Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Plato and Kant's Flightless Dove

Yesterday we had Plato's metaphysical suppositions providing Copernicus with the idea of a heliocentric universe; today we have Kant lampooning those very same metaphysical suppositions that lie at the heart of Plato's philosophy by talking of a wishful-thinking dove.

From the introduction of Norman Kemp Smith's translation of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason:
The light dove, cleaving the air in her free flight, and feeling its resistance, might imagine that its flight would still be easier in empty space. It was thus that Plato left the world of the senses, as setting too narrow limits to the understanding, and ventured out beyond it on the wings of the ideas, in the empty space of the pure understanding. He did not observe that with all his efforts he made no advance - meeting no resistance that might, as it were, serve as a support upon which he could take a stand, to which he could apply his powers, and so set his understanding in motion.

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