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Exposition of Kant’s “Copernican Revolution” in Philosophy

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  1. Introduction
  2. The Copernican revolution in science
  3. Kant's doctrine of the 'Transcendental Aesthetic'
  4. Kantian reflections on Berkeley's critique of abstract ideas
    1. Allowing for the existence of an external object
    2. Kant's critique of pure reason
    3. Interpreting the dilemma of Berkeleyan epistemology
  5. Conclusion

Taking their cue from the scientific philosophy of Francis Bacon, the thinkers of the Enlightenment assumed that the mind acted as a mirror, simply reflecting images of outward objects onto the subjective self. Immanuel Kant proposed a reorientation in which the relation between subject and object was recognized as necessarily interactive; Kant suggested that ?objects must conform to our cognition (638a)? of them. Independent of experiencing objects themselves, all we are able to think about them is that which the mind itself ?puts into them (638b).? The preconditions laid down by consciousness-in-general mark the limits of our rational understanding of reality. Kant's philosophy establishes the distinction between the appearance of an object, as we experience it, and the thing itself. This distinction is framed within the greater task of the Critique of Pure Reason, of investigating whether metaphysics can be secured as a science. The end of metaphysics is to cognize what Kant calls the unconditioned. If our cognizing about a thing reaches only as far as the appearance of a thing, and not to the thing itself, then our experience cannot be of the unconditioned. If our faculty of representing things conditions the appearances that compose our experience of things, then knowledge of metaphysics- an attempt ?to get beyond the boundaries of all possible experience (639b)?- is beyond the grasp of our representational minds.

[...] He can only see as far as appearances, and does not infer from such appearances the existence of things in themselves apart from our experience of them. With his conception of intuitive ideas, Kant's understanding augments Berkeley's denial of non-empirical ideas. There exist intuitions separate from experience- these are the noumena of the intellect, which are thought as an object of the senses but as a thing in itself (Smith, So the sensible world that we experience, although interpreted by Berkeley to be a world of objects that ultimately dissolves without a subject, is only one half of the existing universe. [...]


[...] Berkeley's philosophy runs into a dilemma with his denial of abstract ideas while relying on ?notions' of the self and of God. He calls the self thing entirely distinct from [ideas], in which they exist . and by which they are perceived There is no basis, in the end, for the self in Berkeley's philosophy. Because existence of an idea consists in being perceived and the self is that which perceives and reifies external ideas, it is not an idea itself. [...]

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