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German Thought


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Kantian Critiques

Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant (Author), edited, introduced, and translated by Marcus Weigel, translation based upon 1881 redition by Max Muller (Penguin Modern Classics: Penguin Classics)


Kant's Critique of Pure Reason (1781) is the central text of modern philosophy. It presents a profound and challenging investigation into the nature of human reason, its knowledge and its illusions. Reason, Kant argues, is the seat of certain concepts that precede experience and make it possible, but we are not therefore entitled to draw conclusions about the natural world from these concepts. The Critique brings together two opposing schools of philosophy: rationalism, which grounds all our knowledge in reason, and empiricism, which traces all our knowledge to experience. Kant's transcendental idealism indicates a third way that goes far beyond these alterna­tives.

Marcus Weigelt's lucid re-working of Max MuIler's classic transla­tion makes the Critique accessible to a new generation of readers. His informative introduction places the work in context and elucidates Kant's main arguments. This edition also contains a bibliography and explanatory notes.

Excerpt: Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, though probably philosophy's single most acclaimed work, has remained notorious for being obscure and excessively difficult more or less since the day it was published. It has driven some of the finest philosophical minds to despair, or even, owing to the bleakness of its doctrines as much as that of its prose, to the verge of suicide. Many of Kant's readers have therefore chosen, not as a temporary remedy, necessarily, but as a more salutary activity altogether, a walk in fresh air.

Most first-time readers will share the experience described by the Austrian writer Robert Musil of his adolescent hero, Törleb: `When he stopped reading in exhaustion after half an hour he had only reached page two." Reached, not finished. An unguided beginner, Todd? could easily have got lost as early as the book's motto and dedication. Despite being bemused by the slow speed of his progress and the sweat that had appeared on his forehead, he had taken these first obstacles without faltering. Having none­theless come to a discomforting realization about the task ahead of him he took a first substantial rest, then seized what courage he had, and ventured to read on. He believed that the task could be accomplished through concentration and an iron will, but instead found himself all too soon 'overcome with deep resistance and straightforward nausea.' We can understand, with a mini­mum of experience, how the book could have come to affect him this way so quickly. The charming joviality and profound wit which some contemporaries attributed to Kant the lecturer and gentleman are so conspicuously absent from this book that one is tempted to question the credibility of those contemporaries. Instead, Kant uses little more than a few introductory remarks to reach conceptual cruising altitude and to maintain, as well as refine, a level of highest intellectual complexity throughout. Only rarely can the reader pause to recover his wits over a casual remark or a sentence that does not intricately elaborate on the previous and anticipate the subsequent. Kant's language, crammed into endlessly subclaused and graceless sentences each of which aspires to fill an entire printed page, is dry in spirit and pedantic in tone. And it comes as no surprise that Musil's juvenile hero got the distinct impression that while he was reading an uncaring force tried, quite unpleasantly mechanically and not necessarily successfully, to screw concepts into his brain.

Nor are the immense problems that Kant's writing imposes merely stylistic in nature. The false preconceptions of our philo­sophical consciousness that Kant detected were so pervasive that he felt he could not present his ideas in merely traditional philo­sophical language. Max Muller, the patron saint of this edition, considers the Kantian idiom a proper language, but not, along the lines that a first-time reader like Törleb might expect, a fancy hermetic language of questionable usefulness even to specialists, but as a lingua franca that every beginner in philosophy should master — a language that is hard to learn, harder to become fluent in and all too easy to forget.

The linguistic difficulties, furthermore, far from indicating mere peculiarities of the author, are part and parcel of the subject matter. The Critique investigates nothing less than the nature of human reason and knowledge (epistemology), and the basic constitution of the natural universe (metaphysics). As opposed to his predecessors, the interrelation of reason and natural reality is, for Kant, a matter of such evident complexity that it can only be dealt with in a specialized scientific treatise. Moreover, his scientific conceit does not allow Kant to make any didactic con­cessions for the benefit of his readers: his presentation, Max Muller reminds us, is always to the judge, never to the jury. The result is a book that is 'dry, obscure, in conflict with all customary concepts and also wayward', as Kant himself expressed it." To an unguided beginner, once the first enthusiasm of exploring a text of surpassing profundity wears off, and once the slow stop and go progress turns out to coincide with no advance in under­standing at all, Kant's book is no more exciting and just as perplexing as a first encounter with any treatise in, say, theoreti­cal physics. It is hardly profitable, therefore, to meander through the maze of its doctrines without the support of tutoring and secondary reading. But even then it is likely that many will, like Törleb, give up in premature resignation, and there is no guarantee that colourful hopes for being enlightened by Kant will survive the monochrome study of his text.

