Русская версия

“As in the case of the understanding, there is in the case of reason a merely formal, i.e., logical use, where reason abstracts from all content of cognition, but there is also a real use, since reason itself contains the origin of certain concepts and principles, which it derives neither from the senses nor from the understanding.
— Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1781/1787), A299/B355.




Organized by Prof. Dr. Thomas Sturm & Dr. Martin Sticker

The Kantian Rationality Lab Lectures are delivered by internationally leading scholars. They cover all areas of the Megagrant on Kant’s theory of reason, its principles, its manifold uses and functions, and its application to contemporary challenges in science, ethics, and the project of the Enlightenment. The lectures provide a regular forum for exchange between KRL members and the international community of Kant scholars and other philosophers. Everyone is welcome to attend the lectures.

The Kantian Rationality Lab Lectures currently take place online (on Zoom). If you wish to take part, please write to martinjsticker AT gmail DOT com.






April 15, 2021: Eric Watkins (San Diego): Kant on the Principle of Sufficient Reason (6.00-8.00pm CET/Kaliningrad Time)

In this paper, we discuss Kant’s complex attitude toward the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR). We do so, in part, by considering how Kant’s position emerges in response to Christian Wolff, who articulates a “logicist” version of Leibniz’s PSR, and Christian August Crusius, who both rejects Wolff’s logicist version of the PSR and restricts its scope so as to allow for libertarian freedom. On the one hand, Kant takes a critical attitude toward the PSR. (1) He restricts its scope by allowing for the existence of entities that he calls “unconditioned”, that is, things that are not conditioned and thus lack a reason or explanation. This is, in fact, exactly how he conceives not only of freedom (along the lines of Crusius), but also of other objects of traditional metaphysics, such as God and the soul. (2) Further, Kant does not think that the principle is true as an epistemic principle (in terms of what we can cognize). For he maintains that we cannot cognize the absolute totality of the conditions (or reasons) of any given appearance. Put in less Kantian terms, he thinks that we cannot give a complete explanation of what we encounter in the world. (3) Kant thinks that the principle, improperly used by Transcendental Realists, can give rise to transcendental illusion, which can mislead us into accepting fallacious arguments concerning the objects of traditional metaphysics. As a result, Kant places significant restrictions on the scope of the PSR; it does not apply to the objects of traditional metaphysics, which are unconditioned, and it comes into conflict with the limitations of our cognitive capacities (especially our sensibility) such that we cannot cognize the objects of traditional metaphysics. On the other hand, Kant’s attitude toward the PSR is also quite positive. For he explicitly claims that reason demands that if something conditioned exists, then all of its conditions and thus the unconditioned must also exist, and that this demand, properly understood, is appropriate. Specifically, we argue that reason’s demand is legitimate in a two-fold sense. First, it warrants the use of regulative principles, that is, principles that organize our cognitions and direct our understanding toward further cognitions. Second, it is itself a genuine metaphysical principle that must be true of things in general (even though one must be careful about applying it to appearances so as not to be misled by transcendental illusion). On our view, then, Kant represents a nuanced intermediate position between the two extremes of flat-out endorsement and complete rejection.


May 14-16, 2021: 2nd KRL Conference: Kantian Rationality in Ethics: Foundations and Applications


June 10, 2021: Alexandra Mudd (Santiago / Chile): What is the End of Theoretical Reason in Kant? (6.00-8.00pm CET/Kaliningrad Time)



June 24, 2021: Alex John London, Adam Björndahl & Kevin Zollman (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh): Kantian Decision Making Under Uncertainty: Dignity, Price and Consistency (6.00-8.00pm CET/Kaliningrad Time)

The idea that there is a fundamental difference in value between persons and things, and that respecting this difference is an important moral requirement, has strong intuitive appeal. Kantian ethics is unique in placing this requirement at the center of a moral system and in explicating the conditions for complying with it. Unlike challenges to Kantian ethics that focus on tragic cases that pit respect for one person against respect for another, this talk focuses on the question of how we can respect the value distinction between persons and things under conditions of uncertainty. After exploring why decision making under uncertainty is a neglected topic among Kantians and demonstrating how uncertainty challenges our ability to comply with this norm, we review the notion of morally insignificant risk that we proposed in our 2017 paper and discuss the challenges for frameworks seeking to help agents navigate real-world decisions involving material benefit and some risk to dignity without violating the Kantian’s core commitments.

