As far as I can remember, I have always had a strong desire to study philosophy. Some of the names that brought a peculiar attention to my cognition were the typical names many of you have heard over the years, names such as Plato, Socrates, Nietzsche, Kant, and John Cleese. However, in the years that came to pass since this interest took place, I never bothered to read a single book on philosophy by any of those men. The motivation to do so was an ever present feeling in my sub-conscious, but I never allowed them to take fruit. In some ways, I was afraid of misinterpreting them. In consequence, doubt of my cognitive abilities latched on to those names.
A recent surge in the lecture of philosophical works took possession of my interest around Spring of this very year. A book that compiled the essays of thinkers in the school of Existentialism — aptly titled Basing Writings of Existentialism, opened the doors to more abstract ideas surrounding thousands of years of human observations and deductions around the nature of reality and purpose. About a month ago, my fascination with Nietzsche began to take surge. However, the density and scope of Nietzsche’s work has been well documented in my conscience. Before I was to extensively read the works of the last great thinker of the modern age, I decided that it was best to read the works of other great philosophers.
It was through this decision that I began to read another book, The Great Works of Philosophy, which compiled the manuscripts of other great men across the centuries. The book commenced with the philosophers of Ancient Greece, and takes a quick detour in the mention of two medieval philosophers soon after. Before it reaches the works of Kant, it presented the works of Descartes and Hume, both of which I found to be of affirmative substance. While it is true that the book was merely following the chronological order of the philosophers, it is interesting to observe how at every new presentation there was a clear pattern of development that led to what was far and away the most enigmatic read of the entire book.
The book commences the Kant section with the highest form of respect, proclaiming him to be widely considered by many the greatest philosopher of civilization. It followed this statement by offering a brief summary of Kant’s works and the universal impact he left on the way we perceive and catalog the world.
It should be noted that the work which the book featured was not an abstract on any of his three major publications (all three titled Critique of Pure Reason, Practical Reason, and Judgement), but it is actually a summary of his first Critique. The title of this pamphlet is Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics. He wrote this summary, in fact, as guide to his students and admirers, and was to serve as nothing more than an introduction to his philosophy.
Kant begins this dissertation by referring to the principle notion he wishes to tackle: the rejection of metaphysics as a predominant way to study the world. The rest of the manuscript expands the premise further. It was not meant to be the guiding baton for Kant’s work, but in it, one may find the groundwork for what I imagine to be a very daunting study.
The book made very clear of the complexity of Kant’s work, and how even great thinkers that came after faced difficulties in accepting most of his observations precisely over this very problem. Having experienced first-hand the very same despair when I was reading his manuscript, I take comfort to be sympathizing with the scholars of a different age. Throughout various instances I found myself re-reading certain passages well over two times, an even then the structure of ideas collapsed under the weight of their significance.
Not every instance was an enigma to my perceptions, however. Kant’s views on deities and their infusion of substance-less claims was a refreshing observation to see. Even more fascinating was the interesting formation that he used to nullify the essence of truth when it pertains to metaphysics by showing how both the opposite concepts are considered to be of equal truth without any connection to the validity of its truthfulness. In this way, it was perfectly outlined for the skeptic of his work to take notice and see the evidence he presents to be not of some unconfirmed assertions, but based on the same reality that is presented to the reader. This, among many instances, is what highlights the density of Kant’s work.
Kant continued to relentlessly attack the pre-conceived notions that for centuries have guided philosophical inquiries all the way to the very end of the manuscript. More questions were raised than answered, but as stated earlier, the manuscript was not written to answer them. There are many concepts that remain a mystery to my senses, but I have no doubt that the spark of curiosity will allow me to pursue a better understanding of them, whenever that may be. As it has been the case for many other men that have intrigued me over the years, Kant will remain a subject of study and admiration of a priori proportions.
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