Practical Cognition, Intuition, and the Fact of Reason

In Benjamin Lipscomb & James Krueger (eds.), Kant's Moral Metaphysics: God, Freedom, and Immortality. de Gruyter. pp. 211--230 (2010)
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Kant’s claims about supersensible objects, and his account of the epistemic status of such claims, remain poorly understood, to the detriment of our understanding of Kant’s metaphysical and epistemological system. In the Critique of Practical Reason, and again in the Critique of Judgment, Kant claims that we have practical cognition (Erkenntnis) and knowledge (Wissen) of the moral law and of our supersensible freedom; that this cognition and knowledge cohere with, yet go beyond the limits of, our theoretical cognition; and that this knowledge grounds rational belief (Vernunftglaube) in the existence of God, the immortality of our soul, and the real possibility of the “highest good.” This essay untangles some of these claims about practical cognition, practical knowledge, and practical belief and their relation to Kant’s account of theoretical cognition and theoretical knowledge. There is a core conception of cognition and knowledge underlying the accounts of theoretical cognition and practical cognition, which allows for a principled distinction between cases of practical knowledge and practical belief. Kant’s doctrine of the “fact of reason” turns out to be crucial to his claims about legitimacy of and distinction between the two forms of practical cognition, one which constitutes knowledge and another which cannot.



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Patrick Kain
Purdue University

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