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Kant- Prolegomena 05.pdf

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University of Toronto St. George
Peter King

KANT: METAPHYSICS (I) [1] In Part Three Kant introduces the third and final human cognitive faculty alongside sen- sibility and understanding: the faculty of reason. On the one hand, reason corresponds to the discursive abilities and capacities of the mind, the power each mind has to string together judgments and draw conclusions. Kant identifies this, predictably, with the capacity to argue syllogistically. On the other hand, reason can be thought of much more simply: it is our abil- ity to ask the question, “What are things-in-themselves like independently of our experience of them?” Kant takes previous (traditional) metaphysical theories as attempts to answer that last question. But consider for a moment the mess that reason gets into when it tries to answer the question. Once you ask the question, you have no equipment with which to answer it except the notions of substance-attribute, cause-effect, and the like. Thus we persistently try to answer the question “What are things like in themselves?” in terms that properly apply only to things as they are experienced. So there is something inherently fouled up in what human reason tries to do. Obviously, Kant is going to deny that reason gives us knowledge in the way in which mathematics and physics give us knowledge. Nonetheless, Kant argues for two claims in Part Three: (1) What reason does is, in some sense, necessary. (2) If reason does its job in the right way, without pretensions, it performs an important regulative function. When reason does not perform its job correctly, however, it falls into insoluble difficulties, self-contradiction, and nonsense—a trio of calamities Kant describes as “the dialectic of pure reason.” [2] According to Kant, no intelligent person who understands the sense in which knowledge must be confined to experience can fail to wonder about, and be perplexed by, the question what things are like in themselves. And, forced as she is to think spatio-temporally and in terms of the categories, she is bound of necessity to come up with three Ideas, which are “necessary concepts whose object cannot be given in experience” [§40]. They are, in Kant’s terminology, ‘transcendent’ (not to be confused with ‘transcendental’!): used beyond the boundaries of expe- rience, where reason should not go. For complicated reasons spelled out in §43, Kant thinks that there are three groups of these Ideas: (a) the psychological Ideas, (b) the cosmological Ideas, and (c) the theological Idea. It will be easier to understand what he’s up to if we look at what he says about each. [3] The Psychological Ideas [§§46–49]. The error that reason makes is “the Idea of the complete subject” [§43]. This shows up in three kinds of ‘paralogisms’: unjustified leaps of logic. The core idea is one we have seen in Part Two: we encounter the world as made up of objects with features, that is, of substance and attributes. Yet we only experience the attributes, not the substance itself, and indeed our conception of ‘substance’ is that of the permanent simple subje
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