Gloss on preface 1.
1. Human reason yearns to answer questions it cannot ignore, yet are beyond its capabilities to resolve. It contains within its own body the thorns of its torment.
2. To come to grips with these questions, human reason must resort to principles that go beyond the limits of any empirical data. These principles are known as metaphysics. But these principles come into self-contradiction, making metaphysics a battlefield of endless controversies.
3. Metaphysics was once Queen of the sciences. Now (in the late 18th century), it is scorned. Metaphysics was at first dogmatic (Aristotle). But the Empire of metaphysics gradually gave way to anarchy, and skepticism at times reigned supreme (Sextus Empiricus et al). But metaphysics was constantly re-established. Locke tried to put an end to metaphysical debates by tracing their origins to the vulgar understanding. But to no avail; Locke was wrong. Metaphysics then lapsed back into its old dogmatism (Leibniz and Wolff). The prevailing mood now is indifference to metaphysics.
4. But the indifferentists are themselves metaphysicians, despite their pretense of popular language and of their polemics toward the Academy. Yet this indifference is the result of maturity, not shallowness. What is especially important is that natural science flourishes in the midst of the decline of metaphysics. Reason is now called upon again to re-assess itself in light of this development, and to legitimate the claims of reason and dismiss groundless pretensions “according to its own eternal and unalterable laws.” This reassessment is the critique of pure reason. (What these last two sentences mean, I don’t know. I dare say I sense a little bit of obscurantism here, but I may be wrong.)
5. The critique of pure reason is an investigation of the extent and limits of the faculty of reason divorced from experience. Being divorced from experience is what makes pure reason “pure.” When the investigation is complete, the possibility or impossibility of metaphysics will be determined, as well as the precise way in which it is possible, if it is possible.
6. Kant says that, using the principles derived from this investigation, he has discovered how to guard against the errors and contradictions of key metaphysical problems. “I venture to assert that there is not a single metaphysical problem that has not been solved, or for the solution of which the key at least has not been supplied.”
7. Some pretensions to humility; the metaphysicians have been claiming far more than I am, Kant says.
8. Kant nods to Aristotle: “it is in no wise permissible to hold opinions. …Any knowledge that professes to hold a priori lays claim to be regarded as absolutely necessary.” The COPR is science in the classical (Greek) sense of the word: a system of deductive knowledge. In order that the argument is not misunderstood, several clarifications of points made in the book to follow are necessary.
9. Two investigations are undertaken: the first, one of the objects of pure understanding (that is, of external reality), in order to render intelligible the validity of pure understanding’s a priori concepts. (Whatever the word “concepts” means, I hope will become clear later. I’ve never really understood the word.) This first investigation is essential to the project. The second investigation, on the other hand, “will investigate pure understanding itself, its possibility and the cognitive faculties upon which it rests; and so deals with it in the subjective aspect.” So the first investigation is into the objective side of the pure understanding; the second investigation is into the subjective side. But only the former investigation is essnetial.
10. The COPR is written in “dry, purely scholastic fashion,” because aesthetic considerations, i.e. examples and illustrations, would have made the resulting volume far too large. And, such considerations are only necessary from a popular point of view, and the COPR is not intended for popular consumption. Also: “many a book would have been much clearer if it had not made such an effort to be clear.”
11. Kant claims that, according to the COPR, metaphysics will reach its completion, and that successors to it will only have the liberty of considering metaphysics from a didactic, but not an intellectual point of view (i.e., how to teach the system, not to re-think it which is impossible). This completed metaphysics, which will grow out of the principles of the COPR, will be produced under the title Metaphysics of Nature. The COPR’s goal, from this point of view, is simply to “discover the sources and conditions of the possibility of such [principles], clearing, as it were, and levelling what has hitherto been wasteground.” (This wasteground is, of course, the battlefield of the history of metaphysics.) “For however completely all the principles of the system are presented in this Critique, the completeness of the system likewise requires that none of the derivative concepts be lacking.” This book The Metaphysics of Nature, which would contain these derivative concepts, was never written.
The second preface will be completed tomorrow.
Mr WordPress on Hello world!