Friday, January 21, 2022

A xii-xv, ¶ 7-9

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[¶7] It is on this path, the only one left, that I have set forth, and I flatter myself that in following it I have succeeded in removing all those errors that have so far put reason into dissension with itself in its nonexperi­ential use. I have not avoided reason's questions by pleading the inca­pacity of human reason as an excuse; rather I have completely specified these questions according to principles, and after discovering the point where reason has misunderstood itself, I have resolved them to reason's full satisfaction. To be sure, the answer to these questions has not turned out just as dogmatically enthusiastic lust for knowledge might have expected; for the latter could not be satisfied except through magical powers in which I am not an expert. Yet this was also not the intent of our reason's natural vocation; and the duty of philosophy was to abolish the semblance arising from misinterpretation, even if many prized and beloved delusions have to be destroyed in the process. In this business I have made comprehensiveness my chief aim in view, and I make bold to say that there cannot be a single metaphysical problem that has not been solved here, or at least to the solution of which the key has not been provided. In fact pure reason is such a perfect unity that if its principle were insufficient for even a single one of the questions that are set for it by its own nature, then this [principle] might as well be discarded, because then it also would not be up to answering any of the other ques­tions with complete reliability.
[¶8] While I am saying this I believe I perceive in the face of the reader an indignation mixed with contempt at claims that are apparently so pretentious and immodest; and yet they are incomparably more mod­erate than those of any author of the commonest program who pretends to prove the simple nature of the soul or the necessity of a first begin­ning of the world. For such an author pledges himself to extend human cognition beyond all bounds of possible experience, of which I humbly admit that this wholly surpasses my capacity; instead I have to do merely with reason itself and its pure thinking; to gain exhaustive acquaintance with them I need not seek far beyond myself, because it is in myself that I encounter them, and common logic already also gives me an example of how the simple acts of reason may be fully and systemat­ically enumerated; only here the question is raised how much I may hope to settle with these simple acts if all the material and assistance of experience are taken away from me.
[¶9] So much for the completeness in reaching each of the ends, and for the comprehensiveness in reaching all of them together, which ends are not proposed arbitrarily, but are set up for us by the nature of cognition itself, as the matter of our critical investigation.

Summary

The critique succeeds in discovering the possibility and sources of metaphysics in a manner that is complete and comprehensive with respect to all the problems metaphysics addresses. This was accomplished by correcting the misinterpretation of reason that has been perpetrated by dogmatists and which sent us hunting beyond all possible experience. We will see why the dogmatists had to fail and what the correct interpretation is which keeps us within the limits of experience.

Commentary

Once more we hear about the conflict reason has with itself which leads to the continual movement between dogmatism and skepticism. Kant thinks his present critique can be a panacea for these ills afflicting metaphysics. When speaking of these problems visited on us by reason, Kant's anthropomorphic treatment of reason can, at first, conceal as much as it reveals: reason is given the responsibility of our downfall as if we had no say in the matter. However, in this passage, we gain insight into how we are actively involved.
Kant mentions that what dogmatism pursued was not "the intent of our reason's natural vocation," and that we must correct the misinterpretation that has confused us. Since reason is a facet of us, this misinterpretation is a failure to understand ourselves, and correcting this misinterpretation answers to that venerable maxim from the Greeks, "know thyself." While this comparison may seem a stretch, finding an alignment of Kant with such a familiar maxim will provide occasions for the reader to line up Kant for comparison to other philosophers, so it will be worth a digressions on Kant's approach to this maxim.

