Burgess Laughlin

Kant's CPR-B Preface

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The Kant Special Interest Study Group 1, studying the second ("B") edition of Kant's Preface to his Critique of Pure Reason, will begin with the Week 1 assignment next Monday, July 24, 2006.

PERMISSION TO POST IN THIS TOPIC

For the duration of KSISG1, this topic-thread is open only to:

Michelle F. Cohen

Fesapo

Rick Wilmes

Burgess Laughlin

After we complete KSISG1, I will open this topic-thread to questions and discussion from anyone who has studied the Preface B.

PROCEDURE

I will begin each KSISG1 week on Monday morning by posting my notes for the assigned passage. Post any time after that, until Sunday evening. If I fail to post on Monday, proceed without me!

IMPORTANT BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Anyone reading this topic-thread should first examine the KSISG1 invitational topic-thread. It contains much useful background information -- such as a list of suggested supplementary readings about the assigned text.

Congratulations to KSISG1 members. You have made the commitment to prepare ahead of time and participate weekly. I know from past experience that such commitment and participation is both rare and much more conducive to learning than merely reading what others have written.

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Week 1 Summary: B vii-xv

Today is Monday, July 24, the first day of KSISG1 week 1. The assignment is to write about the passage from the first par. of p. B vii ("Whether or not the treatment of cognitions ...") to the par. bridging pp. B xiv/xv ("Metaphysics -- a wholly isolated speculative cognition of reason ...."). This passage covers pp. 106-110 in the Guyer/Wood edition.

Reminder: Some of my posts will be long. Your weekly posts can be much shorter.

Paragraph numbers refer to full paragraphs starting on a specified page. For example, B ix, par. 1 refers to the first full paragraph starting on page B ix -- that is, the first paragraph that has a paragraph indentation.

My contribution, besides organizing this study group, will consist only of my notes and a few comments on each week's reading. I will try to underline key ideas. I will also try to draw conclusions each week even though I find the process agonizing because Kant's writing is so difficult to follow. To read Kant without drawing conclusions is, I have found, psychologically damaging.

B vii, par. 1. In his typically obscure way, Kant says the (philosophical) science of metaphysics (which in his time included ontology and epistemology) has been a failure. Metaphysicians, Kant says, have not agreed on how to pursue their "end." (Kant does not say here what that end -- purpose? -- is.) Kant also says metaphysicians don't agree on which methods to use and which procedure to follow. To remedy the problem, Kant proposes to provide a "service to reason" by devising a "path" (procedure) that metaphysicians can follow unanimously. However, ominously, Kant warns us that metaphysicians ("we") may have to abandon some of their most basic assumptions.

Comment: Note here and throughout CPR that Kant sees himself as a Philosophical Solomon, a judge who solves even the most perplexing problems. He generally solves such problems through some form of compromise, for example, by constructing a Rube Goldberg machine made of the components of radically opposed sides of a debate. One side of a dispute about farming might say a goat is the solution; another side might say a man is the solution. Kant would imagine a satyr -- a man/goat hybrid -- and offer it as the definitive solution that will end all contention.

B viii-ix, par. 1. The science of logic, Kant says, has successfully produced useful results for 2000 years. Logic, he says, "is the science that exhaustively presents and strictly proves nothing but the formal rules of thinking ...." In the remainder of that sentence, Kant foreshadows two issues:

- (1) He dichotomizes thinking as empirical versus a priori (Latin, "from the earlier").

- (2) He says the mind contains "contingent or natural obstacles" to thinking.

[These are two of Kant's techniques for attacking objectivity: fracturing and limiting.]

B ix, par. 1. Logic has been successful, Kant says, because it works within a limit. The limit is this: In pursuing the science of logic, the faculty of understanding looks only at its own operation. Likewise, if we want the science of reason (which Kant does not formally name) to be as successful as the science of logic has been, then we must limit the science of reason to looking only at itself. If the science of reason tries to look at the objects of reason, then the science of reason will fail.

B ix, par. 2. To have reason (which Kant has not defined) "in" the science of logic and in the science of reason, then certain ideas must come a priori, that is, before sense-perception. These certain ideas (a "cognition") can "relate" to an object in either of two ways:

- (1) By identifying ("determining") the object and its concept (which comes from somewhere other than reason). This is theoretical reason.

- (2) By "making the object actual." This is practical reason.

Kant further says we must be sure to separate the pure part of reason (the part that identifies the object of reasoning from inside the mind, prior to sense-perception) from the empirical part of reason ("other sources").

B x, par. 1. In this four-line paragraph, Kant says first that the science of mathematics and the science of physics are "theoretical cognitions of reason." As such, they work by identifying ("determining") their objects a priori, that is, before sense-perception. Math is entirely "pure," that is, it makes no reference to sense-perception, he says. Physics is partly pure and partly reliant on "the standard sources of cognition other than reason." He does not say what sources of cognition there are other than reason. And he still has not defined reason, which is the subject of his book.

B x, par. 2. In this long paragraph (spanning pp. Bx-xii!), Kant looks back at the history of mathematics and sees the founder of math ("Thales") employing a certain process: Use what you already know a priori to understand a particular object. [Comment: I suggest this statement summarizes much of Kant's epistemology.]

B xii, par. 1. So far, Kant has examined three sciences: logic, reason, and math. Now he examines physics ("natural science") to see how it started and developed so successfully as a science. Kant says that a "revolution" launched physics along its "highway of science" (passing through history), just as the revolution of Thales launched math. Kant makes a point of noting that he will, in the following paragraphs, look at physics only to the extent that physics is based on "empirical principles," a term he does not define.

B xii, par. 2. The following statement is part of the theme of the preface and perhaps all of CPR: "... reason has insight only into what itself produces according to its own designs ...." [The statement is unclear. Is it subjectivism or is he making an obvious observation about science, that a scientist must think about his experiments in order to design them to produce the answers he seeks? Is Kant here equivocating back and forth between "a priori" and "previously designed plan"? The ambiguity continues throughout the paragraph.]

Also appearing in this paragraph is a judge metaphor: Reason, in physics, is "... like an appointed judge who compels witnesses to answers the questions he puts to them."

