Kant’s Critical Philosophy
30 Irving Place
New York, NY 10003
Kant’s “Critical philosophy,” which begins with the appearance of the Critique of Pure Reason in 1781, is an attempt to understand the total scope and limits of human reason, science, and morality. Moreover, he argues that the purpose of philosophy is to answer the fundamental questions that emerge from such an attempt: “What can we know? What should we do? What can we hope for?” In other words: Can we really know what reality is like, independent of our individual perspectives and ways of conceiving it? Is scientific inquiry a legitimate, or the only legitimate, way to know reality? Do we have genuine moral obligations to others and to ourselves, and what reasons do we have for fulfilling those obligations? The answers to all these questions, Kant suggested, presuppose an answer to another, even more fundamental question: “What is a human being?”
In this class, we will survey Kant’s theoretical and ethical views, paying particular attention to how they fit together into a unified picture of human subjectivity and purpose. Kant’s account of human beings, or persons, grants them “a rank and dignity infinitely above all other things, including all other living beings, on earth.” This view seems profoundly at odds with a common modern conception in which, as Nietzsche describes it, “man has become an animal, literally and without reservation or qualification.” We will ask whether Kant’s picture, in contrast, is still viable today, and whether it offers a compelling or attractive alternative account of human beings and their place in the world.
Course ScheduleMonday, 6:30-9:30pm
September 10 — October 01, 2018