Ethical Elements in Immanuel Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason"

Dissertation, Boston College (1987)

This study examines the Critique of Pure Reason to determine its importance for Kant's ethical philosophy. It discusses Kant's many remarks on ethical matters in the First Critique and also the ethical significance of his arguments in that work. In its Prefaces Kant explains that the argument of the Critique is a two-sided one that limits reason in its speculative employment, while at the same time opening up and establishing a field for reason's practical employment. This study examines the neglected positive side of Kant's argument. It shows how many of the concepts central to Kant's account of practical reason are already presented in his description of pure reason. The focus of this study is on the theme of freedom as it is presented in the First Critique. I show how one can find three descriptions of freedom in this work: the freedom necessary for the activity of thought, the transcendental freedom Kant describes as an idea of pure reason, and the practical freedom exhibited in free will. ;The thesis consists of an Introduction, four chapters, and a Conclusion. Chapter one shows how Kant's statement of his project in the Prefaces and Introduction indicates the importance in the First Critique of discussions of freedom and other practical matters. Chapter two analyzes the significance of the Transcendental Aesthetic for Kant's conception of freedom and practical reason. Chapter three discusses further developments from the Transcendental Analytic, most importantly, its descriptions of both the active and categorical structure of human reason. Chapter four explores Kant's discussions of transcendental and practical freedom in the Antinomy and Canon of Pure Reason. Throughout this study I point out evidence for Kant's claim that pure and practical reason are "the same," by indicating both where and how concepts presented in the First Critique are repeated and developed in Kant's ethical works. In chapters two, three, and four of this study I also discuss Martin Heidegger's published writings and lectures on the First Critique because Heidegger offers an interpretation that highlights the ethical significance of Kant's arguments in the Critique
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