Kant; Modern Philosophy; Philosophy of Metaphor; Copernican Revolution
Kant's Copernican Experiment
Kant's Critique of Pure Reason is commonly interpreted through the metaphor of a Copernican Revolution. Due to its interpretive richness, this popular metaphor has overshadowed a distinct metaphor Kant utilized in the B-Preface to describe his work by analogy to Copernicus. In my dissertation I argue, first, that the richness and depth of the Copernican Revolution metaphor is largely the result of historical changes this metaphor would undergo after Kant—specifically the conflation of the Copernican Revolution and the Scientific Revolution. Second, I argue that acknowledging this alongside a close reading of the B-Preface reveals a distinct metaphor invoked by Kant in reference to Copernicus. This new metaphor is that of Kant's Copernican Experiment. It reveals an existential experiment, performed by the reader, upon the principles of human reason itself. In addition to shedding light on the meaning of the text of the B-Preface, and thus Kant's understanding of the unity of the critical project as of 1786, this interpretation offers a new argument structure for the Critique of Pure Reason. Most notably, the argumentative roles of the Transcendental Deduction and the Transcendental Dialectic, specifically the Antinomies, are fundamentally rethought. The Transcendental Deduction is stripped of its supposed role to ground transcendental idealism tout court and reinterpreted as a proof for the possibility of transcendental idealism, that is, the tenability of the experiment's hypothesis that objects conform to cognition. The antinomies of pure reason are reinterpreted as the touchstone for the transformation from transcendental realism to transcendental idealism. This touchstone serves as evidence within Kant's Copernican experiment, rather than as a consequence of the successful defense of transcendental idealism. This means that Kant's critique of metaphysics ought not be interpreted as the result of the unique philosophical project opened up by transcendental philosophy but instead as the essential and irreducible foundation of transcendental philosophy itself.