Transcendental Arguments and Transcendental Idealism


This essay considers attempts to refute scepticism by transcendental argumentation; in particular I explore attempts to refute traditional "Cartesian" scepticism with idealistic transcendental arguments. My main conclusions are: Transcendental arguments are indispensable for a refutation of scepticism, not redundant; Idealistic transcendental arguments cannot refute Cartesian sceptical doubts; Traditional sceptical doubts can be reformulated so as to be effective against accounts of knowledge based on an idealistic theory of truth; It is possible in principle that idealistic ("Kantian") transcendental arguments can refute such idealistic sceptical doubts and also that non-idealistic ("Strawsonian") transcendental arguments can refute non-idealistic doubts; Merely to assume a theory of truth and just to dismiss certain sceptical doubts based on another theory of truth is to beg the question against the sceptic; but all arguments for a particular theory of truth beg the question against radical sceptics; Because radical scepticism must be taken seriously, a complete refutation of scepticism would require constructing both types of transcendental arguments, viz. Kantian idealistic arguments (to refute idealistic doubts) and Strawsonian non-idealistic arguments (to refute non-idealistic, "Cartesian" doubts). I argue that the allure of idealism as a way to refute scepticism is wholly unfounded, viz. because (1) sceptical doubts can be reformulated so as to be effective against idealistic conceptions of knowledge and (2) idealistic arguments cannot refute traditional Cartesian doubts. But although it doesn't lead where many have hoped, I argue that--in a strange way, for different reasons than are commonly supposed--idealism represents a road which must nevertheless be taken if scepticism is to be refuted. That is, though most of the essay attempts to establish that refuting Cartesian scepticism requires that they be separated, it also follows from my argument that transcendental arguments and transcendental idealism must not be kept apart if scepticism is to be fully refuted..



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Andrew Carpenter
University of California, Berkeley (PhD)

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