Freedom Without Foundations: Kantian Critique and the Socratic Elenchus
Posted: 29 Mar 2010
What is freedom, and why should it trump other political values? Kant offers one of the most powerful rationales in the western tradition for basing morality and politics squarely on autonomy. It is commonly thought that he means to provide a foundation for autonomy in reason. But Kant's reason is the critical reason of the first Critique. I argue for a Socratic Kant who defends autonomy not because it alone flows from the right foundations, but because it is the only principle that can be defended in critique as requiring no further foundation whatsoever. This leads to a view of freedom as a regulative ideal that exists only in the practice of critique itself and which can never be realized as such. This unorthodox view of freedom, I suggest, cuts across traditional battle-lines and really represents the liberal and enlightenment traditions at their best.
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