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A Commentary to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason

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Of all the major philosophical works, Kant's Critique of Pure Reason is one of the most rewarding, yet one of the most difficult. Norman Kemp Smith's Commentary elucidates not only textural questions and minor issues, but also the central problems which arise, he contends, from the conflicting tendencies of Kant's own thinking. Kemp Smith's Commentary continues to be in de Of all the major philosophical works, Kant's Critique of Pure Reason is one of the most rewarding, yet one of the most difficult. Norman Kemp Smith's Commentary elucidates not only textural questions and minor issues, but also the central problems which arise, he contends, from the conflicting tendencies of Kant's own thinking. Kemp Smith's Commentary continues to be in demand with Kant scholars, and it is being reissued here with a new introduction by Sebastian Gardner to set it in its contemporary context.


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Of all the major philosophical works, Kant's Critique of Pure Reason is one of the most rewarding, yet one of the most difficult. Norman Kemp Smith's Commentary elucidates not only textural questions and minor issues, but also the central problems which arise, he contends, from the conflicting tendencies of Kant's own thinking. Kemp Smith's Commentary continues to be in de Of all the major philosophical works, Kant's Critique of Pure Reason is one of the most rewarding, yet one of the most difficult. Norman Kemp Smith's Commentary elucidates not only textural questions and minor issues, but also the central problems which arise, he contends, from the conflicting tendencies of Kant's own thinking. Kemp Smith's Commentary continues to be in demand with Kant scholars, and it is being reissued here with a new introduction by Sebastian Gardner to set it in its contemporary context.

30 review for A Commentary to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason

  1. 4 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    Kant is the most pellucid philosopher I have ever read, the only one who not only attempted to construct a comprehensive explanation of everything (Hegel did that as well, certainly), but managed to do so without relying on undefined or fuzzy concepts. Every operant concept employed by Kant is well and clearly defined--partly a consequence of his intellectual rigor, partly of the fact that he virtually had to invent a philosophical German as he went along. Because of this and because of the impo Kant is the most pellucid philosopher I have ever read, the only one who not only attempted to construct a comprehensive explanation of everything (Hegel did that as well, certainly), but managed to do so without relying on undefined or fuzzy concepts. Every operant concept employed by Kant is well and clearly defined--partly a consequence of his intellectual rigor, partly of the fact that he virtually had to invent a philosophical German as he went along. Because of this and because of the importance of the Germans in the intellectual history of the West, Kant basically set the agenda for subsequent work. He is one of the narrow points through which the currents of philosophy pass. One cannot read Kant's major works cold. By "major" I mean primarily the Critique of Reason (epistemological groundwork), the Critique of Practical Reason (ethics) and the Critique of Judgment--the "three Critiques" which elaborate his system. One must know the British empiricists, particularly Hume; Leibnitz (The philosopher in his own academic circle); Aristotle; Rousseau and Newton to understand the intellectual world in which he dwelt. Having finished college and being well along in seminary, I had a pretty thorough background in history and in the western philosophical tradition. I was planning a thesis on the philosophical bases of the thought of C. G. Jung and realized that the core of that study would have to be Kant, Jung having thought of his own work as an application of Kant's transcendental method to psychology. To that point, however, I only knew Kant from his Prolegoumena (which I understood, basically) and Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone (which I thought I understood but looked at differently later). More, much more, was necessary. I had to read at least everything Jung had read and should read a lot more if I were to be able to criticize him. The translation of the First Critique I picked up was the old Saint Martin's Press paperback, translated by N. K. Smith. It was hard going. Resolved not to proceed without comprehending everything, I was sometimes spending an hour on a single page of the text. Then I stumbled upon Smith's Commentary--a book even longer than the one it commented on. Although an expensive hardcover, it was vital, particularly as I had little German. Single pages still took up to an hour, but now I had Smith to help me through it chapter by chapter, page by page, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, word by word. . . . and by the time I'd finished the third Critique, it all seemed clear as day. Thank you, Norman Kemp Smith.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Warren Fournier

