"…freedom of choice [Willkürfreiheit] enables one to adopt rules of prudence or skill depending on one's inclinations and subjectively selected ends, whereas 'free will' [freie Wille] obeys universally valid laws it has imposed on itself from a moral point of view. Freedom of choice precedes free will, but the former remains subordinate to the latter when it comes to the moral evaluation of ends. Kant thus confines himself to technical-practical and moral-practical reasons. Communicative action draws on a broader spectrum of reasons: epistemic reasons for the truth of statements, ethical orientations for the authenticity of life choices, indicators for the sincerity of confessions, and depending on the issue, aesthetic experiences, narrative explanations, cultural standards of value, legal claims, conventions, and so forth. Accountability is not measured simply by the standards of morality and purposive rationality—indeed, it involves more than just practical reason. Accountability consists, rather in an agent’s general ability to orient her action by validity claims.
According to Kant, freedom is the only one among the practical ideas of reason where possible realization we can conceive [einsehen] a priori. Hence this idea acquires legislative force for every rational being. It receives concrete expression in the ideal of a 'kingdom of ends' in which all rational beings join together under common laws so that they never treat one another merely as means but as ends in themselves. Every member of this kingdom 'gives universal saws in it but is also himself subject to these laws.' We have an a priori understanding of this model of self-legislation, which signifies two things: on the one hand, it has the categorical meaning of an obligation (namely of realizing the kingdom of ends by one’s own actions and omissions); on the other hand, it has the transcendental meaning of a certainty (that this kingdom can be advanced by our moral actions and omissions). We can know a priori that it is possible to actualize this practical idea.
Considered under the first aspect, comparing the idea of freedom with the supposition of rationality in communicative action is not very fruitful. Rationality is not an obligation. Even with regard to moral or legal behavior, the supposition of rationality does not mean that the other feels obligated to obey norms; knowledge of what it means to act autonomously is merely imputed to her. The second aspect is more promising: the idea of freedom provides the certainty that autonomous action (and the realization of the kingdom of ends) is possible—and not merely counterfactually demanded of us. According to Kant, rational beings think of themselves as agents who act on the basis of good reasons. With regard to moral action, they have an a priori knowledge of the possibility of actualizing the idea of freedom. In communicative action we also tacitly begin by assuming that all participants are accountable agents. It is simply part of the self-understanding of subjects acting communicatively that they take rationally motivated positions on claims to validity; agents mutually presuppose that they do indeed act on the basis of rationally warrantable reasons" (Habermas 2009:38-39).
2009 Between Naturalism and Religion. Ciaran Cronin, trans. Cambridge, Polity Press.
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