Why is Freedom of Will called a Postulate of Moral Judgement?

Ethics is impossible with assuming the freedom of will. All moral Judgements – what ought you to do? This is right, this is wrong – can be meaningful only when it is assumed that man is free in his volitions.

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According to Kant, the freedom of volition is a major postulate of ethics and it need not be proved. It is a priori truth. Thou ought therefore thou can’, saying this Kant showed that freedom lay concealed in the ought.

Freedom is the basis of morality. It is only when we are free to do or not to do some work that anything can be said about whether we ought to do it or not.


Meaning of Freedom:

Freedom means responsibility, meaning that individual is personally responsible for his good and bad actions. If a person is not free in his actions we cannot hold him responsible for his acts.

Man is responsible for his character, behaviour, voluntary action and volitions. If this is not, so, then moral judgements are meaningless. We do not pronounce moral Judgements upon the acts of birds and animals and natural phenomena because their acts lack freedom. Man is the solitary moral being because unlike the vegetable and animal kingdom, he is not controlled completely by the external circumstances.

The Darwinian law, survival of the fittest, does apply to human beings. Conditions do not make man, man also shapes the circumstances. It is here that he differs from stones and animals


But what is this freedom? Freedom means that a person may do as he wishes. Man has the right to do good or bad, or just what comes to his mind. He is not hindered by the relations of society or the individual. Even God has no all theority over his in this connection. In this way, the meaning generally attributed to freedom is one implying the absence of obstacles. According to this meaning freedom is indeterminsm.

Freedom is self determinism:

But taking freedom to mean this is fallacious. According to Rashdall, ‘Not only is determinism-not inconsistent with responsibility, but it may even be maintained with much force that it is Indeterminism which really under mines responsibility.’

A free act is according to the indeterminist, an absolutely new beginning, not springing from or having any necessary connection with the past. The question may be raised, “What is the meaning of holding responsibility for some past act of mind, if that act did not really proceed from or reveal the true nature of the self which I still am?” Thus true freedom is self government and self control.


Freedom means self-determinism or self-control. It does not mean in determinism. Every wish of the individual is selected from a number of alternatives by his self. It is only in this understanding that moral responsibility cam have any meaning.

My voluntary actions express my nature. They spring from myself, thus I am responsible for them. If in doing them, I depend upon somebody else then the responsibility is not of mine. In the words of Welton We are responsible for our acts in exact proportion as they express our personalities. In so far as they do not express what we are, we are not responsible for them.

The arguments presented in support of determinism have been divided into the following parts :

(i) Inductive Arguments:

The first argument depends upon cause-effect relation. Science searches for cause and effect in natural phenomena.

Continuously reasons for new facts are being looked for. If this progress is maintained, we will soon know the causes of many perplexing facts. Similarly, some day science will discover the causes underlying the voluntary actions of the humans. It will show [fiat the so called voluntary actions are controlled.

(ii) Deductive Arguments:

According to scientists, the law 0f cause and effect is all comprehending and unchanging. All science is founded on this faith. From this universal law, it becomes clear that voluntary actions must also have causes.

The law of cause and effect is creditable. No object can be without a cause and neither can it be caused by itself. Thus every physical and mental activity has a cause which exists before it. Obviously, determinism is true,

(iii) Epistemological Argument:

According to Kant the object which is known is controlled by the laws of knowledge. The law of knowledge is, in effect, that knowledge of the relations between one object and other objects is necessary for knowledge of the object.

The major relation among these is the relation of cause and effect. Without knowledge of cause we cannot know an object. Thus, the object which we know has causes and we also have some knowledge of them. Therefore, man’s voluntary action must have cause. Thus man is controlled.

(iv) Psychological Argument:

The causes of volitions are motives and desires. In a conflict the cause of volition is the strongest motive or desire and this depends upon external conditions as well as on mental structure. Thus, heredity and external circumstances control human volition. In this way, the so called voluntary actions are controlled.

Self Control:

But this discussion cannot be taken to mean that man is completely uncontrolled and there is no saying what he may do at any moment. As a matter of fact, both freedoms are desire and controls are essential for morality. There is no doubt, that motives and desires determining volition but these motives and desires, too are motives and desires of someself. When the question of choice from among the mutually contradicting desires arises, it is left to the self to make it.

The self selected that desire or motive which coincides with its nature. In this way, there is self control in volition and consequently the self is free to will in the absence of external control.

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