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Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 697

Man must be disciplined, for he is by nature raw and wild.

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This quote embodies the spirit of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and its concern with bringing order and clarity to the debate on metaphysics.

To know what questions may reasonably be asked is already a great and necessary proof of sagacity and insight. For if a question is absurd in itself and calls for unnecessary answers, it not only brings disgrace to the person raising it, but may prompt an incautious listener to give absurd answers, thus presenting, as the ancients said, the laughable spectacle of one person milking a he-goat, and another holding the sieve underneath.

Kant’s desire for a firm and dependable basis for his observations is here evident. Critique of Pure Reason is, above all else, concerned with how things are known, what knowledge is, and how it is to be pursued. Posing metaphysical questions without understanding these truths was, for Kant, likely to lead to confusion, both for the questioner and for the respondent.

That all our knowledge begins with experience there can be no doubt. For how should the faculty of knowledge be called into activity, if not by objects which affect our senses and which, on the one hand, produce representations by themselves or on the other, rouse the activity of our understanding to compare, connect, or separate them and thus to convert the raw material of our sensible impressions into knowledge of objects, which we call experience? But though all our knowledge begins with experience, is does not follow that it all arises from experience. For it is quite possible that even our empirical knowledge is a compound of that which we perceive through impressions, and of that which our own faculty of knowledge (incited by sense impressions) supplies.

Here, Kant illustrates the first of the two key distinctions discussed in Critique of Pure Reason between a priori knowledge—that which is known without the need for empirical verification—and a posteriori knowledge—that which is known only after such verification. Kant takes the middle ground between the rationalist position, upheld by philosophers (such as Descartes) who saw a priori reason as the key to understanding all things, and the Empiricist position, upheld by philosophers (such as David Hume) who saw empirical experiment as essential for knowing anything. Kant argues that while knowledge is always a product of “experience,” experience is a combination of what we experience with the senses and how this data is interpreted and filtered by our a priori reason.

If I say: “All bodies are extended,” then this is an analytic judgment. For I do not need to go outside the concept that I combine with the word...

(The entire section contains 697 words.)

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