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

These are some of the important questions from the second half of the Critique (the Dialectic to the end). You needn't pick one of these, but they may give you some ideas.

The assignment is described in the essay hand-out. A reminder:  about half the paper should be devoted to your interpretation of Kant's answer and supporting argument, and about half devoted to your evaluative comments on the strengths and weaknesses of Kant's position and argument.

Your topic is due in writing on Friday of Week 15. The paper itself is due on the first exam day after classes end, May 4, at noon. The paper should be 10 pages minimum.

  1. What is transcendental illusion? What is the critique of transcendental illusion?
  2. What is the defect in reason that makes it inevitably fall into illusion?
  3. Why is it important for Kant to distinguish reason and understanding? What is the distinction?
  4. How does transcendental idealism (which Kant affirms at B.518ff) differ from material idealism (which he refuted at B.274ff)?
  5. How is Kant's theory of God similar to, and different from, his theory of noumena?
  6. Do noumena "cause" appearances? If noumena are not causes in the standard sense (under the categories), might they be causes in some non-standard sense?
  7. Why is the regulative employment of reason necessary for reason, for understanding, for empirical knowledge, and for experience?
  8. Why does practical reason have the right to postulate what speculative reason cannot prove?
  9. How and why do speculative and practical reason view God differently?
  10. Why is there no canon of speculative reason?
  11. How does Kant's moral argument for God's existence escape his criticism of previous arguments for God's existence?
  12. In exactly what sense does Kant accept the ideas of God and immortality? In what sense does he not accept them? What grounds and interests justify or impel him?
  13. Evaluate Heinrich Heine's claim that Kant brought God back in the Dialectic in a way inconsistent with the Analytic.
  14. How does Kant solve the third antinomy (on free will), and how adequate is his solution?
  15. Why does the compatability of causal determinism and freedom of the will depend on the unknowability of things in themselves?
  16. What kinds of freedom are we known to have and what kinds are we not known to have?
  17. How has Kant united nature and freedom, or natural science and ethics, or speculative and practical reason?
  18. Why would the arguments on both sides of each antinomy be well-grounded if appearances were things in themselves?
  19. How does the fact that reason is "at variance with itself" (A.xii) or "involved in unavoidable self-conflict" (B.xix.n) affect the possibility, or the reliability, of an inquiry or critique conducted by reason into reason with the aim of curing the conflict? Could reason be too sick to cure itself? If the result of the inquiry is a tribunal, or method, for avoiding the self-conflict of reason, how trustworthy can it be in light of the admitted deficiencies of the agent of inquiry (reason)? Is the circularity of the inquiry vicious?
  20. What is the role of the unconditioned in the creation and solution of the antinomies?
  21. Why isn't skepticism a wise response to the antinomies (that is, believe neither the thesis nor antithesis)?
  22. What price would we pay to leave the antinomies unsolved?
  23. In what sense are antinomies inevitable? What does this reveal about reason?
  24. How can reason 'solve' its own antinomies? Why don't they disable reason from this kind of self-cure and ensure their own permanence?
  25. Why did Kant "find it necessary to deny knowledge, in order to make room for faith" ( What form did this denial (Aufhebung) take? In what sense was this denial "necessary"?
  26. What is the relation between physics and metaphysics?
  27. How and why is the logical a clue to the transcendental?
  28. In the Dialectic, Kant frequently finds reason appealing to the principle that, if the conditioned is given, then the entire sum of its conditions, hence including the absolutely unconditioned, is also given. When is this principle illusory, when is it not, and why?
  29. Why are ideas of reason not dialectical in themselves, but only in their misemployment?
  30. Why is the burden of proof on the opponent of practical reason?
  31. Why do ethical questions begin to emerge as we move from understanding to reason?
  32. What is Kant's critique of Plato's theory of ideas?
  33. How do the transcendental ideas match or correspond to the categories? How does Kant use this alignment to shed light on either the ideas or the categories or both?
  34. What is Kant's answer to Berkeley on the question whether things exist when they are not being perceived?
  35. How does Kant allow us to conceive the passage of time (and the reality of past objects) prior to our own existence?
  36. What is the importance of Kant's repeated claim that conditioned objects "set us a task"?
  37. What does Kant mean by 'method'?
  38. What is Kant's concept of metaphysics? What kind of metaphysics is still possible after Kant's critique? Is he doing that kind of metaphysics in this book, or merely laying the foundation for it?
  39. How seriously (or in what sense) does Kant intend his claim that without the critique of reason, reason could settle its claims only through war? What other passages suggest a socio-political dimension to Kant's theory of reason?
  40. How does the practical or moral employment of the principles of pure reason give them objective reality?
  41. What is the relationship that Kant envisions between his propaedeutic and his system?

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.