Monday, November 24, 2008

On freedom and determination (2)

In my last blog, I distinguished two types of freedom: freedom as opposed to being limited and freedom as opposed to being determined. I want to call them external freedom and fundamental freedom. But is this all that we can say about it on the conceptual level? If we are fundamentally determined, I would say that we are externally determined as well (but is that really so?). But if we are fundamentally free, is our freedom then only limited by our external restrictions? From the point of view of action theory, this seems very unlikely. Action theory asks for the factors that makes that we act the way we do: for what reasons we make our choices or quasi-choices (I speak of quasi-choices, because I want to keep it open here, whether our choices are really our choices or whether we are fundamentally determined). Following the Finnish philosopher Georg Henrik von Wright, we can call these factors external, and then we are thinking of institutionalised practices, an order to do something (in an army, by a policeman), external circumstances that happen to take place (rain, a falling tree, and so on), and the like. But there are also factors that we can call internal, and then we can think of our motives, desires and intentions to do something. Actually, these internal factors are often not the consequences of our independent deliberations, but are in many cases steered by our psychological constitution, education, casual experiences and other inner determinants, which usually limit our free choice of them in some degree. In other words, our being free or being restricted is not only outside us (external freedom) but also within us (internal freedom). However, as von Wright remarked with right, the external and internal factors need not always to be separable in the individual case. It is quite well possible that some external factors have become internalised and that they influence our internal degree of freedom, just as our individual desires and intentions do.

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