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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: June 2012

9 - Transcendental illusion II: rational cosmology


In contrast to rational psychology, rational cosmology and rational theology apply the transcendent idea of the unconditioned to the object of thought. Rational cosmology concerns objects taken as appearances; rational theology argues for God as the explanation of things in themselves. All three spurious sciences assume as objectively valid the illusory principle P2, that if the conditioned is given, the entire series of conditions is given. Despite their similar origin, the arguments and their resolutions differ in the three cases. In particular, the cosmological arguments have the form of antinomies, or pairs of opposing claims. Consequently, their solution involves the “skeptical method” mentioned in chapter 8. Kant attributes these differences to the fact that the ideas of the soul and God are “supersensible,” ideas of things that are not objects of experience. By contrast, the cosmological idea of the world-whole in space and time is based on experience. For this reason, Kant also claims that the Antinomies offer an indirect proof of transcendental idealism. The first part of this chapter introduces the Antinomies and their importance to the critical philosophy. The second examines the arguments in detail, discussing their strengths and weaknesses. The last section discusses the relation between the conflicts and transcendental idealism.


In both the Prolegomena and a letter to Garve of 1798, Kant explains the significance of the Antinomies for his critical philosophy.

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