September 9, 2022: Andrew Chignell (Princeton): tbd (6.00-8.00pm CET/Kaliningrad Time)

September 30, 2021: Adam Cureton (Knoxville, TN): tbd (6.00-8.00pm CET/Kaliningrad Time)

October 28, 2021: Colin McLear (Lincoln, NE): Self-Consciousness and Rationality (6.00-8.00pm CET/Kaliningrad Time)

Kant famously says that the “fact that the human being can have the ‘I’ in his representations raises him infinitely above all other living beings on earth” (An 7:127). Remarks such as this, and the general prominence of discussion of self-consciousness in the Critical philosophy, has led many to consider self-consciousness the ultimate explanatory ground of rational agency.

For example, according to one influential interpretive line of thought, Kant conceives of rationality as the capacity to respond to reasons as reasons. Responding to reasons as reasons is, or at least requires, the capacity to determine what to think or to do based on considerations to which one can point in so thinking or doing. On this way of reading Kant, it is the fact that one can be aware of oneself as a thinker or as having intentions to act that explains how one can come to ask of such thoughts or intentions why it is that they should be endorsed. In this manner the capacity for self-consciousness is necessary for, and makes possible, the capacity for acting rationally (i.e. acting on a reason as a reason). Similarly, freedom is explained in terms of the capacity to determine one’s thoughts or intentions by means of a consideration of their relevant grounds or reasons. Thus (the capacity for) self-consciousness is itself what makes free action possible.

This reading of Kant has been extremely fruitful and influential. However I think it is ultimately a distortion of Kant’s view. While it is true that Kant conceives of rational beings as self-conscious, and that this capacity for self-consciousness itself explains many of the various complex ways in which rational beings characteristically act, it is nevertheless the case that self-consciousness is derivative of what is ultimately explanatory of rationality or the capacity for rational activity—viz. control (Gewalt).

In this talk I explain the manner in which Kant conceives of control as more fundamental to rationality than self-consciousness. I then characterize the role I take control and self-consciousness to play in the development of a subject’s rational powers, and respond to various alternative ways of conceiving of rationality that would deny this asymmetry between control and self-consciousness. My overall aim is to support a reading of Kant’s conception of rationality as fundamentally enkratic, i.e., as concerning controlled activity. Self-conscious activity is certainly one way in which such controlled activity may manifest, but it is not the only way, and explanations of rational agency that start with the concept of self-consciousness are starting at the wrong level.

January 13, 2022: Oliver Sensen (New Orleans, LA): tbd (6.00-8.00pm CET/7:00-9:00 Kaliningrad Time)

January 27, 2022: Arthur Ripstein (Toronto): A Public World of Enduring Objects: Kant’s Deductions of Property And Substance (6.00-8.00pm CET/7:00-9:00 Kaliningrad Time)

February 24, 2022: Camilla Serck-Hanssen (Oslo): Kant’s “Metaphysical Deduction” of Ideas of Reason (6.00-8.00pm CET/7:00-9:00 Kaliningrad Time)

March 10, 2022: Lucas Thorpe (Istanbul): tbd (6.00-8.00pm CET/7:00-9:00 Kaliningrad Time)

March 24, 2022: Irina Schumski (Tübingen): tbd (6.00-8.00pm CET/7:00-9:00 Kaliningrad Time)

May 5, 2022: Michela Massimi (Edinburgh): Tbd (6.00-8.00pm CET/Kaliningrad Time)

May 19, 2022: Paul Guyer (Providence, RI): tbd (6.00-8.00pm CET/Kaliningrad Time)

June 2, 2022: Yoon Choi (Marquette, MW): The Activity of Thinking and the Unity of Theoretical and Practical Reason (6.00-8.00pm CET/Kaliningrad Time)