Learn more Download now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Learn more Shop Fire Shop Kindle Learn More Shop now Shop now Learn more

on 1 November 2014
The importance of the Critique of Pure Reason is well-established and requires no reviews. It is not a book one is likely to stumble across and think, "this looks interesting", if for no other reason (pure or otherwise) than that a quick dip into the book shows it to be dense and difficult. The key question is: which translation makes this dense and difficult book most clear now I have decided to tackle the most important philosophical thinker since Aristotle? The Cambridge edition (1998) is one of the most up to date and is, perhaps, set to become the standard. But Norman Kemp Smith's translation (1929) is still the standard used for reference, even though this Cambridge version is probably better. There is also the free version of Meiklejohn; venerable and old fashioned and not recommended. Pluhar is widely used in the USA and has its fans. And finally there is the Penguin 2007 translation, by Weigelt based on the Max Muller version, which has an attractive layout and style; to me this seems a more naturally flowing style. Compared to Kemp Smith the Penguin is clearer as the active voice is used more than the passive and key terms are set in bold.

The difference between translations in their use of words is not the only difference. The Critique was published in two editions and it is usual to combine the two and here's the difficulty: each translation orders the paragraphs from the two editions (A and B) in a slightly ways, as it seems to me. So to compare Guyer and Smith Kemp's translations is not so easy as they each choose the sequence of combining the two editions that seems to them most comprehensible. Weigelt uses italics to differentiate the first editions (A) from the second (B). As I wrote in the previous paragraph, the standard is still Kemp Smith, meaning that reference works will refer to his paragraph numbering. Over time the newer Cambridge translation will become the reference point; in the meantime expect to see Kemp Smith's paragraph numbering as usual reference in commentaries. So, although choosing this edition has many attractions, following the text in some commentaries may be problematic. This Cambridge edition has academic weight - it's part of a whole project covering Kant's work - and is the one I reckon is that reflects most up to date academic thinking. Added to that are the recommendations of Guyer's translation by most academics. All that said, Weigelt has had the benefit of reading the Guyer version and no doubt considering what it makes clearer compared to Kemp Smith. Incidentally, he considers Guyer has made some mistakes in translation, and although he is not an academic of the standing of Guyer, there is no doubting his understanding of his subject as demonstrated by his lengthy and insightful introduction.

Students will probably be advised to buy the version their lecturer is using, but for those with the freedom to choose (see what Kant has to say on this topic) then a more modern translation is probably best, and for that Guyer is the most academically respectable; but if you can afford it buy the Penguin as well; it does seem to me to be more readable. At the same time as buying the book you will need a guide. It is quite impossible to understand the book without one, not least because the arguments Kant puts forward address philosophical debates current when he wrote and which will not be apparent.I consider Sebastian Gardner's book to be quite brilliant. Also read the Prolegomena before reading the Critique.

Andrew Stephenson's diagram is very useful in summarising the overall architecture of Kant's book. http://nebula.wsimg.com/72e5f4d1fd8e675801ad578eba2fe8e4?AccessKeyId=A9004B8B795F6CE7B9FA&disposition=0&alloworigin=1

Finally, and not to miss the opportunity for praising Kant, reading this book will give you an insight into quite a remarkable mind as it works its way through some fundamental questions about our experience of reality, or do I mean the appearance of reality? All that said, I do think Kant would have benefited from an editor who could have helped clarify and standardise some of the terms used and reduce some of the repetition. If you are not confused by Kant you are either a genius or you have not been paying sufficient attention. It's a maddening book that requires effort.
11 Comment| 26 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 14 February 2015
The philosopher, Franklin Merrell-Wolff, says that the Critique of Pure Reason is 15 years of thought written down in 5 months. The story goes that Kant was afraid of dying before he could reveal this original insight and so he rushed his masterpiece. So this is why it is very hard, because it is rushed, rather than because it is badly written. Suffice it to say that the top genius' of Germany, from Einstein to Schrodinger, all took this book seriously and many believe that Immanuel Kant was the cleverest man who ever lived.

Sadly, many people can also confuse terribly bad writing with deep philosophy. In fact, Arthur Schopenhauer wrote that because of Kant's hardness, conmen shouldered their way into the philosophy departments and babbled nonsense and people didn't notice because, to the average mind, genius and nonsense are intertwined.

A genius will be outside the range of normal people and so what the genius has to say will seem like nonsense anyway and if we take into account Kant's fear of death leading him to not care about the pleasing nature of prose and style, even though his book is a work of genius, then it is even more tragic that people think that because of Kant's bad style, all bad writers are genius'!

To me, top mathematicians scribble lines on the board. I can't judge if they are just clowning about or if they are writing proper maths. My mind can't begin to make sense of those symbols and squiggles. However, a maths genius can tell the difference. Schopenhauer wrote that it was the same with the philosophy of Kant. The entire neo kantian movement consisted of those like me. Goethe said of Kant's genius that it was like a boat making a clearing in the water but the water closes after the boat passes. Genius leaves no trace.

As an aside, In Brian Magee's autobiography where Magee says that he and Karl Popper admitted to each other that they couldn't understand what Kant was trying to say, I wonder, so what chance have we?
0Comment| 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 24 August 2012
This book is well worth the read but I would strongly recommend that you give it the respect it deserves and not allow yourself to be distracted from it. The subject matter is very hard going and will require a great deal of concentration from the reader. Additionally you will find that there are few convenient stopping points in the text save for the chapters themselves so a great deal of time must be invested in each session. There is a lot of reading before the main text starts, but I would recommend that you read it anyway as it is very useful to prepare you for the main text. In summary, and excellent book well worth reading if a little hard going and time consuming.
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 24 July 2017
Bought this for a friend of mine
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 20 August 2017
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 2 March 2017
no problems
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 20 March 2016
Most read-worthy Prussian Philosopher
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 25 January 2017
Reading and making sense of this will definitely keep your brain working, once read the ideas shine through
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 30 December 2014
Good translation of a must read book
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 14 December 2014
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse

Sponsored Links

  (What is this?)