Friday, October 15, 2010

The Critique Of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant (review)

 I didn't like math much when I went through high school, but when I learned calculus, I was fascinated. Calculus is a guided, safe and relatively easy journey to the very limits of human reason and understanding. It is almost magical but also completely intuitive after given the requisite amount of consideration. I have always thought of myself as a word smith rather than a real intellectual, but I have to credit the increase in my overall consciousness to Kant for those aforementioned words. James Stewart, the author of my first calculus textbook says that calculus is "the most powerful weapon of thought ever developed by mankind". IMO, "The Critique Of Pure Reason" is as awe inspiring, perhaps almost as "transcendental" as the fundamental theorem of calculus.

I have read a number of books on philosophy, about ten of them are on the Wiki list of the most important books ever written. Some of these books, such as J.S. Mills "On Liberty" are very easy to read and lead the new reader of philosophy to a greater understanding. Others such as Aristotle's "Nicomachean Ethics" are books that once you read them you are left with the feeling that everyone should read them and that they should be taught in high schools.

Leo Strauss' "History and Natural Right" is not on the aforementioned list but is both eloquent and enjoyable, even if you dis-agree with Strauss' thesis, you have to appreciate the flow of the words and the thorough and complete reasoning contained in this book. Having not yet read Hobbs, and being unclear  about the second chapter I still enjoyed this book very much.

I found Aristotle's "The Politic" drier than a glass of sand in the middle of a desert. I had to get into a little self mutilation in the form of biting my lip until it bled or occasionally pinching myself to stay awake and continue reading that mammoth, but it was worth the effort in the end. Its amazing what he knew that applies to what we see today in politics. He offers us conspiracy theorists an arsenal of information regarding the nature of rule by man.

Nietzsche, to me, was very difficult- incomprehensible at times and with no clear thesis. To me it sounded like Nietzsche hung around coffee shops and jotted down what he overheard from others- nothing to see here IMO. Plato's Republic was also much more difficult than Kant's book. I would say The Republic is the most difficult book I have ever read but very well worth the effort. (one can be fooled into thinking Platos' Republic is easy by not really reading into it). I find Kant to be very clear and full of explanation.

Besides calculus, perhaps even slightly more so, in terms of pure value for the mind is Kant's book. During the time I spent reading this book I had thought about blogging on various little bits of it, but then decided that I couldn't quote it directly without leaving a confused reader. I am not smart enough to accurately summarize what this book has to say- it needs all of its pages. Its not about Kantian ethics, but concludes with a reasoned justification for the Kantian view of the world.

I found the book as easy to read and as enjoyable to read as any of the others listed above, with the possible exception of Strauss. Strauss is a great thinker and a great writer, Kant says more but is not so enjoyable to read as Strauss. Kant's book is much deeper than these other ones.

This is a book that questions the very notion of reason as a thought process when applied to cosmological questions. Although it acknowledges that reason is the highest form of thought, in particular "pure reason" which requires no empirical information, it informs us of reason's weakness and how it is so often claimed to be applied by philosophers in what can really only be described as sophism. Kant exposes what I have termed as the "Gods Of Reason".

This book is listed as one of the ten most difficult books to read of all time, right up there with Joyce's "Finnigans Wake",  Hegels "Phenomenology Of Spirit",  Sartre's "Being and Nothingness" and Hiedeggers "Being & Time". These books are books I have always considered to be over my head. Joyces book never interested me but one day I hope to read the others.

This is a heavy read, the full 650 pages are required, but it is written in little sections of 20 or so pages. I found my brain to be overheating a bit if I tried to read more than one section at a sitting. This was due to the ideas of Kant, not so much due to my difficulty in understanding his words. I also found a dictionary of philosophy to be a necessary co-companion to the book because Kant introduces a lot of new terms.

A book like Critique Of Pure Reason requires careful study, a single read through is just a small taste of the big picture of Kant's view. The material is incredibly important and overall addresses the very concept of freewill. Without freewill, any kind of morality is irrelevant. This issue takes the reader on a journey to consider the nature of consciousness and sensory perception, using only reason without experience. This is the very core and root and purpose of philosophy and nothing I have ever read comes close to this in penetrating the real issues that form the foundations of ethics.

I read the Smith Kemp version of The Critique Of Pure Reason, I listened to the newer versions from MP3's on the web which are said to be as good as the Smith Kemp translation in terms of accuracy but my problem with those is that they use more complex words than what the 1923 Smith Kemp version  does.
 It will be a long time before I fully appreciate, and may never completely understand, what is contained in this first of three critiques written by Immanuel Kant.

Finally, the book has no prerequisites, with the possible exception of Hume and Liebniz (note that in calculus the symbology used to give the common man intuitive understanding of this branch of math is termed "Liebniz notation"). Kants thoughts on Hume and Humes beliefs seem to be well explained.


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Author of "Power Outage", available on Smashwords. I am a 50 year old free market libertarian who has had the time to read and consider the nature of globalism and the big machine that is surrounding us. I have participated in politics by running at the Fed level and debated Agenda 21 and 9-11 truth in front of large audiences. My background is in engineering and software creation. My business has provided me with significant time and freedom to learn the truth about the world around us. My goal is to expose Agenda 21 / Sustainable Development and Cultural Marxism.