Kant on Reason as the Capacity for Comprehension

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 101 (4):844-862 (2023)
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Abstract

This essay develops an interpretation of Kant’s conception of the faculty of reason as the capacity for what he calls "comprehension" (Begreifen). In doing so, it first discusses Kant's characterizations of reason in relation to what he describes as the two highest grades of cognition—insight and comprehension. Then it discusses how the resulting conception of reason relates to more familiar characterizations as the faculty for inference and the faculty of principles. In doing so, it focuses on how the idea of reason as aiming at comprehension expresses the modesty about reason that is essential to Kant’s critical philosophy. It concludes by showing how this grounds an elegant account of the unity of theoretical and practical reason—one that does justice both to the "primacy" that Kant assigns to practical reason and the fact that this "primacy" is grounded in a more basic unity.

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Karl Schafer
University of Texas at Austin