Is Freedom a Condition of Responsibility? An Analysis Based on Roman Ingarden’s Notion of Freedom

  • Tadeusz Czarnik
Part of the Analecta Husserliana book series (ANHU, volume 76)


Roman Ingarden claims that every event and process has its cause. This does not mean any radical determinism.1 For him, there are relatively isolated systems in the world. The relatively isolated system is a system which is isolated temporarily and only in some respect and to a certain degree, but which is not isolated in other respects.2 The system can be isolated by an isolator or by neutralization. The isolator is any material which takes over any influence.3 Neutralization is the nullification of the efficacy of any process or event vis-à-vis others; for instance, the nonreactivity between chemical compounds which need a catalyst. According to Ingarden, the world is a big system made up of many relatively isolated lower level systems. The relatively isolated system is no oasis of freedom. Every event in an isolated system has its cause,4 but not every influence is its cause. This means that Ingarden is a moderate determinist.


Isolate System Deliberate Decision External Motive Phenomenal World Transcendental Idealism 
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  1. 1.
    I should like, however, to underscore the dissimilarity of the conception of the `freedom’ (i.e., of the ownness of the decisions and deeds) of a human being developed here from that of the customary treatment of the problem of freedom and its possibility. For the most part, one subscribes either to the view which completely denies man’s freedom, since it is excluded by a radically conceived determinism of the real world, or, at the opposite extreme, to the view that a human being is endowed with total, unconditioned feedom. Cases which lie, so to speak, in between these conceptions are not considered at all; nor is what is primarily at issue here taken into consideration, namely, that decisions and deeds are one’s own.“ Roman Ingarden, Man and Value, trans. A. Szylewicz (Munich, Vienna: Philosophia Verlag, 1983), pp. 61–62 and ”To begin with, if the real world were to form the kind of causal system which emerges from the conception of Laplace, and in the last analysis from all of modern natural science and philosophy, then, as has been frequently ascertained, there would be no free decision of the will possible in this world, nor any free human (and animal) action. For this conception includes the assertion that all events in the real world (thus, also volitional decisions) together form one single system of causal relations, in which, as effects, they are uniquely and necessarily determined by their causes. I call this conception `radical determinism.’ If one admits that every decision of the will comprises an event in the world, then it is impossible to consider it as not having a cause. Therefore a positive solution of the problem of freedom can be expected only when `freedom’ is not identified with having no cause, but rather when it is conceived as the agent’s `independence’ from external factors, and when it is at the same time demonstrated that radical determinism is untenable.“ (Ibidem,p. 101.)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Closed systems were in fact regarded as an ideal limiting case, which could never be fully realized in actuality except, perhaps, in the case of the whole real, material world itself. `Open’ systems in contrast were frequently treated as if they were `open’ from all sides,i.e. nowhere `shielded,’ `delimited,’ `isolated,’ so that they would then have to decompose into mere events, which would extend in all directions and vanish into the infinite manifold of the world-process. These `open’ systems were therefore once again something like a merely conceptually formed ideal. If however an `open’ system is to be able to sustain itself effectively within the real world for a time, as something identically the same, then it should not be universally open but must, at least in some respects, be bounded off from the surrounding world and partially isolated or, better, shielded from it.“ (Ibidem,p. 86.)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    On the one hand it protects the system from certain strictly defined kinds of influence to be found outside the system, and always in response only to a certain degree of intensity of influences and to a determinate kind of impress exerted by them; on the other hand, however, it permits certain special kinds of outside influences to encroach into the interior of the system, and it allows certain processes taking place in its interior to pass outside….“ (Ibidem,p. 90.)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    For freedom of action or, as we also ordinarily say due to a shift in the problem context, the decision of a `free will,’ is interpreted in the sense of `lacking a cause.’ This is considered incompatible with the deteminacy which, in the real world, reigns universally. This is also at bottom Kant’s positon, who in fact introduces into the world of things in themselves a certain `causality inherent in freedom’ and distinguishes it from the `causality of nature’ (in the phenomenal world). In some remarkable way, however, Kant allows this `causality inherent in freedom’ to break into the seamless web of causal interconnections in the phenomenal world and to initiate in it new causal chains. This chain is itself not supposed to have any cause in nature, yet it is supposed to apear in it and to affect its course. In the world of appearances therefore `freedom of the will’ is tantamount to `lacking a cause.’ How Kant can speak about a causality inherent in freedom in the world of things in themselves — in which, after all, no categories whatever have a place — and how he can suppose that it can penetrate into the uninterrupted, causally determined manifold of events in the phenomenal world are matters concening the Kantian philosophy itself which we need not delve into here. We should not forget however that the Kantian determinism in nature tacitly presuppposes a causal (`natural’) order of the world in the sense of Laplace. In this context two things need to be undertaken: 1) not to interpret freedom in the sense of absence of cause, but to set in its place the concept of one’s own deliberate decision and of one’s own action; 2) to consider whether Laplace’s conception cannot be replaced by some other conception of the causal structure of the real world. I shall not go into the latter until later.Google Scholar
