torstai 25. helmikuuta 2016

Joachim Georg Darjes: The existence of freely existing necessary human actions (1739)

We have already seen one book of Darjes, namely, an interesting text book on logic, which deviated slightly from the normal Wolffian manner of presentation. De necessaria actionum hominis liberarum existentium existentia is just a short text of under ten pages and its topic seems rather worn out in the field of German philosophy: how to reconcile the principle of sufficient reason with the apparent freedom of human action. Yet, although Darjes' solution to this question is far from original, it at least is a refreshingly clear and straightforward account of one position in this dilemma.

Darjes begins, like a good Wolffian, by accepting the principle of sufficient reason. We have many times seen how difficult it is to read this principle, and in many cases, to decide what it actually means. Darjes has a very strict understanding of the principle – if a sufficient reason exists, then that which it is reason of must also exist. In effect, sufficient reason becomes with Darjes almost the same thing as determining cause.

How does such a determinism then combine with free actions? Well, it all comes down to how freedom is defined. For Darjes, freedom of human actions lies in the fact that it is the human itself, who gets to decide what she will do from several equally possible actions. Although such free actions cannot be based on anything outside humans, they can be based on something inside humans. This basis of action must be, Darjes concludes, a representation of maximal good in human mind.

Combining determinism and freedom becomes then quite easy. Human being has a representation of highest good and her actions are determined only through that representation – hence, they are free actions. Then again, this representation determines necessarily what the action following it will be, and so the determinism is retained.

One might think that Darjes's attempt to break the Gordian knot is as effective and as against the rules of the game as the fabled original was. Indeed, it all seems to depend on Darjes merely assuming what freedom of actions means. Yet, Darjes does have other arguments for his position. Notably, he says that his definitions are believable, because they agree with some of our important intuitions. We do think it is possible to know from the values and beliefs of a person how she will act in certain situations – the whole popular psychology is based on this assumption. Unless our representations truly determined our actions, none of this would be true.

As interesting as Darjes's defense of his deterministic position is, the shortness of the text makes it a bit undeveloped. Next time, we shall see what Wolff had to say about free actions in his writings on natural law.

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