Cambridge Kant Reading Group—fifth session 19th February

As part of our Semester 2 Research Seminars, today we’ll discuss L. Ostaric (2009) “Kant’s account of nature’s systematicity and the unity of theoretical and practical reason”.

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One Response to Cambridge Kant Reading Group—fifth session 19th February

  1. Katharina Kraus says:

    In our last session, we discussed another approach towards a justification (or legislation) of the idea of the systematic unity of nature, namely a justification by appealing to the unity of theoretical and practical reason. Ostaric’s take on the problem was to show that the systematicity of nature cannot be legitimized by merely drawing on theoretical reason and its conditions. Rather, she contends that the need of reason to presuppose such an idea “can only find its adequate proof in the practical” (p. 155). In her paper, she tries to prove this thesis by referring to three different sections, the Transcendental Ideal (CpR), the Appendix of the Dialectic (CpR), and the Critique of Judgment. Our discussion focussed mainly on the second part, her analysis of the Appendix.
    There seem to be two major moves in the paper we were not sure what to make of; or better, we were not sure how Ostaric really could rule out the other alternatives. The first move was to claim that the world of theoretical exploration is “at the same time” the world of action (cf. p. 171); the second was to claim that the world of action is governed by the principle of morality or the final end of reason, i.e., the highest good.
    In part II, Ostaric argues that Kant relates our theoretical investigations about nature with the search for purposiveness: “In the second half of the appendix, Kant no longer speaks of nature as suitably organized [angemessen], but, rather, purposive [zweckmäßig]. I do not think that these shifts in Kant’s terminology are accidental.” (p. 166-7). Rather, they document Kant’s “practical turn”. Reason is guided by its own interests, but its own interests in the theoretical sphere turn out to be guided themselves by reason’s own interests in the practical sphere, i.e., morality. “The argument of the Appendix shows that our practical ends are always implicit in all our knowledge acquisition and all our theoretical investigation of nature” (p. 167). Later, in her discussion of purposiveness in the CJ, Ostaric adds the conclusion that the assumption of a systematically ordered nature and the assumption of an intelligent world-cause are necessary “in order to save the coherence of the moral demands of our reason” (p. 171). – Here, two questions arose for us. Firstly, why do reason’s theoretical aims have to be thought of as subject to its practical aims? Ostaric’s explanation could not fully convince us and show us why the option of pure theoretical investigation is therefore discarded by Kant. Secondly, why do the practical aims or reason’s practical inferences ultimately have to be connected to morality and why has a weak reading of “practical reason”, i.e., a rational capacity for matters of acting instrumentally or purposively in the world, not been considered at all?

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