Friday, January 21, 2022

A xii-xv, ¶ 7-9


[¶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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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