When I was an undergraduate at Harvard, in the first years of the 1950’s, Clarence Irving Lewis was the grand old man of the Philosophy Department. In my senior year, 1952-53, the year Lewis retired, he taught three courses, including the legendary course on the First Critique, and I took all three. I thought then, and have thought ever since, that Lewis was the greatest philosopher I ever studied with, greater than Willard Van Orman Quine, greater than Nelson Goodman. Lewis’ Big Book was Analysis of Knowledge and Valuation, published in 1946, and needless to say, I read it cover to cover, but it was Lewis’s Kant course that started me on the path that leads now to my videotaped lectures on the Critique of Pure Reason.
This morning, while taking my morning walk, I began to run over in my mind the lecture I shall be delivering and recording tomorrow. I have reached the deepest and most difficult section of the Critique, the Deduction of the Pure Concepts of Understanding in the First Edition. My copy of the Critique is littered with snippets of orange-colored post-its marking the passages I intend to read out and explicate. I brooded for a while on my walk about one of the most complex elements of Kant’s theory, puzzling over how best to explain it. And then I suddenly realized that the very best way to make sense of it was by invoking Lewis’ theory of “non-terminating judgments.”
“My God,” I said to myself, “the old boy really knew what he was doing!”
It has only taken me sixty-three years to figure out the connection between Lewis’ life-long study of Kant and his own epistemological theory. Better late than never, I suppose. I would like to think he would be pleased that I finally get it.