B xiv, par. 1. In this paragraph, Kant's target is rationalistic metaphysics, though he doesn't say so. He speaks of a "wholly isolated speculative cognition of reason that elevates itself ["through mere concepts"] entirely above all instructions from experience." That means a rationalistic idea, in Objectivist terms. That is why metaphysics is not yet a science, he says, even though it is older and (he implies) it is fundamental. Because it isn't a true science in its methods, it has become a battlefield among philosophers. The philosophers can't reach any agreement about basic principles because they are searching in the dark.

Conclusion One of the problems in reading Kant seriously is getting lost in his forest of long, jumbled sentences. Stepping back from the many puzzles that arise, a reader of this week's passage can tentatively draw some conclusions:

1. The subject of Kant's "Preface," so far, is making metaphysics, as a philosophical science, as successful in its procedures and conclusions as the specialized sciences (such as astronomy and physics) are in Kant's time (the end of the Enlightenment).

2. The theme of Kant's "Preface," so far, is that:

- The way to make metaphysics scientific is to critique "pure reason," the metaphysician's tool.

- Such a critique will lead to better understanding of pure reason -- its nature and limits -- and that better understanding in turn will lead to a metaphysical (ontological and epistemological) theory that will stand for all time

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I am using The Great Books Translation by J.M.D Meiklejohn. If I use a quote I will post the page number and paragraph from the Great Books. Since Burgess listed all the paragraphs this week, I followed with his notation of what I believed to be the same paragraph.

Kant writes on (Page 5, Par 3: Bix, par. 1.)

Hence, logic is properly only a propaedeutic–forms, as it were, the vestibule of the sciences; and while it is necessary to enable us to form a correct judgement with regard to the various branches of knowledge, still the acquisition of real, substantive knowledge is to be sought only in the sciences properly so called, that is, in the objective sciences.

Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines propaedeutic: preparatory study or instruction.

Based on this definition and what Kant is saying, this looks like an attack on reason. Kant is saying that reason is necessary to make a correct judgement but real knowledge is learned from objective sciences. What if there is a contradiction between the conclusions drawn from logic and the conclusions drawn from the objective sciences(say mathematics)? It looks like Kant is saying that the objective sciences take primacy over logic. This is opposite of my understanding of the role philosophy and the sciences play in relation to each other. The sciences, in order to draw correct conclusions, must be in agreement with philosophy. If I identify a conflict and I can not identify an error in my logic than I must assume the error is in the science and than attempt to identify that error. Kant appears to be arguing for the opposite approach.

Kant than identifies what these objective sciences must be. In order for these sciences to be rational, they must contain a priori cognition. According to “The Cambridge Companion to Kant” :

Knowledge is called a priori if it is “independent of experience and even of all impressions of the senses”(B2). Kant is not very precise about what this “independence” consists in. In the case of a priori judgments, it seems clear that being a priori implies that no particular facts verified by experience and observation are to be appealed to in their justification.(p. 62)

If I understand how Kant intends to use a priori knowledge, than this is Kant’s justification for the existence of God. Because there are no facts or experiences of the existence of God, Kant or anybody else who believes in God can argue that God’s existence is based on a priori knowledge.

Kant argues that a priori cognition can be related to its objects in two different relations. One relation is theoretical which determines the conception of an object extraneously or without the use of the senses. The other relation is the practical which establishes the reality of the object. In both relations, Kant argues that the a priori knowledge must be treated first.

Kant identifies Mathematics and physics as the two theoretical sciences that have to determine their objects a priori. Mathematics requiring all a priori knowledge. Kant’s conception of a priori knowledge appears to be something that needs to be properly understood. For two reasons

1. In order to properly understand Kant.

2. To be able to argue against his ideas.

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Comparing Translations

My translation of the Preface is by Paul Guyer and Allen W. Wood, published in 1998. I wonder how much difference there is between Guyer and Wood's translation and other translations used in this study group. For comparison, here are the first lines of the Guyer/Wood Preface:

"Whether or not the treatment of the cognitions belonging to the concern of reason travels the secure course of a science is something which can soon be judged by its success. If after many preliminaries and preparations are made, a science gets stuck as soon as it approaches its end, or if in order to reach this end it must often go back and set out on a new path; or likewise if it proves impossible for the different co-workers to achieve unanimity as to the way in which they should pursue their common aim; then we may be sure that such a study is merely groping about, that it is still far from having entered upon the secure course of a science; and it is already a service to reason if we can possibly find that path for it, even if we have to give up as futile much of what was included in the end previously formed without deliberation."

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First Paragraph from the J.M.D. Meiklejohn translation.

Whether the treatment of that portion of our knowledge which lies within the province of pure reason advances with that undeviating certainty which characterizes the progress of science, we shall be at no loss to determine. If we find those who are engaged in metaphysical pursuits, unable to come to an understanding as to the method which they ought to follow; if we find them, after the most elaborate preparations, invariably brought to a stand before the goal is reached, and compelled to retrace their steps and strike into fresh paths, we may then feel quite sure that they are far from having attained to the certainty of scientific progress and may rather be said to be merely groping about in the dark. In these circumstances we shall render an important service to reason if we succeed in simply indicating the path along which it must travel, in order to arrive at any results--even it it should be found necessary to abandon many of those aims which, without reflection, have been proposed for its attainment.

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I planned to use F. Max Muller's translation in the Anchor Books edition (published by Doubleday). Here is the first paragraph:

"Whether the treatment of that class of knowledge with which reason is occupied follows the secure method of a science or not, can easily be determined by the result. If, after repeated preparations, it comes to a standstill, as soon as its real goal is approached, or is obliged, in order to reach it, to retrace its steps again, and strike into fresh paths; again, if it is impossible to produce unanimity among those who are engaged in the same work, as to the manner in which their common object should be obtained, we may be convinced that such a study is far from having attained to the secure method of a science, but is groping only in the dark. In that case we are conferring a great benefit on reason, if we only find out the right method, though many things should have to be surrendered as useless, which were comprehended in the original aim that had been chosen without sufficient reflection."

After comparing this paragraph to the Guyer/Wood translation, I decided to use Guyer/Wood instead.

I would also like to point out Humphrey Palmer's simplified translation in his Intorductory Text for the Critique. It is designed for novices and makes Kant more intellgibile than he probably deserves:

"In the field of Reason, is our knowledge progressing soundly, like a science? Let us look at the results. Everlasting stops and starts. Retreats and diversions. No agreement between those working in the field. That is not scientific progress, it is Blind Man's Buff. If only we could show Reason the way, what a benefit that would be, even at the cost of abandoning some ill-considered aims and claims."

