Back to Kant: Jon Cogburn Edition

Jon is reacquainting himself with Kant and posting his notes online. I have to say that such monumental undertakings are awe-inspiring as I rarely attempt any such feats (knowing that I will give up early on). I’m hoping to follow Jon’s progress if only to do some reading (I admit that I haven’t read the whole of first critique in one sequence probably since I did it for the first time long time ago, it’s always been sections here and there since then).

The wisdom is collected here. I must add that Jon’s familiarity with the analytic tradition makes for a great read even if you have read Kant for many years (or do so on the regular basis, like reading the Bible).

Random Quote: Preface To A Commentary on Kant’s First Critique.

Opened Jay F. Rosenberg’s Accessing Kant: A Relaxed Introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason this afternoon:

Kant is hard to access. Understanding him requires a good bit of context, both historical and problematic, and mastery of a considerable amount of idiosyncratic terminology. Thus, although the classroom sessions during which, for the past thirty years, I’ve been introducing advanced philosophy students to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason have always nominally been meetings of a seminar, it has inevitably turned out that I’ve done most of the talking. In the course of three decades, I have consequently accumulated a thick collection of what are basically lecture notes.

When I began seriously to consider formally retiring from teaching, it occurred to me that, once I did so, advanced philosophy students would subsequently have to be introduced to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason by someone else. This was a sobering thought. I realized, of course, that even now most advanced philosophy students are introduced to Kant’s work by someone else, but the thought of a future in which this unfortunate state of affairs would become absolutely universal filled me with anticipatory regret.

Now, that’s the sort of opening that makes me actually read the book in its entirety.

Antinomie and Anomie.

Kant’s 1798 letter to Grave is often cited as evidence for Kant’s own explanation for what encouraged him to initiate his “critique of pure reason”:

Nicht die Untersuchung vom Daseyn Gottes, der Unsterblichkeit etc. ist der Punct gewesen von dem ich ausgegangen bin, sondern die Antinomie der r. V.: “Die Welt hat einen Anfang -: sie hat keinen Anfang etc. bis zur vierten : Es ist Freyheit im Menschen, – gegen den: es ist keine Freyheit, sondern alles ist in ihm Naturnothwendigkeit”; diese war es welche mich aus dem dogmatischen Schlummer zuerst aufweckte und zur Critik der Vernunft selbst hintrieb, um das Scandal des scheinbaren Wiederspruchs der Vernunft mit ihr selbst zu heben. (12:256-8, Brief 820)

It was not the investigation of the existence of God, immortality, and so on but rather the antinomy of pure reason – “the world has a beginning; it has no beginning, and so on,” right up to the fourth: “There is freedom in man, versus there is no freedom, only the necessity of nature” – that is what first aroused me from my dogmatic slumber and drove me to the critique of reason itself, in order to resolve the scandal of ostensible contradiction of reason with itself.

This “dogmatic slumber” image is very often the first thing one hears in a Kant class. Continue reading