Term Paper - Stachowskif

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Stachowski 2Tim StachowskiHebbelerPHL430April 21st, 2014A Discussion of Kants Third Antinomy and the Problem of Free WillThe goal of this paper is to discuss two opposing solutions to Kants third antinomy of pure reason and the problem of free will advanced by Henry Allison and Iuliana Vaida. After articulating both opposing arguments, I will show through an exhaustive textual analysis of Kants Critique of Pure Reason that Allisons interpretation is more accurate.[endnoteRef:1] First, Henry Allison advances a solution in his book Kants Theory of Freedom that insists an interpretation embracing transcendental idealism is crucial to the resolution of the third antinomy.[endnoteRef:2] On the other hand, Vaida claims in her article A New Kantian Solution to the Third Antinomy of Pure Reason and to the Free Will Problem, that in order for the possibility of freedom and to uphold our common sense understanding of morality, an interpretation relying on a combination of epistemic modesty, scientific realism, and morality is necessary.[endnoteRef:3] [1: Kant, Immanuel, Paul Guyer, and Allen W. Wood. Critique of Pure Reason. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998. Print.] [2: Allison, Kants Theory of Freedom, 22. ] [3: Vaida, A New Kantian Solution to the Third Antinomy of Pure Reason and to the Free Will Problem, The Southern Journal of Philosophy 47 (2009): 403. ]

As stated previously, Allison understands Kants insistence that transcendental idealism (TI) is necessary to the resolution of the third antinomy. Differing from the first two mathematical antinomies, the third antinomy is dynamic, where both the thesis and the antithesis are contradictory because both their claims are supposedly true.[endnoteRef:4] The necessity for TI arises from the fact that the third antinomy regresses from effect to cause keeping open the possibility that an event may have a cause that is not sensible (intelligible) and therefore not part of a series of appearances. This is exactly where the thesis and antithesis differ; the former supports the possibility of an intelligible cause whereas the antithesis claims that such a cause is impossible because it conflicts with the conditions for possible experience. It is this dogmatic assertion that creates the conflict between the assumable correctness of the thesis and antithesis.[endnoteRef:5] [4: Allison, Kants Theory of Freedom, 22.] [5: Allison, Kants Theory of Freedom, 23.]

While the solution to the mathematical antinomies arises from rejecting both the thesis and antithesis based on a self-contradictory concept, the third antinomy requires a different strategy.[endnoteRef:6] Here, Kant means to show how two seemingly disagreeing arguments resulting from the concept of an explanatory whole can be made compatible with one another and does so through appealing to transcendental idealism. [6: Allison, Kants Theory of Freedom, 24.]

Even though the causality of freedom is understood to refer to an intelligible ground of natural causes, it does not necessarily entail a solution for freedom of will within the mechanistic causality of nature. However, Kant addresses this by distinguishing between the transcendental idea of freedom and the ordinary conception of free agency. The latter term refers to the psychological concept or practical interpretation of freedom, and entails both an empirical perspective that understands our wills independent from impulses and desires, while remaining dependent on the transcendental idea. According to Allison, the transcendental idea involves the spontaneity of an action as the ground of its immutability. It is in this way that the difficulty of the problem of free will arises out of the necessity to admit an unconditioned causality.[endnoteRef:7] [7: Allison, Kants Theory of Freedom, 25.]

Furthermore, the difficulty for Kant is to explain how the transcendental idea (spontaneity) can satisfy both the demand of reason for an unconditioned condition outside of the series of natural causes (thesis) and at the same time appealed to within the course of nature (antithesis). Kant goes on to explain that because we are unable to explain both the causality of freedom and causality of nature, our reason must be satisfied with appealing to a presupposition of a transcendental notion of causality without a total understanding of it. Kant explains through example that a moment of spontaneity in determining how to act is the method through which the transcendental idea of freedom might be imagined to perform within ourselves as agents.[endnoteRef:8] [8: Allison, Kants Theory of Freedom, 26.]

