I have often come across references to Immanuel Kant’s most famous work — “The Critique of Pure Reason.” So I finally decided to read it. One of the causes of this impulse is that I have a Kindle reader now and I felt that it might help me with this formidable task. So far I’ve read 10% of the book (according to my Kindle) and it turns out that the Kindle is an enormous aid to reading difficult material.
First of all when using a Kindle a reader has immediate access to a dictionary. Place the cursor next to a word and — bingo — there is the definition. And — as you read you will come across passages that have been highlighted by others. Pay attention to these — sometimes the highlighted passages are keys to understanding. And of course the reader can easily highlight passages for herself and read them later in summary together or singly.
What I’ve found really helpful is to be able to reference other texts along the way. I came across a book by Bertrand Russell entitled “The Problems of Philosophy.” This is a much lighter, shorter book that has a chapter called — “How A Priori Knowledge is Possible.” This book and especially the chapter on a priori knowledge, is very helpful in decoding what Kant was writing about and the points he was making. Russell disagrees with Kant’s conclusions but it is useful to note that Russell writes that there are many differing views among philosophers regarding what Kant’s point actually are. So Russell could be disagreeing with something that Kant did not mean to be saying!
So far I understand the purpose of “The Critique of Pure Reason” to be at least two fold: firstly to “… Make the experiment whether we may not be more successful in metaphysics, if we assume that the objects must conform to our cognition.” Kant writes that there is no good science of metaphysics. He wants to see if it is possible to change that. He wants to address the “… unavoidable problems of mere pure reason … God, freedom (of will), and immortality.” He writes that metaphysics has made miserable progress such that it does not exist as a science.
Secondly, knowledge of God and related concepts can’t be determined empirically, hence this knowledge might be determined via “synthetic a priori knowledge” — intuition, so to speak. But how does this work and can there be a science of it? In Kant’s attempt to define a science of intuition he writes “Time is the formal condition a priori of all phenomena whatsoever. Space, as the pure form of external intuition, is limited as a condition a priori to external phenomena along.”
BTW — a priori simply means preceding — a priori knowledge is that which is obtained prior to any experience in the world of evidence of that knowledge. Or so I understand thus far.
I was able to reference the Russell work and my notes on the Kant text via my Kindle — with great ease. Its simply an excellent aid to reading difficult material.
More to come in my blog about Kant, Russell and the Kindle.