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§6. What Is the Analogy?

§6. What Is the Analogy?

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  :   

of such precepts (in line with the variant of the third formulation that we

called that of complete determination), we see why Kant says at KP ::

This law (the moral law) gives to the sensible world, as sensuous nature

(as concerns reasonable and rational persons), the form of an intelligible world . . . without interfering with the mechanism of the [sensible

world]. Nature, in the widest sense, is the existence of things under

laws. The sensuous nature of [reasonable beings in nature] . . . is their

existence under empirically conditioned laws. . . . The supersensuous

nature of the same persons . . . is their existence according to laws

which are independent of all empirical conditions and which therefore

belong to the autonomy of pure reason.

. Perhaps the analogy is this. In science we pursue the ideal of unifying the knowledge of the understanding by the regulative idea of systematic unity. In doing this, we assume that nature is ordered as if it is the

work of pure reason realizing in the world the highest systematic unity (KR

B–). Similarly, we order our social world by acting from valid moral

precepts as if they were laws of nature. In this case, it is our pure practical reason that orders the social world as it introduces systematic conjunction into a whole of ends. By giving our social world the form of an

intelligible world, the principles of pure practical reason are brought closer

to feeling and gain access to our moral sensibility. We now take a pure practical interest in those principles, which gives them an influence over our


Finally, note a basic contrast between an order of nature according to

natural laws and an order of nature with the form of an intelligible world

Kant draws some paragraphs later as follows (KP :):

The difference, therefore, between the laws of a system of nature to

which the will is subject and a system of nature which is subject to a will

(as far as the relation of the will to its free actions is concerned) rests

on this: in the former, the objects must be the causes of the conceptions

which determine the will, and in the latter, the will is the cause of the

objects. Hence, in the latter the causality of the objects has its determin-

[  ]

   

ing ground solely in the pure faculty of reason, which therefore may

be called pure practical reason.

We shall come back to these matters later, as the contrast Kant draws

here is related to a fundamental difference between theoretical reason as

concerned with the knowledge of given objects, and pure practical reason

as concerned with the production of objects according to a conception of

those objects (KP :, , –, f.).

[Before proceeding, readers should take note of the two Leibniz lectures.—


[  ]

K 

The Priority of Right and the Object of the Moral Law

[Before proceeding, readers should take note of the two Leibniz lectures.

The discussion that follows assumes familiarity with them.—Ed.]

§. Introduction

. Today, after our brief look at Leibniz in the two preceding lectures, we

return to Kant. In discussing Leibniz, I focused on two main points: first,

his metaphysical perfectionism, and second, his conception of freedom as

it is set within his predicate-in-subject account of truth. On both these matters, Kant has quite different views, as we shall see. Kant’s differences with

respect to metaphysical perfectionism will become evident today and next

time as we consider the priority of right and what I shall call Kant’s moral

constructivism. These terms are not standard in describing Kant’s doctrine,

but I hope that they will become clear as we proceed.

I recall several points about how to understand the CI-procedure. We

may regard it as Kant’s attempt to formulate a procedural representation

of all the criteria that are relevant in guiding our moral reasoning if our

reasoning is to be valid and sound. That procedure represents, in procedural

form, all the requirements of practical, as opposed to theoretical, reason.

Very briefly, practical reason concerns the production of objects in accor-

[  ]

   

dance with a conception of those objects, whereas theoretical reason concerns the knowledge of given objects (KP :f., f., f.). Practical reason

presupposes theoretical reason in the sense that the CI-procedure takes

for granted an already established background of commonsense beliefs

and knowledge about the world. Thus, at step () in deciding whether a

maxim is rational, and in assessing adjusted social worlds at step (), agents

are supposed to have considerable knowledge, which is public and mutually

shared. Or so I have assumed.

. Now, the CI-procedure should not be viewed as an account of an

alleged process of reasoning that we are said to be consciously and explicitly

going through whenever moral questions arise. I take Kant to hold (see Gr

I:– [–], for example) that our moral reasoning (when it is valid

and sound) satisfies the requirements of the procedure without being consciously or explicitly guided by it. People in everyday life have no explicit

knowledge of these requirements; nor to reason correctly do they need to

know of them. Kant’s aim is not to teach us what is right and wrong: that

we already know. Rather, he sees the value of the philosophical understanding of the moral law as securing more firmly our acceptance of it by revealing to us how it is rooted in our personality as autonomous and as having

the moral powers that make us free and equal legislating members of a

possible realm of ends. I surmised in the first lecture on Kant (§.) that

he also wanted to find a form of moral reflection that could reasonably be

used to check the purity of our motives, and I assume that he sees the CIprocedure as one way to do that. This aim, I suggested, was connected

with his Pietism. One virtue of the CI-procedure presumably is that it would

not encourage the obsessive concern with purity that Kant found offensive

in the Pietism of the Fridericianum.

