CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON, FIRST PART OF PREFACE 2

A note on the prefaces.  There are two prefaces because there are two editions to the book.  The first preface corresponds to the first edition, the second preface the second.

1. What constantly finds itself in dispute, what does not make progress, what is frequently stopped in its tracks is not science.  The COPR intends to follow the path of science, even if this science abandons some (unthoughtful) questions as fruitless.

2. Logic is a complete science, a model that has not changed since the days of Aristotle.  (The 20th century has of course vigorously overthrown this idea with modern formal logic.)  “Logic’s sole concern is to give an exhaustive exposition and strict proof of the formal rules of all thought, whether it be a priori or empirical, whatever be its origin or its object, and whatever hindrances, accidental or natural, it may encounter in our minds.”

3. Logic owes its success to its limitations.  But for reason to enter upon the same path is more difficult, “since it has to deal not with itself alone but also with objects.”  Logic, therefore, is only a preliminary of the sciences.  And in order to come to a critical estimate of specific modes of knowledge, we must look to the sciences proper.

4. If reason plays a role in the sciences, then something must be known about the sciences before one begins to do science.  For how else could reason play a role in the sciences if it did not produce a knowledge that precedes them?  That is to say, if science is to be reasonable, then we must know what reason is in order to make it reasonable, and hence this knowledge of reason must be preliminary to any reasonable science.

5. “This knowledge may be related to its object in one or other of two ways, either as merely determining it and its concept (which must be supplied from elsewhere) or also as making it actual.  The former is theoretical, the latter practical knowledge of reason.  In both, that part in which reason determines its object completely a priori, namely, the pure part…”  Oh god this paragraph doesn’t make sense.

6. This one does not either.  Mathematics and physics have to determine their objects a priori?  I am sorry, but what does “determine” mean here, or “objects” for that matter?  Much less “determine their objects”?  I think Kant is saying that you will have to read his book to figure out what he is saying in the preface.  Wish he would just say that directly.  (I nearly gave up here, but I will overcome!)

7. Kant goes on with his talk of objects, concepts, and determinations, whatever these all mean.  In any case the conclusion here, after a discussion of Greek geometry is this: “If he [the mathematician or scientist] is to know anything with a priori certainty he must not ascribe to the figure anything save what necessarily follows from what he has himself set into it in accordance with his concept.”  WAT.  Is Kant suggesting that we somehow imput geometry onto the triangle?  I think he’s saying exactly that.   :coolsmiley:  But critically, he is saying that we cannot imput anything onto the triangle that we do not KNOW with a priori certainty.  So, while there is a sense in which, yes, man is the measure of all things, there is also a sense in which man just so happens to be a pretty inflexible fellow.  One cannot, in other words, say just anything about the triangle simply because what we say about the triangle depends on man; instead, our statements are bound by the limits of reason, of which COPR is the investigator, and through such an investigation, when made public, also the law-giver.  The COPR tells what reason is, and thereby sets down laws on what can be said about the object and what cannot be said about the object according to its dictates.

8. Kant goes on to praise Bacon, Galileo, Torricelli, and Stahl: “they learned that reason has insight only into that which it produces after a plan of its own, and that it must to allow itself to be kept, as it were, in nature’s leading-strings, but must itself show the way with principles of judgment based upon fixed laws, constraining nature to give answer to questions of reason’s own determining.”

9. METAPHYSICS BASHING TIME.  Metaphysics is not on the path of a secure science, even if it is older than all the sciences.  It is, Kant concludes, a merely random groping.

10. Yet neither mathematics nor physics are a merely random groping.  Maybe we can use their example and apply it to philosophy to resolve the problems with metaphysics.  And look!  We have Copernicus as a model.  “Failing of satisfactory progress in explaining the movements of the heavenly bodies on the supposition that they all revolved around the spectator, he tried whether he might not have better success if he made the spectator to revolve and the stars to remain at rest.”
(Of course, from a purely analogical point of view, Kant seems to do the opposite of Copernicus.  Where Copernicus de-centers us in the cosmos, Kant centers us in epistemology.  Where the earth is no longer the center of the universe, now man at least is the center of what is to be true and untrue.  Still, from a history of science and history of philosophy point of view, the analogy is wonderful: Kant wants nothing less than a revolution in how we frame philosophical questions.)

11. Kant goes on to discuss two possibilities that result from his thesis that we only understand our experience through certain a priori concepts.  First, that the world does not conform to these concepts, and we get something like a partial view, like the Flatlanders in Flatland get a partial view of the soda bottle (a circle or ellipse) as it passes through flatland.  And second, that the world does conform to these concepts, which is to say that the concepts are already, as it were, inherent to the structure of the world itself.  The first possibility is problematic, since even if we do know something about the world through our experience, what we know precisely is unclear (just as what the Flatlanders know about the soda bottle, in being represented to them as a circle of varying sizes as it passes through the world, is unclear).  The second possibility is more hopeful, since everything I know about the world is really what it is.  (Sadly, as we will see later, we cannot know a priori which possibility is true, so we do not actually know which situation we find ourselves in, but fortunately, there are ways around this for Kant–this way around is the crux of Kant’s philosophy.)

12. If we take the second possibility to be true, then we start upon the secure path to science, since we can explain how there can be knowledge a priori.

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