Kant and technics : from the Critique of Pure Reason to the Opus Postumum

Aigner, Franziska (2020) Kant and technics : from the Critique of Pure Reason to the Opus Postumum. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This dissertation aims to critically intervene in twentieth century European philosophical thought on technics, the discourse concerning skills, tools, instruments, and machines, as well as technology, the scientific meta-discourse on technics, by way of a critical reading and conceptualization of the role and meaning of technics for Immanuel Kant’s transcendental philosophy. Starting from a critical analysis of Martin Heidegger, Gilbert Simondon, and Bernard Stiegler’s thought on technics, I will show how Kant came to stand for a philosophy that could not, and, further did not think technics. Against Heidegger, Simondon and Stiegler, according to whom Kant was incapable of recognizing the technical problematic at the center of his philosophy, I argue that we should read Kant’s philosophy as being constitutively shaped by an ongoing, developing concern for technics. Following a close reading of Kant’s texts from the Critique of Pure Reason (1781) until his very last unfinished manuscript, the Opus Postumum (1796-1803), my project works chronologically through Kant’s explicit references to technics (die Technik), as I aim to synthesize a concept of technics out of the Kantian text and lay out the role and meaning of technics through the various stages of Kant’s thought. I will show that Kant did not only ‘know’ something about technics, but that his transcendental philosophy is essentially of technics, at once explicitly constituted against, while at the same time relying on, being built upon, and proceeding from technics. While the Critique of Pure Reason will be shown to be at heart a critique of instrumental reason, which is to be remedied by a two-fold critical program, both sides of which already harbor a positive concept of technics, it is in the final Opus Postumum that Kant will be seen to articulate the systematic place and vital role of technical-practical reason for the system of transcendental philosophy. The Opus Postumum charges technical-practical reason with the technicalpractical task of world-building, and thus the cosmo-technical context for both the universal laws of science and any particular technical-practical action. Consequently, then, while for Heidegger, Simondon, and Stiegler, Kant came to stand for a philosophy that could not think technics, I aim to re-open the larger question concerning the relation between philosophy and technics through the restricted discussion of the relation between Kant and technics, and the concept of technics that I discover in the Kantian text.

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