Thursday, January 14, 2021

Kant on the Relation Between Freedom and Morality

Immanuel Kant notes that man exists in two spaces—one physical, the other mental. He calls the mental space the realm of intelligibility, which, he argues, grants man the power of autonomy (freedom) and the potential to be moral. Thus while the material world creates deterministic outcomes or bondages for man, the mental world creates autonomy, which is the necessary condition for accepting a moral way of life. Man has the potential to be moral because, by virtue of existence in the mental space, he has free will. Since man exists in both the spaces, his life is a battleground of the concerns that are purely material and the ones that are purely mental—man constantly confronts the gap between what is (the material facts) and what ought to be (the perfectionist mental notions). Another important argument that Kant makes is that it is not possible for a man to give up his freedom, since freedom is a natural or biological feature of the mental space—in his own mind, a man is always free to think or not to think, and even if a man opts to become a slave, he is free in the sense that he is exercising his natural autonomy to make the choice of being enslaved. Kant accepts that freedom and morality are not the kind of things that science can prove or disprove. The laws of science are applicable only in the physical and biological space and not in the mental space.

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