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Freedom and the End of Reason

On the Moral Foundation of Kant’s Critical Philosophy

In Freedom and the End of Reason, Richard L. Velkley offers an influential interpretation of the central issue of Kant’s philosophy and an evaluation of its position within modern philosophy’s larger history. He persuasively argues that the whole of Kantianism—not merely the Second Critique—focuses on a “critique of practical reason” and is a response to a problem that Kant saw as intrinsic to reason itself: the teleological problem of its goodness. Reconstructing the influence of Rousseau on Kant’s thought, Velkley demonstrates that the relationship between speculative philosophy and practical philosophy in Kant is far more intimate than generally has been perceived. By stressing a Rousseau-inspired notion of reason as a provider of practical ends, he is able to offer an unusually complete account of Kant’s idea of moral culture.

244 pages | 6.00 x 9.00 | © 1989

Philosophy: History and Classic Works

Political Science: Classic Political Thought


“Velkley handles his subject with skill and style, moving easily from Rousseau to Kant, and from the latter’s earlier to his later works. This is a significant piece of scholarship not merely for its historical insights but also because of the new focus it provides for interpreting Kant’s philosophy as a whole.”


“Velkley has produced an outstanding philosophical work on the late modern problem of the relation between reason and freedom.”

Review of Politics

“The picture of Kant that emerges from this fascinating study is at once richer and more complex than the straw man who often appears in the works of defenders and detractors alike.”

American Political Science Review

“Velkley’s reconstruction of Kant’s encounter with Rousseau is sufficiently interesting to reward the reader of this thoughtful and impressively researched book. By leaving aside stale debates about ‘influence’ in favor of an account of how one philosopher creatively responded to the challenges posed by another, Velkley provides a useful model of how scholars should deal with encounters between great minds.”

Political Theory

Table of Contents

The Problem of the End of Reason in Kant’s Philosophy
The Primacy of the Practical End of Reason
Rousseau’s Insight
The Highest Good and the End of Reason
A Prospectus of the Argument
1. The Revolution in the End of Reason: Some Principal Themes
The Revision of Modern Foundations
The Critique of Instrumental Reason
The Crisis in the Relation of Metaphysics to Common Reason
Rousseau’s Protest against Modern Enlightenment
Kantian Philosophy as Transcendental Practice
2. The Teleological Problem in Modern Individualism
Individualism and Moral Sense
Rousseau’s Challenge to Moral Sense
The Teleological Problem in Rousseau
3. Kant’s Discovery of a Solution, 1764-65
History, Nature, and Perfection
Will, Reason, and Spontaneity
The Analysis of Passion: Honor and Benevolence
Justice and Equality
Common Reason and the End of Science
4. The Origins of Modern Moral Idealism, 1765-80
The Unity of Freedom and Nature as Ideal Goal
The Failures of Ancient Moral Idealism
Morality as System
Socratic Metaphysics as Science of the End and the Limit of Reason
The Dialectic of the Pure Concepts of the Whole
5. Culture and the Practical Interpretation of the End of Reason, 1781-1800
The Ultimate End of Theoretical Inquiry
Philosophy’s "Idea" and Its History
Culture’s Contradictions and Their Ideal Resolution

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