Practical reason is a person’s natural ability to resolve the question of what is worthwhile for them to do by reflecting on it. Various philosophers have presented their perspectives on practical reasoning, with each party presenting their own theoretical foundations. Immanuel Kant and Aristotle are two well-known figures who made arguments about the same concept. Despite the fact that the two philosophers had opposing views on practical reason, it is worth noting that they did agree on certain aspects of their moral theories. As a result, the paper focuses on elaborating on some of Kant and Aris’ fundamental principles. In other words, it discusses the distinct conceptions of reasoning based on the accounts of the philosophers mentioned above.
It is ostensible that practical reason is the backbone of moral philosophy based on Kant’s philosophical accounts. Even so, the role that reason plays in Kant’s theoretical philosophy remains unclear to many critiques and contemporary philosophers. According to Kant, metaphysics is close to impossible (Kant 51). Conversely, it is bungling endeavor and at best disorderly when people cannot debunk the concepts of understanding from ideas of reason. However, while the philosopher dwells on the solidity of knowledge developed through understanding of concepts, reason and the ideas surrounding it usually feature as mere sources of illusion and error. This is evident when he states, “Error is only effected through the unnoticed influence of sensibility on understanding, through which it happens that the subjective grounds of the judgment join with the objective ones” (Kant 29).
One of the common concepts of reason according to Kant is the view of reason as the ‘arbiter of empirical truth.’ It is not only philosophically significant but also morally worth to note the bold claim of the philosopher that “reason is the arbiter of truth in all judgements; the empirical and the metaphysical” (Kant 137). Grounded on Kant’s moral theory, it is true that people always form judgements on the world that surrounds them without giving a second thought. In other words, people are often quick to believe what they experience in their daily lives without necessarily questioning why these things occur. For example, using Kant’s theory, people always judge themselves that they are dreaming and goes further to believe that what they see in dreams are not realities but illusions. At the same time, the fact that the sun rises makes people believe that it orbits the earth. Even so, based on his moral theories, Kant devotes that all the judgements that people make rely on different categories of thoughts. In his conception, he claims that people’s sensory impressions ought to be ordered by cause and effect. In his argument, the philosopher believed that any belief that conformed to the conditions mentioned above is tandem with the formal conditions of truth. In connection with the underlying priority that ascribes to judgement, the philosopher further asserts that errors can only be made on judgements, which according to him is a fundamental principle of reasoning. The assertion is justifiable by Kant’s claim that “It is correctly said that the senses do not err; yet not because they always judge correctly, but because they do not judge at all” (Kant 155).
A concise interpretation of Kant’s conception of reasoning situates the philosopher’s account of practical reasoning against three possibilities, which include the perfectionist, communitarian, and instrumental. Critiques view the instrumental part of reasoning as a fundamental principle. It details the reasons why people behave the way they do. Other proponents of practical reasoning view reason as something embedded in traditions. That is, given communities or traditions think that rationality is part of practical reason. Finally, yet important, Kant theorized that reason is not merely the capacity of an individual to intuit or discern normative truths.
Contrary to Kant’s claims on reasoning, it is also important to add to the account the diverse arguments that Aristotle held concerning the issue of practical reasoning. According to Aristotle, “the proper focus of practical reflection is the question of what it would be to act well” (Aristotle 3). In this view, the relevant values that determine what an individual should do are the specific norms, which are connected to human agency detailing what it means to be good as a human agent. The philosopher further argued that people who are concerned with the pluralistic conceptions of the good would often have a more expensive view as opposed to their counterparts without similar conception. Therefore, from his claims, it is clear that any solid dimension of value, which might be influenced by human action falls under the practical deliberation purview.
According to Aristotle, the question of the rational authority of the moral norms is a defining concept of the moral philosophy. The concern of the extent to which people are expected to comply with the demands of rational authority gives a clearer stand of Aristotle regarding practical reason. Aristotle’s account of moral reasoning relates the concept to the pattern of reflection applicable to the non-moral domains, especially those of the maximizing patterns. Hence, the philosopher postulated that in as much as morality puts constraints on individual utility’s direct pursuit, there is a justification for the similar constraints in ordinary economic rationality dimension. Aristotle further claimed, “The strategy of morally-constrained maximization is recommended on grounds of enlightened self-interest, and this in turn accounts for the authority of moral considerations to govern the practical reflection of individuals” (Aristotle 11).
Aristotle, being one of the opponents of ethical consequentialism emphasizes on the discontinuities that are existing between the non-moral patterns and the moral patterns of practical reasoning. In his thoughts, the philosopher believes that morality is a source of demands, which cannot be accurate in their representation within maximizing rationality frameworks. This justifies the sensibility of Aristotle’s assertion of moral requirements, which he holds as “norms that appropriately govern the reflections of individual agents, only if people expand their conception of the forms and possibilities of practical reason” (Aristotle 14). Conversely, the approach of Kant in ethics, for example, perceive morality as a component that limits the rational pursuit of ends, thus suggesting that there is need for practical reason, which do not have their origin in values that human actions might promote. In this connection, picturing the nature of morality may bring structures of practical reason to light, something that would not otherwise be noticeable.
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Aristotle. The Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle. Lanham: Dancing Unicorn Books, 2016. Internet resource.
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Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason. , 2016. Internet resource.
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