Eric Watkins



Professor of Philosophy at the University of California in San Diego

Resident at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften:
June/July 2014

Research topic at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften:
»Autonomy and the Legislation of Laws in the Prolegomena«

Project outline:
In the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, Kant never used the word »autonomy« or, for that matter, any of its cognates. Further, its subject matter (theoretical cognition) and primary goal (ascertaining whether metaphysics can be a science) differ significantly, at least at first glance, from the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, which concerns morality and establishing its supreme principle. It would be a mistake, however, to infer that the development of Kant’s moral philosophy runs on a separate track from that of his theoretical philosophy and thus that the Prolegomena is irrelevant to understanding the emergence of the notion of autonomy in the Groundwork. For Kant was writing the Prolegomena in 1782 and 1783, just as he was thinking about how to compose the metaphysics of morals that finds preliminary expression in the Groundwork. More importantly, the Prolegomena builds into its basic argument the view that reason legislates, or prescribes, laws to nature, a view that parallels the Groundwork’s claim that autonomy involves reason legislating the moral law. As a result, it is worth considering the possibility that Kant developed his doctrine of practical autonomy in the Groundwork on the basis of the parallels he discovered with the account of reason’s legislation of laws to nature while composing the Prolegomena. (Eric Watkins)

Funding of the stay:
Excellence Cluster »The formation of normative orders«

Research partner:
During his stay at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften, Eric Watkins works together with Marcus Willaschek (Professor of Philosophy at Goethe university).

Scholarly profile of Eric Watkins


Main areas of research:
Philosophy of Immanuel Kant; German Idealism; Early Modern Philosophy; History of the Philosophy of Science

Selected publications:
  1. (ed. with Ina Goy), Kant’s Theory of Biology, Berlin: De Gruyter 2014.
  2. (ed.) The Divine Order, the Human Order, and the Order of Nature: Historical Perspectives, New York: Oxford University Press 2013.
  3. Immanuel Kant, Natural Science, ed. E. Watkins, tr. O. Reinhardt, J. Edwards, M. Schönfeld and E. Watkins, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2012.
  4. (ed. and tr.) Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason: Background Source Materials, New York: Cambridge University Press 2009.
  5. Kant and the Metaphysics of Causality, New York: Cambridge University Press 2005.
  6. (ed.), Kant and the Sciences, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2000.