Scepticism and the justification of transcendental idealism

Ratio 8 (1):1-20 (1995)
Abstract
In this paper I explore a justification for transcendental idealism that emerges from the dialogue with philosophical scepticism in which Kant is on and off engaged throughout the Critique of Pure Reason. Many commentators, most prominently Strawson, have claimed that transcend‐ ental idealism is an unfortunate addition to the Critique, one that can profitably be excised in the interests of clarity and coherence. Against this general picture I urge that transcendental idealism is in fact a very natural consequence of some of the central doctrines of the Critical Philosophy. It is in the context of Kant's debate with scepticism that this emerges most clearly. Nonetheless, I argue that Kant's employment of transcendental idealism against the sceptic is seriously compromised by his postulating the existence of unknowable things‐in‐themselves. As long as he maintains that there are unknowable things‐in‐themselves which are responsible for our having the experience that we do have, his position seems to collapse into sceptical idealism. In the final section of the paper I suggest that the only possible escape from this difficulty would be to rule out the possibility of affirming that unknowable things‐in‐themselves exist. I also suggest that an argument to this effect exists in the Critique and that Kant's position would be more consistent had he adhered to it
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