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Kant’s conception of a priori knowledge appears to be something that needs to be properly understood.

I agree. I can offer one historical bit of information about Kant's use of the term a priori. Howard Caygill, "a priori/a posteriori," A Kant Dictionary, p. 35, notes that in the century before Kant's CPR appeared, a priori referred to a type of argument, that is, a set of propositions starting with premises and ending in a conclusion. The particular type was an argument that reasons from causes to effects.

Kant's "innovation" in CPR, "where the notion of a priori plays a pivotal role" (says Caygill), was to use the term a priori to describe particular "judgments" (propositions saying something about something existing) and then, reducing the scope of reference even further, to the elements of knowledge themselves: "intuitions" and concepts.

Such knowledge, to be a priori must be (1) "pure," (2) universal, and (3) necessary. Caygill notes that Kant illogically sometimes assumed one of those three criteria in order to "prove" another one. Kant's use of the idea of a priori is "pivotal" (crucial) in CPR, says Caygill, so to prove a priori's nature illogically is, I suggest, an example of Kant working as a magician. He is pulling a fast one by, first, using an old, accepted term to describe a new, suspect idea, and then, second, "proving" the new idea's nature by sleight-of-hand.

Among Kant's followers and critics, there has been a long debate about the full meaning of a priori. Caygill observes: "One of the main reasons for the longevity of the debate is the ambiguous and often cryptic account of the source of a priori universality which Kant offers in his published writings."

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Week 2 Summary: B xv par. 1 - B xviii par. 1

Good morning. Today is Monday, July 31, the first day of KSISG1 week 2. The assignment is to write about the passage from the last par. of p. B xv ("Now why is it that here the secure path ....") to the last, very long par. spanning pages B xviii-xxii ("This experiment succeeds as well as we could wish ...."), including Kant's long footnotes. This passage covers pp. 110-113 in the Guyer/Wood edition.

B xv, par. 1. Kant raises several related questions. Why haven't philosophers found a "secure path of science" for metaphysics (the science of reason)? He implies that the underlying issue is this: Is reason trustworthy?

B xv, par. 2. This paragraph serves many functions. First, Kant again mentions a "revolution" in a science, thus laying the groundwork for his own "Copernican revolution" in metaphysics. He describes his own revolution thus: "Up to now it has been assumed [by philosophers] that all our cognition must conform to the objects; but all attempts to find out something about them a priori through concepts that would extend our cognition have, on this supposition, come to nothing. Hence let us once try ... assuming that the objects must conform to our cognitions ... to establish something about objects before they are given to us."

1. Thus Kant reverses the usual correspondence theory of truth (which is the theory that truth is an idea in the mind that corresponds to things out there).

2. Also he reverses the traditional philosophical assumption of a cognitive continuum running from the object out there to an idea inside the mind.

These two reversals together are his "Copernican revolution." Kant calls his theory by that name because, he says, Copernicus could not reconcile his astronomical data with the idea of the heavens revolving around the earth, so Copernicus re-examined his data in light of the assumption that the earth revolved around the sun. And then the data fit the theory.

Still in the same paragraph, Kant applies his new approach. He begins with the "intuition of objects." I suggest that, for Kant, "intuition" means "taking in" without method or process. For Kant, sensation (not sense-perception) is one form of intuition. (The Latin verb intueor means, among other things, "to gaze at [directly].")

Still in the same paragraph, Kant worries about how we can know a priori anything about objects. [i am not sure, but Kant seems to think he needs to know something about objects before he sees them. I do not understand why he has that expectation, if he does. Why can't he rely on sense-perception? Is it because he thinks of sensation as merely an inchoate blob of details of matter that are missing a Platonic "form" that makes them recognizable objects? I wonder too whether Kant believes that a priori knowledge of objects turns sensation of objects into perception of objects.]

Still in the same paragraph, Kant says an intuition isn't a cognition. So, how, he asks (implicitly), can we move from an intuition of an object to a cognition of the object? He sets up a dichotomy ("I can assume either that ... or else I assume that ..."). In the second branch of that dichotomy he introduces several ideas that will be very important later. First, he equates ("or what amounts to the same thing") experience (of an object) with the object . Second, he says that experience requires prior knowledge (from the faculty of the understanding, which apparently is distinct from reason). He then says that experience thus becomes a kind of cognition. Next, Kant slips in a conclusion -- all objects of experience must conform to a priori concepts -- as the payoff for his "experiment" (his dichotomy of assumptions).

My summary so far: The links in Kant's epistemological chain are: object; intuition; experience; understanding (as a faculty); and a priori concepts which "rule" the understanding. Kant says, in effect, there are two movements here. First is the intuition coming in from the presumed object out there. An experience arises when, second, the faculty of understanding applies a priori concepts (coming from inside the mind) to the intuition. Note that Kant does not tell readers where the a priori concepts come from.

B xviii, par. 1. Kant lists the benefits of his "alteration in our way of thinking" about how we gain knowledge." First, it provides a solid basis for metaphysics, he says. Second, it explains "the possibility of a cognition a priori." Third, it "can provide satisfactory proofs of the laws that are the a priori ground of nature." He defines "nature" as "the sum total of objects of experience."

In the same paragraph, two puzzles (among many!) arise: What does he mean by "the first part of metaphysics" and "the second part of metaphysics"? Is he referring to sub-branches of metaphysics, or fundamental questions, or perhaps even topics listed in the table of contents (p. 86 of Guyer's edition)?

Shortly after those phrases appear, Kant mentions for the first time another phrase that has always puzzled me throughout CPR: "possible experience." What does the "possible" mean here? Possible as opposed to what -- impossible experience? Why not simply say "experience"?

In the same paragraph (but now on p. B xx), Kant speaks of a type of cognition that "reaches appearances only, leaving the thing in itself as something actual for itself but uncognized by us."

In the same paragraph, but now on p. B xxi, Kant begins introducing the dichotomy of speculative reason vs. practical reason. He does not here, in this Preface, explain the meaning of those terms.

