PHIL 423.001 – Kant’s Theoretical Philosophy

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Instructor: Markus Kohl. This course meets R 1:00 – 3:30 p.m. in CW 213.

In this course, we study the Critique of Pure Reason (the so-called “first Critique“). 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 our human understanding. In the course of this analysis, Kant proposes a doctrine he calls Transcendental Idealism, according to which the sensible, spatiotemporal world (which contains the objects of our human experience) in some sense depends upon the (generic) human subject and its cognitive capacities. In contrast to this mind-dependent world of sensible “appearances”, he also appeals to a domain of “things in themselves” whose existence and constitution is entirely independent of the human mind.

A main objective of this course is to understand what, exactly, this idealist doctrine involves and how Kant argues for it. This examination will involve our consideration of the closely related, more specific topics that come up in the various parts of the first Critique, such as:

-Kant’s 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 principled justification (a “transcendental deduction”) of a priori concepts such as ‘substance’ and ‘causality’ by arguing that such concepts are necessary for objective human experience.
-Kant’s critique of rationalist attempts to prove the existence of (1) an immaterial, immortal substantial soul and (2) the existence of God.
-Kant’s attempt to offer transcendental idealism as a solution to the apparent conflict between human freedom and causal determinism.

Students who intend to take this class should be aware that it will be a very difficult course (requiring continuous dedication to the material, and plenty of dense reading) on what is standardly recognized as one of the most difficult books in the history of Western philosophy.

Required textbook: The translation of the Critique of Pure Reason by Paul Guyer and Allen Wood (Cambridge University Press, 1998).

 

Please note: This course counts toward the “history of philosophy” distribution requirement for PHIL grad students.

Permission of the instructor is required to enroll in this course. PHIL grad students are exempt from this enrollment requirement.