Spring 2023 - PHIL 357 D100

Topics in the History of Philosophy (3)

Critique of Pure Reason

Class Number: 7187

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 9:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    WMC 3510, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    One prior philosophy course (not including PHIL 105, PHIL 110, PHIL 310, PHIL 314, or PHIL 315).



May be repeated for credit.


Selected Topics: Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason

Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason is universally regarded as one of the most significant systematic works in the history of philosophy. First published in 1781 (and significantly revised in 1787), the Critique promises to secure the a priori basis of all genuine philosophical cognition while at the same uncovering and abandoning the dogmatic excesses of rationalism. Kant argues that this can be accomplished only through reason’s self-critique: an examination by reason of reason’s own capacities and their legitimate (and illegitimate) uses. This results in a revolutionary idealist metaphysics, according to which the spatiotemporal natural world we populate consists only of mind-dependent appearances, which themselves ultimately depend upon an underlying fundamental order of non-spatiotemporal “things in themselves.” Reason’s self-critique promises a secure a priori basis for our cognition of the nature of, and laws governing, spatiotemporal appearances, and yet also purports to prove that cognition of things in themselves is entirely beyond the reach of theoretical reason.

This course will be a close reading of the Critique of Pure Reason. We’ll aim to read as much of the book as possible. Early weeks will focus on Kant’s presentation of his own methodology and aims and a detailed discussion of his elusive argument for the ideality of space and time in the Transcendental Aesthetic. We’ll then turn to the Transcendental Analytic, where Kant aims to derive the understanding’s “categories” and establish various items of a priori knowledge that they license. In so doing, we’ll consider Kant’s accounts of substance and causality in detail and we’ll discuss Kant’s refutation of Cartesian skepticism. Finally, we’ll turn to the Transcendental Dialectic and the nature of “transcendental illusion,” upon which Kant blames the significant overreaches of dogmatic rationalism. Specifically, we’ll consider Kant’s claim that transcendental illusion is at root responsible for the mistaken belief that we can achieve genuine theoretical cognition of God, the soul and the cosmos.


  • Two medium-length papers (1500 words minimum): 25% each 50%
  • One long final paper (3000 words minimum) 50%



Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason. Cambridge University Press (ISBN: 9780521657297)

Note 1: It is crucial that students buy the Cambridge edition of the Critique of Pure Reason. Students working with another edition will have a translation that differs significantly from the Cambridge edition and this may lead to significant confusion.

Note 2: Some students may benefit from also purchasing one of the many “guidebooks” to the Critique of Pure Reason that can be read in conjunction with the primary text. I have not ordered one to the bookstore, but they are readily available on the web. Some suggestions:

o Buroker, Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Cambridge. ISBN: 9780521618250

o Guyer, Kant. Routledge. ISBN: 9780415843454

o Pendlebury, Making Sense of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Bloomsbury. ISBN: 9781350254770

o Gardner, Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Kant and the Critique of Pure Reason. ISBN: 9780415119092


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

Thinking of a Philosophy Major or Minor? The Concentration in Law and Philosophy? The Certificate in Ethics? The Philosophy and Methodology of Science Certificate?
Contact the PHIL Advisor at philcomm@sfu.ca   More details on our website: SFU Philosophy

New elective grade policy : P/CR/NC, pilot project in place from Spring 2021 to Summer 2023. List of exclusions for the new policy. Specifically for Philosophy: 

  • Students can use a P or CR to satisfy any requirement for a major, joint major, honours, or minor in Philosophy (with the exception of Honours tutorials).
  • Students can use a P or CR to satisfy any prerequisite requirement for any PHIL course.
  • Students can use a P (but not a CR) to satisfy any requirement for the Ethics Certificate, or the Philosophy and Methodology of Science Certificate.
  • Philosophy Majors and Honours students can use a P (but not a CR) to satisfy any WQB requirement.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html