    Sometimes we don't give ourselves enough credit. When I was reading Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason" earlier this year, I encountered multiple instances where I felt he was contradicting himself or his use of vocabulary was changing so that my understanding of his meaning was off. I made the assumption that I was just not bright enough or educated enough to fully grasp the genius of this seminal work so often cited as one of the most important books in philosophy. I allowed the reputation of the Sometimes we don't give ourselves enough credit. When I was reading Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason" earlier this year, I encountered multiple instances where I felt he was contradicting himself or his use of vocabulary was changing so that my understanding of his meaning was off. I made the assumption that I was just not bright enough or educated enough to fully grasp the genius of this seminal work so often cited as one of the most important books in philosophy. I allowed the reputation of the book to intimidate me into not using my own critical faculties to the best of my ability. But Norman Kemp Smith's Commentary made me feel a little better. Here, he meticulously evaluates almost every line for inconsistencies, and it turns out that I was right in many ways. Kant was making up a whole new system, and inventing nomenclature as he went along, and sometimes you can see the development of his own thought as he changes what his assumptions are behind the meaning of his words. For example, he was the first to give "transcendental" and "transcendent" different meanings, even though in the writings of medieval philosophers these words were used interchangeably. The translator didn't help matters either. It turns out that when you switch the position of words from the German original into an English sentence, the whole meaning of the phrase changes. What a reader of English may see is not what Kant intended to mean. Therefore, Kemp Smith makes it clear just how unclear Kant's book can be. It is a difficult work not just because of it's new intellectual ground and content, but because Kant and his translators sometimes were careless. However, the author is not here to simply bash Kant's book. His diligent analysis helps the reader of Kant to trace the history and unfolding of his thinking, to understand where to take Kant at face value and where to recognize a contradiction that will be corrected later. His overall advice? When Kant says something in one part of the book, just go with it. He means what he says at the time. When you start to feel confused because it seems he is using terminology differently or contradicting himself, make a note of it and move on. Don't sit there and reread the same sentence over and over thinking you've missed something. It will all come out in the end. Kemp Smith's Commentary really should be read alongside the Critique if you want a really good understanding from your study of Kant's work. It is a true companion piece. The end result is almost twice as long as Kant's original volume, and perhaps one would think that you could simply forgo the Critique altogether and just read the Kemp analysis. But you will quickly see that this is impossible, as the Commentary is not presented as a cohesive standalone narrative, but rather a series of references to various definitions, paragraphs, and sections of the Critique, almost like a separate volume of footnotes. So for students of philosophy, I definitely recommend reading the Commentary simultaneously with the Critique. It will certainly prolong the time and effort into your reading, but it will ultimately save you from being left with an inaccurate or incomplete understanding of the Critique if you go through the heartache of reading it solo. You'll get more value for your study. Don't get me wrong, this book will not simplify Kant in any way for you. If anything, it will take you further down the rabbit hole. You can spend years on just studying the Critique and the Commentary alone. So this is not casual reading, folks. I only recommend this highly if you are willing to take the time to truly appreciate Kant as a great and revolutionary thinker, and to further your exploration of how his contributions to metaphysics have changed the discipline and the world to the present day.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Gary Beauregard Bottomley

    I’ve been reading the The Collected Works of Immanuel Kant and this book was in that collection. I wanted to write a quick review for myself as a note to myself that I’ve read this book. This is probably the single best commentary on Kant’s first critique. The author not only explains what Kant is getting at but he shows the development across time and how his thoughts changed and progressed over the twelve years he took to write his classic. Kant was not the most disciplined of writers and woul I’ve been reading the The Collected Works of Immanuel Kant and this book was in that collection. I wanted to write a quick review for myself as a note to myself that I’ve read this book. This is probably the single best commentary on Kant’s first critique. The author not only explains what Kant is getting at but he shows the development across time and how his thoughts changed and progressed over the twelve years he took to write his classic. Kant was not the most disciplined of writers and would keep sections in that would contradict other sections and so on. That only adds to the satisfaction that the reader will achieve while reading Kant. One can read this book as prep for reading the first critique. I know for me the first time I read the first critique it was mind-numbing and I swore I would never revisit it. I’m glad I have. Kant is not obtuse. He is such an important thinker because he broke the mode of all philosophy that came before him and knows that truth is not out there in a dogmatic sense. Anyhow, that’s for you to discover on your own and this book acts as a great introduction to a great thinker.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Libia Fibilo

