Realizing its importance in intellectual history, I am considering an intense study of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. However, I wonder what the current status of the text is?

To clarify: has it survived the scrutiny of philosophers since its publication in 1781, or are there (generally agreed) major flaws in the text that have been identified that seriously undermine the theses of the book?

4 Answers 4


To answer your question: Yes, it has "survived the scrutiny of philosophers" over the ages since it was published, even though there are some sections which almost certainly do contain logical errors, or he comes to a conclusion which he shouldn't otherwise have been able to reach. However, in many of the instances where a particular critic will identify a short-coming with Kant's reasoning, about half the time someone will point out that such an interpretation of the text is false, and "what Kant really says" is actually correct. Stated more simply, because Kant is no longer with us and his writing is fairly obtuse, even today it's not always clear whether some arguments regarding Kant's work are actually arguments against what Kant meant vs. arguments against a particular interpretation of what Kant meant. There is no universally agreed upon interpretation of Kant that spans the whole book; each philosopher typically has his or her own views on what Kant is trying to say in some of the more complicated sections.

But yes, the Critique is still widely hailed as an intellectual masterpiece worthy of modern investigation. That said, I'm not sure where you are in your studies of philosophy in general, but the Critique is not really something you can just "jump into" without a least a decent background in philosophy, solid textual abstraction skills, and preferably some insight into the "lingo" of 18th century Germany. Otherwise, you might consider starting with some of his other works for a more lucid and accessible introduction to the same ideas he presents in the Critique.

Also useful—as Michael points out—would be secondary literature which could help highlight the major critiques of the book and help you move past some of the spots notorious for causing great confusion without getting hung up on what might have been merely poor wording on Kant's part.

Whatever you do, I wouldn't try reading the text alone; you'll probably just end up more frustrated and confused than anything else, and it will put off a proper read of Kant which could otherwise be quite illuminating. :)

  • 1
    I would highly recommend 'The Revolutionary Kant', a very detailed commentary on the first Critique which sets it positively in context of various traditional and recent philosophical arguments. (Graham Bird 2006) The author is my erstwhile philosophy professor and leading expert on Kant.
    – adrianos
    Jan 8, 2012 at 15:44
  • Reading the Prolegomena by himself first and The 25 Years of Philosophy by Eckart Förster parallel does help, too. The latter also introduces the criticism of his time.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Jan 14, 2016 at 3:40

Let's back up a bit.

Before committing to undertake "an intense study" of Kant's first Critique, why not read a few basic secondary (or tertiary) texts that would answer, among other things, the kind of question you are asking here?

Pretty much any one-volume History of Philosophy text (or undergraduate philosophy textbook) would give you a nice overview of the various responses to Kant over the past few centuries, and provide you with a good contextual framework with which to ground your "intense study."


Yes and yes.

Certainly many subsequent philosophers have pointed out "major flaws" in the Critique of Pure Reason and in Kant's assumptions generally. Fichte and Hegel disputed his use of the "thing-in-itself," Moore, Russell, and many in the Anglo-American camp brutally repudiated his "outmoded" idealism. Much of modern philosophy would say that his idea of "universal" categories lacks realism, history, evolution, and any sense of cultural relativism. He is sometimes regarded as the very model of overweening Enlightenment values, imposing a static Eurocentric view upon the rest of humanity. Nietzsche, many existentialists, and postmodernists regard his deontic moralism as the epitome of cold, lifeless, duty-bound Protestantism.

Yet this only confirms his centrality. While his layers of idiosyncratic terminology are very frustrating and, one suspects, no longer entirely necessary, he remains of far more than historical interest. He is especially central to discussions of freedom and morality, but his turn to "transcendental critique" also remains methodologically powerful. Among those who might be called "Kantians" of a sort are Wittgenstein, Kuhn, and Rawls, to name only three. Personally, I am also interested in the line of that odd hybrid "Kantian Marxists," from Hilferding to Karatani.

I certainly agree with others that secondary texts are the best approach, while working through the original. I find the Kant, A Very Short Introduction by Roger Scruton to be quite a good start, though obviously limited and debatable. And I think it worth the investment to get A Kant Dictionary by Blackwell. It gives German word origins, assuming you'll be reading in English, and helps guide one through the dense maze of Kantian terms.

Finally, I would argue that one of the great virtues of grappling with Kant and his "transcendental idealism" today is that he provides a complex, nuanced, critical alternative to neuroscience, cognitive studies, AI, and other now-trending, supposedly naturalistic, approaches to human consciousness.


Chomsky's thought has also been compared to Kant.


I find that reading Kant helps me better understand successive philosophers, e.g., Wittgenstein, Quine, Husserl, Heidegger. One can see the Kantian influences even when they disagree with him (Nietzsche) or don't acknowledge him directly. Modern philosophy feels like responses to Kant, and in that sense he's possibly had the biggest lasting impact since Plato and Aristotle.

  • "Footnotes to Kant"
    – Scott Rowe
    Nov 19, 2022 at 18:37

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