The Architectonic Form Of Kant

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The Architectonic Form Of Kant’s Copernican System Essay, Research Paper The Architectonic Form of Kant’s Copernican System Human reason is by nature architectonic. That is to say, it regards all our knowledge as belonging to a possible system. [Kt1:502] 1. The Copernican Turn The previous chapter provided not only concrete evidence that Kant’s System is based on the principle of perspective [II.2-3], but also a general outline of its perspectival structure [II.4]. The task this sets for the interpreter is to establish in greater detail the extent to which the System actually does unfold according to this pattern. This will be undertaken primarily in Parts Two and Three. But before concluding Part One, it will be helpful to examine in more detail the logical structure

of the relationships between the various parts of Kant’s System, and how they fit together to compose what we have called Kant’s ‘Copernican Perspective’. Kant rather boldly compares the contribution made to philosophy by Kt1 with that which Copernicus made to astronomy. Copernicus explained ‘the movements of heavenly bodies’ (i.e., of the planets, stars and sun) by denying ‘that they all revolved round the spectator’ (i.e., the earth), as they indeed appear to do, and suggesting instead that the earth and other planets revolve around the sun while the stars remain at rest. Likewise, Kant attempts to explain our knowledge of objects in general by denying ‘that all our knowledge must conform to objects’, as it indeed appears to do, and suggesting instead

‘that objects must conform to our knowledge’ [Kt1:xvi; cf. Kt65:83]. This metaphor, expressing the difference between appearance and reality in the theories of both Copernicus and Kant, suggests the following two models: (a) Appearance (b) Reality Figure III.1: The Two Aspects of a Copernican Revolution These diagrams can be used to represent Kant’s Copernican revolution simply by replacing ‘earth’ with ’subject’ and ’sun’ with ‘object’, and by stipulating that motion represents the active, determining factor in knowledge, while rest represents the passive factor. As a result, (a) would depict the ordinary person’s (as such, quite legitimate) Empirical Perspective on the world, while (b) would depict the philosopher’s special Transcendental Perspective.

The ‘change in perspective’ [Kt1:xxii] required by the philosopher’s switch from (a) to (b) is the revolutionary ‘touchstone’ of Kant’s entire System [see II.1], for it reveals that ‘we can know a priori of things only what we ourselves put into them’ [xviii]. The philosopher’s primary attention, therefore, is directed away from the objects of knowledge and is focused instead on the subject (i.e., on humanity) and our mental activities. On this point, at least, there is widespread agreement among interpreters. Kant’s Copernican revolution has been said to consist, for example, in claims such as these: human knowledge can only be understood if we hypothesize the activities of the knower [C3:237]; the epistemological conditions for knowing natural entities are

at the same time the ontological conditions for their existence as such [i.e., empirically] [Y2:977]; the universality and necessity of synthetic a priori propositions as established by … critical argumentation are … specifically relativized to the workings of the human intellect [R4:318; cf. 321]; the objects of human knowledge can only be legitimately [described] … if they are ‘considered’ in relation to the human mind and its conceptual scheme.1 Unfortunately, the agreement among Kant-scholars on general matters such as this does not carry over into matters of detailed interpretation or critical evaluation. Indeed, inasmuch as Kant never provides a thorough and consistent explanation of the logical relationships between the many constitutive ‘elements’ in his