Törleb finally capitulates not only before a dull and incompre­hensible book but also before the evident injustice that matters which so closely affect us should be so inaccessible. In light of the following of Kierkegaard's thoughts the task ahead may seem a little less unfair, though a walk in fresh air is always an option for those who are not impressed: the outside material world is subject to the law of imperfection, such that those who do not work still get their bread, those who sleep increase their wealth, and those who work are impoverished; in the world of spirit, by benign contrast, there reigns a more perfect and divine order, and here those who don't work won't eat.


Max Muller's version of the first edition of Kant's Kritik der reinen Vernunft has, despite its merits, in the last eighty years been consigned to oblivion and disuse — the Encyclopaedia Brit­annica does not even mention it as one of Muller's achievements. Even among academics there is confusion as to the identity or non-identity of Max Muller the translator and commentator of Kant, and Max Muller the orientalist. Published by Macmillan in 1881 to commemorate the centenary of Kant's book, Macmillan themselves replaced Muller's translation with that of Norman Kemp Smith in 192.9. Muller's version has since been found only occasionally in the catalogues of minor publishers.

Max Muller, born in Dessau (Germany) in 1823 and died in Oxford in 1900, was the son of Wilhelm Muller, a second-rate poet who had the good posthumous fortune that Schubert put his verse to music in one of Austro-Germany's great musical works of all times, Winterreise, or Winter's Journey. Not given quite as much to the romantic notions that were his father's, the young Max sought scholarly rigour and academic sobriety in the studies of Sanskrit and Indo-European comparative philology. He dedicated his academic life to the investigation of the history of languages, religions and mythologies. Muller's close connec­tion with England (he died a British citizen) began with the financial support that he received from the East India Company for his research, and was consolidated when he was appointed lecturer and fellow at All Souls College, Oxford. Aside from his research, Muller was the first to translate the Vedas from Sanskrit into a modern European language, namely English. Although his name is largely forgotten outside specialist academic circles, in which it is indeed honoured, the value and influence of his work can hardly be overestimated. It should therefore be no surprise that in India the Goethe Institute, Germany's cultural represen­tation abroad, is also known as the Max-Muller-Bhavan — a similar homage was paid only to Alexander von Humboldt in Columbia.

An initially traumatic encounter with Kant's book succeeded in having a salutary effect on Muller in the long run. `Kant's Critique has been my constant companion through life,' he affirms." Instead of teaching Kant to students of philosophy, Muller's aim was to address his material studies in a Kantian spirit: 'Having once learnt from Kant what man can and what he cannot know, my plan of life was very simple, namely, to learn, so far as literature, tradition, and language allow us to do so, how man came to believe that he could know so much more than he ever can know in religion, mythology and in philosophy.' He believed that Kant provided the philosophical foundations and guidelines not only for his own research but for the scientific endeavours of our age, and that all disputes about these matters are meaningless unless they involve a reflection of Kant's views: `We need not be blind worshippers of Kant, but if for the solution of philosophical problems we are to take any well defined stand, we must, in this century of ours, take our stand on Kant.' It was at Oxford that Muller, well advanced in years, decided to embark on the arduous undertaking of translating Kant's first critique. Kemp Smith's attack on Muller's translation as being noticeably not the work of a Kant scholar, is unjust insofar as it is mislead­ing. Although Muller was not a scholar who taught Kant or did philological research on his work, he addressed his material studies as a disciple whose personality, academic and private, was shaped by an assimilation of Kant's philosophy. His transla­tion was to be a humble service to a book that he believed was not yet sufficiently honoured in the English-speaking world: 'I do not think my time or my labour will have been wasted, if only people in England, and in America too, will now read the book that is a hundred years old, and yet as young and fresh as ever.'

