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Kant's Transcendental Idealism: The Critique of Pure Reason read through Dreams of a Spirit-Seer

Lecturer: Sherah Bloor

Originally Taught: Evening School Semester 2 2011

Course Details:

The course provides an introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason.  We will work our way through this notoriously difficult text, section by section, but our focus is on grasping the work as a whole. This means grasping the meaning and significance of Kant’s transcendental idealism. To this end, we will consider the transcendental turn against the backdrop of Kant's concerns in an earlier text, Dreams of a Spirit-Seer. Here Kant deals, in a surprisingly playful mode, with the affinities between Rationalist metaphysics and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, a spiritualist and psychic who constructed a cosmology of the 'spirit world'. In Dreams of a Spirit-Seer Kant foregrounds the ironies involved in attempts to provide accounts of philosophy such that philosophy will be differentiated from dogmatism, fanaticism and spiritualism.  But this is the task of the Critique (a text that lacks the playfulness of Dreams of a Spirit-Seer). We will confront the accusation that the Critique, despite itself, falls into the very dogmatism it seeks to avoid (an interpretation we will find in Nietzsche and others). However, we will answer to these accusations by thinking about transcendental idealism as a sublimation of the ironies and difficulties that Kant recognised to haunt the metaphilosophical task.

Course difficulty level: Beginner 

Readings:

Excerpts from Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason
Excerpts from Kant, Dreams of a Spirit-Seer
Excerpts from Allison’s Transcendental Idealism
Toscano, ‘Raving with Reason: Immanence and Fanaticism in Kant’
Excerpts from Nietzsche’s Will to Power

Kant's Transcendental Idealism schedule:

Lecture One: August 16
The course is oriented by means of Kant’s concerns in the Dreams of a Spirit-Seer, paying attention to the self-reflexive ironies of the text. Kant's Copernican Turn is introduced against the backdrop of those concerns. We will look carefully at the preface of the Critique and technical terms will be introduced and defined. This will ready us for our section-to-section reading of the text. Each lecture will cover a new chapter or set of chapters, we will look at different interpretations of these sections and then relate them to 'the bigger picture.' The sections we will cover are as follows:

Lecture Two: August 23
The Transcendental Aesthetic and the categories

Lecture Three: August 30
The Deduction and the Schematism

Lecture Four: September 6
The Analogies and the Refutation of Idealism. At this point we will take time to discuss of Kant’s responses to Hume, Descartes, Berkeley (and Swedenborg)

Lecture Five: September 13
The distinction between Phenomena and Noumena
The Ideas of Reason

Lecture Six: September 20
The Paralogisms and Antinomies

Lecture Seven: September 27
The Natural Dialectic of Human Reason and the Discipline of Pure Reason

Lecture Eight: October 4
We will conclude with the question of the significance of transcendental idealism by means of a return to the Dreams of a Spirit-Seer and, through this text, to potential difficulties and ironies Kant may face in the attempt to safeguard against dogmatism (and the dreams of spiritualists). We will evaluate interpretations of the Critique that hold Kant to have fallen into dogmatism himself.  We will consider potential responses, in particular we will consider transcendental philosophy to be a sublimation of the ironies involved in the metaphilosophical task. 

Events

10 Jan - 18 Feb Summer School 2022

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Evening School Semester 2 2011