Lawfulness in Theoretical Reason

46 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2022

See all articles by Paul Gragl

Paul Gragl

University of Graz - Faculty of Law

Date Written: April 26, 2022


In the history of philosophy, reason has always played a significant role, may it be positively as the principal source and justificatory standard for knowledge and human behaviour or even negatively by being denied any substantial role in human affairs. New connotations of as well as limitations to reason, however, only began to accrue considerably with Kant and his critical approach toward reason, albeit with the term ‘critical’ expressing the now almost forgotten and somewhat legal meaning of ‘judging’, ‘distinguishing’, and even ‘dispute-settling’. My argument therefore is that when dealing with questions of law and politics, we must maintain some continuity with the conception of reason as an instrument of scientific enquiry, and that the law is a synecdoche of the philosophical system of reason (especially in its Kantian manifestation), through which we can, by understanding a particular part, also attain a better understanding of the whole. These rhetorical figures show us that reason and law operate analogously or by the same ‘mechanics’ of submitting to and being judged by their own standards. Theoretical reason is a natural starting point if we want to understand the law properly, because, after all, Kant’s reason is most essentially a legislator as well as a judge, giving itself its own laws and judging itself in accordance with them – and both activities are directed toward the two metaphysical realms of the theoretical order of nature and the practical order of freedom it constitutes.

Keywords: law, reason, Kant, tribunal of reason, Critique of Pure Reason, despotism

Suggested Citation

Gragl, Paul, Lawfulness in Theoretical Reason (April 26, 2022). Graz Law Working Paper No. 03-2022, Available at SSRN: or

Paul Gragl (Contact Author)

University of Graz - Faculty of Law ( email )


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