Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Professor S. Ajzenstat
This essay is intended as a general study of the transcendental method employed by Immanuel Kant in his Critique of Pure Reason. Norman Kemp Smith's views on its relation to the hypothetico-experimental method of the natural sciences will receive special attention in this study. In the "Second Preface" to the Critique, Kant himself maintains that philosophy must emulate the method of the sciences if it is to become successful. One of our main tasks must therefore be to ascertain Kant's estimation of the extent to which transcendental philosophy is indebted to the scientific method in general and to the method of the natural sciences in particular. While Kemp Smith contends that the methods employed in Kant's philosophy and in the natural sciences are fundamentally akin, we would like to show that, despite some important similarities, there are also radical discrepancies between the two. Kemp Smith's case will be briefly summarized in Chapter 1.
In Chapter 2, a close look at several passages in the "Second Preface" will do much to shed light on these issues. First, it should aid us in understanding what Kant believes can be gained by emulating the sciences. Secondly, such a study should make it possible to isolate the characteristics of the sciences which may be profitably emulated by philosophy. As we shall see, Kemp Smith suggests that only the natural sciences offer a useful example to be followed by philosophy. An examination of the "Second Preface", thirdly, should enable us to assess this view; it should enable us to determine whether or not the other disciplines which Kant regards as sciences have something additional to offer to philosophy.
Concerning the natural sciences, I would like to show that Kant regards Francis Bacon as the primary exponent of the hypothetico-experimental method and, thus, as a seminal influence on his own work. Clear indications of this, I shall argue, are given in his epigraph to the Critique, in a key reference in the "Second Preface" and in some crucial passages appended to the "Introduction". While this issue - as well as our interpretation of the 'Copernican analogy' - will be discussed in Chapter 2, our final comments on these matters will appear in Chapter 4.
The Transcendental method of proof will be the topic of Chapter 3. A large portion of that chapter is devoted to reconstructing the "Second Analogy of Experience" - Kant's attempt to prove the principle of causation. We believe this to be a paradigm of a transcendental proof, for three main reasons. First, because, once understood, it is relatively simple. Second, because the "Second Analogy" contains at least one transcendental disproof, which is convenient for our purposes. Third, because, at the end of the section on the "Analogies" as a whole, Kant himself shows that he is unmistakeably pleased with the success of his proof. Our reconstruction of Kant's proof is contrasted with a brief account of Hume's views on causation, in order to further highlight Kant's novel approach. In this chapter then, we have deemed it useful to present an exemplar of the transcendental method of proof. This will be done particularly in order to discuss Kant's notion of "possible experience", though also so that we may have a concrete basis from which to educe some general observations about transcendental proofs.
In Chapter 4 conclusions will be drawn concerning the extent and limitations of the debt of the transcendental method to the method of the natural sciences. This, as we stated above, involves finalizing our arguments concerning Kant's references to Bacon and Copernicus. Once that has been done, we shall turn our attention back to Norman Kemp Smith's views on the relationship between the two methods and contrast them with our own findings.
Throughout our study we shall have to offer brief accounts of what amount to some very controversial notions in Kantian scholarship. To mention but a few: terms like "critique", "transcendental logic", "synthetic" and "analytic", "a priori" and even "transcendental" itself, must weave in and out of our discussion without the benefit of a fully adequate definition - if such a thing is possible. However, as careful analyses of terms like these would not permit us to carry on with our study, we shall have to make do with summary definitions.
A brief "Afterword" has been added to this essay. Its purpose is to qualify our treatment of Norman Kemp Smith and to suggest areas for further study.
Bailey, Herbert van Courtlandt, "A Study of Kant's Method in the Critique of Pure Reason: Hypothetical and Transcendental Proofs" (1980). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 245.