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The Critique of Pure Reason: the text with commentary



Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)


Editor’s prefatory comment: It’s been said that one cannot consider oneself an educated person without a familiarity with the teachings of Kant. He understood that time and space are illusions, mere constructs of the mind, more than 200 years before Einstein. Of course, Einstein, as many of the great scientists, was a student of Kant and philosophy. Physicist Peter Russell has said that the profound advancement that is quantum mechanics needs to be viewed as “the Kantian revolution.” For these reasons, I decided to embark upon a somewhat thorough investigation of the doctrines of the professor from Konigsberg.


Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: "Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) is the central figure in modern philosophy. He synthesized early modern rationalism and empiricism, set the terms for much of nineteenth and twentieth century philosophy, and continues to exercise a significant influence today in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy, aesthetics, and other fields. The fundamental idea of Kant’s “critical philosophy” – especially in his three Critiques: the Critique of Pure Reason (1781, 1787), the Critique of Practical Reason (1788), and the Critique of the Power of Judgment (1790) – is human autonomy. He argues that the human understanding is the source of the general laws of nature that structure all our experience; and that human reason gives itself the moral law, which is our basis for belief in God, freedom, and immortality. Therefore, scientific knowledge, morality, and religious belief are mutually consistent and secure because they all rest on the same foundation of human autonomy, which is also the final end of nature according to the teleological worldview of reflecting judgment that Kant introduces to unify the theoretical and practical parts of his philosophical system."

Wikipedia: "Biography: Immanuel Kant was born on 22 April 1724 into a Prussian German family of Lutheran Protestant faith in Königsberg, East Prussia (since 1946 the Russian city of Kaliningrad)... He was the fourth of nine children (six of whom reached adulthood). The Kant household stressed the pietist values of religious devotion, humility, and a literal interpretation of the Bible. The young Immanuel's education was strict, punitive and disciplinary, and focused on Latin and religious instruction over mathematics and science... In his later years, Kant lived a strictly ordered life. It was said that neighbors would set their clocks by his daily walks. He never married... he was a popular teacher as well as a modestly successful author, even before starting on his major philosophical works."


Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy: “The Kantian philosophy which announced itself as ‘prolegomena to all future metaphysics,’ was, by malicious intent, a murderous thrust at traditional modes of speculation; and, contrary to intent, a damaging blow to all metaphysics whatsoever. For metaphysics had meant, throughout the history of thought, an attempt to discover the ultimate nature of reality; now men learned, on the most respectable authority, that reality could never be experienced; that it was a ‘noumenon,’ conceivable but not knowable; and that even the subtlest human intelligence could never pass beyond phenomena, could never pierce the veil of Maya ['the transitory, manifold appearance of the sensible world, which obscures the undifferentiated spiritual reality from which it originates; the illusory appearance of the sensible world'].”

Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy: Kant is the last person in the world whom we should read on Kant. Our philosopher is like and unlike Jehovah; he speaks through clouds, but without the illumination of the lightning flash. He disdains examples and the concrete; they would have made his book too long, he argued. (So abbreviated, it contains some 800 pages.)”

Kant: "David Hume … interrupted my dogmatic slumber"

Kant: "All of the interests of my reason, speculative as well as practical, combine in the three following questions: What can I know, what ought I to do, what can I hope?"

Dr. Daniel Robinson, his Kant lectures: "Kant… the culmination of Enlightenment thought [but also setting] limits on the entire Enlightenment project… his "first critique" ("Critique of Pure Reason") Kant agrees with Hume that all of our knowledge arises from experience. However, he makes a fundamental distinction, saying it is a mistake to assume that because our knowledge arises from experience, that it is grounded in experience. Hume said that we come to regard A as the cause of B when A and B have been constantly conjoined in experience. This is not the conclusion of an argument but merely a habit of mind.

Dr. Daniel Robinson, his Kant lectures: In Kant's terminology, cognitive or epistemic holdings that are not the result of experience are referred to as 'pure.' Pure in Kant's sense refers to what is non-empirical. A Critique of Pure Reason means a critical examination of the forms of rationality that could not come from experience but make up the framework within which experience is possible. There cannot be experience except by way of time and space. Thus, Kant reaches the concept of the pure (non-empirical) intuitions of time and space. Kant uses the word intuitions to mean a necessary precondition for something else to come about. Logically, then, this precondition must be prior to all experience - Kant's famous terminology a priori - or there could be no experiences. Kant argues that there is something fundamentally lacking in Hume's account of 'knowledge' and experience [ie arises but is not grounded].

Dr. Daniel Robinson, his Kant lectures: In his Analytic of Concepts, Kant seeks to provide the framework of all knowledge. He contends that in all instances, knowledge involves a judgment, formed within a universal categorical framework that includes entities that could not possibly be gained by experience. Kant presents four 'Pure Categories of the Understanding' that could not be 'given' in experience and that admit of no possible exceptions: There are categories of

(1) quantity: unity, plurality, and totality. There are categories of

(2) quality: reality, negation, and limitation. There are categories of

(3) modality: possibility, existence, and necessity. And there are categories of

(4) relation: inherence, causality, community, and correlation.

Kant: “You know that I do not approach reasonable objections with the intention merely of refuting them, but that in thinking them over I always weave them into my judgments, and afford them the opportunity  of overturning all my most cherished beliefs. I entertain the hope that by thus viewing my judgments impartially from the standpoint of others some third view that will improve upon my previous insight may be obtainable.... Long experience has taught me that insight into a subject which I am seeking to master is not to be forced, or even hastened, by sheer effort, but demands a fairly prolonged period during which I return again and again to the same concepts, viewing them in all their aspects and in their widest possible connections, while in the intervals the sceptical spirit awakens, and makes trial whether my conclusions can withstand a searching criticism.”

Kant’s rejection of reincarnation: "Would any man of sound understanding … care to go through life's poor play [again] … on any conditions whatever?"

Kant: “In mental labour of so delicate a character nothing is more harmful than preoccupation with extraneous matters. The mind, though not constantly on the stretch, must still, alike in its idle and in its favourable moments, lie uninterruptedly open to any chance suggestion which may present itself. Relaxations and diversions must maintain its powers in freedom and mobility, so that it may be enabled to view the object afresh from every side, and so to enlarge its point of view from a microscopic to a universal outlook that it adopts in turn every conceivable standpoint, verifying the observations of each by means of all the others.”

Kant: “I am not of the opinion of the well-meaning writer who has recommended us never to allow doubts in regard to a matter upon which we have once made up our minds. In pure philosophy that is not feasible. Indeed the understanding has in itself a natural objection to any such procedure. We must consider propositions in all their various applications; even when they may not seem to require a special proof, we must make trial of their opposites, and in this way fight for delay, until the truth becomes in all respects evident.”








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