Muller's translation of the Critique of Pure Reason was the third to be pub­lished in English. While taking substantial clues from them, his aim was to redeem crucial shortcomings of his predecessors Francis Haywood (1838) and J. M. D. Meiklejohn (1855) and to restore essential qualities of 'Kant's masterwork in a faithful English rendering' — a quest that remained the aim of the three translations to follow it. It was first published in two volumes by Macmillan in 1881. Volume one was taken up entirely by 'An Historical Introduction' written by a friend and colleague of Muller's, Ludwig Noire. Its second, revised edition of 1896 came in a single volume, and all that was left of Noire, his introduction aspiring to none less than a comprehensive history of Western philosophy, was an ageing Muller's ave pia anima to his deceased friend. Later editions even dropped Muller's own introduction.

Although its merits are greater than is suggested by the fact that it has been out of print for many years, Muller's translation has a number of features that one would choose to be modest about. The present translation is therefore something more than a reworking of Muller. Since my superior loyalty was to Kant, and since my understanding of the text is different from Muller's as often as it is not, I have felt obliged not only to make correc­tions but also to re-translate extensively throughout the text. Translation operates in a world of imperfection and compromise, and it is easy enough to point out errors and suggest improve­ments. I have tried to avoid any arbitrary changes and to preserve as much of Muller's original as possible, and so to concentrate on clearing away mistakes caused by inadvertence or lack of word-processing facilities, syntactical and grammatical inconsistencies and quirks of Muller's, misinterpretations, omissions, additions, Germanicisms (Muller's text is littered with philosophical terms that have no good use in English and only unhappily resemble their German counterparts), archaisms and obsolete terminology, and on making the use of words and terminology more consistent (Muller often renders the same word in different ways, sometimes with up to four or five alternative words in English, without any suggestion that a different meaning is intended by Kant's German word). I have followed Muller in his decision to break up Kant's sentences into shorter ones because German lends itself to a type of phrasing that cannot, or can only clumsily, be re-created in English. Since considerations of style are decidedly secondary in Kant's own prose, and since ideas and their presentation are often inseparably interwoven, I have chosen not to eliminate every distinct Germanic touch, above all where it helps to clarify rather than to obscure the sense of the original without causing intolerable linguistic unease. All translations of Kant have undamped German overtones; yet it was necessary to revise many of Muller's constructions because in his effort to reproduce the structure of Kant's baroquish sentences with their numerous subordinated clauses, not only does he at times lose the thread, but he forces his syntax into overly un-English constructions.

Muller's translation provided a far from fully satisfactory ren­dering of Kant's text. And so in a matter of a few years, Mac­millan replaced Muller's version with that of Kemp Smith for much the same reason that Meiklejohn's was replaced by Muller's: failure to express the literal meaning of the text, lack of a proper understanding of Kant's original and terminological inconsistencies. Kemp Smith professed little esteem for Muller's work. Yet the deeper motivation for him to deride Muller may have been to obscure the degree to which Muller's work is present in his own. He took over large parts of Mailer's terminological and syntactical skeleton and rebuilt the text around it with the trained ear of a native English speaker, very often re-arranging Muller's phrases without changing anything substantial in them. One could suspect that he worked more from Muller than from Kant, because occasionally he commits the same unlikely errors as Muller. For instance, he mistakenly adds an 'etc.' at the end of the bracket that reads `(imagination, wit)' on page Bviii. The only other edition, German, English or otherwise, to make this mistake is Muller's. Muller inadvertently placed the 'etc.' in two brackets that each list two words and are separated by only two lines. Only the bracket idealism, scepticism, etc.)'  is correct, however, while the bracket `(imagination, wit, etc.)' above it should have no 'etc.' It is not objectionable, of course, to improve the work of a predecessor. With some more modesty and generos­ity, however, Kemp Smith might well have called his translation a substantially revised and terminologically improved Muller.

