Thu Feb 7, 2019
Howison Library, 4–6 PM
Clinton Tolley (UCSD)
Idealism, Utopia, and Technology: Rethinking the Completion of Kant’s Critical System
Several recent works have provided compelling visions of how one might systematically connect the two parts of Kant’s third Critique (Critique of the Power of Judgment) – on aesthetic judgment and teleological judgment, respectively – by organizing an approach to the work around concepts that are central to both parts, such as that of purposiveness (Rachel Zuckert), primitive normativity (Hannah Ginsborg), and judgment itself (Béatrice Longuenesse). Kant’s own Introductory remarks to the third Critique also strongly suggest, however, that even these unifying readings will yet not be fully consonant with his intentions, insofar as he presents this Critique as not just aiming for a locally unified whole across its two parts, but as aiming to architectonically unify its own topics with those of the first two Critiques as well, and thereby bring ‘the entire critical enterprise’ to conclusion.
Here I aim to complement these recent contributions by sketching a new architectonic reading of Kant’s aims in the third Critique. Drawing on the Aristotelian distinction between theoria, praxis, and poiesis as modes of the ‘actualization [energeia]’ of ‘reason [nous]’, I bring to light an additional unifying thread intimately related to, but importantly distinct from, those mentioned above, and, crucially, one that also ranges across both the first and second Critiques – namely, Kant’s continuing concern with whether reason can not only provide the principles for the speculative cognition of nature (theoria) and the principles for good and right action (praxis), but can also be actually productive in nature itself (poesis, as ‘nous poietikos’).
In addition to helping retrospectively clarify earlier conclusions concerning reason and its ‘positive’ freedom in the Antinomy (first Critique) and the Postulates (second Critique), this will also help supply much-needed systematic context for Kant’s motivations for beginning the third Critique with a clarification of that which is not merely theoretical or practical but also technical – i.e., that which is positively productive in nature itself. I then show how this line of thought concerning ‘technique [Technik]’ is pursued in the third Critique, as well as across the Critiques as a whole, insofar as Kant holds its resolution to be of utmost importance for determining the proper ‘Critical’ perspective on the perennial philosophical question of the real possibility of the ‘highest complete good’ in nature – i.e., for determining, within the context of transcendental idealism, whether we can have (if not ‘knowledge [Wissen]’) at least a ‘rational belief or faith [Vernunftglaube]’, or possibly even ‘hope [Hoffnung]’, that it is possible that reason contains within itself sufficient technological capacity to make utopia actual in nature.