SOPhiA 2019

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Human Functioning and the Space of Reasons -- Epistemic Foundations of Positive Freedom
(Ethics, English)

The idea of this paper consists in an explanation of the epistemological foundations of positive freedom, that I will present as acting for reasons. In my account, I shall start with the conceptional idea of the logical space of reasons, by Wilfrid Sellars: "The essential point is that in characterizing an episode or a state as that of knowing, we are not giving an empirical description of that episode or state; we are placing it in the logical space of reasons, of justifying and being able to justify what one says" (EPM: __36). Within his account, Sellars argues against the Myth of the Given, a kind of empiricist foundationalism according to which mere observation could justify knowledge independently of anything else. In drawing on Sellars, McDowell develops a form of idealistic naturalism, that situates pure intelligible concepts as part of the natural world. In concordance with Kant's famous saying: "Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without conceptions are blind", McDowell postulates, that sensations are a part of cognition, guiding thinking from without, but not from within. Apriori concepts are thus part of the natural --- that means, that experience is always already conceptionally informed. When we take for granted that the space of conceptions is foremost the space of idealistic/ purely intelligible knowledge, we can conclude that the space of conceptions is the space of the highest form of knowledge, thus the knowledge of values and morals, governed by pure practical reason. Accordingly, conceptual, reason governed space defines our very human nature. Idealistic naturalism is thus the basis for human functioning; and in idealistic terms, the highest form of human functioning is our capacity of engaging in practical reasoning and gaining moral insights according to pure practical reason. Acting according to these insights is the idealistic answer of how freedom fits into the natural world. (Mind and World, xxiii) The question of freedom is consequently being solved through human's responsiveness to reason. Human's responsiveness to reason can be conceived of as a meta-faculty: I call it a faculty, because (1) It belongs to human functioning, (2) it also needs to be perfected, as humans are however born with the potentiality of highest moral insight, but the actualization of it (acting according to reasons as freedom) has to be achieved through active engagement. The metafaculty as responsiveness to reason can also be judged as malfunctioning; in the case of it not further fostering a person's highest form of human functioning: our capacity of engaging in practical reasoning and gaining moral insights according to pure practical reason. As stated, I understand the realization of freedom as acting for reasons. As illustrated, the human life form is inextricably linked with the conceptional sphere --- the space of reasons. So, in order to operate within "the logical space of reasons," one's responsiveness to reasons must be acceptably well perfected. The better it is perfected the better one will be able to act according to the practical insights. In acting in line with these insights, one exemplifies an acting for reasons that is embedded in McDowell's account of naturalism. In acting for reasons that belong to human nature, one exemplifies acting according with the highest possible knowledge, moral knowledge, and with that, one realizes positive freedom.

Chair: Christian Feldbacher-Escamilla
Time: 17:00-17:30, 18 September 2019 (Wednesday)
Location: SR 1.004

Jana Katharina Funk 
(Bamberg, Germany)

Jana Katharina Funk studied Philosophy, Area Studies, Theology and Political Science in Berlin, New-Delhi and Bamberg. During her Masters, she worked at the University of Bamberg and interned for MISEREOR and Amnesty International. Since October 2017 she is working on her doctoral thesis at the University of Bamberg. As a visiting scholar, she stayed at Universidad de Buenos Aires, Notre Dame University and DePaul University. Her research interests are Political Philosophy, Ethics and Moral Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion and Epistemology.

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