Monday, December 26, 2011

Correct Approach to Critique of Pure Reason

Philosophy is especially tough for students because they tend to read the original work of a philosopher like a story book. An approach similar to the approach advised by the king to the rabbit in the 'Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland,' —“Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

In philosophy sometimes it is better to start from the middle, or the end, or from whatever point from where it makes sense. Philosophy should always be read and studied with a thought in mind that one wants to understand and gain knowledge, not memorizes the text so that he or she can reproduce it in some exam.

Kant became a well known writer after his work '
Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime'' published in 1764. As mentioned in my earlier post it was well accepted by the general readers, but his most important and influential work, “Critique of Pure Reason” received a lukewarm response both from general readers and academicians. It is quite understandable because the original edition published in 1781 was a thick 800 pages long book in German, highly complicated and abstract in style. 

It is not something uncommon in the world of ideas for a new treaties on any subject by a relatively unknown philosopher to go unnoticed and unappreciated by the best  philosophers, generally academicians, of his times. It is often noticed and brought to light by some unknown curious reader who reads it out of curiosity and understands the brilliant ideas explained in it clearly; which in turn motivates him to dig deeper and realize the true value of the work. 

The man who took interest in Kant's most influential and important book, and brought it to the notice of general readers and academicians was Karl Leonhard Reinhold. 

In the year 1786- 87 he published his letters ‘Briefe ├╝ber die Kantische Philosophie’ (Letters on the Kantian Philosophy) in the literary journal ‘The German Mercury.’.

What is interesting to know here is Reinhold's approach to 'Critique of Pure Reason.' Instead of reading it like a student from the beginning, he read it backwards i.e starting from the end section, which was of great interest to him and also made sense. 

Now just as the first ontological argument for existence of God has to come from a man of religion, a priest Anselm of Canterbury, the revolutionary ideas on morality, as espoused by Kant, came from a priest who held the Christian doctrines of God as true, but did not accept the Christian ideas of morality. Reinhold was not satisfied with the predominant ideas of his days that in order to avoid nihilism, fatalism, and atheism one has no other alternative, but to accept the religious morality as revealed by God. Instead he proposed Kant's philosophy on morality as a better and more rational approach.

In the end, Reinhold discovered that new philosophies will have to struggle constantly in order to survive in the dialectic of history in which progress is unknowingly happening. 

But more than that he showed us how to read an abstract and complex book on philosophy.

Note: Read the most interesting post on my blog. 
On Perception of Future

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