Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy and is believed to have coined in Rome by students of the Greek philosopher Aristotle whom were editing his writing after his death. The literal meaning of the word “Meta” is after, so having said this the literal meaning of the word “metaphysics” unsurprisingly comes to mean “after the physics”.
However the interpretation of the word “metaphyisics” has gone beyond normal physics and has instead become a term used to question our own physics. Basically “metaphysics” has become a branch of philosophy that deals with the centre question, what is the ultimate nature of reality? Metaphysics claim that everything, regardless of form, is worth discussion in order to reach conclusions about it’s basic nature. The attempt to remotely reach such conclusions is not an easy task and one is constantly challenged by various problems. It is therefore importance to recognize certain reoccuring problems and this essay will discuss two problems as such, concerning that of determinism and free-will.
Determinists state that everything that happens is determined by prior causes. Furthermore they mean that the word “determined” represents the relationship between two seperate events, states, or affairs, and they’re dependence on one another. As a result of this every effect has a chain of causes leading of to it, meaning that the chain descends indefinetly into the past. An example of this chain reaction is very appropriate when discussing my project work concerning the IRA and their role as freedom fighters during the Irish Revolution. There are several historical factors, such as the Scottish Plantations or the British empire which paved the way for opposition similair to that of the IRA. Furthermore there are factors which have contributed to the foriegn policy of the British Empire, such as lack of resouces, etc. This chain of causes, thence chain of effects continue to the beginning of our time supporting the one of the main arguement towards determinism.
Considering this chain of causes the universe given it’s previous state could not be otherwise, implying that the universe only has one possible future, and can therefore in principle, be predicted. The principle that everything can be predicted is known as the causal principle and is often supported by science, with the exception of Quantum Physics. The most extreme variety of determinism in this context is fatalism.
When discussing Freedom one must be clear on the fact that there are two types of freedom, such as Practical Freedom which is the freedom to do as one desires, wants, and wishes. There are various levels of practical freedom and there are several physical hinderances towards such liberty. However, determinists do not disagree on this form of freedom but merely on the idea of Metaphysical freedom.
Those whom believe in metaphysical freedom or free-will, believe that freedom is only attained attained because we can be held responsible for our own choices and actions. Therefore, unlike determinists, they believe that events are caused by an individual’s independent action and not by the previous state of the universe. A follower of free-will would argue that the British empire made an idependent disicion to colonize Ireland solely on their own will. Furthermore they would argue that the IRA acted on their own will and should be judged only on that notion and not due to prior events.
Free-will is usually not applied to the animal kingdom and is seen as something one either has or does not have, depending on one’s mental capabilities.
Immanuel Kant was a philosophical pioneer, who for the first time began to explore the limits of human understanding. In his work Immanuel Kant made a thorough and groundbreaking analysis of the conditions for knowledge. His module for this project was physicist Isaac Newton, who Kant believed was a paragon of genuine knowledge. In Newtons case, reason seemed to have done an effective job of understanding the data provided by the senses and to have succeeded in concieving universal and necessary laws of nature, such as the law of gravitation and the laws of motion. Kant decided to explain how such knowledge is possible, he did this by asking one basic question: “How is our experience possible in the first place?”. In addition to this he also concluded that everything we ever have encountered in our world is questionable unless based on immediate experience. Kant’s own answer towards such skepticism contained certian categories, such as space, time, substance, and causality. Kant believed that such categories, called transcendental were vital in our way of thinking and experience of the world. He concluded that in order for us to gain knowledge we must be able to conform it to our own minds, through the use of our transcendental categories. Kant believed that he had developed a revolutionary hypothesis concerning knowledge and reality he, himself compared it’s importance to Coperinicus impact on science.
Kant’s claim that causality, substance, space, and time are forms imposed by the mind gave way for idealism. However, Kant was more critical in his ideas and granted the empiricist claim that things existing outside human experience are unknowable. With this statement Kant limited the theory of knowledge to the “phenomenal world” of experience yet preserving the metaphysical belief that the soul, cosmos, and God are matters of faith and not of scientific knowledge.
Kant believed that human beings should live their lives as members of an ideal “kingdom of ends” where every person is treated as an end within themselves, and never as anyone else’s end. Furthermore, he believed that everyone should consider their actions as if they were to be law, a law equal to all without exception. By doing this Kant concieved a freedom of action based on moral order and equity. Since his death Kant has been a leading figure within politics and further development of philosopical ideas.
Kant, Determinism and Free-Will
Having set my mind to the task of figuring the basic nature of things there are three paths we can take when approaching the conflict.
Option 1: Accept determinism and reject the belief in free-will
Option 2: Show how determinism and the idea of free-will are compatible.
Option 3: Endorse the idea that we have free will and reject determinism.
I personally lean towards Option 2 yet I believe that there is one main problem when discussing free-will and that is that man has a notion of being able to do things freely despite the undiscribable form of controll which exisits upon us. Kant explains this by saying that we are slaves to our rationality, and in a sense we are, one could say that we are slaves to the self. However this self-slavery does not exclude freedom, in fact, I believe that human-beings are determined and are instead in possesion of a will that could very well be called free.
The key to understanding freedom of will is understanding that humans are only free when they are capable of accomplishing their desires/choices. I am not talking about average physical hinderance but instead of imposible things that man will never accomplish and never has, e.g. that of flying. This unattained talent does not suggest a hinderance of will but instead shows that the things one can do are merely things that one has potential to do. Furthermore if one’s will is to fly, and obviously we cannot, does that mean that one is somehow not free to fly. I believe that this means that one, as a human does not have potential to fly.
Things can never achieve a status for potentiality if it never existed before. Therefore man will never be capable of flying since the potentiality never existed within us. I believe that this is what Kant meant by saying that man is a slave to his reason and yet not a slave on face . Basically Kant was saying that by understanding our ability to reason we are merely taking a state of choice, which already exists in us, and are actualizing that state of choice . Furthermore, reason controls us and in this sense we are not free of reason and are determined to never escape the bounds of reason.
I believe that our freedom comes from our ability to fulfill the potentialities which we are predetermined with, e.g. I am sent to prison, I am not free and therefore my will would be hindered. The reason for this is that while I am in prison I am not able to actualize those states of choice that exist potentially in me and therefore I do not have free will.
A counter-argument to this would be that we cannot technically call ourselves free if we are living predetermined lives and are only capable of accomplishing previous potentials found within us. However I would say that this argument is an ignorant one because it arises from a lack of understanding the principle that when we are using our reason we are merely actualizing a determined state of choice. Kant understood the principle by realizing that we are determined to be reasonable and yet are not slaves to it since it is our essence and one does not usually call the essence of a thing a hindrance of that same thing, e.g. I am not hindered by my ability to talk despite that it is determined.
In conclusion freedom is an idea that serves a practical function within our minds. If we did not assume that we have a notion of freedom than we could not act, nor have reason to act. If we thought of ourselves as completely causally determined, and not as uncaused individuals, then any attempt to live one’s life assuming an end within oneself, like Kant believed, would seem pointless. I could personally not both, consider myself as entirely determined and at the same time act like I was free to make my own choices uneffectivly.
Therefore we cannot help but to think of ourselves as a result of an uncaused cause, cause if we are to act at all and employ reason to accomplish the “ends” and finally reach an understanding of the world we must believe in free-will and determinsim and free-will must work together just like Kant once had suggested.