Hello. We wanna continue our discussion about Kant’s mistakes. Here you can find five “famous” opinions. But you, what do you think? What was Kant’s main mistake?
Howard Williams: Kant’s main mistake was not to be born a hundred or so years later so that he could take advantage of the developments in social studies, in particular political economy and social anthropology that would have enhanced his attempts to implement his practical philosophy.
In terms of things he might have been able to influence: he might have paid a little more attention to his style of writing in the second and third Critiques and given women a little more credit for intellectual ability and political wisdom than he does. His account of religion also leaves a lot of unresolved difficulties. He dispenses with any kind of empirical notion of a divine being, but what kind of being are we to imagine plays a role in practical philosophy?
Kenneth Westphal: Kant’s main mistake, I believe, can be stated simply, though its demonstration requires careful elaboration: Kant erred in thinking that his most important principles, regarding both cognition and practice, and their justification require Transcendental Idealism. In my new book I argue that: Kant’s arguments for Transcendental Idealism are invalid; they are shown to be invalid by some of Kant’s own key transcendental proofs in the Critique of Pure Reason; Transcendental Idealism cannot provide the justification, e.g., of causal judgments or of practical freedom that Kant claimed it alone could provide; and that Transcendental Idealism is not necessary for justifying either Kant’s key cognitive and practical principles, nor is it necessary for defending the possibility of free moral action. Dispensing with Transcendental Idealism enables us to understand and appreciate Kant’s genuine philosophical achievements.
Eric Watkins: In retrospect, there is much in Kant’s writings that one could take issue with–many contemporary philosophers, whether consciously aware of it or not, are, I take it, doing precisely that. However, to make a mistake is, at least in one important sense, to do something that one should have known is incorrect or improper, and given the difficulty and ambitions of Kant’s project(s), it seems unfair to attribute too much blame for the inevitable missed opportunities.
Andrew Ward: I should like to say, first, what I think is NOT a ‘great mistake’ committed by Kant. His embracing transcendental idealism is not, as so many anglo-american philosophers now think, a serious error. On the contrary.His greatest error, rather, was in supposing that he could defend the possibility of freedom of the will in the face of the thoroughgoing determinism that exists in the spatio/temporal world. Since his defense of free will is (in my view) unsatisfactory, his attempt to replace an empiricist theory of morality with a rationalist one is a failure. What is more, his practical arguments for the existence of God and the immortality of the soul must collapse (since they depend of our possessing free will).
Barry Stroud: Although it cannot be called simply a ‘mistake’, I think what led Kant disastrously astray was his idea that there is such a thing as Reason with its own fixed structure and in which all human beings participate. He thought he was studying and revealing the structure of just such an abstract thing or faculty, and it had a profound effect on how he understood his results. I do not think that assumption is essential to the enterprise of exploring the necessary conditions of the possibility of any human thought and experience or to appreciating the special relation in which human beings would stand to any of the truths shown to have that special status. The deep significance of the fact that we stand in that relation to certain necessary and pervasive features of human life is what is most distinctive of Kant’s philosophy.