PHIL 423.001 – Kant’s Theoretical Philosophy

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Instructor: Markus Kohl. This course meets T 4:00 – 6:30 p.m. in CW 213.

We will focus on the Critique of Pure Reason (“first Critique“), one of the most important works in the history of Western philosophy. In this work, Kant seeks to demarcate the boundaries of human cognition through a systematic analysis of what things lie within and outside of the field of human understanding. In the course of this analysis, Kant proposes a doctrine he calls transcendental idealism, according to which the objects of human experience in some sense depend on the human subject and its cognitive capacities.

A main objective of this course is to understand what this idealist doctrine involves and how Kant argues for it. Further, related topics to be considered include: the nature of space and time; the analysis of human cognition in terms of intellectual and sensible components (concepts and intuitions); Kant’s account of mathematical cognition; Kant’s attempt to provide a “transcendental deduction” of a priori concepts such as ‘substance’ and ‘causality’; and Kant’s attempt to offer transcendental idealism as a solution to the apparent conflict between human freedom and causal determinism.

This is a demanding course that requires sustained willingness to mull over very difficult texts. Apart from Kant’s own works, we will consider, compare and contrast the interpretations offered by important commentators.