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Distinction used by Kant to reconcile the conflict of reason with itself, as illustrated in the antinomies of pure reason. Regulative principles are maxims of thought, deriving from our interest in ‘a certain possible perfection’ of knowledge of an object. Constitutive principles determine the way things must be, and derive from insight into their nature. When a maxim, such as everything must have a cause, is taken to apply constitutively and universally, antinomies develop. The distinction was taken over by the 20th-century American philosopher J. R. Searle, to describe the way rules (such as those of chess) may not only regulate the activity, but actually constitute it.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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