymology of Gesetz, which does not admit of reproduction in English. It must be confessed that without it the statement is not self-evident.]

-65-

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