Kant: Critique of Pure Reason
There have been many philosophical perspectives and debates held throughout the centuries on the foundations of human knowledge. The stand points that both Descartes and Locke have differ and both of these philosophers’ perspectives have contributed to the rational and empirical debate about the foundations of human knowledge. Descartes’ understanding of the foundations of human knowledge takes on a rational viewpoint and has lead to Locke’s response of an empirical proposition of this understanding. Both of these philosophers’ understandings are two sides to the same coin according to Immanuel Kant. In Kant’s writing of Critique of Pure Reason he explains how both of these perspectives are intertwined and work together to as the foundations to forming human knowledge. To Kant empiricism and rationalism both play an important part to human beings acquiring knowledge. In the essay below, there will be a brief history on who Immanuel Kant was and a more detailed explanation of both Descartes’ and Locke’s comprehension of the foundations of human knowledge. Following the dispute held between these two philosophers will be Kant’s solution to their debate, on how both the empirical and rational faculties of reality are important factors to gaining human knowledge. Kant was a German philosopher that was born April 24th, 1724 and died February 12th, 1804 and is often known as one of the most important philosopher of modern time. His writings are known to be one of the most difficult philosophers to understand which results in many challenging interpretations of his work. Kant is difficult to read because of the system he uses; he re-established this through the invention of critical philosophy. Kant was raised to be a priestly household that stressed intense religious devotion and personal humility and many interpret his philosophy as an attempt to carry forward the interest of Christianity. He received a firm education, one that was disciplinary and held religious instruction over mathematics and science. His career seemed to take light at the high point of the Enlightenment where reason can be found to be at the center of his philosophy. He was enrolled at the University of Königsberg at the age of sixteen and ended up spending his entire career there. He studied philosophy and was introduced to the mathematical physics of Newton. There were major advances in the sciences that used reason and logic which was in opposition to empirical philosophy. Kant was a rationalist before he accepted the empiricist perception of knowledge. Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason was written in hopes of ending the scepticism of empirical logic that thinkers such as Descartes possessed. The position that Descartes takes on the foundations of human knowledge is a rationalist point of view. Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy starts with his own experiences and discards all beliefs in all things that cannot be proven absolute. He then tries to establish what can be known for certain. Each meditation refers to the last one as “yesterday”, as if the meditations were written in six consecutive days. The first meditation starts with Descartes doubting his reality, his being, and everything he knows because he believes that his senses are deceiving. Descartes reflects on a number of falsehoods which he believes forms faultiness in the foundation of his body of knowledge; he believes that the foundations need to be rebuilt. In understanding that his body of knowledge has derived from these falsehoods he comes to the conclusion that he must wipe clean and set aside all of his beliefs and start from the beginning. He reasons that if he can doubt the foundations and basic principles in which his opinions and beliefs are founded on, then it is said to be false until it can be proven certain; all false knowledge should be discarded. The reasoning for Descartes doubting everything is due to his understanding...
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Wilson, Gerald . Lecture 7: Kantian. Class notes PHI3183 Wednesday, February 29, 2012
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