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The Critical Philosophy Of Immanuel Kant

2526 words - 10 pages

The Critical Philosophy of Immanuel Kant

Criticism is Kant's original achievement; it identifies him as one of the greatest thinkers of mankind and as one of the most influential authors in contemporary philosophy. But it is important to understand what Kant means by'criticism', or 'critique'. In a general sense the term refers to a general cultivation of reason 'by way of the secure path of science' (Bxxx). More particularly, its use is not negative, but positive, a fact that finds expression in the famous expression, 'I have therefore found it necessary to deny knowledge to make room for faith' (Bxxx). Correspondingly, its negative use consists in not allowing one's self to 'venture with speculative reason beyond the limits of experience' (Bxxiv). Thus, criticism removes the decisive hindrance that threatens to supplant or even destroy the 'absolutely necessary practical employment of pure which it {pure reason} inevitably goes beyond the limits of sensibility' (Bxxv). Accordingly, the critique guarantees a secure path for science by confining speculative reason and by giving practical reason the complete use of its rights: rights that thus far had not been recognised.

Place in the History of Ideas

Kant, being confronted with the two extremes of rationalism and empiricism, set for himself the task of creating a synthesis of the two. As he saw it, rationalism operates in the sphere of innate ideas, with their analytical and therefore aprioristic ideas; this necessity, however, is not based on experience and consequently does not apply to reality itself. On the other hand empiricism starts completely from experience and thus (it seems) from reality, but it arrives only at a posteriori and therefore synthetic statements that lack necessity. Kant sought to unite the concept and experience; he sought a necessity that extends to the order of objective reality and an order of objective reality that in itself contains necessity. This interpenetration finds its expression in judgements that are a priori and yet synthetic, on the one hand, and yet synthetic and a priori on the other. Kant thought that he could attain this goal only by way of a 'changed point of view' (Bxvi) referred to as a 'Copernician revolution'. 'On the supposition, thus far considered valid, that 'all our knowledge must conform to objects' (Bxvi), a priori judgements that enlarge Man's knowledge synthetically are impossible. Here, one needs the opposite assumption, according to which 'we suppose that objects must conform to our knowledge' (Bxvi); only in this way we are able to 'have knowledge of objects a priori determining something in regard to them prior to their being given' (ibid.) Consequently, 'we can know a priori of things only what we ourselves put into them' (Bxviii); this means that the process of knowing a priori 'has to do only with appearances, and must leave the thing-in-itself as indeed real per se, but as not known by us' (Bxx). Since,...

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