Mittwoch, 1. Dezember 2010, 18 Uhr c.t.

Campus Westend, Hörsaalzentrum HZ5

Prof. Robert Pippin (University of Chicago)

Reason’s Form


Robert altB. Pippin is the Evelyn Stefansson Nef Distinguished Service Professor in the Committee on Social Thought, the Department of Philosophy, and the College at the University of Chicago. He is the author of several books on German idealism, including Kant’s Theory of Form; Hegel’s Idealism: The Satisfactions of Self-Consciousness; and Modernism as a Philosophical Problem. His latest books are The Persistence of Subjectivity (Cambridge 2007), Hegel’s Practical Philosophy (Cambridge 2008), Nietzsche, Psychology and First Philosophy (Chicago 2010), and Hollywood Westerns and American Myth (Yale 2010). An expanded version of his 2009 Spinoza lectures, Hegel on Self-Consciousness: Desire and Death in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, will be published this fall. He is a winner of the Mellon Distinguished Achievement Award in the Humanities, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society.




Kant’s theory of moral obligation is at the same time a theory of autonomy. According to Kant, true autonomy requires an agent’s subjection to the “form of pure practical reason”, and this subjection involves an unconditional obligation to obey what such a “form”, also famously called the Categorical Imperative, demands. Critics have long argued that such a subjection bears little relation to our moral experience, and that it leads to a rigoristic and empty, formalist morality. I argue here that everything depends on how we understand what Kant means by the “form” of pure practical reason, and I attempt to explain Kantian formality by attention to how he understands the notion in his theoretical philosophy. The result is a picture of Kantian morality not as subject to these traditional objections.


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