Kant's phenomena: Extrinsic or relational properties? A reply to Allais

Rae Langton
Cambridge University
Kant’s claim that we are ignorant of things in themselves is a claim that we cannot know ‘the intrinsic nature of things’, or so at least I argued in Kantian Humility.2 I’m delighted to find that Lucy Allais is in broad agreement with this core idea, thinking it represents, at the very least, a part of Kant’s view. She sees some of the advantages of this interpretation. It has significant textual support. It does justice to Kant’s sense that we are missing out on something, in our failure to know things as they are in themselves. And it makes tellable, after all, Kant’s at first sight untellable tale, about the knowable existence of unknowable things: for we can know that things exist, without knowing what their intrinsic properties are. However, Allais is critical of the way I fill out this core idea, and she has an alternative to offer. She thinks Kant’s distinction between things in themselves and phenomena is not a distinction between two kinds of properties, intrinsic and relational. She is critical of my interpretation of causal powers, which I take to be the relevant relational properties: my idea, first, that causal powers are in fact relational properties; second, that causal powers are only contingently associated with intrinsic properties, so that creating substances with intrinsic properties is insufficient for creating causal power; and, third, that intrinsic properties are causally inert. Her criticisms of these three ideas..
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  Philosophy of Mind
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ISBN(s) 0031-8205
DOI 10.1111/j.1933-1592.2006.tb00609.x
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