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BOOK REVIEWS 439 J. N. Findlay. Kant and the Transcendental Object: A Hermeneutic Study. Oxford: Clarendon Press, x98,1. Pp. xxiv + 392. $24.oo. j. N. Findlay describes his Kant and the Transcendental Object as a "comprehensive examination of Kant's metaphysics of transcendental idealism." It is a bold attempt to give a sweeping account of Kant's systematic critical thoughts on empirical cognition and its objects, existence, determination and justification, the role and nature of cognizing persons, morality, God, and beauty, as well as a statement of Kant's precritical positions and of the reception of his thoughts in post-Kantian times. The attempt turns out to be too bold and the account too sweeping. More questions are raised, deliberately or not, than are satisfactorily answered. One weakness of the book lies in the fact that it is too synoptic a treatment, often terminating discussion when it begins to be interesting andinsightful. Another weakness is that to the extent that the treatment is carefully focused and made to depend on a single issue or theme, the account of that issue or theme is not sharp enough, allowing its unclarities and, in part, confusions to suffuse much of the rest of the book. The issue or theme, as one would expect, is that of Kant's distinction between things considered in themselves and things as they appear in accordance with formal-semantic conditions of empirical judgments expressive of empirical cognition. Before turning to specific criticisms, I should say that Findlay's book is of undeniable value as a general introduction to some underlying issues in Kant's philosophy and is to be recommended from this point of view. Its style is vigorous and in its own fashion precise and properly economical, some gratuitous jabs at the poor positivists notwithstanding. Findlay begins his discussion of the above Kantian distinction by referring to Kant's contrast between empirical cognition and (mere) thought. His discussion makes it clear that empirical cognition is half of the constrast (although Findlay often suppresses "empirical"), thereby pushing into limbo mathematical and transcendental cognition a priori. For the most part he seems to be of the opinion that every cognitive attitude different from that of empirical cognition is or reduces to (mere) thinking or to thinking only of what is "formal" (in one of the many Kantian senses of "formal"). But this incorrectly describes what Kant has in mind when he, for example, speaks of Vernunfterkenntnis, not to mention what he has in mind when he speaks of nondetermining pure judgements of taste and, more generally, of teleological judgments. (Kant's distinction between determining and nondetermining judgments is introduced and utilized only relatively late in the book.) Equally promisingly, Findlay stresses in his opening pages that the notions of transcendental object, of noumenon, and of thing regarded in itself (the last unfortunately expressed by the locution "thing-in-itself") must be distinguished from one another. This looks better than those views that identify transcendental objects with Leibnizian noumena, sliding from this to double affection with one of the affection relations conceived as a noumenal causation and as incompatible rival to causation of the Second Analogy; but before too long (p. 27), Findlay speaks of a "single conception " after all. All this is puzzling. Findlay often slips into an ontological interpretation of the Kantian distinction above, a "two-realms" interpretation, but in other 44 ~ HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY places insists on speaking of "sameness," even numerical identity, of things regarded in themselves and things as they appear. This, too, is puzzling. All of these oscillations have consequences, since according to Findlay it is what unknowably "lies behind " what appears that gives form, permanence, and order to what appears. Hence any tendency to a "two-realms" interpretation and toward noumena has the startling consequence that unknowable noumenal conditions provide the sort of conditions of empirical cognition expressed by Kant's transcendental synthetic judgments a priori. Substance, for example, is according to Findlay a "timeless unity" (p. 167). But this is an incorrect account of transcendental conditions and of transcendental idealism. There is a pervasive tendency on Findlay's part to crowd some crucial Kantian distinctions together in a Leibnizian conception of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 439-441
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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