CHAPTER 2
Rereading Kant

Looking back for the roots of my consuming interest in the problem of knowledge, I find its starting point in a fascination with Kant, in particular with the Critique of Pure Reason, and there in particular with what seemed to me its central argument, that is, the argument of the Transcendental Analytic, in which Kant expounds, and justifies, the mind's contribution to the objectivity of experience. In my callow American youth, I must confess, I found Kant's ethics of duty, in contrast to his theory of knowledge, entirely unbelievable. I had been raised with an apologetic attitude to an inherited Jewish conscience: it was presented to me as a burden that more fortunate people (even more fortunate Jews) could happily slough off. I used to return undeserved nickels to a pay phone and feel guilty about my superhonesty. The idea of Obedience to the Moral Law, of the Good Will as the only good, in opposition to inclination or desire: such a notion appeared downright absurd. And so when I first read Kant Foundations of a Metaphysic of Morals I was wholly baffled. It seemed to me in those days that Kant had let in by the back door, in his treatment of morality, what he had sharply turned away from the front steps, in his analysis of knowledge. Analogously, as an undergraduate, I had found the remarks of my Italian teacher (a refugee from fascism) entirely unintelligible. "What does it matter", she said, "if the Italian people are happy? They're not free." To a naive young American it seemed obvious that everyone wanted to be happy; I suppose we took political liberty entirely for granted. I understood her point only years later, during the war, when I heard R.H. Tawney refer to Hitler as "that wretched man". And only then did I understand as well Plato's argument in the Gorgias that it is better to suffer than to do injustice. Obviously, one would rather be right than president. But it wasn't obvious (to me) when I began studying philosophy; and in any event, as I have already confessed, it was the question of knowledge rather than good or right that awakened my philosophical interest, and Kant's Transcendental Analytic was the document that seemed most clearly to

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A Philosophical Testament
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • For My Family, Both Irish and American v
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Part 1 - Knowing 7
  • Chapter 1 - Knowledge, Belief, and Perception 9
  • Chapter 2 - Rereading Kant 29
  • Chapter 3 - Beyond Empiricism? 47
  • Part 2 - Being 65
  • Chapter 4 - Being-In-The-World 67
  • Chapter 5 - Darwinian Nature 89
  • Chapter 6 - The Primacy of the Real 113
  • Part 3 - Coping 127
  • Chapter 7 - Perception Reclaimed: the Lessons of the Ecological Approach 129
  • Chapter 8 - Our Way of Coping: Symbols and Symboling 153
  • Chapter 9 - On Our Own Recognizances 173
  • Index 191
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