Kant and the Foundations of Analytic Philosophy

Kant and the Foundations of Analytic Philosophy

Kant and the Foundations of Analytic Philosophy

Kant and the Foundations of Analytic Philosophy


Robert Hanna presents a fresh view of the Kantian and analytic traditions that have dominated continental European and Anglo-American philosophy over the last two centuries, and of the relation between them. The rise of analytic philosophy decisively marked the end of the hundred-year dominance of Kant's philosophy in Europe. But Hanna shows that the analytic tradition also emerged from Kant's philosophy in the sense that its members were able to define and legitimate their ideas only by means of an intensive, extended engagement with, and a partial or complete rejection of, the Critical Philosophy. Hanna's book therefore comprises both an interpretative study of Kant's massive and seminal Critique of Pure Reason, and a critical essay on the historical foundations of analytic philosophy from Frege to Quine. Hanna considers Kant's key doctrines in the Critique in the light of their reception and transmission by the leading figures of the analytic tradition--Frege, Moore, Russell, Wittgenstein, Carnap, and Quine. But this is not just a study in the history of philosophy, for out of this emerges Hanna's original approach to two much-contested theories that remain at the heart of contemporary philosophy. Hanna puts forward a new 'cognitive-semantic' interpretation of transcendental idealism, and a vigorous defence of Kant's theory of analytic and synthetic necessary truth. These will make Kant and the Foundations of Analytic Philosophy compelling reading not just for specialists in the history of philosophy, but for all who are interested in these fundamental philosophical issues.


Philosophy and the history of philosophy are one. You cannot do the
first without also doing the second. Otherwise put, it is essential to an
adequate understanding of certain problems, questions, issues, that one
understand them genetically.

Charles Taylor

This book has two intimately intertwined topics. First, it is an interpretive study of Immanuel Kant's massive and seminal Critique of Pure Reason; but secondly and equally, it is a critical essay on the historical foundations of analytic philosophy from Gottlob Frege to W. V. O. Quine.

By Kant's own reckoning, the first Critique is an extended reflection on a single question: 'Now the real problem of pure reason is contained in the question: how are synthetic a priori judgements possible?' (CPR B19). Translated out of Kant's jargon, this question raises a deep and broadly applicable philosophical difficulty: how can the same judgement be at once necessarily true, referred to the real or natural world in a substantive way, yet cognizable by creatures minded like us apart from all sense experience? For easy reference, I will call this 'the Modal Problem'.

Kant's Modal Problem comprehends four important subthemes of the first Critique: (1) the nature of judgement—in all four senses of (i) a particular truth-evaluable 'judgement' (Urteil) or 'proposition' (Satz), (ii) an act of propositional affirmation or 'holding-for-true' (Fürwahrhalten), (iii) the mental state or process of 'judging' (Beurteilen), and (iv) the mental capacity for judging or the 'power to judge' (Urteilskrafi); (2) the crucial distinction between 'concepts' (Begriffe) and 'intuitions' (Anschauungen); (3) the intimately related and equally crucial distinction between analytic and synthetic judgements; and, last but not least, (4) the protean distinction between a priori and a posteriori, which cuts right across the other three subthemes.

Ultimately, however, neither Kant's proposed solution to the Modal Problem, nor any of its implicated subthemes, fully makes sense except against the backdrop of Kant's doctrine of transcendental idealism. Hence a central feature of my account is a new interpretation of his special brand of idealism. The nub of that interpretation is that Kant's answer in the first Critique

Taylor, 'Philosophy and its History', 17.

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