With the difficult terminology and systematic complexity of Kant's work even someone who has a background in philosophy can become disoriented. However, Kant's innovation is not that he builds a system,* but comes from his interpretation of human nature (i.e., from the maxim, "know thyself").  His subtlety is visible in many of his distinctions, for example, between analytic and synthetic judgments, appearances and things in themselves, and - in his practical philosophy - the difference between categorical and hypothetical imperatives.
Kant also approaches his interpretation of human nature with a guiding question, which I will state as follows: what is the vocation of the human being? This guiding question can stand beside Kant's optimism as an additional subjective quirk of his thought. By comparing these quirks we find teleology to be a common theme.  Kant's employment of teleology is a sort of central quirk which can be returned to at another time.
In the present text Kant mentions "reason's natural vocation," which hints at the question of our own vocation and, as we go forward, we will point out places where it is likely that this guiding question seems to be visible through the results. We can already observe this in the opening of the A edition preface, where it could be said that the real problem isn't merely unanswerable questions - as finite beings we can always generate those - but that our own nature seems to work against itself which calls into question what our real natural vocation may be.
*       *       *
Kant prescribes some standards he wants to meet while writing the critique: completeness, comprehensiveness, certainty, and clarity. Understanding what Kant wants to accomplish through these standards can help us anticipate how he will go about it. Here I will consider what is entailed by completeness and comprehensiveness.
Kant makes a helpful statement about completeness and comprehensiveness at the end our our text (¶9), saying that the former regards accomplishing the individual tasks while the latter entails all of these tasks being accomplished together (suggesting that they are consistent and even mutually supporting). Now, Kant means to ask about the possibility of metaphysics, and so completeness will require some way to specify all of the problems of metaphysics - or a summary of them in one problem - so that we do not miss any. Comprehensiveness demands we develop principles for the employment of our cognition so we can form a judgment on all of these problems (or the summary problem) consistently.
The Introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason will develop some tools (i.e., the distinctions between a priori and a posteriori judgments and analytic and synthetic judgments) that will help to form a problem summarizing all the difficulties of metaphysics: how are synthetic judgments a priori possible. Addressing this problem will provide us with comprehensiveness since it will cover all of the problems at once. Next, in the Transcendental Aesthetic and Transcendental Analytic, Kant will develop the principles of all cognition (which itself will need a guide for its completeness) and provide an answer to what is required for synthetic judgments a priori. This will provide a guideline for curtailing our cognition. In the Transcendental Dialectic, Kant will illustrate how all the problems of metaphysics stem from three ideas and apply the new found limits of our judgment to these particular questions of metaphysics (accomplishing the standard of completeness). Finally, in the Doctrine of Method Kant will deliver the results of the Critique by stating what guidelines we are now to follow. (If one doesn't care to see how Kant goes about curtailing our judgment, one could simply read the Doctrine of Method to see what it is we are to do now.)
* Philosophy in Kant's tradition was already systematic, and, looking past the particular titles of sections in the critique, the content is structured in a similar manner to prior philosophers in his tradition. For example, Kant used a metaphysics textbook written by Baumgarten in his lectures and if we look at how this text is divided we find that it begins with ontology then moves to cosmology, psychology, and natural theology. Kant keeps to this presentation while reversing the order of cosmology and psychology: the ontology is contained in the Transcendental Aesthetic and Transcendental Analytic, while psychology, cosmology, and natural theology are found in the Paralogisms, Antinomies and the Ideal of Pure Reason respectively.  Kant is also not reigniting the appreciation for the maxim to "know thyself", as, in Baumgarten, we see that metaphysics is understood already as a science that concerned the first principles of human understanding, which isn't worlds apart from Kant's transcendental philosophy which seeks to illustrate the principles of all cognition. Of course, I don't mean to argue that Kant is specifically following Baumgarten, and there are differences, but here I merely draw some parallels.

Questions

Why does Kant insist that pure reason must be a perfect unity?

