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Volume 1

Expanded Contents


1: Introduction [and Summary]
2: Physical Field Theories
3: Psychological Field Theories
4: Social Field Theories
5: The Field of Power
6: Field Theories in Summary
7: Perception and Reality
8: Actuality versus Potentiality
9: Manifests versus Latents
10: Latent Functions
11: Perception, Space, and Field
12: Cognitive Dissonance
13:Behavior, Personality, Situation, and Expectations
14: The Behavioral Equation: Behavior, Situation, and Expectations
15: Situation, Expectations, and Triggers
16: Person-Perception and Distance
17: The Behavioral Occasion
18: Social Behavior
19: Motivational Explanation
20: Energy and Attitudes in the Psychological Field
21: Motivation and the Superordinate Goal
22: What About Other Motivations ?
23: The Dynamic Field and Social Behavior
24: The Sociocultural Spaces
25: The Biophysical Spaces
26: Intentions and The Intentional Field
27: A Point of View
28: The Self As a Power
29: The Will As a Power
31: Alternative Perspectives on Freedom of the Will
32: A Humanism Between Materialism and Idealism
33: Atomism-Mechanism versus Organicism
34: Between Absolutism and Relationism
35: Humanity and Nature

Other Volumes

Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix
Vol. 3: Conflict In Perspective
Vol. 4: War, Power, Peace
Vol. 5: The Just Peace 

Other Related Work

The Conflict Helix: Principles and Practices...


Chapter 30

Determinism And Free Will*

By R.J. Rummel

The concept of freedom is the stone of stumbling for all empiricists, but at the same time the key to the loftiest practical principles for critical moralists, who perceive by its means that they must necessarily proceed by a rational method.
---- Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, Preface

The question about the will's freedom is a potentially wide-ranging one, possibly confusing in its very scope and complexity. Any route to a satisfactory answer must be followed with care, for our very concept of freedom can entrap us in undesirable or inconsistent answers. I will therefore begin with the meaning of freedom itself.


 What does it mean to say that we are free? One answer, proposed by Hobbes1 and Tolstoy2 and favored by the contemporary empiricist, is that we are free insofar as we may do as we wish without hindrance or constraint. If thus free the question about the will's freedom is meaningless, for freedom then refers to whether a person can do what he chooses, not to the choosing itself; it refers to the freedom of the action, not to the choice of act. A person's will could be enslaved by the passions, chained to Freudian complexes, bound to the body's needs, limited by heredity, and necessitated by environmental causes, and yet by this meaning of freedom, he could be totally free to do that which is determined.

The virtue of this meaning is in enabling both necessity and freedom to coexist; it permits a belief both in the most complete causal explanations of human behavior and in our freedom; it favors an ethical reliance on moral deterrence without necessitating moral responsibility. Freedom thus defined may resolve simply and satisfactorily the determinism-free will controversy for some, but at the cost of ignoring its essence, for freedom as simply measuring a lack of constraint or opposition is not freedom as usually intuited by those posing the question. It violates common sense to call free a person who is determined in his course like an object thrown through the air and following its trajectory without opposition.

Locke3 and Hume4 have extended Hobbes's "freedom to do without restriction" to "the power to do or not as one wills." This meaning makes freedom strictly a power, an ability, restricted to the person, and not a freedom of the will. The will may be fully determined by psychological or biological forces and conditions; yet an individual may be externally free to act out this determined course. For Locke, the will is as I have defined it, a power to choose. To then ask whether this power has a power (of freedom) is meaningless, as asking whether a circle is square. The question about freedom should be really about the empirical forces restraining or compelling behavior against one's will.

However, Locke means something more than just freedom from restriction or compulsion regarding one's preferences. We are also not free if our potential as well as actual choices are restricted, as in Locke's example of a man locked into a room in which he prefers to stay. The man desires to stay in the room, is able to do so, and is thus free by Hobbes's definition, but the man does not have the power to leave the room and is thus not free according to Locke.

