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Essays on Kant$
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Henry E. Allison

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199647033

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199647033.001.0001

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: We Can Act Only Under the Idea of Freedom

: We Can Act Only Under the Idea of Freedom

(p.87) Essay Five: We Can Act Only Under the Idea of Freedom
Essays on Kant

Henry E. Allison

Oxford University Press

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

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