Feminism and Modern Philosophy: An Introduction

By Andrea Nye | Go to book overview

8

FEMINIST CRITICAL THEORY AFTER KANT

Kant's overriding aim was critical, the launching of a powerful and passionate onslaught against dogma, polemic, and speculative theology. For Kant the scope of what can be known a priori by reason alone-namely the necessary spatial and temporal dimensions of human experience and some very general logical forms and categories necessary for objective judgment-was very small. Constantly Kant warned against the improper use of the "transcendent" and purely "regulative" supposition that there must be something beyond the world as experienced by humans in space and time. Never should the idea of "things-in-themselves" go beyond supposition; never should one think that there could be any substantive knowledge beyond experience.

Kant's "unity of apperception" provides only a small basis of commonality, uniting humans in a common spatial and temporal world. Human experience, unlike animal sensation, is never strictly private. My experiences are mine. But to be "experience" at all, to take the form of communicable impressions or ideas, experience presupposes an objective world of space and time that is a community in the sense that objects and events in that world are interconnected. Any representation involves the sense that my ideas are mine in a form that potentially can be communicated to others. If this is true, reconciliation between standpoint theory and objective truth cannot lie either in the establishment of a privileged standpoint from which to view things-in-themselves (of an underclass, oppressed races, a subordinated sex) or in the establishment of a direct link (by way of ostension or observation) between things-in-themselves and representations. For Kant, both are illusory and an improper use of metaphysics. Unexperienced reality must remain unexperienced, marking only a negative limit beyond which knowledge cannot go.

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