. 2
( 12)


even mundane things like, “Oh, it looks green in that light, but really
it™s blue.” The most basic of those concepts would therefore be the basic
concepts necessary in experience in general, or, to use Kant™s reinvention
of Aristotle™s classical term, would be the necessary categories of all pos-
sible experience. (Kant de¬ned a category as a “concept of an object in
general, by means of which the intuition of an object is regarded as deter-
mined in respect of one of the logical functions of judgment.”± ) Indeed,
without such categories, we could not see our intuitions as representations
at all. They would be merely psychic occurrences, things that were either
there or not, happened or did not happen, not be items that could be
said to be adequate or inadequate, correct or incorrect, true or false.
To see them as representations, moreover, is to see them as representa-
tions of an object. Kant says: “An object is that in the concept of which
the multiplicity of a given intuition is united.”° We combine various

± ± °
Critique of Pure Reason,  = . Ibid., ±. Ibid., ±·.
(I): Human spontaneity and the natural order
intuitive occurrences “ such as black, oblong shaped, and so forth “
into the notion of their all being perspectival representations of a single
object (the stone). The intuitions themselves cannot, as it were, tell us
of what they are intuitions; we make them into intuitions of something,
into representations by actively combining them according to the rules of
judgment, of conceptual representation in general. For me to be apper-
ceptively self-aware of my experiences as representations, I must be able
to take them as combined in certain basic ways, namely, those that corre-
spond to the possible forms of judgment, and if there are only so many
forms of judgment, there will be only so many categories.±
The basic categories themselves thus have to do with the way in which
we order and structure our sensory experience into that of a uni¬ed ex-
perience that represents a single world which consists of objects in space
and time interacting with each other according to deterministic causal
laws. Kant™s own derivations of those categories were and remained
quite controversial, since they were, in his terms, only the “logical forms
of judgment” required by our capacity of self-consciousness (that is, ulti-
mately by our capacity to represent within our experience the distinction
between the experience of an object and the object itself, to represent
ourselves “taking” our experience in certain ways, which presupposes
our capacity to bring the logical forms of judgment in normative play
in our own experience). The categories of experience (such as those of
causality and of enduring substances taking on different properties at
different times) emerge as required for us to self-consciously make judg-
ments about our own experiences.
± Note that Kant does not say: I must be able to see them combined, or even that I do see them
that way; I must be able to see them as combined. As people like Hume had pointed out, we
can imaginatively recombine our experiences in all kinds of fantastic ways.
 As is immediately apparent to any Kant scholar, this last sentence is only a shorthand for a very
controversial interpretation of the nature of the categories. It rejects the view of the categories
as concepts prior to experience that we then “apply” to experience by acts of synthesis. It also
rejects the view that they are generated from the combination of the pure forms of judgment
(concepts) with the pure forms of intuition (space and time). For example, on that latter view, the
form of hypothetical judgment (if p, then q) combined with the notion of necessary succession in
time yields the category of causality, that is, of one event (q) necessarily succeeding another (p);
the form of categorical judgment (S is P) combined with temporality gave one the notion of an
enduring identical substance with changing attributes, that is, of something (S) remaining the
same while it took on the attributes of P and then later Q. To justify the interpretation I present
here in anything like the detail required would take up far more space than is possible. Instead, it
is probably best simply to note that this line of thought is defended in different ways by Beatrice
Longuenesse (Kant and the Capacity to Judge), Henry E. Allison (Kant™s Transcendental Idealism), and
Robert Pippin, Kant™s Theory of Form: An Essay on the Critique of Pure Reason (New Haven, Conn.:
Yale University Press, ±). The most sophisticated and detailed statement of the view opposed
to this interpretation is Paul Guyer, Kant and the Claims of Knowledge (Cambridge University Press,
 Part I Kant and the revolution in philosophy
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Kant™s line of thought ¬rst of all implied that the mind cannot be under-
stood as merely a passive entity of any sorts; in becoming aware of the
objects of experience, we do not merely passively see or hear something,
nor do we stand merely in any kind of causal relation to an object; our
cognitive relation to objects is the result of the active stance we take to-
ward them by virtue of the way in which we combine the various elements
(intuitive and conceptual) in our experience.
Second, our representations cannot be conceived as “mirrors of
nature” (to use Richard Rorty™s phrase); nature cannot determine any-
thing as a representation “ things in nature simply are, and they do
not, outside of our activity of taking them in a certain way, represent or
“stand for” anything. (This does not, of course, deny that there may per-
fectly well be natural explanations for why we have these and not those
particular sensations when we regard them simply as mental events and
not as being about anything.) Our sensory intuitions become represen-
tations of objects of nature only by being combined with non-intuitive
conceptual forms. Moreover, apart from their combination with intu-
itions, concepts are merely empty, formal rules; in Kant™s famous slogan:
“Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are
Nor, third, are our representations merely internal episodes going on
within the con¬nes of our private mental lives, as we might at ¬rst naively
think; they are rule-governed active “takings” of experiential elements
by acts of “synthesis” that produce the various unities necessary for us
to have any experience at all “ in particular, the unity of the thinking
subject and the unity of the objects of experience. For me to make a
judgment is for me to be oriented by the rules that would count for
all judgers; they cannot be my private rules, since such private rules
would not be “rules” at all, but merely expressions of personal proclivities
and dispositions. They are the rules necessary for (as Kant puts it) a
“universal self-consciousness,” that is, for all rational agents.µ
Fourth, the kinds of objects of which we could be conscious had to be
objects in space and time, since space and time were the forms of any
 Critique of Pure Reason, µ± = ·µ.
 As Kant somewhat obscurely put that point: “As my representations (even if I am not conscious
of them as such) they must conform to the conditions under which alone they can stand together
in one universal self-consciousness, because otherwise they would not all without exception belong to
me,” Critique of Pure Reason, ±“± (italics to “one universal self-consciousness” added by me).
µ Ibid., §±.
(I): Human spontaneity and the natural order
possible intuition. Kant™s conclusions implied that the conditions for our
being able to be apperceptively aware of our own conscious, thinking lives
were that we be aware of an independently existing world in space and
time composed of substances interacting causally with each other. That,
in turn, disallowed any direct experiential contact with “supersensible”
entities (such as the immaterial soul).
Fifth, the representational content of thought could not be explained
by patterns of association or by naturalistically understood causal pat-
terns; the cognitive content of thought is constituted entirely by the norms
governing judgmental synthesis itself.
Kant™s basic picture of the mind thus emerged out of his “Transcen-
dental Deduction.” On the one hand, we have intuitions that are the
result of the world™s affecting us in certain ways through our senses,
which make up a passive faculty of the mind. On the other hand, we
also have an active faculty, a way of taking up these intuitions according
to certain necessary rules. The active faculty generates concepts purely
spontaneously in a way that cannot be derived either from intuitions or
from their pure forms (space and time); the basic concepts, categories,
of experience are therefore completely underived from intuition, indeed,
from empirical experience in general. Moreover, only when both these
faculties come together in the act of synthesis do we have consciousness at
all; we do not have a partial consciousness that is intuitive, and a partial
consciousness that is active; until our receptive faculties and our sponta-
neous faculty have been combined by the spontaneous faculty itself into
an apperceptive unity we are simply not conscious of ourselves or of the
world whatsoever.
The upshot of Kant™s rather dense argument was startling. Behind all
our experience of the world is an ineluctable fact of human spontaneity,
of our actively taking up our experience and rendering it into the shape
it has for us. Neither nature nor God could do that for us; we must do it
for ourselves.
Kant had also provided a method for answering the perennial
questions of metaphysics. Traditional metaphysics had tried to assert
things about non-sensible entities that transcended our experience. Kant
proposed something new: his new, “critical” philosophy would be a tran-
scendental philosophy that would show which concepts of non-sensible
 Ibid., ±“±°: “But the combination (conjunctio) of a manifold in general can never come to
us through the senses, and cannot, therefore, be already contained in the pure form of sensible
intuition. For it is an act of spontaneity of the faculty of representation . . . ”; “all combination . . . is
an act of the understanding.”
 Part I Kant and the revolution in philosophy
entities were necessary for the very possibility of our experience.· Those
“representations” of non-sensible entities that were not necessary for the
possibility of experience provided us with no knowledge at all “ and, so it
turned out, neither the representations of God nor those of the immortal
soul would themselves turn out to be necessary for the very possibility
of experience. This amounted, as Kant so proudly put it, to effecting a
revolution in philosophy as fundamental as the revolution in astronomy
effected by Copernicus: what is orbiting around what, suddenly seemed
to be at issue in a way nobody had previously imagined.

