Not much discussion on music itself. Most of the time is spent on explaining how perceptions of music has changed since the times of Beethoven, especiNot much discussion on music itself. Most of the time is spent on explaining how perceptions of music has changed since the times of Beethoven, especially in terms of the role of the authority figure in music production, delivery and appreciation. The focus is clearly to advance the author’s own views on how music should be perceived. Which would have been fine of a specialized discussion, but not for a supposedly descriptive work that announces itself as an introduction to music in general, and not to some of the charged political discussions inside it. Misleading VSI, this one....more
The Exalted Web of Luminous Thinking: Two Strands to Illustrate the Whole
Rousseau & Kant
To Cassirer, Rousseau was an ebullient and ever-changing The Exalted Web of Luminous Thinking: Two Strands to Illustrate the Whole
Rousseau & Kant
To Cassirer, Rousseau was an ebullient and ever-changing Proteus, who could not be comprehended by anyone who was too near to him. Kant was far enough away to delineate the essence of Rousseau’s thought. And this accident was to have far ranging consequences for the age.
Despite their widely varying temperaments and approaches to philosophy, Cassirer depicts them as united in their ultimate goal — freedom: to identify and then illustrate its true meaning and importance.
Rousseau is the first to identify this noble goal and he proclaimed it with great exuberance and with not a little of incoherence! He had to be the forceful voice that cleared the way of existing ossified thought. This could only be done with a passionate voice and skilled rhetoric that he possessed in great abundance. Tranquil thinking could not have accomplished this thunderous opening of new doors that was the enlightenment.
Cassirer says that Rousseau never learned to speak the language of “clear and distinct ideas’. He never systematized his thoughts or created a system that even made an attempt at avoiding contradictions. Internal constancy of clarity of approach is not to be found in him. Only the energy and excitement associated with the discover of a new realm of thought to be explored.
The task of systematizing this was taken up by the meticulous Kant. In his architectonic construction he created a system that brought clarity, definiteness and structure to these new thoughts, partly by himself but with enough influence of Rousseau. In the process of systematizing this new impulse to freedom, Kant had to call into question the very edifice of reason itself and build it up again from new foundations. Only then, Cassirer tells us, could he do justice to Rousseau prophetic vision!
Kant & Goethe
Apparently, Goethe himself has told us that when he occasionally became involved in conversation about the Kantian philosophy and advanced his own idea of it, the Kantians present would shake their heads!
"It happened more than once that one or another confessed with smiling surprise: it was to be sure an analogue of the Kantian position, but a strange one."
Cassirer shows us how Goethe was influenced by Kant (via Shelling) but always tended to run in a different direction from Kantians in his thought. With his poetic bent, he seemed to be always at a tangent to Kant. Again two widely different personalities, approaches and even fields of actions, and yet Cassirer shows us how they converge back to the idea of freedom to man and passionate opposition of Dogma parading as Reason.
It is a much hazier analogue between Kant and Goethe than with Kant and Rousseau, but Cassirer concedes that more than such an analogue we may not seek in Goethe.
He belonged to no philosophical school,and he swore by the words of no master.
And yet only by seeing how he drew inspiration from Kant can we see how he could be linked to Rousseau, someone perhaps closer to him in spirit, in the luminous web of thoughts that was being woven in that enlightened time. And withe these two links, Cassirer invites us to imagine the unwritten essay connecting Goethe and Rousseau and all he other thinkers whose thoughts sparked off each other and enhanced the luminous web until it was one blinding fire which could illuminate the darkest corners of the mind.
And in Cassirer’s formulation much of that glorious light was sustained by Kant, since he provided the system and structure that could hold it all together. Someone like Rousseau would not have been able to sustain such widely differing speculations to be hung on his intellectual production. Kant provided the strength that would ensure that others could hang their thoughts on him or carry of parts of him and still be sure that the whole edifice would endure. That is how strongly it had been constructed.
These two essays are only examples, just two sample strands — so that we can use them to imagine the rest of the interconnections, and Kant’s real contribution to modern thought, and in the process …
… understand and appreciate how the great artists of the classical period formed in their minds different ideas of Kant. In the essay Winckelmann und sein Jahrhundert, one of the finest characterizations of the eighteenth century, Goethe says that no scholar was able to reject with impunity the great philosophical movement begun by Kant, to oppose it, or to despise it.
This holds not only for the scholars but also for the artists. Very few of them remained wholly untouched by Kantian ideas. But each of them saw Kant in a new and different light and in his own perspective.
