The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 2, 1999


Robert Greenberg
Pages 39-48

The Ontology of Kant’s Theory of Knowledge

Adopting a Quinean criterion of ontological commitment, I consider Kant’s theory of our a priori knowledge of objects. I am directly concerned with the customary view that the ontology of Kant’s theory of knowledge in general, whether a priori or empirical, must be thought in terms of the a priori conditions or representations of space, time, and the categories. Accordingly, the customary view is accompanied by the customary interpretation of the ontology as consisting of Kantian “appearances” or “empirical objects.” I argue against this view and interpretation. The argument turns on the opposition between the necessity and universality of the a priori and the particularity and contingency of the existent. Its main point is that the a priori can remain necessary and universal only if the existence of objects is kept distinct from it.