®° ®¤ ©®µ©©®: °¬ ®¤ 
With one fell swoop, so it seemed, Kant had dismantled both rationalist
and empiricist trains of thought. The empiricists had made the mistake of
thinking that concepts were only abstractions from sensory experience,
when in fact we could not have any conscious sensory experience at all
without our already being in the possession of certain very basic, “pure”
concepts. Those concepts were, moreover, not innate but were generated
by the spontaneity of the human mind itself as it shaped experience
into judgmental form. The empiricists had also confused psychological
explanations of how we come to have certain patterns of association
with the normative considerations of how we adjudicate judgments as
· Even the term itself, “transcendental,” was used by him in a more-or-less unprecedented way.
In Kant™s usage, the term was used to characterize his very general idea that the basic concepts
of metaphysics (such as those of God and the soul, and extending to notions like causality) were
of non-sensible objects or forms that “transcended” experience; and that the necessity of such
objects or forms, if there were to be any necessity to them at all, could only lie in their being
shown to be the necessary conditions of the possibility of experience, that is, in their being absolutely
indispensable to the kind of experience that we must have of the world and ourselves such that
an experience that did not include those objects or forms could not even be conceivable. What
proved to be so explosive was Kant™s further claim that only such objects or forms that were
indeed necessary were “ideal” in his sense; that God and the soul were not among them; that in
fact, these idealities were not objects in any strict sense at all but structures of experience; and that
such structures were, in an important but obscure sense, not found by us in experience, but were
the results of our own active contribution to our experience, were items that, in a deep sense, we
constructed for ourselves.
 Kant™s own famous comparison of his own philosophical revolution with that effected by
Copernicus in astronomy has spawned an immense discussion as to its appropriateness and
as to just what it might actually mean. Two of the most recent in¬‚uential views take very differ-
ent approaches. Henry E. Allison suggests, quite helpfully, that it signi¬es the distinction between
transcendental realism (the pre-Kantian metaphysics) and transcendental idealism (Kant™s own
theory, which denies knowledge of things-in-themselves). See Allison, Kant™s Transcendental Idealism.
Paul Guyer, after a masterful canvassing of the various options involved in interpreting it, sees it
as an expression of Kant™s own methodological ambivalence about his own “critical” philosophy
(about the status of necessary and contingent truths and what can be taken for granted). See
Guyer, Kant and the Claims of Knowledge.
(I): Human spontaneity and the natural order
being true or false. Likewise, the rationalists had made the mistake of
thinking that, since the senses were only confused modes of intellection,
we could produce substantial doctrines about the existence and structure
of supersensible metaphysical entities without any independent check by
sensible experience; they had failed to understand that concepts are
only rules for the synthesis of experience, and that abstracted out of
that role they were completely empty, were merely the logical forms
of judgment, and could not serve to provide substantive doctrines of
Our conscious experience of independent objects in the world thus
depended on our taking up the sensory components of our experience
and actively combining them according to certain necessary rules, that
is, concepts. This was, moreover, not something that we could introspec-
tively observe in ourselves, since all consciousness in general, even of our
own subjective psychic lives, presupposed that we had already synthe-
sized concepts and intuitions. We could not, as it were, introspectively
observe the intuitions coming in and then observe the concepts being
applied to them. Indeed, so it seemed to follow from Kant™s own line of
thought, we could never be aware of an “unsynthesized” intuition at all.
We could, that is, never be aware of anything like simply “seeing blue”
in a way that was unmediated by any conceptual content; the very ex-
perience of attending to anything even resembling a direct introspective
awareness of a sensation of “blue” could itself only be an abstraction
from the more full-blooded consciousness of a world of objects in space
and time, which meant that the intuitions themselves must already have
been put into conceptual form.
Kant thus provided a “transcendental” metaphysics and thereby deftly
responded both to the Scottish skepticism sweeping in from offshore
and to the exhausted Wolf¬an rationalism dominating German thought
at the time. Certain things such as causality were indeed metaphysical
concepts, since, as Hume had shown, we can never directly perceive the
causal “power” bringing something about but could only perceive a con-
stant regularity associating events of one type with those of another. That
was, however, no reason to be skeptical of whether there was anything
such as causality; the capacity to judge things to be causally connected (as
distinct from “experiencing” them as causally connected) was, in fact,
a condition of the possibility of experience at all. We were required to
conceive of the objects in the world as causally connected since, if we
did not, we could not combine our sensory experience in any way that
would make it susceptible to judgment and therefore intelligible. (It did
 Part I Kant and the revolution in philosophy
not, of course, follow that we were required to think of any particu-
lar thing as causally linked with any other particular thing; particular
causal connections required more empirical investigation; we were re-
quired only to understand that all the occurrences of which we could be
conscious were the effects of other causes, and we were licensed by the
category of causality to search in all empirically ascertainable patterns
of succession for the necessary rule that would be the causal relation
in that succession. ) Without such combinations, without structuring
our experience into the complex, uni¬ed representation of an objective
world ordered along causal lines, our mental lives would be, as it were,
completely dark; we might be able to respond in more-or-less successful
ways to our environment, but we could never be conscious of it. Likewise,
so Kant argued, we had to order our experience in terms of its being
of independent substances whose interaction with each other proceeded
according to these causal laws.
However, it was not a condition of the very possibility of conscious
experience itself that it contain within itself a representation of God; and
it was not a condition of the possibility of experience that it contain any
encounters with an immortal soul. This was not to deny that such things
might exist “beyond” the bounds of experience; it only showed that nei-
ther “pure” nor “empirically applied” reason could establish any truths
whatsoever about those things, since the only synthetic a priori truths
that were available to us either had to do with the propositions of mathe-
matics and geometry or with the conditions necessary for the possibility
of a self-conscious relation to our ourselves. From the standpoint of pure
reason, we simply had to be agnostic on those matters.
However, if indeed there was no possible consciousness of “unsynthe-
sized” intuitions, no direct awareness of any kind of basic sensory datum
that did not involve concepts, then Kant seemed to have put himself in
a bind. On the one hand, he spoke of there being two different types
of “representations,” concepts and intuitions. On the other hand, if he
was right, sensory inputs could only become representations, “intuitions” “
only acquire any cognitive content and meaning “ by being synthesized
with concepts, which implied that prior to that synthesis they were not
representations (not “of ” anything) at all even if their form was spatial
and temporal.
For those reasons, Kant proposed a third faculty, the “imagination,”
as that which actually combined the concepts with the intuitions and

 See Longuenesse, Kant and the Capacity to Judge, pp. “·°.
(I): Human spontaneity and the natural order
made sure that they matched up with each other. The “transcendental
imagination” “ so called because it, too, was a condition of the possibility
of experience and was not something that, in principle, could be encoun-
tered in introspection “ prepared the temporal succession of intuitions
and the abstract forms of judgment to be suitable to each other. The
two aspects of our mentality “ receptivity and spontaneity, intuition and
concept, sensibility and understanding “ had to be mediated with each
other, and it had to be done by the spontaneous faculty itself (since in-
tuitions could not combine themselves). The “spontaneous” faculty, that
is, must be able to supply both the rule and the conditions for the appli-
cation of the rule.° The only way this could be done was by the a priori
form of temporality being combined according to a rule with the concept
(itself a rule) to produce a category. Indeed, unless the logical form of
judgment is temporalized, Kant argued, it has no real signi¬cance at all.
As he noted: “Substance, for instance, when the sensible determination
of permanence is omitted, would mean simply a something which can
be thought only as subject, never as a predicate of something else.”±
The logical forms of judgment actually become the categories of experi-
ence only when they are rendered into temporalized form, what Kant
called their “schema,” which provide us with the rules to construct them
in terms of how they actually apply to experience: the formal notion of
“that which is always a subject, never a predicate” when applied to the
pure form of temporality becomes “that which endures over time and
has various accidents which can change over time,” in other words, a
Kant™s own “schematism” of the “pure concepts of the understand-
ing” only underwrote his more general theory of mentality. To have a
mind is not to be made of any kind of particular “stuff ”; it is to be able to
perform certain kinds of activities that involve norms (or “rules” in his ter-
minology). Even the calculations of mathematics and geometry, although
founded in the “pure intuitions” of space and time, themselves require
schemata. A schema is thus just a rule or set of rules that speci¬es how
to construct a concept and therefore a judgment. The laws of arithmetic
are such schemata; the transcendental categories of experience are also
such schemata; and even ordinary empirical concepts, such as that of

° Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, ±µ/±·µ: “But the peculiar thing about transcendental philosophy
is this: that in addition to the rule (or rather the general condition for rules), which is given in the
pure concept of the understanding, it can at the same time indicate a priori the case to which
the rule ought to be applied.”
± Critique of Pure Reason, ±· = ±.
° Part I Kant and the revolution in philosophy
“horse,” are schemata. In each case, to be in possession of the concept
is not to have some speci¬c type of mental occurrence going on inside
of oneself nor to have any kind of “image” before the mind™s eye; it is to
be able to do something “ to add and subtract, to construct a geomet-
rical ¬gure or proof, or to be able to recognize and discriminate horses
from other things (such as cows or boulders). But, of course, Kant also
introduced a problematic element into his theory: how was it that the
transcendental imagination used “rules” to combine concepts (“rules”)
with intuitions?