This assertion comes right out of the blue and without explanation. It could be enough to say that Kant will demonstrate this in the book, but offering a rough guide may be helpful. However, I wouldn't recommend getting caught up on this point.
One thing to note here is that Kant is specifically speaking of pure reason. The difference between reason and pure reason is that pure reason completely abstracts from the empirical (this is how the term 'pure' typically functions in Kant). Another hint we get from the text is how the unity of pure reason entails that when we cannot resolve a single question reason asks out of its own nature its entire capacity is to be doubted. These can help us to understand the unity of pure reason.
All the questions pure reason asks stem from a single principle: given anything conditioned to seek the unconditioned. This principle disregards content and only requires that answer be of a particular form, namely that this answer provides no more occasions for a why. From this form, however, we can exclude all content that, by its nature, is always represented as conditioned: content from experience. 
Now we see that all the questions of pure reason arise from a common principle that, despite making only a formal demand, excludes all experience from the answer. We will see how this effectively ties all these questions to a common fate. A unity indicates that parts are brought together, hence the demand pure reason makes as well as common circumstances in which these this demand plays out (in the scope of human cognition) illustrates a unity of pure reason.
Leveraging this further, it will be shown that, under the dogmatists' misinterpretation of reason's natural vocation, these demands of pure reason require answers determining objects outside of all experience: soul, World, and God. However, if we correct our interpretation, then these ideas (soul, World, and God) serve only to provide a structure for organizing knowledge that we can acquire from experience.
Another comment that is now within reach regards the practical employment of reason. Here reason still seeks the unconditioned, but regarding what is to be done rather than what exists. If something is to be done and there is no condition on its being done, then it absolutely must be done, or ought to be done (which still doesn't mean it will be done or else this would once again be a determination of what exists). Hence we can see the relation of categorical imperatives to pure reason's demand.

Terminology

cognition (Erkentnisse), reason (vernunft), metaphysics (Metaphysik), experience (erfahrung), pure (rein)

Thursday, January 13, 2022

A x-xii, ¶ 5-6

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[¶5] For it is pointless to affect indifference with respect to such inquiries, to whose object human nature cannot be indifferent. Moreover, however much they may think to make themselves unrecognizable by exchanging the language of the schools for a popular style, these so called indifferentists, to the extent that they think anything at all, al­ways unavoidably fall back into metaphysical assertions, which they yet professed so much to despise. Nevertheless this indifference, occurring amid the flourishing of all sciences, and directed precisely at those sciences whose results (if such are to be had at all) we could least do without, is a phenomenon deserving our attention and reflection. This is evidently the effect not of the thoughtlessness of our age, but of its ripened power of judgment,* which will no longer be put off with illusory knowledge, and which demands that reason should take on anew the most difficult of all its tasks, namely, that of self-knowledge, and to institute a court of justice, by which reason may secure its rightful claims while dismissing all its groundless pretensions, and this not by mere decrees but according to its own eternal and unchangeable laws; and this court is none other than the critique of pure reason itself.
[¶6] Yet by this I do not understand a critique of books and systems, but a critique of the faculty of reason in general, in respect of all the cognitions after which reason might strive independently of all experience, and hence the decision about the possibility or impossibility of a metaphysics in general, and the determination of its sources, as well as its extent and boundaries, all, however, from principles.
* Now and again one hears complaints about the superficiality of our age's way of thinking, and about the decay of well-grounded science. Yet I do not see that those sciences whose grounds are well laid, such as mathematics, physics, etc., in the least deserve this charge; rather, they maintain their old reputation for well-groundedness, and in the case of natural science, even surpass it. This same spirit would also prove itself effective in other species of cognition if only care had first been taken to correct their principles. In the absence of this, indifference, doubt, and finally strict criticism are rather proofs of a well grounded way of thinking. Our age is the genuine age of criticism, to which everything must submit. Religion through its holiness and legislation through its majesty commonly seek to exempt themselves from it. But in this way they excite a just suspicion against themselves, and cannot lay claim to that unfeigned respect that reason grants only to that which has been able to withstand its free and public examination.

Summary

Indifferentism suggests a demand for a project that would make metaphysics more secure. Critique of Pure Reason is such a project that will settle the matter of the possibility of metaphysics as well as its boundaries.

