Spontaneity and Contingency: Kant’s Two Models of Rational Self-Determination

In Manja Kisner & Joerg Noller (eds.), The Concept of Will in Classical German Philosophy. Berlin, Germany: (forthcoming)
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I argue that Kant acknowledges two models of spontaneous self-determination that rational beings are capable of. The first model involves absolute unconditional necessity and excludes any form of contingency. The second model involves (albeit not as a matter of definition) a form of contingency which entails alternative possibilities for determining oneself. The first model would be exhibited by a divine being; the second model is exhibited by human beings. Human beings do, however, partake in the divine model up to an extent, namely, as far as the legislative spontaneity of their law-giving faculties are concerned. I conclude by suggesting that for Kant, the mechanistic principle that we are exclusively determined by natural causes poses a twofold threat for human agency. In one respect (in relation to the second model), it threatens us with the obliteration of contingency, or with the universality of hypothetical necessity. But in another respect (in relation to the first model), it threatens us (and our putative "laws") with the obliteration of absolute necessity, or with the universality of contingency.
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