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Perhaps the most shocking thing to Kant™s readers was the conclusion he
drew throughout the Critique about whether these categories or schemata
had any application to the world apart from the conditions under which
we experienced it “ famously, he concluded that we simply cannot know
anything about things-in-themselves; apart from what we discover in
possible experience and what can be demonstrated by the methods of
transcendental philosophy, we know nothing. All our knowledge is re-
stricted to the way in which the world must appear to us; what metaphys-
ical knowledge we have about non-sensible entities is itself restricted to
those categories (causality, substance, and so forth) that are the condi-
tions of the possibility of that experience, which themselves are supplied by
us to experience in general and are not imposed on us whatsoever by the
nature of things-in-themselves. We cannot even conclude, for example,
that the world as it is in itself, apart from the way in which we must ex-
perience it, is spatial or temporal; we can only conclude that we cannot
intuit it in any other form; and we cannot conclude that the categories
that our own spontaneity brings to experience are the way things are in
themselves, since they are explicitly generated by us and applied to such
This was especially disturbing, since it explicitly denied that we had
any knowledge of God, and it seemed to many at the time to counsel a
more thoroughgoing skepticism than any that had yet been attempted. It
was, however, a skepticism with a difference. Although it quite boldly as-
serted that we could know nothing of things-in-themselves, it also asserted
 According to Beatrice Longuenesse, we should therefore conceive of the understanding as a rule-
giver for the syntheses of the imagination. As she puts it, the understanding, actualizing its rules,
simply is the productive synthesis of imagination. This is the “¬rst aspect” of the understanding;
in its second aspect, it is re¬‚ective or discursive. See Kant and the Capacity to Judge, p. .
(I): Human spontaneity and the natural order
equally boldly that behind all human experience was the necessity of
human spontaneity in generating that experience. Moreover, this spon-
taneity was “universal”; it was not a property only of educated or noble
minds; it was a property of all human experience, of, as Kant put it, a
“universal self-consciousness.”
Kant terminologically distinguished appearances from things-in-
themselves by speaking of the world as it must appear to us as the
“phenomenal” world and speaking of that same world as it is in itself,
conceived as apart from any possible experience we might have of it, as
the “noumenal” world. Kant then turned that distinction between phe-
nomena and noumena to the critique of traditional metaphysics. In the
largest section by far of the Critique “ a section titled the “Transcendental
Dialectic” “ Kant dealt with the outstanding traditional metaphysical
problems not by proposing new solutions to them but by dissolving them,
by showing how they were questions which never should have been
raised in the ¬rst place. Concepts, Kant had shown, have signi¬cance
(Bedeutung) only in relation to possible experience or as transcendental
conditions of the possibility of experience. Traditional metaphysics had
simply erred when it had tried to use pure reason to speak of what things-
in-themselves were like “ as when it asked whether, for example, the things
of the world were “in themselves” manifestations of one substance, or
were instead changeable instantiations of eternal forms, or were sets of
unconnected monads, or were mere atoms in the void, and so on. While
it can always seem to the metaphysical inquirer that he is indeed talking
sensibly about deep things, he is in fact suffering from what Kant called
the “transcendental illusion” that necessarily occurs when one oversteps
the bounds of possible experience. Traditional metaphysics thought it
could speak coherently about noumena, when in fact we can only speak
coherently about phenomena.
For Kant, though, that could not be the whole story. Stepping be-
yond the boundaries of possible experience is not simply a failing on
our part, nor is it simply falling for an enticing illusion. In fact, the very
nature of reason itself demands that we go beyond the bounds of possible
 The distinction between “things-in-themselves” and “noumena” is tricky. The former are the
things that are the unknowable sources of our sensible intuitions; the latter are concepts of
the world as intelligible to reason alone, apart from any experience, and are representations of
certain “wholes” or supersensible objects that traditional metaphysics thought could be grasped
by reason alone. As such, noumena function as limiting concepts, as reminders and cautions about
the impossibility of extending rational accounts of the world in ways that contradict the conditions
under which those accounts can be given. For similar accounts of the noumenal/phenomenal
distinction, see Pippin, Kant™s Theory of Form; and Allison, Kant™s Transcendental Idealism.
 Part I Kant and the revolution in philosophy
experience in certain ways if we are to be able to make sense of our experi-
ence as a whole. Whereas the “understanding” (the intellect, der Verstand )
is a faculty of “principles,” reason is a faculty that connects those prin-
ciples in terms of which principles provide evidential support for each
other. The most obvious use of reason in this respect is in constructing for-
mal inferences (such as “all men are mortal, Socrates is a man, therefore
Socrates is mortal”) in which true premises always lead to true conclu-
sions. However, reason alone cannot determine whether the premises
themselves are true; it can only say what follows from what else. As such,
reason is thus led to search for “grounds” or “conditions” for judgments,
which in turn leads it inevitably to seek something that is unconditioned,
that is a ¬nal ground, a ground that has no further ground behind itself.
Reason is thus driven to look for more than merely valid inferences;
it inevitably seeks to ¬nd the end-points of certain types of series and
to look for the unconditioned, the “whole” of which various individual
appearances are only moments. Kant called such “wholes” conceived
as totalities “Ideas” of reason (Ideen in German to distinguish them from
ordinary “representations,” Vorstellungen). Whereas concepts apply to the
objects of perception (and make conscious perception of such objects
possible), Ideas structure and order our re¬‚ections about the world. Ideas
have a kind of second-order status as they gather up and order our re-
¬‚ections and speculations about our ¬rst-order perceptions of individual
objects. However, such Ideas have a perfectly proper and even necessary
use when they are used to provide an order to experience that, while being
“subjectively” necessary, is nonetheless not required as a condition of the
possibility of experience. For example, thinking of the world as an inter-
connected whole is subjectively necessary for us to carry out scienti¬c
investigations, although such a conception of the world is not transcen-
dentally necessary, since we could very well remain the self-conscious
agents we are without thinking of the world in those terms. Whereas the
a priori concepts of “the understanding” give us the objectivity of nature,
the Ideas supply us with a representation of the order of nature.
However, when such Ideas are employed not merely to give us
“regulative” methods for investigating phenomena and ordering our ex-
perience, but also to be themselves accurate representations of the world
as a whole “ as it would be apart from all possible experience of it, as a
“noumenon” “ then they lead directly to what Kant called “antinomies,”
statements about such “unconditioned totalities” that result in equally
well-licensed contradictions. For example, using pure reason alone, we
can generate equally good arguments for such assertions as “the world
(I): Human spontaneity and the natural order
has no beginning in time,” and “the world has a beginning in time.” The
decisive failure of traditional metaphysics to resolve the problems it had
set itself, along with the proliferation and multiplicity of classical meta-
physical systems, were to be directly attributed to such transcendental
illusion. Since arguments that on their surface seem to be good can be
equally well made for such assertions and for their opposites, classical
metaphysicians had been seduced into thinking that they only needed to
tighten up their arguments a bit to show that the opposite conclusion was
wrong; they failed to see that such Ideas necessarily lead to such mutually
contradictory positions, and that no further investigation or tightening
of arguments could, in principle, get them out of that fate.
The most famous of these antinomies was the third, which asserted
that there must be a radical freedom of will that initiates a causal series
but is not itself an effect of any other cause; and that there must be a cause
for every event, and hence there can be no freedom. This was, of course,
curious even in Kant™s own terms. The transcendental employment of
other Ideas resulted in antinomies “ such as the world™s having and not
having a beginning in time “ in which both assertions were held to be
without ultimate cognitive signi¬cance. However, with regard to freedom
and determinism, Kant held that we must believe both that we are beings
obeying the laws of a deterministically conceived universe, and that we
are radically free, and determine our own actions; both elements of the
antinomy were true. The solution to antinomy, as Kant was to later argue,
was that, from a practical point of view, we must conceive of ourselves as
noumenally free, but, from a theoretical point of view, we must be either
agnostic on the question of freedom or deny outright its very possibility.
However, what Kant seemed to be saying in his ¬rst Critique was that
the issue of freedom “ what in fact seemed to be the crucial issue in all
of his work “ simply in principle admitted no theoretical resolution to
itself. Thus, on Kant™s view, freedom was the great problem of modern
thought, and modern thought was destined by the very nature of reason
itself to ¬nd any solution to this problem quite literally to be unintelligible
since the necessary answers contradicted each other. We simply had to
live with the beliefs that we were both free (regarded from a practical
standpoint) and not free (regarded from a theoretical standpoint).
With that, Kant radically shifted the ground of philosophical dis-
cussion that had gone on before him. All previous metaphysics had
been founded on “transcendental illusion”; the problems of traditional
metaphysics were thus not solved but shown to have been falsely posed.
Moreover, the ¬rm conviction that “philosophy” and “reason” itself had
 Part I Kant and the revolution in philosophy
demonstrated the existence of the Christian god, and had thus indirectly
shored up the authority of the German princes, was shown to be itself
an illusion incapable of repair.
There was, quite simply, no theoretical knowledge to be gained of
God at all. Kant himself, however, claimed that he had only made clear
what was really at stake in such religious matters; as he remarked in his
preface to the ±·· edition: “I have therefore found it necessary to deny
knowledge, in order to make room for faith.” That call for “faith,” though,
was intensely worrisome to many of his German readers and was equally
liberating for others; out of it came a new theological debate that has
shaken intellectual life until our own day.
Moreover, alongside Kant™s destruction of traditional metaphysics was
his radically new emphasis on human spontaneity and freedom.µ After
Kant, it seemed that we could no longer explain our powers of thought
in terms of a set of natural dispositions or in terms of their ful¬lling
some metaphysical potentiality for their own perfection. Thinking was
to be understood in terms of judging according to the normative rules
that govern discursive synthesis, not in terms of any kind of natural,
causal, or metaphysical relation to objects (in anything like the traditional
sense). Our mentality consists in the speci¬c way in which we take up
a normative stance to experience, and without that active “taking up,”
there is, quite simply, no consciousness, no mentality at all. In even the
most ordinary perceptions, we ¬nd only the results of human spontaneity,
expressed in self-imposed conceptual rules, combining itself with the
given elements of sensory and intuitive experience, not the preordained
results of a perfect order disclosing itself to us.
The old world, so it seemed, had melted away under the heat of Kant™s
 Critique of Pure Reason, xxx.
µ The theme of “spontaneity” and its crucial importance to Kant™s thought has been voiced most
eloquently in English by Pippin, Kant™s Theory of Form; and Robert Pippin, Idealism as Modernism:
Hegelian Variations (Cambridge University Press, ±·).
° 

The revolution in philosophy (II):
autonomy and the moral order

¦ °®®©  ¦¤
The antinomy between freedom and determinism set the stage for Kant™s
next revolution in philosophy. The ¬rst Critique had established that hu-
man experience resulted from the combination of the spontaneous activity
of the mind with its intuitive (passive) faculties. The spontaneity of the
intellect was underived from anything else and was not a self-evident
truth or indubitable ¬rst principle “ it was instead a self-producing, self-
generating activity. In his second (±··) edition of the Critique, Kant had
even gone so far as to claim in a footnote: “The synthetic unity of ap-
perception is therefore that highest point, to which we must ascribe all
employment of the understanding, even the whole of logic, and con-
formably therewith, transcendental philosophy. Indeed this faculty of
apperception is the understanding itself.”±
Kant™s related distinction of appearances and things-in-themselves
inevitably raised the question about what exactly Kant had thereby done
to traditional conceptions of morality. If with the aid of pure reason we
could not establish that there were certain values and goods in the created
order that had been intended for us, were we then to become “nihilists”
as Jacobi feared, or were we to admit that what we counted as good and
evil depended only on what we happened to desire, and that therefore
reason could never be more than, as Hume had so famously put it, a
“slave to the passions”?
Kant laid out his answers in a series of books and essays, beginning
with the Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Ethics in ±·µ, followed by the
Critique of Practical Reason in ±· which was itself eventually followed
quite a bit later by the Metaphysics of Ethics in ±··. The lines of thought
in those books were also developed in a series of independent essays and
carried over into his writings on religion.
± Critique of Pure Reason, ±note; p. ±µ.

