Internal and External: ‘Empirical’ and ‘Transcendental’

Barry Stroud

in The Significance of Philosophical Scepticism

Published in print July 1984 | ISBN: 9780198247616
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598494 | DOI:
 Internal and External: ‘Empirical’ and ‘Transcendental’

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Chapter 4 considers the response to scepticism found in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.

According to Kant, all theories that leave the existence of things in space doubtful or insufficiently justified – Kant’s own terms for such views are ‘problematic idealism’ and ‘sceptical idealism’ – must be avoided if there is to be an explanation of how knowledge of the world around us is possible. In particular, Kant argues that in order to avoid scepticism all accounts of our knowledge as inferential or indirect must be rejected: the external things we know about must have a reality which is not inferred, but immediately perceived.

Stroud argues that this condition, which he refers to as the ‘conditional correctness of scepticism’, is indeed a condition of knowledge. Kant’s own attempt to meet the sceptical challenge, however, must be counted a failure: it is doubtful whether the doctrine of ‘transcendental idealism’, which is meant to establish ‘empirical realism’ and requires us to accept the ideality of all appearances, is even fully intelligible; more importantly, it is difficult to distinguish transcendental idealism, in its explanatory power, from the kind of scepticism that seemed inevitable to Descartes at the end of the First Meditation: it would not enable us to see any of the assertions or beliefs in science or everyday life as instances of knowledge of a mind-independent domain.

Keywords: Conditional correctness of scepticism; Conditions of knowledge; Critique of Pure Reason; empirical realism; indirect; inferential; Kant; problematic idealism; sceptical idealism; transcendental idealism

Chapter.  16255 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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