Profound philosophical ideas work not only in their own circle. They become sources of intellectual light, which send out their beams in all directions. But what becomes of these beams depends not only on the character of the source of light, but also on the mirror they encounter and by which they are reflected. The manner of this reflection was different for Schiller, for Goethe,for Beethoven. For Schiller the study of the Critique of Pure Reason and the Critique of Aesthetic Judgment was guiding and crucial. Goethe came to Kant by way of Critique of Teleological Judgement; Beethoven was seized and carried away by the Critique of Practical Reason.
They all read the same Kant -- and yet for each of them he was new and different, because he stimulated and made effective in them different productive forces, forces of an intellectual, moral, and artistic character. ...more
I believe that the capacity of an introductory book to impress a reader is directly proportional to the reader’s lack of initial knowledge about the s I believe that the capacity of an introductory book to impress a reader is directly proportional to the reader’s lack of initial knowledge about the subject matter.
That said, I felt this was an impressive piece of scholarship. Wokler comprehensively draws up all the major contributions to the thought of Rousseau in his treatment of Rousseau’s intellectual development against the background of the enlightenment. Much space is given to explaining the associations, and repartees present in his works, thus providing us an unravelling of the differences between the principal antagonists. For a philosopher whose majority of works are in response to others or drawing so heavily on others, an introduction had to draw out all these connections, without getting too imposing in the process. Wokler manages that quite finely and leaves us with a wonderful picture of the intellectual atmosphere in which Rousseau was fermented. One of the best VSIs I have yet read....more
Doesn’t really go into the buddhist philosophy at all. More of a biographical and historical overview and a casual investigation of what might have prDoesn’t really go into the buddhist philosophy at all. More of a biographical and historical overview and a casual investigation of what might have prompted Buddha’s trajectory of thoughts/teachings. And since most of that hagiography is common knowledge, even for a western reader, this was not very useful. Could have been a slightly deeper introduction. This one was way too shallow, most VSIs I have read till now cover much more ground....more
Invitation Complications or Who is the Best Spokesperson for a Religion?
Who can write about a religion best? An insider or an outsider? Obviously it ta Invitation Complications or Who is the Best Spokesperson for a Religion?
Who can write about a religion best? An insider or an outsider? Obviously it takes a lifetime’s learning to understand the religion, just to get a ‘feel’ for it. It might even need a lifetime's ‘practice’, and it could very well be that the first innocent impulses can only be absorbed at a very young age — like a language, a religion is also a mode of expression.
Then surely the insider is the one best placed to introduce others to this sacred mystery?
Rahula has tried in this little book to address himself to the general reader interested in knowing what the Buddha ‘actually’ taught. This is done by adhering to a faithful and accurate presentation of the actual words used by the Buddha as they are to be found in the original Pali texts of the Tipitaka, universally accepted by scholars as the earliest extant records of the teachings of the Buddha. Almost all the material Rahula commands so effortlessly are taken directly from these originals. That way it must be admitted that only a scholar of his stature could have brought us so close to the original teachings.
However, Rahula’s book comes off as slightly evangelizing and despite all the cool wisdom as occasionally irritating in its complete confidence and conviction that Buddhism is the best in the world
A non-evangelical introduction/invitation should only be an invitation to come visit and appreciate the ancient house, not to come and reside. In that case, the real purpose of such a book would have to be to show the relevance of one religion to another, to the modern world and to show how its philosophy can make a difference to the visitor’s life even if he exits the next day not entirely convinced of the package deal. He/She should still be able to carry something away. What that something is has to be judged by the author. That is the only question in such an introductory/welcoming sermon. The rest can be kept for later, if the guest decides to stay awhile.
Now to return to our problem. Can an insider do this? After all, the insider is as much an alien to other religions as the visitor is to his own. So how can he write for the visitor? How can he inhabit his viewpoint and judge what would suit him best? Could it be that the one best placed to understand the house is not so well suited to understand the visitor?
So a Christian reader would need a christian author to interpret Buddhism for him? A 21st century reader would need a 21st century guide? Who else can understand the reader as well?
And in any case, since we are going down this road, who can understand both - the ancient house and the modern visitor?
I think the best compromise would be to allow the welcome sermon to be delivered by a scholar outside the tradition, but steeped in it. One who has stayed in the house long enough to feel at home there.
