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The Emergence of the Concept of Practical Reason in Kant's Ethics and its Philosophical Grounds

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Reconstructing practical reason

Probing into Kant's concept of practical reason provides new insights into the debate of modern moral philosophy and the human condition.

Climate Change and Environment

How do we make decisions that govern our actions? In simple philosophical terms, practical reason is used when we decide how to act or determine a plan of action. Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) was a German philosopher who, through his work 'The Critique of Pure Reason', sought to explain the relationship between reason and human experience. Practical reason continues to be of primary importance in the debate of moral philosophy. Yet, Kant's new concept of modern ethics has not been thoroughly investigated. The EU-funded PRACTICALREASON project therefore did just that through philosophical analysis and historical reconstruction. Kant's vocabulary and how it developed as well as how he linked his notion of practical reason and his thesis on the bases of moral demands was the project's primary focus. The project identified that the way Kant re-defined practical reason needs to be seen as more than merely an issue of terminology. Rather, it is justification towards a new mode of moral rationalism. This entails linking moral knowledge with moral obligation. One of the arguments made was that Kant's theory was a rationalist one from the start, as opposed to sentimental as is usually portrayed. Linking the development of Kant's concept of practical reason with his views on a human's moral status, dignity and conscience was also a main focus. These also are areas that had not been fully examined. Kant's views of conscience compared to those of his contemporaries constituted a main segment of the research. At the time, the notion of conscience was seen in two ways. One of them was that it is the mechanism of the mind giving direct understanding of good versus bad. The other was that conscience has a role of assessing or judging people's actions. Kant argued for the first of the two. That is, that conscience plays an important role in the decision-making procedure rather than after the decision is made. Research findings contribute to the current debate on Kant's ethics, providing a historical perspective as well as a focus on the foundations of morality.


Practical reason, moral philosophy, Immanuel Kant, modern ethics, moral rationalism, conscience, morality

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