The Question of Legitimacy: Skepticism, Law and Transcendental Idealism

  • Philip Walsh
Part of the Renewing Philosophy book series (REP)

Abstract

If the concept of certainty forms the axis around which Descartes’ thought revolves, the notion of law lies at the center of Kant’s conception of critique. As Descartes’ chosen form of philosophical presentation in the Meditations is intimately connected with his conclusions, so the inquisitorial form of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, in which reason is subjected to a legal examination of its titles, is not simply a contingency of style or method — one technique among others equally well suited to Kant’s purposes. Kant considers the form of his own work to be the activity of reason criticizing itself, or of reason bringing its claims before its own tribunal in order to be assured of their legality1 This legal metaphor registers that the standpoint of reason — the subject that is examining its own claims — is a public persona. That is to say that we are no longer presented with the resolutions of the ‘I’ as a special subject that characterized Descartes’ investigations, but with a type of collective rationality which draws its example from the law practiced within the modern state and civil society. This law is universally binding on all rational individuals and treats of the characteristics that are common to all rational individuals. This relocation of the rational subject within the field of law is central to Kant’s reformation of philosophical method in accordance with the ‘Copernican revolution’.

Keywords

Manifold Assure Posit Metaphor Preconceive 

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Notes

  1. 4.
    The relationship between Kant and Rousseau is obviously more complex than we allow for here. For a general analysis see, for example, W. Kersting, “Politics, Freedom and Order,” in The Cambridge Companion to Kant, ed. by Paul Guyer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 342–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 5.
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, trans. by G.D.H. Cole (New York: Everyman, 1996), pp. 211–12.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Theodor W. Adorno, Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, trans. by Rodney Livingston (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1995), p. 150.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Dieter Henrich, “Kant’s Notion of a Deduction,” in Kant’s Transcendental Deductions, ed. by E. Forster (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1989), p. 31.Google Scholar
  5. 16.
    The general significance of the distinction between objective validity and objective reality for understanding the course of the transcendental deduction is a much disputed and extremely complex topic. The problem derives from the fundamental distinction between logic and ontology which Kant opposed to Wolff’s rationalism, and which remained an irresolvable ambiguity throughout key sections of the first Critique. Here we are concerned only with the implications of this distinction for skepticism. Paul Guyer, in “The Transcendental Deduction of the Categories,” in The Cambridge Companion to Kant, takes the distinction to be complementary to that between the transcendental and the empirical. Thus he says that “a concept has objective reality if it has at least some instantiation in experience but objective validity only if it applies to all possible objects of experience” (p. 125). This claim is filled out in Kant and the Claims of Knowledge, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), pp. 11–24. Robert Pippin argues, on the contrary, that the status of the categories in determining objective reality is the stronger claim, and I take him to be correct in this (see Robert Pippin, Kant’s Theory of Form (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1982), p. 154). This also commits him to pursuing the apperception issue more deeply than Guyer, thus leading him towards Fichte and Hegel.Google Scholar
  6. See Robert Pippin, Hegel’s Idealism: The Satisfactions of Self-Consciousness (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp. 18–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 18.
    The function of unity in the constitution of reality is discussed in Dieter Henrich, “The Identity of the Subject in the Transcendental Deduction,” in Reading Kant: New Perspectives on Transcendental Arguments and Critical Philosophy, ed. by Eva Schaper (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989), pp. 251–79. Henrich argues against unity as the basis for the course of the transcendental deduction in favour of the identity of the subject. However, this does not affect the importance of the function of unity in the ‘constitution of reality’ issue.Google Scholar
  8. 19.
    Manfred Kuehn, “Kant’s Conception of Hume’s Problem”, in Immanuel Kant’s Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics in Focus, trans. and ed. by B. Logan (London: Routledge, 1996), pp. 156–7.Google Scholar
  9. 21.
    See, for example, N. Kemp Smith, A Commentary to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, (London: MacMillan, 1923), pp. xxv–xxx.Google Scholar
  10. 24.
    Immanuel Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, trans. by B. Logan (London: Routledge, 1996), p. 33.Google Scholar
  11. 25.
    See, for example, E. Forster, “How are Transcendental Arguments Possible?” in Reading Kant: New Perspectives on Transcendental Arguments and Critical Philosophy, ed. by Eva Schaper (London: Blackwell, 1989), pp. 11–34. A more sophisticated defense of this approach is made by Ernst Cassirer in Kant’s Life and Thought (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1981), in which the deduction from knowledge of objects is tied to the more general character of the Copernican Revolution. Kant himself distinguishes between the analytic mode of argument offered in the Prolegomena from the synthetic mode of the first Critique. Google Scholar
  12. 29.
    Heidegger interprets Kant’s task as “a pure phenomenology of the subjectivity of the subject.” However, he sees the quaestio quid juris as merely “a formula for the task of an analytic of transcendence” (Martin Heidegger, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, trans. by J.S. Churchill (Indianopolis, IN: Indiana University Press, 1962), p. 59). In the light of our previous discussion concerning Kant’s conception the demand for a deduction, it should be clear that the juridical aspect of the deduction cannot be dispensed with in the manner in which Heidegger does so. Concomitantly, the importance of understanding Kant’s task juridically if the continuity with Hume’s skepticism is to be authentic will be shown in what follows.Google Scholar
  13. 30.
    For instances of this traditionalist understanding of the relationship see A. Lovejoy “On Kant’s Reply to Hume,” in Kant: Disputed Questions, ed. by Moltke S. Gram (New York: Quadrangle Books, 1967). Guyer’s extensive scholarship on the relationship also seems to tend towards this reading. See, for example, P. Guyer, Kant and the Claims of Knowledge (Cambridge University Press, 1987), Chapter 4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 31.
    For his critique of Kant’s understanding of the category of causality, see Arthur Schoperhauer, The World as Will and Representation, trans. by E.F.J. Payne (New York: Dover, 1969), pp. 440–54.Google Scholar
  15. 35.
    Antinomy is another term that has a legal origin. According to Howard Caygill, “[a]ntinomy is a rhetorical form of presentation … in which opposed arguments are presented side by side with each other. The form was widely used in seventeenth-century jurisprudence (as in Eckolt’s De Antinomiis of 1660) to point to differences between laws arising from clashes between legal jurisdictions.” (Howard Caygill, A Kant Dictionary (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995), p. 75.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 36.
    Gillian Rose, Dialectic of Nihilism (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986), p. 6.Google Scholar
  17. 39.
    Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, trans. by R.J. Hollingdale (London: Penguin, 1967), p. 42.Google Scholar
  18. 42.
    Fichte made a number of revisions in the text for different editions of the work, which appeared three times in the period from 1794 to 1802. The translation used here, J.G. Fichte, Science of Knowledge, trans. and ed. by P. Heath and J. Lachs (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), incorporates these changes into the text without notation.Google Scholar
  19. 45.
    Immanuel Kant Logic, trans. by R. Hartmann & W. Schwartz (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1974), p. 99.Google Scholar

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© Philip Walsh 2005

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  • Philip Walsh

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