    L'idea centrale di questo libro è chiarire e discutere la Critica della Ragion Pura di Kant. Il libro non solo è scritto molto bene, ma contiene dettagli essenziali per non fraintendere la Critica, in particolare la descrizione del processo di scrittura della Critica, il suo contesto. Un libro che non fa divulgazione, ma analisi. È utile leggere genesi editoriale e contesto, così come li descrive il libro, PRIMA di leggere la Critica. Il resto di questo libro va letto dopo avere letto Kant, almeno. L'idea centrale di questo libro è chiarire e discutere la Critica della Ragion Pura di Kant. Il libro non solo è scritto molto bene, ma contiene dettagli essenziali per non fraintendere la Critica, in particolare la descrizione del processo di scrittura della Critica, il suo contesto. Un libro che non fa divulgazione, ma analisi. È utile leggere genesi editoriale e contesto, così come li descrive il libro, PRIMA di leggere la Critica. Il resto di questo libro va letto dopo avere letto Kant, almeno. Meglio se si sono letti Hume (almeno il saggio, ma meglio io trattato) e Leibniz, almeno i Nuovi Saggi. Ottimo libro, un piacere studiarlo. Ulteriore pregio: fu scritto durante la prima guerra mondiale. Lodevole al massimo che abbia persisto, in tempi di violenza, in questo serio lavoro di letteratura critica.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Costy Costantinos

    Immanuel Kant: is one of the most persuasive philosophers in philosophy. His contributions to metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics have had a profound impact on almost every philosophical advance. In theoretical perspectives, such as law or academics, critique is most inspired by Kant's use of the term to mean a reflective assessment of the authenticity and boundaries of philosophical appeals human beings. Kant's moral philosophy is defined “as the capacity of a rational being to ac Immanuel Kant: is one of the most persuasive philosophers in philosophy. His contributions to metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics have had a profound impact on almost every philosophical advance. In theoretical perspectives, such as law or academics, critique is most inspired by Kant's use of the term to mean a reflective assessment of the authenticity and boundaries of philosophical appeals human beings. Kant's moral philosophy is defined “as the capacity of a rational being to act according to principles” (i.e., the hypothesis of laws).

  6. 5 out of 5

    r

    Abandoned about 150 pages in. I used it as an accompaniment to my first reading of the CPR, and I would personally recommend against using it for that purpose. While some parts were definitely helpful (such as the section providing historical/philosophical context), there is a lot of cross-referencing and extensive problematisation, which, legitimate or not, tends to leave one hanging on the details. Moreover, it is difficult to assess the plausibility of Smith's interpretations without having a Abandoned about 150 pages in. I used it as an accompaniment to my first reading of the CPR, and I would personally recommend against using it for that purpose. While some parts were definitely helpful (such as the section providing historical/philosophical context), there is a lot of cross-referencing and extensive problematisation, which, legitimate or not, tends to leave one hanging on the details. Moreover, it is difficult to assess the plausibility of Smith's interpretations without having a tentative understanding of the whole. I am well aware that the text is a commentary, not a reader's guide, so this is of course not a criticism of the book as such.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Noselli

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jeppe von

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tom

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alexander

  11. 4 out of 5

    Franklin Starks

  12. 5 out of 5

    John Moss

  13. 5 out of 5

    Justin Schwartz

  14. 5 out of 5

    whitney

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jon Delmendo

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jack

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brad Thompson

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tyler

  19. 5 out of 5

    Steve

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cory Plikuhn

  21. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Suaverdez

  23. 4 out of 5

    Zenia Di Prose

  24. 5 out of 5

    Corey Sitar

  25. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

  26. 5 out of 5

    Michael Lloyd-Billington

  27. 4 out of 5

    J Penalver

  28. 5 out of 5

    DKL

  29. 5 out of 5

    Maggie

  30. 5 out of 5

    Keith E. Essen

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