Friday Colloquium

Appearances, nature, and the extent of Kant’s idealism
Apr 5, 2024, 4:00 pm6:00 pm
Robertson Hall - Bowl 016



Event Description

Most debates about Kant’s idealism have (understandably) centered around the interpretation of Kant’s distinction between 'appearances' and ‘things in themselves’, and then, secondly, on understanding Kant's conception of the relation(s) between the two terms of this distinction.  I will argue for the importance of introducing 'nature' as a third term into the usual interpretive frameworks, as referring, for Kant, to something that is itself distinct both from appearances and also from 'things in themselves', and yet something that is nevertheless inclusive of the causal ('dynamical') relations between the two.  After providing textual and systematic considerations which indicate the existence and the importance of this threefold distinction (appearance, nature, thing in itself), I will then put the distinction to use to argue for a novel interpretation of Kant's idealism -- one that aims to be ecumenical between two leading and competing interpretive trends in recent work on Kant's metaphysics: so-called 'two-world' vs 'one-world' interpretations.  I will argue that, while 'two-world' approaches (like Anja Jauernig’s) are correct to insist upon Kant's ascription of a more full-blooded subjectivity and ideality to appearances (and thus an ontological distinctness from things in themselves), 'one-world' approaches (like Lucy Allais’s) are correct in their impulse not to have Kant thereby reject the idea that our experience of nature is an experience of things whose existence includes an independence from subjectivity (and so includes an 'in itself' dimension).  By more sharply distinguishing between appearances and nature, we can allow for the core insights from both camps, while also avoiding an overly realist (or otherwise metaphysically inflationary) interpretation of appearances (a danger for Allais) and an overly phenomenalist (or otherwise metaphysically deflationary) interpretation of nature (a danger for Jauernig).