Reading Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason

MA Liberal Arts 
Semester 1 2019-20, Mondays 5pm-7pm SAB 301, beginning Monday 23rd September


Reading Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason

In our first semester of the new academic year we will be offering a lecture series on Kant’s famous book, the Critique of Pure Reason. The lectures will not be about the book, they will be from it. Our aim is to read the book together, and to learn from sharing the experience of doing so.

We will have in mind that the book announces Kant’s famous ‘Copernican Revolution’ in metaphysics. We will spend our time trying to see if we can understand what this Revolution is. Clearly in 12 weeks we are not going to be able to read every word of the Critique—we will select passages that will best help us. But that is only part of the story. If we can understand his main arguments, then we will see that Kant is making the case for a very special type of philosophical experience.  We will try to have this experience with him, as best we can. And if we can do this, then we might not only understand his revolutionary thinking, we might also be doing this revolutionary thinking for ourselves. What kind of education this is for us might be one of our most interesting questions…

Remember, the lectures are optional, and I’m not expecting anyone to have read anything in advance. No formal work is attached to the sessions. They are for our own enjoyment (!)  However, unlike last year, because the of task that faces us, there will be some material produced in advance to help with the lectures.

The translation we will use is that of Norman Kemp Smith. The original was published by Kant in 1781 and again in 1787, and Kemp Smith’s translation first appeared in 1929. As such, it is freely available to download  from here.  You might prefer to work from a hard copy in the lectures. In which case there are second hand versions cheaply available, or there is a recent reprint from Palgrave with a new Introduction by Howard Caygill.

The new version:

Or there are various older second hand copies available, e.g.

It is also available free as a download from this website:

Some ways of buying:
(second hand from 0.50p here)


Each week we will work from a lecture, and an already-annotated version of the text. I will tell you how to access this when we first meet.

It is obvious, I suppose, that you will get most out of the lecture series by coming each week and making a commitment to the sessions. But these are optional lectures and I am sure that you will find your own rhythms with them.

Because we have little time to spare, we will be starting on Monday of week 1, 23rd September, 2019, in SAB 301. I hope to have e mailed everyone before that to remind them.

Here is the running order of the lectures. Experience tells me that we will not, nor do we have to, neatly finish each lecture each week. We will just work through them, still aiming to finish the 9 lectures across the 12 weeks.


LECTURE 1       Four Beginnings and the Transcendental.

LECTURE 2       Metaphysics

LECTURE 3       Analytic and Synthetic Judgement

LECTURE 4       The Copernican Revolution

LECTURE 5       Transcendental Aesthetic

LECTURE 6       Transcendental Logic

LECTURE 7       Principles of Pure Understanding (and the Tables)

LECTURE 8       The Object

LECTURE 9       Transcendental Dialectic


And if you want to make a start in your own, then look at the suggested reading at the bottom of the page, and perhaps try the following section:

Chapter 1, section 2 of the Transcendental Critique of Method, pp. 593-612.

As you read these pages, bear in mind what Kant says about how easily ‘philosophising’ becomes vacuous with people merely competing for victory in arguments. This is not his vision of philosophy or of philosophising. There is

‘no polemic in the field of pure reason. Both parties beat the air, and wrestle with their own shadows, since they go beyond the limits of nature, where there is nothing they can seize and hold with their dogmatic grasp. Fight as they may, the shadows which they cleave asunder grow together again forthwith, like the heroes in Valhalla, to disport themselves anew in the bloodless contests’ (A 756/B 784, p. 604).

See you all soon,



Lecture Breakdown:

LECTURE 1: Four Beginnings and the Transcendental


Kant, I. (1968) Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith,  London, Macmillan,

A 836/B864; A 838-9/B 866-7; A 156-7/B 195-6; A xix; A 856/B 884; A xii; A 735/B 781; B 2-3

A 296/B 352-3


LECTURE 2: Metaphysics


Kant, I. (1968) Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith,  London, Macmillan,

Preface to the First Edition               A vii – A xii

Preface to the Second Edition         B xiv – B xv

Introduction                                        B 18; B 21 – 24.


