Problems from Kant

Problems from Kant

Problems from Kant

Problems from Kant

Synopsis

This rigorous examination of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason provides a comprehensive analysis of the major metaphysical and epistemological questions of Kant's most famous work. Author James Van Cleve presents clear and detailed discussions of Kant's positions and arguments on these themes, as well as critical assessments of Kant's reasoning and conclusions. Expansive in its scope, Van Cleves study covers the overall structure of Kant's idealism, the existence and nature of synthetic a priori knowledge, the epistemology of geometry, and the ontological status of space, time, and matter. Other topics explored are the role of synthesis and the categories in making experience and objects of experience possible, the concepts of substance and causation, issues surrounding Kant's notion of the thing in itself, the nature of the thinking self, and the arguments of rational theology. A concluding chapter discusses the affinities between Kant's idealism and contemporary antirealism, in particular the work of Putnam and Dummett. Unlike some interpreters, Van Cleve takes Kant's professed idealism seriously, finding it at work in his solutions to many problems. He offers a critique in Kant's own sense--a critical examination leading to both negative and positive verdicts. While finding little to endorse in some parts of Kant's system that have won contemporary favor (for example, the deduction of the categories) Van Cleve defends other aspects of Kant's thought that are commonly impugned (for instance, the existence of synthetic a priori truths and things in themselves). This vital study makes a significant contribution to the literature, while at the same time making Kant's work accessible to serious students.

Excerpt

Kant Critique of Pure Reason is a critique with both positive and negative aims: its task is to "institute a tribunal which will assure to reason its lawful claims, and dismiss all groundless pretensions" (Axi). Kant seeks to determine the scope and limits of a priori knowledge (that is, knowledge based on reason without dependence on experience), defending such knowledge against skeptical suspicion in areas where it is legitimate and exposing its lack of credentials in areas where it is not. He argues that a priori knowledge (in particular, the special variety he called synthetic a priori knowledge) is possible in arithmetic and geometry and in the foundations of the natural sciences, but not in many areas of traditional philosophical inquiry--those concerned with the properties of the soul, the outer limits and inmost nature of the cosmos, and the existence of God. A priori knowledge is possible in the former areas because the objects with which our knowledge has to deal are to a significant extent the creations of our own minds; it is not possible in the latter areas because there the objects of our purported knowledge are not given to us in experience and are beyond the power of our minds to shape. Kant thus advances a novel explanation of the possibility of a priori knowledge, built on the supposition that things in space and time are dependent on the human mind. This is the view he calls transcendental idealism.

In the course of elaborating his theory, Kant addresses many important epistemological and metaphysical problems: the existence and nature of a priori knowledge, the ontological status of space, time, and matter, the role of the mind in shaping reality, the contribution of conceptualization to experience, the relation of appearances to things in themselves, the nature of the self, and arguments for the existence of God. I discuss all of these topics in this book, more or less in the same order as Kant himself. (The chief exception is the antinomy of infinite divisibility, which I discuss in chapter 6 alongside the . . .

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