Department of Philosophy



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The Department of Philosophy Colloquium Series presents

Andrea Kern (Leipzig University)

"Kant's Conception of a Self-Conscious Capacity for Knowledge"

THURSDAY, March 9th, 2017

WATSON HALL, ROOM 517 @ 4:00 p.m.

One might characterize skepticism in various ways, but one way to characterize it would be as follows: The skeptic thinks that it is impossible to understand how a human being can occasionally be in a state of knowledge by exercising one of her capacities for knowledge, e.g. her capacity to form beliefs about facts in the world on the basis of seeing them. It is impossible to be in such a state, the skeptic argues, for being in such a state would require that one not only exercises one’s capacity for knowledge but that one also knows that one is exercising one’s capacity for knowledge. This is so because human knowledge is an intrinsically self-conscious state: for a human being to have knowledge that p entails that she knows that her belief that p amounts to knowledge that p, and hence entails that she knows that she knows that p. The skeptic thinks, such knowledge is unavailable to us.

In my talk I will consider the outlines of a Kantian answer to the skeptical problem. Kant’s treatment of the problem is specific in that it does not answer the skeptic’s challenge by taking its problem at face value to which it then seeks to find an answer. Rather, he dissolves the possibility of formulating the skeptical problem. Having a proper account of the very idea of a capacity for judgment, Kant thinks, will reveal skepticism as resting on a misunderstanding about what it is to have and exercise such a capacity in the first place.


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