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The second chapter seeks to clarify how Kant in the late 1760s and early 1770s came to conceive of the aim and main arguments of what was to become the Critique of Pure Reason. It focuses in particular on Kant’s evolving understanding of the act of critique. The heart of the chapter consists in an analysis of the Inaugural Dissertation. Challenging the prevailing view, the chapter highlights the critical impetus of the treatise by arguing that the specific criterion it employs to curb the ambitions of metaphysics – intellectual purity – is directed against an assumption common to Wolff, Crusius, and early post-Leibnizian philosophy in general. Moreover, it puts into perspective the alleged break between the Dissertation and the Critique by arguing that this early instance of critique is preserved in the Critique of Pure Reason. The chapter argues that Kant in this work introduces a new form of critique by arguing that any a priori cognition of objects necessarily rests on pure intuition.
Posy undertakes to give a precise characterization of the difference between Kant’s critical and precritical philosophy. The need to do this becomes vivid when we notice that many doctrines generally identified with the critical philosophy are already present in Kant’s precritical Inaugural Dissertation (1770). By exposing the Leibnizian roots of Kant’s preoccupation with the metaphysics–mathematics interface, Posy pinpoints the subtle but decisive shift in philosophical standpoint that separates the Critique from the Dissertation.
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