Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Book Review: Kant's Theory of Knowledge

Title: Kant’s Theory of Knowledge

Original Danish title: Kants Erkendelsesteori

Author and Translator: Justus Hartnack

Date: 1967

Publisher (Danish): Gyldendalske Boghandel Copenhagen

Publisher (U.S.): Harcourt Brace & World

ISBN: none

Length: 146 pages

Quote: “In The Critique of Pure Reason Kant attempts, among other things, to establish both the validity of knowledge and the impossibility of metaphysics.”

In Kant’s Theory of Knowledge Hartnack attempts to summarize and comment on Kant’s major works. This book discusses questions like what it means to “know” anything, to distinguish between the properties of a thing (roundness) and the thing itself (a ball) and the concept that allows us to construct definitions of what do and do not qualify as the thing, what “space” and “time” mean, the difference between possibility and actuality…

One would have to have studied Kant in much greater depth than the average person, even the average M.A. in philosophy, has done to evaluate this book. I am therefore unqualified to evaluate this book. I can tell you that it’s possible for someone whose study of Kant consisted of summaries in textbooks to read Hartnack’s book, that I personally find this kind of abstract thought a little less soporific than the average novel; I’m not sure who else might be able to judge how well Hartnack has accomplished what he meant to accomplish, whether his book is a really valuable commentary on Kant’s books or just a philosophical ramble of his own.

My copy of Kant’s Theory of Knowledge was one of a massive collection of books my husband had either bought from university book sales or been sent for review during his brief university teaching career. He was not one of those people who mark up even their favorite books. While I lived with him the collection lived in boxes in the attic. They were souvenirs, not merchandise. Only the selection of his writings my husband had chosen to keep, and an occasional note tucked in between the pages of some of his books, gives me any idea of what the books were souvenirs of. My husband’s majors had been economics and international law, so my best guess is that this one was some sort of souvenir of a required course.

Here’s what philosophy majors are saying about this book on Amazon: "While most interpretive studies of the Critique of Pure Reason are either too scholarly or too superficial to be of practical use to students, Hartnack has achieved a concise comprehensive analysis of the work in a lucid style that communicates the essence of extraordinarily complex arguments in the simplest possible way. An ideal companion to the First Critique, especially for those grappling with the work for the first time." This is still a book you can use if you're assigned to read Kant's work and commentaries for Philosophy 105.

Hartnack no longer needs a dollar so Kant's Theory of Knowledge is not a Fair Trade Book. Regular readers know the drill: $5 per book, $5 per package, $1 per online payment. Browse this site for Fair Trade Books you can add to the package for the same $5 shipping charge, and we'll send 10% of the price for those books to their authors or the charities of the authors' choice.