THE LIMITS OF SENSE AND REASON: A Line-By-Line Critical Commentary on Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason,” #20–How Metaphysics Can Become An Authentic Science.

By Robert Hanna

***

[I] was then making plans for a work that might perhaps have the title, “The Limits of Sense and Reason.” I planned to have it consist of two parts, a theoretical and a practical. The first part would have two sections, (1) general phenomenology and (2) metaphysics, but this only with regard to its method. (Letter to Marcus Herz, 21 February 1772 [C 10: 129])

***

***

Previous Installments:

#1: Introduction to The Limits of Sense and Reason

#2: Bii/GW91 The Motto

#3: Aiii/Biii/GW93–97 The Dedication

#4: Avii-ix/GW99 Preface to the First (A) Edition.

#5: Axi note/GW100–101 Preface to the First (A) Edition

#6: Axi note/GW100–101 Preface to the First (A) Edition

#7: Axii-xiv/GW101–102 Preface to the First (A) Edition

#8: Axv-xvi/GW102–103 Preface to the First (A) Edition

#9: Axvi-xvii/GW103 Preface to the First (A) Edition

#10: Axvii-xx/GW103–104 Preface to the First (A) Edition

#11: Axxi-xxii/GW104–105 Preface to the First (A) Edition

#12: Bviii-ix/GW106–107 Preface to the Second (B) Edition

#13: Bix-x/GW107 Preface to the Second (B) Edition

#14: Bx-xii/GW107–108 Preface to the Second (B) Edition

#15: Bxii-xiv/GW108–109 Preface to the Second (B) Edition

#16: Bxiv-xv/GW109–110 Preface to the Second (B) Edition

#17: Bxv-xxii/GW109–113 Preface to the Second (B) Edition, Part I

#18: Bxv-xxii/GW109–113 Preface to the Second (B) Edition, Part II

#19: Bxv-xxii/GW109–113 Preface to the Second (B) Edition, Part III

***

Because LSR is an ongoing and indeed infinite task, yearly installments of the book will be published in the online journal Contemporary Studies in Kantian Philosophy (CSKP).

Correspondingly, LSR, Part 1 has been published in CSKP 6 (2021): 11–109, and can be read, downloaded, or shared in .pdf HERE.

Moreover, a bibliography of Kant’s writings listed by English translations of their titles, alongside the abbreviations used for infratextual references in LSR, has been also been published in CSKP 6 (2021): 1–10, and can be read, downloaded, or shared in .pdf HERE.

***

CPR TEXT Bxxii-xxiv/GW113–114 Preface to the Second (B) Edition

Now the concern of this critique of pure speculative reason consists in that attempt to transform the accepted procedure of metaphysics, undertaking an entire revolution according to the example of the geometers and natural scientists. It is a treatise on the method, not a system of the science itself; but it catalogs the entire outline of the science of metaphysics, both in respect of its boundaries and in respect of its entire internal structure. For pure speculative reason has this peculiarity Bxxiii about it, that it can and should measure its own capacitya according to the different ways for choosing the objectsb of its thinking, and also completely enumerate the manifold ways of putting problemsc before itself, so as to catalog the entire preliminary sketch of a whole system of metaphysics; because, regarding the first point, in a priori cognition nothing can be ascribed to the objectsd except what the thinking subject takes out of itself, and regarding the second, pure speculative reason is, in respect of principlese of cognition, a unity entirely separate and subsisting for itself, in which, as in an organized body, every exists the sake of all the others as all the others exist for its sake, and no principlef can be taken with certainty in one relation unless it has at the

a Vermögen

b Objecte

c Aufgaben

d Objecte

e Principien

f Princip

same time been investigated in its thoroughgoing relation to the entire use of pure reason. But then metaphysics also has rare good fortune, enjoyed by no other rational science that has to do with objectsa (for logic deals only with the form of thinking in general), which is that if by this critique it has been brought onto the secure course of a science, then it can fully embrace the entire field of cognitions belonging to it Bxxiv and thus can complete its work and lay it down for posterity as a principal frameworkb that can never be enlarged, since it has to do solely with principlesc and the limitations on their use, which are determined by the principles themselves. Hence as a fundamental science, metaphysics is also bound to achieve this completeness, and we must be able to say of it: nil actum reputans, si quid superesset agendum.d

a Objecte

b Hauptstuhl; Kant’s metaphor seems to be drawn from weaving (cf. Webstuhl, a loom or frame for weaving).

a Objecte

b Hauptstuhl; Kant’s metaphor seems to be drawn from weaving (cf. Webstuhl, a loom or frame for weaving).

c Principien

d “Thinking nothing done if something more is to be done.” The correct quotation is: “Caesar in omnia praeceps, nil anum ere dens, cum quid superesset agendum, instat atrox” (Caesar, headlong in everything, believing nothing done while something more remained to be done, pressed forward fiercely) (Lucan, De bello civili 2: 657).

