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Academic Year: Fall 2016

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Brigitte Sassen

Email: sassenb@mcmaster.ca

Office: University Hall 306

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23475


Office Hours: Wed 2:00 - 3:00 p.m.

Course Objectives:

Lecture: BSB 120 ; Tuesdays 12:30 – 2:20 p.m.

In his course we will study Kant’s theoretical philosophy by reading portions of his first major critical work, the Critique of Pure Reason (1781, 1787).  We will consider both Kant’s epistemology and his metaphysics (as articulated in the Transcendental Analytics of the CPR), as well as his critique of traditional metaphysics to be found in the Transcendental Dialectic.

The course meets twice a week, once for two hours (Tuesday 12:30 - 2:20), once for one hour (Wednesday 12:30 – 1:20). It will be conducted in lecture/seminar format.  The Wednesday class and the first hour on Tuesday will generally be devoted to lectures, the second hour on Tuesday to discussion.  A series of reading questions is available on the course schedule, and in the second hour on Tuesdays, these questions will be discussed along with additional questions students may wish to ask.   Participation in the Tuesday class is verified by way of written answers students give to an assigned question at the beginning of class and is worth 10% of the course grade.  Other requirements include three papers in the course of the term (20% each for a total of 60%), and the final exam (30%) to be written during the exam period.  In addition, students are expected to complete a bibliography.  Bibliographies are not graded, but failure to complete one by the due date will mean a 5% reduction of the final grade.   The papers typically address a question selected from the reading questions posted for a given week and are due on the Friday in the week for which the question was posted.  Students are free to choose when to complete these papers with the following proviso: paper 1 must be submitted by October 7, paper 2 between Oct 21 and 28, and paper 3 between Nov 4 and Nov 18.  All must be submitted to the drop box on the class web site by 11:30 pm on the day a given paper is due.  They must be in either word format, in .rtf, or in .pdf.  Note that the web site checks for plagiarism.  Students may choose to complete more than the required 3 papers.  If they do, the better grade for papers submitted in a given period counts.   Students are not expected to complete a major paper, but they do have to complete a bibliography for such a paper (due Nov. 30).

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

•Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, tr. Norman Kemp Smith.  Palgrave MacMillan, 2007. (CPR)

Method of Assessment:


•3 papers (20% each) 




•final exam



Late submissions will generally not be accepted unless there is a documented reason.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

As above, TBA

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Sep 6-7

Introductory Matters: Kant and his predecessors



Sep 13 -16



Kant’s response to the challenge of early modern thought: the Copernican Revolution


CPR, Prefaces

CPR, A vii-xiv, B vii-xvii



•What sorts of questions does human reason seek to answer but can’t?

•In what sense has reason been dogmatic?

•What is a critique of pure reason?



•At what point has a knowledge project reached the “secure path of a science”?

•What is that path?

•Why has logic been able to become a secure science whereas metaphysics has not been able to do so?

•Î‡What enabled mathematics to reach the desired state?

•At what point did natural science reach that state?

•What is required for Philosophy to become a Science, as conceived by Kant?




Sep 20 - 23


CPR, B 1 – 30


•Where does knowledge begin and where does it arise?

•Explain knowledge that is a priori and a posteriori respectively and provide examples of each. These examples should be your own and not Kant’s.

***What is a priori knowledge that is also pure?  Does this conception of knowledge make sense?

•Explain the distinction between pure and empirical knowledge.

•What is a priori knowledge and why is it so important for Kant?

•Explain analytic and synthetic judgments and provide examples of each.  These should be your own examples, not Kant’s.

•Are there a posteriori analytic judgments?  Why/why not?

•What are judgments of experience?  Explain and provide an example.

***At B 19 Kant claimed that the “proper problem of pure reason is contained in the question: How are a priori synthetic judgments possible?” Explain this claim.  Why is this the problem of pure reason?

•What would a science of metaphysics amount to and how would it be possible


Paper 1 (1)


Submit on avenue by 11:30pm, Sep 23


Address one of the questions marked ***

Sep 27 – Oct 7

The Transcendental Aesthetic

CPR, B33 - 53


*On  B33 – B34 Kant introduced the basic terminology.  Explain what he meant by ‘intuition’, ‘sensibilty’, ‘concepts’, ‘matter’ and ‘from’ of intuition, ‘appearance’.

•On B34-5, we are introduced to pure representations and the ‘pure form of sensible intuition in general’’.   Explain both.

•What is a pure intuition and where do we get it?

•What is the aim of the Transcendental Aesthetic?

•What do outer and inner sense respectively deliver?

***On B38 – 40 Kant presents four numbered paragraphs each of which offers an argument for the nature of space.  Pick one of these paragraphs and detail the argument found there.  Are you convinced?


***On B40 – 41 we find a paragraph entitled ‘The Transcendental Exposition of the Concept of Space’.  What is a transcendental exposition and what does it tell us about space? Is the argument convincing?  Why/why not? 

•On B 42, Kant details two conclusions. What are these conclusions?  Do you think they follow?

