PHIL41570 Problems from Kant

Academic Year 2022/2023

The 'Problems from Kant' seminar this Autumn 2022-23 will focus on a close reading of Kant's _Critique of the Power of Judgment' (1790), the 'third Critique', a work that has been central to later work in both the 'analytic' and 'continental' styles of philosophical inquiry. This book contains Kant's famous attempt to reconcile our unconditional moral freedom defended in the 'second Critique' with the deterministic objectivity of nature's laws that emerged from his famous 'Critique of Pure Reason' (1781). We will explore Kant's highly influential accounts of our aesthetic judgments of taste concerning the beautiful, the sublime, and art, as well as his currently much discussed account of how our teleological judgments of 'purposive design' in nature's organisms is reconciled in our reflective judgments with the mechanist view of nature's laws. It turns out that a felt harmony or 'subjective purposiveness' of our faculties of imagination, understanding, and reason, which is evoked by our reflections on the beautiful, the sublime, and on the organized livings things we encounter in nature, evokes in the human mind an awareness of nature as a proper arena, not just for scientific cognition, but for our moral agency and our highest moral ideals. We will begin with some necessary background in the first Critique (feel free to contact me at for a pdf of my Intro book: _Kant's Critique of Pure Reason: An Introduction_ (Routledge 2012), and then for the rest of the seminar we will work our way systematically through the Third Critique, focusing on how this book was meant to bring all of Kant's 'critical system' together, and the problems this raises. Students will be able to propose which aspect of the Third Critique they want to focus on for their final research paper.

(General Description of the 'Problem from Kant' module: Each year this MA seminar focuses on selected themes from Kant's critical philosophy, and brings to bear on them insights, debates, and extensions of Kant's ideas from 20th/21st century philosophers strongly influenced by Kant. In some years the seminar might focus more on interpreting Kant's own systematic philosophy in detail, selecting themes from his philosophy of mind, knowledge, and nature, or in some cases his views on freedom, morality, and aesthetics. In other years the seminar might focus more on the 20th/21st c. philosophers defending or criticising influential variations of fundamental Kantian themes. Usually there will be a mixture of the two approaches, historical and more recent.)

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

One main aim will be to improve our skills of interpretation and argumentation through the close reading and analysis of exceptionally challenging philosophical texts and concepts. In particular, philosophy is distinctive among disciplines in that its history is arguably essential to its methods of argumentation and to the proper understanding of its concepts. Grappling with challenging texts in the history of philosophy is part and parcel of trying to resolve our own philosophical perplexities.

The module also aims to improve, through practice and feedback, the clarity and precision of our written work and argumentation, both historical and analytical.

Finally, the module also seeks to equip students with further knowledge of some very influential but often highly complex and challenging modes of argument and philosophical insights deriving both from Kant's philosophy and from later philosophers who sought to modify and develop Kantian insights.

Indicative Module Content:

The course description above (under 'Purpose and Overarching Content for PHIL41570') provides an adequate indication of the specific topics and authors to be examined in this MA seminar.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Close reading and analysis of exceptionally challenging texts, concepts, and methods of argumentation, combined with an emphasis in the module on clarity and precision of written work and other contributions, in a discussion-style seminar involving lecture content as well. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Essay: A substantial end-of-semester research essay. Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No


Essay: This will consist either of one short, analytical essay, or of a few short assignments, involving the interpretation of and reflection on key texts and arguments. Varies over the Trimester n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Summer No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

In this module feedback on the shorter assignment(s) will give participants an improved idea of what sort of writing and argumentation is expected for the final research essay.

For 'Problems from Kant' in 2022-23:

Required Text (this is the text we will be exploring in detail this year, often referred as Kant' 'third Critique'):
- Kant, Immanuel (1987 [1790]), _Critique of Judgment_ tr. Werner S. Pluhar. Hackett Publ. Co. ISBN 0-87220-025-6 (pbk.).

Or, alternatively, equally good:
- Kant, Immanuel (2000) [1790]), _Critique of the Power Judgment_ tr. Paul Guyer & Eric Matthews. Cambridge Univ. Pr. ISBN 9780521348928 (pbk.).

For background and reference materials on the the third Critique, see this online SEP entry:

- Ginsborg, Hannah, "Kant’s Aesthetics and Teleology", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2022 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), forthcoming URL = .

For wider background, I'll be making available my intro book on Kant's 'first Critique':
-O'Shea, James R. (2012) _Kant's Critique of Pure Reason: An Introduction and Interpretation_ (Routledge) ISBN-10: ‎1844652793,
ISBN-13: ‎978-1844652792.
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Seminar Offering 1 Week(s) - Autumn: All Weeks Wed 14:00 - 15:50