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Debating Allison on Transcendental Idealism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 March 2011

Allen Wood
University of Stanford
Paul Guyer
University of Pennsylvania
Henry E. Allison
University of California, Davis


People talk about rats deserting a sinking ship, but they don't usually ask where the rats go. Perhaps this is only because the answer is so obvious: of course, most of the rats climb aboard the sounder ships, the ships that ride high in the water despite being laden with rich cargoes of cheese and grain and other things rats love, the ships that bring prosperity to ports like eighteenth-century Königsberg and firms such as Green & Motherby. By making the insulting comparison - as I am in the course of doing – between us Kant scholars and a horde of noxious vermin, my more or less transparent aim is to mitigate, or at least to distract attention from, the collective immodesty of what I am saying about us. For my point is that, in the past half-century or so, Kant studies has become a very prosperous ship indeed. Its success has even been the chief thing that has buoyed all its sister ships in the fleet of modern philosophy, most of which are also doing very well.

Copyright © Kantian Review 2007

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1 See Kant's Transcendental Idealism, p. 230.

2 Ibid., p. 330.

3 As I tried to argue, even the anti-metaphysical positivist is tacitly committed to this assumption. See Kant's Transcendental Idealism, pp. 331–2.

4 I say this even though Kant mentions the opposition between transcendental realism and transcendental idealism only in the A-version of the fourth paralogism and it does not enter explicitly into his treatment of the first three paralogisms. For my discussion of this issue see Kant's Transcendental Idealism, pp. 339–41. Later (pp. 419–22), I make a similar claim with respect to the Ideal, where it does not explicitly enter all.

5 See the preceding note.

6 See Kant's Transcendental Idealism, p. 360.

7 See Kant's Transcendental Idealism, pp. 425–30. My discussion of this topic is greatly indebted to the work of Michelle Grier.

8 Ibid, pp. 421–2.

9 See A 496–7/B 524–5 and Kant's Transcendental Idealism, p. 395.

10 I find noteworthy in this regard Kant's dismissive characterization of Berkeley's idealism as a ‘dreaming idealism’, which ‘makes mere representations into things’ (Prol. 4: 293). Quite apart from the question of its fairness to Berkeley, it seems to me that this is precisely what Guyer accuses Kant of having done.

11 See, for example, Guyer, Kant and the Claims of Knowledge, p. 335.

12 As Kant puts it at one point, his version of idealism ‘runs through my entire work, although it does not by far constitute the soul of the system’ (Prol., 4: 374).

13 For my discussion of the neglected alternative problem, see Kant's Transcendental Idealism, pp. 128–32.

14 Kant's Transcendental Idealism, pp. 12–14.

15 See, for example, A 276/B 273; A 286/B 342–43; A 433/B 461; A 609/B 663.

16 For a somewhat more detailed discussion of this, see Kant's Transcendental Idealism, pp. 14–16.

17 See Arthur Melnick, Kant's Analogies of Experience, p. 152. It should be noted, however, that my characterization of these different concepts differs significantly from Melnick's.

18 I argue for this thesis in ‘Transcendental Realism, Empirical Realism, and Transcendental Idealism’, Kantian Review, 11 (2006), 128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar