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Winston Hanks Final Essay Assignment

In this paper I intend to examine the notions of necessity and freedom as presented
in Kants Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics.
Ren Descartes renunciation of the belief in the ability of the senses to always
provide accurate information (and, therefore, certain knowledge of the world) in order to
arrive at knowledge of his own existence is characteristic of the treatment of necessity and
freedom in Descartes Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy. Recognizing
the fallibility of his own senses, Descartes elects to doubts everything which he has ever
held to be true. It is in doing so that his existence is revealed as a necessary condition for
the possibility of thought itself. Thus, it is Descartes scepticism about the natural world
which aids him in coming to the realization of the necessity of his own existence.
The treatment of necessity and freedom in Humes Treatise exhibits both similarities
and dissimilarities from the way in which such concepts are used and analyzed by
Descartes. An important part of the Treatise in which the use of such concepts may be
observed is in Humes understanding of cause and effect. For Hume, cause and effect arise
only due to the constant union of objects in the natural world, which necessarily must
operate under the laws of nature. The human mind perceives such unions, and through
constant repetition, comes to infer that one object causes the other. However, Hume is
careful to point out that the identification of one object as the explicit cause of another can
never be known with certainty, due to the fact that neither the senses nor reason can ever
perceive the principle on which the mutual influence of the conjoined objects or events
depend. In place of the certainty provided by such concepts such as causality, Hume seeks
to establish probability, while maintaining that events in that natural world are
determinate in that they must operate according to the laws of nature. Through the
concepts of union and inference, Hume is able to extend his analysis of cause and effect
from the natural world to include the moral world in order to demonstrate the way in
which human motive and action are always necessarily conjoined. Even in seeking to
demonstrate freedom, for example, such a demonstration must always follow the motive
and desire for such demonstration in the first place. In this way, Hume demonstrates the
necessary connection between human motive and desire and human action.
Kants own discussion of necessity and freedom can be seen in part through the
antinomies he presents when discussing his cosmological ideas. Kant notes that each of the
four pairs of cosmological antinomies or theses he presents, although purposefully
contradictory statements, can all be held to be false at the same time and in the same sense,
since the concept underlying such propositions is self-contradictory. Kant notes that
normally this would be impossible, were it not for the fact that such statements are
ultimately based on a self-contradictory concept. For instance, in considering the pair of
propositions a four-cornered circle is round and a four-cornered circle is not round,
both statements are clearly contradictory, yet both may also be considered false at the
same time. This is because in the first case, the proposition is false because it is impossible
for such a circle to be round if it has four corners; while in the second case, the proposition
is also false that such a circle is not round and that it has corners, namely because it is a
circle, and circles must always be round by their very definition. In this particular instance,
this phenomena is made possible only because such statements are based on a self-
contradictory concept, namely that of a four-cornered circle. Kants self-stated goal in the
presentation and eventual resolution of such antinomies is to expose an incorrectness
which he believes to be hidden in the presuppositions of reason itself. As such, he sets out
to analyze each set of antinomies which he presents.
It is through the introduction of the notions of necessity and freedom that Kant is
able to relieve himself of the logical contradiction that he believes the mutual falsehood
contained in the statements of such antinomies presents. Kant affirms this by writing: if
natural necessity refers merely to appearances, and freedom merely to things in
themselves, no contradiction arises, if one assumes or admits at the same time both kinds
of causality, however difficult of impossible it may be to make the latter kind of causality
conceivable(Prol. 53.343). Kant notes that in appearance, every perceived effect is an
event that must occur in time and which must be preceded by a cause from which the effect
must follow according to nature. However, such a determination of causality, as Kant points
out, must have begun to act since otherwise no sequence in time between the cause and
effect could be thought. In such a scenario, the effect in question would have always
existed, including its determination of causality. However, this is clearly impossible.
