Abstracts

Kant, the Paradox of Knowability, and the Meaning of 'Experience': It is often claimed that anti-realism is a form of transcendental idealism or that Kant is an anti-realist. It is also often claimed that anti-realists are committed to some form of knowability principle to the effect that all truths (or at least all truths of a certain class) are knowable and that such principles have problematic consequences. It is therefore natural to ask whether Kant was committed to any such principle, and if he was, whether this leads him into similar difficulties. Both transcendental idealism and anti-realism aim to provide a middle way between realism and idealism. A well known proof appears to show that anti-realism fails in its aim because it collapses into idealism. Can a related proof show that transcendental idealism collapses in the same way? I argue that, initial appearances to the contrary, it cannot.​

Kant on the Object-Dependence of Intuition and Hallucination: Against a view currently popular in the literature, it is argued that Kant was not a naive realist about perceptual experience. Naive realism entails that perceptual experience is object-dependent in a very strong sense. In the first half of the paper, I explain what this claim amounts to and I undermine the evidence that has been marshalled in support of attributing it to Kant. In the second half of the paper, I explore in some detail Kant's account of hallucination and argue that no such account is available to someone who thinks that veridical perceptual experience is object-dependent in the naive realist sense. Kant's theory provides for a remarkably sophisticated, bottom-up explanation of the phenomenal character of hallucinatory episodes and is crucial for gaining a proper understanding of his model of the mind and its place in nature.

Logicism, Possibilism, and the Logic of Kantian Actualism: In this extended critical discussion of 'Kant's Modal Metaphysics' by Nicholas Stang (OUP 2016), I focus on one central issue from the first chapter of the book: Stang’s account of Kant’s doctrine that existence is not a real predicate. In §2 I outline some background. In §§3-4 I present and then elaborate on Stang’s interpretation of Kant’s view that existence is not a real predicate. For Stang, the question of whether existence is a real predicate amounts to the question: ‘could there be non-actual possibilia?’ (p.35). Kant’s view, according to Stang, is that there could not, and that the very notion of non-actual or ‘mere’ possibilia is incoherent. In §5 I take a close look at Stang’s master argument that Kant’s Leibnizian predecessors are committed to the claim that existence is a real predicate, and thus to mere possibilia. I argue that it involves substantial logical commitments that the Leibnizian could reject. I also suggest that it is danger of proving too much. In §6 I explore two closely related logical commitments that Stang’s reading implicitly imposes on Kant, namely a negative universal free logic and a quantified modal logic that invalidates the Converse Barcan Formula. I suggest that each can seem to involve Kant himself in commitment to mere possibilia.

Imagination and Inner Intuition: In this paper I return to the question of whether intuition is object-dependent. Kant’s account of the imagination appears to suggest that intuition is not object-dependent. On a recent proposal, however, the imagination is a faculty of merely inner intuition, the inner objects of which exist and are present in the way demanded by object-dependence views, such as Allais’s relational account. I argue against this proposal on both textual and philosophical grounds. It remains inconsistent with what Kant says about how the imagination functions and is ultimately incompatible with the relational account it is supposed to support. Kant’s account of the imagination remains a serious obstacle for the view that intuition is object-dependent.

Relationalism about Perception vs. Relationalism about Perceptuals: There is a tension at the heart of Lucy Allais’ new account of Kant’s transcendental idealism. The problem arises from her use of two incompatible theories in contemporary philosophy – relationalism about perception, or naïve realism, and relationalism about colour, or more generally relationalism about any such perceptual property. The problem is that the former requires a more robust form of realism about the properties of the objects of perception than can be accommodated in the partially idealistic framework of the latter. On Allais’ interpretation, Kant’s notorious attempt to balance realism and idealism remains unstable.


How to Solve the Paradox of Knowability with Transcendental Epistemology: A novel solution to the paradox of knowability is proposed based on Kant’s account of self-knowledge. The ‘paradox’ refers to the fact that there is a simple argument from the apparently moderate claim that all truths are knowable to the apparently extreme claim that all truths are known. It is significant because anti-realists have wanted to maintain knowability but reject omniscience. The core of the proposed solution is to combine realism about epistemic truths – roughly, truths about what is or is not known – with anti-realism about non-epistemic truths. Kant’s account of self-knowledge undergirds such a view by providing for a sharp distinction between how we come to understand and apply epistemic versus non-epistemic concepts. The proposal is a version of restriction strategy—it 'solves' the paradox by restricting the anti-realist’s knowability principle. Restriction strategies have been a common response to the paradox, but previous versions face serious difficulties: either they succumb to modified forms of the paradox, or they result in a knowability principle too weak to do the work the anti-realists want it to, or they are ad hoc. It is argued that the proposed restriction of knowability to non-epistemic truths avoids all versions of the paradox, that it remains strong enough to form the basis of the anti-realist attack on classical logic, and that it is principled in a way that remains compatible with a broadly anti-realist outlook.  

