How to Solve the Knowability Paradox with Transcendental Epistemology

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Abstract
A novel solution to the knowability paradox is proposed based on Kant’s transcendental epistemology. The ‘paradox’ refers to a simple argument from the moderate claim that all truths are knowable to the extreme claim that all truths are known. It is significant because anti-realists have wanted to maintain knowability but reject omniscience. The core of the proposed solution is to concede realism about epistemic statements while maintaining anti-realism about non-epistemic statements. Transcendental epistemology supports such a view by providing for a sharp distinction between how we come to understand and apply epistemic versus non-epistemic concepts, the former through our capacity for a special kind of reflective self-knowledge Kant calls ‘transcendental apperception’. The proposal is a version of restriction strategy: it solves the paradox by restricting the anti-realist’s knowability principle. Restriction strategies have been a common response to the paradox but previous versions face serious difficulties: either they result in a knowability principle too weak to do the work anti-realists want it to, or they succumb to modified forms of the paradox, or they are ad hoc. It is argued that restricting knowability to non-epistemic statements by conceding realism about epistemic statements avoids all versions of the paradox, leaves enough for the anti-realist attack on classical logic, and, with the help of transcendental epistemology, is principled in a way that remains compatible with a thoroughly anti-realist outlook.
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Archival date: 2018-05-11
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2018-05-11

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