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Principle and prejudice: Burke, Kant and Habermas on the conditions of practical reason

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This paper examines the role of practical reason in connecting moral principles and historical traditions. It looks first at Habermas’ attempt to construct a model of communicative reason that can bridge the gap between the justification of moral principles and their application in practice. The paper then turns to an older debate between Burke and Kant on the relation between theory and practice in the French Revolution. It argues that Burke's account of practical reason as dependent on the cultivation of moral sentiments within a specific historical tradition is superior to the efforts of both Kant and Habermas to incorporate a moral dimension within reason itself.

Keywords: Burke; French Revolution; Gadamer; Habermas; Historikerstreit; Kant; communicative reason; constitutional patriotism; discourse ethics; instrumental reason; moral sentiments; moral universalism; passions; practical judgment; practical reason; practice; prejudice; prudence; theory; tradition

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: James Madison College, Michigan State University, 317 S. Case Hall, East Lansing MI 48825-1205, USA.. Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2002


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