The Nature of Appearance in Kant’s Transcendentalism: A Semantico-Cognitive Analysis

Kantian Journal 37 (3):41-55 (2018)
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The concept of appearance within the framework of the transcendental distinction between “appearance” and “thing in itself” is the cornerstone of Kant’s transcendental philosophy. However, its conceptual status seems largely uncertain. This uncertainty is the reason for a wide range of interpretations of Kant’s transcendental idealism. A paradigmatic example is the contemporary confrontation between the “two objects” theory and the “two aspects” theory. In this paper, I develop a semantico-cognitive approach to Kant’s transcendentalism in general as well as to his conception of appearance in particular. Its use makes it possible to clarify both the metaphysical and ontological status of appearance. I show that, from the metaphysical point of view, the specificity of appearance is given by the transcendental triad “object (thing in itself) — appearance — representation.” Within this triad, on the one hand, appearance differs from both thing in itself (external to us) and the representation (within us). On the other hand, appearance as an object of empirical intuition mediates the objective thing and its subjective representation. The introduction of the concept of appearance allows Kant to solve the semantic problem of the conformity of the representation to the object. In this case, appearance is not an object, but just a designation of the object (KrV, B 235). Thus, appearance cannot be understood ontologically as a physical object or a relation. At the same time, an appearance is not identical to its representation, since the former is an object or content of the latter. Applying G. Frege’s “semantic triangle” to the analysis of Kant’s concept of appearance, I show that the transcendental object functions as the sense (Sinn) of the appearance and that the empirical thing in itself is its reference (Bedeutung).
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