Kant and the Early Moderns

Kant and the Early Moderns

Daniel Garber
Béatrice Longuenesse
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 276
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    Kant and the Early Moderns
    Book Description:

    For the past 200 years, Kant has acted as a lens--sometimes a distorting lens--between historians of philosophy and early modern intellectual history. Kant's writings about Descartes, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume have been so influential that it has often been difficult to see these predecessors on any terms but Kant's own. InKant and the Early Moderns, Daniel Garber and Béatrice Longuenesse bring together some of the world's leading historians of philosophy to consider Kant in relation to these earlier thinkers.

    These original essays are grouped in pairs. A first essay discusses Kant's direct engagement with the philosophical thought of Descartes, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, or Hume, while a second essay focuses more on the original ideas of these earlier philosophers, with reflections on Kant's reading from the point of view of a more direct interest in the earlier thinker in question. What emerges is a rich and complex picture of the debates that shaped the "transcendental turn" from early modern epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophy of mind to Kant's critical philosophy.

    The contributors, in addition to the editors, are Jean-Marie Beyssade, Lisa Downing, Dina Emundts, Don Garrett, Paul Guyer, Anja Jauernig, Wayne Waxman, and Kenneth P. Winkler.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2896-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
    Daniel Garber and Béatrice Longuenesse
  4. Abbreviations and References for Primary Sources
    (pp. xi-xvii)
    (pp. 1-8)
    Daniel Garber and Béatrice Longuenesse

    Kant’s work is replete with references to his predecessors, in ancient as well as in modern philosophy. Whether positive or negative, these references are always part of Kant’s effort to set up a picture of the history of metaphysics understood as a “history of pure reason” in which each philosophical figure of the past is called upon to play its role and occupy its proper place in the gradual—albeit conflict-ridden—discovery by reason of its own power and limits, as brought to light by Kant’s critical philosophy.

    Indeed, the final chapter of theCritique of Pure Reason, chapter 4...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Kant’s “I Think” versus Descartes’ “I Am a Thing That Thinks”
    (pp. 9-31)
    Béatrice Longuenesse

    With one exception, all references to Descartes in Kant’sCritique of Pure Reasonoccur in the Transcendental Dialectic. After having laid out in the Transcendental Aesthetic and Analytic what he takes to be the legitimate use of our understanding and reason—namely, that use that remains within the boundaries of possible sensory experience—in the Transcendental Dialectic Kant goes on to denounce the illusions of a metaphysical thinking that ignores those limits. His (mostly unnamed) targets are the metaphysicians of Leibnizian inspiration (primarily Wolff and Baumgarten), whose metaphysics textbooks Kant used as material for his own lectures. But Kant specifically...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Descartes’ “I Am a Thing That Thinks” versus Kant’s “I Think”
    (pp. 32-40)
    Jean-Marie Beyssade

    I shall restrict my comments, as Béatrice Longuenesse largely did with hers, to what is usually called Descartes’cogito, which Kant discussed and criticized on several occasions, both explicitly and implicitly, especially in theCritique of Pure Reason. I shall leave out of consideration, as she did, other points of Descartes’ philosophy, such as the proof of the existence of God, which Kant and his contemporaries called “the Cartesian proof,” the proof which we call, after Kant, “the ontological proof,” and which Descartes himself called the “a priori” proof.¹ These other questions are certainly of great interest, but they appear...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Kant’s Critique of the Leibnizian Philosophy: Contra the Leibnizians, but Pro Leibniz
    (pp. 41-63)
    Anja Jauernig

    A computer count of the number of explicit references in Kant’s writings to the early-modern philosophers who are discussed in this volume returns the most hits for Leibniz, by a wide margin, both in the precritical and the critical period, in theCritique of Pure Reasonitself, and even in the correspondence and theNachlaß. In fact, with the exception of God, Leibniz is the most mentioned individual in the Kantian corpus overall.¹ Of course, this hit count in itself does not justify the conclusion that Leibniz is the most important and influential thinker for Kant’s philosophy and philosophical development,...