This is why every age needs to reinterpret its holy texts and greatest works. Every age and culture needs its own representatives to walk into those monuments, spend a while there and then walk out with a welcome sermon, which in turn would be relevant enough to his own culture’s or age’s readers. Only then would they take the trouble to go visit too. And maybe stay awhile....more
For De Bary, the “trouble” with Confucianism has been there from the start — the ideal of liberal and humanist governan The Middle Class To the Rescue
For De Bary, the “trouble” with Confucianism has been there from the start — the ideal of liberal and humanist governance, set against the reality of conservative imperial rule. The root of all these troubles is that Confucianism envisages a sage-king advised by liberal scholars, very close to the structure of a Plato’s Republic, but history shows us that imperial rule can turn authoritarian very easily. Confucianism does not seem to have a way to cope with it. This leads to constant tension between these two tendencies.
He traces this conflict over history to show us why Confucianism has developed a reputation for being both liberal and also extremely conservative. It is the inevitable result when a core liberal humanist teaching that is often appropriated to serve the interests of conservative regimes, and there is no constitutional mechanism to protect the original core of the ideal. This tension between the liberal and the conservative potentials has meant that the tradition has remained, but only by being twisted out of proportion by contending forces, though it seems to be elastic enough to spring back to recognizable forms. More on that Here. But in spite of these “troubles” De Bary remains hopeful that with the right sort of institutional support the liberal core of Confucianism might still one day be able to flower. Presumably once the imperial structure is replaced by the democratic ambitions of a more politically engaged middle class. As always, the salvation of the world rests on the the broad shoulders of the emerging middle class! ...more
Robert Bellah has said that "every religion tries to remake the world in its own image, but is always to some extent remade in The Adaptive Disciples
Robert Bellah has said that "every religion tries to remake the world in its own image, but is always to some extent remade in the image of the world." This is true of most religions, but how they are remade reflects also the extent to which, and the manner in which, they themselves actually try to remake the world.
In this VSI, Gardner takes us through the beginnings of the Confucian movement where we see Confucius transmit an idealized sociopolitical vision from the early Zhou past to a select group of followers, who then keep the light alive even though the Master did not get much popular acclaim in his own day. Then we follow along as the faithful followers and their disciples, over the centuries, elaborate on this vision, some emphasizing one aspect, others another, such as Mencius and Xunzi — sometimes even managing to take a common tradition in entirely opposite directions.
Later we encounter the Neo-Confucian movement, now almost a millennium after the Master’s time, reacting to new developments by interpreting his core ideas from the stand point of new metaphysical concepts (such as qi, li, yin and yang, among others) — converting the original practical vision into a universal vision that is meant to explain the how and why of the original thoughts… and to explain everything else too since they are at it, all with the help of philosophical terms and concepts that would have meant little to Confucius himself.
Gardner maintains a firm focus on this realm of ideas, showing us how the original vision of the Master has been adapted into such a variety of interpretative shapes over the centuries. And this adaptability is the primary reason why confucianism has managed to stay relevant for such an astoundingly long time. It is a religious/philosophical tradition that has managed to continuously adapt and remain relevant over time.
And I would venture that while Confucius himself deserves our respect for creating a philosophy with such an encompassing vision so suited to his people, no small credit is due to the fact that the keepers of the tradition were the very top brass of this wide country -- and it was their capacity for innovation and creative adaption that has allowed the tradition to reinvent itself so elegantly and relevantly every time. They have shown a unique capacity to hold fast to tradition without slipping into a dogmatic slumber that would let modernity pass them by, and even if they did occasionally they have been alert enough to pick up on it and take positive action in defense of their philosophy, shaping its message to address the pressing issues of the day.
If only every religious and philosophical tradition was in such capable hands, we would have fewer dogmatic religions and more enlightened ones. And a less dangerous world....more
There is a secret bond between slowness and memory, between speed and forgetting.
Spoile Leisure for Sale; Pleasure for Sale
The Non-Existent Choice
There is a secret bond between slowness and memory, between speed and forgetting.
Spoiler Alert: (view spoiler)[Though good literature cannot really be spoilt, this review may contain spoilers, especially for the fast, thrill-seeking, plot-loving reader. (hide spoiler)]
An author is reading an old book, while on vacation to the very spot in which that old book is set. He gets an idea of a modern version of the book (or is it merely a review of the book that he is writing? One that morphs into a fan-fiction duplicate of the original?) set in the same quaint chateau, tracing the same enchanted geography of love.
