The Critique of Pure Reasonis about the limits of reason. Kant wanted to put metaphysics and epistemology on a solid footing by proposing a kind of experiment. What this “experiment” involves is asking a particular kind of question. The question is this: “how is knowledge possible?” Notice, Kant is not asking “what is knowledge?” He is asking a very different kind of question. Let’s just assume that we do have knowledge, at least of some things. What has to be true – of the world, and of ourselves – that would make this possible.This is what he calls his “Copernican Revolution”. It is possible for us to have knowledge because things in the world conform to the ideas we have of them. We don’t get the ideas from experience, but rather we have experiences because we have ideas. This does not mean that the world is only in our “heads”, because these ideas have no content without sensory experience (which is not something we have power over, but which comes to us from “outside”). Kant looks like a rationalist in this, but he is not: ideas about some things are always empty, because they are ideas about things of which we have no sensory experience.What is the difference between a prioriand a posterioriknowledge?Why does Kant think that there are a prioriprinciple of experience?Why does Kant want to understand the limits to the power of reason?What is the difference between analytic and synthetic judgments?What is an a priorisynthetic judgment?Reading Guide for Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding7
Hume, like Locke and Berkeley,is a representative of the empiricist school of philosophy.Empiricismis the view that all knowledge is derived from data that we obtain through the senses. In contrast to rationalists, empiricists say that everything we can know is limited to what we can or have experienced. They also look at our ideas as things we have built up out of our sensory experience either of things or of ourselves.Thus, Hume’s epistemology is an attempt to find out which experiences are, in fact, the foundations of our various ideas. What he ends up discovering is often surprising. He argues that some of our ideas are not grounded in the experiences that we usually believe them to be, but rather have their origins in our own minds.What are the two kinds of “impressions” and how do they differ?What are the limits (“bounds”) of thought?What are the two objects of human reason and how do they differ?How do reasoning about matters of fact arise?What is the principle or foundation of our ideas about cause and effect?Reading Guide for Berkeley, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (pp.98-107)8
Berkeley is a strange fellow. What his theory of knowledge seems to amount to is an acceptance of Descartes’ First Meditation as an accurate picture of things, with one exception: it is God, and not a malicious demon, and thus we are not being deceived but rather are being told the truth.