KANT

Last Updated 04/05/05

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  1. The Paper
  2. Basic Reading
  3. Topics

1. The Paper

The syllabus is restricted to Kant's critical philosophy, and in particular to the main doctrines of the Critique of Pure Reason, the Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, the Critique of Practical Reason, and Part I of the Critique of Judgement (the ‘Critique of Aesthetic Judgement').

The examination paper is divided into two parts, the first dealing with Kant's epistemology and metaphysics as presented in the Critique of Pure Reason, the second with Kant's ethics and aesthetics. Candidates are required to answer at least one question from each part. It follows that candidates must be familiar with the Critique of Pure Reason and either Kant's ethics or Kant's aesthetics. Questions on Kant in Ethics, Modern Philosophy and Aesthetics may be barred to candidates taking the Kant paper, if the questions are too similar to those on the Kant paper.

It is not possible to understand Kant's ethics or aesthetics fully without a knowledge of Kant's epistemology and metaphysics. It is therefore essential to master the main lines of thought of the Critique of Pure Reason. This is facilitated by a sound knowledge of the thought of Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, Leibniz, Berkeley and Hume, and it is at least advisable therefore to have completed the Modern Philosophy course before embarking on the study of Kant.

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2. Basic Reading

Introductory books which cover Kant's philosophy as a whole:

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3. Topics

Kant's Epistemology and Metaphysics

Main Texts

The main text to be studied is the Critique of Pure Reason. The translation by Norman Kemp Smith, 2nd ed. (London: Macmillan, 1933), provided for many decades the standard edition in English, but two other translations, also available in paperback, have appeared very recently: one by Paul Guyer and Allen Wood (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), the other by Werner Pluhar (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1996). Both have considerably more supporting textual and scholarly apparatus than Kemp Smith, including thorough indices, but it is arguable that Kemp Smith's edition remains the most accessible.

A second text relevant to Kant's epistemology and metaphysics is his Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics, trans. L.W. Beck (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1950) or translated by Paul Carus, rev. by James W. Ellington, (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1977), a much shorter work which may be read alongside, and which throws light on, the Critique.

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Commentary on the Critique of Pure Reason

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Advanced critical discussion of Kant's epistemology and metaphysics

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Principal topics to be studied, related to specific sections of the Critique

(References to the Critique of Pure Reason [ CPR ] refer to the Akademie pagination, cited in the margin of Kemp Smith's translation. The ‘A' number refers to the First Edition and the ‘B' number to the Second; where only one reference is given, the text appears only in the one edition.)

The concept of synthetic a priori judgement

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Kant's treatment of space and time in the Transcendental Aesthetic

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The metaphysical deduction of the categories

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The Transcendental Deduction of the categories

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The treatment of substance and causality in the Analogies of Experience

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The Refutation of Idealism

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The concepts of thing in itself and noumenon

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The ideas of reason and their regulative employment in the Dialectic

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The treatment of the self in the Paralogisms of Pure Reason

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The contradictions of reason in the Antinomy of Pure Reason

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The treatment of human freedom in the third antinomy

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The criticisms of the arguments for the existence of God in the Ideal of Pure Reason

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Kant's Ethics

Main texts

The main texts to be studied are the Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals and the Critique of Practical Reason. (The former is known also as Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals.) Both texts are available in a new translation in the Cambridge Edition: Practical Philosophy.

All three can also to be found in:

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Introductions to Kant's ethics

Chapter-length discussions of Kant's ethics may be found in the books by Cassirer, Höffe, Kemp, Körner, Scruton, and Walker listed at the beginning.

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Advanced critical discussion of Kant's ethics

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Collections of articles on Kant's ethics

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Principal topics to be studied

Kant's account of moral motivation (the concepts of good will and duty)

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Kant's analysis of morality (the concept of the categorical imperative and derivation of its several formulas)

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Kant's deduction of the moral law and account of the relation between morality and freedom

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The postulates of practical reason

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Kant's Aesthetics

Main text

‘Critique of Aesthetic Judgement', Part I of the Critique of Judgement.

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Introductions to Kant's aesthetics

Chapter-length discussions of Kant's aesthetics may be found in the books by Höffe, Körner, Scruton, and Walker listed at the beginning.

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Advanced critical discussion of Kant's aesthetics

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Principal topics to be studied

Kant's analysis of the judgements of taste in the Analytic of the Beautiful and associated theory of imagination and understanding

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Kant's analysis of judgement of taste and solution to the Antinomy of Taste

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Kant's theory of art (the concept of genius and aesthetic ideas)

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