The Unthinkability of a Transcendental Subject in Kant's Critique of Pure Reason

Today, Kant's metaphysics tends to be seen as an unfortunate foible to be ignored in favor of his contributions to epistemology. But purely epistemological readings of Kant are faced with the difficult task of making sense of Kant's claims
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  Ryan William Beitz  Loyola Marymount University (or “The Unthinkability o a Tran!cendental "ub#ect in $ant%! Critique of Pure Reason & 'b!tract:Today $ant%! metahy!ic! tend! to be !een a! an unortunate oible to be ignored in a*or o hi! contribution! to ei!temology. But urely ei!temological reading! o $ant are aced with the diicult ta!k o making !en!e o $ant%! claim! regarding !el+knowledge. ,n articular much debate er!i!t! concerning #u!t what $ant mean! when he !eciie! an “, think which mu!t be able to accomany all my rere!entation!& ( Critique of Pure Reason  B--). The ba!ic /ue!tion i!: to what doe! thi! “, think& reer0 1aul 2uyer contend! $ant%! “, think& reer! to a real and enduring tran!cendental !ub#ect to which all e3erience! adhere!. 2uyer doe! thi! in order to !how the incommen!urability o $ant%! reali!t metahy!ic! and ei!temology. 'gain!t 2uyer , argue that there e3i!t! or $ant no tran!cendental !ub#ect on the ground! that $ant%! con!i!tency lie! in hi! marriage o metahy!ical anti+reali!m with ei!temological reali!m.  Beitz 4 “The Unthinkability o a Tran!cendental "ub#ect& 4 - Introduction The /ue!tion o the correlate o the “,& re!ented in the Tran!cendental 5eduction o $ant%! Critique of Pure Reason  i! a !ub#ect o great debate among !cholar!. '! $ant him!el write! “The abiding and unchanging 6,% (ure aercetion) orm! the correlate  o all our rere!entation!& ('-7 emha!i! added). The /ue!tion though i! who or what   i! thi! “,&0 'ndto whom doe! thi! “,& belong0Underlying thi! interretati*e debate i! the deeer /ue!tion o whether and to what degree $ant can be read a! a metahy!ical reali!t. Whether a articular commentator belie*e! (or  wants  to belie*e) that $ant i! (or !hould be) metahy!ically committed to the e3i!tence and knowability o a “mind+indeendent& world !eem! to determine the correlate o $ant%! amou! “,think& which he tell! u! “mu!t be able to accomany all my rere!entation!& (B--). ' rime e3amle here i! 1aul 2uyer who contend! that becau!e e3erience i! uniied thi! “,& mu!t reer to a !ingle !el+identical !ub#ect enduring through time (2uyer -89 -;<). 'long with 2uyer adherent! to thi! reading=or what ha! been called the “"ub!tantial >wner!hi Reading& -  (“".>. reading&)=hold that $ant%! “,& reer! to a temorally er!i!ting !el in which all e3erience!  a!t and re!ent are uniied under one and the !ame !ub#ect. , howe*er argue that thi! o!ition i! redicated uon a mi!under!tanding o the unction o the Tran!cendental Unity o 'ercetion (TU') within $ant%! metahy!ical !cheme. 2uyer or e3amle interret! the TU' a! a ailure on $ant%! art to eecti*ely ro*ide an e3lanation or the mind+indeendent e3i!tence o a er!i!ting !ub#ect to which all our e3erience! nece!!arily adhere. Thi! reading take! $ant to be a ailed Tran!cendental Reali!t on the ground! that the !el 1  "ee Berm?dez -88;.  Beitz 4 “The Unthinkability o a Tran!cendental "ub#ect& 4 7 mu!t be a really e3i!ting entity indeendent o the mind%! caacity or !el+knowledge. or 2uyer then thi! tran!cendental !ub#ect i! the nece!!ary to the bridge between two ontologically di!tinct world! (the ot+titled “two+world!& interretation): the one con!tituted by the mindA and the e3ternal mind+indeendent world where the true reality o thing! lie!. The remi!e here i! that thing!+in+them!el*e! mu!t e3i!t indeendent o the mind i we are to a*oid a rela!e into !ome orm o Berkeleyan ideali!m.'gain!t both the ".>. reading and the two+world! interretation! , argue that $ant%! “, think& reer! to neither (a) a er!i!tent !ub#ect which underlie! all our e3erience! (i.e. a tran!cendental !ub#ect) nor (b) to any !ort o mind+indeendently e3i!ting *er!ion o thi! !ub#ect. ,n!tead , claim that the ".>. reading o the $antian “,& i! redicated on the larger  roblem o the two+world! interretation o $ant%! metahy!ic!. y !trategy or e3o!ing the imo!!ibility o a ".>. reading i! to undermine the common two+world! interretation o $antianmetahy!ic! which in turn will !how why the ".>. reading o $ant%! “,& mu!t be al!e. Their colla!e will be !imultaneou! becau!e both interretation! ultimately ail to roerly concei*e the metahy!ically di!tinct unction! o three o $ant%! mo!t crucial concet!: noumena thing!