The footnote that begins with an asterisk on p. B xviii is a one-paragraph note about the method of Kant's "metaphysical experiment." He concludes, part way through the note, that his experiment will apply only to "isolated reason" (rationalism, in the Objectivist meaning), that is, "concepts and principles that we assume a priori."

CONCLUSIONS

In this passage for Week 2, Kant has been laying out his epistemology: inchoate appearances of objects enter the mind; and a priori ideas come from somewhere in the mind and impress themselves on the experiences, giving them form. Simplified in this way, his epistemology sounds to me like a Platonic reversal of Stoic epistemology; in Kant, a blob of warm wax comes in from the senses, and a seal emerges from the dark part of the mind to impress a form on the blob of wax.

Further splitting the human mind into fragments, Kant has begun introducing suspicious dichotomies: speculative vs. practical, and appearances (of things) vs. things-in-themselves.

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Week 1 Summary: B vii-xv

In their introduction to the new translation of CPR, Paul Guyer and Allen Wood write that Kant was sorely disappointed by the initial reception of CPR. He spent the six years between the first and second editions making substantive revisions to the text of CPR, in order to clarify the critical foundation of his system of philosophy. In the preface to the first edition, Kant speaks only in general terms about the need to place the science of metaphysics on a secure footing. In the preface to the second edition, he describes in detail the innovations of his critical method.

Kant’s preface to the second edition of CPR begins as if the author is in the midst of a heated debate: “Whether or not the treatment of the cognitions belonging to the concern of reason travels the secure course of a science is something which can soon be judged by its success…” The sentence reads like an answer to a critic who claimed that the treatment of the cognitions belonging to the concern of reason does indeed travel the secure course of a science. Kant retorts that “it is still far from having entered upon the secure course of a science.” If the first edition did not convince those who are confident that it did enter upon the secure of a science, Kant is set to undercut their confidence in the second edition. He invites his readers to give up as futile what was deemed the scientific foundation of the study of reason, and embark on a search for a new path.

In B-viii, Kant dismisses as “ignorant” those “moderns” who thought it was possible to expand the boundaries of the science of logic in order to incorporate the study of reason. He includes in this study cognitive powers such as imagination and wit, the origin of cognition, the different kinds of certainty (as in idealism or skepticism), and prejudices. Such an expansion is not an improvement but deformation, because the boundaries of different sciences should not overlap. Logic, per Kant, is strictly limited to the formal rules of all thinking, “whether this thinking be empirical or a priori, whatever origin or object it may have” (B-ix). Kant already smuggled in the term “a priori,” by talking about logic, regardless of the source of its objects.

In B-ix, Kant makes a correct distinction between logic and reason, in that the former is limited to the rules of thinking regardless of the object, whereas reason is concerned with the objects as well. But in B-x he proceeds to make the arbitrary assertion that if reason is to be used in the various sciences, some objects “must be cognized a priori.” He explains “a priori” as either “merely determining the object and its concept” or “also making the object actual.” According to Kant, perceiving and conceptualizing the object is a lesser form of cognition when compared with creating the object. As an example of the two types of “a priori,” Kant brings up physics as a science where reason “merely determines the object and its concept” and mathematics as a science where reason “also makes the object actual.”

At this point, an honest reader can stop and ask: Why must some objects be cognized a priori? Where is Kant’s proof? What about the plain evidence that mathematics started by counting one’s fingers?

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I agree. I can offer one historical bit of information about Kant's use of the term a priori. Howard Caygill, "a priori/a posteriori," A Kant Dictionary, p. 35, notes that in the century before Kant's CPR appeared, a priori referred to a type of argument, that is, a set of propositions starting with premises and ending in a conclusion. The particular type was an argument that reasons from causes to effects.

Kant's "innovation" in CPR, "where the notion of a priori plays a pivotal role" (says Caygill), was to use the term a priori to describe particular "judgments" (propositions saying something about something existing) and then, reducing the scope of reference even further, to the elements of knowledge themselves: "intuitions" and concepts.

Such knowledge, to be a priori must be (1) "pure," (2) universal, and (3) necessary. Caygill notes that Kant illogically sometimes assumed one of those three criteria in order to "prove" another one. Kant's use of the idea of a priori is "pivotal" (crucial) in CPR, says Caygill, so to prove a priori's nature illogically is, I suggest, an example of Kant working as a magician. He is pulling a fast one by, first, using an old, accepted term to describe a new, suspect idea, and then, second, "proving" the new idea's nature by sleight-of-hand.

Among Kant's followers and critics, there has been a long debate about the full meaning of a priori. Caygill observes: "One of the main reasons for the longevity of the debate is the ambiguous and often cryptic account of the source of a priori universality which Kant offers in his published writings."

Looking simply at the text of the Preface to the 2nd edition, I find that the first type of "a priori" bears some resemblance to Rand's view of cognition: it is what Kant calls "determining the object and its concept." In other words, identifying the object and conceptualizing it. Kant qualifies this type by "merely," as inferior to the other type of a priori, which "also makes the object actual," as if the object did not exist before.

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But in B-x [...] He explains “a priori” as either “merely determining the object and its concept” or “also making the object actual.” According to Kant, perceiving and conceptualizing the object is a lesser form of cognition when compared with creating the object. As an example of the two types of “a priori,” Kant brings up physics as a science where reason “merely determines the object and its concept” and mathematics as a science where reason “also makes the object actual.”

I interpret differently the passage bridging pages B ix-x. He is not saying there are two types of a priori knowledge. Rather, he is sayiing "something in them [that is, in certain sciences] must be cognized a priori, and this cognition can relate to its object in either of two ways ...." [bold and underlined emphasis added.]

In other words, he is saying that an a priori cognition (that is, a type of knowledge) is singular but its relationship to an object can be either of two kinds.

Also, based on my reading of secondary sources, a priori cognition and reason are different functions. (He likewise makes a distinction between understanding and reason.)

These distinctions won't be clear (if they ever are!) until well into CPR. This is typical of Kant. He speaks -- in the preface to the book! -- as if his readers had already read and mastered the book!

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These distinctions won't be clear (if they ever are!) until well into CPR. This is typical of Kant. He speaks -- in the preface to the book! -- as if his readers had already read and mastered the book!

The thrust of the preface to the second edition shows that Kant assumes the readers are familiar with the first edition.

