No one even vaguely familiar with Kants Grundlegung will expect it to be easily understood at first reading, especially by someone not at home in the cold reaches of the Critical Philosophy. But there are commentaries in print, and good ones. Why yet another? And while translation is obviously needed, why another?
My original purpose, which has never changed, was to provide a commentary on the Grundlegung which (a) required of the reader no philosophical background, (b) provided a basic explanation of the theory contained in the work, but (c) did not stray into more advanced or critical areas. None of the commentaries I could find had all these characteristics: they seemed either too summary, too advanced, too extensive, or too narrowly directed toward establishing a particular interpretation. What was most lacking, it seemed to me, was a complete and fundamental exposition of the Grundlegung that provided the reader with a detailed analysis of Kant’s whole argument—and nothing else. To supply such a commentary seemed in itself a worthwhile goal.
Progressing from one passage to another, I found that much space was being devoted to a modern English paraphrase of the archaic translation I had planned to use. The translation was accurate, yet because it followed more or less the clumsy, complex style natural to Kant, it would be relatively obscure to an English reader raised on a more pragmatic style. Why not, I thought, combine the necessary paraphrase with a new translation, so that Kant would seem to be writing in mid-twentieth century English? In creating such a version, I had to do violence to Kant’s grammar, style, structure, even sentence placement. I broke single paragraphs into two, three, and even four. I replaced extended informal enumerations with more formal listings. Where a word had acquired a traditional English parallel, I used a variety of expressions when precise terminology was not important. In this way, I hoped, the text would become the communicator of Kant’s thought, still requiring explanation, to be sure, but no longer demanding to be decoded. My objective was not puristic authenticity but clarity, not lofty criticism but primary exposition.
My indebtedness to Kantian scholars will be easily detected by them. I have given due acknowledgement whenever I was aware of borrowing an interpretation, but I am sure that I have borrowed more than I am aware. And I cannot deny my frequent reliance on Messrs Abbott, Beck, and Paton, whose translations I often consulted when my own knowledge proved insufficient. Since the text of the translation has been altered in style, paragraphing, and sentence structure, I have included marginal page references to the Prussian Academy edition of Kant’s works, which will allow cross references to other sources. The translation itself is printed in heavier type for easier reference and so that it may be read without commentary, as suggested at the end of Chapter 2.
I was assisted in preparing the final draft by a grant from the Faculty Research Fund of Bradley University; by my colleague, Professor Thomas Satre, who judiciously edited the manuscript; and by the cheerful typing of Miss Becky McDuff. But more than to any others, I must record my gratitude to my wife, Phyllis. Without her much needed encouragement, I might never have completed this work, which I dedicate to her.