Philosophers have standardly drawn a distinction between truths of reason that are taken to hold necessarily or come what may, and matters of fact or contingent truths which hold with respect to the way things are in our particular world. 1 They have further distinguished analytic propositions whose truth is self-evident, since purely a function of their logico-semantic form, and synthetic a priori judgements—such as those of geometry and also mathematics, at least according to Kant—which are likewise self-evident, since they are presupposed by any knowledge we can have concerning that world. 2 These latter are purportedly in no way dependent on experience but must rather be thought of as defining the very conditions of possibility for knowledge in general. They are closely bound up with our primordial intuitions of space and time—the very forms of ‘outward’ and ‘inner’ experience—and extend to our capacity for grasping causal relations, perceiving the truth of geometrical theorems, and applying a priori concepts and categories to the manifold of sensuous perceptions.
Such was at any rate Kant’s response to the sceptical argument of those (like Hume) who denied that there was anything more to our causal-explanatory theories and conjectures than a fixed habit of association between contiguous objects or events. 3 However, it was open to various kinds of renewed sceptical attack, not least on account of his failure to secure any necessary link between the forms and modalities of human understanding and the real-world (ontological) object domain to which they presumptively applied. For Kant, so it seems, there was no conflict between declaring himself on the one hand a ‘transcendental idealist’ in epistemological matters, and on the other an ‘empirical realist’ as concerned the existence of a mind-independent reality which for that very reason belonged a noumenal realm beyond our utmost powers of cognitive grasp. 4 However, this response to the sceptical challenge has turned out to spawn all manner of anti-realist or framework-relativist arguments which can plausibly claim to press Kant’s case to its logical conclusion. The pattern was set early on by idealists like Fichte, who viewed reality as a ‘posit’ of the world-constitutive Ego which left no room for Kant’s lingering and self-contradictory attachment to (so-called) empirical realism. 5
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Publication information: Book title: Quantum Theory and the Flight from Realism:Philosophical Responses to Quantum Mechanics. Contributors: Christopher Norris - Author. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 2000. Page number: 72.
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