Therefore, if freedom is to be a property of certain causes of appearances, then, it must be a
faculty of beginning them of itself and without the causality of the cause needing to begin,
as Kant makes clear. This would then mean that freedom, understood as the cause of such
appearances in question, would have to be taken as a thing in itself, whose effect would
have to be taken only as appearances. Kant summarizes this complex thought, writing that
[I]f one can think such an influence of beings of the understanding on appearances
without contradiction, the natural necessity will indeed inhere in all connection of cause
and effect in the world of the senses, but freedom will have to be conceded to that cause
which is not itself appearance(Prol. 53.344). For Kant, this concession is the only way in
which a logical contradiction of the antinomies may be avoided. In this way, both nature
and freedom may be attributed without contradiction to the same thing, but only in
different ways, with the former concept attributed solely as appearance, and the latter
concept attributed to it as a thing in itself. Hence, for Kant, all actions of rational beings,
insofar as they are given in experience, always operate according to necessity. At the same
time, with respect to the faculty of such beings to act according to reason alone, the actions
of such beings may also be considered free. Kant then notes that all of the contradictory
statements presented in the antinomies may be resolved when considered in this manner,
namely by recognizing the world of appearances as subject to natural laws and thereby also
to determinate causes, while simultaneously understanding the capacity of reason to serve
as its own cause, in turn allowing for the freedom of human beings. For example, turning to
the fourth antinomie Kant presents, namely the pair of statements that in the series of
world causes there exists some necessary being, and the statement that in such a series no
such being exists but everything is contingent, these statements may be resolved by
considering what Kant terms the cause in the appearance and the cause of the appearances.
That is, when the latter concept is understood as referring to the thing in itself, both
statements may be considered true, since in the world of the senses no cause takes place
which is completely necessary, and on the other hand, such a world is still connected with a
necessary being as its cause.
Hegels own discussion of necessity and freedom occurs in his discussion of the way
in which Spirit or geist comes to understand itself. For Hegel, the content of Spirit, in
accordance with the freedom of its own being, is what Hegel terms the self-alienating Self,
or the unity of self-knowledge. The movement of Spirit as it moves into its substance, or its
movement of alienation, constitutes the necessity of the content of Spirit when considered
in direct connection to its content or self-knowledge. That is, as Spirit alienates itself from
itself, this process also affects the content of Spirit itself, and therein lies the necessity of
content. Thus, the notion of necessity in Hegels discussion of Spirit can be seen more
prominently in the process Spirit must undergo in order to know itself. Through this
process, once Spirit comes to fully realize itself, it also understands its immediate identity
with itself, which is what Hegel designates the certainty of immediacy or sense-
consciousness. For Hegel, this release of the Spirit from the form of its Self is also its
supreme freedom and constitutes certainty of Spirits own self-knowledge. However, Hegel
points out that this process of externalization of the Notion through science will always be
incomplete so long as it expresses the connection of self-certainty to an object in the
natural world. This is due to the fact that as long as any connection is expressed, Spirit has
not achieved complete freedom because to be only connected to anything is by definition to
not be fully unified with it, and therefore to not be completely free.
Kants approach to the resolution of the antinomies he presents is certainly
persuasive, if for no other reason than that it seems to proceed along strictly logical lines,
leaving little room for criticism. However, the area of Kants analysis which I believe he
leaves most open to criticism is in his idea of freedom being its own cause. Naturally, this
has the potential to be a contentious idea, and is one which I believe Hume would take
serious issue with. For Hume, the cause of action of any moral subject would have to be
found in the motive or desire of the subject, which in turn would be influenced by stimuli in
the natural world which the subject receives in the form of impressions. Kants assertion
that freedom is its own cause would run contrary to Humes analysis here. Perhaps more
importantly, as Kants resolution to his antinomies depends in part on this conception of
freedom, it weakens his overall solution to resolving the contradictions presented by such

Out of the philosophers that we have read this semester, I would have to say that the
philosopher I found to be most convincing would be David Hume. This is primarily due to
the fact that I found his writing style to be the clearest and most persuasive. It is definitely
refreshing to read a philosopher whose writing style is so direct and unnecessarily
complicated by technical philosophical jargon. Because of this, I feel that I was able to
understand Humes points better as well as understand how these smaller points
contributed to the broader theme of Humes work as a whole. This will certainly not be my
last encounter with Hume, as I intend to familiarize myself more with his influential