Thursday, April 07, 2005

the hermeneutic weakness of Kantian "free will"

Dear Jeff,

Thanks for the helpful breakdown of terminology, for clarity about the will depends on a razor-attention to detail, always realizing the larger effect of each each step taken along the way.

That's why I don't like attempts to apply specifically God's general providence. Luther's blasts against theologies of glory bellow louder and louder with every discussion about "my life and God's providence." I think that Luther's proscription to shut providence up into the barn of soteriology is altogether wise.

Nevertheless, since we are taking time to investigate terminology, isn't it true that we are not only talking about anthropology but also epistemology? Isn't it true that discussions about the will, about whether there is a point of absolute, unhindered willing, a point which is required by Arminianism (unless I am mistaken), are impacted in large degree by our opinion on hermeneutics?

Further, isn't the possibility of free will in a Kantian sense largely dependent upon the ability to know one's possibilities? After all, if my perception of reality is limited in any way, then how can I be said to sit at a neutral point of decision making? Indeed, the more interpretive knowledge becomes, the less I can say that any choice I make is an expression of true, Kantian freedom. For, as Kant writes: "Have courage to use your own understanding!" (emphasis mine).

If you follow out Kant's argument, (Enlightenment) reason becomes the basis of freedom, where reason is the public use of one's own discretion which must (if it is to be free) operate without coercion; "Nothing [no outside, private duty] can weigh on his conscience." Freedom can't abide the smallest coercive pressure or influence.

Since the Enlightenment, this epistemologically neutral point, this reason, is crumbling into a highly nuanced understanding of human epistemology as a completely finite (re: intepretive) function. Epistemology is hermeneutics. And with it, in my opinion, goes any notion of absolute, autonomous, uncoerced, and uhindered willing.

Thom