The Sphere of Reason: Kant and the Orientation of Thought

Dissertation, The Pennsylvania State University (2001)

Avery Goldman
DePaul University
My thesis, entitled "The Sphere of Reason: Kant and the Orientation of Thought," reconsiders the relation of epistemology and metaphysics in Kant's critical philosophy. In contrast to the tradition of interpretation that rejects Kant's epistemological achievements because critical philosophy seems unable to justify the conception of objects with which it begins, a tradition that proceeds from Kant's early critics, notably Hamann and Hegel, to the varied voices of both Heidegger and Strawson, I have found resources within the critical corpus to address its basic orientation. Kant begins his analysis of cognition with an investigation confined to spatially appearing objects. The conceptual vocabulary thus produced allows him to reject the possibility of attaining metaphysical knowledge; however, this does not deny all metaphysical inquiry as it directs the narrowly circumscribed use of metaphysical ideas as regulative principles. In the case of our attempt to gain knowledge of the soul, Kant explains that our thoughts of an immaterial subject can never offer knowledge, and yet they do not necessarily lead to contradiction. We can continue to be directed by such an idea without embracing the metaphysical illusion that it can be known in the manner of an empirical object. ;What I have shown is that the analysis of cognition that critical philosophy offers is regulated by just such an idea of the subject existing apart from all material objects. Kant's epistemology depends upon the accomplishments of the critique of metaphysics, and yet the critique of metaphysics is itself built upon the conceptual structure of this epistemology. This circularity, which Kant comes closest to explaining in the various appendixes that bracket the main sections of the Critique of Pure Reason, is not the weakness but the accomplishment of transcendental philosophy. In response to a radically skeptical view of the possibility of knowledge reason is oriented within a limited region of human thought
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