How Kant needs to interpret free will

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Risto Hilpinen - Committee Chair


The dissertation articulates an incompatibilist model of rational moral agency along Kantian lines. I share with incompatibilists in general and Kant in particular the view that only incompatibilist freedom can ground genuine moral responsibility and account for our conception of justice and for our moral practices of praise and blame, reward and punishment.The proposed incompatibilist conception of freedom is distinctively Kantian in two respects. First, it is Kantian in that it attempts to prove the possibility of freedom by appeal to the distinction between phenomena and noumena. The way I understand this distinction is based on a realist interpretation of Kant's transcendental theory of experience and the rejection of his doctrine of transcendental idealism along lines suggested by Strawson and Guyer. According to this interpretation, the a priori forms of our sensibility and understanding, such as space, time and natural causality, are not forms that the mind imposes on a material the intrinsic characteristics of which are unknowable to us, but forms that limit or filter the kinds of things that we can experience and know. It follows that natural causality is a real feature of things as they are in themselves. However, the necessity and universality of our claims about natural causality are the product or creation of our own minds, a consequence of our epistemic limitations. Thus, the existence of a causality of freedom and its effects, free choices, is compatible with the necessity and universality of natural causality.Second, my account is distinctively Kantian in that it takes the main argument for the reality of freedom to be based on the requirements of morality, on the categorical demand that my own reason places on me, that I ought to do my moral duty. I also argue that Kant introduced transcendental freedom in an attempt to eliminate any form of luck from the realm of morality.The two Kantian themes come together in an anti-naturalist argument for transcendental freedom, stating that morality gives us a prima facie reason to believe that we are free in the transcendental sense, whereas science cannot provide any reason either for or against transcendental freedom.



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