Logical and Moral Aliens Within Us: Kant on Theoretical and Practical Self-Conceit

In Jens Pier (ed.), Limits of Intelligibility: Issues from Kant and Wittgenstein. London: Routledge (2023)
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This chapter intervenes in recent debates in Kant scholarship about the possibility of a general logical alien. Such an alien is a thinker whose laws of thinking violate ours. She is third-personal as she is radically unlike us. Proponents of the constitutive reading of Kant’s conception of general logic accordingly suggest that Kant rules out the possibility of such an alien as unthinkable. I add to this an often-overlooked element in Kant’s thinking: there is reason to think that he grants—and in fact presupposes—the possibility of a transcendental logical alien. Such an alien is a knower whose laws of experience purport to violate ours. She is first-personal as she is radically like us. In other words, she is us, insofar as we are alienated from ourselves and our experience. I go on to draw an analogy between her, a dogmatist, and another transcendental alien, an evil agent. Just as a dogmatist is alienated from her (our) experiential laws, an evil agent is alienated from her (our) moral law. These forms of theoretical and practical self-conceit require self-knowledge in the form of a critique of speculative or practical reason. In bringing this point out, I aim to shift from the question of whether logical laws constitute our thinking to the question of whether grasping our experiential and moral laws as our laws constitutes our reason.

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G. Anthony Bruno
Royal Holloway University of London


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