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By cutting back the pretensions of vain metaphysical speculation, Kant, on the other hand, broadens the scope for the practical awareness of freedom whose inherent unconditionality has often been obscured by excessive claims of theoretical knowledge. If human beings pretend to have a comprehensive insight into the cosmic order of things, the course of human history, or the will of the divine creator, they will not be able to fully realize their unconditional moral vocation.

Moral practice is practice of freedom. It cannot ground itself immediately on a purportedly objective knowledge, say, of a given teleological order of nature or a divine plan of salvation. Toward a Critical Metaphysics 9 on behalf of moral autonomy that we have to clarify the difference between theoretical knowledge including metaphysical speculation and the claims of morality.


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A critical investigation into the scope and limits of human cognition will therefore help to sharpen both the epistemological awareness within the sciences and the practical awareness of morality and moral freedom. What is at issue in his critical project is not a destruction, but rather a transformation, of metaphysics. The unconditional command of the categorical imperative — and hence the consciousness of human freedom — provides the basis for a new and critical metaphysics — that is, a metaphysics that does not pose as science but instead amounts to a practical faith.

Max Wundt, Kant als Metaphysiker.


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Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der deutschen Philosophie im Jahrhundert Stuttgart: Ferdinand Enke, , p. This would certainly be unfortunate. And if certain types of answers are no longer acceptable this does not mean that those questions cannot be raised any more. Overview of the Book 11 the unconditional command of morality by turning it into a mere object of human cognition.

Kant points out that the unconditioned can be represented to the human mind only by employing the understanding [Verstand] whose universal lawfulness constitutes the mediating link between the morally unconditioned, on the one hand, and the human lifeworld, structured via maxims, on the other. In short, given its inherent lawfulness, purposiveness, and overwhelming majesty, nature constitutes the crucial symbol of human morality in general.

The universal lawfulness that the moral imperative commands can only take shape through maxims that themselves are contextualized subjective principles. In this context, the rules of societal politeness deserve to be cherished as a playful — and at times ironic — way of expressing symbolically the respect that human beings ought to accord one another as morally autonomous subjects.

For all the difference between moral autonomy and the order of rights, there is at the same time an analogy between those two dimensions of human freedom, an analogy that makes it possible to understand the right of freedom as an institutionalized symbolic representation of autonomy. Without cherishing at least some reasonable hope that moral action can yield meaningful results in the world, the moral imperative itself would amount to an absurd demand.

In order to preserve the independence of the moral imperative from any worldly expectations and results, the relationship between the order of freedom i. Again, symbols have a crucial function in facilitating an understanding of that indirect relationship. Religion in turn always implies the use of symbols. Hence, what Kant wants to point out is that people are responsible for their not being fully responsible, which is certainly a paradox. All these translations are referred to by Allen W. Enlightenment, p. Have courage to make use of your own understanding!

Hence the imperative character of that appeal underscored by the two exclamation marks. What is at issue is a fundamental duty — namely, the full realization of the faculty of moral self-responsibility. Kant is convinced that the project of enlightenment is still far from being fully realized. In order to take up this challenge, however, we have to assume that people, in principle, are capable of embarking on the process of enlightenment. He supposes that human beings are in a state somewhere between total dependency, on the one hand, and a mature self-responsibility, on the other.

Hence, what counts is active efforts in embarking on the burdensome and never-ending movement of enlightenment.

Immanuel Kant

According to Kant, enlightenment is conceivable only as self enlightenment. Only by respecting every individual as a subject of at least potential self-responsibility can enlightenment protect itself against the danger of degenerating into authoritarian indoctrination. At the same time, however, Kant emphasizes that enlightenment can succeed only as a common project that people have to undertake in solidarity. He argues that besides having individual handicaps, such as a lack of courage and resolution, people also have to reckon with structural obstacles to enlightenment.

Relationships of personal dependency and guardianship show a tendency to harden structurally. If I have a book that understands for me, a spiritual advisor who has a conscience for me, a doctor who decides upon a regimen for me, and so forth, I need not trouble myself at all. Individual enlightenment and public enlightenment presuppose one another mutually.

