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§7. The Fifth and Sixth Fact of Reason Passages

§7. The Fifth and Sixth Fact of Reason Passages

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“is.” He decides that it can, since (KP :) “it was a question of whether

in an actual case and, as it were, by a fact, one could prove that certain

actions presupposed . . . an intellectual, sensuously unconditioned causality,

regardless of whether they are actual or only commanded, i.e., objectively

and practically necessary.” Kant goes on later to say that there is a principle

which characterizes this causality and that (KP :) “[t]his principle . . .

needs no search and no invention, having long been in the reason of all

men and embodied in their being. It is the principle of morality.”

. So for Kant, the moral law is found in our everyday moral judgment

and feeling, and even in our being, our character. But how do we experience

the moral law in our thought? Earlier, in the second fact of reason passage,

Kant asks the question “[H]ow is consciousness of the moral law possible?”

and answers (KP :): “We can come to know pure practical laws in the

same way we know pure theoretical principles, by attending to the necessity

with which reason prescribes them to us and to the elimination from them

of all empirical conditions, which reason directs. The consciousness of pure

will arises from the former as the consciousness of pure understanding

[arises] from the latter.”

Later in the same paragraph, Kant says that we would not have dared

to introduce freedom into science had not the moral law and with it “practical reason . . . forced this concept upon us.” Recall here that at (KP :),

Kant speaks of how in the consciousness of the moral law it “forces itself

upon us as a synthetic a priori proposition based on no pure or empirical

intuition.” The moral law springs from our pure practical reason almost

involuntarily. Earlier Kant had said (KP :): “What form makes a maxim

suitable for universal law giving and what form does not do so can be

distinguished without instruction by the most common understanding.”

At KP :, after discussing whether our knowledge of the moral law

precedes our knowledge of freedom or vice versa, Kant says: “It is . . .

the moral law, of which we become immediately conscious as soon as we

construct maxims for the will, which first presents itself to us.”

At (KP :), he illustrates the point by the example of the deceitful

deposit. In such a case, we immediately realize that our maxim would destroy itself when taken as a universal law. To be sure, as he says (Gr I:

 [–]), ordinary human reason does not conceive of the moral law

abstractly in its universal form; rather, our reason has this law “actually

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   

before its eyes and does use it as a norm of judgment.” We spontaneously

acquire a facility in making moral judgments according to the requirements

of pure practical reason.

. What does Kant mean in the citation above from KP : where he

says that we come to know pure practical laws “by attending to the necessity with which reason prescribes them to us”? We cannot explain this necessity (here practical as opposed to theoretical necessity) by appealing to pure

reason itself. For this form of reason specifies that necessity; it cannot explain itself. As Kant says, “[H]uman insight comes to an end as soon as we

arrive at fundamental powers or faculties” (KP :f.).

We misunderstand Kant, I think, if we take him to be offering an explanation of practical necessity. Rather, as we have discussed, he is simply

laying out the constitution of practical reason as a whole and giving an

account of the role of the fundamental powers of reason as met with in

our moral experience. This is the only kind of deduction—in the broad

sense of authentication (see § above)—that the moral law admits of. An

explanation of the constitution of reason is not possible, not because it lies

beyond us in the unknown, but because reason cannot be judged or explained by anything else. Although certainly much reflection is required to

lay out an accurate view of its constitution, and reflection itself is continual

and must never cease, this constitution must, in the end, be seen as selfauthenticating.

§. Conclusion

Since we have surveyed a variety of points today, I should stress that the

main ones are essentially two.

The first is that the fact of reason establishes the third condition (one

of four) for pure practical reason to exist, to manifest itself in fact and deed.

This is the condition that our consciousness of the moral law (via the categorical imperative) is found in our everyday moral thought, feeling, and

judgment; and that that law is recognized as authoritative, at least implicitly

by ordinary human reason (§§–, ).

The second point is that the doctrine of the fact of reason marks a

fundamental change in Kant’s view and in how he understands the basis

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of pure practical reason. In §§–, we examined his idea that the authentication of each kind of reason differs from the others and that the appropriate authentication of each form of reason consists in showing its role and

place within the constitution of reason as a whole. This constitution is selfauthenticating, as reason is neither opaque nor transparent to itself, and

can answer all questions about itself on due reflection.

