Note Concerning the Metaphysical Structure of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason

In reading Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason today (I’m attempting my first reading of it in toto, from cover to cover), I had a revelation as to the structure of the “Transcendental Logic” section of the book’s greater “Doctrine of Elements.” It came to me that the subdivision of the “Transcendental Logic” into “Transcendental Analytic” and “Transcendental Dialectic” corresponds respectively to the classic philosophical distinction between general metaphysics (metaphysica generalis) and special metaphysics (metaphysica specialis). There is no doubt in my mind that others have reached this insight before me. Nevertheless, its truth struck me with such force that I feel compelled to publicly elaborate on it, to speak out loud. In all honesty, it dawned upon me in a manner akin to what Kant would have derided as an “intellectual intuition” (though his Idealist successors would not discourage me from this claim).

The pure categories of the understanding, which Kant deduces in the “Transcendental Analytic,” fall under what is traditionally described as general metaphysics. There are twelve categories, which fall under the broader classifications of Quantity (Unity, Multiplicity, Totality), Quality (Reality, Negation, Limit), Relation (Substance/Accidence, Causality, Community), and Modality (Possibility/Impossibility, Existence/Non-existence, Necessity/Contingency). If my memory is correct, these are the categories. Some of the wording might be slightly off. In any case, however, Kant argues that these pure concepts, transcendentally deduced, may be validly applied to objects given to us by the manifold of intuition (via the Transcendental Æsthetic). Determinations which rely upon their proper conceptual application are held to be mathematically (in terms of Quantity and Quality) constitutive and dynamically (in terms of Relation and Modality) regulative, though in the latter case these dynamics are nonetheless empirically constitutive. These, Kant argues, metaphysically ground the legal (i.e., lawful) possibility of any future science.

Conversely, the ideas of reason, which are the subject of the “Transcendental Dialectic,” relate to the three venerable sciences of special metaphysics: 1) psychology/pneumatology, 2) cosmology, and 3) theology. In the second book of the Dialectic, entitled “Dialectical Inferences,” each of the three chapters respectively matches up with these disciplines. The “paralogisms” deal with transcendental psychology, the celebrated “antinomies” deal with transcendental cosmology, and the “ideal” deals with transcendental theology. Since Kant believes that these “sophistic” sciences of speculation transgress the bounds of possible experience (taking them beyond the limits of space and time), he declares that their so-called insights amount to nothing more than illusion. Nevertheless, he reminds us that human reason naturally elicits speculation on these matters, almost ineluctably, and that a rigorously critical attitude must be adopted in order to guard against its seductions.

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