On the other hand, it seems unlikely that people will be able to practice their faculty of self-responsibility if public and political debates, by which they can train their intellectual faculties, do not exist. Philosophy in the Service of Enlightenment A philosophy operating in the service of enlightenment must abstain from all sorts of authoritarianism. Allen W. The philosopher does not lecture in the name of a divine revelation or on behalf of the government, but merely appeals to the common human understanding. What ought I to do? What may I hope? What is man? If enlightenment in general is possible only as self -enlightenment, then it follows that a philosophy devoted to fostering enlightenment must also base itself on the faculty of independent thinking.

Logic, p. This insight comes to the fore most clearly in a footnote at the beginning of the Critique of Practical Reason.

The Typic in Kant’s "Critique of Practical Reason"

Just as if, before him, the world had been ignorant of what duty is or in thoroughgoing error about it. It contains a claim that in equal measure addresses every human being, independent of his or her level of education. At the same time, however, Kant points out that such philosophical investigation is meaningful. Critique of Practical Reason, p.

Journal of the History of Philosophy

For it was he who gave to the philosophical spirit and to all speculative minds a wholly new practical direction. Logic, pp. Unpublished Works, Vol. But Reason, once she has matured through Experience and thus become Wisdom, stands cheerfully in the midst of the goods of a marketplace, professing through the mouth of Socrates: How many things exist which I do not need! His purpose as a moral philosopher is merely to sharpen the awareness of the guiding moral principle that has always been operative in common human reason.

Kant’s Philosophy of Religion

For in his dialogues. Socrates, who called himself the midwife of the knowledge of his listeners, gives us examples of how one can produce some knowledge even from elderly people. Kantian philosophizing proceeds in the tradition of the Socratic appeal for an independent thinking that is exercised in public communication. Plato, Theatetus c.

Groundwork, p. Kant, Uber Cf. Critique of Practical Reason, pp.

Beginner's Guide to Kant's Moral Philosophy

Borowski, op. The Example of Socrates 23 urge us, in a pleasant way, to think independently; despotism was alien to his mind. As far as I know you, it is the intention of your critique to ban the practice of mere repetition from the school of philosophy. Opposition to Sophistry Like Rousseau, Kant was convinced that moral practice is independent of science or philosophy.

Because of this, even wisdom — which otherwise consists more in conduct than in knowledge — still needs science, not in order to learn from it but in order to provide access and durability for its precepts. Jachmann, op. Instead, this danger lurks in the midst of the human mind itself.

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It is the temptation to push aside, or at least relativize, the claims of morality by invoking sophistic objections. In short: What we need is more, rather than less, enlightenment and reasoning. The practical philosopher, the teacher of wisdom through doctrine and example, is the real philosopher. Indeed, it is a task that cannot be solved once and for all. At the same time, however, reason has a tendency to extend beyond that realm of empirical intuition and seek the unconditioned [das Unbedingte ], which transcends any 45 46 47 Religion, p.

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The Example of Socrates 25 causal chain of sensible phenomena. Whenever these two opposing tendencies clash, reason becomes entangled in inextricable contradictions. The last is the most necessary but also the hardest, yet the philodox does not bother himself about it.

Critique of Pure Reason, pp. Critique of Pure Reason, p. It may be the case that such a danger has increased in modern times, since the natural sciences are frequently perceived as providing the paradigm of human insight in general. The Critical Method Socratic philosophizing differs from mere sophistry in that it aspires to the ends of reason, the highest of which is human morality. In its concrete procedure, however, Socratic philosophizing to a certain degree resembles sophistic criticism.

The most striking indication of this resemblance is the fact that Socrates himself was considered and condemned as a sophist by his fellow citizens. There can be no doubt that sophistry too claims to strive for enlightenment by raising provocative questions and shaking people out of their conventional ways of thinking. Simply to discard sophistry, in the name of true philosophy, would therefore amount to a problematic strategy that could eventually lead to the destruction of philosophy itself. Hence the right way to overcome sophistry is not by rejecting it from without, but by transcending it from within — that is, by taking the critical project of enlightenment more seriously than the sophists themselves do.

In his moral philosophy, Kant actively takes up the sophistic attack against virtue. It is an attack that in ordinary life typically manifests 53 54 Critique of Pure Reason, p. The Critical Method 27 itself in gossip and defamation of others. Kant is fully aware of this dangerous tendency.