***Space is said to be empirically real and transcendentally ideal (B44)Explain.

•Do the arguments re. time differ from those re. space?


Paper 1 (2)


Submit on avenue by 11:30pm,  Sep 30


Address one of the questions about B33 – 40 marked ***




***Paper 1 (3)

final week***


Submit on avenue by 11:30, Oct. 7


Address one of the questions about B 40 - 53 marked ***





Oct 10- 14

Thanksgiving and mid-term recess  


Oct 18 – 21



Metaphysical Deduction

CPR, B74 – 82, B89-106


•What is the understanding responsible for?

•What is the task of general logic?

•In what sense is transcendental logic distinct from general logic?

•What is the task of the Analytic of Concepts?

•In your own words, describe Kant’s conception of concepts.

•In your own words, describe Kant’s conception of judgments.

***There is to be a ‘clue’ to the discovery of the concepts of understanding.  Explain the clue.

***Explain Kant’s notion of synthesis and its significance.


Paper 2 (1)


Submit on avenue by 11:30pm,  Oct 21


Address one of the questions marked ***


Oct 25 - 28

The Transcendental Deduction

CPR, B116 – 143


•What is Kant’s point regarding jurists at the outset of the chapter on the Transcendental Deduction?

•What is a transcendental deduction?

•How can a deduction not be obtained and why not?

•How can subjective conditions of thought have objective validity?

***According to Kant, do objects make representations possible or do representations make objects possible?  Explain.

•What is an object according to the critical philosophy?

•Explain the point Kant makes about Locke and Hume on B 127 – 8.

•What are the categories as Kant explains matter on B 128 - 9?

•Why can the combination of “a manifold in general” (B 129) not be given through the senses?

•What is combination?  Explain.

•On B 131 Kant referred to the ‘I think”.  What is that?

***The transcendental unity if apperception has a centrally important role in the Deduction.  What did Kant have in mind with the notion and how does it serve in the deduction?

•Why is the one consciousness so important to Kant? (B 138)

•In §18 Kant discussed the ‘objective unity of self-consciousness’. How is the objective unity differentiated from a subjective unity?

• The judgment “If I support a body, I feel an impression of weight” is distinguished from the judgment “It, the body, is heavy” (B 142).  What is the difference between these judgments and why is this significant for Kant?

***At the end of §20, Kant claimed that “the manifold in a given intuition is necessarily subject to the categories” (B 143).  Has he satisfactorily established this point?


***Paper 2 (2) final week***


Submit on avenue by 11:30pm, Oct 28


Address one of the questions marked ***


Nov. 1 - 11


CPR, B169 – 75; B 188 – 197; B 218 – 56


•In your own words, explain the subject matter of the Analytic of Principles.

•What are principles?

•What are the tasks of understanding and judgment respectively?

•What is the highest principle of all analytic judgments and why can it function in that role?

***What is the highest principle of all synthetic judgments?

•How can we make the move from the accidental or haphazard order of apprehension to the objective order of experience?

***Can we know anything about the empirical world in an a priori fashion?  Why/why not? If so, how is it possible?


•What does the principle of the permanence of substance apply to?  Explain.

•What is the situation the First Analogy is to address?

•What is the problem the First Analogy is to address?

***How can we be certain that we are experiencing a change in the object and not merely a change in our apprehension?

***What, if any, are the metaphysical implications of the First Analogy?

***According to Locke, substance is one of the illegitimate concepts.  What can Kant say in response?

•How can we know that one thing has caused another?



Paper 3 (1)

Submit on avenue by 11:30pm, Nov 4


Address one of the questions about the introductory chapters to the Principles (B169 – 97) marked ***










Paper 3 (2)

Submit on avenue by 11:30pm, Nov 11


Address one of the questions about the first or second Analogy  (B218 – 56) marked ***





Nov 15 -18

Refutation of Idealism

CPR, B274 – 279


•What is idealism?

•What did Kant think his task of the Refutation was?

•What entitles me to think that I am a permanent being persisting through time?

•How convincing is the argument of the Refutation?

***What does the proof of the Refutation ultimately establish?

***Paper 3 (3) final week***


Submit on avenue by 11:30pm, Nov 18


Address one of the questions marked ***


Nov 22 - 23

Dialectic, 2nd Paralogism  in A

CPR, A 351 – 361


•What so you suppose follows the “Therefore, etc” at A 351

•What is a paralogism?

•Why is the second paralogism the “Achilles of all dialectical inferences in the pure doctrine of the soul”?

•What is the nervus probamdi  of this argument and why is it the nervus probamdi?

•What is the significance of the simple here?

•Is the I of this argument consistent with the I think of the Deduction?



Nov 29 - 30

The Third Antinomy

 CPR, B473 – 479


•What is the proof of the thesis?

•What is the proof of the antithesis?


Nov 30, Bibliography due in class

Dec 6



Other Course Information:

Course evaluations will be done near the end of the term.

Students are encouraged to keep a copy of all submitted work for their own records.

This outline is subject to change given sufficient notice.