Commentary

Different philosophers have various subjective quirks to their thought. For example, few would deny the optimism of Leibniz or the pessimism of Schopenhauer. Recognizing some of these attitudes can be important for understanding certain turns that are taken in the work of a philosopher, and it is no different here with Kant.
A recurring element of Kant's thought is an optimistic teleology described in the following maxim: when something negative is encountered, to interpret it as having a purposiveness pointing towards something positive. Another version may just be, all things go towards the good. Examples of this optimism illustrate this further: the horrors of war recommend peace, and mosquito-filled swamps exist to call forth human ingenuity in order to drain them. In the current text, indifferentism points to a demand for a better ground for metaphysics. The most important example in the critique is how, the limitations in the use of our pure concepts indicate a different and positive direction of metaphysics grounded in moral philosophy.
Critique of pure reason is the name of a science that answers this call, looking to evaluate the possibility and extent of our cognitions (i.e., thoughts about objects) so far as these are attempted independently of experience. The critique will make the extent of cognition explicit by showing principles that must be at work in it. Therefore, the first objective of this work will be to develop these principles for evaluating cognitions. This will be carried out in the Transcendental Aesthetic and the first division of the Transcendental Logic called Transcendental Analytic.

Questions

Where does Kant see the current indifferentism?

I'm not sure what particular figures he is referring to.

Terminology

critique of pure reason (Critik der reinen vernunft), cognition (Erkenntnisse)

Monday, January 10, 2022

A xiii-x, ¶ 3-4

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[¶3] There was a time when metaphysics was called the queen of all the sciences, and if the will be taken for the deed, it deserved this title of honor, on account of the preeminent importance of its object. Now, in accordance with the fashion of the age, the queen proves despised on all sides; and the matron, outcast and forsaken, mourns like Hecuba: Modo maxima rerum, tot generis natisque potens - nunc trahor exul, inops ["Greatest of all by race and birth, I now am cast out, powerless"]- Ovid, Metamorphoses.
[¶4] In the beginning, under the administration of the dogmatists, her rule was despotic. Yet because her legislation still retained traces of an­cient barbarism, this rule gradually degenerated through internal wars into complete anarchy; and the skeptics, a kind of nomads who abhor all permanent cultivation of the soil, shattered civil unity from time to time. But since there were fortunately only a few of them, they could not prevent the dogmatists from continually attempting to rebuild, though never according to a plan unanimously accepted among them­selves. Once in recent times it even seemed as though an end would be put to all these controversies, and the lawfulness of all the competing claims would be completely decided, through a certain physiology of the human understanding (by the famous Locke); but it turned out that although the birth of the purported queen was traced to the rabble of common experience and her pretensions would therefore have been rightly rendered suspicious, nevertheless she still asserted her claims, because in fact this genealogy was attributed to her falsely; thus metaphysics fell back into the same old worm-eaten dogmatism, and thus into the same position of contempt out of which the science was to have been extricated. Now after all paths (as we persuade ourselves) have been tried in vain, what rules is tedium and complete indifferentism, the mother of chaos and night in the sciences, but at the same time also the origin, or at least the prelude, of their incipient transformation and enlightenment, when through ill-applied effort they have become ob­scure, confused, and useless.

Summary

In its history, metaphysics has waxed and waned (from queen to outcast) and has fallen into a pattern of building up (dogmatism) followed by destruction (skepticism) and then rebuilding.

Commentary

Kant sees a pattern reproducing itself in the history of metaphysics, and the frustration of the lack of progress has set the stage for critique. The dogmatists that are mentioned are any philosophers that attempt to advance our knowledge beyond experience with concepts alone, and without having first determined their own limits. These figures are said to maintain a despotic rule, which likely signifies how dogmatism places all authority in reason alone, and so there is no representation of the senses. A historical figure that would typically be thought of as dogmatic by Kant would be Leibniz, but any figure that gives a positive conclusion about a metaphysical topic would likely be considered a dogmatism.
The skeptics are philosophers who undermine principles, but do not replace them. Because of this they are likened to anarchists since in their wake there are no laws to rely on. Since, reason pushes us ever onward new dogmatists eventually arise and the cycle begins again.
Kant recognizes that others have attempted to settle the matter positively, such as Locke who argued that all concepts are derived from the senses. However, Kant considers Locke's attempt a failure as there are concepts which could not be derived from experience since experience itself would be impossible without them.
After two millennia of philosophy, there has been no real progress in metaphysics, and in this time Kant thinks all dogmatic paths of metaphysics have been tried. That there are a finite number of options is itself an interesting point that Kant maintains. The reason for this is that, in metaphysics, reason has only to do with itself and so has limited options for the various configurations it can make. This limitation also makes reason open to critique since an analysis of these principles is possible, and so a critique of pure reason can itself be completed.
Even today there are dogmatists and skeptics, and this pattern may be expected to continue as long as humans are doing philosophy. However, there are not various traditions, such as phenomenology, that can be seen as offering up critique.

