[SydPhil] Matheson Russell @ UNSW Philosophy seminar, 9 June

Melissa Merritt m.merritt at unsw.edu.au
Tue May 19 14:34:34 AEST 2015

UNSW Philosophy seminar
9 June, 1-2:30
G3 Morven Brown

Matheson Russell (University of Auckland)
Kant's Idea of Public Reason Revisited

In her seminal essay “The Public Use of Reason” (1986), Onora O’Neill remarks upon the curious way in which Kant draws the distinction between the private and the public use of reason. Individuals in public positions—such as clergy, officers, civil servants, and taxpayers—are said by Kant to exercise a “private” use of reason, whereas private individuals speaking on their own behalf—such as scholars—are said to exercise a “public” use of reason. O’Neill resolves this apparent idiosyncrasy by observing that the official addresses a limited audience, whereas the scholar addresses an unlimited audience, “the world at large”, and in this sense reasons “publicly”. However, I argue that, on closer inspection, this reading papers over some crucial features of Kant’s analysis. I argue for an alternative reading which makes sense of both the “role”-oriented descriptions and the “audience”-oriented descriptions that Kant offers to characterise his distinction.

Matheson Russell is Senior Lecturer in philosophy at the University of Auckland.  His current research project, Recognition, Justice and the Christian Tradition, is supported by the Marsden Fund 2013-2015.
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