Volume 24, Issue 1, Fall 2019
Samuel A. Stoner
Kant on the Philosopher’s Proper Activity
From Legislation to Admiration
This essay investigates Kant’s understanding of the philosopher’s proper activity. It begins by examining Kant’s well-known claim in the Critique of Pure Reason that the philosopher is the legislator of human reason. Subsequently, it explicates Kant’s oft-overlooked description of the transcendental philosopher as an admirer of nature’s logical purposiveness, in the ‘First Introduction’ to the Critique of the Power of Judgment. These two accounts suggest very different ways of thinking about the philosopher’s character and concerns. For, while Kant’s philosopher-legislator pursues the practical, world-transformative task of furthering reason’s moral vocation, the transcendental philosopher’s admiration of nature’s purposiveness is a form of a contemplative openness to the contingent but wonderful orderliness of things. I conclude that Kant ultimately recognizes that the tension between legislation and admiration is characteristic of the philosopher and that it is the heart of philosophy’s vitality.