The Grounding of Kant’s Ethics in the Critique of Pure Reason
Kant’s pure concepts of reason, i.e. the transcendental ideas, interact with and govern all use of understanding in experience1. Kant lays a foundation that argues that objects obtained from pure reason originate in logic’s speculative capacity, and allow for inferences to be made for the sake of experience. The Critique of Pure Reason dissects this dichotomy at length, and claims that there is a necessary dependence between empirical intuitions and objects of pure reason that allow mankind to think and cognize in very specific and consequential ways. He argues that these three transcendental ideas, which are psychological, cosmological and theological in nature, lead us into a discussion that makes distinctions between what is and what ought to be. As I highlight and outline the critical assessments of transcendental logic laid out in the Transcendental Aesthetic, Analytic and Dialectic, we can begin to appreciate Kant’s extensive and intensive focus on the limitations and qualifications of pure reason. Furthermore, a foundation will begin to be laid out in support of Kant’s argument in Groundings of the Metaphysics of Morals that explains why ideas obtained from pure reason in association with ethical and moral universality are given to our cognition noumenally, and how these objects of understanding become problematic once they become phenomenon.
It should be intentionally stated that all objects as such are distinguishable between phenomena and noumena, as argued through out the Transcendental Analytic. This implies that an individual is able to intuit an object sensibly though a unity of the categories, or nonsensibly as objects created for understandings (eventual) use. Kant believes that reason allows for a tremendous appreciation for our biological and sensible world, because reason must have an intelligible (rational) and practical purpose in its use. Human existence is therefore seen as a gift, given to reason so it can discover a purpose, i.e. why nature created us. This effectively makes an individual a member of two different realms (the noumenal and phenomenal), and while the main purpose here is to unpack the usefulness of the noumenal, it is in this phenomenal/biological realm that meaning and creation can flourish. Human nature is therefore conditional to the laws of nature, whereby the formal intuitions of time and space interact both noumenally and phenomenally to create various forms of thought, understanding and judgment. However, human nature detaches us from the natural world and gives us self-awareness and apperception, while simultaneously binding us to our biological sensibilities, hence producing animals with distinct and diverse needs. So while Kant will take steps towards appreciating rational knowledge for it’s regulative and legislative powers on the mind, he also outlines the importance of the phenomenal realm because in many instances the demands and diversities of the world of sense become so great that the ideas formed from transcendental logic serve only mundane material needs, or worse, become deceptive and overreaching.
So far I have highlighted that pure concepts of reason and all higher cognitive powers find their usefulness in the “world of sense” in order to satisfy our physical existence. However, human nature is capable of much more than simply determining what is, i.e. painting the world as aesthetic and analytic categories of pure understanding. For reason allows us to interact with and affect the world of sense, giving us the capacity to consider what ought to be. For Kant, this speculative capacity assists in the formulation of demands upon cognitions of understanding, which thereby bring the manifold of intuition under concepts that give them connection. Meaning is therefore produced from reason’s a priori determinations of unity, wholeness and illusions of the unconditioned truth. In order to unpack...
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