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The thrust of the preface to the second edition shows that Kant assumes the readers are familiar with the first edition.

That is intriguing (because of a related long-term project I am working on). I missed it completely. From what passages did you infer that?

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The thrust of the preface to the second edition shows that Kant assumes the readers are familiar with the first edition.
That is intriguing (because of a related long-term project I am working on). I missed it completely. From what passages did you infer that?

I infer it from the first paragrap, from the way Kant begins his preface. As I wrote in my 1st week assignment:

Kant’s preface to the second edition of CPR begins as if the author is in the midst of a heated debate: “Whether or not the treatment of the cognitions belonging to the concern of reason travels the secure course of a science is something which can soon be judged by its success…” The sentence reads like an answer to a critic who claimed that the treatment of the cognitions belonging to the concern of reason does indeed travel the secure course of a science. Kant retorts that “it is still far from having entered upon the secure course of a science.” If the first edition did not convince those who are confident that it did enter upon the secure of a science, Kant is set to undercut their confidence in the second edition. He invites his readers to give up as futile what was deemed the scientific foundation of the study of reason, and embark on a search for a new path.

Kant replaced the preface to the first edition with the preface to the second edition (Guyer/Wood p. 70). This preface is included in the Guyer/Wood edition, and begins as follows:

Human reason has the peculiar fate in one species of its cognitions that it is burdened with questions which it cannot dismiss, since they are given to it as problems by the nature of reason itself, but which it also cannot answer, since they transcend every capacity of human reason. Reason falls into this perplexity through no fault of its own. It begins from principles whose use is unavoidable in the course of experience and at the same time sufficiently warranted by it.

The 1st preface presents the thesis of Kant's argument. By removing this preface, Kant prevented new readers from understanding what it's all about, as if he only wanted to adderss those who read the 1st edition and criticized it. Guyer/Wood, as well as Kant's biographer Manfred Kuehn, write that the 2nd edition was Kant's answer to the critics of the 1st edition.

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Kant worries about how we can know a priori anything about objects. [i am not sure, but Kant seems to think he needs to know something about objects before he sees them. I do not understand why he has that expectation, if he does. Why can't he rely on sense-perception?]...

What does he mean by "the first part of metaphysics" and "the second part of metaphysics"? Is he referring to sub-branches of metaphysics, or fundamental questions, or perhaps even topics listed in the table of contents (p. 86 of Guyer's edition)?...

Kant mentions for the first time another phrase that has always puzzled me throughout CPR: "possible experience." What does the "possible" mean here? Possible as opposed to what -- impossible experience? Why not simply say "experience"?

It appears that in order to understand Kant it is necessary to accept his conceptual system and think like him. Manfred Keuhn quotes a German biography of Kant from 1804 as follows:

"When [Kant] was working on the critical philosophy, he had no greater difficulty than to think himself into the sytem of someone else. Even the writings of his enemies he could understand only with the greatest effort because he could leave his own original conceptual system only for short periods."

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Week 3 Summary: B xxii par. 1 - xxiv par. 1

Good morning. Today is Monday, August 7, the first day of KSISG1 week 3. The assignment is to write about the passage from the first paragraph of p. B xxii ("Now the concern of this critique of pure ...") to the long paragraph that spans pp. B xxiv-xxxi ("But it will be asked ...."). This passage appears on pp. 113-117 in the Guyer/Wood edition.

B xxii, par. 1. Kant states the purpose of CPR: To critique "pure speculative reason" as an "attempt to transform the accepted procedure of metaphysics, undertaking an entire revolution" in its approach, just as the geometers and natural scientists have done in their fields. Next he specifies the scope of CPR: to explore the method of metaphysics, not the particular content of this branch of philosophy. CPR will, however, look at the content in a general way in the process of determining (1) the "boundaries" of metaphysics and (2) its general internal structure.

At the beginning of p. B xxii, Kant says metaphysics "should measure its own capacity according to the different ways for choosing the objects of its thinking ...." [i do not understand this at all.]

Still in the same paragraph, but now on p. Bxxiii, Kant states a theme of CPR: "... in a priori cognition nothing can be ascribed to the objects except what the thinking subject takes out of itself ...." [What is subjectivism, if not this?] "Subject" here means "mind."

As part of the same statement, Kant inadvertently provides a classic description of rationalism (in the Objectivist meaning of that term/idea): "... pure speculative reason is, in respect of principles of cognition, a unity entirely separate and subsisting for itself, in which, as in an organized body, every part exists for the sake of all the others as all the others exist for its sake ...." [in other words, coherence of a set of ideas not logical connection of those ideas to the facts of reality is the test of "pure speculative reason."]

Still in the same paragraph, but now on pp. B xxiv-xxv, Kant shows that metaphysics to him (and others of his time) means what we now call epistemology combined with ontology: Metaphysics is a "rational science" that can, after Kant's critique is done, "fully embrace the entire field of cognitions belong to it ...."

B xxiv, par. 1. Here Kant says "critical metaphysics" (the new metaphysics that will arise from Kant's purifying criticism of the old metaphysics) has two uses. One use is negative: To warn philosophers against taking "speculative reason beyond the boundaries of experience." A second use is positive, Kant says. [i can't figure out what it is. Nor do I know what "pure (practical) reason" is, unless he is saying PPR is thinking ("reason") about morality (practice) with principles that come from inside ("pure"), not from sense-perception. Apparently for Kant "practical" means "pertaining to action" (from praxis, "action," in Greek); this puzzling passage is an example of why I would like to know German and have access to the German original of CPR.]

In the same paragraph, but now on p. B xxv, Kant previews the main text of CPR by saying "space and time are only forms of sensible intuition, and therefore only conditions of the existence of the things as appearances ...." Does he use "forms" to mean Platonic Ideas or does "forms" here merely mean "instances." Further, what does "conditions of the existence" mean? Does that phrasing mean the things ("as appearances") wouldn't exist without the forms, that is, space and time?

Now (still in the same par., but at the very beginning of p. B xxvi) Kant continues his preview by introducing explicitly his split between the appearance of things and the things-in-themselves. This is one more step in the process of creating a Rube Goldberg machine by disassembling objective epistemology and then reassembling it into a kluged epistemology.