He uses the night to write the initial sketches of his modern version of the old novella of cuckoldery. But the chateau they are spending the vacation in has its own magic. Somehow the loudest events in his nascent novel slips into his wife’s dreams as she lies next to him, as he writes them down, slipping easily from his paper into the void of her sleep, filling it up.
What will happen next?
Of course, the fictional-hero created by the author should know about the source of the inspiration for his comic tale. He should know why he had such a fantastic night of revelry. The two contrasting seekers of pleasure from these vastly different eras have to confront each other. From that confrontation might emerge a truth valuable for the 21st century too.
How to effect that?
Then, just like that, the three realities merge: the historical-fiction, the fiction of the author-reader, and the imitation-fiction — they all blend together, seeping out of the dreams and into the present, with a astonishment so authentic that no fiction would ever have been capable of it. This is a true merging. The 20th century has sped up enough that the concept of memory is gone. Time went with it. No time for dreaming.
In other words: is it possible to live in pleasure and for pleasure and be happy? Can the ideal of hedonism he realized? Does that hope exist? Or at least some feeble gleam of that hope?
The two parallel-lovers have met. One hides his story of a heavenly night of seduction, allowing himself to become the butt of a genial joke but allowing his story to be heroic thus. He savors his life, ambling along. A pedestrian who can reflect on his own life. The other exaggerates the non-night into an orgy, making his story itself a joke. Then he corrects his won story and gets on his fast motorbike to forget himself in a blur of haste. A motorist who has to leave everything behind.
On cue, a song, a poem plays for us:
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
The poem ends; the novella ends. Now consider:
Who is the happier of the two? It should be obvious. The author is pretty sure of the conclusion.
But, wait a minute.
Let us not forget our author-observer himself, rollicking along in his own car? Able to slow down to super-sub-human speeds even as that monster-engine starts. Able to imagine his own version of reality, to create stories worth our time and attention. Surely He is the happy one, our dear Epicurean enthusiast. He thinks he detect happiness in the 18th century chevalier, but we can see a glimpse of happiness in him too, in our observer, who had the capacity to “stand and stare”.
I beg you, friend, be happy. I have the vague sense that on your capacity to be happy hangs our only hope.
Of course, in the reality of the author, romanticized in the review above, it is the wife who is cuckolded. The author is in-liaisons-dangereuses with his own imagination. His slowness is contrived, perhaps? So the answer is premature. No easy medicines for the malaise of a fast life. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Sankara's Advaita Vedanta is perhaps the best known of Indian ‘philosophies.’ It was the first to be exported to and pr The Multifarious Inbred Monster
Sankara's Advaita Vedanta is perhaps the best known of Indian ‘philosophies.’ It was the first to be exported to and propounded in the West, being presented by the Vedantin practitioner Vivekananda at the World Council of Religions in Chicago in 1893 as ‘Hinduism’, and subsequently established in various centres, such as ‘Ramakrishna Missions’, in many Western countries. It has since enjoyed such a high profile worldwide that not only do outsiders often not realize it is only one among many of India's schools of thought but it is also sometimes promoted as ‘the orthodox religio-philosophical tradition of India’ within the subcontinent itself.
This VSI gives a glimpse at the multifarious monster that Indian Philosophy really is. However, in the interest of making it comprehensible is such a short space, it tries to put an organic structure on indian philosophic ‘growth’ — it focuses on the most accessible aspects of the Indian tradition to extrapolate for consideration in the context of Western thought, debating its structure, relative methodological merits and inter-linkages in the process. It emphasizes the ‘context’ of each school so as to demonstrate the factors that led to its ‘branching out’. It also uses loaded terms from the western tradition such as ‘idealism’ and ‘transcendental logic’ to make the general thrust of the various schools intellectually available to the western reader.
As is often the complaint: In order to be taken seriously on the international stage of modern Western philosophy, Indian Philosophy has had to compete only on those terms that are of interest to modern Western philosophers. And, there has also been a tendency to separate philosophy in the sense of rational argument from any context that incorporated more religious issues.
Similarly, works on Indian philosophy adopts a western view on compartmentalization and wants to look at it as ‘philosophy’ — something alien to these schools, since all (well, most) of them would not have made a distinction of religion vs philosophy. It was not a case that Indian philosophy was more ‘mystical’; in fact, indian religious thought was more practical and incorporated the full range of speculations, not allowing theology to move away from philosophy. Whether that was a good thing is, of course, open to debate.