Whether or not a person has the power to do as he wills remains a fundamentally empirical question. As far as he may know or we can observe, he has complete freedom (power) to do or not as he wills. Yet, his will, in its choices, may be determined subconsciously or physically.5 As does Hobbes's definition, Locke's freedom as power to do or forbear limits the determinism versus free will question to external freedom, to what might be the product of a complex causal network. This buys a neat solution by a definition that misses the issue of freedom as commonly intuited.

Another meaning of freedom, proposed by Spinoza6 and also with a contemporary following, is as self-determination. We are free insofar as we alone determine our behavior. We are not free when others dictate or hamper our decisions or for reasons of illness or incapacity we cannot determine our actions. This meaning carries the question from the external empirical realm to the inner psychological domain of will or subjective determination. Although this meaning moves closer to the essence of the determinism-free will issue, it still avoids the basic concerns of those posing the question. Yes, we may be self-determined and thus free, but our self-determination itself may be determined by unconscious psychological or physiological forces, or be under the absolute necessity of external causation. We may choose to rob and steal, but this choice itself may have been ultimately determined by extreme poverty, a broken home, and an ineffective educational system. It seems hardly fair to assign moral responsibility to a person whose self-determination is so determined, as sociologically oriented trial lawyers untiringly point out, yet the question of determinism versus freedom is in part a question as to whether we can be responsible. To say we are free because we are self-determined is to grant us the same freedom and necessity as cybernetic machinery.

Moving deeper into the psyche and closer to a more satisfactory meaning of freedom are the definitions of Aquinas7 and Descartes.8 Freedom is the power of the will to choose or not. That is, we are free insofar as we can judge among alternatives in the light of the Good (Aquinas) or incline toward one of many alternatives (Descartes). Here we have, in the power of choice, a meaning of freedom that approaches the core of the determinism-freedom controversy. Can we judge among alternatives, are we able to decide questions and among actions on their merits, or is the power of decision or choice an illusion in a fateful or determined world? Is the feeling of having made a choice but a learned framework we impose on a continuous stream of cause and effect?

Freedom as power to judge or decide is still not sufficient to get us to the central issue, however. We may be free in this sense; we may have the power to judge among alternatives, the power to will, but psychological or physical necessity may determine the alternatives we perceive or lie behind the choices made. Given two alternatives, the thirsty person chooses water, not oil; the hungry person, bread not tree bark; the poor person, the dry patch under the bridge, not the bench in the rain. Power of choice may be only the power to bring the person to do9 that which nature, society, and psychological forces incline a person toward.

Finally, there is Kant's10 meaning of freedom as spontaneous originality, as the ability to initiate a new causal series. For Kant, freedom is an independence of the will of motivations, character, and external causes. It is more than just the power to choose. Freedom is the power to fulfill our moral oughts (ought implies can), to will as reason directs, to be a first cause of events.

Freedom, thus defined, captures the essence of moral responsibility. If we are thus free to do our duty or avoid breaking moral imperatives, then we can be considered morally responsible for our acts. If, on the other hand, we are not free in Kant's sense, even though free as defined by Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Spinoza, Aquinas, and Descartes, moral responsibility lies not in us. This connection between Kant's freedom and morality is no accident since Kant derived this meaning of freedom from the existence of moral law.11 The practical imperatives we impose on ourselves give evidence for the existence of freedom. "I ought" is a pure conception outside nature's necessity which points to possible action (nature can force motives or desires on us, but not an "I ought"). Therefore, the ought must be possible, and we must have the ability to satisfy these imperatives aside from nature's demands. Thus, we must be free.

Moreover, if free in Kant's sense, then we have the power to create a new world, to redo the old, to change ourselves and correct our deficiencies. We then have a dignity and responsibility commensurate with humanistic ideals and hopes, and a possibility of sinning on such a magnitude as to create a waiting line for Dante's Purgatory.

