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Kant Project

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Kant project consists in making explicit the limits of human knowledge in general and this is made explicit in the Transcendental Dialectic section of the Critique of Pure Reason in particular. To make sense of this we have to look at his project as a whole first. Kant distinguishes between two forms of logics, general and transcendental. General logic is concerned with the form of thought in general without any relation of such thought to any object. Whereas transcendental logic is concerned with the formal rules of thinking objects in general. Kant argues that neither the rules given in general and transcendental logic can themselves yield any knowledge of objects.

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The attempt human reason makes to deduce knowledge of objects from general and transcendental logic is termed by Kant “dialectical”. These dialectical attempts are criticized by Kant in the Transcendental Dialectic section of the Critique. Any application of transcendental concepts to things in general and things in themselves is not possible simply because the pure concepts of the understanding can possess knowledge only when applied to the conditions of sensibility (space and time). That is to say, any concepts that to not refer to intuition are empty, this is not to say these concepts arise from experience but rather these pure concepts arise with experience. Even though these pure concepts are not reducible to experience they are nonetheless bound to experience.

Therefore, any attempt to acquire knowledge of objects through pure concepts alone is ruled out by Kant’s transcendental epistemology. Implicit in this is the critique of both the early modern empiricists and rationalists. For example, Leibniz attempted to deduce all knowledge about phenomena through pure concepts alone. While Locke on the other hand extends the conditions of sensibility to all objects. They did not recognize according to Kant that both understanding and sensibility are necessary and irreducible to the other. In the Transcendental Dialectic Kant expands on this. The “logic of illusion” for Kant is driven by reason itself, this demand for knowledge which goes beyond all experience. Kant terms these alleged knowledge “transcendent” distinguishing it from his use of the term transcendental. Kant seeks to expose the illusions of transcendent judgements in the Transcendental Dialectic section.

The problem is not merely that we inappropriately apply concepts beyond their capacity but rather reason in itself contains the demand for going beyond its limits. This demand Kant argues is reasons tendency to take subjective necessity for the unification of thought as objective characteristics of things. By subjective necessity Kant means the demand for a unity of thought or explanation. Kant goes on to expand this is a detailed manner in the rest of the Dialectic section of the citique.

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