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Kant's Metaphysics

Lecturer: Sherah Bloor

Originally Taught: Winter School 2015

This course is an introduction to Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason.

Hans-Georg Gadamer once said that the publication of the Critique of Pure Reason was an event comparable in magnitude of importance to the death of Socrates or the beginning of the French Revolution. It is an epoch-turning work. The preface provides a warning: having finished this book, the reader must admit that all attempts at philosophy prior have been naught (Mendelssohn dubbed Kant the 'Great Destroyer'). But Kant also looked forward to informing a new epoch and it is certainly true that philosophy since, whether analytic or so-called Continental, has been informed by Kant. Most of modern philosophy (whether explicitly or implicitly) begins in, grapples with, advances, or critiques Kantian metaphysics. Kant is, as Gadamer admits, the historical source for all of us.

If an understanding of Kant is necessary for reading modern philosophy, it is also true that he is more often than not shamefully misunderstood. The Critique is as difficult as it is important. So we will turn to the text itself and aim to make our way through all 600+ pages. Mastering this book requires that we work on two levels. We'll need to acquire a technical language and great patience for painstaking distinctions. The lectures, along with maps and cheat-sheets, will navigate us safely through its maze. We'll also need imagination and creativity. Understanding the Critique requires that we induce something of a perceptual shift or new framework after which nothing will quite seem the same again. Come ready to develop these skills to master one of the greatest texts of modern philosophy. No prior knowledge of Kant is required. The course is for beginners.

Course Schedule

Lecture One:

  • Kant's Transcendental Idealism is introduced against the backdrop of his pre-Critical works.
  • The Transcendental Aesthetic: space and time

Lecture Two:

  • The Transcendental Analytic: the categories
  • The Deduction and Schematism

Lecture Three:

  • The Analogies and the Refutation of Idealism
  • The distinction between phenomena and noumena and the Ideas of Reason

Lecture Four:

  • The Ideas of Reason continued
  • The Paralogisms and Antinomies
  • The Natural Dialectic of Human Reason

Lecture Five:

  • The Transcendental Doctrine of Method
  • An overview of Kant's post-Critical work. A discussion of the influence that Kant's metaphysics has had on modern philosophy.

Readings:

  • The Critique of Pure Reason (please try to acquire the Norman Kemp Smith translation). However, excerpts will be provided.
  • Excerpts from Henry Allison's Kant's Transcendental Idealism
  • Excerpts from the Critique of Practical Reason and Critique of Judgement.