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Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy

Volume 22, Issue 2, Spring 2018

Laura J. Mueller
Pages 389-409
DOI: 10.5840/epoche201818108

Pure Reason’s Autonomy
Sensus Communis in Reason’s Self-Critique

This article investigates the relation between freedom, the public use of reason, and sensus communis, as discussed throughout Kant’s political writings and critical works. Kant’s discussion of the public use of reason, as put forth in "What Is Enlightenment?" is closely tied to his views on autonomy, most notably in the political sphere. However, Kant’s distinction between the public and private uses of reason relies upon sensus communis as discussed in the Critique of Judgment. The communicability achieved by sensus communis has a relevance not restricted only to Kant’s explicitly political writings; sensus communis is also what we might call “transcendentally significant.” In this article, I argue that the public use of reason—a use of reason achieved by sensus communis—is vital for reason itself to follow its own normative demands. I conclude that sensus communis itself grounds reason’s use for its own critique.