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metaphysics possible. But ·despite not having the help of metaphysics· I did succeed in
solving the Humean problem, not merely for a particular case ·of the cause-effect
connection· but with respect to the whole faculty of pure reason. With that done, I could
safely - though always slowly - go on to map out the whole domain of pure reason,
establishing its boundaries and its contents. I did all this completely, and from general
principles, which is what metaphysics needed if its system was to be securely built.
I expounded the Humean problem in its most general possible form in my book
Critique of the Pure Reason; but I am afraid that that work may go the same way as the
problem did when Hume first propounded it. The book will be misjudged because it is
misunderstood; and people will misunderstand it because they are inclined to skim through
the book rather than thinking it through That is ·admittedly· a disagreeable task, because
the work conflicts with all ordinary concepts, as well as being dry, obscure, and longwinded! ·Despite those drawbacks·, I confess that I didn’t expect to hear a philosopher
complain that the book is not a crowd-pleaser, not entertaining, not an easy read, given
that what is at issue in it is no less than the existence of a highly prized and indispensable
kind of knowledge - a question that cannot be settled except by working strictly according
to rule and with great precision. Such work might in the course of time please the crowd;
but ·a concern for· popularity is quite inappropriate at the start. Still, one of the complaints
is justified: the book’s plan is diffuse, making it hard for the reader to keep in mind the 6
chief points of the investigation; and that contributes to a certain obscurity. I intend to
remedy that with these Preliminaries.
The earlier work, which maps out the entire faculty of pure reason, will be the
foundation to which the Preliminaries are to be related. But the latter work - ·the book
you now hold in your hands· - is only a preparatory exercise ·and not a contribution to
metaphysics itself·; because we can’t think of letting metaphysics appear on the scene, or
even have a faint hope of attaining it, until our critique has been established as a science
that is complete in every detail.
We have long been used to seeing dreary old knowledge spruced up as new by being
taken out of its former context and turned into a system in fancy new clothing with new
terminology; and that’s all that most readers will initially expect my critique to be. But
these Preliminaries may help the reader to see that it is ·not old stuff in new clothes, but· a
wholly new science that no-one has ever thought of - indeed, the very idea of which was
unknown - and to which no previous work has made the slightest contribution. The only
exception to that is the pointer one could get from Hume’s doubts; but even he didn’t
suspect ·there could be· such a possible formal science; instead, he played safe by running
his ship onto the shore (scepticism), letting it lie there and rot. I prefer to give the ship a
pilot who can safely sail it anywhere he likes, by means of secure principles of navigation
drawn from a knowledge of the globe, and equipped with a complete chart and compass.
Suppose we are confronted by a new science that is wholly isolated and the only one
of its kind. If we start with the assumption that we can make judgments about it in terms
of knowledge that we have already gained - which is precisely what has first to be called in
question ·when considering a new science· - all we shall achieve is to see everywhere
things we already know, with the Ÿwords sounding familiar but everything seeming (·so far
as the Ÿcontent is concerned·) to be pushed out of shape, senseless, gibberish. That is
because we’ll be relying on Ÿour own notions, which long habit has made second nature
for us, instead of relying on Ÿthe author’s. But the longwindedness of the work, to the
extent that it comes from the science itself and not merely from the exposition, as well as
the unavoidable dryness and by-the-rules precision, are qualities that can bring credit to
the science - though not to the book!
It is not given to many of us to write with the subtlety and grace of David Hume, or
with the solidity and elegance of Moses Mendelssohn. Yet I flatter myself that I could
have written in a crowd-pleasing way if my aim ·in the Critique of Pure Reason· had been
merely to outline a plan and leave it to others to complete, rather than having set my heart
on the good of the science that had occupied me for so long. Indeed it took a lot of
perseverance and a good deal of self-denial to put Ÿthe prospect of later but more lasting
applause ahead of Ÿthe enticements of an immediate success.
The making of plans is often an arrogant and boastful activity, through which
someone Ÿgives himself airs as a creative genius by demanding what he doesn’t himself
supply, Ÿfinds fault with what he can’t improve, and Ÿmakes proposals that he himself
doesn’t know how to carry out - though a sound plan for a general critique of pure
reason, if it is not to amount only to the usual spouting of pious hopes,...
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