Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Degree Granting Department
Michael Morris, Ph.D.
Martin Schönfeld, Ph.D.
Joshua Rayman, Ph.D.
Daniel Breazeale, Ph.D.
Free will, Kant, Moral agency, Reinhold
This dissertation examines the relation of Kant’s theory of free will to that of K.L. Reinhold. I argue that Reinhold’s theory addresses several problems raised in the reception of Kant’s practical philosophy, particularly the problem of accounting for free immoral acts. Focusing on Reinhold’s account of free will as a condition for the conceivability of the moral law shows that the historical focus on Reinhold’s break from Kant’s own account and his alleged reliance on facts of consciousness obscures Reinhold’s decidedly ‘Kantian’ argument. This approach provides a new foundation for free will and demonstrates the significance of Reinhold’s practical philosophy as an attempted corrective to Kant.
Chapter 1 examines the influence of Rehberg, Ulrich, and Schmid on Kant’s and Reinhold’s respective theories of free will. Chapter 2 investigates the epistemic foundation of Reinhold’s theory of free will and, contrary to the dominant view in scholarship, argues that his account is not based merely on facts of consciousness. Chapter 3 illuminates a tension between the phenomenology of moral agency and Kant’s account of free agency. It is argued that while Kant talks about overcoming inclinations and adopting maxims by virtue of their lawful form, which would seemingly have to take place at the phenomenal level and be available to consciousness, Kant’s account of free agency is restricted to the noumenal, which precludes availability to consciousness. Reinhold’s theory of free will avoids this tension by positing consciousness of possible courses of action as a necessary condition for self-determination to one such action. Chapter 4 discusses the relation of Reinhold’s theory of free will to Kant’s Religion, a text that Reinhold uses as a basis for his charge that Kant’s theory is either “unintelligible” or “untenable.” I argue that although Reinhold fundamentally misunderstands Kant’s doctrine of supreme maxim adoption, Reinhold is correct in his assertion that Kant is committed to the thesis that the free spontaneity of the power of choice is a necessary condition for moral responsibility. Chapter 5 explicates the Kant-Reinhold Controversy to argue that given Kant’s own commitment to the conditions for moral responsibility, Reinhold was ultimately correct that free will ought to be defined as choosing for or against the moral law.
Scholar Commons Citation
Walsh, John, "The Fate of Kantian Freedom: the Kant-Reinhold Controversy" (2018). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.