This VSI would not have been able to do an ‘introduction’ in 35,000 words without adopting the format and approach it eventually did. And as long as the reader is made aware that the whole book is an illusion of coherence, then it is fine by me. This is hinted at, but should have been made much clearer:
While the different logical arguments can be extrapolated and removed from the context of the tradition as a whole for intellectual interest and for the purposes of comparison with Western forms of logic, the classical Indian context was one in which there was no such formal separation.
All this is very fine and makes for interesting reading — but the thing is that indian philosophy does not always follow the outgrowth-model that is used to introduce the students of western histories of philosophy, it is more often ingrowths that guide its paths.
The philosophic traditions were quite often self-contained and hermetically sealed from one another, and hence grew almost independent of each other (not all, and not always… this is a gross simplification — a conceit by this reviewer, if you will). So minor differences are enhanced in this process just as small populations of the Galapagos finches develop such distinct beaks by inbreeding and mutual separation.
So to look at ‘Indian Philosophy’ as an organic whole and impose a structure of ‘growth’ and interrelation to the different schools is a retrospective western conceit — useful only for comprehending/seeing the whole picture, but at the cost of reducing the individual philosophies to non-entities, losing their real identity as rich self-contained traditions (inside each of these schools the dominant ideas that give it its identity might have wrestled with contending views before one triumphed temporarily — so to present another view as another 'school' makes no real sense when both schools are fighting the same battles...)
Such an introductory work which focuses on the distinct process of evolution available for study among the Indian traditions is what I would be really excited about. Such a work could go beyond presentation of ideas and attempt a glimpse at how they evolved in a medium that is not too distinct from the hyper-connected world of today (with collective enterprises taking precedence over individual investigations) where ideas bounce off each other, inbreed and mutate at the speed of thought, not waiting with patient discipline for neat out-branchings from previous ideas in any logical order. It is all a-tangle, and it is a lot of fun....more
The Prolegomena is valuable as a summarization that is intended to be less obscure and suited for popular consu Hieroglyphics: A Reluctant Translation
The Prolegomena is valuable as a summarization that is intended to be less obscure and suited for popular consumption. It tries to compress Kant’s criticism of (all) previous work in metaphysics and the theory of knowledge -- first propounded in the Critique of Pure Reason, which provided a comprehensive response to early modern philosophy and a starting point for most subsequent work in philosophy.
A note on the Edition: This is a wonderful edition to approach the Prolegomena with -- meticulous introductory essay and copious notes. Plus it comes with a summary outline of all the sections! A summary of a summary. What more could you want?
Summing up the Beast
As is well known The Critique of Pure Reason is a notoriously difficult work. When first published, the early readers were not very different from modern readers — they found it incomprehensible!
Kant was a poor popularizer of his own work and when it was finally published in the spring of 1781 (with Kant nearing 57), after almost ten years of preparation and work, Kant had expected that the evident originality of the thoughts would attract immediate attention, at least among philosophers. He was… well… to be disappointed — for the first year or two he received from those whom he most expected to give his book a sympathetic hearing only a cool and uncomprehending, if not bewildered, silence.
What else would you expect for such wild intentions:
My intention is to convince all of those who find it worthwhile to occupy themselves with metaphysics that it is unavoidably necessary to suspend their work for the present, to consider all that has happened until now as if it had not happened, and before all else to pose the question: “whether such a thing as metaphysics is even possible at all.”
He had proposed a “Copernican Revolution” in thinking. He should have known that such stuff cannot come without a user manual.
Soon Kant caught on to this, and started having some misgivings about the fact that he was clearly not getting the reception he had expected for his masterpiece:
Kant is known to have written to Herz expressing his discomfort in learning that the eminent philosopher Moses Mendelssohn had “laid my book aside,” since he felt that Mendelssohn was “the most important of all the people who could explain this theory to the world.”
Mendelssohn later wrote to a friend confessing that he did not understand the work, and professing pleasure at learning that, in the opinion of her brother, he would not be “missing much” if he continued not to understand it!
Kant’s colleague in Konigsberg, Johann Schultz, in the preface to his 1784 Exposition of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, mentioned the “nearly universal complaint about the unconquerable obscurity and unintelligibility” of the work, saying that for the largest part of the learned public it was “as if it consisted in nothing but hieroglyphics.”