On the Relation of Intuition and Cognition: Recent debates in the interpretation of Kant’s theoretical philosophy have focused on the nature of Kantian intuition and, in particular, on the question of whether intuitions depend for their existence on the existence of their objects. In this paper we show how opposing answers to this question determine different accounts of the nature of Kantian cognition and we suggest that progress can be made on determining the nature of intuition by considering the implications different views have for the nature of cognition.

Kant, Knowability, and A Priori Cognition as Tacit Knowledge: It is a point now well recognized that Kant’s conception of cognition (Erkenntnis) may be fundamentally different from our contemporary conception of knowledge. The point goes beyond observing an infelicity of translation. One of Kant’s primary concerns in the Critique of Pure Reason is an account of a priori cognition in metaphysics. If this is not a theory of a priori knowledge, then what is it? I defend, by novel means, a novel answer to this question. Kant’s account of a priori cognition in metaphysics is an account of what we must already count as knowing tacitly if we are to have a world in view at all. It is one of the central tasks of transcendental philosophy to make such tacit knowledge explicit. This constitutes a move from Erkenntnis to Wissen, from mere cognition to scientific knowledge proper. My route is indirect and the paper is in two parts. In the first part (§§I-II), I appeal to contemporary work on semantic anti-realism to argue on philosophical grounds that Kant is committed to the thesis that all synthetic a priori truths in scientific theoretical metaphysics are known. This is not just because he thinks he knows them himself. Kant is committed to the thesis holding under very minimal conditions, thus even if he had never awoken from his dogmatic slumber, if metaphysics as a discipline had ended with Hume or had never got going in the first place. In the second part (§§III-IV), instead of taking this result to be a reductio of Kant’s position, I consider how he might embrace it. The thesis is not absurd, nor is it too idealist for Kant, if such truths derive from the essential structure of human experience and if the knowledge in question is of a special kind already implicated in the mere partaking of such experience. So understood, it provides an interesting perspective on transcendental idealism and Kant’s Critical project more generally and it coheres with a number of Kant’s core doctrines, including those in his practical philosophy.

Why be a naïve realist? Kant’s Rationalist Solution to Berkeley’s Empiricist Puzzle: John Campbell argues that naïve realism provides a solution to what he calls 'Berkeley’s puzzle': it is hard to see how perceptual experience can make available to us our concept of an object as something-that-is-independent-of-any-particular-act-of-perceiving. Berkeley himself does not so much solve this puzzle as concede that we do not have such a concept. Campbell finds this unacceptable. His alternative response is to reconfigure the conception of perceptual experience within which Berkeley formulates the puzzle, and to do so in such a way as to undercut its force. Naïve realism, Campbell argues, makes it easy to see how our concept of an object as something-that-is-independent-of-any-particular-act-of-perceiving can be made available by perceptual experience. So what about Kant? Is he exercised by Berkeley’s puzzle and is his response naïve realist? Yes and No. Kant, like Campbell, finds Berkeley’s own response to the puzzle unacceptable. Kant, like Campbell, responds instead by reconfiguring the conception of perceptual experience within which the puzzle was formulated, which he does in such a way as to undercut its force. However, Kant does this in the opposite direction to Campbell, namely by accommodating a strictly limited degree of rationalism into his model of perceptual experience. For Kant, unlike for Campbell, it remains the case that it is hard to see how our concept of an object as something-that-is-independent-of-any-particular-act-of-perceiving is made available by perceptual experience. But that’s fine, because it isn’t. Insofar as we have such a concept, it’s a priori - is effectively articulated by the schematized categories. While Campbell’s response is anti-Cartesian, Kant’s is anti-empiricist.

Kant on Non-Veridical Experience:  I offer an interpretation of Kant’s theory of perceptual error based on his remarks in the Anthropology.  Both hallucination and illusion, I argue, are for Kant species of experience and therefore require the standard co-operation of sensibility and understanding. I develop my account in a conceptualist framework according to which the two canonical classes of non-veridical experience involve error in the basic sense that how they represent the world as being is not how the world is. In hallucination this is due to the misapplication of categories and in illusion to the misapplication of empirical concepts. Yet there is also room in this framework for a distinction in terms of cognitive functionality between the level of experience, which is merely judgementally structured, and that of judgement proper, which involves the free action of a conscious agent. This distinction enables Kant to allow for the otherwise problematic phenomenon of self-aware non-veridicality.


