The Critical Philosophy of Immanuel Kant

The Critical Philosophy of Immanuel Kant

Criticism is Kant's original achievement; it identifies him as one of the greatest thinkers of mankind and as one of the most influential authors in contemporary philosophy. But it is important to understand what Kant means by'criticism', or 'critique'. In a general sense the term refers to a general cultivation of reason 'by way of the secure path of science' (Bxxx). More particularly, its use is not negative, but positive, a fact that finds expression in the famous expression, 'I have therefore found it necessary to deny knowledge to make room for faith' (Bxxx). Correspondingly, its negative use consists in not allowing one's self to 'venture with speculative reason beyond the limits of experience' (Bxxiv). Thus, criticism removes the decisive hindrance that threatens to supplant or even destroy the 'absolutely necessary practical employment of pure which it {pure reason} inevitably goes beyond the limits of sensibility' (Bxxv). Accordingly, the critique guarantees a secure path for science by confining speculative reason and by giving practical reason the complete use of its rights: rights that thus far had not been recognised.

Place in the History of Ideas

Kant, being confronted with the two extremes of rationalism and empiricism, set for himself the task of creating a synthesis of the two. As he saw it, rationalism operates in the sphere of innate ideas, with their analytical and therefore aprioristic ideas; this necessity, however, is not based on experience and consequently does not apply to reality itself. On the other hand empiricism starts completely from experience and thus (it seems) from reality, but it arrives only at a posteriori and therefore synthetic...

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... conceal, as it must do for Kant. Again the formal objects of the soul's faculties in Aquinas corresponds to Kant's forms; thus knowledge through categories is not restricted to that which is 'for Man' but opens up to that which is 'in itself'. Finally, the absoluteness of Kant's moral imperative also receives its foundation in being, and thus theory and practice are brought into harmony.


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