The Revolutionary Kant
A Commentary on the Critique of Pure Reason
There is a major division in the interpretation of Kant, between traditionalists and revolutionaries. Traditionalists see Kant’s work as enmeshed in the prevailing issues of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. They tend to assimilate Kant to his predecessors such as Leibniz, Hume, or Berkeley. Revolutionaries take more seriously Kant’s vehement repudiation of all the earlier empiricist, rationalist, realist, idealist, skeptical, and dogmatic doctrines.
At one time the traditionalist view was dominant, but revolutionary interpretations have found more favor recently. The Revolutionary Kant systematically develops the revolutionary account. At the heart of these disputes is the character of Kant’s idealism. Kant’s doctrine has been influentially described, in a phrase he never used, as ‘the mind making Nature’. Such a slogan makes it easy to assimilate Kant to an extreme idealism, but even if that misunderstanding is avoided, the problem remains of reconciling Kant’s system with his uncompromising realism.
Kant himself was aware of these ambiguities and sought to resolve them, but philosophers have often ignored his clarification or judged it unavailing. The Revolutionary Kant scrutinizes and outlines the whole text of the Critique, to show that Kant has adequate defensive resources, even though they require a transformation in our understanding of his great work.
"Required reading for all serious students of Kant! The Revolutionary Kant is the first full-scale commentary on the Critique of Pure Reason to appear in English since the books of Kemp-Smith and Paton early in the last century. It is also the first work to oppose at every point the ‘traditionalist’ picture of Kant as an idealist philosopher operating within the modern epistemological problematic associated with Descartes and Berkeley."
—Michael Friedman, author of A Parting of the Ways
"Lucid and accessible, Graham Bird’s new book is informed equally by a close reading of the text, a thorough knowledge of the secondary literature, and a genuine appreciation of contemporary philosophical discussion. From this point on, everyone interested in Kant, student and teacher alike, will want to keep The Revolutionary Kant near at hand."
—Gordon G. Brittan, author of Kant’s Theory of Science
"An ambitious book that delivers on its promise. Bird’s The Revolutionary Kant achieves a rare combination of breadth, depth, and sustained critical punch. A must read for all those who do battle with the Critique.
—Paul Abela, author of Kant’s Empirical Realism
Graham Bird is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Manchester and Honorary Professor of the University of Wales. He founded the U.K. Kant Society and is co-founder and co-editor of the journal Kantian Review. He wrote Kant’s Theory of Knowledge (1962), William James (1986), and Philosophical Tasks (1972).