The Non-Identity of Appearances and Things in Themselves

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Abstract

According to the ‘One Object’ reading of Kant's transcendental idealism, the distinction between the appearance and the thing in itself is not a distinction between two objects, but between two ways of considering one and the same object. On the ‘Metaphysical’ version of the One Object reading, it is a distinction between two kinds of properties possessed by one and the same object. Consequently, the Metaphysical One Object view holds that a given appearance, an empirical object, is numerically identical to the thing in itself that appears as that object. I raise various indiscernibility arguments against that view; because an appearance has different spatiotemporal and modal properties than a thing in itself, no appearance can be identical to a thing in itself. I point out that these arguments are similar to arguments against Monism, the view that material objects are numerically identical to the matter of which they are made. I outline some strategies Monists have developed to respond to these indiscernibility arguments and then develop parallel responses on behalf of the Metaphysical One Object view. However, I then raise another indiscernibility argument, to which, I argue, the Metaphysical One Object view cannot respond, even using the resources I have developed thus far. I develop a modified version of the Metaphysical One Object view that can respond to this new indiscernibility argument, but, I argue, this modified version of the One Object view is only a terminological variant of the Two Object view. When the Metaphysical One Object view is fully thought through it becomes the Two Object view. I conclude that Kantian appearances are not numerically identical to the things in themselves that appear to us.

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