Enlightenment, reason and universalism

Kant's critical insights

Kenneth R. Westphal

pp. 127-148

"Universalist' moral principles have fallen into disfavour because too often they have been pretexts for unilateral impositions upon others, whether domestically or internationally. Too widely neglected has been Kant's specifically Critical re-analysis of the scope and character of rational justification in all non-formal domains, including the entirety of epistemology and moral philosophy, including both justice and ethics. Rational judgment is inherently normative because it is in part constituted by our self-assessment of whether the considerations we now integrate into a candidate judgment have been integrated as they ought, so as to form a cogent, justifiable judgment. Constitutive of this self-assessment is that rational judgments must be based upon considerations which can be communicated to all others, such that they too can assess them as sufficiently cogent justification; also constitutive of this rational self-assessment is that we actually engage with others who do assess our judgments. Kant's Critical principles rule out in principle any unilateral imposition upon others, whether in cognition or morals. Using Kant's Critical principles and methods in connection with "practical anthropology' and the enormously important domain of acquired rights and obligations shows how Kant had already justified fundamentally universal principles of justice which can be institutionalised in variously distinctive cultures, and which form the proper bases for our acquired, specifically social rights and obligations, including those of friendship and community.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/s11212-016-9259-4

Full citation:

Westphal, K. R. (2016). Enlightenment, reason and universalism: Kant's critical insights. Studies in East European Thought 68 (2-3), pp. 127-148.

This document is unfortunately not available for download at the moment.