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review how they might be seen to ﬁt together and to complement one
another. The result is only one possible view that I think makes reasonable
sense of his doctrine. My discussion is no more than a sketch and leaves
aside many questions.
. The ﬁrst and most basic idea is that of acting under the idea of freedom. Kant holds that when we engage in pure practical reasoning, we must
do so under the idea of freedom (Gr III: [–]).
Now I assert that every being who cannot act except under the idea
of freedom is by this alone—from a practical point of view—really
free: that is to say, for him all the laws inseparably bound up with
freedom are valid just as much as if his will could be pronounced free
on grounds valid for theoretical philosophy. . . . [W]e cannot possibly
conceive of a reason as being consciously directed from the outside in
regard to its judgments; for in that case the subject would attribute
the determinations of his power of judgment not to his reason, but to
an impulsion. Reason must look upon itself as the author of its own
principles independently of alien inﬂuence. Thus, as practical reason,
or as the will of a rational being, it must regard itself as free.
Here I take Kant to mean several things. One is that we must conduct
our deliberations under the ﬁrm conviction that our thoughts and judgments, and the conclusions we reach, are (or at least can be) arrived at
solely in the light of the evidence and reasons we review and put before
ourselves for assessment.
He means also that we must believe that we can properly assess those
reasons under the guidance of the moral law, or whatever norms of practical
reason are appropriate, and that we can accept and act from whatever conclusions we decide are supported by the best reasons. As we deliberate, we
must not believe that our powers of reason are determined by anything
external to our reason, or allow anything to inﬂuence us except the reasons
and evidence that are relevant for our consideration. Otherwise we abandon
Thus I interpret Kant to say that when we deliberate from the practical
point of view, we must, and normally do, regard our reason as having
absolute spontaneity as he understands it. Acting under the idea of freedom,
then, characterizes the practical point of view. This point of view, I want
to say, is where the idea of absolute spontaneity, as it was described earlier
(in §), is manifest.
. To sum up: to act under this idea means to deliberate in good faith.
It is not only to deliberate reasonably and rationally as the norms of practical
reason specify, but also to do so with the ﬁrm belief that our powers of
reason, both theoretical and practical, are fully self-determining and point
the way to what we ought to do and shall do, once known or conﬁrmed
by deliberation. We believe that the reasoning we are now engaged in, and
the conclusions we shall reach, whatever they may be, and not something
else, can and do determine our conduct.
Note well Kant’s remark that “every being who cannot act except under
the idea of freedom is by this alone—from a practical point of view—really
free.” Kant makes a similar statement at KP :: “The moral law, which
itself does not require a justiﬁcation, proves not merely the possibility of
freedom, but that it really belongs to beings who recognize this law as
binding on themselves.”
Then, some lines below (at KP :), he makes it clear, as he does in
the ﬁrst statement, that what he says holds only from a practical point of
view. The meaning of this rider we examine later in Kant X. But one thing
we do know is that from a practical point of view, the laws of freedom of
pure reason are just as valid for us as if our will could be said to be free
for reasons valid for theoretical reason. Theoretical reason cannot provide
arguments that increase their validity for us; nor, on the other hand, can
it take those laws from us. To maintain this last claim belongs to philosophy
. As for practical freedom, it is an empirical fact that we can and often
do deliberate in accordance with and act from pure practical principles, and
hence act under the idea of freedom; moreover, the conclusions we reach
do indeed determine what we do. Everyday experience shows that practical
reason is, as Kant puts it, one of the operative causes in nature (KR B,
By contrast, our belief in transcendental freedom is the ﬁrm conviction
that our decisions as operating causes are not in fact “nature again” (KR
). I take this to mean that we believe that our decisions issue from the
absolute spontaneity of pure practical reason and are not determined by
remote and unknown natural causes external to reason. Another part of
this belief is the ﬁrm conviction that our decisions as informed by pure
practical reason initiate a new series of appearances, a new beginning in
the order of nature.
This belief, along with the postulates of God and immortality, is a postulate of reasonable faith, though distinct from them. Those postulates are
necessary to guarantee the real possibility of the object of the moral law,
the highest good; they are afﬁrmed for the sake of the moral law. The
postulate of freedom is more fundamental: it is the presupposition of the
independence of our reason from the order of nature and thus of the spontaneity of pure reason (KP :). As such, it is the basis of our being held
responsible and accountable for our deeds.6
Thus the three ideas of freedom are related in this way. The basic idea
is that of acting under the idea of freedom. It covers the family of basic
attitudes that Kant thinks we must take toward ourselves and our powers of
reason when, as reasonable and rational persons, we engage in deliberation.
Practical freedom and transcendental freedom cohere into that basic idea in
that they are further ideas supporting it. For example, the belief in practical
freedom assures us that our deliberation is not pointless and settles what
we shall do. Our belief in transcendental freedom, which Kant says is a
transcendent thought (KP :), sustains the attitude we assume toward
ourselves in viewing our reason as having absolute spontaneity. Acting under the idea of freedom is the setting for the two other ideas of freedom.
. Now, it might be objected to Kant’s view that we might profess a
belief in the external determination of our reason, at least in an abstract
way: that is, we could say that all our thoughts are somehow determined
by the principles of neurobiology, or of quantum chemistry, or that our
deliberations are dictated by a master computer program. But so long as
we just say this and don’t act on it in a way that changes our practical
reasoning, this view lacks practical effect. It might color our attitude to the
world as a whole; we express a certain pessimism by referring to people
6. We shall see in Kant X that the postulate of freedom so understood belongs to both forms
of reasonable faith, that is, to both the reasonable faith associated with the realm of ends as the
secular object of the moral law and the reasonable faith associated with the highest good in religion.
