Kant and the Practical Man

Reinterpreting the Appendix to Toward Perpetual Peace

In: Danish Yearbook of Philosophy

The Appendix to Kant’s Toward Perpetual Peace is commonly viewed as an explication of the systematic relations between political practice and normative political theory. This paper provides an alternative interpretation of Kant’s main aim in the Appendix which is to provide an argument against the so-called “practical man.” The practical man believes that human nature precludes normative political ideals from ever playing a significant role within political practice. Drawing on the 1793 text “On the common saying: That may be correct in theory, but is of no use in practice,” the paper argues that Kant’s argument against the practical man is based on a proto-phenomenological analysis of moral experience. The practical man’s attempt to describe political practice in purely non-normative terms is, Kant believes, necessarily self-undermining because it denies one of the most basic aspects of human life; the inherent and inescapable normativity of practical reason.