But, can we really be independent of the causal forces, determinants, agents, powers, structural limits, and inhibitions of the physical and psychological worlds? This seems to be the root question of the determinism-freedom issue, and one that is also basic to the concern of this book, the The Dynamic Psychological Field, for ultimately, I want to ask whether we have the power to remove ourselves from the historical and sociopolitical forces that underlie war. Can we originate a new series of events in which war plays no necessary part? This is the question.

Within our field perspective, then, the most meaningful definition of freedom is as the power to spontaneously originate behavior and generate new causal series. This power, if it exists, is a facet of the will's power.12 The question as to the will's freedom is then one about the scope of the will as power. Can the will originate behavior, that is, bring the person to behave independently of external causes and internal psychological forces? If so, we are free; if not, we are under some kind of necessity.


The root of all liberty, therefore, is found in reason.
---- St. Thomas Aquinas, On Free Choice

The freedom of the will, that is, our ability to spontaneously originate thought and behavior, can be argued on a number of grounds: the existence of morality; the limits of scientific causality; the power of reason; the consciousness of freedom and effort; our common belief in freedom; the acausal, rule following nature of our action; the unfalsifiability of the we-are-determined thesis; our goal-oriented nature; the historical evidence for creativity and chance; and so on. Rather than review these grounds in detail,13 I will argue for one and then in the next section defend it against the various determinist arguments.

According to Schopenhauer, the answer to the free will question proposed by Kant is "one of the most beautiful and profound ideas brought forth by that great mind, or indeed by men at any time."14 While the progress of science and philosophy have weakened some of the premises in Kant's system (such as to the universal necessity of causation, synthetic nature of mathematics, Newtonian absoluteness of space and time), it still stands as a monument to human reason and faith in free will. Within the context of my field approach to reality, my perspective realism and pragmatism,14a Kant's solution is the most congenial and will be adopted with some revisions here. My procedure will be to give a step or premise in Kant's development, and then relate and adapt it to the conceptions of this book, the The Dynamic Psychological Field. In this manner his argument should be clear in itself and in relation to my efforts, and where I deviate from Kant should be explicit. First, however, a brief summary of his argument may be helpful.15

Are freedom and necessity antinomies, mutually incompatible, or can both coexist in some fashion? To this question Kant answers that we can be both free as a rational creature and of the world of necessity as phenomena. The empirical world of appearance (phenomena) is one of necessary space-time relations, of cause and effect according to natural laws. As phenomena we may be governed by this necessity; our actions may be the effects of our psychology, physiology, and environment. At this level of appearances, necessity contradicts freedom.

However, phenomena are appearances of things-in-themselves which we cannot know except through their empirical manifestations, and empirical causality may be only effects produced by things-in-themselves. Even though our intuition is limited to empirical phenomena, things-in-themselves are at least possible on grounds of understanding.

As we are a phenomena in the natural world and thus subject to cause and effect, we have no freedom. However, we cognize ourselves through apperception, that is, through understanding and reason. Reason is the crucial concept in Kant's approach, and it is here that he makes the critical point. Reason is distinct from empirical phenomena, because it deals with the possibility and not actuality of experience. It deals with ideas, with what ought to be. Now, nature knows only what is and what has been, while reason can cognize what is not or has not been.

Therefore, because reason is not of the phenomenal world, it is possible that reason can stand in causal relation to phenomenon as a thing-in-itself and can originate causal series. Whether reason actually does so we cannot know. But for "practical reasons" (that is, moral reasons), all rational beings must conceive of themselves as having reason which can do so, and thus freedom is a necessary hypothesis of reason.

Note four things about this argument. First, Kant is concerned only with (and feels he can prove nothing other than) whether an action can be both causally necessary and free. His answer is yes. Second, Kant argues that this is possible because we can have two different perspectives simultaneously on the same action. Third, Kant cannot prove that freedom exists, but only that it is possible. And fourth, given that freedom is possible, its actuality is a necessary hypothesis of reason and morality. Therefore, if we wish to conceive of ourselves as rational and moral, we must also assert our freedom. In the final analysis, however, an assertion of rationality and morality is an act of reason of which the best that can be said is that it does not contradict the understanding.

