Kant is suggesting that reason conduct an experiment upon itself—an idea that comes close to paradox. His Copernican hypothesis Bxvi f is that experience is relative to the standpoint and capacities of the observer. Only on this basis, Kant contends, can we find an explanation for the a priori structure of that experience for example, its temporality or causal connectedness.
However, this still leaves awkward questions about philosophical knowledge, and reasoning more generally. When reason decides to act as judge and jury in its own case, how can we expect the results to stand up to scrutiny? Axi f. This is then the central task of critique cf. Kant now claims to have discovered the supreme principle of practical reason, which he calls the Categorical Imperative.
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More precisely, this principle is an imperative for finite beings like us, who have needs and inclinations and are not perfectly rational. Kant holds this principle to be implicit in common human reason: when we make moral judgments, we rely on this criterion, although invariably we do not articulate it as such. The Categorical Imperative is not the only principle of practical reason that Kant endorses.
Following Hume, many philosophers hold that practical reasoning is essentially instrumental. They therefore see all practical demands as ultimately hypothetical, that is, conditional upon our having particular ends or inclinations cf. Kant, however, sees the principle of hypothetical imperatives as subordinate to the Categorical Imperative cf.
Korsgaard Reason can also be the source of unconditional demands, that is, demands that do not presuppose any particular ends or inclinations. On the one hand, freedom implies that practical reason can be pure non-instrumental, unconditional , and hence that we are subject to the demands of the Categorical Imperative. On the other, our subjection to morality implies that we must be free. If I am free to step back from all inclinations, those inclinations do not provide a compelling reason to act in any particular way.
In the recent literature there is some consensus that Kant failed to recognize the complexity and difficulty of moral reasoning cf. Herman Ch. But judging what the Categorical Imperative requires only poses serious difficulties if Kant has adequately justified it.
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In particular, his equation of mere law-likeness with principles that all can follow may seem much too quick. To illustrate, take two of the six candidates he discusses in the second Critique ff. One possibility would be a policy of following my inclinations wherever they might lead Kant identifies this view with Epicurus. This is a policy of sorts, and indeed one that a free agent could adopt. In doing so, it abandons law-likeness and intersubjective validity. More abstractly, such a policy gives weight to the particular conditions of one particular agent.
So Kant says:. This requires everyone to submit to a single sovereign, and not to judge for himself what he should do.
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Of course, one could submit insofar as one finds an authority justified. This may be perfectly reasonable, but it is not genuine submission. It is actually a sort of cooperation, where we continue to use our own judgment about whom to rely on. There is a common difficulty underlying all the untenable alternatives Kant considers. They look for substantive guidance from outside of reason itself—just as hypothetical imperatives only guide action if some end is taken for granted.
Kant calls this heteronomy —that is, reasoning directed from the outside, by an authority that is merely assumed or imposed.
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To gain this entitlement, they must be autonomous —that is, not dependent on an authority that itself refuses justification. Brandom In addition to claiming that freedom implies subjection to the Categorical Imperative, Kant also holds that moral obligation implies freedom. Every action, considered as an event in the world of appearances, must be considered as caused whether we think of explanations given by neuroscience or physics or perhaps even psychology.
Experience of the objective world therefore gives us no warrant for assuming freedom. Instead it is to our consciousness or subjectivity that Kant turns:.
This is partly because Kant is not altogether clear about what he takes this fact to demonstrate. It is also because he has repeatedly argued that morality cannot be based on facts about human beings, and must be revealed a priori, independently of experience. In this regard it is significant that Kant also uses the Latin word factum , meaning deed. In other words, we are dealing with an act of reason and its result, rather than a merely given fact.
See Kleingeld One school of thought—which includes many influential Kant scholars, and is sympathetically represented in Allison Chs. So he stops argument short by appealing to a supposedly indubitable fact. There are serious difficulties at issue in this scholarly dispute. This reveals something that we could hardly be certain of except on the basis of this encounter with our own activity of moral reasoning cf. Kleingeld Clearly, this line of thought is not immune to criticism. Our feeling of moral constraint might be explained in terms of a Freudian super-ego, for instance.
Kant does not give a complete account of the relation of practical reason to theoretical reason in the Groundwork or any later works. See Gardner and Willaschek Against various stripes of rationalism, Kant denies that theoretical reason can have any insight into the supersensible. So reason has no possible access to a transcendent authority that could issue commands for thought or action. Against Hume, Kant denies normative authority to the inclinations. These points rule out the only ways that theoretical or instrumental reasoning could supply authoritative reasons to act.
That is, pure practical reason should guide some of our beliefs , as well as our actions. So it is not conditioned by anything else—for instance, by a desire for happiness or subjective wishes. In other words, pure practical reason is independent from our inclinations. By contrast, theoretical reason falls into error if it claims independence from the deliverances of sensibility and understanding—for example, in attempting to prove the existence of God. Second, Kant argues that we cannot leave the question of primacy undecided, because practical reason would otherwise come into conflict with theoretical reason.
The interest of theoretical reason consists in expanding our knowledge and avoiding error—which means suspending all claims to knowledge beyond the bounds of experience. But what he means by this, exactly, is a difficult matter of interpretation. Neiman Ch.
Moreover, the uses to which Kant puts this argument are as controversial as any question in his philosophy, since he here reinstates—as items of faith rather than knowledge—the very ideas that the first Critique had argued to lie beyond human insight. It enjoins us to act for the sake of duty, with no assurances that anything will follow from this for our own happiness or that of others. While morality is, for Kant, the sole unconditional good for human beings, he certainly does not deny that happiness is an important good, and indeed the natural and necessary end of every human being cf.
He holds that we must think of moral activity as really resulting in happiness.
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We must also postulate immortality, since this enables us to hope that we will come closer to virtue so as to be worthy of happiness. We have seen one way in which Kant links theoretical and practical reason. Kleingeld b: Again, cf. Among early reviews, see Engstrom and Wood ; for recent endorsement and restatement, see Korsgaard 12 and Westphal Unfortunately, neither edition of the Critique considers what this principle might be. This question is raised in the works on practical reason, but then postponed and never clearly answered.
Prauss argues that Kant failed to achieve this insight, in part because he did not appreciate how cognitive success is a fundamentally practical goal. He has also argued that practical reason has primacy over theoretical reason. It follows, therefore, that the Categorical Imperative is the supreme principle of reason.
But there are reasons for thinking that this ought to have been his view, and in some places he comes very close to such a claim. Rescher Ch. The clearest passage is a footnote! Kant now says: think only in accordance with that maxim that could be a universal law. They appear twice in his published writings, in relation to both acting and thinking.