What is moral freedom

So-called moral freedom is a core problem in Arthur Schopenhauer's philosophy. It is about the question of whether it is possible for people to change their character and make free moral decisions. Closely related to this is the question of moral responsibility. Here comes what Schopenhauer based on Kant intelligible character called, special importance to. Heinrich Hasse has these connections in his book, which is well worth reading Schopenhauer explains in more detail from which the following text excerpt (without the notes and sources there) was taken:

“Moral freedom is about whether that Want self free be. If I enjoy physical freedom, I can to do what I want, but the question about so-called moral freedom is: You can too want what you want d. H. more accurate: Are you free, under the present circumstances, to want differently than your actual will actually goes? [...]

The solution to the problem of moral freedom in general is of the greatest importance for philosophical ethics and legal doctrine, since it not only affects the question of moral responsibility most strongly, but also the theory of punishment is keenly interested in it. In contrast to physical freedom, however, moral freedom cannot be verified by experience, since the factual situation in question is beyond self-control. A serious thought-provoking investigation is required to decide whether there is a freedom of our will in the sense of the absence of necessity. The masterful execution in the third section of the Prize writing about the freedom of will it is they who, in brilliant thought development, offer the main discussion of this question. [...]

The real originator of the action is the will which reacts to the motives, for which the motives are only occasional causes to develop its power. The same motives have different effects on different people. The peculiarity of the will's reaction to a motive thus depends on the individually determined nature of the will. We call this the human character. It is the second component of every volitional act. It depends on its nature whether a certain motive evokes a certain action. Since he's not us a priori is conscious, but only known through experience, we call it empirical character. It is innate and individual. With him the ground is found on which the necessity of all acts of will is based.

Just as every effect in inanimate nature is a necessary product of two factors, namely, the general ones expressed here Force of nature and the individual causing this utterance here Root cause, every act of a person is precisely the necessary product of his character and what has occurred Motif. If these two are given, it inevitably occurs. In order for another to arise, either a different motif or a different character would have to be set. With a given character and motive, however, there is no doubt that the act is inevitable. [...]

Within the empirical will there is no room for moral freedom, since with all other phenomena the will phenomena are also subject to the law of causality without exception. Nevertheless, we are aware of the arbitrariness and originality of our actions, which compels us to use them as our Work and recognize us as the real ones Perpetrators of our deeds consider. We feel morally for them responsibleand in the feeling of this responsibility a consciousness of freedom is immediately heralded. This suggests that character is just as necessary a factor in any action as the motive, that it deserves more special treatment, and that the recognition of empirical determinism does not end the problem of freedom of will.

The appearance of the will is, as such, absolutely necessary; H. subject to the principle of reason in the form of the law of causality (motivation). But on the other hand, the will is not itself an appearance. As a thing in itself and as the inner content of all appearance, it cannot be subject to the form of being an object. Hence it cannot be determined as a consequence by a reason, knows no necessity, is groundless will, i. H. he is freeyes he may be called omnipotent.

This creates the possibility of solving the problem of the seemingly irreconcilable opposition between necessity and freedom, i. H. the possibility of the union of both. The way to this is shown through Kant, whose doctrine of the coexistence of freedom with the necessity Schopenhauer as the greatest of all the accomplishments of human profundity explained. He describes them and the transcendental aesthetics as the two large diamonds in the crown of Kantian glory. Accordingly, Schopenhauer's thoughts closely follow Kant's teaching, but here too give it a decidedly metaphysical turn.

The appearance, the object, is necessarily and invariably determined in the concatenation of reasons and consequences, which no interruption can have. But the existence in general of this object and the nature of its existence, i. that is, the idea that reveals itself in him, or in other words, his character is the immediate appearance of the will. In accordance with the freedom of this will, it could not exist at all, or it could originally and essentially be something completely different; but where then the whole chain, of which it is a link, but which is itself a manifestation of the same will, would be quite another: but once there and present, it has entered the series of reasons and consequences, always necessarily determined in it and can therefore neither become another, i. H. to change or to step out of line, d. H. disappear.

The will of man in itself is that intelligible characterwhich coincides with the idea of ​​the same. It is a unified, non-temporal, indivisible and unchangeable act of will, the manifestation of which is unfolded and drawn apart in time, space and all forms of the principle of reason empirical character is. From this it follows that the intelligible character, as an act of will without any ground or time, possesses that genuine moral freedom which the empirical lacks. The intelligible freedom is the freedom of our character per se.

The empirical character must provide a faithful image of the intelligible and cannot turn out differently from what its nature demands. It depicts the timeless essence of man in the full abundance of desires and actions of his temporal-empirical life course. Thus, real moral freedom is not to be sought in nature, but only outside of it. It is something impossible within the physical-temporal world.

Accordingly, our individual actions and deeds are by no means free. But the individual character of each one is to be seen as a whole as his free act. Not in operari [Act] but im eat [Being] is freedom.

But there the empirical character nothing other than the determined appearance of the of an intelligible character is, then the individual can only act in accordance with the unchangeable nature of the latter, which is why the given individual is absolutely only in any given individual case an act is possible. Operari sequitur esse [What you do follows from what you are].