It is for this same conception of agency that is denied by the antithesis. The antithesis rejects both the idea of a first beginning to verificationist reasoning, and that even if it were correct to assume a first beginning within the course of nature it would exist outside the realm of possible experience. It is in this way that the antithesis advances an alternative account of agency. Instead of appealing to spontaneity or the transcendental idea of freedom, it points to the causality of nature. What this account means to say is that every action has a sufficient cause and therefore denies the notion of an intelligent, free agent.[endnoteRef:9] [9: Allison, Kants Theory of Freedom, 27. ]

Through these examples it can be said that beyond the official cosmological conflict lies an antinomy of agency, questioning what conditions of an action are attributable to an agent. It is in this way that the activity requirement arises, that is to question what constitutes an action. In this way according to Allison an action must be distinguished as something done by an agent itself as opposed to an agent acting in response to something done unto the agent. Kant believes that the only way in which the activity requirement can be fulfilled is by appealing to an incompatibilist conception of freedom based on the transcendental idea.[endnoteRef:10] Finally, it can be said that Kants appeal to transcendental idealism is necessary opening the possibility for an intelligible casual power in addition to the casual mechanism of nature. [10: Allison, Kants Theory of Freedom, 28.]

While it is clear that Allisons interpretation of the Kants third antinomy relies on the TI interpretation, Vaida on the other hand employs a perspective reliant on both epistemic modesty (EM) and scientific realism (SR). As stated previously, it is her hope that through a solution reliant on the doctrine of SR that the traditional conception of moral responsibility and incompatibilist freedom can be established. In her revisionist interpretation, Vaida claims that in order to understand Kants distinction between appearances and things-in-themselves, one must be able to first secure the identity of reference and secondly to know the specification of the standpoint of the corrected view. In this way, she understands Allisons two-aspect interpretation to only understand the first by stipulation and the second as subjective based on the human cognitive faculties and by abstraction independent of cognition. Therefore, Vaida claims that proponents of the two-aspect perspective will state that we are able to conceive this corrected view although we cannot know anything about it.[endnoteRef:11] [11: Vaida, A New Kantian Solution to the Third Antinomy of Pure Reason and to the Free Will Problem, The Southern Journal of Philosophy 47 (2009): 407.]

Furthermore, Allison claims that the crucial part to understanding the distinction between appearances and things-in-themselves is found in Kants distinction between epistemic conditions and ontological conditions. Epistemic conditions are defined as conditions of the possibility of representing objection whereas ontological conditions are conditions of the possibility of the existence of things. Following from this, space, time, and causal determination are understood to be epistemic conditions and therefore things-in-themselves are neither spatiotemporal nor causally determined. Vaida on the other hand believes that epistemic conditions should be understood as sufficient conditions for experience and therefore allow us to claim that we know a small amount of real properties of things-in-themselves as opposed to epistemic conditions as necessary, which allows us to know nothing about things-in-themselves. It is though this reasoning that Vaida claims that her method strengthens the justification for SR and scientific knowledge. Furthermore, understanding epistemic conditions in this way establishes the limitations of our knowledge as well as preventing us from assuming things beyond experience. The point that Vaida hopes to forward here is that Allisons arguments fail to establish that things-in-themselves are not causally determined.[endnoteRef:12] [12: Vaida, A New Kantian Solution to the Third Antinomy of Pure Reason and to the Free Will Problem, The Southern Journal of Philosophy 47 (2009): 410-415.]

Furthermore, Vaida employs the distinction between the conditional view and the absolute view posited previously by Guyer. Within the conditional view, the a priori rules of experience are rules that must be satisfied if experience is to be possible but that the mind not have the ability to enforce during certain instances. On the other hand, the absolute view states that the a priori principles can validly be imposed onto an object under all circumstances. Again, these two different views similarly correspond the distinction that Vaida made earlier with Allisons epistemic conditions. Guyer and Vaida similarly believe that Kant employed the absolute view as an attempt to establish TI on the basis of the transcendental theory of experience.[endnoteRef:13] Vaida agrees with Guyer for the single belief that one should remain a realist until serious evidence forces otherwise. Because of this, she believes