Kant's Transcendental Idealism Analysis

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In his final Remark to Sect. 13 of the Prolegomena, Kant distinguishes his transcendental idealism from the “empirical idealism of Descartes”. His paper intends to briefly account for both of these forms of idealism and subsequently investigate why Kant went to such great lengths to distance himself from Descartes's project.

Descartes's “empirical idealism”

In 'Meditations on First Philosophy', Descartes argues that the existence of objects in space outside of us cannot be proven by recourse to immediate experience. The latter, he contends, can only prove the existence and states of the cogito (self) as they exist in time. After thorough investigation of the things he can or cannot doubt, the interlocutor of the Meditations discovers that
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His transcendental idealism makes it impossible for the human mind to acquire knowledge about things-in-themselves, because spatial objects are mere appearances which are synthesized according to the conceptual framework provided by the categories. As such these are mere phenomena while things-in-themselves belong to the noumenal realm beyond the capacity for the human mind to comprehend or process. On the Cartesian view, however, experience of objects in space are necessarily mediated because this mediate experiential knowledge is an inner relation. As established, our being immediately conscious of something is for Descartes solely in an inner sense and hence radically separates the knowing mind from objects (as things-in-themselves) existing in space. As such, the inner relation of consciousness cannot reach knowledge of spatial objects on its own; what is needed is an inferential argument which can help ground a way for the empirical idealist to gain this knowledge. This inference would seem to be the only way to account for a reconciliation between the two separate spheres – i.e. representations in inner sense and things-in-themselves – if indeed there is no God who ensures that we are not deceived by the existence of spatial

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