Kant and Weber's Concept of Freedom

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Kant also distinguishes three kinds of free-
dom: freedom of choice, or free will; freedom
as self-regulation, or autonomy; and freedom as
civil liberty. Freedom of choice is a natural
property of all human beings, and refers to the
fact that human conduct is not wholly determined
by animal impulses. Autonomy is the capacity of
a subject to legislate and abide by ethical impera-
tives of his own making. Civil liberty refers to a
condition in which men are protected by the
rule of law against constraints on their actions
emanating from the arbitrary wills of other
To the first kind of freedom reason relates only
indirectly, only in the sense that by virtue of
being an animal with the potential for reason,
man possesses an innate capacity to determine
for himself what he shall do. This capacity
itself is not rational, however; free choice stems
from the elective will, Willkiir, which is a faculty
of desire, not of cognition. Freedom of choice
simply represents a factor of organismic indeterm-
inacy in the constitution of man; as such, Kant
considers it neither morally valuable nor depend-
ent on the actual exercise of rational powers.
The two other kinds of freedom, by contrast,
do constitute ideal conditions for Kant, and both
are closely tied to the use of reason. First and
foremost, reason gives man freedom by enabling
him to legislate ethical imperatives for himself,
to experience autonomy through the exercise of a
purely rational will ( Wille, as contrasted with
Willkiir). Moreover, practical reason dictates the
propriety of joining with others in a civil society and, through that collaboration of rational wills,
establishing a juridical condition that guarantees
to each independence from the constraint of
another’s will insofar as is compatible with the
freedom of everyone else in accord with a uni-
versal law. Kant’s summary position, then,
would be that rationality in the form of practical
reason (a kind of subjective rationality) promotes
both human autonomy (a kind of subjective free-
dom) and civil liberty (a kind of external or
objective freedom).
Although these and other formulations of Kant
were absorbed in various ways into the complex
of intellectual resources from which Weber was
to draw heavily, there is one particularly impor-
tant respect in which Kant anticipates and orients
the thinking of 19th-century writers whom Weber
confronted. This is his turn from treating reason
and freedom exclusively in the framework of a
static metaphysic of morals and its related view
of human nature to their examination in a histori-
cal perspective as well. In his later reflections,
Kant maintained that a purpose could be dis-
cerned in the natural unfolding of the history
of humanity-and this purpose was in fact to
perfect the use of human reason and to establish
societies which guarantee freedom under external
laws (Kant, [1784] 1963; Galston, 1975).
It is this historicizing afterthought of Kant
which Hegel seized to make the entire ground of
his conception. Although freedom and reason
(Vernunft, which following Kant is contrasted
with Verstand, mere scientific understanding) con-
tinue to signify preeminent ideals for Hegel, he
sees them not as states attainable by every person
simply by virtue of being human, but as species
objectives to be attained through a long and
arduous evolutionary struggle. It is this very
struggle which constitutes history as Hegel prefers
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