It is common for constructivists to claim that Kant was the first philosopher to understand moral facts as ‘constructions of reason’. They think that Kant, just like the constructivist, proposes a procedure – the Categorical Imperative – from which the order of value can be ‘constructed’ and grounds the validity of this construction procedure not in some previous value but in its capacity to solve a practical problem, the problem of ‘free agency’. I here argue that this reading is misguided and propose that we read Kant as a teleological realist instead. Kant is a realist in that he takes the value of rational nature to be objective and so not ‘constructed’. Kant is a teleological realist insofar as his derivation of the moral law from the objective value of rational nature relies on a teleological understanding of rational nature.
I am profoundly indebted to Katrin Flikschuh, who has enthusiastically dedicated time and thought to my project, as well as to Paloma Morales, Santiago Rodriguez, Valentina Gianera and the reviewers at Kant Yearbook for their acute comments and suggestions. I would also want to thank Paloma, Virginie and Juan Morales for their unconditional support during the time I was writing the first drafts of this paper, at the start of the COVID pandemic.
All translations are quoted from The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant (1996) and the quotation rules followed are those established by the Akademie Ausgabe. Kant, Immanuel (1900 ff): Gesammelte Schriften. Hrsg.: Bd. 1 – 22 Preussische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Bd. 23 Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, ab Bd. 24 Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen. Berlin.
Following standard use, reference to Aristotle’s work will use Bekker page, column, and line numbers. I use the abbreviations Met. for Metaphysics.
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