Kant's Knowledge of Unknowable Things in Themselves: An Examination of the Doctrine of Ignorance and the Non-spatiotemporality Thesis
Bailey, Micah Joel
University of Kansas
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This dissertation is an examination of things in themselves as they are presented in the Critique of Pure Reason. Chapter 1 deals with Kant’s notion of a thing in itself generally. I argue that Kant uses ‘things in themselves’ in two ways: (1) to refer to logically possible entities that, if they exist, are ontologically distinct from appearances; (2) to signify the thought of empirical objects apart from sensibility. This follows from the fact that the notion of a thing in itself is a function of the understanding, but that our intellectual representations cannot relate to things in themselves. Chapters 2 and 3 attend to two theses of things in themselves: (1) they are unknowable; (2) they are non-spatiotemporal. Thesis (1) seems to render any judgment of things in themselves epistemically unjustifiable, thereby undermining Kant’s right to maintain either thesis (1) or (2). Thesis (2) seems to rest on an invalid argument and, consequently, fails to rule out the possibility that things in themselves are spatiotemporal (the traditional neglected alternative). Chapter 2 focuses on establishing that Kant is entitled to the Identity Thesis (i.e. if x is intuited a priori, then x is reducible to the representational content of that a priori intuition). I argue that the Identity Thesis secures a valid argument for thesis (2). Chapter 3 demonstrates that Kant’s argument for the transcendental ideality of space (and time) entails that our sensible representations cannot relate to things in themselves. Since neither our sensible, nor our intellectual, representations can relate to things in themselves, thesis (1) actually expresses a subtler claim: we cannot cognize things in themselves through our representations. I argue that this is neither self-undermining, nor does it undermine thesis (2); however, it does restrict us to a weak reading of thesis (2), such that it cannot rule out the possibility of a strong structural isomorphism obtaining between things in themselves and space and time (a new neglected alternative). I conclude by arguing that this new neglected alternative does not present Kant’s cognitive theory with any serious difficulties.
- Dissertations 
- Philosophy Dissertations and Theses 
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