Introduction to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason

Introduction to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason

Introduction to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason

Introduction to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason

Excerpt

The aim of philosophers is always to understand and to interpret the achievements of scientific and other specialists in different fields. This does not mean that the philosopher should tell the scientist how to be a good scientist or the politician how to be a good politician. It would indeed be both foolish and presumptuous to inform the physicist that a particular view about the nature of space or matter cannot be correct because it has awkward meta- physical implications. Such a contention would be intelligible only if metaphysics possessed a peculiar subject-matter of its own about which it could make discoveries without reference to what occurs in other departments of knowledge. In fact, however, it has no such subject matter, but its function is none the less important. It must supplement the work of the specialist not by undermining or destroying his hypotheses, a pursuit which is both unwarranted and unprofitable, but by thinking out the general view of the universe and of man's place in it which those hypotheses, if verified, must entail. Kant's claim to be a great philosopher rests on the uncommon insight and perseverance with which he devoted himself to this task.

It is not my intention in this book to add yet another to the imposing list of commentaries on the Critique of Pure Reason as a whole or in part which have appeared during the last twenty years. Those of Professor Paton and Professor de Vleeschauwer in particular are essential to any serious student of Kant, and I have learned a great deal from them. My own purpose, however, is more limited. It is to provide an introduction to Kant's Critical Philosophy and especially to draw attention to an aspect of his thought which seems to me in danger of being overlooked because of the thoroughness with which the Critique as a contribution to modern epistemology has been analysed and documented. It is not always remembered that since Kant was thinking and writing in 1781 and not in 1940, the material with which he was concerned differed in many important respects from that with which we are now confronted. The views of Descartes, Leibniz, and Newton, not those of Einstein, Heisenberg, and Schrödinger, provided his problems. Hence if we are to understand and appreciate him we . . .

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