restricted access The Bounds of Sense and the Limits of Analysis

By interpreting Kant's central argument in the Critique of Pure Reason as an extended analysis of the concept of self-conscious experience and the conditions for the possession of this concept, Peter Strawson's seminal work, The Bounds of Sense, sought to enlist Kant in his own defense of the possibility of analytical philosophy against Quine's attack upon the dogma of analyticity. A Kantian analysis could be defended, Strawson maintained, without Kant's own doctrines of transcendental idealism and transcendental psychology, the former the doctrine that spatio-temporality is not a real feature of objects as they are in themselves, and the latter the inference that it can only be the form that we impose upon the appearances of objects in our synthesis of our representations of them. I argue that Strawson's central criticism, that Kant is only entitled to infer some degree of regularity in the objects of our experience, follows from his analytical interpretation of Kant; such a premise suffices to explain our mere possession of the concept of the self, but fails to do justice to Kant's own more ambitious approach to self-knowledge. I also argue that Strawson's basically sound criticism of transcendental idealism does not entail his total rejection of transcendental psychology, since even an analysis of the conditions of the possibility of self-consciousness entails certain general claims about our mental abilities insofar as we do have self-consciousness, which claims may be considered to comprise transcendental rather than empirical psychology.