Kant's Theory of A Priori Knowledge

By (author) Robert Greenberg

Hardback - £49.95

Publication date:

28 March 2001

Length of book:

288 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271020839

The prevailing interpretation of Kant’s First Critique in Anglo-American philosophy views his theory of a priori knowledge as basically a theory about the possibility of empirical knowledge (or experience), or the a priori conditions for that possibility (the representations of space and time and the categories). Instead, Robert Greenberg argues that Kant is more fundamentally concerned with the possibility of a priori knowledge—the very possibility of the possibility of empirical knowledge in the first place.

Greenberg advances four central theses:(1) the Critique is primarily concerned about the possibility, or relation to objects, of a priori, not empirical knowledge, and Kant’s theory of that possibility is defensible; (2) Kant’s transcendental ontology must be distinct from the conditions of the possibility of a priori knowledge; (3) the functions of judgment, in Kant’s discussion of the Table of Judgments, should be seen according to his transcendental logic as having content, not as being just logical forms of judgment making; (4) Kant’s distinction between and connection of ordering relations (Verhaltnisse) and reference relations (Beziehungen) have to be kept in mind to avoid misunderstanding the Critique.

At every step of the way Greenberg contrasts his view with the major interpretations of Kant by commentators like Henry Allison, Jonathan Bennett, Paul Guyer, and Peter Strawson. Not only does this new approach to Kant present a strong challenge to these dominant interpretations, but by being more true to Kant’s own intent it holds promise for making better sense out of what have been seen as the First Critique’s discordant themes.

“Centering on the notion of ‘things’ simpler (as opposed to either things ‘in themselves’ or objects of experience as such), Greenberg has developed a highly original reading of Kant’s arguments regarding the a priori conditions of knowledge. As a challenge to the main lines of approach to those arguments today, it cannot be ignored.”

—Richard E. Aquila, University of Tennessee