 Part I Kant and the revolution in philosophy
Kant thought the key to answering these questions lay in the prac-
tical necessity for assuming that we are free. The independence of the
normative from the factual in the theoretical sphere required that we
assume that we were free in deliberating about the normative criteria
for making judgments. What role then did this kind of spontaneity of the
normative (its self-generating, non-derivative character) have to play in
the practical sphere, where the results of our judgments are not merely
other judgments but actions?
As physical, embodied beings in the world, we are governed by the
strictly deterministic laws of nature. However, in spontaneously conceiv-
ing of ourselves as acting beings, we must think of ourselves as free. The
key to this, Kant argued, lay in understanding that the difference be-
tween a human action and deterministic event in the world (such as a
piece of knee-jerk behavior) has to do with the normative principle that
the agent is following in performing the action; actions can always be
said to be correct or incorrect, right or wrong. Kant characterized the
normative principle that the agent is acting on as a “maxim,” a subjec-
tive principle of action that the agent follows in her actions, and it is the
character of acting according to maxims that expresses our spontane-
ity in the practical sphere, since an action fundamentally expresses the
agent™s own doing something rather than her being pushed around by
forces external to her.
Although any agent can have various desires and inclinations that she
most certainly does not determine for herself and which can certainly
operate as attractions or incentives to action, what it is that the agent
is doing when she purposefully does anything is determined by what
“maxim” she chooses to act upon, by what she subjectively understands
herself to be doing (even if such understanding is only implicit). We
therefore must think of ourselves as not merely being pushed around
by natural laws (as we surely are in our physical embodied state) but
instead as acting only according to our own representation of a rule or
principle to ourselves. Or, to put it slightly differently, we must conceive of
the laws that govern our actions as self-imposed laws, not laws ordained

 Kant™s own usage of the term, “maxim,” and its relations to the other related terms of his moral
theory (“imperative,” “incentive,” “practical law,” and so forth) is not entirely perspicuous and,
so many scholars have argued, not even consistent across all his mature writings. For purposes of
exposition, I shall ignore those scholarly details in this presentation of Kant™s views since I think
that one can indeed make a coherent presentation of the overall view. See Barbara Herman, “On
the Value of Acting from the Motive of Duty,” in Barbara Herman, The Practice of Moral Judgment
(Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, ±), pp. ±“; Henry E. Allison, Kant™s Theory of
Freedom (Cambridge University Press, ±°); and Onora O™Neill, Constructions of Reason, chapters
“µ, ·; pp. µ±“±°, ±“±, for excellent representative discussions of the issues involved.
(II): Autonomy and the moral order
for us by anything from outside our own activities. The independence
of the normative from the factual or empirical, already so prominent in
the ¬rst Critique, thus appears even more sharply in the practical sphere:
since I can always ask myself what I ought to do (or have done) instead
of what I actually happen to do (or have done), I can always ask whether
I should act upon a maxim different from the one I actually choose; and
I must think of myself as able to do that “ think of myself as free “ if such
deliberation is to make any sense at all.
Even though I must think of myself as free, however, why must I con-
clude that I really am free? Why should I not conclude that I am destined
to entertain some kind of deep illusion about myself ? Kant™s answer to
this relied on his distinction between phenomena and noumena. As I ex-
perience myself as a being in the world among other physical beings in the
world, I cannot conceive of myself as anything except determined by nat-
ural law. What I am as a thing-in-itself, however, cannot be given by such
experience; and my thinking of myself as free is thus to think of myself as
noumenally free, even though I cannot in principle provide any kind of
theoretical proof that I really am free in that sense. Our own freedom is a
presupposition that we must make about ourselves but which we cannot
theoretically defend; it is a necessary condition for conceiving of ourselves
as spontaneous beings, as not merely having a point of view of ourselves
as physical beings in the world but as having a subjective point of view
on the world. Thus, on practical grounds, we must presuppose a belief
about ourselves that on theoretical grounds we cannot prove (and which
from the point of view of our experience of nature actually seems to be
My desires and inclinations, my fears and needs, can exert a pull
on me as a “sensuous” being, as Kant described our embodied state.
They cannot, however, determine for me how I am to evaluate those
inclinations, and, to the extent that I think of myself as necessarily being
able to deliberate about what it is I am going to do and to act in light
of the conclusion of those deliberations, I must conceive of myself as
directing myself to adopt this or that maxim for myself. Since the world
does not cause me to adopt one maxim or another, it must be I myself
who cause myself to adopt the maxim, and that form of causality, which
must be spontaneous and self-originating, cannot be found in the physical
world; it must be conceived, therefore, as Kant put it, as “transcendental
freedom,” the kind of way in which an agent causes himself both to adopt
a maxim and to act on it, that is itself a condition of the possibility of his
conceiving of himself as an agent at all, and which cannot be therefore
discovered in the appearing, experienced world.
 Part I Kant and the revolution in philosophy
Kant™s idea is relatively easy to illustrate. I might desire a piece of
chocolate. It is certain facts about the world, my embodiment, and per-
haps even the way I have been brought up that make that piece of choco-
late attractive to me. That I have a desire for the chocolate is the causal
result of these factors. However, whether I ought to adopt the maxim, “Eat
the chocolate,” or “Do not eat the chocolate” is not itself determined by
the causal forces of the world. Moreover, to the extent that I take myself
to be capable of deliberating on which maxim to adopt, I must see myself
as acting on one or the other of those maxims by virtue of my own free
choice; I must be able, that is, both to discriminate as to which one is
the right maxim for me and which one I shall actually act upon. It is
that which Kant took to lead us inexorably to conclude that we must see
ourselves as each causing himself to adopt and act on the maxim and not
as being caused by things outside of himself in doing so.

