An epistemological sensibility?
It was rather by chance that my doctoral work led me to take a long bath in the icy waters of Kant’s critical philosophy, though I suppose there still may have been an elective affinity. I emerged a convinced Kantian, not only epistemologically, but ethically too, and with a sense of the unity of those disparate arms of pure and practical critique. In the first Critique above all, Kant is one of the few truly difficult philosophers, “truly”, that is, in that the difficulty is inherent in the material and not mere obfuscation (nor even really the result of poor exposition, for all the flak Kant takes for his dry style, and flabby though it becomes in translation). The result is that most people who take only a passing interest in such matters (and even many philosophers, who oftentimes can’t see the wood for the trees) have no more understanding of the wider importance of Kant’s Copernican Revolution than they may do of Einstein’s General Theory, so they are probably instinctive Platonists without ever having reflected on it — even though they may well also say they are atheists, materialists, and “believe” in science. Yet although chance alone led me to Kant, and despite my lack of training to judge the nitty-gritty of his arguments, I confidently subscribe to the broad outline of his system, because it seems like the obvious consequence of putting away childish things that something of the kind must be true. Kant himself might well be horrified at so much trust, not to say credulity. But what it makes me wonder is, who should I read next? To put it another way, the arbitrariness inherent in the notion of having an “epistemological sensibility” is only really worrying once it becomes a point of mossy repose. The important thing is the epistemological turn which Kant brought to fruition, the principle that for practical purposes (not in essence, Kant was not an idealist), epistemology precedes ontology, indeed, we may never get to things themselves: we have to live within our metaphysical means, and not speculate. Ethics is then utterly transformed, and everything else that matters. There is no return from Dover Beach