Understanding the Role of Kant’s Antinomies in Refuting Transcendental Realism

In one of my first blog posts, I posted the notes for help in understanding the role Kant’s antinomies play in the refutation of transcendental realism.  It was just a skeleton of references and bits of commentary over a secondary sources and the first Critique.  I have recently been impelled to flesh out this skeleton.  The essay presented is a work in progress.  You can read it by clicking on the title: “Commentary and Explication of the Role of the Antinomies in the Refutation of Transcendental Realism.”  It will be helpful for anyone trying to understand this one aspect of the antinomies, their function in refuting transcendental realism.  There is still quite a lot to add to this meagre essay, so feel free in commenting on points that need adding.  For the most part, this is intended to be helpful to undergraduates and newcomers to the Critique of Pure Reason.


Filed under Kantian Philosophy, Philosophy, Pure Philosophy

7 responses to “Understanding the Role of Kant’s Antinomies in Refuting Transcendental Realism

  1. Yea, no matter what, whether your for or against him, Kant, himself is the indispensable philosopher that anyone calling himself by that name will have to recon with sooner or later. Preferably sooner…

  2. PeterJ

    Your argument seems correct to me, I just have to mention Nagarjuna as showing what can be done with antinomies when the reductio argument is pushed to the limit.

    • Nagarjuna? Hmm… Surprisingly, I’m not familiar with him. Under what title did he write on the topic of the antinomies?

      • PeterJ

        In his second-century text ‘Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way’ Nagarjuna works through a series of metaphysical questions and shows that they are antinomies (four-way ‘tetralemmas’ in his case – but it’s the same thing in effect) such that all their extreme answers are absurd. In this way he proves by way of a reductio argument that all positive metaphysical positions are logically indefensible, thus proving in turn the logical soundness of the neutral or ‘Middle Way’ philosophical position.he endorses.

        His result would confirm Kant’s claim that all selective conclusions about the world as a whole are logically undecidable (both extreme answers being demonstrably absurd), but he promotes a more positive outcome, viz. that the Buddha’s world-view is correct, it being the only one that he does not refute.

        He is considered to have put in place the metaphysical underpinnings of Buddhism, on which topic the Buddha said little directly. I read him as proving what is true and as giving us the once-and-for-all solution for all metaphysical problems. His proof is a lot of work to follow but his result is very simple and has not been challenged since, just widely ignored.

        A recent book on Nagarjuna by Siderits and Katsura is very good. A simpler and more Buddhist introduction would be ‘The Sun of Wisdom’ by K.T Gyamptso (Shanmbala).

        Pardon me for all the words. I’m on my hobby-horse. .

      • How time consuming would it be to wade through “Nagarjuna’s Middle Way” without prior knowledge on subject? I tend to be obsessive about reading preliminary/background materials, but this seems like a case in which I’d probably be best served reading the mentioned text sooner than later.

      • PeterJ

        Hmm. Probably quite time consuming because of the thinking required. One can spend a couple days pondering on a sentence. I must admit I’ve never waded through ‘Fundamental Wisdom’ carefully. It’s a very difficult read and once one gets the idea it’s not actually necessary as it’s really only his result that matters.

        He proves that all positive metaphysical positions are logically indefensible, thus endorsing a neutral position and ‘non-dualism’. Once one has grasped this result the rest of the proof is just details and need not even be read. He proves what every philosopher discovers sooner or later (the logical absurdity of all positive positions) but does it unusually neatly and all in one place. The easiest intro is probably Gyamptso’s book.

        His proof has been made redundant by western philosophers over time as they have repeatedly concluded that his result is correct and have never found a counter-proof, so his real value is in showing that this result of metaphysics is not a barrier to knowledge as it is considered in Western thought, but the beginning of it. This is the precise point of difference between East and West, how they interpret the results of metaphysics.

        Btw. Bradley puts almost the same argument in his essay Appearance and Reality but at much greater length and in prose. N’s short verses are easy to read but can be real brain-teasers. Good luck!

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