Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Kant and Aristotle

The traditional viewpoint is that Immanuel Kant is a Platonic and an anti-Aristotelian philosopher. But in Kant and Aristotle: Epistemology, Logic, and Method, Professor of History of Philosophy Marco Sgarbi is reassessing this understanding of Kant.  He argues that Kant was heavily influenced by Aristotelian doctrines and that in his works he has re-elaborated several Aristotelian ideas.

I have not read the complete book as of now—I have only finished the first two chapters (Introduction and Chapter I). Here’s a look at what is there in the two chapters:

In the Introduction Sgarbi says that with his examination of the Critique of Pure Reason he draws the inference that logic, epistemology and methodology are the key disciplines through we can gain an understanding of how and why Kant elaborated his transcendental philosophy. He suggests that the Critique of Pure Reason must be read “not as a treatise on metaphysics or on the theory of knowledge, but as a book on logic and, more specifically, on the “method” of metaphysics, which must be understood within the Aristotelian tradition.”

According to Sgarbi, Kant lived in a philosophical environment which was rich in Aristotelianism. Since the second half of the sixteenth century, Aristotelianism had been growing in Europe through the efforts of scholars in places like Padua.

The Königsberg University, where Kant got educated and later worked as a tutor, saw several philosophical upheavals between the end of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth centuries. From 1715 to 1740, Aristotelianism, Eclecticism, and Wolffianism fought to extend their hegemony on philosophy. During his university years Kant received an eclectic education and he acquired a broad knowledge of diverse logical and metaphysical positions.

Sgarbi reconstructs the conditions at Königsberg which he believes gave rise to Kantian philosophy. He draws from the unpublished documents including lectures, catalogues, academic programs, and the Aristotelian-Scholastic handbooks that were officially adopted at the Königsberg University. He examines about a hundred references that Kant has made of Aristotle and Aristotelian philosophers in his works.

In the section titled Prospectus, Sgarbi clarifies that he is not interested in conducting a extrinsic comparison between Kant and Aristotle, because this, in his view, would be a mere theoretical exercise which may produce misleading results. He says, “I have tried as far as possible to reconstruct all the most important passages illustrating the transmission of ideas from Aristotle to Kant.”

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