Since Kemp Smith, there have been two more translations, one by Werner Pluhar (1996), another by Paul Guyer and Allen Wood (1998). This is not the place to praise their merits or to condemn their shortcomings. Let it be noted that the Guyer/Wood transla­tion is not the definitive translation and edition of Kant's Critique that it was marketed as, if only because it is littered with a sinister number of errors, among many others the confusion of `appearance' with 'intuition' on at least thirty occasions.

The need to revise Muller's translation has also provided the opportunity to make editorial changes in the text that have come to be accepted in the last 125 years of critical scholarship. The first edition of Kant's book appeared in 1781 as the result of a considerable time of intense work, after which it seems that Kant had little interest to spend his afternoons correcting the proofs. The printers set the book up in type with a large number of errors and variants over the manuscript, only a fraction of which were spotted by Kant. The second edition of 1787 did not fare much better. Reconstructing Kant's text and restoring its intended wording has since been an academically laudable task, though hardly an enviable one. A large number of text critical notes in this edition are derived from this scholarship.

It has been customary for editors to regard the two editions as a single entity and to prepare an integral edition of Kant's separate editions. Modern editions therefore tend to be a little confusing. Standard German editions use the second edition as the principal text, if only for the reason, however unsatisfactory, that it pre­sents Kant's final word on the matter. The principal text pre­sented in this translation is therefore the second edition of 1787, also referred to as the B text (or simply B); the A text (or A) is the first edition of 1781. The fact that Muller used the first edition as his principal text may sound like a negligible difference but is in fact substantial. The second differs from the original edition in minor and major ways throughout the book (some minor differences being major ones in disguise) but especially all through its first division, the Doctrine of Elements. It is generally agreed that there are inconsistencies between the doctrines expressed in the two editions, and that their relationship is emphatically not that of first and second draft. Aside from many minor additions and stylistic corrections, the second edition has an important new preface, a revised introduction and various substantially reworked sections of text. Our chief concern here was to print all significant variants of the first edition while preserving the image of a clean and continuous text. All variants of the first edition are therefore given in endnotes, with three notable exceptions which owing to their length and significance were integrated in the main text: The book opens with the preface to the first edition (Avii—xxii). For the two chapters 'Of the Deduction of the Pure Concepts of the Understanding'(A95-1 3o; corresponding to B129-169) and 'Of the Paralogisms of Pure Reason' (A348-4o5; corresponding to B4o6-43 z), we have, partly for easier cross-referencing with the revised version and partly so as not to interrupt the flow of the main text, followed Raymund Schmidt's by now discontinued method of parallel presentation: they are not printed before or after the main text of the second edition, but the page is split in halves, with the texts of the two editions running parallel top and bottom. The text on the lower half of the page in italics is the original version of the same passages in the second edition on the upper half of the page. Since there is an obvious difference of type face we think that the risk of confusion is minimal.

All text of the first edition, except for its preface, is printed in italics. In a section of A printed in the endnotes, non-italicized words indicate that first and second editions coincide and so mark the points at which the two editions begin or cease to differ. Italics are only used to indicate the variants of the first edition;

italics are never used to highlight text highlighted by Kant. To highlight such text we have always used bold print (as is also found in Kant's original editions).

The section entitled The Antinomy of Pure Reason (B454­489) has Thesis and Antithesis running parallel on facing pages in the original; these are printed here as parallel columns on the same page.

There are no footnotes throughout the text except those belonging to the Critique itself. These are indicated in the text by asterisks. All other notes, indicated by numerals in the text, are endnotes. There could, for the purposes of this present edition, be no question of integrating an elaborate critical apparatus into the notes and variants, but we have included information which, for one reason or another, we believe is indispensable or suf­ficiently interesting for both the scholarly and the layman reader, such as editorial, text critical and explanatory remarks, transla­tions of foreign expressions, or variants in the first edition.

