Kant’s Critique of Mysticism: (1) The Critical Dreams

Stephen R. Palmquist

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    This is a series of two articles examining Kant’s attitude toward mystical experiences and the relation between his interest in these and his interest in constructing a Critical system of metaphysics. “The Critical Dreams” begins by questioning the traditional division between “Critical” (1770 onwards) and “pre-Critical” periods in Kant’s development. After explaining Kant’s Critical method, his 1766 book, Dreams of a Spirit-Seer ... is examined and found to contain all the essential elements of that method. The only key element which is missing is his “Copernican” insight. Although Hume may have played an important role in the early 1760’s in awakening Kant to the importance of his Critical method, this Copernican insight seems to have its roots more in Swedenborg than in Hume. Moreover, [DREAMS] itself should no longer be interpreted as evincing a sceptical or empirical stage in Kant’s development, but can now be seen as setting for Kant the problem which his Critical System was intended to solve. [DREAMS] suggests the two strands of this problem: (1) How is mystical experience possible? and (2) How is metaphysics possible? [DREAMS] offers a Critical answer to the first question, but does not fully develop its implications.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)355-383
    Number of pages29
    JournalPhilosophy and Theology
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 1989


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