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The Relativity of Free Will


I was led to philosophy by politics. There can be no foundation for political action except in ethics; and there can be no foundation for ethics except in some form of metaphysics, whether religious or other. And one cannot travel very far along the philosophic road— particularly if one has in mind the need of arriving at some definite destination—without finding as an obstacle the perennial problem of Free Will. It is an obstacle which has somehow to be crossed. It cannot be evaded or ignored. The man who is dealing with public affairs—with the principles of Criminal Law, for example, or with the factors that make for peace or war, and indeed with any of the major questions that confront our society—if he tries to think things out, is faced constantly by the problem of individual human responsibility; just as the man of religion is faced by it constantly.

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1 To those who are familiar with Professor Vaihinger’s pregnant work, The Philosophy of ‘As If,’ it will be clear that this conclusion is similar to that suggested by him. (See especially pp. 43–5 of the English translation and the quotations from Kant's Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten on p. 257.)

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  • ISSN: 0031-8191
  • EISSN: 1469-817X
  • URL: /core/journals/philosophy
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