So understood, then, the CI-procedure is no more meant to teach us

what is right and wrong than Frege’s Begriffsschrift is meant to teach us how

to reason with the concepts expressed by “if-then,” “and,” and “not,” or by

“some” and “all.” Again, we already know how to do that. Rather, quantification theory together with higher-order logic and set theory (including

proof and model theory) enable us to discover things about mathematics

and about the nature of mathematical knowledge. Those subjects open

doors to a deeper understanding of mathematics. Goădels theorem is an

obvious example. In Frege’s case he wanted to show that, while Kant was

[  ]

          

right to think that geometry is synthetic a priori, he was wrong to think

the same of arithmetic. Frege wanted to show that the truths of arithmetic

are not dependent on the form of sensible intuition but are derivable from

logic and definitions alone and in that sense analytic.

Similarly, as I have said, I believe that Kant saw the value of having

a procedural representation of the moral law to be what it discloses

about that law and about ourselves—in particular, what it shows about

our persons, our freedom, and our status in the world. It prepares the

way for a kind of self-knowledge that only philosophical reflection about

the moral law and its roots in our persons can bring to light. At any

rate, I am guided by this thought from now on. Thus the topics of the

priority of right and moral constructivism, of the fact of reason and

the moral law as a law of freedom, and others as well, are considered

with some reference to the features of the CI-procedure as earlier set out.

Those features will help us to explain how Kant understands these larger


§. The First Three of Six Conceptions of the Good

. In order to explain the priority of right and the realm of ends as the a

priori object of the moral law, I shall first distinguish six conceptions of the

good in Kant’s doctrine. These conceptions are built up in a sequence, one

after the other, each from the one preceding it. This sequence can be presented by referring to the CI-procedure, since each conception has a role

in connection with one of its four steps. Specifying these roles is an instructive way of ordering these conceptions and clarifies the relations between


It also allows us to say what is meant by calling the realm of ends the

necessary object of a will determined by the moral law, as well as what is

meant by saying of this realm that it is an object given a priori to such a

pure will. Kant says (KP :): “The ideas of God and immortality are . . .

not conditions of the moral law, but only conditions of the necessary object of a will which is determined by this law. . . . Hence we cannot say

that we know or understand either the reality or even the possibility of

these ideas. Nevertheless, they are the conditions of applying the morally

[  ]

   

determined will to the object which is given to it a priori (the highest


Here Kant calls this a priori object the highest good. At this point there

is a complication that, for the time being, I shall resolve somewhat arbitrarily. For our purposes here, I view this a priori object as the realm of

ends as it appears in the Groundwork, so that the conception of this realm

and that of its (partial) realization are among the conceptions of the good

to be surveyed. What Kant in the cited passage refers to as the highest good

I put aside until we come to the postulates of practical faith as these appear

in the dialectic of the second Critique (and elsewhere). I believe that the

realm of ends as the a priori object of the moral law and the highest good

are quite distinct conceptions with different roles in Kant’s view. But the

differences between them raise difficult questions of interpretation; later on

I shall explain why I treat them as I do.

. The first of the first three conceptions of the good is given by what

we may call “unrestricted empirical practical reason.” This name indicates

the fact that there are no restrictions on the information available to sincere

and rational agents either in framing their conceptions of happiness or in

formulating their particular maxims: all the relevant particulars about their

desires, abilities, and situations, as well as the available alternatives, are

assumed to be known.

Now this first conception of the good is a conception of happiness as

organized by the (as opposed to a particular) hypothetical imperative. This

conception may be connected with step () of the CI-procedure, since the

maxim at this step we have assumed to be the maxim of rational and sincere

agents; and we further suppose a rational agent to have at any moment a

rational conception of happiness. Thus the maxim satisfies the various principles of rational deliberation that characterize the hypothetical imperative.

Let’s refer to these principles as “the rational.”

I emphasize the distinction between the hypothetical imperative,

viewed as a family of principles of rational deliberation, and particular hypothetical imperatives, which are rational when they satisfy those principles

given the agent’s circumstances and interests. Among the principles of rational deliberation are: to take the most effective means to one’s ends; to adopt

the alternative most likely to achieve success; to pursue the most inclusive

end (assuming each principle to have a suitable ceteris paribus clause). This

[  ]

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§6. What Is the Analogy?

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