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Engstrom Help?

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Can someone explain to me what this card means?

Morality must be universalizable in order to be a guide for action. Engstrom 1[1]

Thus a principle of reason, being itself a cognition, is universally valid [if] in two respects: in addition to being valid of every object falling under its subject concept, it’s valid for every subject capable of rational cognition. This double universal validity is characteristic of principles of both theoretical and practical knowledge. 3. In the case of practical cognition, however, these two sorts of universality are identical in respect of their extension. For unlike theoretical cognition, which is of independently existing objects distinct from the cognizing subject and given to it from elsewhere by means of the senses, practical cognition, as practical, works to bring its object into existence, or to make it actual, and therefore is essentially efficacious, indeed self-consciously so, hence always knowledge subjects have that they themselves, as practically cognizing subjects, should act in a certain way, and so always cognition of the very subjects who have such cognition.8 Therefore in the case of a principle of practical cognition the two sorts of universal validity necessarily coincide in the sense that the principle is valid for the very subjects of which it’s valid: the principle applies to the will of every practically cognizing rational being, and every such being can recognize this universal applicability. This is as much as to say that a principle of practical cognition is necessarily such that every subject can agree to every subject’s acting on it. Now such agreement would actually be achieved if all subjects were jointly to legislate this principle for themselves. Kant thus gives expression to this necessary feature of all principles of practical knowledge by speaking, in the Critique of Practical Reason, of “the mere form of a universal legislationâ€, the form that distinctively characterizes practical, as opposed to theoretical, laws (KpV 27). Such universal legislation must therefore be possible if, for example, the shopkeeper’s practical judgment that where there is much trade one should keep a fixed general price for everyone [is] can rightly be said to be practical knowledge.

[1] Engstrom, Stephen.  Universal Law as the Form of Practical Knowledge.  Harvard University Press. 2009.


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That citation isn't quite accurate. The article is "Universal Legislation as the Form of Practical Knowledge." Some team (Walt Whitman HS, I believe) botched the title like 4 years ago, and basically every debater since has just copied their citation. 


I also don't know where "Harvard University Press. 2009." came from. As far as I can tell, someone at some point along the line mistook "Universal Legislation as the Form of Practical Knowledge", an unpublished manuscript, for "The Form of Practical Knowledge", a book by Engstrom which was published by Harvard in 2009.


Anyways, if you want to understand Engstrom's argument better, I'd suggest reading the whole article available here. He makes some novel claims about the categorical imperative which explains why his cards aren't identical to other Kantian explanations of universalizability.

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This card is based off of a distinction between practical and theoretical cognition.


Theoretical cognition is how we reason about objects that already exist.  For example, a falling pencil falls according to the laws of physics.  Theoretical cognition is what describes these types of causal questions in the physical sense.  


You might ask, "Why do we need any other type of reason if theoretical reason describes causation?"  The reason is because we can think of causation is two different ways.  The first is causation by explanation.  If I ask why that man killed his wife, I can explain his action in terms of the interaction of different chemicals in his brain.  I can also describe his action by saying that he wanted revenge.  This second type of description is based off of justification, or the reasons for action.  


Practical cognition deals with the second type of description - justification.  Practical cognition brings its object into existence by reasoning towards the end of an action. The end does not exist in the sense that it has not been achieved yet, practical cognition works towards achieving the end.  That is why Kant refers to hypothetical imperatives as analytic.  Practical cognition necessarily entails both an end and a valid means.  This means that the form of the law, that of being universal, must be unified with the content of the law, the means and ends.  The form refers to it being valid for every rational subject and the content refers to it being valid for the end the law sets forth.  Interesting sidenote:  the unification of form and content is how Kant describes the way in which we gain new knowledge, so Engstrom's argument is a form of moral epistemology.  Universal legislation just means that there are maxims that can be unified in this way.  

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