LECTURE 3: Analytic and Synthetic Judgement


Kant, I. (1968) Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith,  London, Macmillan,

B 4- 5;   A 3/B 6;   A 77-8/B 103-4;   A 6-7/B 10-11;   B 11-12;   A 8-9/B 13-14;  A 4/B 8; B 21;   B 23-4;   A 11/B 24;


LECTURE 4: The Copernican Revolution


Kant, I. (1968) Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith,  London, Macmillan,

B xliv;   B xiii;  B xv – xvi;   B xvi – xix;   B xix;


LECTURE 5: Transcendental Aesthetic


Kant, I. (1968) Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith,  London, Macmillan,

A 19-20;   A 20/B 34;    A 20-2/B 34-6;   A 26/B 42;   A 39/B 56;   A 42/B 59;   A 44/B 61;


LECTURE 6: Transcendental Logic


Kant, I. (1968) Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith,  London, Macmillan,

A 320/B 376-7;   A 50-1/B 74-6;   B 146;   A 68-9/B 93-4;   A 80-1/B 106-7;   B 131;   A 97;   A 106-8;   A 118-20;   A 123-4;   B 132;   B 133;   B 135;   A 126-8;   B 143;   A 59-62/B 84-6;   A 62-3/B 87-8;   A 76-9/B 102-4;   A 104-5;   A 109;   A 114;   B 164-5.


LECTURE 7: Principles of Pure Understanding (and the Tables)


Kant, I. (1968) Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith,  London, Macmillan,

A 139-40/B 178-9;   A 145/B 184;   A 155/B 194;   B 294.


LECTURE 8: The Object


Kant, I. (1968) Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith,  London, Macmillan,

B xx;   B xxiii;   B xxvi;    A 27-8/B 43-4;   A 30/B 45;   A 42/B 59;   A 43/B 60;   A 44/B 61;   A 68/B 93;   A 109;   A 158/B 197;   A 114;   A 197/B 242;   B 275-6;   B 277;   A 238-9/B 297-8;   B 306-7;   A 253-4/B 309;   B 254-5/B 310-12;   A 258/B 313;   A 276-7/B 332-3;   A 278-9/B 334-5;   A 287/B 343;   A 287/B 344;   A 288-9/B 344-6


LECTURE 9: Transcendental Dialectic


Kant, I. (1968) Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith,  London, Macmillan,

A 838/B 866;   A 295/B 352;   A 396;   A 302/B 359;   A 309/B 365;   A 327-8/B 383-4;   A 332/B 389;   A 335-6/B 392-3;   A 339/B 397;   A 374/B 405;   A 370-2/B 346-7;   A 380;   A 384;   A 406/B 433;   A 409/B 436;   A 474/B 502;   A 483/B 511;   A 485-8/B 513-16;   A 490-4/B 518-22;   A 504-10/B 532-8;   A 530-1/B 558-9;   A 551-2/B 579-80;   A 579-80/B 607-8;   A 582-7/B 610-15;   A 598/B 626;   A 601-2/B 629-30;   A 615-16/B 643-4;   A 621-2/B 649-50;   A 637-9/B 665-7;   A 700-2/B 728-30;   A 670/B 698;   A 697/B 725.


Wider reading? Try:

 Opus postumum ,  Immanuel Kant; Eckart Förster; Michael Rosen; Kant, Immanuel, 1993; Read Forster’s Introduction pp. xxix – xxxviii.

Critique of Judgment (Hackett Classics) by [Kant, Immanuel, Werner S. Pluhar, Mary J. Gregor] Critique of Judgment,  Pluhar’s Introduction pp. xxvii – xxxix


 Prolegomena to any future metaphysics that will be able to come forward as science, with Kant’s letter to Marcus Herz, February 27, 1772,  Immanuel Kant .


 The Bloomsbury Companion to Kant , by Gary Banham; Dennis Schulting; Nigel Hems , 2015,


 Critique of Pure Reason , Read Caygill’s Introduction pp. v -xix.


 The Transcendental Turn, edited by Sebastian Gardner; Matthew Grist , 2015


Image result for A commentary to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, by Norman Kemp Smith A commentary to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, by Norman Kemp Smith


 Kant’s ‘Critique of Pure Reason’: An Introduction, by Jill Vance Buroker, 2006


 Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Kant and the Critique of Pure Reason,  by Sebastian Gardner , 1999


 Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, by Adorno, Theodor W. (Theodor Wiesengrund), 1903-1969, 2001


 Critique of Pure Reason (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant), 1999

This is the most recent translation of the Critique of Pure Reason into English.


 A Kant dictionary, by Howard Caygill, 1995

A wonderful dictionary when it comes to difficult terminology, with a wealth of historical context and philosophical insight. More a reading of Kant than a ‘dictionary’.