Realism and the Critical Philosophy

Idealistic Studies 24 (1):21-41 (1994)
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Many commentators on Kant’s views on idealism, such as Kemp-Smith [1918], Strawson [1966] and, more recently, Guyer [1983 and 1987], begin by offering two choices. Either objects in space are nothing in themselves, or they exist independently of all knowers and all thought. After a fleeting, adolescent romance with idealism in the first edition of the Critique of Pure Reason Kant is often said to emerge a mature realist in the second edition. It is said that for the later Kant there is a noumenal realm of things-in-themselves which metaphysically grounds the phenomena we experience. We cannot have knowledge of things-in-themselves for reality must be taken as it comes, transformed by human cognitive capacities. Kant’s empirical realism is thus a genuine realism since it involves an ontologically separate mind-independent reality; yet it is an empirical realism because reality is accessible only by means of its causal impact on the senses. Moreover Kant is still an idealist since he holds that the nature of reality as experienced by humans is dependent on their cognitive structure.



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Paul Forster
University of Ottawa

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