I argue that Kant has developed a broad systematic account of the architectonic functionality of pure reason that can be used and advanced in contemporary contexts. Reason, in the narrow sense, is responsible for the picture of a well-ordered universe of science consisting of architectonic ideas of science, sciences and parts of sciences. In the first section (I), I show what Kant means by the architectonic ideas by explaining and interrelating the concepts of (a) the faculty of reason, (b) ideas (as principles), (c) method, and (d) sciences of reason. Thereafter (II), I think through his holistic understanding of science and scientific progress and suggest differentiating between four levels of use of architectonic ideas, drawing on the metaphor of a well-structured universe as imagined by Kant in his work on the Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens. I also claim that each possible idea of reason can be (apart from its primary function) additionally regarded as a fourth-level architectonic concept when explicitly conceived as an object of (e. g. philosophical) studies, i. e. from a mere methodological perspective. In the final section (III), I unveil the potential of Kant’s theory by pointing out how this architectonic methodological function of pure reason is tacitly used in Karl-Otto Apel’s contemporary philosophical research programme.
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