KANTIAN RATIONALITY LAB LECTURES
Organized by Prof. Dr. Thomas Sturm & Dr. Martin Sticker
The Kantian Rationality Lab Lectures are delivered by internationally leading scholars. They cover all areas of the Megagrant on Kant’s theory of reason, its principles, its manifold uses and functions, and its application to contemporary challenges in science, ethics, and the project of the Enlightenment. The lectures provide a regular forum for exchange between KRL members and the international community of Kant scholars and other philosophers. Everyone is welcome to attend the lectures.
The Kantian Rationality Lab Lectures currently take place online (on Zoom). If you wish to take part, please write to martinjsticker AT gmail DOT com.
UPCOMING KRL LECTURES
September 30, 2021: Adam Cureton (Knoxville, TN): Autonomy and the Interests of Reason (6.00-8.00pm CET/Kaliningrad Time)
In a book I am writing, my aim is to draw on Kant and on commonsense to work towards a partial conception of reason that stands in reflective equilibrium with these dual sources. The book explores Kant’s many statements, offhand remarks, examples, and other claims throughout his major and minor works for clues about how to partially characterize our ordinary ideas of reason. These texts reveal a conception of reason that is more substantial and richer than what is typically attributed to Kant. Core features of this conception also match well with commonsense usages of reason, reasons, reasonableness, and related terms. Three, perhaps surprising, themes in Kant’s thinking about reason are that reason is a sovereign capacity with legislative, executive, and judicial powers, that this capacity includes many formal and substantive interests that rational people necessarily care about, such as equality, freedom, happiness, solidarity, knowledge, and respect, and that these first two themes find connection in the idea that reason legislates, executes, and adjudicates laws that are justifiable to everyone in virtue of our many formal and substantive interests of reason. My reflective equilibrium method, however, cannot show that a resulting theory of this sort is true or deeply justified. And, even though Kant discusses the idea of reason as a governing power with substantive interests that help to determine what principles it legislates, these themes in his thinking might not be part of his considered philosophical theory or of the best interpretation or rational reconstruction of it. In this presentation, I will outline the methods, aims, and limits of my project, discuss some of its special highlights, and illustrate its three main themes with some substantive interests of reason that Kant discusses along with some laws of reason that those interests favor when combined with the Categorical Imperative.
October 28, 2021: Colin McLear (Lincoln, NE): Self-Consciousness and Rationality (6.00-8.00pm CET/Kaliningrad Time)
Kant famously says that the “fact that the human being can have the ‘I’ in his representations raises him infinitely above all other living beings on earth” (An 7:127). Remarks such as this, and the general prominence of discussion of self-consciousness in the Critical philosophy, has led many to consider self-consciousness the ultimate explanatory ground of rational agency.
For example, according to one influential interpretive line of thought, Kant conceives of rationality as the capacity to respond to reasons as reasons. Responding to reasons as reasons is, or at least requires, the capacity to determine what to think or to do based on considerations to which one can point in so thinking or doing. On this way of reading Kant, it is the fact that one can be aware of oneself as a thinker or as having intentions to act that explains how one can come to ask of such thoughts or intentions why it is that they should be endorsed. In this manner the capacity for self-consciousness is necessary for, and makes possible, the capacity for acting rationally (i.e. acting on a reason as a reason). Similarly, freedom is explained in terms of the capacity to determine one’s thoughts or intentions by means of a consideration of their relevant grounds or reasons. Thus (the capacity for) self-consciousness is itself what makes free action possible.
This reading of Kant has been extremely fruitful and influential. However I think it is ultimately a distortion of Kant’s view. While it is true that Kant conceives of rational beings as self-conscious, and that this capacity for self-consciousness itself explains many of the various complex ways in which rational beings characteristically act, it is nevertheless the case that self-consciousness is derivative of what is ultimately explanatory of rationality or the capacity for rational activity—viz. control (Gewalt).
