This book is devoted to the continuation of the line of thought pursued in my earlier work Concerning Human Understanding. My main object in this work is to develop an independent outlook on philosophy and inter alia make out a case for metaphysics--of course, metaphysics in a sense of my own which is different from that in which this discipline has, in the fitness of things, sunk into opprobrium. In consequence of my individual reaction to the history of philosophic thought the conviction has grown on me that philosophy can leave behind its proverbial frustrations and failures once for all and come to stay as a stable and independent discipline if it could only awaken itself to its essential anthropocentric character and thus realise that its primary interest lies in the analysis of the human situation with a view to ascertaining how man can live a liberated life or, in other words, live as a strictly human being held in inter-personal relations with his fellows.
This view of the nature and function of philosophy has led me, as the first step to my investigations, to explore the foundations of the epistemological situation at a deeper level than I was able to do in my earlier work. As a result, I have arrived at the concept of 'I with others=we' which I have characterized as the 'realm of the personal'. This concept has provided me with the ground-plan of the whole book by way of offering me the key for unlocking the store-house of the powers or activities of the human mind and thereby enabling me to build up a presumably comprehensive and complete inventory of these activities. In the absence of more suitable words due to the poverty of the language available for the purpose of philosophical investigations, the ordinary words 'imagination', 'understanding', 'reason--theoretical and practical' and lastly 'human autonomy' may well serve as their respective designations and indicate their distinction from one another. But even then I must tell the reader that these words in their usual interpretation by philosophers and psychologists can hardly convey my own view of the nature and function of the activities concerned.
Philosophy regarded as primarily concerned with the analysis of the human situation cannot, for obvious reasons, be a complete discipline without being a critique of the entire inventory of the activities of the human mind ranging between Imagination and Human Autonomy. Judged in this light, this book as a philosophical treatise is incomplete, because it mainly contains a critique of Imagination, although, as I must confess, I have not been able to make even this fragment of the complete critique that philosophy must be, as thorough as one would wish it to be. But even then, as a compensation, however inadequate, for its incompleteness, I have tried to probe the depths of Understanding, Reason--theoretical and practical and Human Autonomy in connection with my attempt to ascertain the ways and means of dealing with the human predicament which it is the special prerogative of Imagination to bring into focus.
I am fully aware that, not to speak of the basic concepts and the outstanding views which I have arrived at as a result of my investigations, even the procedure I have followed in this work is rather unusual. So I apprehend that my interpretation of the words I have used as the designations of the activities of the human mind and my understanding of the nature and function of the activities so designated may not be easy of approval.