Here also Kant introduces a description that initially sounds objective (with a stretch): There is a faculty called the "understanding." This faculty uses (or produces?) concepts that rely on (come from?) "sensible intuitions," that is, sense-perceptions that come from the appearances of objects. That sounds sort of objective -- except that appearances are distinct from the objects in themselves. Kant then somehow concludes that reason, in all its forms, is "limited" to "mere objects of experience," that is, appearances.

Then, near the end of p. B xxvi, but still in the same paragraph (which began on p. xxiv!), Kant makes a distinction between cognition and thinking. Cognition, he explains in a footnote on p. B xxvi, is knowing an object after first establishing the "possibility" (there is that word again!) of the object. How can one know the "possibility" of an object? Either by experience (sense-perception?) "or a priori through reason." That means either through sense-perception or innate ideas. Next Kant says "... I can think whatever I like as long as I don't contradict myself ..." [which is a classic symptom of rationalism]. Further along in the footnote, Kant distinguishes "logical possibility" from "real possibility." [There is much more here for analysis, but I must move on.]

Also on p. B xxvii appears a sort of definition of thing in itself -- "a thing in general." [My interpretation of this formula is that the Form of a thing, which is the template for all instances of that kind of thing, is the "thing in itself." If this is a correct interpretation, then this passage confirms Kant's Platonism.]

On pp. B xxviii-xxx, Kant introduces three ideas that he will wrestle with later in CPR: free will, God, and immortality. In a long, convoluted argument, Kant says in effect that he wants and needs to believe in these three ideas, so that he can construct an ethics. However, to believe in them, he says he must rely on "practical reason" (which is based on mere "belief"?) rather than "speculative reason" (which is based on logic, that is, for him, rules of syllogism built on arbitrary premises?). This splitting of reason into two disintegrated spheres leads to a clear statement of what Kant is really doing: "Thus I had to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith ..." (B xxx). Stylistically, this is, in my experience, typical of Kant. He writes in a convoluted style for several pages and then makes a clearly written point that is one of his payoff statements -- I suppose to make sure readers don't miss it.

Throughout the "Preface" (and the remainder of CPR), Kant uses the term criticism. What does it mean? My inference -- judging solely from the context -- is that it means analysis, that is, "breaking up" (from the Greek analusis). I have tentatively concluded that Kant uses this idea, under the guise of doing something good, to smuggle in an idea that destroys the good. The main technique is disintegration by dichotomy. However, in some passages (such as B xxxi), criticism seems to mean dialectic, that is, philosophical skill in exposing an opponent's position and then refuting it through the opponent's own words. As far as I can tell, from various sources, Kant never defines "criticism" or "critique."

CONCLUSIONS

Kant wants to build an ethics on the ideas of free will, immortality, and God. To do so, he must limit the role of knowledge (which is based on reason), so he can rely on Glaube ("belief, faith"). To limit knowledge, he employs "criticism," which is mainly (1) creation of false dichotomies among mental actions, and then (2) an arbitrary recombination of the fragments of mental action.

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An attempt to try and understand the first half of Kant’s long paragraph(p.9-10; Bxxiv, par. 1)

In Kant’s long paragraph on p. 9, he asks what is the real value of the system of metaphysics that he is offering. Because his system is “purified by criticism” it is reduced to a permanent condition? ( I do not know what he means by this. Is he saying his philosophy is a closed system?)

Kant claims that the primary use of his system is negative. He wants to limit reason within the bounds of experience. Any reasoning outside of experiences(he calls this speculative reasoning)is to be questioned. I think this is Kant’s attempt to say any questions about God are off limits because experiences do not provide any evidence of God.

Kant argues that any attempt to expand reason outside the realms of experience is a positive because it shows that speculative reason when used outside the realms of experience causes a “contraction” or limit on what reason can accomplish. This criticism, Kant argues, puts speculative reason within its boundaries and allows for “pure reason” to transcend the limits of the senses. Kant than says this is acceptable as long as pure reason does not contradict itself.

Kant views this as a positive and any denial of this he thinks is absurd. From Kant’s point of view, I must be absurd because none of this makes any sense to me.

Kant than argues that the only forms of sensible intuition are space and time. Because of this space and time are the only conditions for the existence of phenomena. Kant than argues that this is the reason why we can not know a thing in itself. We can only know it as a phenomena. He will prove this in the analytical part of the Critique.

Kant than says(what I believe to be an important point) all speculative cognition is limited to the object of experience. This is somewhat confusing because he is now using “speculative cognition”. In the beginning of this paragraph he uses “speculative reason.” In A Kant Dictionary, Caygill notes, “Kant’s distinctions between cognition(Erkenntnis), knowledge(Wissen) and thinking(Denken) have not been consistently respected by his translators-nor were they on occasion by Kant himself.(p. 113) Kant than argues that although we can not cognize things in themselves we can “think” of things in themselves. I interpret this to mean that the senses are not valid but primacy of consciousness is. Kant’s footnote related to this section of the paragraph supports this, ‘I can think what I please, provided only I do not contradict myself.’

Kant than introduces his two senses, 1. phenomenon 2. a thing in itself. He than claims that the law of causality is only valid in the phenomenon sense. Because of this we can see that the will is not free and obedient to the law of nature but it is free because it belongs to a thing in itself.

In Kant’s footnote, he writes “In order to cognize an object, I must be able to prove its possibility, either from its reality as attested by experience, or a priori, by means of reason. At this point, if I can get a good understanding of what Kant’s meaning of a priori and the difference between “speculative reason” and “speculative cognition”is than I will be happy.

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Among Kant's followers and critics, there has been a long debate about the full meaning of a priori. Caygill observes: "One of the main reasons for the longevity of the debate is the ambiguous and often cryptic account of the source of a priori universality which Kant offers in his published writings."

In "The Cambridge Companion to Kant": Edited by Paul Guyer, there is one reference to a priori in the index. This companion was first published in 1992.

In "The Cambridge Companion to Kant and Modern Philosophy": Edited by Paul Guyer:2006 the following is found in the index.

a priori: Kant's concept of the, 28-60;

epistemological conception of,

30-37, 43, 52, 56; ingredients as,

39-52; knowledge as, 24; marks of,

37-39, 43; weak vs. strong

conceptions of, 33. See also explicit

a priori knowledge, synthetic a

priori knowledge, tacit a priori

knowledge

This is a huge increase in material compared to the first Companion published in 1992. It looks like there is alot to be said about Kant's meaning of a priori.

