Unity in Variety: Theoretical, Practical and Aesthetic Reason in Kant

In Konstantin Pollok & Gerad Gentry (eds.), The Imagination in German Idealism and Romanticism (forthcoming)
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The main task of the paper is to explore Kant’s understanding of what unites the three kinds of judgment that he regards as the signature judgments of the three fundamental faculties of the mind--theoretical, practical and aesthetic judgments--in a way that preserves their fundamental differences. I argue that these are differences in kind not only in degree; or, in the terms I motivate in the paper, differences in form. Thus, I aim to show that (1) the Romantic unity of knowing, doing, and enjoying is not only inspired by Kant, but is in Kant’s own writings, and that (2) Kant understands this unity as a unity within a categorical variety: for him, theoretical judgment, practical judgment, and aesthetic judgment are the paradigmatic judgments of three formally different and irreducible rational capacities. I argue that a chief component in understanding the unity in this multiplicity is the imagination. This is because lawfulness turns out to be an essential mark of the “high” or “rational” aspects of the mind. But, for Kant, human beings can be lawful, and thus rational, in and of their world, only insofar as they are also imaginative. It is the imagination that allows us to be rational in our empirical world: to be rational animals.

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Keren Gorodeisky
Auburn University


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