¦ ¦¤  µ®
Kant™s picture of agency was thus that of a subject acting in accordance
with laws “ since a being that did not act in accordance with laws would
not be free but only be chaotic, random, pushed around by the laws of
chance like a hapless ball in a roulette wheel “ and these laws had to be
self-imposed, that is, the agent was moved only by the laws of which he
¬rst formed a representation and then applied to himself. That insight
itself was enough to make Kant™s theory novel; but he proceeded to argue
that from that conception of rational agency, we could also draw quite
speci¬c conclusions about what particular actions we ought to perform.
This conception of action was at work in all our everyday, ordinary
activities. We go to work, we buy certain things, we visit with friends, or
turn down invitations on the basis of considerations about what we overall
understand as what we ought to be doing. Since we act on the basis of
such conceptions of what we ought to be doing, issues of justi¬cation
(of what we really ought to do) come up regularly in our lives, and they push
us to ask for general criteria to help us choose among the various maxims
that we are capable of forming. When we search for such criteria, we seek
to form not merely subjective maxims but also, in Kant™s words, practical
laws, statements of more objective principles. If I ask myself whether
I ought to be saving more money than I have been doing, I ask myself for
a general principle to evaluate my maxims. For example: should I live
for today as if tomorrow never comes; or should I prudently plan for
the future, even though I might prefer right now the pleasures of the
(II): Autonomy and the moral order
present? The most general objective practical laws that we formulate are
imperatives, commands of a sort, such as, “if you wish to have any money
for your old age, you must begin saving now,” or “those who care about
their friends must be sympathetic in their treatment of their complaints.”
Because we can rationally formulate such practical principles, we can
always distinguish in principle between our subjective maxims (the ones
we actually act upon) and the practical laws that we ought to be obeying
(just as we can always distinguish between the maxim we are actually
following, such as, “I shall run this red light to get to my destination
quicker” and what the state™s law tells us we ought to do).
How, though, are we to justify such practical laws themselves? One
obvious source of their authority and justi¬cation has to do with the
way many kinds of imperatives are themselves conditional on other sets
of desires and inclinations. (Kant called these, famously, “hypothetical
imperatives.”) For example, if I or anyone else wants to make an omelet,
then it is rational for me or anyone else to acquire some eggs; but it is not
rational for me (or anyone else) to acquire eggs unless I or they happen
antecedently to have such a desire (or some other equally egg-relevant
The basic authority underlying these kinds of imperatives that
depend on other pre-given desires and purposes for their justi¬cation
is partially that of reason itself. What makes them genuine commands is
that it would be irrational to do otherwise; it would be irrational to want
to make an omelet without eggs. Indeed, whenever we can establish a link
between what is necessarily required to achieve a certain purpose or end
and the purpose itself, we can formulate a hypothetical, conditional im-
perative: to accomplish such-and-such, you really must do this-and-that!
However, the authority of such hypothetical imperatives only partially
comes from reason, since the “must do” in all such imperatives clearly
has force only to the extent that the end itself has any force, and reason
does not set those ends. Recognizing the authority and validity of hy-
pothetical imperatives does not rule out Hume™s suspicion that reason
could only be a slave to the passions.
The obvious question, as Kant so brilliantly saw, was to ask whether
any practical law (or “imperative”) could be formulated that would be
unconditionally binding on us, would be, in his terms, “categorical.”
Such a law would be unconditionally binding on us only if there was
either (±) some end that we were rationally required to have, such that
we could say that all agents “rationally must” seek to accomplish that
end; or () an imperative that was a genuine law that did not at the same
µ° Part I Kant and the revolution in philosophy
time take its authority from its ability or necessity to promote any end
Phrasing the question in that way forced Kant to bring the element
of motivation into his moral theory, to ask what it was about us that
actually moved us to action. Since the whole doctrine of “transcendental
freedom” required that we be capable of moving ourselves to action
by virtue of something about whichever maxim we adopted, it did not
seem possible for there to be any such end that could be categorical,
since it would have to motivate us by some faculty such as desire or
pleasure, thus making it conditional on the agent™s particular organic
and psychological make-up. However, for anything, even pleasure itself,
to motivate an agent (as opposed to causing him) to act, it must ¬rst be
incorporated into the agent™s maxim; the agent must make it a reason for
him to act. However attractive a promise of pleasure may be, on its own
it is only an “incentive”; it becomes a reason for acting only when the
agent makes it (in this case the pursuit of pleasure) into a reason for him
to act; and only in that way is the agent actually free, actually moving
himself to action instead of being pushed around by forces external to
Thus, as Kant phrased matters, if there is such an unconditional,
categorical imperative, then it must be one that binds all rational agents
necessarily independently of what particular purposes they will. It must,
that is, be an imperative, a practical law that is valid for all such rational
agents deliberating whatever course of action they happen to be delib-
erating upon, which leaves, as Kant famously concluded, only the form
of the imperative itself as valid in that categorical sense, only the bare
idea that, whatever such an imperative might be, it has to be one that is
unconditionally binding for all rational agents. As such a practical law
 As Kant puts it, “freedom of choice (Willk¨ r) is of a wholly unique nature in that an incentive
can determine choice to an action only so far as the individual has incorporated (aufgenommen) it into
his maxim (has made it the general rule in accordance with which he will conduct himself );
only thus can an incentive, whatever it may be, coexist with the absolute spontaneity of choice
(Willk¨ r) (i.e., freedom).” Immanuel Kant, Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone (trans. Theodore
M. Greene and Hoyt Hudson) (New York: Harper and Row, ±°), p. ± (translation altered by
me). Henry E. Allison characterizes this as Kant™s “incorporation thesis,” and as the idea that
“sensible inclinations are related to an object of the will only insofar as they are ˜incorporated
into a maxim,™ that is, subsumed under a rule of action” and that this act of incorporation, of
my making something into a motive, setting an end, or adopting a maxim can be “conceived but
cannot be experienced,” Allison, Kant™s Theory of Freedom, p. °.
 Kant stresses this point in all his writings on moral philosophy, and particularly in both the Critique
of Practical Reason and the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. In the Groundwork, Kant claims
that the categorical imperative “contains only the necessity that our maxim should conform to
this law, while the law, as we have seen, contains no condition to limit it, there remains nothing
(II): Autonomy and the moral order
that is supposed to govern our maxims, it thus has, as Kant put it, the
form of “universality,” of being binding on all agents regardless of their
social standing, or particular ways of life, or whatever tastes, inclinations,
or plans they have for their lives.
Kant™s own formulation of the categorical imperative brought out this
feature: “Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time
will that it should become a universal law.”µ That is, whatever “maxims”
one forms, they should conform to the moral law. Yet, as Kant was aware,
all that seemed to require is that it conform to a law that was phrased
in terribly general terms “ it seemed to require that, whatever maxims
an agent adopted, it should conform to (that is, either be identical with
or at least not con¬‚ict with) a practical law that was binding on agents,
without saying anything more about what that practical law might be.
The problem of motivation, of what would move us to conform our
maxims to this universal law (stated in such a formal, abstract way) only
made the problem more acute. If it was to be unconditionally binding
on us, then we could not be motivated to do it simply because we wanted
to do it, or because it held out some promise of pleasure or ful¬llment,
because that would make it conditional on whether we actually cared
about such pleasure or ful¬llment. Instead, the practical law™s own un-
conditional nature had to be linked to the one feature of our agency
that was itself unconditional, namely, our freedom as “transcendental
freedom,” that is, our ability to be the cause of our own actions. For it
to be unconditionally binding on us, and for us to be able to be said to
choose it unconditionally, we must freely be able to choose it while at the
same time regarding it as something that, as it were, imposes itself on us.
To put it in less Kantian terms: Kant saw that the categorical imperative
would have to be a “calling,” something that made a claim on us indepen-
dently of our own (“conditional”) situation in life, while at the same time
being something to which each agent and that agent alone binds himself.
We encounter this, so Kant argued, in the very ordinary experience
of duty itself. The most central experience of moral duty is that of expe-
riencing a claim on oneself, of feeling the pull of one™s duty in a way that
goes beyond what one happens to want to do. To the extent, for example,
that one takes oneself to have a duty to tell a friend the truth about some
matter, one has the experience of an obligation, a sense that one really

over to which the maxim has to conform except the universality of a law as such,” Groundwork
of the Metaphysics of Morals (trans. H. J. Paton) (New York: Harper Torchbooks, ±), p. 
( °“±).
µ Groundwork, p.  ( ±).
µ Part I Kant and the revolution in philosophy
ought to tell the truth, even if it means forsaking something else one
wants to do. (Perhaps the act of telling the truth will be uncomfortable or
even painful.) Such experience of duty is only possible for a being who is
free, who can experience the dual pulls of what one wants to do and that
of one™s obligation, of acting in a way that is unconditionally required
of oneself. Thus our own “transcendental freedom” is the basis of our
experience within our own self-conscious lives of moral duty itself.
This implied, however, that moral duty be based on more than simply
our freedom. Freedom consists in our ability to move ourselves to action
rather than being pushed around by forces external to ourselves. Even
the promise of pleasure can only move us to act when we let it, when we
make “acting for the sake of pleasure” into our maxim and motivation.
Such freedom is, however, still conditional on something that is not itself
elected by us (such as whether we ¬nd such-and-such pleasurable). Moral
duty, however, as unconditionally binding on us, requires us to rise above
even such things as the pursuit of pleasure or the desire for fame. It
requires, that is, not just freedom but autonomy, self-determination, giving
the practical law to oneself instead of having any element of it imposed
on oneself from outside oneself; and all those threads come together, so
Kant concluded, in the categorical imperative. Kant™s own statement of
the requirements are both striking and decisive for the development of
post-Kantian thought: “The will is therefore not merely subject to the
law, but is so subject that it must be considered as also giving the law to itself
and precisely on this account as ¬rst of all subject to the law (of which it
can regard itself as instituting).” That is, we keep faith with the moral law,
almost as if it were not chosen by us, all the while recognizing (however
implicitly) ourselves as the author of that very law to which we are keeping
faith. If something other than ourselves instituted the moral law, then
the law could not be both unconditionally binding and compatible with
our “transcendental freedom.”·
Kant quite radically and controversially concluded that this capacity
for “transcendental freedom” actually implies the categorical imperative,
the moral law (and vice versa). Only a self-instituted law would be
 Ibid., p.  ( ±). Translation modi¬ed: in particular, I rendered “davon er sich selbst als Urheber
betrachten kann” as “of which it can regard itself as instituting” instead of translating “Urheber”
as “author.” (More literally, it would be rendered as “instituter” but that seemed awkward.)
· Thus Kant radically concluded that: “We need not now wonder, when we look back upon all
the previous efforts that have been made to discover the principle of morality (Sittlichkeit ), why
they have one and all been bound to fail. Their authors saw man as bound to laws by his duty, but
it never occurred to them that he is subject only to his own but nonetheless universal legislation,”
Groundwork, p. ±°° ( ) (translation substantially altered).
(II): Autonomy and the moral order
compatible with a conception of ourselves as “transcendentally free,”
and only a self-instituted law that was binding on all such agents would
be unconditionally binding on us. Moreover, it follows that, although we
can never be fully obligated to accomplish what we have willed “ since that
always depends on matters of chance and thus on things that we can-
not always determine for ourselves “ we can always be held responsible
for what we have willed to do, since choosing our maxims and binding
ourselves to them remains forever within the domain of our own tran-
scendental freedom.