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I will try to comment in pieces.

In Kant’s long paragraph on p. 9, he asks what is the real value of the system of metaphysics that he is offering. Because his system is “purified by criticism” it is reduced to a permanent condition? ( I do not know what he means by this. Is he saying his philosophy is a closed system?)

First, my interpretation of what he is saying is that he will use "criticism" (an art he has not defined, but apparently means "analysis") to purify the current metaphysics. In other words, he will look at metaphysics as philosophers of his own time have left it (in a mess that is subject to constant and fruitless bickering -- which he, as Solomon, will resolve). His critical look, and subsequent tossing out of the junk, will leave the science of metaphysics in a state so perfect that no one will ever need to tinker with it again.

Kant claims that the primary use of his system is negative. He wants to limit reason within the bounds of experience. Any reasoning outside of experiences(he calls this speculative reasoning)is to be questioned. I think this is Kant’s attempt to say any questions about God are off limits because experiences do not provide any evidence of God.

Yes, that is my understanding. The implication is that if we can't reason from experience, then we will have to find some other way to justify God. (Like feeling.)

Kant argues that any attempt to expand reason outside the realms of experience is a positive [...]

If he uses the word "positive" (in your translation), I don't think he means positive in evaluation -- that is, a good thing to do.

[...] because it shows that speculative reason when used outside the realms of experience causes a “contraction” or limit on what reason can accomplish.

Working from memory, I believe Kant was saying simply (!) that because speculative reasoning must be limited to experience, any work by speculative reasoning beyond that limit will result in worthless conclusions. In objective terms, he is right. But the trap here is what he means by "experience" and by the context he assumes.

"Experience" is a combination of a blob of appearances coming into the mind and being given (Platonic) Form ("shape," so to speak) by a priori concepts, that is, concepts that were already (earlier = a priori) in our minds before we had experience.

"Experience" might sound good, but it isn't because it is made only from (1) appearances which are divored from the thing-in-itself lying behind the appearances but somehow disconnected from them, plus (2) the wax-stamping Forms that come somehow from somewhere in our minds. In other words, we cannot know things (in themselves), only appearances given shape by a mysterious Form (placed, I suspect, in the mind by the hand of God).

If you have studied Plato's epistemology, then you can think of Kant's epistemology as an extremely complicated version of the same approach. This theory is sometimes call prolepsis. What that means here and in Plato is that something (fuzzy sense-perceptions of fuzzy appearances) come into the mind and stimulate the mind to provide a stamp (Form) that is perfectly shaped to give them form, that is, to make them understandable.

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This is a huge increase in material compared to the first Companion published in 1992.

Or an expansion of the index?

It looks like there is alot to be said about Kant's meaning of a priori.

As you may know if you have a copy, Howard Caygill, A Kant Dictionary, has three and a half pages for the "a priori/a posteriori" entry.

If I were a young man fascinated with the history of philosophy, I would consider becoming a Kant "specialist." That would entail a thorough knowledge of German, with Latin and Greek as well. Studying Kant would also involve a closed study of his predecessors -- from Plato to Hume, Leibnitz and others. Kant would be like a fascinating specimen to a bug-hunter: ugly to other people, but scientifically very revealing.

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If I were a young man fascinated with the history of philosophy, I would consider becoming a Kant "specialist." That would entail a thorough knowledge of German, with Latin and Greek as well. Studying Kant would also involve a closed study of his predecessors -- from Plato to Hume, Leibnitz and others. Kant would be like a fascinating specimen to a bug-hunter: ugly to other people, but scientifically very revealing.

I have spent the afternoon trying to learn more about the history behind Kant's criticism. I have found some interesting facts. From Caygill's A Kant Dictionary

Pure reason was a term used by Wolffians to describe their philosophy. Meissner, in his Wolffian Philosophisches Lexicon(1737) defines pure reason as 'a completely distinct cognition in which the understanding is separated from the senses and imagination'. Thus when Kant criticizes 'pure reason' he intends both this form of knowledge and the dominant philosophical viewpoint which laid claim to it.(p. 342)

Your bug analogy is ironic because my "digging" a little deeper into the subject revealed the originator of the term aesthetics(Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, who was also a Wolffian). From Encyclopaedia Britannica.

German philosopher and educator who coined the term aesthetics and established this discipline as a distinct field of philosophical inquiry
.
Immanuel Kant, who used Baumgarten's Metaphysica(1739) as a text for lecturing, retained Baumgarten's use of the term aesthetics to apply to the entire field of sensory knowledge.
Baumgarten's most significant work, Aesthetica, 2 vol. (1750-58), has never been reprinted or translated from Latin. The problems of aesthetics had been treated by others before Baumgarten, but he both advanced the discussion of such topics as art and beauty and set the discipline off from the rest of philosophy.(p. 971)

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Week 4 Summary: Bxxxi, par. 1 - Bxxxv, par. 1

Good morning. Today is Monday, August 14, the first day of KSISG1 week 4. The assignment is to write about the passage from the first par. of p. B xxxi ("With this important alteration ....") to the par. bridging pp. B xxxv-xxxvii ("Criticism is not opposed to the dogmatic procedure of reason ...."). This passage appears on pp. 117-120 in the Guyer/Wood edition.

B xxxi, par. 1: Kant says, strangely, that his necessary denial of knowledge (about his three main interests: free will, immortality, and God) will injure only the rationalistic academics (who have a "monopoly of the schools") not real people. He says (through the usual convolutions) that the academics' arguments for free will, immortality, and God are unconvincing for "the great multitude," and need better "grounds of proof," arguments that can appeal to the multitude.

Also appearing in this B xxxi paragraph is my candidate for Ultimate Sentence: "If that has never happened, and if it can never ... and are sufficient from a moral standpoint." It is approximately 130 words long in translation.

In the same paragraph, but now down to pp. B xxxiii-xxxiv, Kant acknowledges that "the critique of reason" ("a science") "is useful to the public even without their knowledge" [of it]. Then on pp. B xxxiv-xxxv, he says his critique of reason will sever the root of dangerous ideas ranging from materialism to skepticism. Accordingly he calls for censors in the Prussian national government to allow freedom of discussion to those who engage in a critique of reason -- that is, Kant.