Let me now go through the major steps in Kant's argument.

(1) How can freedom and necessity coexist in the same action? By freedom Kant means the power to spontaneously initiate causal series or to be independent of natural (psychological, physiological, environmental) causes or laws. Necessity means being subject to the uniformity of cause and effect, of acting according to natural laws. All effects in nature (as phenomena) precede necessarily (a requirement of the understanding) from causes, and all causes are the effects of preceding causes. Thus, the ideas of freedom and necessity appear to be true opposites, and it seems an impossible task to bring them together in the same action.

So this would appear, especially with regard to the dynamic psychological field previously described. We lie within a field of forces and causal relations following psychophysical laws, the uniformity of which16 has been a basic presupposition of The Dynamic Psychological Field. It would appear then, that our perspectives and actions are necessary, that they are the effects or dependencies of our motives, sentiments, roles, temperaments, abilities, moods, states, expectations, and our situation--in short, that our behavior follows from our character or personality, our bodily conditions, and our natural environment. Even posing a superego, whose content springs from our culture, and a self-sentiment, seems not to relieve us of this necessity, for the superego's moral dictates and the self's future-oriented, superordinate striving for increasing self-actualization or esteem seems to place us under masters no less dictatorial than the natural laws governing the flight of an airplane.17

Although I may be emphasizing the necessity of our actions beyond contemporary tastes, our bondage to psychophysical. laws, causes, influences, relationships, agents, determinants, antecedents, and the like is a basic presupposition of much contemporary social science, psychology, and political thought. Need I mention behaviorism, Freudianism, or Marxism? At any rate, there is certainly a problem here. If our actions are as determined as many presuppose, then is freedom impossible? If, as I describe it, the self is part of a dynamic field, can we really create our future? Kant's question is clearly mine as well.

(2) Causality belongs to appearances. The world of experience, of empirical knowledge, is of appearances (phenomena). This is a plane of knowing which, at best, can give us only sensual representations of things-in-themselves. Now causality is of this empirical world, as a presupposition of and a rule for understanding phenomena, and uniformity (same cause, same effect) is the embodiment of these observed causal relationships in natural laws. All that happens as phenomena, all that we are sensually aware of, are but continuations of causal series in time.

Kant's notions of causality and natural laws were written at a time when the Newtonian system of nature had captured philosopher's minds, including Kant's. Newton's success in subsuming so much of physical nature under uniform causal laws provided the paradigm for understanding empirical necessity. The existence and status of causal laws is a controversial question in contemporary science, however. With the growth of a statistical view of nature, the development of positivism in some of its more extreme philosophical schools, the relativization of time and space by Einstein,18 and the discovery of quantum indeterminism, philosophers have come to seriously question causal interpretations Of nature and assumptions of any necessity.

In the light of such developments and consonant with the view of The Dynamic Psychological Field, Kant can be revised in the following way without seriously weakening his argument. Causality is of the world of appearances, but the world of appearances contains relationships other than causal ones. Cause and effect do help to order phenomena and constitute some laws. Sensual nature also includes, however, dependencies of a kind different from causality;19 the uniformity of nature under laws involves more varied kinds of relationships than Kant thought possible.

(3) Underlying all phenomena are things-in-themselves. Phenomena are but empirical representations of a reality unknowable to our understanding. This view is close to my position here. In my terms, empirical reality comprises the actualization of underlying potentialities, the transformation of these potentials of things-in-themselves into determinables, dispositions, powers, and manifestations. There are the planes of perceivable actuality and of indeterminate potentiality. In Kant's perspective and my own, then, empirical causality is confined to sensual actuality; our scientific laws and empirical knowledge apply to this plane and not to the underlying reality.

