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Kant’s Epistemology

What was Kant�s new way of understanding the relation of the objects of knowledge to the
mind? Why does he compare his epistemology to the Copernican revolution? How is his view both similar
to and different from rationalism on the one hand and empiricism on the other? Be sure to include in your
response a defintion of epistemology and at least a brief explanation of rationalism and empiricism. For
our purposes, “explain” means to state the theory and to describe the important features of the theory in a
manner that an intelligent but uninformed reader would understand. For our purposes, “evaluate” means
(1) to determine whether or not the theory rests on a sound or cogent argument, and to (2) determine the
overall plausibility of the theory or strategy. In this context, “plausibility” refers to the strengths and

weaknesses of the theory or strategy).

Kant’s Epistemology

Emanuel Kant, who was born in 22 April 1724, and died in 12 February 1804, was
a renowned German philosopher from Königsberg in Prussia (today, Kaliningrad, Russia) who
researched, lectured, and wrote on philosophy and anthropology during
the Enlightenment towards the last periods of 18 th century (James and Stuart 322)
In the history of western philosophy, Immanuel Kant is recognized as a very influential
philosopher, with his contributions to epistemology, metaphysics, aesthetics and metaphysics,
impacting virtually all the philosophical movements that came after him. The bulk of his work
actually tries to address the question, “What can we know?”, whose answer, if presented in the
simplest manner, is that the knowledge of human beings is constrained to the science of the
natural, empirical world, and mathematics. According to his argument, the main reason as to why
the limitations present themselves in the ways of knowledge is because the human mind plays a
very critical role in constitution of the features gained from experience, hence, the mind’s access
is usually only limited to the empirical realm of time and space (Edmund 122).
In CPR, the mind is discussed by Kant mainly in connection with his major projects,
rather than in its own right, as such, rendering the effort quite scattered and sketchy. He puts
forward seven major discussions with respect to the mind in both the two editions of the CPR:
Transcendental Aesthetic and Metaphysics Deduction. His discussions of the mind and its
relation to the objects of knowledge may be presented in two key stages, as outlined below.
Transcendental Aesthetic
In this stage, his argument is on what space and time should really be like, and the
manner in which we as humans should handle them in case our minds are really to have the
temporal properties and necessary conditions that it has. To him, the conditions of experienced
are very necessary to help understand the ways in which the mind relates to the surrounding.
The Critique of Pure Reason, which is Kant’s major work, was aimed at uniting reason
with experience so that he could transcend the obvious failures of metaphysics and ancient
philosophy. He hoped to end an age of speculation where objects outside experience were used
to support what he saw as futile theories, while opposing the negative and discouraging thoughts
of Berkeley and Hume. As regards this, he stated that everything that exists, which circumvents
the universality of humans, should only be believed through utmost faith, and anyone who
objects to that common ideology should be shunned (James and Stuart 367).
Kant proposed a “Copernican Revolution-in-reverse”, saying that although it has been
widely assumed that human cognition must be in tandem with certain objects, we must try to
continue with the study and practice of metaphysics unabated, by forfeiting the conformance
between humans and objects (Jürgen 412).

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Kant, in relation to this, argues that it possible to have “synthetic a priori knowledge” –
the categories are not known through experience but they are nevertheless not analytically true.
In fact, we need some experiences before we can even know that we have these categories, but
the categories must be innate. The categories include: Categories of quantity, encompassing
plurality, unity, and totality; Categories of quality, such as negation, reality, and limitation;
Categories of relation, with such aspects as causality/ dependence, substance/ accident, and
community/ interaction.
One way Kant argues for the necessity of categories is in his discussion of causality.
Remember, Hume argues that we have no sense of impression, which could correspond to our
idea of causation. Well, Kant agrees, but whereas Hume says that this is a confused idea, which
we should ditch, Kant argues that causation is one of the essential a priori categories that make
our experiences possible.

Kant explains that sometimes the order in which our experiences occur is significant and
sometimes it is not. For example, I might enter my house from the front door and have a series of
perceptions, e.g. bathroom followed by (as I walk down the hall) lounge followed by kitchen. On
another occasion, I enter through the back door, and perceive kitchen followed by lounge
followed by bathroom. The order of my perceptions does not matter here – my understanding of
the house has not changed, and neither has the house.

In other fields such as ethics, aesthetics, religion, law, history, and astronomy, notable
works of Kant can still be traced. Just to mention a few, the Critique of Practical Reason,
the Critique of Judgment, and the Metaphysics of Morals are among some of his works published
under the above banners (Jonathan 13). The main aim of the renowned philosopher was to solve
the ensuing dispute between rationalist and empirical approaches. As it were, the empirical
approach postulated that virtually all knowledge that humans have is a result of experience,
while rationalist ideology posits that innate ideas and human reason are naturally existing. To
support his point of view, he reiterated that experience is a product of pure reason, and that the
use of reason without integrating the aspect of experience is completely delusional. These
philosophical viewpoints formed the basis of Kant’s arguments.
Owing to the practicality and renowned nature of Kant’s philosophies, many German
thinkers were influenced. The great philosopher succeeded in creating a new paradigm in the
world of philosophers, by adopting a discussion that transcended the friction between empirical
and rationalist approaches (Edmund 123). As regards the argument on the plausibility of the
theory, it can be argued that Kant’s philosophy is valid, as it is based on reliable arguments and
viewpoints. Though various critics have addressed multiple issues with the theory of Emmanuel

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Kant, it remains a n undisputed fact that its strengths outweigh its weaknesses, thus, qualifying it
as a perfectly plausible argument. Perhaps, this is the reason why his work has remained
monumental in the field of philosophy, and continues to inspire many a people.

Works Cited

Edmund, Gettier. Is Justified True Belief Knowledge? Analysis 23. P.121-123. 1963. Print.
James and Stuart, Rachel. The Elements of Moral Philosophy. New York. 2010. Print.
Jürgen, Habermas. Knowledge and Human Interest. Polity Press, Basil Blackwell, Oxford. 1987.
Jonathan, Dancy. Introduction to Contemporary Epistemology. Blackwell Publishers, UK. 2001.

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