Immanuel Kant’s Metaphysics Essay

3698 words - 15 pages

Immanuel Kant’s Metaphysics

THEME

In regard to Metaphysics, Kant’s results were seemingly the opposite to what he strove to achieve, cf. the claim, in his Introduction, that “In this enquiry . . . I venture to assert that there is not a single metaphysical problem which has not been solved, or for the solution of which the key has not been supplied.” In the summing up of his Prolegomena, he records with evident pride in achievement: “Anyone who has read through and grasped the principles of the CPR . . . will look forward with delight to metaphysics, which is now indeed in his power.”

Yet the image of an “Alleszermalmer” persists, who dismantled the foundations of a philosophical edifice which had barely withstood the ravagement of Hume’s onslaught on its “occult fancies”! These discrepancies should make us wonder how one of the three greatest thinkers of all time could be so far deluded as to miss the outcome and import of his efforts! I propose to consider this problematic issue from a slightly different than ‘usual’ perspective.

I

To put the question of the suitability of metaphysics as a science is equivalent to asking, “what is metaphysical knowledge?”, hence “can metaphysical conclusions be verified?” In the CPR, this issue is encapsulated in the question, “How are synthetic a priori judgements possible?”

But before I address it, let me offer something as a curtain raiser:

The metaphysical possibility as well as the epistemology of newtonian absolute space remained a mystery until Kant solved it . . . [Guyer 10].
My intention here is to throw into focus the possibility of metaphysics having stood still in the interim; that no successor (as Kant indubitably expected) has taken up the cudgels and remoulded these fundamentals in the light of progress in the sciences. But I must hold this thought in abeyance until it’s time for my parting shots. Let me therefore begin at the beginning with a well-articulated statement of principle:

If one and the same faculty of reason is employed in empirical and metaphysical judgement, and the empirical employment of reason is legitimate, then so should be its metaphysical employment; and if metaphysics results in contradictions, then reason as a whole contradicts itself . . . Because the problem of metaphysics is ultimately a matter of reason’s relation to itself, the route to its solution, Kant argues, must also be reflexive. That is, reason must examine itself. [Gardner 21-2].

This identifies the claim by Kant to have wrought a ‘copernican revolution’ in philosophy. The whole perspective is rotated by 180š: not the world imposing its meaning, but meaning imposing on the world.

II

Knowledge and intuition

Kant’s first step, furnishing arguments in favour of the apriority of metaphysical cognition, is evidently mandatory. He shows initially that there is no inferring from veridical observations upon “the riddle of the universe”, while conclusions about what is...

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