<p style="font-weight: bold">Ciceronian Fallibilism in Kant's Critique of Pure Reason: A Rhetorical Theory of Justification of Belief in the Modern Critique of Metaphysics Open Access

Gonzalez, Catalina (2008)

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Abstract

The main thesis of this work is that Kant's critique of metaphysics in the Critique of Pure Reason shows traces of a fallibilistic theory of the justification of belief that originated in the ancient Hellenistic confluence between rhetoric and Academic skepticism. This confluence is best presented in Marcus Tullius Cicero's (106-43 B.C.) epistemological treatise--the Academica.
In his critique of metaphysical claims, Kant retrieves some of the teachings of Cicero's Academic fallibilism. In his "Dialectic of Pure Reason," especially in the section entitled "the Antinomies of Pure Reason," Kant offers a critique of metaphysics that makes use of skeptical strategies but goes beyond the results of skepticism (i.e., Pyrrhonism or Middle Academic skepticism). Kant uses the dialectical method of arguing a thesis and its antithesis in order to show how, given the equal validity of opposing metaphysical claims, reason ought to renounce any pretension of knowledge beyond the sphere of experience. But Kant also recognizes that, even if metaphysical claims can never be counted as knowledge, they may be justifiably held as beliefs for practical reasons. Believing, for example, that the soul is immortal and that God exists are fundamental moral incentives--to withhold them as skepticism recommends is not practically advisable. Kant's distinction between believing something theoretically and believing it practically, i.e., for practical reasons, evokes the fallibilistic attitude concerning belief in Cicero's Academica. In my view, the critical (but not altogether skeptical) attitude that Academic fallibilism recommends finds an important development in this aspect of Kant's thought. Only by retrieving Cicero's fallibilistic attitude was Kant able to situate himself between the extremes of rational dogmatism (Wolffian or Leibnizian) and empiricist skepticism (Berkeleyan and, to some extent, Humean), which seemed to be the only possible philosophical options of his time.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Rhetoric, Fallibilism and The Modern Critique of Metaphysics ...1

Chapter I: From Kant to Cicero: Truthful Eloquence vs. Deceitful Oratory ...10

1. Kant and Rhetoric ...13
1.1. Oratory vs. Rhetoric... 14
1.2. The vir bonus dicendi peritus ...18
2. Epistemological Presuppositions of Ciceronian Rhetoric ... 25
2.1. Cicero's interpretation of Plato's Socrates ... 26
2.2. Stoic and Modern Rhetoric ... 29
3. Kant's Intel ectual Relation to Cicero's Works... 32
3.1. Garve's translation of De Of ici s and its impact on Kant's Groundwork... 34

Chapter II: Cicero's Rhetorical Fallibilism: A Theory of Probability and
Prudential Wisdom ...38
1. Isocrates' Fal ibilistic Anthropology and Aristotle's Rhetoric of Probability ...41
2. Cicero's Academica: a Rhetorical Fal ibilism ...56
2.1. The Cataleptic Presentation as a Criterion of Truth ...57
2.2. From Skepticism to Fal ibilism ...61

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