In this talk I explain the manner in which Kant conceives of control as more fundamental to rationality than self-consciousness. I then characterize the role I take control and self-consciousness to play in the development of a subject’s rational powers, and respond to various alternative ways of conceiving of rationality that would deny this asymmetry between control and self-consciousness. My overall aim is to support a reading of Kant’s conception of rationality as fundamentally enkratic, i.e., as concerning controlled activity. Self-conscious activity is certainly one way in which such controlled activity may manifest, but it is not the only way, and explanations of rational agency that start with the concept of self-consciousness are starting at the wrong level.
November 11, 2021: Corinna Mieth (Bochum), Jacob Rosenthal (Konstanz): Blindspots in the Formula of Humanity: What does it mean to treat someone also at the same time as an end, never merely as a means? (6.00-8.00pm CET/7:00-9:00 Kaliningrad Time)
The aim of our paper is to develop a more differentiated understanding of the formula of humanity (FH). What does it mean to treat someone as an end, or, to put it the other way round: what does it mean not to treat others as ends in themselves? At first glance one could think that this would mean to treat them as mere means. The focus within the literature has mainly been on that kind of wrongdoing (recently Kleingeld 2020, cf. Kerstein 2013). But there are more categories. If you do not help someone in need whom you could easily help, but simply ignore her, you do not treat her as an instrument for your purposes, but also not as an end in herself (Wood 2012). One could say that you treat her like a mere thing (Sticker 2021 in the context of global poverty). Furthermore, if someone is in your way and you remove him just to get rid of him, you treat him neither as a means nor as an irrelevant thing, nor, for that matter, as an end in himself, but as a mere obstacle (Kerstein 2013). In the first part of our paper we will explain the relevance of the distinction between means, irrelevant things, and obstacles. These can all be viewed as subcategories of the “thing”-part of the person-thing-distinction that plays a central role in Kant’s ethics. Corresponding to them are the relations of instrumentalizing others, ignoring others, and removing others. In the second part, we will point out that the distinction between ends in themselves (or persons) and things still does not cover an important phenomenon of moral wrongdoing: we can also treat other persons as negative ends. This is the case when harming others is the ultimate purpose of our action.
November 18, 2021: Andrew Chignell (Princeton): Kant’s Epistemic Fallibilism: Four Models (6.00-8.00pm CET/7:00-9:00 Kaliningrad Time)
Kant follows Locke and others in the tradition in associating knowledge (Wissen) with certainty (Gewissheit). This has led numerous commentators to assume that he is an infallibilist about epistemic justification – i.e. that a belief that is justified must also be true. In places, however, Kant goes much further than Locke and suggests that many “merely empirical truths” are also capable of being known with certainty. This is harder to square with infallibilism. Here I sketch four different models of what “certainty” (Gewissheit) might be, for Kant, and argue that each is compatible with a fallibilist account of his epistemology.
January 13, 2022: Oliver Sensen (New Orleans, LA): tbd (6.00-8.00pm CET/7:00-9:00 Kaliningrad Time)
January 27, 2022: Arthur Ripstein (Toronto): A Public World of Enduring Objects: Kant’s Deductions of Property And Substance (6.00-8.00pm CET/7:00-9:00 Kaliningrad Time)
February 24, 2022: Camilla Serck-Hanssen (Oslo): Kant’s “Metaphysical Deduction” of Ideas of Reason (6.00-8.00pm CET/7:00-9:00 Kaliningrad Time)
March 10, 2022: Lucas Thorpe (Istanbul): tbd (6.00-8.00pm CET/7:00-9:00 Kaliningrad Time)
March 24, 2022: Irina Schumski (Tübingen): tbd (6.00-8.00pm CET/7:00-9:00 Kaliningrad Time)
May 5, 2022: Michela Massimi (Edinburgh): Tbd (6.00-8.00pm CET/Kaliningrad Time)
May 19, 2022: Paul Guyer (Providence, RI): tbd (6.00-8.00pm CET/Kaliningrad Time)
June 2, 2022: Yoon Choi (Marquette, MW): The Activity of Thinking and the Unity of Theoretical and Practical Reason (6.00-8.00pm CET/Kaliningrad Time)