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Idealistic Studies

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published on March 14, 2020

Yi Wu

The Voyage of Human Reason in and beyond Kant's The Critique of Pure Reason

The Copernican Revolution had meant for modern Europe surer navigation, bolder voyages and wilder discoveries. With the declaration of independence of America in 1781 and the publication of The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant in the same year, the age of Enlightenment defined itself as an age of coming of age and of daring to know. This essay tries to draw out the peculiar enlightenment ethos of a youth against youth through Kant’s depiction of the voyage of human reason in the First Critique. It will do so by examining the four-fold sense of objects, the island of truth surrounded by illusion, amphibolic insularity, the mirror of schema and the “No Further!” of the Pillars of Hercules. Interrogating the dual sense of “limit” as both infinitizing, transgressively de-territorializing and yet at the same time self-delimiting, self-critiquingly re-territorializing, this essay argues for a hermeneutic vantage point to comprehend Kant as the unwilling mariner who by way of the transcendental as-if attempted to gain a certain spectatorship, a particular possibility of seeing - at a shore already and increasingly lost to the European and global humanity of centuries to come.

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