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Cambridge University Press
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August 2010
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The Critique of Practical Reason is the second of Kant's three Critiques, and his second work in moral theory after the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. Its systematic account of the authority of moral principles grounded in human autonomy unfolds Kant's considered views on morality and provides the keystone to his philosophical system. The essays in this volume shed light on the principal arguments of the second Critique and explore their relation to Kant's critical philosophy as a whole. They examine the genesis of the Critique, Kant's approach to the authority of the moral law given as a 'fact of reason', the metaphysics of free agency, the account of respect for morality as the moral motive, and questions raised by the 'primacy of practical reason' and the idea of the 'postulates'. Engaging and critical, this volume will be invaluable to advanced students and scholars of Kant and to moral theorists alike.


"...This collection of essays is diverse and engaging. The essays are of wide theoretical interest and deftly address issues of interpretation along with broader normative issues arising from Kant's Groundwork. Striking a nice balance of interpretive and normative concerns, each essay draws on a wide variety of sources, including not only Kant, but also his sympathetic commentators and his detractors. Those in either camp are well-advised to give these essays their attention."
--Elizabeth Foreman, Saint Louis University, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"...This volume represents a refreshing turn in the literature on Kant, is well informed by the relevant literature, whereas the arguments are coherentlyrendered and classified."
--George Lăzăroiu, PhD, Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences, New York, Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice

