Does Kantian mental content externalism help metaphysical realists?

Synthese 182 (3):449-473 (2011)
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.
Keywords Externalism  Transcendental idealism  Mental content  Kant  Intuition  Appearance
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-010-9753-z
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John McDowell (1994). Mind and World. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Quassim Cassam (2007). The Possibility of Knowledge. Grazer Philosophische Studien 74 (1):125-141.

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