Kant and the Grounding of Transcendental Idealism
In this paper, I take an indirect approach to understanding Kant’s Transcendental Idealism. Instead of tackling that doctrine directly, I begin by considering what Kant means when he calls the objects of traditional metaphysics unconditioned and why he thinks that these unconditioned objects cannot be appearances, but must rather be things in themselves. I suggest that Kant has no “short” argument on this second point, but rather is committed to a “long” argument, one that is based on specific features of space and time as well as on specific kinds of real conditioning relations (which are similar in some respects to “grounding” as it is discussed in contemporary metaphysics). I then turn to two claims that Kant views as central to Transcendental Idealism, namely the claim that things in themselves “ground”, “affect”, or “underlie” appearances and the claim that appearances are in some sense ideal, or subject-dependent. I suggest that the resources that emerged from the discussion of the objects of traditional metaphysics (esp. those pertaining to real conditioning relations) reveal promising new strategies for understanding these claims.