(4) Things-in-themselves may produce empirical causality as effects.20 Although things-in-themselves are empirically unknowable to our understanding, we can admit certain nonempirical ideas about them on intelligible grounds (grounds of reason). One such idea would be that phenomena and empirical causality are the effects of a nonempirical but intelligible causality of things-in-themselves. That is to say, the world underlying our senses produces the manifestations we observe.
Figure 30.1
There are thus conceived two planes of reality, as shown in Figure 30.1. The upper plane is the empirical, the observable world of the senses, of science. The dots in the figure represent empirical events, and the arrows are causal relations. The lower plane is the unobservable world of things-in-themselves. The arrows connecting the two planes illustrate the rationally assumed causal dependence of empirical causation and events on the underlying things-in-themselves.

With slight reinterpretation, this view clearly is represented by my perspective. Beneath empirical actuality is the realm of potentials. I then assume empirical causality and dependencies to be an actuality transformed out of these underlying and intersecting potentialities by our perspective. Thus, the felt pain upon putting a finger in a candle flame is an empirical causal actualization of underlying potentials and their hidden interrelationships within our body and the flame. We can only sensually know the finger, the flame, and their causal relationship to the felt pain, but we can rationally assume an intelligible realm of interrelated potentials that are beneath our sensations and transformed by our phenomenal perspective.

(5) We can admit to the possibility of the above on intelligible grounds. Although we cannot know the things-in-themselves, we can conceive of them and also of their relationship to phenomena. Even if a fiction, the above is at least possible.

(6) We are a phenomenon subject to natural causality. As we have sensual knowledge of ourselves, of our psychological processes, states, and character, we are part of the natural world and subject to its laws. Our actions are then subject to the same empirical causality, and because causal series are continuous in time (each event has a prior cause which is an effect of another prior cause), we have no freedom at the level of phenomena.

Kant's point is a strong one and is the major contention of determinists of one form or another. However we interpret the scope of natural causality, most determinists would argue that the natural world is governed by natural laws and the principle of uniformity, and that we are a part of this world and therefore must conform to these laws. Even if we ignore physical nature and focuses on humankind, it is hard to deny that our behavior is determined by our motivations, temperament, physiological processes, environmental conditions, and so on. Whether as a Skinnerian one emphasizes operant conditioning, as a Freudian points to unconscious complexes, or as a Marxist indicts material conditions, our actions are a resultant of causal processes. And freedom at this level is impossible.21

Similarly, my description of the dynamic field involved a variety of causal processes (such as the motivational lattice) and field dependencies (such as cognitive dissonance) that seem to, operate at the phenomenal level. When I add the personality's linkage to a situation (perception, meaning, and values) and to behavior (expectations and behavioral dispositions), and the inherent goal of self-esteem, we appear to have little freedom within the field to behave other than we do. Without this affirmation of our will, the totality of the dynamic field would leave us no more freedom than the causally more simple stimulus-response theories of the behaviorists.

(7) We cognize ourselves through apperception (understanding and reason). We are not only a sensual creature knowing ourselves as phenomena, but we can also conceive of ourselves through the intelligible faculties of understanding and reason. We not only sense and intuit on their basis, but we also reason.

(8) Reason is distinct from empirical phenomena. Reason can deal with practical (moral) possibilities, with "oughts"; it encompasses the possibility of experience. Nature, however, as the plane of phenomena, can be only what is. What can be, what might have been, or what should be are ideas of reason of which nature has no example. Nature knows only what is and what was; therefore, reason, which can envision what has not existed and does not exist, must be independent of empirical phenomena.

On this, Kant strikes a modern chord. It is easy to follow his reasoning, for we all have been educated in the fact-value, is-ought dichotomy first introduced by Hume; and even if we do not ultimately accept the dichotomy as posing antinomies, we can recognize the merits of the distinction. Descriptive statements about reality (phenomena) do not entail prescriptive statements. Or, in other words, what ought to be cannot be deduced from what is. This distinction is absolute on logical grounds. It does not follow, however, that morality (the system of oughts) need be arbitrary, idiosyncratic, or relativistic, or that some connection cannot be found on other than logical grounds. However, here it need only be noted that Kant's separation of empirical existents from the oughts of reason is possible.