Although our aim was to present a clean and friendly text, a compromise had to be made by including the page numberings of the two original editions, which provide a common denomi­nator for easier cross-referencing with different editions, English, German or otherwise. Two symbols in the text refer to the origi­nal pagination in both editions and are spelled out at the bottom of the page. The symbol for B pagination is `I', for A pagination `I'. At the foot of the page, the indication e.g. 1 B17' means that page 17 begins in the second edition. Pagination of the variants of A in the endnotes is indicated similarly, but the page numbers of A are printed on the page on which the endnote occurs in the main text. Given that more often than not only an approximate position of an original page break can be indicated in the transla­tion, the indicators are here printed on the outer text margins and form either the first or the last character of a given line, for even or odd pages respectively.



Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, lecture course given in 1959 by Theodor W Adorno Rolf Tiedemann ed., translated by Rodney Livingstone, Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Kant's Transcendental Idealism: An Interpretation and Defense by Henry E. Allison New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983.

Lewis White Beck, Studies in the Philosophy of Kant, Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1965.

Lewis White Beck, Early German Philosophy: Kant and His Predecessors, Cam­bridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1969.

Jonathan Bennett, Kant's Analytic, Cambridge: Cambridge Uni­versity Press, 1966.

Jonathan Bennett, Kants Dialectic, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974.

Reinhard Brandt, The Table of Judgment: Critique of Pure Reason A67-76; B92-101, translated by Eric Watkins, Atascadero, Cal.: Ridgeview, 1995.

C. D. Broad, Kant. An Introduction, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978.

Gerd Buchdahl, Kant and the Dynamics of Reason: Essays on the Structure of Kant's Philosophy, Oxford: Blackwell, 1992.

Edward Caird, The Critical Philosophy of Immanuel Kant, 2 vols. Glasgow: Maclehose & Sons, 1889.

Ernst Cassirer, Kant's Life and Thought, translated by James Haden, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981.

Howard Caygill, A Kant Dictionary, Oxford: Blackwell, 1995.

Gilles Deleuze, Kant's Critical Philosophy: The Doctrine of the Faculties, translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam, London: Athlone Press, 1985.

Kuno Fischer, A Commentary on Kant's Critick of Pure Reason, translated by John Pentland Mahaffy, London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1866. (Reprinted New York: Garland, 1976.)

Paul Guyer, Kant and the Claims of Knowledge, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Paul Guyer, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Kant, Cambridge: Cam­bridge University Press, 1992.

Martin Heidegger, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, trans­lated by Richard Taft, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990.

Martin Heidegger, Phenomenological Interpretation of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason (Studies in Continental Thought), Indiana University Press

Dieter Henrich, The Unity of Reason. Essays on Kant's Philosophy, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1994.

Between Kant and Hegel: Lectures on German Idealism by Dieter Henrich and David S. Pacini (Harvard University Press)

Karl Jaspers, Kant: From The Great Philosophers, Volume 1, translated by Ralph Manheim, New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962.

John Kemp, The Philosophy of Kant, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968.

Norman Kemp Smith, A Commentary to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, London: Macmillan, 1918 (various reprints).

Stephen Körner, Kant, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1955.

Susan Neiman, The Unity of Reason: Rereading Kant, New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Klaus Reich, The Completeness of Kant's Table of Judgments, translated by Jane Kneller and Michael Losonsky, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992.

Johann Schultz, An Exposition of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, translated by James C. Morrison, Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1995.

Morris Stockhammer, Kant Dictionary, New York: Philosophi­cal Library, 1972.

Peter F. Strawson, The Bounds of Sense: An Essay on Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, London: Methuen, 1966.

Hans Vaihinger, The Philosophy of 'As if ': A System of the Theoretical, Practical and Religious Fictions of Mankind, translated by C. K. Ogden, London: Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1924

Ralph C. S. Walker, ed., Kant on Pure Reason, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Thomas Dewar Weldon, Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958. (First edition was published as Introduction to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1945.)

Robert Paul Wolff, Kant's Theory of Mental Activity: A Commen­tary on the Transcendental Analytic of the Critique of Pure Reason, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1963.

Robert Paul Wolff ed., Kant: A Collection of Critical Essays, Garden City: Anchor Books, 1968.


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