The idea of Purposiveness in Kant and German Idealism
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Whereas Descartes, Spinoza and their followers discarded the Aristotelian idea of purposiveness, Kant realized that a purely mechanistic account of the world failed to satisfy the demands of pure reason. Reintroducing the idea of purposiveness in modern philosophy, he again granted thought the capacity to conceive of a manifold as an organized whole, albeit not without qualifying the idea of purposiveness as merely subjective. Kant’s various discussions of purposiveness in the Critique of Judgment and other texts have been the subject of much debate. However, much less attention has been paid to the impact of the idea of purposiveness on the development of German Idealism. In this regard, three elements of Kant’s thought seem to be particularly relevant. First, the idea of purposiveness allowed Kant, in the Critique of Judgment, to conceive of the various parts of his critical philosophy as a unity. Second, this idea can be said to inform his conception of moral self-determination in the Critique of Practical Reason. Third, the idea of purposiveness seems to underlie the account of the human faculties in the Critique of Pure Reason as well as Kant’s conception of a system of pure reason in this work. There is no doubt that Fichte, Schelling and Hegel developed their philosophical systems by drawing on one or more of these elements. It is less clear, however, how exactly they appropriated and modified Kant’s views. Addressing Kant’s critical philosophy as a whole rather than the third Critique alone, the conference aims to investigate Kant’s multi-faceted conception of purposiveness and, on that basis, trace its further development and transformation in German Idealism.
November 19, 2014, 9:00pm CET