Topics for the First Paper
Peter Suber, Philosophy Department, Earlham College

Pick any one of the following questions. Answer the question based on a careful interpretation of Kant's text. Make sure you give Kant's position on the question as well as his supporting arguments. Then comment on the strengths and weaknesses of Kant's position, as revealed by that interpretation. Your reconstruction of Kant's answer should be supported with textual evidence. Your evaluative comments should be supported by explicit argument. Your interpetation of Kant and your evaluative comments are of roughly equal weight and should receive roughly equal space.

Some of the questions below have specific evaluative questions to follow-up the interpretive questions. Feel free to add your own evaluative questions to supplement these. For those questions that don't already include evaluative questions, use this generic evaluative question:  What are the strengths and weaknesses of Kant's position on this point? See the essay hand-out for more details on the assignment.

These topics assume that you have read everything in the Critique up to the end of the Transcendental Deduction, and have read both editions of the Deduction. They require nothing from subsequent sections of the text, although further reading would always enrich your understanding.

Library research is welcome but not required. If you consult secondary sources, include a bibliography of the works you consulted. You may include in your paper any relevant work already done in explications.

The due dates for the topic and the paper are in the syllabus. The paper should be 7-10 pages long.

  1. What does Kant mean when he says that the Critique "is a treatise on the method, not a system of the science [of metaphysics] itself" (B.xxii)? How can the Transcendental Aesthetic and the Analytic of Concepts be regarded as "method"? Was this a good understanding of his own project?
  2. What in Hume awoke Kant from his "dogmatic slumber" (Prolegomena, 260; cf. 337)? What was Hume's challenge to Kant and what was Kant's answer to Hume? How well did Kant meet Hume's challenge?
  3. Kant hears "a call to reason to undertake anew the most difficult of all its tasks, namely, that of self-knowledge, and to institute a tribunal..." (A.xi). What is the relation between the tasks of self-knowledge and the institution of a tribunal? How is the Transcendental Deduction part of the search for self-knowledge and part of the institution of the tribunal?
  4. What is a number for Kant? Why is arithmetic synthetic rather than analytic knowledge? Is Kant right about this?
  5. Kant describes the question whether synthetic a priori judgments are possible as "the proper problem of pure reason" (B.19) and "the general problem of transcendental philosophy" (B.73). He tells us that the Aesthetic provided "one of the factors required for a solution" (B.73) and that the rest of the answer is to come. Pull together all the parts of his answer and state it as a whole. What reasons does he offer for the truth of his answer?
  6. What is the "clue to the discovery of all pure concepts of the understanding" (B.91ff)? How does Kant use this clue actually to discover, or justify, or expound, his tables of judgments and categories? Insofar as the clue can be put in propositional form, state it and show what arguments, if any, Kant offers for its truth? Is it really true? Does it justify the inferences that Kant draws from it?
  7. What is the relation between the table of judgments and the table of categories? Why does Kant need both? How do the answers to these questions illuminate the argument of the Deduction?
  8. In the Prolegomena (p. 322) Kant says that the search for the "elements of a grammar" and for a complete table of categories "are very nearly related". What is the relation?
  9. Pick one difference of doctrine (as opposed to exposition) between the A and the B editions of the Transcendental Deduction. What argumentative strategies, programmatic motives, or doctrinal pressures might explain why Kant made the change? Is the change an improvement?
  10. Kant says the task of the Transcendental Deduction (in one of his many formulations) is to explain "how subjective conditions of thought can have objective validity" (B.122). How does the Deduction provide such an explanation, and what explanation does it provide?
  11. What is the transcendental unity of apperception? What role does it play in the arguments of the A and B versions of the Transcendental Deduction?
  12. What is the theory of the self, or of the types of self and their relations, that emerges from the Transcendental Deduction?
  13. How do the arguments of the Transcendental Deduction explain the statement that "the understanding determines the sensibility" (B.161.n)?
  14. How do the arguments of the Transcendental Deduction explain Kant's discussion of the "epigenesis" and "pre-formation system" of pure reason (B.167). What conclusion(s) does he draw from this discussion?
  15. What is a transcendental deduction (and what are forms of intuition and concepts of understanding) such that we must have a transcendental deduction for concepts of understanding but not for forms of intuition?
  16. In several places Kant says that if we could know things in themselves, there could be no a priori knowledge. (See esp. B.xvii-xxii.) What is his argument? Is he right?
  17. What is Kant's notion of a thing in itself? Exactly what does he know and not know about things in themselves? What is his argument that the unknowable aspects of them are unknowable? What are his reasons for positing them?
  18. How does Kant distinguish appearance from illusion? If the world of experience (or appearances) is constituted by the knower, then why isn't it illusory?
  19. What is Kant's revolutionary proposal? He calls it an experiment or hypothesis (B.xvi, B.xxii.n), but assures that it will be fully proved in the text (B.xxii.n) and even anticipates the proof in the B Preface (B.xx-xxi). Pull together the various parts of the proof and state it clearly in logical order.
  20. What is Kant's concept of experience? Why does he insist on the distinction between experience and possible experience? Does his theory of experience make him an empiricist?

This file is an electronic hand-out for the course, Kant.

Ribbon] Peter Suber, Department of Philosophy, Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana, 47374, U.S.A. Copyright © 1999, 2000, Peter Suber.