Hence reasonable faith takes two forms: the ﬁrst is found in the political writings, the second in
the philosophical writings, especially the three Critiques.
as merely deluded conglomerates of bonded chemicals, or occasionally as
user-friendly conﬁgurations of ﬂeshy computer parts. But as Leibniz maintained about believing in the foreknowledge of God, none of this will alter
how we are to reason, or what we do in everyday life when practical questions arise.7
Kant does not discuss this objection. He might well say that even this
kind of abstract and (for practical purposes) innocuous view would, in the
long run, undermine our devotion to the moral law, as we later discuss (in
Kant X) in regard to reasonable faith. He views our belief in transcendent(al)
freedom as essential for us to sustain our devotion to the moral law over
the course of a complete life. This belief rests on our moral disposition and
is needed to maintain it. One role of philosophy as defense, and of the
reasonable faith it supports, is to strengthen this devotion and the conviction of ourselves as free underlying it.
Let’s recall ﬁve features of the moral law that show it to be a law of
. It is the supreme principle that governs deliberative reason
from the practical point of view when we act, as reasonable
and rational persons, under the idea of freedom.
. In relation to negative freedom, it shows our independence
from the order of nature, which empirical practical reason
. In relation to positive freedom, it exhibits the capacity of pure
practical reason of being absolutely spontaneous, and so its
capacity to set ends for itself and to provide its own orientation in the world. To be fully free, pure reason must do more
than simply restrict means to the ends of natural desires, as
speciﬁed by the duties of justice. It can also set ends for itself:
the obligatory ends of the duties of virtue.
7. Recall what he wrote in the Discourse §. (Ariew and Garber:).
. It is the principle of free constructive reason framing for itself,
with perfect spontaneity and according to its own ideas, its
own a priori object—the ideal of a possible realm of ends.
. As the principle of pure practical reason, it has primacy in the
whole constitution of reason (the primacy of the practical, an
aspect of the practical point of view, to be discussed in Kant
X), and in so doing, it reﬂects the absolute spontaneity of pure
reason in determining, in the course of its exercise, its own
This is only a bare summary statement intended to remind us of what
we have already discussed. All of the things referred to in – above were
considered at some point. We need to see them all as doing their part in
giving sense to the idea of the absolute spontaneity of pure reason. Next
time we turn to the fourth condition of there being pure practical reason.
After that, we take up our last topic, the unity of reason.
The Moral Psychology of the Religion, Book I
§. The Three Predispositions
. We are now ready to consider the fourth and last condition that must
be satisﬁed if there is to be pure practical reason. Recall that this condition
requires that our consciousness of the moral law must be so deeply rooted
in our person that this law by itself can be for us a sufﬁcient motive to
determine our action, whatever our natural desires.
I shall proceed as follows. I begin with a survey of Kant’s moral psychology
as found in Book I of the Religion. This moral psychology I think of as Augustinian: it is more expressly set out than the moral psychology of the Groundwork and the second Critique, which betrays on occasion certain Manichean
features, as discussed in §. I focus on the Religion because its Augustinian
view meets the requirements of the doctrine of the fact of reason, while the
Manichean features do not. Once these matters are reviewed, I consider in
§ why Kant thinks the moral law by itself can be a sufﬁcient motive.
. My account of the main points of moral psychology of the Religion
covers but a fragment of that marvelous work. We must be brief; my remarks
are intended only for our limited aims and are hardly adequate even so. I begin
straightaway with Kant’s description of the three original predispositions to
good (§ of Book I), which, along with our free power of choice, constitute
human nature. These predispositions are as follows (Rel I :ff. [ff.]).1
1. Numbers in brackets refer to the Greene and Hudson edition.
(a) The predisposition to animality in us, when we are regarded as living
beings. This predisposition, Kant says, may be characterized as physical and
“purely mechanical” self-love, by which he means that it does not require
the exercise of reason and is generally guided by instinct and by acquired
tendencies and habits. Under this predisposition fall the instincts for selfpreservation, for the propagation of the species, and for the care of children;
and the instinct for community with other human beings, the social impulse.
(b) The predisposition to humanity in us, when we are regarded not
only as living but also as rational beings. (Observe that Kant does not use
“humanity” here as he does elsewhere to refer to the powers of moral
personality as animated in us [Kant III:§]). This predisposition falls under
the general heading of self-love, which is physical but which at the same
time compares and judges our own happiness in relation to the happiness
From this self-love comes our desire to be held of value (Wert) in the
opinion of others, and from this in turn comes the desire for equality, which
expresses itself in our wanting no one to establish superiority over us and
in our anxiety that they may do so. This process works itself out so that
eventually it gives rise to competition for status and position, to hypocrisy
and rivalry, and to the other vices of culture, such as jealousy and envy,
ingratitude and spitefulness. These vices Kant views as grafted onto this
predisposition to good by the historical development of culture. By this I
think he means that, given the social milieu brought about by the self-love
that compares and judges, those vices are the inevitable outcome. Here we
see the inﬂuence of Rousseau’s Second Discourse and E´mile.
(c) The predisposition to personality in us, when we are seen not only
as rational beings but also as accountable, or responsible, beings. This predisposition we can think of as having two aspects.
First, there is the capacity to understand and intelligently to apply the
moral law (via the CI-procedure) as an idea of pure practical reason.
Second, there is the capacity to respect this law as in itself a sufﬁcient
motive for our free power of choice.
This second aspect Kant here calls “moral feeling,” and he is careful to
stress that moral feeling (sensibility) is essential. (On this question, see also
the Metaphysics of Morals, the Introduction, §§XII–XVI [MdS :–]). This