Critique of Pure Reason

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The Critique of Pure Reason (Kritik der reinen Vernunft) is a philosophical text by Immanuel Kant on epistemology and metaphysics. Published in two editions (first in 1781 and second in 1787), this book was the first of the three critiques that together present the core of Kantian philosophy. Kant's stated purpose in the Critique of Pure Reason (CPR) is to bring metaphysics, inquiry striving for knowledge independently of experience, onto the secure course of sciences such as logic and physics. In short, Kant sought to establish metaphysics as a science. His chosen method for achieving this goal was a criticism of the human faculty of reason itself.[1]

Structure

The architecture of the Critique can seem daunting to first-time readers. A simple approach to understanding the comprehensiveness of this text is to focus initially on its primary body, the "Doctrine of Elements". This section subdivides according to the two faculties which Kant primarily investigates - our sensibility and our understanding. Kant analyzes the former in the "Transcendental Aesthetic", individually expounding the two formal conditions of directly representing objects. In the second part of the first doctrine, he covers the use and misuse of the understanding through the "Transcendental Logic". The formal conditions for thinking, judging, and cognizing are presented in the section of the Logic known as the "Transcendental Analytic" while the overt and systematic criticism of the metaphysical use of reason occurs in the "transcendental Dialectic". This is the general structure of the Doctrine of Elements.

The second major section of the Critique, the "Doctrine of Method", is often neglected after digesting the long and dense first doctrine. Although the content of his critical philosophy is entirely contained within the Elements, Kant elaborates on its methods in the former. This illumination of the critical and philosophical method involves a comparison with contemporary methods. First, in the "Discipline of Pure Reason", Kant compares the methods of philosophy with those of mathematics, both disciplines being directed at a priori knowledge. The Discipline largely consists in an ardent defense of freedom of public communication through the lens of rational discussion. It closes after a comparison of scientific to philosophical hypotheses and a review of Kant's own transcendental method of deduction on the basis of conditions for the possibility of experience. After his discussion of proof and argumentation, Kant devotes the rest of the Doctrine to: comparing theoretical to practical reason, in the "Canon of Pure Reason"; designing a system for his new limited metaphysics, in the "Architectonic of Pure Reason"; and locating his system in its historical context from the perspectives of content, authority, and method, in the "History of Pure Reason". Although this second major section is a fraction of the first in size, it arguably offers the greatest insight into the motivation and historiographical context for writing the Critique of Pure Reason.

References

  • Kant, I., 1787. Critique of Pure Reason. Translated by P. Guyer and A.W. Wood, 1998. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Notes

  1. from the (B) Preface of the CPR