(Updated August 2018)
The Critique of Pure Reason is among the most influential texts in the history of philosophy and has made a lasting impact not only on the way we do philosophy but on the way we see ourselves and our world.
This work arose from a landscape dominated by a contentious disagreement on the foundational problems of philosophy: Questions such as 'are we free or determined?' or 'does God exist' were the subject of lively discussion, but relatively little headway was made in reaching answers most people could agree on.
Kant's revolutionary insight was that before attempting to respond to such questions, we must first of all carry out a critique that would fix the bounds of reason and enable us to determine which questions we can and cannot answer. In this manner, Kant believed he had discovered 'the key to the whole secret of metaphysics', which would be able to settle the seemingly endless and fruitless debates once and for all.
In this module, we explore Kant's innovative epistemological framework, his account of reason and its limits, and his resolution to the basic problems of metaphysics. Students will develop an understanding of the details of Kant's position in the Critique, an ability to assess its central arguments, and an appreciation of its broader historical significance.
At the end of the module students should have:
* a good understanding of the major arguments of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, especially those concerning the nature of space and time, the status and function of the basic categories of our thought and experience, and the contradictions into which reasoning falls when it is divorced from experience;
* a good understanding of Kant's innovations in method, and in particular the procedure of 'transcendental deduction';
* a good understanding of the thrust of Kant's critique of traditional metaphysics;
By the end of the module, students should also have acquired a set of transferable skills, and in particular be able to:
* define the task in which they are engaged and exclude what is irrelevant;
* seek and organise the most relevant discussions and sources of information;
* process a large volume of diverse and sometimes conflicting arguments;
* compare and evaluate different arguments and assess the limitations of their own position or procedure;
* write and present verbally a succinct and precise account of positions, arguments, and their presuppositions and implications;
* be sensitive to the positions of others and communicate their own views in ways that are accessible to them;
* think 'laterally' and creatively - see interesting connections and possibilities and present these clearly rather than as vague hunches;
* maintain intellectual flexibility and revise their own position if shown wrong;
* think critically and constructively.
(Updated August 2018)