Publication details

“Normative orders in Kantian Thought“. In Navigating the Frontiers of Normative Orders, M. C. Kettemann (ed.), Frankfurt am Main: Campus Verlag (2020)

Book chapter

Author(s): Moeller, Sofie
Year of publication: 2020

Abstract: The formation of normative orders is a complex field of study. As the essays in this volume show, norms and their justification are present in all aspects of life in a society. Their formation and transformation weave the normative fabric of our social life, which at its core is focused on building, criticizing and justifying norms. In my chapter, I focus on one specific normative order, namely the one proposed by Kant in his critical philosophy and further developed by contemporary Kantian thinkers. This conception of a normative order is in many ways the origin of the conception proposed by Rainer Forst and Klaus Günther. Their understanding of the process of justification is closely connected to the Kantian notion of critique, which empowers every participant in a process to question its legitimacy by means of critique. This critique consists in the constant possibility of questioning given and proposed norms. As I show in my essay, Kant uses this approach in both theoretical and practical philosophy. The search for normative orders and their justification has always been an essential part of Kantian thought, both in Kant’s own philosophy, in Neo-Kantian philosophy and in more recent scholarship. Although Kant never used the term ‘normativity’, the term is lately appearing in more and more titles on Kant. We might say that Kant scholarship and Kantian thought has recently taken a normative turn in its approach to ethics, political philosophy, logic and even theoretical philosophy. I argue that Kant’s understanding of critique is closely tied to a juridical conception of justification. For Kant, a claim is justified if rendered possible by a universal, necessary law. Kant’s central idea is that a claim expresses a normative commitment and an implicit responsibility for providing a justification if the claim is challenged. In my essay, I explore the ways in which Kantian normativity relies on the nexus between law and critique. The recent normative turn in Kant scholarship and Kantian thought relies on a redefinition of the relationship between descriptive and prescriptive judgments. This redefinition permits a normative understanding of Kantian laws of reason. Instead of focusing on distinguishing between laws that describe what is and laws that describe what ought to be, Kantian normativity concerns the ability to justify our commitments and demand justification from others and ourselves. This justification takes the form of a reference to a law, which is why Kant’s central question is quid juris: what is the law?

Keywords: Normativity, Immanuel Kant, law, reason

Subject(s): philosophy

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