Critique of Pure Reason (Penguin Classics)

Critique of Pure Reason (Penguin Classics) - Immanuel Kant, Marcus Weigelt, Friedrich Max Müller The Critique of Pure Reason is listed among Good Reading’s 100 Significant Books. I found reading through that list was a great education--as valuable as college, and I’ve learned enormously from reading it--much more aware of the underpinnings of Western culture. That’s why I stuck though this, even though I’d have ordinarily turned away from this book from the very first paragraph: Our reason has this peculiar fate that, with reference to one class of its knowledge, it is always troubled with questions which cannot be ignored, because they spring from the very nature of reason, and which cannot be answered, because they transcend the powers of human reason. OK, right there I thought this is not a guy really worthy of spending my time with, because if something transcends the powers of human reason, you can’t argue for it, so what’s the point of philosophy? The rest of the preface explains he’s going to resort to “pure reason”--by which he means reason without resort to experience. And without experience, how can we check out premises? I guess that makes me an empiricist, but that just there made me skeptical of learning much from Kant before I’d ever gotten beyond the Preface. Kant’s tone also grated on me more than any philosopher I’d ever read--much, much more than Plato, Aristotle, Spinoza, Locke... Take this from the Preface: But I beg to remind him that, if my subjective deduction does not produce in his mind the conviction of its certitude at which I aimed, the objective deduction, with which alone the present work is properly concerned, is in every respect satisfactory. And that’s just the impression from the first dozens of pages of a book over 400 pages long. Once I dove into Kant’s main argument, it was easy to get lost. I don’t think he’s quite as difficult as Spinoza, but then I was far more sympathetic to Spinoza’s arguments and tone, which helped me see his Ethics through. I probably have just about as much philosophical disagreement with Plato, but Plato is a very engaging writer--truly--I found The Republic, The Symposium, The Apology and the other dialogues very engaging reads. But Kant combines the thorny prose of Spinoza with a philosophy even more inimical to me than Plato. Yet I did find pushing through much of this valuable--for the same reason as the other works on the list. My rating reflects that I hated the style and substance of Kant--but that doesn't mean I don't think the ideas aren't important to grasp. Because I can see Kant’s lines of argument descending from Plato’s Allegory of the Cave in The Republic and threaded through so many other thinkers after him: The light dove, in free flight cutting through the air the resistance of which it feels, could get the idea that it could do even better in airless space. Likewise, Plato abandoned the world of the senses because it posed so many hindrances for the understanding, and dared to go beyond it on the wings of the ideas, in the empty space of pure understanding.