¦ µ®  ¬ °©®©°¬
Kant™s rather striking conclusion raised its own problems. Most crucially
it raised the following issue: if the only practical law that meets all these
requirements is simply the formal principle that each of us must act in a
way that at least does not con¬‚ict with the very abstract, formal principle
of acting in conformity with a law that is “universal,” rationally required
of all such agents, then is there any way of concluding that we ought
to do anything in particular? To what exactly are we committed by
undertaking to act only in such ways?
Kant™s own answer to this problem turned out to be one of the most
powerful and in¬‚uential of his moral ideas: there is something about
such beings that can act autonomously that is itself of “absolute worth,”
which Kant calls the “dignity” (W¨ rde) of each such agent. Each agent
who conceives of himself as such an autonomous being must think of
himself as an end-in-himself, not as a means to anything else; he must
conceive of himself as doing things for the sake of his own freedom,
that is, for the sake of moving himself about in the world and not being
pushed around by forces outside of himself. Since he could not even have
a conception of himself (or of his self ) as an agent unless he was ultimately
concerned about such freedom, this capacity is of absolute value to him,
and all other agents share an equal concern with the absolute value of
that capacity in themselves. The one thing that would be required of
all such agents who act on maxims that at least do not con¬‚ict with a
universal practical law would therefore be to act on maxims that respect
that capacity in each other, and this itself leads to a further speci¬cation
of the categorical imperative, which Kant formulates as: “Act in such
a way that you always treat humanity whether in your own person or
in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the
µ Part I Kant and the revolution in philosophy
same time as an end.” Kant further argued that the requirement to
treat all agents as ends-in-themselves was enough to specify a whole
set of moral duties. To treat someone as an end and never simply as a
means meant that one was required to treat people in ways such that, as
he obscurely put it, one™s treatment adequately expresses one™s valuing
them “as beings who must themselves be able to share in the end of
the very same action” “ that is, who must be able to rationally go along
with the purposes being promoted by the relevant actions, who must be
able at least to “go along with” (einstimmen) the ends being proposed or
Behind this lay therefore a powerful picture of the moral order that
fully revolutionized how we were to think about ourselves. The moral
order was not that of a created order in which each of us has his or
her allotted role and to which we were obligated to conform; nor was
it a natural order that determined what counted as happiness or per-
fection for each of us; it was instead, as Kant put, a “kingdom (Reich) of
ends.” In such a “kingdom of ends,” each conceives of himself as legis-
lating entirely for himself, and by virtue of legislating “universally” in a
way that respects all others as ends-in-themselves, conceives of himself
as also subject to the universal laws under which he brings himself and
others. The moral order, that is, is an ideal, communally instituted order,
not a natural or created order, and it is the reciprocity involved in each au-
tonomous agent legislating for himself and others that is to be considered
as that which “institutes” the law, not the individual agent considered
apart from all others nor the community hypostatized into an existent
whole of any sort. Or, as Kant made his point about the moral order:
“Thus morality consists in the relation of all action to the making of
laws whereby alone a kingdom of ends is possible.”±° The problem, as so
many of his later critics and adherents were to note, was the link between
the rather formal demand to act only on principles required of all ratio-
nal agents (called the “universalization” thesis) and the more substantive
claim about the unconditional worth of all such agents. So much seemed
to turn on that claim, and the nature of the move from the formal to the
substantive, while overwhelmingly powerful in its appeal, was not entirely
 Ibid., p.  ( ).
 Ibid., p. · ( °): the phrase is “nur als solche, die von eben derselben Handlung auch in sich
den Zweck m¨ ssen enthalten k¨ nnen, gesch¨ tzt werden sollen” “ quite literally to be translated
u o a
as those who “must be able to contain the [same] end within themselves.”
±° Ibid., p. ±°± ( ).
(II): Autonomy and the moral order

¦¤ ®¤  °¬©©¬ ®·¬:
µ® ®¤ ©µ
Whatever the dif¬culties of elucidating the move from the formal to
the substantive actually were, that formal notion of “universalizability”
(acting on maxims that conform to a practical law that would be rational
for all agents) and the notion of respecting the inherent “dignity” of
all agents (treating people as ends-in-themselves and willing from the
standpoint of the “kingdom of ends”) gave Kant, so he thought, the
full set of resources to be able to state what exactly we were morally
required to do. Roughly, Kant divided the moral world into two spheres,
one consisting of what was unconditionally required of us politically and
socially, and the other consisting of those duties of virtue that each of
us owed ourselves and others but which could not be made into any
kind of legally enforceable duties. (These were not fully elaborated until
the late publication of the Metaphysics of Ethics in ±··.) As interesting
and insightful as Kant™s views on these matters were, it also remained
unclear to his readers just how he proposed to link them up with his other
Kant™s conception of the social world rested on a key distinction in his
practical philosophy between simple free choice (Willk¨ r) and our more
radically free (and potentially autonomous) capacity for willing (Wille).
Our freedom allowed us to set ends and determine the most ef¬cient
means of realizing those ends; that was a matter of free choice, which
consists in our ability to form our own maxims and to evaluate their
appropriateness in terms of practical laws and principles. However, since
we are also capable of rising above our dependence on given purposes
and ends (such as happiness) and becoming fully autonomous, of being
a law completely unto ourselves, we also have a free will, which is the
ability not only to form one™s maxims and act upon them but actually
to institute the supreme practical law by which those maxims are to be
evaluated. Our actions in the social order could only be regarded from
the moral point of view as an expression of free choice, not free will;
since there is no way that a public order could ever peer into men™s souls
to discover whether they were acting out of a sense of duty or a sense of
personal advantage, the highest level of ethical life to which the public
order could aspire would only be that of a harmonization of free choices
under public law, not that of a community of virtuous individuals.
In making that distinction in that way, Kant thus argued for a basically
liberal political and social system based on freedom. One™s capacity to
µ Part I Kant and the revolution in philosophy
choose freely among various alternatives (Willk¨ r, free choice) had to be
subjected to the rule of publicly stated law, which itself could only be
justi¬ed in terms of what kinds of coercive limits could be put on the
exercise of everyone™s free choice that would be compatible with each
individual having the same rights to liberty. Property rights were basic
to that view, and one had an obligation, so he said, to leave the state
of nature and enter into a condition of rule of law (in a state).±± In a
just public order, people have, as ends-in-themselves, the right to pursue
happiness according to their own conception of it and the obligation to
respect that right on the part of others.±
The linchpin of that view was not, however, a conception of public
order as a means of securing private advantage, but a conception of
a rule of law as an end in itself, as something that we as members of
the “kingdom of ends” are obligated to achieve. Kant argued that his
revolutionary doctrine of freedom and autonomy committed us to a
liberal social order not because it would make us happier but because it
was a moral requirement of our own freedom itself. The citizens of such
an order thus were entitled to civic freedom (as involving those rights to free
choice that are compatible with others having equal rights), civic equality
(as no single individual having the right to bind anybody else to a law that
others could not in principle also have “ but which did not commit one
to equality of property, so Kant emphasized), and civic independence (of
each having his rights independently of whether others would actually
grant him those rights or be sympathetic to his having them). Indeed, the
most striking thing about Kant™s thesis was that there was an unconditional
but nonetheless enforceable obligation to belong to such a social order, so
that our obligation to move out of a “state of nature” to such a political
order was not a conditional, “hypothetical” obligation that rested on any
kind of shared desire to belong to such a civil order; equally striking is the
way in which that bold claim remained unclear to later commentators
on Kant.
±± I have argued that Kant™s own reasons for this in the Metaphysics of Morals are not convincing
on their own and require us to understand them in the full context of the rest of his ethical
thought in Terry Pinkard, “Kant, Citizenship, and Freedom,” in Otfried H¨ ffe (ed.), Immanuel
Kant, Metaphysische Anfangsgr¨ nde der Rechtslehre (Klassiker Auslegen, Bd. ±) (Berlin: Akademie
Verlag, ±), pp. ±µµ“±·.
± As Kant put it in one of his essays: “No-one can compel me to be happy in accordance with his
conception of the welfare of others, for each may seek his happiness in whatever way he sees ¬t,
so long as he does not infringe upon the freedom of others to pursue a similar end which can
be reconciled with the freedom of everyone else within a workable general law “ i.e., he must
accord to others the same right as he enjoys himself.” See “On the Common Saying: ˜This May
Be True in Theory, but It Does Not Apply in Practice,™ ” in Kant™s Political Writings, p. ·.
(II): Autonomy and the moral order
If the public order is a conception of freedom of choice under the rule of
law, the private moral order, on the other hand, is a conception of virtue,
of each autonomously willing the right maxim for the right reason. To be
virtuous, one must have a certain disposition of character (a Gesinnung)
to do one™s duty; to do the right thing from the wrong motive is not to
be virtuous, since it means that one is being moved to act not by one™s
rational commitments but by something extraneous to the commitments
themselves (such as fear of being caught or by a desire to please others).
One might obey the public law non-virtuously, that is, for the wrong rea-
son (for example, out of fear of punishment), but one cannot be virtuous
and obey the moral law out of any other motive than that of duty and
respect for the moral law itself.
Two things were noteworthy in Kant™s conception of virtue. First,
Kant tended to interpret the demands of having a virtuous character not
so much in terms of one™s upbringing and cultivation of certain traits of
character and personality (although he did not belittle those) but in terms
of a very secular and radical reinterpretation of the Christian experience
of conversion. To have the right “disposition” of character is something
that can be itself chosen; one can change one™s moral orientation suddenly
by an act of free will, and it thus does not depend on an act of divine
grace coming to one from without. One™s basic “disposition” in this
sense (in distinction from a practical “law”) is thus like a maxim in that
one can subjectively adopt it as a kind of super-maxim to adopt only
those maxims that conform to the practical laws of morality.
Second, whereas in doctrines of public law and justice we are only
obligated to restrain ourselves and others from interfering with each
other™s rights, to be virtuous we must also positively promote and pursue
the right ends. In that light, Kant argued that there were therefore two
ends that, as an autonomous being, one was unconditionally obligated to
pursue: one should pursue one™s own moral perfection (understanding
full well that such a goal is not achievable); and one should promote
the happiness of others. Yet Kant™s own arguments for those two ends
were somewhat peculiar: his arguments in his earlier works were that no
particular end could ever serve as the basis of an unconditional duty, and
that only the motive to act on maxims that conformed to universal law
could ¬ll that role. In the later Metaphysics of Ethics, though, he argued
quite speci¬cally that “this act that determines an end is a practical prin-
ciple that prescribes the end itself.”± The alleged obligatory character

± Metaphysics of Morals (trans. Mary Gregor) (Cambridge University Press, ±±), p. ±° ( ).
µ Part I Kant and the revolution in philosophy
of both ends had to do with the also alleged unconditional obligation
for us to try to remove any obstacles within our own personalities that
might prevent us from carrying out that obligation.
The general picture, though, was clear, however obscure the argu-
ments for them were. The citizen learns to subordinate his inclinations
that con¬‚ict with the public law to the public law itself “ which is justi¬ed
as making possible the equal freedom of all “ and the virtuous person ex-
ercises his unconditioned autonomy of will to act only on those maxims
and pursue only those ends that all the members of the ideal “kingdom
of ends” could pursue. Whereas the free citizen exercises a lesser form
of self-rule, the virtuous individual exercises a supreme form of freedom
as self-rule, a full autonomy.

