SHS Web Conf.
Volume 161, 202312th Kant-Readings International Conference “Kant and the Ethics of Enlightenment: Historical Roots and Contemporary Relevance”
|Number of page(s)||7|
|Section||Enlightenment, Politics and Education|
|Published online||08 March 2023|
Kant’s political enlightenment: Free public use of reason as self-discipline
Karl-Franzens-University of Graz, Attemsgasse 25/II, 8010 Graz, Austria
* Corresponding author: firstname.lastname@example.org
According to recent scholarship, Kant’s An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment? and the introductory section to The Conflict of the Faculties are masterpieces of philosophical rhetoric. The philosophical significance of these texts lies in establishing the free public use of reason as a tool to discipline political power through pure practical reason, and the rhetorical mastery consists in presenting the free public use of reason as a means to satisfy the ruler’s pragmatic practical reason. Elaborating on this interpretation, I flesh out three further aspects of the writings in question. First, I examine the four types of arguments that Kant crafts in defence of the public use of reason and show how their pragmatic practical character is fully in keeping with the foundation of politics on pure practical ideas. Second, contrasting Kant’s notion of the public use of reason with the classical liberal conception of free speech, I argue that the distinctive character of Kant’s notion of the public use of reason consists in adding to the liberal demand for freedom from state censorship the requirement of the self-discipline of the participants in the public use of reason. Third, I contend that Kant’s notion of the public use of reason goes beyond a mere non-coercive discursive procedure and conclude that, to qualify as public in the distinctive Kantian sense, publicly presented positions must uphold theoretical and moral criteria informed by critical philosophy.
Key words: Enlightenment / public use of reason / pragmatic practical reason / pure practical reason / discipline of politics / self-discipline of the public / rhetoric
© The Authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2023
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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