Kant's Tribunal of Reason: Legal Metaphor and Normativity in the Critique of Pure Reason by Sofie Møller [Book Review]

Journal of the History of Philosophy 61 (2):332-334 (2023)
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Abstract

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content: Kant's Tribunal of Reason: Legal Metaphor and Normativity in the Critique of Pure Reason. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020. Pp. 208. Hardback, $105.00. Even those with a passing knowledge of Kant's system will recognize his sustained use of legal metaphor and his appeal to lawfulness as a beacon of philosophical progress. He famously begins one of the most important (and impermeable) sections of the Critique of Pure Reason with the juridical distinction between quid juris (what is the law) and quid facti (what is the fact) (A 84/B 116), insisting—against the empiricists—that the critique of our cognitive faculty must speak to the former and requires a Transcendental Deduction of the categories. In her book, Sofie Møller delves into the historical context and philosophical significance of such legal metaphors to reveal that their roots spread to the deepest foundations of Kant's project. In doing so, she contends that we should understand "philosophical systematicity as legal systematicity" (15). According to Møller, to accept this reading of Kant is to acknowledge that the legal system provides not just one helpful type of metaphor to be appreciated alongside many others, but the only proper symbol of the abstract nature of reason itself (173).For those interested in Kant's engagement with the natural-rights theory that prevailed during his lifetime, or in his familiarity with the concrete legal practices of eighteenth-century European courts, Møller's book proves to be thoroughly researched and informative. As the first English-language book-length study providing a comprehensive account of the legal aspects influencing Kant's system, it should serve as a valuable catchall resource. There are limits to its accessibility, however, as familiarity with basic legal distinctions—e.g. between civil and criminal codes—is assumed, and Latin terms and phrases often go untranslated. At times, this makes for a difficult intersection between the arduousness of Kant's own prose and the equally technical legal terminology that is meant to explain it. However, this barrier is mitigated by Møller's own interpretive work, which cautions that we should not let indeterminate legal terminology fix too much in our reading of Kant's texts, especially when considering the Transcendental Deduction and its reliance on the quid juris/quid facti distinction. As she concludes at the end of chapter 3, the procedure of legal deduction that Kant invokes "could be an investigation, an exposition, a thorough consideration, a review, explanation, description, account, dispute or procedure" (64). Thus, despite Kant's historically demonstrable familiarity with legal-deduction writings, on their own, they "do not present a sufficiently uniform argument structure to settle the question of the structures of the two versions of the transcendental deduction" (64). This observation serves both as a general warning as well as a criticism of Dieter Henrich's approach to Kant's system, which popularized attention to legal metaphor in Kant scholarship in the twentieth century. For Møller, little philosophical insight is won through Henrich's approach, since it "places too much weight on the importance of an origin" (60), taking its cue from a particular type of legal deduction whose assumption is unsupported, and which cannot be accurately projected onto Kant's text. As Møller argues, "The validity of the categories is not only grounded in their origin in pure apperception but in their being the necessary structures in the synthesis which creates objects of experience, which is an act of pure apperception" (60). Møller's suggestion, instead, is to read the Deduction as adopting the twofold structure of "judicial imputation," which does a more faithful job of capturing the structuring activity that Kant accords to the understanding. With the latter reading, emphasis shifts from whether the categories' application to objects of experience is valid because of their a priori origin, to the spontaneous activity of the judging subject as the originator of experience (75). Part of what is unique about this approach is that it does not read the...

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Jessica Tizzard
University Tübingen

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