Comprehensive Commentary on Kant's Prolegomena

  • PALMQUIST, Stephen R (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project will produce the first English-language Commentary on Immanuel Kant’s 1783 book, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, including a new, improved translation. The Commentary will scrutinize the Prolegomena’s German text, place its arguments within the context of Kant’s overall philosophical system, and provide a translation that accurately reflects distinctions Kant makes that are not reflected in most English translations of Kant’s writings.

Kant wrote the Prolegomena in response to misunderstandings of his 1781 magnum opus, Critique of Pure Reason. He intended it as a simpler explanation of the positions of the larger work. Although Kant claimed to be defending the same conclusions, many interpreters have argued that the Prolegomena marks certain changes in his views. Countless commentaries and studies have been written on the Critique, and on Kant’s various moral writings (especially his Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals and Critique of Practical Reason); yet interpreters rarely examine his Prolegomena in its own right, apart from its relation to the Critique and how it supports claims about Kant’s intellectual development. Given the many complex debates over the proper understanding of Kant’s theoretical philosophy, a close textual study of the Prolegomena is long overdue.

The translation will thoroughly revise an older English translation (now in the public domain), with footnotes comparing the new translation to the three translations that are most often used today. Careful attention will be given to preserving distinctions Kant makes that are often conflated in English, such as between “Ding” and “Sache” (both typically translated as “thing”) and between “Object” and “Gegenstand” (both typically translated as “object”). To know what Kant actually wrote, readers of most current translations must consult the German. This project’s new translation will remedy this situation for these and numerous other terminological complexities.

The Commentary that accompanies the translation will highlight and seek to clarify numerous debates that are relevant to the Prolegomena’s text. For example, many of Kant’s clearest statements on the relationship between philosophy and mathematics come in the Prolegomena. Thus, he distinguishes the method of philosophy from the method of mathematics: the former is synthetic; the latter, analytic. However, he also says the Prolegomena itself uses an analytic method. How is this different from mathematical analyticity? These passages have been studied in relation to the Critique; but this Commentary will be the first English book to examine them in relation to the whole text of the Prolegomena itself.
Effective start/end date1/01/1830/06/21


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