Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Introducing Kant by Christopher Kul-Want
This is the second book I’ve read in the Introducing series, having first read the volume on Jean-Jacques Rousseau, which I found to be well-written, interesting, and helpful. The Introducing series promises succinct, in-a-nutshell overviews of a variety of scholarly topics, combining concise text with graphic art. Upon picking up this volume on Kant, I could tell right away the art was horrible and would offer little help in elucidating the subject matter. However, I purchased the book anyway, solely for its text, based on my experience with the Rousseau volume. Unfortunately, Introducing Kant proved to be a major disappointment.
The reason philosophy is not commonly read by the general public is because it utilizes heavy amounts of field-specific jargon that hinders the understanding of the average uninitiated reader. The reason one buys a volume from the Introducing series is to avoid that very jargon. If difficult terminology is necessary, then it should be clearly defined before being implemented. Apparently Christopher Kul-Want did not get the memo. Though Kant’s philosophical writings are notoriously difficult to understand, Kul-Want seems determined to give the master a run for his money. I pity the students of undergraduate philosophy courses who may be assigned this book as a text. The only portions of the book that are clearly understandable are the brief passages offering historical and biographical details. The examination of Kant’s thought, primarily focused on his three Critiques, is rendered in prose that is largely unintelligible. Kul-Want presupposes a knowledge of theory and a familiarity with philosophical jargon on the part of the reader that is inappropriate for this venue.
I’m not qualified to argue with Kul-Want’s conclusions concerning Kant. Perhaps among his peers this book is considered a revelation. The fault here really lies with the publisher. Shame on Icon Books for including this as part of their Introducing series. The purpose of these books should be to summarize and to simplify. Introducing Kant fails its intended audience. The only readers who will understand this book are those who already have a thorough understanding of its topic. The rest of us, hoping for an education on Kant, are left to scratch our heads.
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