B xxxv, par. 1. In a very confusing statement, Kant says a philosopher ("science," which includes metaphysics) must be dogmatic (in method), that is, prove conclusions from strictly a priori principles [that is, deductively]. At the same time, the philosopher must reject dogmatism, which is the assumption that it is okay to use certain traditional concepts without looking into the faculty (reason) which produced them. Then on the last line of p. B xxxvi, Kant again presents the theme for CPR: "a critique of ... pure reason itself."

CONCLUSIONS

This section of the "Preface" is devoted to addressing social implications of CPR: it will upset the rationalist establishment (in academia), but it will also uproot threats to established religion (that is, the threats from materialism and skepticism), while leading to arguments for free will, immortality, and God that will make more sense to the common people.

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Your bug analogy is ironic because my "digging" a little deeper into the subject revealed the originator of the term aesthetics(Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, who was also a Wolffian). From Encyclopaedia Britannica:
Immanuel Kant, who used Baumgarten's Metaphysica(1739) as a text for lecturing, retained Baumgarten's use of the term aesthetics to apply to the entire field of sensory knowledge.

This is intriguing, because in my reading about Kant and aesthetics, I came across the following quote in Aesthetics from Classical Greece to the Present by Monroe C. Beardsley:

When we estimate magnitudes through numbers, that is, conceptually, the imagination selects a unit, which it can then repeat indefinitely. But there is a second kind of estimation, which Kant calls "aesthetic estimation," in which the imagination tries to comprehend or encompass the whole representation in one single intuition. There is an upper bound to its capacity. An object whose apparent or conceived size strains this capacity to the limit - threatens to exceed the imagination's power to take it all in at once - has, subjectively speaking, an absolute magnitude: it reaches the felt limit, and appears as if infinite.[...] imagination reaches its maximum capacity, shows its failure and inadequacy when compared to the demands of Reason, and makes us aware, by contrast, of the maginificence of Reason iteslf. The resulting feeling is the feeling of the sublime.

Perhaps this was Kant's problem, that he wanted the term aesthetics to apply to the entire field of sensory knowledge, and then faulted the imagination for failing to estimate objects whose size is beyong the sensory capacity. Thus Kant created a straw-man of an irreconcilable conflict between Reason and imagination, because Reason can conceive of a size which cannot be grasped by means of sensory knowledge.

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Week 5 summary: Bxxxvii to end

Good morning. Today is Monday, August 21, the first day of KSISG1 week 5. The assignment is to write about the passage from the first paragraph of p. B xxxvii ("Concerning this second edition, ...") to the end of the preface. This passage appears on pp. 120-124 in the Guyer/Wood edition.

B xxxvii, par. 1. In this section, which has the subtitle "Concerning this second edition," Kant emphasizes the coherence of his argument. He admits that the presentation of his argument in the first edition needs improvement.

B xxxix, note. In this very long note, Kant introduces more puzzles. An example is "psychological idealism." I do not know what that means. Further, the term "outer intuition" seems to mean sense-perception or experience of appearances of objects.

Next, but still in the note, Kant seems to be offering an argument proving the persistent existence of objects outside of the human mind. The problem he is trying to solve is: If I look and see objects, do those objects still exist, even if I close my eyes? His argument seems to be this: If I have representations of objects in my mind, then there must be outside objects that are represented; and the fact that I experience myself as a continuing entity is evidence of persistence.

In the same footnote, but now on page B xl, Kant introduces the idea of an intellectual intuition. Apparently, judging from its use, he means a direct, introspective experience. In other words, no method (which would require steps in a process) is involved.

Still in par. 1 -- beginning on p. B xxxvii -- but now on p. B xliii, Kant says that he plans a book on the metaphysics [ontology and epistemology] of nature [fact] and morals [value].

On pp. B xliii-xliv, at the end of the preface, he shows that he understands the process of disseminating a new philosophy into a culture. He says he will leave the defense of his philosophy to others, while he goes on to produce new works. As time passes, he says, his work will be attacked, but those who agree with him and know his philosophy as a whole will be able to defend and expand it (by drawing explicit conclusions from ideas that were only implicit in what he wrote).

Kant, in a moment of objectivity, observes that no "philosophical treatise" can "be as fully armored as a mathematical treatise." The process of attack and defense (by the new philosophy's supporters) will serve not to diminish the new philosophy but only to "polish away its rough spots."

In conclusion, I would say that on the social side of philosophizing, Kant knew what he was doing.

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Good morning. Today is Monday, August 28, the first day of KSISG1 week 6, the last week of the study group. The assignment this week is to draw conclusions about the "Preface."

Conclusions about Kant's Preface

Growing up in Houston, I heard oil-men use terms like "core-sample." Judging from one I saw in a bank display, a core-sample is a long cylinder of rock obtained by using a hollow drill. The drill goes down, taking a sample of each layer of rock in sequence.

Kant's Preface is somewhat like a core-sample. On a small scale, an alert reader encounters some of the same terms -- and many of the same obscurities in style -- that the reader will encounter in the main text of CPR.

Other points that emerge in the Preface are:

1. Kant's intense desire for the success of his book -- at least among his kind of readers, the kind that can receive his message despite the obscurities and disorder of this 18-page text. And what is that message? The need to limit reason's domain and fracture its functionality, all in order to make room for faith and feeling)

2. Kant's immersion in philosophical debate -- not only the debates going back to Plato, but also those of his milieu: debates with rationalists and empiricists, materialists and skeptics.

3. Kant's very large-scale plans for developing a seemingly radical, new philosophy, a philosophy that he hopes will create a revolution in academic philosophy and yet lead to formulations that will be more understandable by those outside academia.

4. Kant's insights into the role of a philosopher in his social context -- for example, Kant's seeing that a philosopher needs to leave the bulk of the work of defense of the philosophy up to the philosophy's supporters, who, as time passes, will gradually elaborate the principles of the philosophy, making explicit what was only implicit in the original text. This observation applies to all philosophers by necessity. No one carpenter has time to build a completely finished house. The most a primary philosopher can do is lay the foundation and erect the main structural elements. Others, benefiting from the primary philosopher's start, must do the finishing work.

In summary, Kant's Preface, if read closely, is a sort of philosophical and polemical sampler of what is to come in the main text.

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