Immanuel Kant [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 29 (1):138-139 (1975)

This small volume successfully captures the essential in Kant’s philosophy, his insight and understanding of the a priori as the universal and necessary condition in epistemology and ethics. Knowledge and morality, if they are to qualify as knowledge and morality, must be subjected to principles of universalizability, and it is Kant’s contribution to philosophy that he argues for the non-empirical conditions that make these possible. The author approaches Kant’s theory of knowledge from an untraditional perspective. Rather than start his inquiry with a study of the Transcendental Aesthetic and Transcendental Analytic, Hartnack focuses in on the Transcendental Dialectic giving Kant’s arguments for the first two antinomies and presenting a cursory account of the paralogisms and Transcendental Idea. Hartnack defends his procedure by calling our attention to the fact that it was not primarily Hume’s attack on the necessary connexion of cause and effect that influenced Kant to undertake his transcendental criticism as many scholars believe. By Kant’s own admission which he makes clear in a letter to Christian Garve in 1798 it was the antinomy of pure reason that "first aroused me from my dogmatic slumber and drew me to the Critique of Pure Reason itself in order to resolve the scandal of ostensible contradiction of reason with itself." It was the illegitimate use of reason that prompted Kant to search out the bounds and limits to which reason could legitimately make claim to. Bearing this in mind the present study centers on the dialectical illusion of reason which necessarily implies that it has another side to it, the legitimate and regulative use of reason. Hartnack strongly emphasizes the relationship between the Transcendental Analytic and Transcendental Dialectic and the relationship of the Critique as a whole to the Critique of Practical Reason where the a priori finds its expression in the categorical imperative. The Transcendental Dialectic are as two sides of the same coin. Reason on the one side legitimately applies its categories to the empirical, conditioned, phenomenal object of sense experience. But by nature reason seeks the unempirical, unconditioned, noumenal object which by definition cannot be given, and reason by applying the categories falls prey to the antinomies, paralogisms, and transcendental Idea. Hartnack’s critical account reveals the intimate and dynamic unity within the first Critique and its unity with the Critique of Practical Reason, a synthesis of Kant’s theory of knowledge and theory of morality. Much of what is obscure and obfuscatory in the primary sources is clarified and simplified for us in this work and yet the author has sacrificed none of the depth and dimension that characterize Kant’s writings. Rather in a few pages he has managed to target in on a significant aspect that sheds light and puts into proper perspective Kant’s project as a whole. Here is a case where less is better than more.—K.R.M.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632
DOI revmetaph1975291120
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