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  • 1 - The origin and aim of Kant's Critique of Practical Reason
    pp 11-30
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    Immanuel Kant seeks to establish in the Critique of Practical Reason 'that there is pure practical reason'. The aim of the Critique of Practical Reason is inverse compared with the aim of the Critique of Pure Reason: Whereas the first Critique is supposed to show that one cannot apply pure reason constitutively in a speculative sense, the second Critique is supposed to substantiate the view that objections against the practical constitutive application of pure reason put forward by the empiricists and sceptics are vacuous. In the preface to the Critique of Practical Reason, Kant comments on a few objections that have been raised against his critical philosophy in general, as well as against his foundation of moral philosophy in particular, since 1781. In the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant distinguishes between the 'critique of pure speculative reason' and the 'Critique of Pure Practical Reason'.
  • 2 - Formal principles and the form of a law
    pp 31-54
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    This chapter deals with the features of practical laws and fundamental practical principles that centre on the notion of 'form'. It examines what Kant means by a 'formal principle' that explains why formal principles are uniquely suited to apply with normative necessity. The formal principle of some rational activity would be the guiding internal or constitutive norm that a subject must follow in order to engage in that activity. The form of a law would be the defining features that a principle must have in order to qualify as a practical law. A formal principle involves some abstraction from content: the form is what remains when one sets aside those features that differentiate one instance of an activity from any other. The chapter gives readings of the arguments for Kant's Theorems I and III and Problem I.
  • 3 - Moral consciousness and the ‘fact of reason’
    pp 55-72
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    This chapter focuses on the meaning and the importance of the 'fact of reason' in the second Critique of Practical Reason. When he introduces the 'fact of reason', he refers to an alleged consciousness of the fundamental law of pure practical reason, which he also calls consciousness of the moral law. The chapter situates the occurrence of the terminology of a Factum der Vernunft in its argumentative context and provides an interpretation. By the end of the eighteenth century, then, 'factum' could mean either 'deed' or 'fact'. The proper way of reading the expression 'fact of reason' does not yet tells one how successful Kant's use of it is in his argument. Virtually all authors who discuss the fact of reason do so in terms of morality. They introduce the 'consciousness' that Kant calls a fact of reason as the 'consciousness of the moral law' or 'moral consciousness'.
  • 4 - Reversal or retreat? Kant's deductions of freedom and morality
    pp 73-89
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    This chapter examines the sentence in the Critique of Practical Reason in which Immanuel Kant explicitly discusses the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals and its relation to the new book. In a surprising reversal towards the end of the deduction section of the Critique of Practical Reason, Kant tells one that the 'vainly sought deduction of the moral principle' is replaced by another deduction, namely the deduction of freedom. Kant never quite identifies freedom and the fact of reason, which is the awareness of the authority of the moral law. He returns to the role of morality as the ratio cognoscendi of freedom and accords the support freedom receives from these quarters the status of a deduction. In a striking note from the Duisburg papers, Kant explicitly turns to the task of a 'critique of practical reason'.
  • 5 - The Triebfeder of pure practical reason
    pp 90-118
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    After determining the concept of the object of pure practical reason in Chapter II of the Analytic of Pure Practical Reason, Immanuel Kant takes up the motivational issue in Chapter III, which deals with what he terms the Triebfeder of pure practical reason. In his chapter on the springs of pure practical reason, Kant undertakes to explicate, in the light of the Factum of reason, how pure reason is practical in the case of the human being, and more generally in that of a finite subject having a share in this Factum. Kant's account has merely described how the moral law can infringe the inclinations. This chapter considers the effect the moral law has on feeling through its bearing on the propensities of self-love and self-conceit. Kant says that when the moral law strikes down self-conceit, the direct effect on feeling is the negative, or displeasing, sentiment of humiliation.
  • 6 - Two conceptions of compatibilism in the Critical Elucidation
    pp 119-144
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    The 'Critical Elucidation of the Analytic of Pure Practical Reason' develops two distinctive conceptions of how freedom of choice and causal determinism may be reconciled. These two conceptions of freedom of choice correspond to a distinction between what Kant calls 'psychological' and what he calls 'transcendental freedom'. The Critical Elucidation presents the argument of the Analytic of Pure Practical Reason as a kind of practical syllogism that highlights the distinctive contribution of pure practical reason and the complementary relation of the standpoints belonging to theoretical and pure practical reason. The pure practical concepts of morality involve principles of action that are independent of causal antecedents because they are based on the general principle of autonomy. Kant's fusion of incompatibilism and compatibilism needs to explain how one and the same action can be both caused by antecedent events and nevertheless be an action for which one can be held responsible.
  • 7 - The Antinomy of Practical Reason: reason, the unconditioned and the highest good
    pp 145-167
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    This chapter briefly presents the basic structure of the Antinomy of Pure Reason, paying special attention to the role that reason plays in generating this antinomy. In the Antinomy of Pure Reason of the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant claims that if one accepts what he calls Transcendental Realism, the view that appearances and things in themselves are identical, then reason can come into conflict with itself, because it can prove contradictory propositions with respect to certain features of the world. The chapter reconstructs the Antinomy of Practical Reason with the help of several basic structural similarities that it bears to the theoretical antinomy. It addresses several basic questions that arise with respect to the Antinomy of Practical Reason's central concept of the highest good, and uses insights gained from the comparison of the theoretical and practical antinomies to develop detailed answers.
  • 8 - The primacy of practical reason and the idea of a practical postulate
    pp 168-196
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    This chapter deals with the content of Immanuel Kant's three postulates, namely, existence of God, own transcendental freedom and immortality, and explains his arguments in their favour. It begins by commenting on Kant's argument, 'On the Primacy of Practical Reason', with a special emphasis on the logical structure of that argument. Kant argument is difficult to follow, and even more difficult to assess, among other things because it is framed in terms of the respective 'interests' of two cognitive faculties. That a practically necessary belief can be rational without evidence is taken to be equivalent to the claim that pure practical reason has primacy over pure speculative reason. The chapter looks at the idea of a postulate of pure practical reason and at the epistemological status Kant assigns to it. It concludes that the main idea behind Kant's argument does not depend on Kant's own, demanding conception of morality.
  • 9 - The meaning of the Critique of Practical Reason for moral beings: the Doctrine of Method of Pure Practical Reason
    pp 197-215
  • View abstract


    The Doctrine of Method of Pure Practical Reason shows how carefully Immanuel Kant avoids being constrained by the pattern of the first Critique of Practical Reason. It has the important function of connecting the philosophical inquiry to its outcome in the life of moral subjects. Kant had given no special emphasis to this transition before the Critique. Kant announces that, in order to give proof of 'receptivity' to morality, he make use of 'observations anyone can make'. This experimental approach starts from an even lower level than one might expect, because it refers to 'conversation in mixed companies'. The function of the Doctrine of the Method, then, proves to belong to the very core of the project of the Critique, and provides an important key to the correct understanding of the work.
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