The conative character of reason in Kant's philosophy

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This article provides a critical discussion of the problems raised by Kant’s characterization of reason as having ‘needs’ and ‘interests’. The first part presents two examples of arguments in which this conative characterization of reason plays a crucial role. The rest of the article consists of a discussion of four different interpretations of Kant's talk of reason as having needs and interests. Having identified a number of problems with literal interpretations of the conative characterization of reason, I examine whether a metaphorical reading, suggested by several commentators, can solve these problems. I argue that it is impossible to regard the conative terms in which Kant describes reason as merely decorative metaphors, and that they are better understood as cases of ‛symbolic exhibition' in Kant's own sense.
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