+in+them!el*e! and the tran!cendental ob#ectCD=the ir!t two being imortant and di!tinct modiication! o $ant%! notion o the tran!cendental ob#ectCD. >n the ba!i! o my reading o the!e three interrelated concet! , argue that the correlate o $ant%! “, think& i! nece!!arily nothing   = the “!el& or $ant i! nothing other than a con*enient metahy!ical iction gi*ing temoral unity to a !erie! o e3erience!. To !how both why thi! i! the ca!e a! well a! why thi! i! metahy!ically !ound my argument will con!i!t o two a!ect!. ir!t that henomena and noumena do not identiy two di!tinct ontological “realm!& o ob#ect! but rather two e!!ential mode! o the acti*ity o knowing. , rely here on a  Beitz 4 “The Unthinkability o a Tran!cendental "ub#ect& 4  modiied *er!ion o Eenry F. 'lli!on%! “double+a!ect& interretation o $antian ontology taking into account and o*ercoming what , !ee to be a otentially atal law in thi! interretation., !till u!e the double+a!ect reading a! !tarting oint though becau!e , belie*e it! emha!i! on a “!ingle+world& interretation o $ant%! ontology i! more in line with the !irit o the Critique . Eowe*er my own under!tanding o the henomenal+noumenal di!tinction doe! dier rom 'lli!on%! due to my under!tanding o $ant%! notion o the tran!cendental ob#ectCD. ' key di!tinction !uorting thi! a!ect o my argument i! that though related noumena cannot be conlated with thing!+in+them!el*e!. Under!tanding the re!ecti*e unction o the!e two metaphysical    concepts  (thing!+in+them!el*e! and noumena) i! nece!!ary in order to di!tingui!h them rom the e*en more imortant tran!cendental ob#ectCD which $ant lace! at the heart o the acti*ity o thinking i.e. hi! TU'.ollowing rom the!e oint! the !econd !te to my argument then i! that the correlate o $ant%! “, think& i! nothing. The reci!e meaning o thi! “nothing& a! , will !how i! the imo!!ibility to take the *ery acti*ity o thinking a! the ob#ect o thought. ,n order to !how the !ueriority o thi! reading , will ir!t !how why 1aul 2uyer%! interretation o the correlate o the “, think& i! incorrect. y re#ection o 2uyer%! reading i! redicated uon my claim that the TU' culminate! in the roduction o the tran!cendental ob#ect C D which create! the condition o the o!!ibility or the noumenal a!ect o the acti*ity o knowing. 'nd inally my under!tanding o the relation!hi between the noumenal and the tran!cendental ob#ect C D culminate! in the claim that the tran!cendental !ub#ect nece!!arily doe! not e3i!t. Phenomena, Noumena, Things-in-themselves $ant%! !y!tem it!el i! amou! or the way it o*ercome! the hilo!ohical gridlock  brought on by ideali!m%! !ketical attack on dogmatic (or naG*e) Reali!m. To !ublate the!e  Beitz 4 “The Unthinkability o a Tran!cendental "ub#ect& 4 ; oo!ing *iew! $ant make! a much+interreted di!tinction between aearance! and thing!+in+them!el*e!: “'ll aearance! are not in   them!el*e! thing!A they are nothing but rere!entation! and cannot e3i!t out!ide our mind& (';87HBI7J). "imilarly earlier in the Critique  he !tate!: , aearance! were thing! in them!el*e! then no human being would be able to a!!e!! rom the !ucce!!ion o rere!entation! how the maniold i! combined in the ob#ect. or we ha*e to do only with our rere!entation!A how thing! in them!el*e! may beKi! entirely beyond our cogniti*e !here ('-8J+8-). Llearly $ant want! to limit the !ace where we ractice our ur!uit or knowledge to our cogniti*e acti*ity alone a mo*e de!igned in order to undermine !ketici!m. By !aying that our ractice o knowledge only concern! what i! gi*en in e3erience $ant reemt! the !ketic%! attack. Mo longer can the !ketic re#ect the *alidity o our knowledge on the ground! that there i! no mind+indeendent criterion or conirming what e3i!t! outside the mind  . That i! i all knowledge it!el i! a ractice o the mind then there i! no need to !eek *alidity out!ide the mind. But the /ue!tion remain!: could there be !omething out!ide the mind0 $ant%! re!on!e i! the re!er*ation mu!t al!o be well noted that e*en i we cannot cognize the!e !ame ob#ect!a! thing! in them!el*e! we at lea!t mu!t be able to think them a! thing! in them!el*e!. or otherwi!e there would ollow the ab!urd roo!ition that there i! an aearance without anything that aear! (B33*i+33*ii). ,n other word! $ant a!!ert! that it i! entirely rea!onable to believe  that there i! a !ource out!ide the mind contributing to what i! gi*en to con!ciou!ne!!. That i! $ant retain! the o!!ibility o a world out!ide the mind but with ontological re!er*ation writing “con!e/uently they Nconcet! o the under!tandingO cannot ertain to thing! in them!el*e! (without regard to how and whether they may be gi*en to u!) at allK& ('-8). Thi! i! $ant%! agno!tici!m and it i! an e!!ential a!ecto hi! !y!tem. , $ant were to a!!ert that there indeed is  a world out!ide the mind he%! merely done !o dogmatically a! e3i!tence i! a category o the under!tanding it!el. Thereore $ant%!
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