By Golan Moshe Lahat
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Extra resources for The Political Implications of Kant's Theory of Knowledge: Rethinking Progress
On the one hand, in accordance with dogmatic tradition, Kant accepts the assumption that a body of knowledge may be called a “science” only if it is based on a methodical understanding and follows general principles. On the other, like the empiricists, Kant makes clear from the first sentence of the introduction that “There is no doubt whatever that all our cognition begins with experience” (B, 1). But how can there be non-contingent cognition of something that is contingent by nature? After all, “Experience teaches us, to be sure, that something is constituted thus and so, but not that it could not be otherwise” (B, 3).
These philosophers demonstrated the tension between the two prominent philosophical schools in the latter third of the eighteenth century. At one point, Kant called these schools faulty – or, at the very least, unsatisfactory. In one corner, the dogmatic tradition is popular (B, 494), yet rules the philosophical world tyrannically (A, ix). It claims to create a world not from experience but by the use of pure conditions, whose origin, validity and character could not have been previously examined (B, xxxv).
Trying to reject the thing-in-itself as something that can be known, Kant treats knowing a thing-in-itself as some sort of “play with representations” (B, 195). ). As I will argue later, this stance does not contradict Kant’s Theory of Knowledge but certainly drifts away from the definition of the thing-in-itself as a negative concept, and opens a window for a further definition and even for a split of meanings of the thing-in-itself. At this point, especially following the “Transcendental Aesthetic” section, it is hard to discard the fact that the thing-in-itself is suddenly considered to be an object with positive – albeit general – content that is cognised by the understanding and thus should be called “beings of understanding (noumena)” (B, 306), which requires a non-sensible intuition (A, 249).