Patrick Kain

Department of Philosophy

Purdue University





Within the theory of rational agency found in Kant's anthropology lectures and sketched in the moral philosophy, prudence is the manifestation of a distinctive, nonmoral rational capacity concerned with one's own happiness or well-being. Contrary to influential claims that prudential reasons are mere prima facie or "candidate" reasons, prudence can be seen to be a genuine manifestation of rational agency, involving a distinctive sort of normative authority, an authority distinguishable from and conceptually prior to that of moral norms, though still overridable by them.  The anthropology lectures make an important contribution to the understanding of Kant's account of the distinctive prudential task: despite Kant's familiar complaints about human finitude and the natural dialectic of our desires, Kant offers useful suggestions about how prudential reflection can generate genuine practical guidance.  Even with several significant developments in Kant's anthropological theory over time, prudential norms can still be regarded as distinctive and conceptually independent of morality.

"Prudential Reason in Kant's Anthropology"

Essays on Kant's Anthropology, ed. Brian Jacobs and Patrick Kain Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003

ISBN-13: 9780521037839 (paper)

pp. 230-265 (14,713 words)