Questions

Who called metaphysics the queen of the sciences?

It isn't clear if Kant has any particular individuals in mind. There is a tradition going back to Aristotle that sees the situation this way, but also metaphysics has been referred to as a handmaiden to theology, which was itself seen as the queen. This may also have roots in Aristotle, as the book we call Metaphysics contains what Aristotle calls theology - though this theology is obviously not tied to a major world religion such as Christianity.

Terminology

dogmatists (Dogmatiker), skeptics (Skeptiker)

Friday, January 7, 2022

A vii-viii, ¶ 1-2

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[¶1] 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.
[¶2] 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. With these principles it rises (as its nature also requires) ever higher, to more remote condi­tions. But since it becomes aware in this way that its business must al­ways remain incomplete because the questions never cease, reason sees itself necessitated to take refuge in principles that overstep all possible use in experience, and yet seem so unsuspicious that even ordinary common sense agrees with them. But it thereby falls into obscurity and contradictions, from which it can indeed surmise that it must some­ where be proceeding on the ground of hidden errors; but it cannot dis­cover them, for the principles on which it is proceeding, since they surpass the bounds of all experience, no longer recognize any touch­ stone of experience. The battlefield of these endless controversies is called metaphysics.

Summary

Our power of reason calls out for answers that we cannot avoid seeking, but which cannot be discovered. The situation with reason produces a standing and endless conflict called metaphysics.

Commentary

These first two paragraphs provide an overview of a problem the community of philosophers faces, as well as a hint at how this problem originates.
To begin with, the first sentence already gestures at a major conclusion of the book: reason leads us to overextend ourselves. This thought is developed in the second paragraph which tells us about how every time we answer a question, reason is ready with another, sending us searching for proofs always more removed from immediate experience and finally beyond the scope of experience generally. Not being aware that the principles we are employing are limited to experience, the conclusions we draw beyond experience seem plausible enough, but also because they have transcended experience the conclusions can't be checked and deciding between alternate conclusions seems impossible. From this, an interminable struggle begins.
It is valuable to point out, then, that Kant's overall goal is not to solve some material problem in philosophy (e.g., does God exist?), but instead involves a crisis in the community of metaphysicians who, having lost touch with their object, have lost touch with each other. Kant wants to avoid the confusions and conflicts reproduce themselves and plans to do this by taking up the task of exposing the limits of the principles that we attempt to employ beyond their use in experience. With these limits established clearly the community of metaphysicians will once more - or for the first time - have a common touchstone for truth.
Up to his writing of the critique, Kant was already working to broaden the horizons of the rationalist tradition, but not in a manner that challenged the very foundations of this tradition. With the writing of the critique he upends these very foundations.

Questions

What questions can reason not answer?

Reason will struggle with questions regarding objects which stand outside of all possible experience. These are most particularly the objects of the ideas soul, world, and God. Some example questions would be: is the soul immortal? Is the World infinite or finite? Does God exist?

What other species of cognition are there?

The two major branches of cognition in Kant are theoretical and practical. The theoretical is any thought (of objects) which concerns the existence of something, while the practical is any thought (of objects) which concerns something so far as it ought to exist.

Are there alternatives to human reason?

Humans are sensible beings that also possess reason. Kant finds no contradiction in the notion of a non-sensible rational being, but the concept of such beings is problematic (i.e., we are unable to determine if it is possible or impossible). In the second critique, the topic introduces concerns about rational beings more generally but ultimately is restricted to analyzing the human side of moral cognitions.

Terminology

human reason (menschliche Vernunft), experience (erfahrung), metaphysics (Metaphysik)