  9. CHAPTER 4 What Leibniz Really Said?
    (pp. 64-78)
    Daniel Garber

    Anja Jauernig has offered an able defense of Kant’s reading of Leibniz. On the story that she has told us, quite convincingly, Kant should be understood not as an opponent of Leibniz, but as one of his great defenders, a philosopher who understood Leibniz and offered a philosophical elaboration and defense of his views, in distinction with the somewhat different views of the Leibnizian school of eighteenth-century German philosophy, as exemplified most notably by Christian Wolff. In this essay I would like to offer a complementary view to the one that Jauernig presented in the previous chapter.

    I will say,...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Kant’s Transcendental Idealism and the Limits of Knowledge: Kant’s Alternative to Locke’s Physiology
    (pp. 79-99)
    Paul Guyer

    Kant’s aim in theCritique of Pure Reasonwas “a critique of the faculty of reason in general, in respect of all the cognition after which reason might strive independently of all experience, and hence [a] decision about the possibility or impossibility of a metaphysics in general, and the determination of its sources, as well as its extent and boundaries, all, however, from principles” (A xii).¹ Kant’s project sounds very similar to the project for hisEssay Concerning Human Understandingthat John Locke had announced almost a century earlier when he stated that it was his “Purposeto enquire into...

  11. CHAPTER 6 The “Sensible Object” and the “Uncertain Philosophical Cause”
    (pp. 100-116)
    Lisa Downing

    Both Immanuel Kant and Paul Guyer have raised important concerns about the limitations of Lockean thought. Following Guyer, I will focus my attention on questions about the proper ambitions and likely achievements of inquiry into the natural/physical world. I will argue that there are at least two important respects, not discussed by Guyer, in which Locke’s account of natural philosophy is much more flexible and accommodating than may be immediately apparent. (And, I am inclined to think, one of these respects represents a way in which Kant’s system is objectionably constrained, where Locke’s is in principle open.) On my interpretation,...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Kant’s Critique of Berkeley’s Concept of Objectivity
    (pp. 117-141)
    Dina Emundts

    It is well-known that Kant tries to distance himself from a position that he attributes to Berkeley, namely, the view that things are pure illusions. But is Kant right in claiming an essential difference between Berkeley’s and his own philosophy? This is the main question of my essay. Interestingly, Kant does not simply treat Berkeley as someone who claims that things are mere illusions, but he also tries to explain why Berkeley holds this claim. According to Kant, Berkeley’s position is unavoidable if one tries to think of the reality of space as something that is subject-independent. This is what...

  13. CHAPTER 8 Berkeley and Kant
    (pp. 142-171)
    Kenneth P. Winkler

    I have to begin by confessing that before being invited to the conference on which this volume is based, I had never thought seriously about Kant’s response to Berkeley. And when, with the help of Dina Emundts and others, I looked closely at the passages in which Kant’s response to Berkeley unfolds, I experienced a strange succession of feelings. The first was that Kant’s comments on Berkeley are dismayingly off the mark. Kant himself condemned the “historian of philosophy” who “has [philosophers] talking utter nonsense,”¹ and at first it seemed to me that Kant was engaged in just that sort...

  14. CHAPTER 9 Kant’s Humean Solution to Hume’s Problem
    (pp. 172-192)
    Wayne Waxman

    What Kant termed “Hume’s problem” (Prolegomena,AA4 313) is a generalized version of Hume’s skepticism, extending it from necessary relations between distinct existents to necessary relations between distinct determinations such as mathematical quantities, which, in its most fundamental formulation, is the question how are synthetic a priori judgments possible. Interpreters have always recognized that Kant’s transcendental philosophy is directed to the solution of this problem. It is far less well appreciated, however, that the solution he offered is also based on a Humean model. In the preface to theProlegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, Kant credited Hume with showing...

  15. CHAPTER 10 Should Hume Have Been a Transcendental Idealist?
    (pp. 193-208)
    Don Garrett

    Kant assigns to Hume—that “great thinker” and “acute man”—a crucial role in the history of metaphysics: it is “Hume’s spark” that should have ignited, and in Kant’s thinking did ignite, the flame that lights the way to transcendental idealism. This spark, on Kant’s view, consisted chiefly in Hume’s having posed a challenge:

    He [Hume] challenged reason, which pretends to have given birth to this concept [of cause and effect] of herself, to answer him by what right she thinks anything could be so constituted that if that thing be posited, something else also must necessarily be posited; for...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 209-240)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 241-248)
  18. List of Contributors
    (pp. 249-250)
  19. Index
    (pp. 251-257)