Kantian Journal

2014 Issue №3(49)

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The antinomy of political reason. Some deliberations on Kant’s “Answer-ing the Question: What is Enlightenment?”



This article analyses Kant’s work “Answering the Question: What is Enlightenment?” It is shown that Kant’s enlightenment is a political project. The author focuses on the philosophical prerequisites and the essence of this project and analyses the difference between the “public” and “private” use of reason. The article emphasises the major significance of this difference for developing the ideal of enlightenment in the field of politics. It is suggested that this ideal be seen in the evolutionarydevelopment of society based on the transformation of public consciousness. Kant’s view that the key discourse for social development consists in a comprehensive critique of social reality by a citizen capable of self-determination is considered against the background of Rousseau’s ideas, who defended the right of people to revolution. The reconstruction of Kant’s position is followed by a discussion of possible theoretical problems relating to the implementation of this project. It isstressed that the project can function only when the interests of government and citizen coincides. Russian history is addressed to illustrate that even “common interests” of the ruler and the citizen leave room for a conflict between them. The author analyses Kant’s paradox stating an inversely proportional connection between the level of civil liberties and that of spiritual freedom. The article proposes a hypothesis about the dissident movement as a possible political form of implementingthis paradox. This dilemma helps to formulate the idea of antinomy of political reason, as well as develop its solution based on the notion of clear conscience. The author analyses the notion of clear conscience and uses example to illustrate that an adequate understanding thereof requires consideringKant’s practical philosophy. It is concluded that, unlike the Copernican system of theoretical reason, Kant’s system of practical reasons remains Ptolemaic, where a human is the only centre and constitutive quantity of this sphere. It is argued that the essence of Kant’s enlightenment lies in defending human freedom and dignity.


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