Philosophy 202
Great Traditions of Western Thought
The Modern Period

Discussion Questions for the Critique of Pure Reason, #1

The Critique of Pure Reason is a difficult text for a number of reasons. First, there is Kant's terminology. He uses a technical vocabulary that it is difficult to get used to and that makes it hard to understand what he is driving at. Second, there is the difficulty of his thought. Although the basic claim that Kant makesthat the basic structure of reality is determined by the human mindis easy to state, the complex reasoning by which he develops this claim is hard to follow. Finally, there is the text itself. Kant was not the clearest writer, so there is the additional problem of figuring out exactly what he is trying to say. All of these factors make the book a hard one to assimilate.

This first assignment asks you to read a section of the Critique that explains why Kant thought that the project of a critique of reason was necessary in the first place and the Introduction to the second edition. From these sections, you can gain a good sense of what the general aim of the book is.

1. There are four Antinomies. They all concern claims that human reason attempts to establish a priori, that is, independently of any experience on the basis of reasoning alone. Each Antinomy consists of a pair of arguments for contradictory assertions. What exactly are the issues raised in the Antinomies?

2. For at least one Antinomy, go over the proofs of the Thesis and Antithesis. Do you think that Kant is right to claim that both proofs are valid?

3. What does Kant claim that the Antinomies prove? Why do they show the need for a critique of pure reason?

4. How does Kant present the project of the Critique in the Introduction? What exactly is his "Copernican Revolution"?

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