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2.0 out of 5 starsGood Lord
Reviewed in the United States on June 7, 2012
My hat is off to you if you can actually bring yourself to read this. It's beyond me. I found it mostly useless, but hey, Kant's one of the greats...right? So I guess maybe I'm the one who's crazy...
The 'Critique of Practical Reason' is the second volume in Immanuel Kant's major Critique project. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) is considered one of the giants of philosophy, of his age or any other. It is largely this book that provides the foundation of this assessment. Whether one loves Kant or hates him (philosophically, that is), one cannot really ignore him; even when one isn't directly dealing with Kantian ideas, chances are great that Kant is made an impact.
Kant was a professor of philosophy in the German city of Konigsberg, where he spent his entire life and career. Kant had a very organised and clockwork life - his habits were so regular that it was considered that the people of Konigsberg could set their clocks by his walks. The same regularity was part of his publication history, until 1770, when Kant had a ten-year hiatus in publishing. This was largely because he was working on this book, the 'Critique of Pure Reason'. He then published this second installment, 'Critique of Practical Reason', seven years later.
Kant as a professor of philosophy was familiar with the Rationalists, such as Descartes, who founded the Enlightenment and in many ways started the phenomenon of modern philosophy. He was also familiar with the Empiricist school (John Locke and David Hume are perhaps the best known names in this), which challenged the rationalist framework. Between Leibniz' monads and Hume's development of Empiricism to its logical (and self-destructive) conclusion, coupled with the Romantic ideals typified by Rousseau, the philosophical edifice of the Enlightenment seemed about to topple.
The foundations of this text (a much briefer one than the first Critique) can be found in the short volume 'Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals'. Whereas 'Groundwork' sets out some short, basic principles, the Critique is a more synthetic text - it takes these principles and combines them with experiences, then presenting them 'as the structure of a peculiar cognitive faculty, in their natural combination.'
According to translator and scholar Lewis White Beck, this second Critique has two functions - it affirms concepts 'without which moral experience would be unintelligible or impossible' while it negates dogmatism and fanaticism that claims unique ultimate insight into metaphysical realities. Kant does make his argument for the existence of the immortal soul and for God in this volume, but these are considered lesser areas of Kant's competence. His discussion of freedom and autonomy, carried forward from his discussion in 'Groundwork', is much more studied and used in today's philosophical circles.