For a Dialectic-First Approach to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason

Open Philosophy 5 (1):490-509 (2022)
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To judge by the title, one would expect that interpretations of the Critique of Pure Reason would prioritize the division of the book most about reason and its critique: The Transcendental Dialectic. But the Dialectic is surprisingly secondary in the most established interpretive approaches. This article argues as follows: There is a problem that contributes to explaining the lack of popularity: The problem of how arguments really based in the Dialectic itself really promise to ground a broader project in theoretical philosophy, of the scope of the Critique. But the problem can be solved: One aim important in the critique is critical argument against rationalist metaphysics. The Dialectic must play a central role in such critique, given a difficulty concerning begging the question. The positive claims of the Dialectic, about reason and the unconditioned, are necessary for such an argument, and the Dialectic gives them enough defense for that purpose. Finally, there are reasons to take seriously Kant’s promises that the Antinomy of the Dialectic can support the weight in such an argument, without begging the question. The article concludes that a Dialectic-first approach to the Critique is viable and worth further development.



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James Kreines
Claremont McKenna College

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