Kant focuses the independence of reason on moral possibilities. We can, however, extend the scope of reason's independence to empirical possibilities and analytic ideas. Reason has the power not only to consider what empirically is, but also what cannot be (such as both A and not A). Reason, as in the higher realms of mathematics (which Kant thought synthetic), can work with pure conceptions independently of phenomena, can invent systems of ideas following an inner logic whose ultimate relationship to phenomena may be only in providing a framework. Reason is more than the domain of moral possibilities; it is also the realm of possible empirical worlds, of analytic constructions, of alternate conceptions, and of potential frameworks for the very conditions of experience. We can join Kant easily, therefore, in admitting at least the possibility of reason's independence of empirical phenomena.

(9) Therefore, it is also possible that reason stands in causal relation to phenomena. Now, all our actions in the natural world are phenomenally determined by our empirical character and external causes. In this world we have no freedom. Reason, which we may presuppose is independent of this empirical world, may still exhibit an empirical quality. But we could know this quality only from its empirical effects, for as a cause it is outside the realm of experience. However, that reason may have causal power with effects on our empirical actions is evident from our moral imperatives. We can at least think of the possibility of acting contrary to our character and external causation because of duty, of what is right or just. To play on an example that Kant uses, if a dictator demands of us on pain of torture and death that we lie against a friend so that this person may be destroyed, at least we may conceive of accepting torture and death in direct opposition to our strongest empirical drives. Moreover, we are actually conscious of situations in which our actions were apparently caused by reason. Because we cannot know reason directly and because our consciousness of such causation is part of the phenomenal realm, this constitutes no proof. The foregoing does, however, admit the possibility of reason's being the causal originator of phenomenal events, while itself being independent of empirical causes and events.

(10) Whether reason, as a thing-in-itself, does stand in causal relation to phenomena or why we cannot really know. Knowledge of things-in-themselves is foreclosed to us. We can however, establish what is possible in the light of natural and moral laws. We can admit that reason could possibly freely initiate empirical causal series although how or why, if it does, is not within our power to know.

We can accept two possibilities of reason. Negatively, reason may be free of phenomenal laws because it is not subject to what is and the constraints of time. It may be a pure intelligible thing-in-itself, a noumena underlying phenomena. Positively, reason may initiate empirical causal series. Our actions may be the effects of our underlying reason and thus subject to both moral and natural laws.

(1) However, all rational beings must conceive themselves as free for practical (moral) ends. For there to be morality which lies in reason's domain, we must have freedom. The existence of moral law assumes that regardless of empirical circumstances we can choose what is right. Morality presupposes empirical possibility; ought implies can. This presumption is manifest in our moral behavior, where we often hold persons morally culpable even though the strongest links exist between their behavior and their character, background, and so on. A person who had an undisciplined childhood, who is driven by sexual passion and is provoked by a sensual flirt, is still held responsible if he rapes her. We assert that he should not have, which is to say that he should have obeyed moral laws.

If we deny the efficacy of moral law and the reality of reason's power, and if we accept that we are empirically determined, then moral law is impossible, for to have effective moral law, all rational beings must think of themselves as free.

(12) Therefore, our freedom is a necessary hypothesis of reason. We cannot know how or why or whether in the reality of things-in-themselves we are indeed free, because freedom is a transcendental idea. But such freedom is possible and we must hypothesize our freedom in order to be subject to moral law. Freedom is necessary as an idea, for such a conception is the very condition of moral actions. If we believe we are not free but only a causal element in nature's network of empirical laws, we will not exercise moral choice. To strain toward the Good and Just is to believe one can be Good and Just. We must presume our freedom.

This ends Kant's argument. Moral law provides evidence for the possible existence of reason and, thus, freedom. And freedom must be hypothesized for there to be moral law. Kant handles the apparent circularity by presupposing two different realms: that of empirical phenomena in which we are completely subject to natural laws, and that of things-in-themselves. In the latter realm, he demonstrates that reason could originate empirical causal series, and then argues that rational beings must assume such to be actually true.

