Does Kantian mental content externalism help metaphysical realists?

Synthese 182 (3):449-473 (2011)
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Standard interpretations of Kant’s transcendental idealism take it as a commitment to the view that the objects of cognition are structured or made by conditions imposed by the mind, and therefore to what Van Cleve calls “honest-to-God idealism”. Against this view, many more recent investigations of Kant’s theory of representation and cognitive significance have been able to show that Kant is committed to a certain form of Mental Content Externalism, and therefore to the realist view that the objects involved in experience and empirical knowledge are mind-independent particulars. Some of these recent interpreters have taken this result to demonstrate an internal incompatibility between Kant‘s transcendental idealism and his own model of cognitive content and the environmental conditions of empirical knowledge. Against this suggestion, this article argues that, while Kant’s theory of content is indeed best construed as externalist, an adequately adjusted form of transcendental idealism is not only compatible with this externalism, but in fact supports it. More generally, the article develops the position that mental content externalism cannot force the adoption of metaphysical realism.



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Axel Mueller
Northwestern University

Citations of this work

The Bloomsbury Companion to Kant.Dennis Schulting (ed.) - 2015 - London: Bloomsbury Academic.

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References found in this work

Mind and World.John Henry McDowell - 1994 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Critique of Pure Reason.Immanuel Kant - 1998 - Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Edited by J. M. D. Meiklejohn. Translated by Paul Guyer & Allen W. Wood.
Critique of Pure Reason.I. Kant - 1787/1998 - Philosophy 59 (230):555-557.
Kant's Transcendental Idealism.Henry E. Allison - 1988 - Yale University Press.
Mind and World.John McDowell - 1994 - Philosophical and Phenomenological Research 58 (2):389-394.

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