: We Can Act Only Under the Idea of Freedom

Henry E. Allison

in Essays on Kant

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780199647033
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741166 | DOI:
: We Can Act Only Under the Idea of Freedom

More Like This

Show all results sharing this subject:

  • History of Western Philosophy


Show Summary Details


This essay has a two‐fold aim. One is to respond to Daniel Dennett's naturalistic treatment of the free will problem. According to Dennett, the idea of free will is reducible to a deliberator's unavoidable ignorance regarding the outcome of a proposed course of action, which is perfectly compatible with that action being causally determined. Against this, it is argued that Kant's account of rational agency makes a persuasive case for attributing to an agent a genuine spontaneity which eludes the naturalistic framework that is assumed by Dennett to be all‐encompassing. The other is to counter the views of John McDowell, who rejects a “bald naturalism” (such as Dennett's) and insists on the ineliminability of a conception of spontaneity like Kant's, while criticizing Kant for linking this spontaneity with transcendental idealism. In response, it is argued that McDowell misconstrues Kant's idealism and that he is himself committed to a form of idealism.

Keywords: Daniel Dennett; deliberator; John McDowell; naturalism; rational agency; spontaneity; transcendental idealism

Chapter.  5854 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.