Kant, the Paradox of Knowability, and the Meaning of ‘Experience’

Philosophers' Imprint 15 (27):1-19 (2015)
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Abstract

It is often claimed that anti-realism is a form of transcendental idealism or that Kant is an anti-realist. It is also often claimed that anti-realists are committed to some form of knowability principle and that such principles have problematic consequences. It is therefore natural to ask whether Kant is so committed, and if he is, whether this leads him into difficulties. I argue that a standard reading of Kant does indeed have him committed to the claim that all empirical truths are knowable and that this claim entails that there is no empirical truth that is never known. I extend the result to a priori truths and draw some general philosophical lessons from this extension. However, I then propose a re-examination of Kant’s notion of experience according to which he carefully eschews any commitment to empirical knowability. Finally I respond to a remaining problem that stems from a weaker, justified believability principle.

Author's Profile

Andrew Stephenson
University of Southampton

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