The consciousness of responsibility and the consciousness of freedom that accompanies it acquire a deeper meaning. For as strict as the necessity with which, given a given character, the acts are evoked by the motives, it will never occur to anyone, not even those who are completely convinced of the necessity with which our actions occur come, "to apologize for an offense caused by this necessity and to shift the guilt from oneself onto the motives, since the act was inevitable when they occurred. For he sees very well that this is a necessity subjective Condition, and that here objective, i.e. H. under the existing circumstances, i.e. under the influence of the motives that determined him, a completely different act, yes, the one that was precisely the opposite of his, was and could have happened, if only He had been someone else: that alone was the reason. HimBecause he is this one and no other, because he has such and such a character, no other action was of course possible; but in itself, that is, objective, it was possible. The responsibilityof which he is conscious, therefore only initially and ostensibly hits the deed, but fundamentally his character: For this he feels responsible.

Man is his own work and he is in front of knowledge. This is only secondary to illuminating it. Man does not want what he knows, but knows what he wants. In his essence he possesses in himself Aseity, d. H. is by yourself. If it were the work of someone else, e.g. B. of a god and created by him, his moral defects and offenses would inevitably be a burden to him. Human responsibility for one's own actions would be lost. This is evident from the sentence: operari sequitur esse[What one does follows from what one is] and its corollary: ergo unde esse, inde operari [Conclusion: consequently, from where does being come from, hence also action]. What would one say of the watchmaker who was angry with his watch because it was running incorrectly? Without Aseítät there is no moral freedom, no responsibility. Being created and being free of will are irreconcilable things.

The results obtained do not give up moral freedom, but rather move it out of the area of ​​individual actions, where it is demonstrably not to be found, up into a higher region that is less easily accessible to our knowledge. In this sense, Schopenhauer is committed to the famous saying of the painting industry: La liberté est un mystère [Freedom is a mystery].”
Heinrich Hasse, Schopenhauer , Munich 1926, pp. 306-313.

Afterword by the editors

Arthur Schopenhauer has on the above topic that § 10 [Kant's doctrine of the intelligible and empirical character - the theory of freedom] in its Price writing on the basis of morality a very insightful one annotation added. There he quoted a text by the ancient Greek writer Stobaeus on the philosophy of Plato. Here Schopenhauer pointed to the agreement with the Metempsychosenlehre of Brahmanism, i.e. the doctrine of wandering souls, which is also found in the highly valued by him Upanishads is included. In the translation this text reads:

For everything that Plato wants to say seems to be the following: Before they go into the bodies and different forms of life, the souls have the freedom to choose one or the other form of life, which they then through the corresponding life and the body appropriate to the soul carry out (for he says it is up to her to choose the life of a lion or that of a man). But that freedom of will is abolished as soon as the soul has attained any such form of life. Because after the souls have entered the body and have become living beings from free souls, they only have that freedom that is peculiar to the nature of the living being in question [...]. The kind of freedom, however, depends on the particular constitution in that it [...] is guided according to the disposition arising from the particular constitution.(1)

While Arthur Schopenhauer, on the one hand, relied on statements from ancient Greek and ancient Indian philosophy to support his doctrine of the intelligible character, on the other hand he emphasized the close connection with Kant's philosophy by pointing out, that the root of my philosophy already lies in the Kantian one, especially in the doctrine of the empirical and intelligible character.(2)

How problematic this teaching is can be seen from Schopenhauer's letter of September 21, 1844 to his friend Johann August Becker: That the intelligible character of a person is an act of will outside of time I have not presented as an objective truth, or as an adequate concept of the relationship between thing-in-itself and appearance; rather, merely as a picture and likeness, as a figurative expression of a thing, in that I said that in order to make the thing comprehensible, one could think of it that way.(3)

In the same letter, Schopenhauer quoted the above-mentioned saying by Malebranche, according to which freedom is a Mystery be. If so, the limits of Schopenhauer's philosophy have been reached here. It begins Illuminism - that area, which, as Schopenhauer explained, “indicated as something existing”, but “took care” not to “step into it”. (4)

(1) Arthur Schopenhauer, Zurich edition, works in ten volumes, volume VI,
      The two basic problems of ethics, Zurich 1977, p. 218 ff.
(2) Arthur Schopenhauer, op. a. O., Volume VII, Parerga and Paralipomena I, p. 151.
(3) Arthur Schopenhauer, Collected Letters. Edited by Arthur Hübscher,
2nd edition, Bonn 1987, p. 217.
(4) Arthur Schopenhauer, op. a. O., Volume IX, Parerga and Paralipomena II, p. 17.
Schopenhauer recommended to those who would like to exceed these limits:
"Who meanwhile to the [...] knowledge, up to which alone philosophy
can guide him, [...] who wants to add something, he'll find it most beautiful
and abundant in the Oupnekhat [Upanishads]" (Arthur Schopenhauer ,
a. a. O., Volume IV, The world as will and idea II, p. 716).

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