The Whole Story Either Kant is not a critical philosopher or “critical” does not mean what Kant says it does

Kant Studien 98 (1):1-39 (2007)
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In what respect, if any, is Kant a distinctively “critical” thinker? How does Kant’s “transcendentalism” differentiate his practice in metaphysics from that of the philosophers of the Cartesian tradition? How much does the success of Kant’s enterprise depend on the viability of the idea of the synthetic a priori? The issues that these questions raise came to a head for Kant in the attack on his novelty by the Leibnizean Johann August Eberhard, an attack to which Kant responded at length in the sarcastically titled On a discovery according to which any new critique of pure reason has been made superfluous by an earlier one. Unfortunately, Kant’s apology is quite inconclusive. In this discussion, in an effort to shed some light on the murk, I supply text-sensitive analyses of the various key notions. It emerges that while, as Eberhard complained, the “critical” turn is not at all a methodological novelty, Kant’s procedure does mark a departure from traditional metaphysics, though not one that he himself describes at all clearly. Kant’s “transcendentalism” ultimately constitutes an open-ended and ever-widening interrogation of logical possibility; hence an interrogation that, contrary to what Kant himself claims, can never furnish what legitimately counts as “proof.”



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Mark Glouberman
Kwantlen Polytechnic University

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