***

COMMENTARY

Now Kant is in a position to state, in a summary way, the central strategy of the Critique of Pure Reason, in view of the results of his critical comparison and contrast between metaphysics, logic, mathematics, and natural science or physics.

The strategy is to transform the aspirational science of metaphysics and make it into an authentic science by using the geometer’s and natural scientist’s/physicist’s “revolution in way of thought” as a guide and model, i.e., by appealing to transcendental idealism and Kantian abduction.

Furthermore, the first Critique “is a treatise on the method [of metaphysics], not a system of the science itself” (CPR Bxxii).

In other words, the first Critique is intended to provide only a set of prolegomena to any future metaphysics that will be able to come forward as an authentic science — to borrow most of the title of the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics of 1783, which itself was explicitly intended by Kant to be a “popular” introduction to, and synopsis of, the first Critique — and not the substantive metaphysical system itself.

At the same time, however, Kant also intends the first Critique to be such that it“catalogs the entire outline of the science of metaphysics, both in respect of its limits and in respect of its entire internal structure” (CPR Bxxii-xxiii).

In other words, even though the first Critique is only a treatise on the method of the authentic science metaphysics, it is also a complete presentation of the basics of that science.

This completeness, in turn, is due to two uniquely-defining features of “pure speculative reason” (CPR xxiii).

First, pure speculative reason “can and should measure its own power according to the different ways for choosing the objects of its thinking,” in virtue of its revolutionary Copernican method, which postulates that “in a priori cognition nothing can be ascribed to the objects except what the the thinking subject takes out of itself” (CPR xxiii, italics in the original).

Second, pure speculative reason has an essentially holistic, organic, and unified nature, “in respect of principles of cognition,” because it is

a unity entirely separate and subsisting for itself, in which, as in an organized body, every part exists for the sake of all the others as all the others exist for its sake, and no principle can be taken with certainty in one relation unless it has at the same time been investigated in its thoroughgoing relation to the entire use of pure reason. (CPR Bxxiii, boldfacing in the original)

So, by reflecting on the form or structure of its own innate capacities or powers for thinking about the very objects it has chosen and for carrying out its proper “responsibilities” or “tasks” (Aufgaben) (CPR xxiii), then, at least in principle, pure speculative reason can fully determine the scope and internal structure of its own subject-matter.

One crucial thing to note here is the explicitly activist, practically-oriented character of metaphysics, according to Kant: in doing metaphysics, pure speculative reason chooses its own objects, finds in those objects only what the thinking subject takes out of itself, and thereby pursues its own proper responsibilities or tasks.

So although metaphysics, as Kant conceives it, is indeed a “fundamental science” (Grundwissenschaft) (CPR xxxiv), it’s nevertheless essentially a human or moral science (Geisteswissenchaft), both on the side of the metaphysician, as an intentional agent, and more specifically as a free agent or person, i.e., a rational human animal, and also on the side of the objects, or intentional targets, of metaphysics.

That is: as Kant conceives it, metaphysics, in its freely-willed intentionality and its intentional objects alike, is neither a formal science like pure general logic, which “deals only with the form of thinking in general” (CPR Bxxiv), not with objects in the world, nor a natural science like physics, which deals with objects in the world only under the special restrictive assumptions of inert, unliving matter, mechanism, and determinism.

Over and above logic and natural science/physics, metaphysics freely chooses and is responsible to objects in the world without restrictive assumptions about matter, mechanism, and determinism, thereby also fully opening itself to the real possibility or actuality of minded, living, and/or free rational human animals.

But above all, according to Kant, the aspirational, enabling aim of activist, practically-oriented metaphysics is absolute, organic unity, and unrestricted scope with respect to its own activity of cognition and its cognitive objects alike, whereby

it can fully embrace the entire field of cognitions belonging to it and thus can complete its work and lay it down for posterity as a primitive framework (Hauptstuhl) that can never be enlarged, since it has to do solely with principles and the limitations on their use, which are determined by the principles themselves. (CPR Bxxiv)

Or in other words, the aspirational, enabling aim of an activist, practically-oriented metaphysics is absolute completeness (Vollständigkeit): hence it takes itself to have done nothing, if it has not done everything (nil actum reputans, si quid superesset agendum) (CPR B xxiv).

AGAINST PROFESSIONAL PHILOSOPHY REDUX 585

Mr Nemo, W, X, Y, & Z, Monday 23 August 2021

Against Professional Philosophy is a sub-project of the online mega-project Philosophy Without Borders, which is home-based on Patreon here.

Please consider becoming a patron!

Formerly Captain Nemo. A not-so-very-angry, but still unemployed, full-time philosopher-nobody.