Kant’s transcendental idealism as empirical realism

Clarke, Lewis (2016) Kant’s transcendental idealism as empirical realism. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This thesis examines Kant’s transcendental idealism. It argues that the key to understanding Kant’s idealism lies in appreciating how it is compatible with Kant’s empirical realism. It suggests against the so-called traditional view that transcendental idealism is not a distinction between illusion and reality, where appearances are how things merely seem to be to us in virtue of the nature of our minds, and where things in themselves are understood to be how things really are. Instead, it argues that transcendental idealism, when charitably interpreted, reveals how minds such as ours can have genuine cognitive access to reality, based on exploring the links between the conditions of experience, in terms of a priori forms of intuition and categories that the cognitive subject supplies to its experience, and the conditions of the possibility of the objects of experience, in terms of the necessary ontological structures that objects of experience must have in order to be representable through human forms of intuition (space and time). The thesis suggests that Kant uses his transcendental distinction between appearances and things in themselves in at least three ways and that unpacking these three uses helps us to get a better grasp on Kant’s idealism. The three senses of the transcendental distinction are: (1) the traditional phenomenalist conception, according to which appearances are ‘mere representations’ and things in themselves are the putatively ‘real’ things, (2) the notion that things in themselves are ‘objects of a pure understanding’ and (3) that appearances are conditioned phenomena while things in themselves are the unconditioned ground of phenomena. The thesis argues that senses (2) and (3) can be combined to yield transcendental idealism as empirical realism, while the arguments and passages that turn on sense (1) must be rejected.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies
Depositing User: Jackie Webb
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2017 15:24
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2019 00:38
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/62313

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