Chapter

The Unobservable and the Supersensible

Rae Langton

in Kantian Humility

Published in print January 2001 | ISBN: 9780199243174
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597909 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0199243174.003.0010
 The Unobservable and the Supersensible

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Invisible forces, sub‐microscopic particles, are possible objects of experience, while things in themselves are not: the former are unobservable, the latter supersensible. Kant drew on this distinction in his response to Eberhard, in which he presents his philosophy as a vindication of a (suitably reconstructed) Leibniz. Kant's unusual notion of experience is guided by Receptivity: anything that can, in principle, affect us is a possible object of experience, so theoretical entities are in, but things in themselves are out. Moreover, it is guided by community, the idea that all co‐existent physical things reciprocally produce effects in each other. This descendant of Leibniz's mirror thesis has unnoticed epistemological implications: it implies that everything in the universe does affect us (from tiny particles to distant nebulae) and is already represented in empirical intuition, ‘albeit without being consciously apprehended’.

Keywords: community; Eberhard; experience; Kant; Leibniz; mirror thesis; Receptivity; supersensible; unobservable

Chapter.  8928 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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