Which companion, or guide, would you recommend to someone trying to read and understand the original work, The Critique of Pure Reason? Why?

I'm inclined towards these two, The Cambridge Companion to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason and A Kant Dictionary, after reading through all the comments there.

[Where I stand, presently]

  • have read most of Socratic dialogues, and enjoyed those quite a lot
  • have a reasonable understanding of Hume and Kierkegaard
  • able to read Thus Spoke Zarathustra, with adequate understanding -- using online help here and there
  • completed some online courses, Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy, and Introduction to Philosophy
  • completed an online course, Introduction to Logic -- could't retain all of those formal structure of expressions; but still able to understand by looking back to those again and again
  • have, partially, read Aristotle's Analytics; wasn't having a very tough time while reading that, but still remember, didn't find that a light read too
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    Without any hints to where you stand and what you already read it will be hard to find at least a semi-objective answer.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Aug 9, 2016 at 13:27
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    @PhilipKlöcking I vote to reopen. Aug 10, 2016 at 22:06
  • 2
    Philosophers should be more open and helpful to the people, who are interested in philosophy, in order to make this world a better place. Don't you think? Aug 11, 2016 at 3:31
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    @phillip Klocking: hints have been provided. I've voted to reopen. Aug 11, 2016 at 7:31
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    This introduction to pure reason by Sebastian Gardner is good: books.google.co.il/…
    – nir
    Aug 12, 2016 at 9:11

4 Answers 4


Norman Kemp Smith's Commentary to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason is absolutely brilliant. Find this commentary on Project Gutenberg; and here is the PDF version.

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    I would rather recommend Cambridge's because it is based on a newer, more truthful translation and includes more contemporary interpretations. There's happened quite much in research on Kant wihin the last 40 years, you know. Routledge would be another one. Allison has written very insightful on parts of the book. And so on.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Aug 9, 2016 at 13:38
  • That is a fair enough observation, but as a first commentary I found Kemp Smith's to be unparallelled in clarity. It is still my go-to today, even though I have various other (newer) ones. Aug 9, 2016 at 13:54
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    ... and thanks a lot for introducing Wordery. Aug 12, 2016 at 6:42

I recommend you write to Professor John R. Searle of UC Berkeley and request his summary of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason.

There are two distinctions in this Preface that are fundamental for everything that follows. One is the distinction between things in themselves and appearances and the second is the distinction between those parts of the contents of the mind that he calls "sensible intuitions" by which he means perception, and those parts which he calls "concepts" by which he means the apparatus necessary for thinking. The distinction in short, is between perceptual intuition and understanding. There is also a passage which is ominous and decisive. It is on page 22 and there he refers to "objects, or what is the same thing,... the experience in which alone, as given objects, they can be known". That is to say, that like Hume, he equates objects and experience. [That is the fundamental disaster from which everything follows.]

  • Anyone know how to get in tough with John Searle to ask for his summary of the Critique of Pure Reason? The email addresses I found didn't work.
    – Tom Ho
    May 20, 2020 at 3:21
  • @Tom Ho he’s been defrocked from the UC
    – MmmHmm
    May 21, 2020 at 4:37
  • @TomHo here ya go: icloud.com/iclouddrive/…
    – MmmHmm
    Oct 25, 2022 at 18:41

Complementary to those books, I found a series of lecture on Kant's CPR on YouTube by Robert Paul Wolff, and another series of lecture by Dan Robinson. Both are very helpful, indeed.


Peter Strawson, a wise and lucid writer, devoted much of his distinguished career to Kant, including "The Bounds of Sense: An Essay on Kant's Critique of Pure Reason"

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    This does not really answer the question for a companion or guide, nor does it explain why you would recommend this.
    – user2953
    Dec 20, 2016 at 18:31
  • And the link is broken.
    – RodolfoAP
    Mar 18, 2021 at 15:50

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