Kant’s Synthesi

Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind.

With this thought, Kant attempts to bring together the apparently opposed ideas of empiricism and rationalism. He synthesises their views in the claim that empiricism was right to say that experience, in the form of sensory perception (intuitions to Kant) is essential to knowledge, but the rationalists were right to say that the mind’s ‘rational’ structures make our understanding of those sensory perceptions possible by imposing the ‘categories’ of time, space and cause and effect upon them. 

Without these organising structures experience itself would not be possible. We are so built, he thinks, that we have to experience the world outside ourselves as spatial and temporal (flowing through time) not because the outer world is spatial and temporal, but because we impose spatiality and temporality on the ‘intuitions’ we have of it.

Copernican Turn

It is in this sense that Kant’s philosophy represents a ‘Copernican turn’, rather than the world somehow imposing understanding of itself on our minds, our minds impose our understanding on the world. Because our mind gives the the world the form we perceive it as having.


However, according to Kant, it is not the actual world ‘in itself’ that we perceive, this is beyond our perception; what we experience is the world of ‘phenomena‘, the underlying reality behind the world we experience the world of ‘noumena‘ is forever hidden to us. 


This has been the hardest bit to summarise so far. It has taken me hours and I’m still not all that happy with what I’ve written, but it’s the struggle that makes it worthwhile! And I have struggled! I strongly reccomend that you use all the other resources available; the text book p. 25 in particular, the Nigel (lovely) Warburton handout, the bits on my website, wikipedia and the other recommended websites



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