Continent 1 (2):94-101 (2011)

Paul J. Ennis
University College Dublin
In the Kritik der reinen Vernunft (1781) Kant introduced the transcendental method on a precarious footing and he never shied away from the fact that the transcendental method is structured, and I mean it in the most direct sense possible, aporetically. The aporetic element, the unstable core within Kantian thought, is the distinction between phenomenal and noumenal content in the chapter entitled "On the ground of the distinction [Unterscheidung] of all objects [Gegenstände] in general into phenomena and noumena" (Kant A236/B295-A260/B315). This distinction is noteworthy for introducing into the philosophical tradition the notion of the thing-in-itself [Ding-an-sich]. Depending on your interests this is either the most profound or absurd of ideas in our tradition. I prefer to think of it as the most productive notion in our tradition. We can see its generative function at work almost immediately when it spurred the German idealists into thinking obscenely ingenious thoughts, but the phenomenal-noumenal distinction, hereafter the aporetic distinction, remains an ever-persistent aporia for all continental thinking after Kant. In this article I want to focus on how the aporetic distinction functions in its generative capacity with an emphasis on its ontological rather than epistemological register. Considered as such I claim that it is possible to identify in the aporetic distinction a generative capacity (or logic or function) that is intrinsic to both it and all thought responding to it including, or perhaps especially, the speculative responses.
Keywords speculative realism  continental philosophy
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