µ®, ¬©§©®, ®¤  ©¬ ®·¬
One of the most controversial aspects of Kant™s philosophy, and one
which had already become a bone of contention in the discussions orig-
inally surrounding the publication of the ¬rst Critique, had to do with the
implications of Kant™s thought for established religion. Kant had quite
clearly ruled out any theoretical knowledge of God and even of God™s
very existence, but he had explicitly claimed he had done this only to
make room for faith. Nonetheless, his moral philosophy seemed at least
to rule out any direct dependence of morality on religion, and thus was
potentially unsettling to the established orders in Germany, who (like
many people at all times) saw religion as an absolutely necessary bul-
wark for maintaining social order. If people™s ethical lives in the broadest
sense “ their capacity as citizens and their individual capacities to lead
virtuous lives “ did not depend on their subscribing to established dog-
mas of the ecclesiastical order, then what role, if any, was religion to play
in people™s lives at all?
Kant™s own re¬‚ections on religion were closely linked to a problem
he himself clearly saw at work in his moral philosophy: his philosophy
of moral autonomy, as he had constructed it, was going to have trou-
ble explaining just why any particular agent would be motivated by the
demands of freedom and autonomy, given the strictures he had set on
them. One was to do duty for duty™s sake, not for the sake of anything
else “ whether it be personal advantage, providing for the social order,
or whatever; to do one™s duty for the sake of any of those other things
would erase the unconditional character of moral duty, making it instead
(II): Autonomy and the moral order
conditional on an interest or desire in something other than duty itself.
On Kant™s understanding of moral experience, when we grasp that some-
thing really is our moral duty, we just are motivated by the normative force
of the duty itself. Yet, since we could not be said to have any kind of ordi-
nary “empirical” interest in morality if we were truly virtuous, what kind
of “interest” or motive could we have at all?
Kant™s own answer was not entirely reassuring. The unconditional
claim of the moral law on us “ a law that we all individually and col-
lectively institute “ is just, as he put it, a “fact of reason,” something of
which we are aware by virtue of being free, rational agents in the ¬rst
place, and which, curiously, if we were not aware, would disqualify us
from being agents at all.± The “fact of reason” is another way of artic-
ulating the distinctively Kantian idea that reasons have a claim on us
because we make them have a claim on us; in entertaining the principle of
the moral law, we also necessarily submit ourselves to it. Furthermore,
as a self-legislated “fact,” there can be no further derivation of it from
any more fundamental metaphysical fact about the world, since it is the
“fact” of our own radical, underived spontaneity itself (even if the “fact”
that we are subject to moral rules is, in Kant™s language, a “synthetic
a priori” proposition). Denying the “fact” would be practically impos-
sible, since the denial would be legislating the “fact” by which it would
be denied. The notion of the “fact of reason” thus boiled down to a
restatement of the quasi-paradoxical formulation of the authority of the
moral law itself, which seems to require a “lawless” agent to give laws to
himself on the basis of laws that from one point of view seem to be prior
to the legislation and from another point of view seem to be derivative
from the legislation itself. The paradox arises from Kant™s demand that,
if we are to impose a principle (a maxim, the moral law) on ourselves,
then presumably we must have a reason to do so; but, if there was an
antecedent reason to adopt that principle, then that reason would not
itself be self-imposed; yet for it to be binding on us, it had to be (or at least
had to be “regarded” to be, as Kant ambiguously stated) self-imposed.
The “fact of reason,” as an expression of the “Kantian paradox,” thus is
supposedly practically undeniable, not theoretically proven: we simply
± “The consciousness of this fundamental law may be called a fact of reason, since one cannot
ferret it out from antecedent data of reason, such as the consciousness of freedom (for this is not
antecedently given), and since it forces itself upon us as a synthetic a priori proposition based on
no pure or empirical intuition . . . one must note that it is not an empirical fact but the sole fact
of pure reason, which by it proclaims itself as originating law,” Critique of Practical Reason (trans.
Lewis White Beck) (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, ±µ), p. ± ( ±).
° Part I Kant and the revolution in philosophy
could not entertain such a view of ourselves and still be free, practically
acting agents.±µ (This “Kantian paradox” plays a large role in the systems
propounded by Kant™s successors.± )
The Kantian answer to the question “ “what interest might we have
in being moral agents?” “ thus came down to the claim: there is and
can be no interest, strictly conceived, in being moral agents. We simply
are moral agents by virtue of being the kinds of rational creatures we
are, and we simply do experience the call of moral duty on ourselves by
virtue of being such agents. Whatever “interest” we can have in morality
must itself be generated by the call of moral duty; it cannot in any way
precede it.
But, as Kant endlessly repeated, since we were not only rational, but
also embodied agents, this did not mean that we should expect people
to become angels, and it would be foolish to think that humans could
somehow be expected to renounce all claims to happiness in the natural
world. This is not some contingent, morally insigni¬cant fact about us,
but an essential fact about what it means to be a rational and naturally
embodied individual agent. (Non-embodied agents, if there were any,
would not have this problem.) Thus, it is practically necessary both for
us to do our duty for duty™s sake, forsaking all claims to happiness that
±µ Christine Korsgaard has famously made this argument in many of her articles on Kant and has
been one of the foremost commentators to bring this problem of self-legislation to the foreground.
For the most succinct and straightforward presentation of her views on this issue, see Christine
Korsgaard, The Sources of Normativity (Cambridge University Press, ±).
± This notion of the “Kantian paradox” as basic to post-Kantian idealism was ¬rst formulated
as far as I know by Robert Pippin; see Robert Pippin, “The Actualization of Freedom,” in
Karl Ameriks (ed.), Cambridge Companion to German Idealism (Cambridge University Press, °°°);
and Hegel™s Practical Philosophy: Traces of Reason in Ethical Life (forthcoming). The idea can also
be found in an adumbrated way in Judith Butler, The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection
(Stanford University Press, ±·). Karl Ameriks tries a different strategy with regard to the
dif¬culties inherent in Kant™s notion of self-legislation (and the post-Kantian responses to them)
in Karl Ameriks, Kant and the Fate of Autonomy: Problems in the Appropriation of the Critical Philosophy
(Cambridge University Press, °°°). Ameriks argues for a more “modest” interpretation of Kant:
Kant, he claims, simply accepts the contingency of our own experience and pursues a more or
less reconciliatory strategy that seeks “to endorse libertarianism, to accept what seem to be the
¬ndings of the best of modern science, and to see if there can be some way of constructing a
rational metaphysics that leaves room for both” (Kant and the Fate of Autonomy, p. ±). On Ameriks™s
view, one should clearly distinguish in Kant™s works the series of presuppositions behind this
common-sense notion of contingent experience from Kant™s own metaphysical account of this
system (transcendental idealism), and both of those in turn from the metaphysical implications of
the system (the room that Kant takes himself to have created for freedom). Ameriks thus takes
Kant™s metaphysical solution to the problem of freedom (as an issue of transcendental causality)
as central to Kantian doctrine instead of the “Kantian paradox.” In turn, that leads him to
understand the post-Kantian responses as misunderstandings of Kant™s metaphysical ambitions
(which in turn led them to propound even more metaphysically contentious views than Kant™s)
instead of taking some of the post-Kantian responses, as I do, as attempts to come to terms with
the “Kantian paradox.”
(II): Autonomy and the moral order
con¬‚ict with our duty, and for us to carve out some area in our lives where
we pursue our own happiness, even if there can be no duty whatsoever
to pursue one™s own happiness.
Kant attempted to deal with those problems in the Critique of
Practical Reason, in which he introduced what he called the “postulates”
of morality, which, in turn, were required by what he called the “highest
good.” Although the demands of the moral law always override any per-
sonal claims to happiness, we cannot be expected to fully forgo our own
happiness, so we must thereby construct a concept of the “highest good”
that is “higher” than the merely moral good without in any way mak-
ing the moral good subordinate to anything else. Such a “highest good”
would be the union of virtue and happiness, in which the virtuous person
would have exactly that amount of happiness that he would deserve if
happiness were distributed as a reward for virtue. We are unconditionally
obligated to pursue this “highest good” in our actions, to strive to bring
about a world in which the virtuous are as happy as they ought to be.
Since this is only an ideal and can never be achieved in this world, but
we must believe that it can be achieved, Kant concluded that we must
therefore “postulate” two things: that there is an immortality of the soul
(since actually bringing about the highest good would take an in¬nite
amount of time), and that a God exists who will distribute happiness
to the virtuous in the right proportions (since the union of virtue and
happiness demands a harmony of nature and freedom, which human
agents are on their own incapable of bringing about). Both these are
“postulates” in that, although their truth cannot be demonstrated, we
¬nd that by undertaking a commitment to the unconditional demands of
the self-instituted moral law, we have committed ourselves to postulating
such things in order to explain how those prior commitments would even
be possible.±·
Whatever the value of Kant™s arguments for his postulates was, they
clearly illustrated the way in which Kant™s more general point had turned
the conventional wisdom on its ear: religion does not give rise to morality
so much as morality gives rise to religion. This became even more clear
when Kant published his own book on the philosophy of religion with
the very Kantian title, Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone in ±·.±
Bringing religion under the guidance of reason was, of course, not new
