Kant's Conclusions in the Transcendental Aesthetic

Journal of the History of Philosophy (forthcoming)
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In the Transcendental Aesthetic (TA), Kant is typically held to make negative assertations about “things in themselves,” namely that they are not spatial or temporal. These negative assertions stand behind the “neglected alternative” problem for Kant’s transcendental idealism. According to this problem, Kant may be entitled to assert that spatio-temporality is a subjective element of our cognition, but he cannot rule out that it may also be a feature of the objective world. In this paper, I show in a new way how Kant’s view (focusing on his conclusions about space) is not subject to this objection, by showing that he does not make the denial about mind-independent reality that he is typically held to make. The argument develops consequences of a new reading of Kant’s expression “an sich selbst” (‘in itself’; ‘in themselves’). I argue that “an sich selbst” or “per se” has a special, judgment-level role, so that this expression does not form new noun-terms adjectivally. It follows that the conceptual unit of Kant’s “Conclusions” in the TA is simply “things” (Dinge), since “things in themselves” is not a nominal expression; Kant adopts the Wolffian ontological use of “thing” as the basic kind-term for any existent. The arguments that things per se are not in space are arguments that space cannot be a necessary property or relations of things as a kind. I show that this does not involve the positive claim about mind-independent reality that inspires the neglected alternative objection.

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W. Clark Wolf
St. John's College


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