  5. Nicolai Hartmann, who does not accept Kant’s transcendental idealism and his two-world theory, has already emphasized in a noteworthy manner that it is impossible to demand that the free volitional decisions have no cause. This is so first of all because such would be impossible in a world which is causally determined through and through, and secondly because it could not then be rational and suited to the real situation which calls for it. Hence it would be unmotivated, and could be made neither by an I nor by a non-I. It would not, accordingly, be a decision of the given person, and the action stemming from it would not be that person’s own deed. The person could not at all be held responsible for it. If we still wish to maintain that the acting human being is, and can be, responsible for his own, and only for his own deeds, then we have to admit at the same time that these deeds have, in their way, to be causally induced.“ (Ibidem,pp. 59/60.)Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    A person who is to bear responsibility for his deed must, as we have already established, be free in his decisions and deeds. According to our earlier considerations this means nothing other than that the given conduct is his own deed. But this in turn means that the deed follows from the person’s initiative and at the moment of its being undertaken and in the course of its performance it is at least independent of any factual matters which do not include the person in his immediate environment, factual matters which could in principle exert an influence on the person’s decision and on the implementation of the deed. This presupposes, on the one hand, a definite formal structure of the person, and on the other, a particular structure of the real world in which the person lives and acts.“ (Ibidem,pp. 84/85.)Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    Every human being is a corporeal and psychic being whose personal `I’ is engaged in a special way whenever he is engaged responsibly.“ (Ibidem,p. 78) ”Still, the understanding, that a human being as person is such a very complicated, partially isolated, system of a higher order, hierarchically built up out of many lower systems, has heretofore not dawned on the consciousness of anthropology and its subdisciplines of psychology, anatomy, and human physiology.“ (Ibidem,p. 87.)Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    In order to be `independent’ of the surrounding world in his decisions and in the actions issuing from them, the person must, above all, contain a centre of action, which enables him to take initiative and at the same time to have defence mechanisms which prevent his being disturbed in his acting. But he must also be sensitive to outside intrusions, insofar as his responsibility springs from a determinate form of his living together with the surrounding reality, and particularly with other people. The person must therefore be open and receptive in his behaviour and in his so-being, and at the same time protected and insensitive in other respects.“ (Ibidem,p. 85.)Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    A deliberate decision and action can pass for a given person’s `own’ only when they spring forth directly from the I-centre of that person, have their authentic origin in it, and when this I-centre commands and directs the execution of the action emanating from it, therefore the action can be accepted as one’s `own’ not when the I-centre merely has some personal interest at stake, but when it holds within itself the decisive impact over the total course of the evolving action. This can come about in two different ways. In the first case the I accepts only what takes place within its own psyche, in the sphere of its personal being (of its being thus and so [Sosein]),or what encroaches into this sphere from without and which the I accepts only out of necessity, as it were, because it cannot do otherwise. Here, however, approval is granted to some mode of behaviour, without the I actually assimilating it or making it its own. In the second case, however, the I draws the decision out of himself, out of his own deliberation which is unswayed by extraneous reasons, and proceeds to engage in the endeavour of acting. Complete unconditionality by external motives and reasons thereby comprises the optimum situation in which a volitional decision is made, and in which an action undertaken by a personal I is performed in the strict sense as the given person’s own action or deed.“ (Ibidem,pp. 60–61.)Google Scholar
  10. 9.
    Vide ibidem, p. 53: “To begin with, we need to distinguish four different situations in which the phenomenon of responsibility emerges: Someone 1. bears responsibility for something or, differently put, is responsible for something, 2. assumes responsibility for something, 3. is called to account for something, 4. acts responsibly. ”The distinctiveness of the first three situations is demonstrated in the first place by their factual independence of each other, although determinate interconnections of sense undoubtedly obtain between them. One can be responsible but neither he called to account, nor assume responsibility (“take it upon oneself,” as Nicolai Hartmann puts it). And conversely, one can be called to account for something without being in fact responsible for it. One can also factually assume responsibility for something, without being actually responsible for it. Given that someone is responsible for something, he should both assume responsibility and be called to account for it. If one does not assume responsibility, or even evades doing so, despite the fact that one is responsible for something, then one is (also) responsible for behaving in such an [irresponsible] manner. But even the very assumption of responsibility for something that one is not responsible for appears to fall under the proviso of responsibility. Still, an essential interconnection of sense appears to obtain between these factual states of affairs, irrespective of their mutual independence in fact.“Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tadeusz Czarnik
    • 1
  1. 1.The Institute of PhilosophyThe Jagiellonian UniversityPoland

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