The Development of Kantian Thought: The History of a Doctrine

The Development of Kantian Thought: The History of a Doctrine

The Development of Kantian Thought: The History of a Doctrine

The Development of Kantian Thought: The History of a Doctrine

Excerpt

This book is not an original work in the strict sense of that term. Between 1934 and 1937 I published an extensive study of the Critical philosophy under the general title of La Déduction transcendantale dans l'Œuvre de Kant. This threevolume work had a dual purpose. First, it was intended to offer a textual commentary on that part of the Critique of Pure Reason known as the Transcendental Deduction of the Categories. Secondly, it sought to trace the development of the whole Critical problem which comes to a central point in the Transcendental Deduction. The kind reception accorded to this work made it impossible for me to ignore the suggestion made by several colleagues that I should give a general account of the evolution of Kantian thought.

The use of the historical method makes an author cautious about a priori schemas in any attempt to determine historical reality; it also forbids him to be guided in his researches by any preconceived idea of' the nature of the Critical philosophy. An almost religious respect for the documentary evidence is for the historian a matter of professional duty. Twelve years devoted to the study of the Kantian corpus, to the comparison of Kant letters with his published works, to cautious use of his Nachlass, to inquiry into the cultural state of Germany in the eighteenth century, constituted a powerful defence against any temptation to a priorism. Close personal study of the facts led the writer to pay attention to the lesson of the facts themselves.

From my willing acceptance of the demands of the historical method has come a new conception of some aspects of Kant's intellectual career, and consequently I have been forced to contradict some of the critical clichés to be found in many of the textbooks. The interest in the exact sciences shown by Kant at the beginning of his career no longer appears to have the mysterious and revealing character commonly attributed to it. The recognition of the admirable unity which can be traced in Kant's thought, in spite of . . .

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