Note the form of Kant's argument. He establishes what is (the phenomenal world of natural laws) and our subjugation to it; he then establishes what it is reasonable to suppose is possible (of freedom as a transcendental idea); and finally he argues that for a certain end (for there to be moral laws) we must hypothesize that what is possible is so. That is, he takes an "as if'22 approach to reality, showing alternative perspectives and then arguing that our ends dictate accepting a particular perspective as though it were true, even though we can never know whether it really is.

The form of Kant's argument is adopted here, and although I have altered some of the content of his arguments, the same conclusion follows. Kant's approach is the best available to us. It fits very well my perspective realism, potentiality-actuality ontology, and dynamic and intentional field approach to understanding conflict and war.

To now state my view, we are subject in our behavior to the forces, influences, rules, and processes that comprise our biophysical and sociocultural environments and our dynamic psychological field. Our actions are a resultant (as shown in previous chapters) of our tetradic structure. At this level our behavior is fully determined as actual dispositions, powers, and manifestations; we have no freedom. At this level, we are subject to a determinism that fits in well with the mood and viewpoint of modern social science.

There is another level, however, that of potentialities which underlie the world of phenomena, of dispositions, powers, and manifestations. This world we know only through its actualizations in physical nature and in our feelings, motivations, sentiments, goals, temperament, expectations, and perceptions. We can accept this view as at least a possible perspective on nature consistent with scientific knowledge and understanding.

Moreover, we can conceive of reason as a possible power belonging to the world of potentialites. It is intelligibly possible for reason to be a cause independent of the empirically determinable and determinate world. The grounds for this possibility lie in reason's potential powers to conceive analytic ideas (such as mathematical systems) and moral oughts having no actual empirical existence but which are impossibilities or themselves mere potentials. While the causality and interdependencies of actuality are constrained within an Einsteinian space-time framework, the ideas of reason are not. They are limited in neither time nor space, but only by the rules reason sets itself. At a minimum, we can accept the possibility that reason is potentiality following its own logical causation, from empirically independent premises to logical deductions having no counterpart in empirical actuality. At least mathematics and morality seem to provide sufficient evidence for this possibility.

We can also accept the possibility of our reason as a potential power bringing us to act independently of empirical actualities. That is, wholly within itself reason is free to actualize behavior.

How is it possible that an action can be both determined and free? Because we can view the same action through alternative perspectives. From the perspective of actual appearances, which can range from determinable dispositions to determinate manifestations, an act is a dependent variable in a field of empirical interconnections, dependencies, and causal powers. From another perspective, the same action may be the effect of free reason. Both perspectives can be true, and which standpoint we adopt at any moment depends on our intentions. If we are, as scientists, trying to understand the empirical field conditions of behavior, then we deal with the level of actualities. If as moral beings we are concerned about what kind of future we ought to have and in personally creating that future, then we can operate at the underlying level of our reason.23

Like Kant, we can accept the how and why of our freedom as unknowable. Moreover, we can argue that whether we indeed do have freedom is unprovable. But given its possibility, we can also assert that freedom is presupposed in our efforts to strive for our betterment.

To try to improve ourselves, we must presume freedom. To create a just world, we must affirm freedom. To morally legislate, we must hypothesize freedom. As rational beings we should do no other. 


* Scanned from Chapter 30 in R.J. Rummel, The Dynamic Psychological Field, 1975. For full reference to the book and the list of its contents in hypertext, click book. Typographical errors have been corrected, clarifications added, and style updated.

1. Leviathan, I, chap. 5.

2. War and Peace, Second Epilogue, chap. 10.

3. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, 11, chap. 21.

4>. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 1, sec. 8.

5. Even though the will has the power to choose, the application of this power may be determined, as a cause (power) can be the effect of another cause.

6. Ethics, 1, Definitions.

7. The Summa Theologica, First Part, Q. 59, Art. 3.

8. Meditations, Med. 4.

9. Power of choice may "bring the person to do" something which for some external reason cannot be done, as with our decision to see a play that we then find sold out. In discussing freedom we must separate choosing from doing, which involves different kinds of freedoms.