As a reaction to this lack of public appreciation for such a vital work that was to have "brought about a complete change of thinking," a great deal of Kant's effort during the decade of the 1780s had diverted away from further development of his system and towards the unforeseen task of clarifying the critical foundations of his system of philosophy that he thought he had completed in May 1781. This work took a number of different forms: the publication of a brief defense and attempted popularization of the Critique in 1783 until, finally, Kant came to think that an overview would be of great value to aid the reading public in comprehending the implications of the Critique. The Prolegomena was the result. We can only guess what more productive use could have been made of this period!
It is sometimes obvious in this work that Kant was pained by the need to summarize his great work (and with the necessity of expending valuable time on it). Only someone who has written an elaborate masterpiece would know how difficult it must be to write a summary of it. And Kant lets it slip often enough (one might even think deliberately) that he is not too amused by having to do so:
But although a mere plan that might precede the Critique of Pure Reason would be unintelligible, undependable, and useless, it is by contrast all the more useful if it comes after. For one will thereby be put in the position to survey the whole, to test one by one the main points at issue in this science, and to arrange many things in the exposition better than could be done in the first execution of the work.
Whosoever finds this plan itself, which I send ahead as prolegomena for any future metaphysics, still obscure, may consider that it simply is not necessary for everyone to study metaphysics; and that in such a case one should apply one’s mental gifts to another object.
That whosoever undertakes to judge or indeed to construct a metaphysics must, however, thoroughly satisfy the challenge made here, whether it happens that they accept my solution, or fundamentally reject it and replace it with another – for they cannot dismiss it; and finally, that the much decried obscurity (a familiar cloaking for one’s own indolence or dimwittedness) has its use as well, since everybody, who with respect to all other sciences observes a wary silence, speaks master- fully, and boldly passes judgment in questions of metaphysics, because here to be sure their ignorance does not stand out clearly in relation to the science of others, but in relation to genuine critical principles, which therefore can be praised.
Kant hoped to hit more than one bird with the Prolegomena:
It was meant to offer “preparatory exercises” to the Critique of Pure Reason — not meant to replace the Critique, but as “preparatory exercises” they were intended to be read prior to the longer work. It was also meant to give an overview of that work, in which the structure and plan of the whole work could be more starkly put across — offered “as a general synopsis, with which the work itself could then be compared on occasion”. The Prolegomena are to be taken as a plan, synopsis, and guide for the Critique of Pure Reason.
He also wanted to walk his readers through the major arguments following the “analytic” method of exposition (as opposed to the “synthetic” method of the Critique): a method that starts from some given proposition or body of cognition and seeks principles from which it might be derived, as opposed to a method that first seeks to prove the principles and then to derive other propositions from them (pp. 13, 25–6).
What this means is that Kant realized that most of the readers were dazed by his daring to start the Critique from a scary emptiness of knowledge from which he set out to construct the very foundations on which any possible structure of knowledge can stand, and also the possibility of such a foundation i.e metaphysics. There he proceeds from these first (newly derived) principles of the theory of knowledge to examine the propositions that might be derived from it that are adaptable to a useful metaphysics.
In the Prolegomena, Kant reverses this and takes the propositions (i.e structure) as a given and then seeks to expose the required foundations that are needed to support such a construction. This he feels is less scary for the uninitiated reader.
It is true. The abyss is not so stark when viewed through this approach, and we can ease into our fall!
Kant’s work is easy to summarize (well, not really — but enough work has been put into it that at there least it is easy to get good summaries) but is infinitely rich with potential for the inquisitive reader. This reviewer has no intention of summarizing and thus reducing a method/system to its mere conclusions. And to summarize the method would be to recreate it in full detail! Instead the only advice tendered would be to explore Kant’s work in depth and not rest content with a superficial understanding of only the conclusions. That is precisely what Kant criticizes (in the appendix to the Prolegomena) his reviewers of doing back in the day. We should know better by now....more
Saramago was having some snacks at a restaurant, when he noticed some engravings of an elephant on the walls. He enquired about it and was informed ab Saramago was having some snacks at a restaurant, when he noticed some engravings of an elephant on the walls. He enquired about it and was informed about an elephant, back in the sixteenth century, who had journeyed across the continent and through the peninsula and then passed on into legend. Saramago felt there was material for a story there and set out to investigate a bit about the historical details of this long journey. The result is this book. It was supposed to be a charming little novel.
This reviewer is sorry to report that while this is an interesting example of how good authors can pluck good stories out of thin air, there was nothing here that was of real interest to him, in terms of engaging characters, historical significance or even a good yarn....more