International Philosophical Quarterly


published on March 16, 2017

Steven G. Smith

Meaningful Moral Freedom
An Improved Kantian View

Kant’s central notion of a “causality of freedom” seems inconsistent with his theoretical analysis of causation. Because of its detachment from any reference to time, it is also seriously in tension with ordinary moral ideals of individuality, efficacy, responsiveness, and personal growth in the exercise of freedom. I suggest a way of conceiving moral freedom that avoids the absurdity of practical timelessness while preserving the main strengths of Kant’s theories of theoretical and practical meaning, including his refusal to specify the content of human fulfillment. Much as Kant’s ideal of the highest good combines the supreme good of moral virtue with its necessarily desired complement of worthy happiness, a Kantian ideal of the fullest freedom can combine the transcendental freedom of the moral disposition with individual exercises of freedom in the dramatic interaction of actual moral community.