[  ]

K 

The Moral Law as the Law of Freedom

§. Concluding Remarks on Constructivism and Due Reflection

. I pause a moment to note where we are. In the first four lectures, we

examined the moral law, or rather how that law applies to us, first through

the categorical imperative and then by the CI-procedure, which is the most

usable formulation of the law’s requirements in our case. Lectures V–VII

attempted to bring out the deeper philosophical questions that Kant hoped

to understand by his account of the categorical imperative and its several


We considered the sequence of six conceptions of the good and how

the development of the sequence clarifies the role of the priority of right

in his doctrine. Next we surveyed Kant’s doctrine as a form of moral constructivism, a view that can be said undeniably to be owing to him, since

the history of doctrine shows no predecessors. Last time, I suggested that

his constructivist doctrine is also coherentist, in that it gives an account of

how the four kinds of reason cohere together into one unified and selfauthenticating constitution of reason. I also suggested that Kant’s view is

coherentist in the further sense that he maintains, for example in the fifth

and sixth fact of reason passages, that our recognition of the moral law

as supremely authoritative for us is manifest in our thought, feeling, and


. Many questions arise regarding Kant’s constructivism as I have characterized it. I mention one for clarification. It is this: how to reconcile the

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idea that any construction must be checked by critical reflection with the

view Kant expresses in the passage about the paradox of method: that

the concept of good and evil must be determined not before the moral law

but only after and by means of it (KP :f.). The difficulty is that Kant

appears to know in advance of critical reflection how a constructivist doctrine must look, but this seems to make it impossible to undertake such

reflection in good faith.

In reply to this quite proper worry, we interpret constructivism as a

view about how the structure and content of the soundest moral doctrine

will look once it is laid out after due critical reflection. We say that it will

contain, in the manner explained, a constructivist procedure incorporating

all the requirements of practical reason such that the content of the doctrine—its main principles, virtues, and ideals—is constructed. Here by full

reflection is not meant perfect reflection at the end of time, but such increasing critical reflection as might be achieved by a tradition of thought from

one generation to the next, so that it looks more and more as if upon

fuller reflection the moral view would be constructivist. There should be

increasing success in formulating the doctrine as a whole.

. Here one should distinguish between the doctrine as formulated at

any particular time and the process of arriving at a formulation of it by

thought and reflection over time. As the formulated doctrine is checked

against our considered moral judgments, we expect there to be serious conflicts in which one or the other must give way. At this point, constructivism

is committed to making only the kinds of changes consistent with it. For

example, it must urge that an idea of reason used in the construction has

been interpreted in a wrong way: not all the appropriate true human needs

have been included and described correctly, the publicity requirements for

moral precepts are misstated, or certain aspects of the ideas of reciprocity

and impartiality in the idea of reasonableness have been omitted.

Of course, constructivism may urge that the apparent considered judgments are mistaken; but if so, it must show what the mistakes are and

where they lie. It can’t throw out a considered judgment simply because

the weight of the construction is greater: errors must first be identified. As

with any other view, constructivism may be false. It must prove itself by

showing, as Kant says, that there is pure practical reason. Doing that involves, as we saw last time, showing that the moral law is manifest in our

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       

moral thought, feeling, and conduct—the third condition—and to do this

calls for critical reflection as we have just described it.

I conclude these remarks by saying that in presenting Kant’s moral philosophy, I have played down the role of the a priori and the formal, and

I have given what some may think a flat reading of the categorical imperative as a synthetic a priori practical proposition. These things I have done

because I believe that the downplayed elements are not at the heart of his

doctrine. Emphasizing them easily leads to empty and arid formalities,

which no one can accept and which we then erroneously associate with

his name. Rather, the heart of his doctrine lies in his view of free constructive reason and the idea of coherence that goes with it, as examined last

time. It lies also in his further ideas, such as the idea of the moral law as

a law of freedom and the idea of philosophy as the defense of reasonable

faith. Now it is time to turn to these matters, although too briefly. They

will occupy us in this and the next two lectures.

§. The Two Points of View

. Kant is concerned throughout with human reason as a form of human

self-consciousness. So we may think of the two points of view of theoretical

and practical reason as articulating the form and structure of two different

forms of self-consciousness: in one case, our self-consciousness as a subject

inquiring about and investigating the natural and social world (our selfconsciousness as possessing theoretical reason); in the other, our selfconsciousness as a deliberating and acting subject (our self-consciousness

as possessing practical reason). The first Critique examines the form and

structure of the theoretical point of view, the second Critique does the same

for the practical point of view.

These two points of view are in some ways similar and in some ways

different. They are similar, since each is a form of one and the same reason,

as the unity of reason requires. In both points of view, reason is guided by

its idea of the greatest systematic unity, in one case by the idea of the

greatest unity in our knowledge of objects, in the other by the idea of the

greatest unity in our system of ends, both collective and individual. The two

points of view must be in some ways different, since one point of view is

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§7. The Fifth and Sixth Fact of Reason Passages

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