10393 Reading Kant's "Prolegomena" 1

Credits: 4 advanced credits in Philosophy

Prerequisites: 36 credits, including From Descartes to Hume: Philosophy in the 17th and 18th Centuries, and one of the following: Philosophy of Science or Problems in Moral Philosophy. Students must also fulfill all English requirements and take bibliographic instruction in the Library.

Author: Elazar Weinryb

The course offers the student an initial acquaintance with the principles of Kant’s theory of cognition and metaphysics. It is a continuation of From Descartes to Hume: Philosophy in the 17th and 18th Centuries (10266). Kant, possibly the most important philosopher of modern times, attempted to create a synthesis between these two approaches, but also disagreed with both and offered a more innovative theory, which developed philosophical thought in altogether new directions. The course describes, explains and interprets Kant’s theory, compares it to the theories of his predecessors, and points not only to its achievements but also to the difficulties it raises.

The course is a guided reading of Kant’s Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics (Prolegomena zu einer jeden künftigen Metaphysik die als Wissenschaft wird auftreten können, 1783). Sections from The Critique of Pure Reason (2nd ed., 1787) are also discussed. The materials include The Philosophy of Immanuel Kant, by S. H. Bergmann (in Hebrew).

Topics: The course is divided into four parts according to the sections of the Prolegomena: Part 1: Introduction to Kant and Kant’s Preface to the Prolegomena; Part 2: Kant shows how to arrive at Transcendental Idealism from the mere knowledge that 7+5=12. This part deals with the preamble and sections 1-13. Topics include sense perception, mathematics, and the concepts of space and time; Part 3: How to understand the sentence “When the sun shines on the stone, it warms the stone.” This part deals with sections 14-39, and discusses the categories necessary for empirical cognition (“analytics” according to Kant); Part 4: What cannot and what (nonetheless) can be said in philosophy about God, the world in general and the human soul. This part deals with sections 40-60, and points to difficulties in traditional metaphysics and possible solutions (“dialectics” according to Kant).

1Students may write a seminar paper in this course, although it is not required.