±· See Allison, Kant™s Theory of Freedom, p. ·, where he argues that Kant™s postulates are not “props”
for the moral law (as they are in their early form in the ¬rst Critique) but “necessary conditions”
for the achievement of the highest good.
± Kant, Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone (trans. Theodore M. Greene and Hoyt Hudson)
(New York: Harper and Row, ±°).
 Part I Kant and the revolution in philosophy
with Kant; it was in some respects a commonplace in Enlightenment
thought, and there was a great deal of controversy as to whether religion
was compatible with the unfettered use of reason (on the sides both of
supporters of religion and its antagonists). Kant™s views on freedom and
autonomy, though, drew out the commitments within that subordination
of religion to reason in a more radical way than others had previously
done, at the same time without explicitly jettisoning the appeal to religion
Kant claimed that morality demands a “¬nal end” of the world, which
is supplied by religion. However, religion in its true, rational sense boiled
down to, as he put it, “the recognition of all duties as divine commands,”
and the authority of moral duty itself rests on its having been instituted by
the agents in the “kingdom of ends,” not from its being commanded by
a God standing outside of human reason.± In particular, Kant™s reversal
of the standard account of the relation of religion to morality threw into
question the received versions of divine grace. On Catholic and most
Protestant accounts, human beings are incapable of fully transforming
their moral lives on their own because of the ineluctable fact of origi-
nal sin; only the freely bestowed act of grace by God, which cannot be
demanded, puts the human agent in the position to make that trans-
formation. On Kant™s view, on the other hand, human actors are fully
responsible and fully capable of forming the supreme practical law of
morality (the categorical imperative) and of forming and acting upon
maxims that were in conformity with that law; they are also capable of
completely reshaping their own dispositions so as to make themselves
more capable of acting as the (self-instituted) moral law demands by
relying only on their own powers of free choice and will.°
What then explained moral evil? In every human agent, there are at
least two potential sources of motivation: there is the “fact of reason,” and
there are the various incentives that come to us from our own embodied
nature, from the fact that we all have our own particular projects in life,
all of which can be summed up under the title of “self-love.” These can
pull us in entirely different directions, and it is part of the very nature
of embodied, rational beings that both exercise an attraction upon the
individual. Kant called this “radical evil.” The evil person is he who
subordinates the moral law to self-love, making his motive for obeying
± Ibid., p. ±; Immanuel Kant, Werke (ed. Wilhelm Weischedel) (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp
Verlag, ±··), ©©©, p.  (hereafter KW ).
° For Kant™s own rejection of theological notions of grace, see Religion Within the Limits of Reason
Alone, p. ±; KW, p. ±±.
(II): Autonomy and the moral order
the moral law into a reason having to do with his own personal advantage.
It is not that people do evil for its own sake “ they are not Milton™s Satan
who wills, “Evil be thou my Good”± “ but that they become perverse in
their willing, lacking enough strength of will to do what is so clearly right
and instead rationalizing their substitution of their own projects for that
which is required by the moral law.
Why though would anybody do that? A bad upbringing can only go
so far in explaining such matters. No matter how strong the inclinations
of self-love are, one is always capable of overriding them because of
the “fact of reason.” All humans are capable of this “revolution” in
themselves, and, as Kant puts it, “no uni¬cation is possible” between the
competing empirical claims to the effect that some people simply have a
bad character and the practically necessary a priori belief that we
have “transcendental freedom.” Moreover, this “re¬‚ective faith” in the
power of our own autonomy is compatible with a “moral religion,” that
is, one whose aim is to recognize our radical evil and strive to improve
our conduct; it is not, however, compatible with a religion that aims to
procure favors from the divine (which would amount to forsaking our
own freedom in the hope that God will make us better).
As such a moral religion, it holds out the Idea (in Kant™s sense) of
an ethical commonwealth. Unlike a political society or commonwealth,
which is authorized to coerce its members in light of what is necessary
to respect the freedom of all, an “ethical commonwealth” can only be
entered into and sustained completely freely. Whereas we may coerce
those who attempt to remain outside of the social bond to submit to
the rule of law, nobody is authorized to coerce anybody else into being
Nonetheless, although we cannot be coerced into joining the ideal eth-
ical commonwealth, we each have an unconditional moral duty to enter
freely into it; this duty is not merely another restatement of the general
duty to be virtuous, but follows from our undertaking a commitment to
promote the “highest good.” Whereas the political commonwealth is an
Idea represented as the rule of law justi¬ed by a principle of freedom,
the Idea of an ethical commonwealth would be represented (more or less
symbolically) as a community ruled by God as the moral originator of
the world. This would be equivalent to realizing the kingdom of God on
earth in the form of an “invisible church,” a quasi-institution without any
± John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book , line ±±°.
 See Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone, p. ; KW, p. . (Translation altered, rendering
“Vereinigung” as “uni¬cation” instead of “reconciliation.”)
 Part I Kant and the revolution in philosophy
coercive power that nonetheless would unite all people under the Idea
of the “kingdom of ends.” Actual existing churches (because of radical
evil and human ¬nitude in general) can be at best poor approximations
of this “invisible church,” since actual churches must institute coercive
measures intended to preserve their dogmas and central articles of faith.
In the “invisible church,” however, we ful¬ll our duties to God fully and
totally by ful¬lling our duties to all human individuals; since God, repre-
sented as the moral originator of the world, is a postulate of such practical
reason relating to that which is necessary to represent the “highest good”
as achievable, the content of the “will of God” is simply equivalent to
that of the “autonomous will of men.” There simply is no other way to
honor God within the religion of reason outside of autonomously carry-
ing out the moral law for its own sake; once that takes hold of people™s
hearts, the revolution in philosophy will become a revolution in human
life, and the “kingdom of God” (as an ethical commonwealth) will be
realized on earth.
Kant took great pains to convince his readers (and perhaps the author-
ities) that this was all compatible with Christianity. In fact, he even went
so far as to say that Christianity is the only example of such a “moral
religion”; he reinterpreted numerous biblical passages in light of his own
views on morality, making it clear that, according to this interpretation,
the whole story of Jesus™ death and trans¬guration only meant that “there
exists absolutely no salvation for man apart from the most inward incor-
poration of genuinely ethical principles into his disposition,” that a “true
religion” of reason and morality, while more or less identical in certain
key aspects of Christian teaching, could not force belief in the Bible, and
that the “sacred narrative” of biblical teaching “ought to have absolutely
no in¬‚uence upon the adoption of moral maxims,” since “every man
can become wholly certain [of the practical law] without any scriptural
authority.” Morality, autonomously doing duty for duty™s sake, simply
is all there is, rationally, to the idea of religious salvation.µ
 See Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone, pp. “µ; KW, pp. ·“·.
 On Christianity as the only moral religion, see Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone, p. ·; KW,
p. ·°. On the points about salvation and about scriptural authority, see Religion Within the Limits
of Reason Alone, pp. ·, ±; KW, pp. ·, ·.
µ In making this claim, Kant even went so far as to argue that not only is Christianity the only
example of a “moral religion,” it has nothing conceptually to do with Judaism, even though
historically it emerged from it. On Kant™s view, Christianity effected a conceptual revolution in
the notion of faith, and thus was conceptually unrelated to its historical predecessor, Judaism,
which, Kant even went on to claim, is “not a religious faith at all,” Religion Within the Limits of
Reason Alone, p. ±±·; KW, p. ·±. Although Kant™s own words can be used to ascribe a certain anti-
Semitism to him, Kant should not be burdened with the virulent anti-Semitism in Germany that
(II): Autonomy and the moral order
With that deft move, Kant proposed not merely a new model of mind
and world, and of moral obligation in general. He also proposed a rad-
ical, even decisive shift in European culture away from the dominion
of traditional ecclesiastical authority to a religion that was non-coercive
and which embodied the new, emerging ideals of freedom and autonomy
itself. Kant was playing a game of high stakes, and, as events in Europe
began to heat up, he, too, became increasingly aware of that.
was later to follow, but neither should Kant™s own philosophical anti-Semitism be whitewashed.
What was striking in Kant™s denial that Judaism was a religion at all lay in the intellectual situation
in Germany that Kant had helped to create. Once the older accepted notions of the truth of
revealed Christianity had been put into doubt, and Christian doctrine had been reformulated
in more “modern” terms (as, for example, an “ethical religion”), the longstanding dismissal in
intellectual circles of Judaism as a false religion had to be reconsidered, and the very existence of
people like Moses Mendelssohn put the reconsideration of Judaism even more on the agenda. It
thus became necessary for those who wished to sustain their inherited dismissal of Judaism to offer
rational grounds for its dismissal, instead of being able to merely cite its alleged incompatibility
with so-called true, revealed Christianity. Kant, alas, helped to contribute to that effort; but it
was in part because of Kant™s own achievement that simple proof of incompatibility with ruling
orthodoxy ceased to be suf¬cient grounds for dismissing something.
° 

The revolution in philosophy (III):
aesthetic taste, teleology, and the world order

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In the picture of the mind™s relation to the world that emerged in Kant™s


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