The Bounds of Sense

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The Bounds of Sense: An Essay on Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason
Cover of The Bounds of Sense.jpg
Cover of the first edition
Author Peter Strawson
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Subject Critique of Pure Reason
Published 1966 (Methuen & Co Ltd)
Media type Print (Hardcover and Paperback)
Pages 296 (1975 edition)
ISBN 0-416-83560-0 (paperback)
0-416-29100-7 (paperback)

The Bounds of Sense: An Essay on Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason is a 1966 book about Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason (1781) by Oxford philosopher Peter Strawson, in which Strawson tries to separate what remains valuable in Kant's work from Kant's transcendental idealism, which he rejects. The work has received both praise and criticism from philosophers.


According to Strawson, the book originated in lectures on the Critique of Pure Reason he began giving in 1959 at the University of Oxford.[1]


Strawson provides a critical reading of Kant's text (referring to parts of it as proceeding "by a non sequitur of numbing grossness"),[2] with an emphasis on the analytical argument of the transcendental deduction, which he considers one of the few lasting contributions Kant made to philosophy. His title is a play on a title Kant himself proposed for the Critique of Pure Reason, with "sense" referring both to the mind and the sense faculties, and hence the bounds can be either those of reason or sensation.


The Bounds of Sense has been praised by philosophers Charles Parsons, who writes that Strawson is perhaps the most eloquent of the many commentators who have "read Kant as saying that the mind literally makes the world, along the way imposing spatial and temporal form on it",[3] Roger Scruton, who identifies the book as one of the most important recent commentaries on the Critique of Pure Reason,[4] and Howard Caygill, who calls it a distinguished reading of the Critique of Pure Reason.[5] E. J. Lowe writes that while Strawson's work is widely admired, Strawson is "seen by some as being unduly dismissive of Kant's doctrine of transcendental idealism" and over-optimistic in his "suggestion that many of the central arguments of Kant's critical philosophy can survive the repudiation of that doctrine."[6]

Thomas Baldwin writes that Strawson aims to "extricate what he sees as the profound truths concerning the presuppositions of objective experience and judgment that Kant's transcendental arguments establish from the mysterious metaphysics of Kant's transcendental idealism." Baldwin observes that Strawson's critics have argued that this attempt leads to an unstable position. Transcendental arguments "can tell us only what we must suppose to be the case", meaning that "if Kant's idealism, which restricts such suppositions to things as they appear to us, is abandoned, we can draw conclusions concerning the way the world itself must be only if we add the verificationist thesis that ability to make sense of such suppositions requires ability to verify them."[7]


  • Spanish translation by C. Luis Andre (Madrid: Revista de Occidente, 1975)
  • German translation by E. Lange (Hain, 1981)
  • Italian translation by M. Palumbo (Roma-Bari: Laterza, 1985)
  • Japanese translation, 1987

See also[edit]




  • Baldwin, Thomas (1999). Audi, Robert, ed. The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-63722-8. 
  • Caygill, Howard; Kant, Immanuel (2007). Critique of Pure Reason. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-230-01338-4. 
  • Lowe, E. J. (2005). Honderich, Ted, ed. The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-926479-1. 
  • Parsons, Charles (1998). Guyer, Paul, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Kant. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-36768-9. 
  • Scruton, Roger (2002). A Short History of Modern Philosophy. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-26763-3. 
  • Strawson, Peter (1975). The Bounds of Sense. London: Methuen & Co Ltd. ISBN 0-416-83560-0.