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Kant on the unity of reason

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  • Philosophy


This dissertation aims to shed new light on what is most fundamental to Kant's conception of reason. I distinguish two functions that Kant ascribes to the faculty of reason: first, the function of generating what he calls “unconditioned” principles (roughly, a principle is unconditioned if it is not conditioned by or subsumable under a higher one, hence if it is absolutely universal); and second, that of employing these principles to organize empirical data into a system. Whereas standard interpretations give priority to the second of these two functions, I argue that only the first one is definitive of Kant's conception of reason and that the second is non-essential. To show this, I investigate Kant's argument for the unity of reason, which is his claim that speculative and pure practical reason are manifestations of one and the same faculty operating on a common principle. I trace Kant's extended argument for this claim from the Critique of Pure Reason through the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals and the Critique of Practical Reason; and I develop an interpretation of this argument that does not depend on ascribing the second, systematizing function to reason. On this basis, I then argue that Kant transfers the systematizing function from reason to a new faculty that he calls the reflecting power of judgment in the Critique of the Power of Judgment without rejecting anything that is essential to his original account of reason; and I offer a new interpretation of what motivates Kant to make this change, according to which the primary issue at stake is practical rather than theoretical. ^

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