Critical Notices/Études critiques

Henry Allison on Kant's Theory of Freedom*

Marcia Barona1

a1 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Henry Allison's very challenging and very rewarding book provides an analysis and defence of Kant's theory of freedom in both its theoretical and practical dimensions. His defence is qualified, acknowledging some “details” which are not defensible and some inconsistencies; however, “given a sympathetic understanding of transcendental idealism, a good case can be made for Kant's incompatibilistic conception of freedom” (p. 3). In addition to arguing that the notion of transcendental freedom is intelligible, Allison seeks to show that it is essential to Kant's theory, taking issue with those who would replace it with a more palatable, compatibilist conception. He thus has two targets: those who doubt the profundity and coherence of Kant's theory of freedom, and those who seek to defend Kant by trying to “gain a hearing for his views by depicting him as anticipating contemporary forms of compatibilism” (p. 249).


* Henry Allison, Kant's Theory of Freedom (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), xii + 304 pp., $15.95 paper. Page references are to this work.