10. The Critique of Pure Reason, 11, chap. 2, sec. 2.

11. Ibid., III, chap. 2, sec. 9.

12. On this I depart from Kant, who considers freedom as a power separate from the will, which is the power of acting or not as we like. The will is therefore a faculty of desire for Kant, and the question of freedom is irrelevant. Only an act of choice can be free. See his General Introduction to the Metaphysics of Morals, vol. 1.

13. For a consideration of these various positions, among others, see Berofsky (ed.), Free Will and Determinism (New York: Harper, 1966); D. J. O'Connor, Free Will (New York: Doubleday, 1971), especially the bibliography pp. 125 ff. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy (New York: Collier and Macmillan, 1967) is also helpful. A useful outline of the classical philosophical scope of the question of freedom is given in The Great Ideas: A Syntopicon of Great Books of the Western World, vol. I-II (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952).

14. Arthur Schopenhauer, Essay on the Freedom of the Will, trans. Konstantin Kolenda (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1960; first published in 1841).

14a To be clear, what I mean by "pragmatism" here is the trial-and-error, incrementalism discussed in Chapter 9 of Vol. 5, The Just Peace.

15. His position is presented in Kant, The Critique of Pure Reason, op. cit., 2, chap. 2, sec. 9, 3. See also sec. 2: "Transcendental Doctrine of Method," chap. 2, sec. 2. Summary, clarifications, and expansions of his position are also given in The Metaphysic of Morals, sec. 2, 3; Critique of Practical Reason, b. 1, chaps. 1, 3; General Introduction to the Metaphysic of Morals, I; The Critique of Judgment, No. 76.

16. For example, the relationships described by Equation 18.2 of Chapter 18 are assumed to be empirically uniform in the manner shown by the Equation.

17. At this point it may be protested in Humian fashion that necessity cannot be asserted of any empirical phenomena, and that we can only define cause and effect as concomitance, not connection. Causal laws therefore can only describe nature, including our behavior. I think this view is mistaken, for reasons I will mention when I explicitly consider this argument below.

18. The absoluteness of time in the phenomenal world was a necessary assumption of Kant's causality, because a causal series must operate along a time dimension, where each effect at a specific time is the product of a cause at an antecedent time.

19. As discussed, for example, in Mario Bunge, Causality (New York: World Publishing Co., 1963).

20. It is a question whether Kant means that only phenomena can be effects of underlying things-in-themselves, with empirical causality among such effects presupposed by the understanding, or whether empirical causal relations themselves can also be effects of things-in-themselves. I assume Kant means the latter, as judged from the following quote (italics added): "It is not rather possible that, although every effect in the phenomenal world must be connected with an empirical cause, according to the universal law of nature, this empirical causality may be itself the effect of a non-empirical and intelligible causality--its connection with natural causes remaining nevertheless intact?" (The Critique of Pure Reason, op. cit., in the subsection on "Exposition of the Cosmological Idea of Freedom in Harmony with the Universal Law of Natural Necessity," b. 2, chap. 2, see. 9, 3, par. 6.) A different English translation from German by F. Max Midler (New York: Doubleday, Anchor Books edition, 1966) of this passage makes the case for my interpretation even stronger.

21. Note that I defined freedom as causal independence.

22. Hans Vaihinger, The Philosophy of "As If "; A System of the Theoretical, Practical and Religious Fictions of Mankind (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1925).

23. Those who scratch their head over the "unscientific" nature of all this might consider the principle of complimentarity in quantum physics. Depending on our purpose, we can either define the space-time aspects of phenomena or their momentum-energy, but not both. There are thus two complementary perspectives on the same quantum events, and it is useless to ask which is true. Another example of alternative perspectives being applied to the same phenomena is that of light. It is viewed as either a stream of photons or as a wave, depending on which perspective is more scientifically useful at the moment.

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