Kant's Critique of Instrumental Reason

Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 99 (3):489-516 (2018)
Authors
Markus Kohl
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Abstract
Many commentators hold that in addition to the categorical imperative of morality, Kant also posits an objective law of non-moral practical rationality, 'the' Hypothetical Imperative. On this view, the appeal to the Hypothetical Imperative increases the dialectical options that Kantians have vis-a-vis Humean skepticism about the authority of reason, and it allows for a systematic explanation of the possibility of non-moral weakness of will. I argue that despite its appeal, this interpretation cannot be sustained: for Kant the only objective, universally valid a priori principle of practical reason that governs transcendentally free agents is the moral law. All non-moral practical rules are mere “precepts” that lack genuine objectivity, certainty, and intersubjective validity. I suggest that for Kant the rejection of the possibility of non-moral practical laws plays an important part in his argument for the supreme rational authority of moral norms over prudential precepts of happiness.
Keywords Hypothetical Imperatives  Instrumental Reason  Prudence
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