Academic journal article German Quarterly

Kant and the Reach of Reason

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Kant and the Reach of Reason

Article excerpt

Rescher, Nicholas. Kant and the Reach of Reason. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. 258 pp. $54.95 hardcover, $19.95 paperback.

This is a collection of Rescher's essays on Kant's overall philosophical system. Most of them have been published previously (in relatively obscure conference proceedings over the last 30 years) and a few are new. The book, as a whole, reflects one philosopher's attempt to work his own way through Kant's critical philosophy. Rescher presents some novel and controversial theses, rehearses many familiar features of Kant's philosophy, and provides a smooth, readable text uncluttered by scholarly notes and trappings. As Rescher himself notes in his introduction, his book does not try to critique rival Kant exegetes, but instead it "endeavors to set out a systematically cohesive line of Kant interpretation as suggested by the author's own efforts to get clear on the issues" (4).

Rescher's central thought is to understand Kant as a pragmatist. Kant wants to get things done in metaphysics and ethics, and he wields distinctions and constructs a system to that end. For example, according to Rescher, when Kant postulates the existence of the noumenal world, he is not making a claim about what exists so much as pointing out a necessary constraint upon our thought (34). Kant's dualism, in other words, is not the duality of real things and their appearances, but instead the duality of real appearances and intellectual objects we posit because they are important to our practical endeavors- like the equator or the international dateline. We just need to posit things in themselves so we can get on with our practical and theoretical work.

This drive to pragmatize Kant leads Rescher to make a radical and puzzling claim about Kant's ethics. …

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