Kant's Theory of Experience: I present and defend an interpretation of Kant’s theory of experience as it stands from the viewpoint of his empirical realism. My central contention is that Kant’s is a conception of everyday experience, a kind of immediate phenomenological awareness as of empirical objects, and although he takes this to be representational, it cannot itself amount to empirical knowledge because it can be non-veridical, because in such experience it is possible to misrepresent the world. I outline my view in an extended introduction. In Part I I offer a novel interpretation of Kant’s doctrine of sensibility and sensation. Utilising a data-processor schematic as an explanatory framework, I give an account of how outer sense, as a collection of sensory capacities, is causally affected by empirical objects to produce bodily state sensations that naturally encode information about those objects. This information is then processed through inner sense to present to the understanding a manifold of mental state sensations that similarly encode information. I also give accounts of how the reproductive imagination operates in hallucination to produce sensible manifolds in lieu of current causal affection, and of the restricted role that consciousness plays at this low level of cognitive function. In Part II I turn to the role of the understanding in experience. I offer a two-stage model of conceptual synthesis and explain how Kant’s theory of experience is a unique blend of conceptualist and non-conceptualist elements. I show that it explains how our experience can provide us with reasons for belief while at the same time accounting for the fact that experience is what anchors us to the world. Finally, I return to non-veridical experience. I confront recent naïve realist / relationalist readings of Kant and argue that, for Kant, the possibility of non-veridicality is built into the very nature of the human mind and the way it relates to the world.

​Andrew Stephenson

Valerio Pellegrini: Minerva (2013)

​Data visualization to support the interpretation of Kant's work

Edited Book


Kant and the Philosophy of Mind (with Anil Gomes)

Oxford University Press, 2017

[Front Matter | Website]


Recent and Upcoming Talks

Existence, Modality, and Imagination in Kant, Conference on Aristotelian Modalities, Tutzing, July 2017

Ibn Sina and Kant on Existence and Modality, Kant in the East, Beirut, May 2017

​A Priori Knowability and Tacit Knowledge, BSHP Annual Conference, Sheffield, April 2017

The Logic of Kantian Actualism, Workshop on the Metaphysics of Apearances, Ligerz​, Feb. 2017

Kant, Kritik der reinen Vernunft, as part of a lecture series on Early Modern Philosophy, Erlangen, Jan. 2017

A Priori Knowability and Tacit Knowledge, Institutsvortrag, Potsdam, Dec. 2016

​​A Priori Knowability and Tacit Knowledge, Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy, Halle, Nov. 2016

Imagination and Inner Intuition, German Philosophy Reading Group, San Diego, March 2016


​Kant and Knowability, XII. International Kant Congress, Vienna, Sept. 2015​

Kant's Manifest Realism?, a symposium on Allais's ​Manifest Reality: Kant's Idealism and his Realism, Johannesburg, Sept. 2015​

Imagination and Hallucination, Pacific Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association, Vancouver, April 2015

​​Articles


Imagination and Inner Intuition
Kant and the Philosophy of Mind, 2017
Oxford University Press, eds. Anil Gomes & Andrew Stephenson
[Submitted]


Logicism, Possibilism, and the Logic of Kantian Actualism

Critique, 2017

[Published | Submitted]


On the Relation of Intuition to Cognition (with Anil Gomes), 
Kantian Nonconceptualism, 2016
Palgrave Macmillan, ed. Dennis Schulting
[Published | Submitted]


Relationalism about Perception vs. Relationalism about Perceptuals
Kantian Review, 2016
[PublishedSubmitted]


Kant, the Paradox of Knowability, and the Meaning of 'Experience'

​Philosophers' Imprint, 2015

[Published (open access)]


Kant on the Object-Dependence of Intuition and Hallucination

The Philosophical Quarterly, 2015

[Published | Submitted (sightly extended version)]


​A Deduction from Apperception?

Studi Kantiani, 2014 

[Published | Submitted]


Kant on Non-Veridical Experience

Kant Yearbook, 2011

[Published |Submitted]


In Progress / Submitted


1. Existence, Modality, and Imagination in Kant: Lessons from the Barcan Formulas

2. Kant, Knowability, and A Priori Cognition as Tacit Knowledge

3. Why Naive Realism? Kant's Rationalist Response to Berkeley's Empiricist Puzzle

4. Kant and Kripke on Knowledge of Necessity: Setting the Record Straight​

5. Memory and Foresight in Kant and Russell

6. How to Solve the Knowability Paradoxes with Transcendental Epistemology


Book Reviews


Manifest Realty, Lucy Allais

​British Journal for the History of Philosophy (forthcoming)

[Published]


Kant’s Theory of the Self, Arthur Melnick

European Journal of Philosophy 20 (2012), 187-192

[Published]


Custom and Reason in Hume, Henry Allison

Kantian Review 14 (2009), 146-151

[Published]


Other


My Diagram of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason

[Link]


My Doctoral Thesis on Kant's Theory of Experience

[Link]