Phil 487/607 Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, Concordia University
Phil 487/607 Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, Concordia University, Fall 2013
Detailed Course Description
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) is one of the most important voices in the Western philosophical tradition, and his far-reaching work has set the terms of debate for the past 225 years in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, and beyond. The Critique of Pure Reason (1781/1787), which is arguably his most important work and which will be the focus of this course, is one of the most brilliant and one of the most difficult texts of modern philosophy. It is primarily an attempt to establish – through a study of the nature and scope of human rationality – the possibility and limitations of metaphysics (understood as the science of a priori knowledge) while leaving open the possibility of human freedom, morality, and knowledge of God. To this end, Kant offers an alternative to empiricism and rationalism through a position he names “transcendental idealism,” which provides a rational grounding for the laws of nature (which had been placed into jeopardy by skepticism) while drawing boundaries around the legitimate use of reason (which, un-bounded, or “un-critiqued,” had naturally led traditional metaphysics to unjustified flights of speculation about God, the cosmos, and the immortal soul). Kant’s wager is that something of metaphysics can and must be defended against the skeptic’s attack, even at the cost of losing much of what it traditionally understood as its proper domain. The payoff, he argues, is a philosophy that secures knowledge of the fundamental laws of both nature and morality.
This course will be a close study of this fascinating text – its content, its context, and its influence. In a seminar format that includes both lectures and intensive, guided discussions, we will work through the key innovations and arguments of Kant’s first Critique. Our reading will focus on Kant’s challenging metaphysics of experience while recognizing its place at the heart of Kant’s overall critical philosophy.