Familiar to philosophy students through the centuries, The Critique of Pure Reason is in many ways Kant’s magnum opus. First published in 1781, it seeks to define what can be known by reason alone without evidence from experience. Kant begins by defining a posteriori knowledge, which is gained through the senses, versus a priori knowledge, or self-evident truths understood without the benefit of experience. He then examines these two types of knowledge in the context of analytic and synthetic judgments, using the relationship between them to conclude that through reason alone, humans are capable of reaching deep universal truths. Kant then demonstrates how—even as much of the world around us can never be truly known—the laws of the universe are in fact made possible by the human capacity for reason itself.
Sparking intense and lasting discussion, The Critique of Pure Reason remains essential reading for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the ideas that, since their initial publication, have gone on to shape much of Western philosophy.
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Stephen R. Palmquist's engaging Introduction provides historical background, discusses Religion in the context of Kant's philosophical system, elucidates Kant's main arguments, and explores the implications and ongoing relevance of the work.
Introduction. Bibliography. A Note on the Text.
1. Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Intent (1784)
2. An Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment? (1784)
3. Speculative Beginning of Human History (1786)
4. On the Proverb: That May Be True in Theory, but Is of No Practical Use (1793)
5. The End of All Things (1794)
6. To Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch (1795)
Glossary of Some German-English Translations. Index.
As in his previous critiques, Kant seeks to establish a priori principles. The first part of this work addresses aesthetic sensibility. The human response to specific natural phenomena as beautiful, he asserts, is a recognition of nature's harmonious order that corresponds to a mental need for order. The critique's second half focuses on the apparent teleology in nature's design of organisms. The philosopher declares that the mind is predisposed to find purpose and order in nature, and this predisposition forms the main principle underlying all our judgments. Although this could be interpreted as an argument in favor of a creator, Kant insists that a supernatural dimension or the existence of God cannot be proven — such considerations lie beyond the realm of reason, solely within the province of faith.
representation, and the connection between morality and the aesthetic. He also investigates the validity of our judgements concerning the degree in which nature has a purpose, with respect to the highest interests of reason and enlightenment.
The work profoundly influenced the artists, writers, and philosophers of the classical and romantic period, including Hegel, Schelling, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche. In addition, it has remained a landmark work in fields such as phenomenology, hermeneutics, the Frankfurt School, analytical
aesthetics, and contemporary critical theory. Today it remains an essential work of philosophy, and required reading for all with an interest in aesthetics.
This edition comprises two parts: “Introduction to Logic” and an essay titled “The False Subtlety of the Four Syllogistic Figures,” in which Kant analyzes Aristotelian logic.
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Whether the treatment of that portion of our knowledge which lies within the province of pure reason advances with that undeviating certainty which characterizes the progress of science, we shall be at no loss to determine. If we find those who are engaged in metaphysical pursuits, unable to come to an understanding as to the method which they ought to follow; if we find them, after the most elaborate preparations, invariably brought to a stand before the goal is reached, and compelled to retrace their steps and strike into fresh paths, we may then feel quite sure that they are far from having attained to the certainty of scientific progress and may rather be said to be merely groping about in the dark. In these circumstances we shall render an important service to reason if we succeed in simply indicating the path along which it must travel, in order to arrive at any results—even if it should be found necessary to abandon many of those aims which, without reflection, have been proposed for its attainment.
That logic has advanced in this sure course, even from the earliest times, is apparent from the fact that, since Aristotle, it has been unable to advance a step and, thus, to all appearance has reached its completion. For, if some of the moderns have thought to enlarge its domain by introducing psychological discussions on the mental faculties, such as imagination and wit, metaphysical, discussions on the origin of knowledge and the different kinds of certitude, according to the difference of the objects (idealism, scepticism, and so on), or anthropological discussions on prejudices, their causes and remedies: this attempt, on the part of these authors, only shows their ignorance of the peculiar nature of logical science. We do not enlarge but disfigure the sciences when we lose sight of their respective limits and allow them to run into one another. Now logic is enclosed within limits which admit of perfectly clear definition; it is a science which has for its object nothing but the exposition and proof of the formal laws of all thought, whether it be a priori or empirical, whatever be its origin or its object, and whatever the difficulties—natural or accidental—which it encounters in the human mind.
These two camps seemed deadlocked until Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason endeavored to show that the most accurate theory of reality would be one that combined relevant aspects of each position, yet transcended both to arrive at a more fundamental metaphysical theory. Kant's synthesis sought to disclose how human reason goes about constructing its experience of the world, thus intertwining objective simuli with rational processes that arrive at an orderly view of nature.