Considered one of the most influential piecesof philosophical work; Kant’s ‘TheCritique of Pure Reason’1setout a critical analysis of the limitation of the intellect. He wanted to find amiddle ground between rationalist thinkers such as Leibniz and Descartes andempiricist such as Hume. Kant set out the agenda of the book as ; ‘acritique of the faculty of reason in general, in respect ofall knowledge after which it may strive independently of allexperience'(Betz,2012,237)2.. Thiswas in reference to the notion that the only knowledge that could be known wasthat which was possible to observe and experience.
Kant held that human beingswere able to know more than they could experience and observe. Some knowledgehe held, was a priori; that existedas independent of experience. This metaphysical knowledge was free from theempirical conditions of a posteriori knowledge;knowable only through analysis.
Theempiricists of Kant’s era rejected the notion of an a priori knowledge in favour of the idea that observations andexperience could unlock the unknown. Kant viewed mathematics as a good exampleof a priori knowledge, in that he didnot need to experience 4 + 4 to knowthe answer was 8.This information was deducible with the utilisation of logicalone. He described this as synthetic apriori knowledge. The empiricist David Humes did not place such import onthe abilities of reason. He argued that reason alone was ‘whollyinactive’, “weak”, “deceitful” and “blundering”, therefore whatever was deduced from it couldnot be trusted 3(Millican,1995).Ratherto Kant all a priori knowledgeattained through reason was essential and universal.
Even more significant thanwhat can only be attained through empiricism. The most important knowledge tohumans should be within himself. He believed that if a piece of knowledge couldnot be conceived by reason; then it was not essential and could not beconsidered as universal. A proposition of this nature is true if it applies inall cases without exceptions; it cannot be falsified and is free ofcontradictions.
This is the foremost condition for ascertaining if it isessential; therefore universal or not. Kant Kant set out to champion theestablishment of a practical philosophy of reason and in doing so he was ableto lay the foundation for his moral philosophy.