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NTU Philosophical Review

Issue 54, October 2017

Jyh-Jong Jeng
Pages 1-42

Kant’s Refutation of Idealism

In the demonstration of the second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason (B274-9), Kant brings up a persuasive strategy for seriously refuting skeptics’ position concerning the reality of outer world. He attacks directly the core presupposition of skeptics. First of all, Kant takes as a starting point the conception of self-knowledge that should be accepted by all skeptics. Kant then uncovers step by step the sceptics’ contradiction and he hence puts them in a dilemma. Under the sceptics’ assumption, either they must acknowledge the impossibility of self-knowledge or they must give up that assumption. In other words, not only must skeptics acknowledge the direct veridicality of self-knowledge, but also accept the direct veridicality of the existence of outer things as the condition of the possibility of self-knowledge. This paper argues that (1) the ‘refutation’ is persuasive, and (2) the ‘refutation’ and the core theses of ‘transcendental idealism’ are compatible. This essay contains three parts. The first part is to clarify the systematic status of the ‘refutation’ in transcendental philosophy and, by this clarification, to expound the empirically cognitive significance of the ‘postulate of actuality’; the second part is to critically analyze the structure of demonstration and justification of the ‘refutation’; the third part is to expound the compatibility of ‘refutation’ with ‘transcendental idealism’ by clarifying the ambiguity of key terms. The paper ends with a conclusion summarizing the strategy of the ‘refutation’.