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Knowledge, Objectivity, and Self-Consciousness: A Kantian Articulation of Our Capacity to Know

Tegtmeyer, Maximilian Lukas Karl Ernst (2023) Knowledge, Objectivity, and Self-Consciousness: A Kantian Articulation of Our Capacity to Know. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation articulates our human capacity to judge as a capacity for knowledge, specifically for empirical knowledge, and for knowledge of itself as such. I interpret and draw on the account of such knowledge presented by Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, situate this account historically, and relate it to relevant contemporary debates. The first chapter motivates my project by assessing the insights and shortcomings of Cartesian epistemology. I argue that while Descartes draws on the essential self-consciousness of judgement to show that the cogito is knowledge, he fails, by his own standards, to secure this status for any judgement beyond the cogito. I conclude that self-consciousness alone is empty, but that, since we can judge beyond the cogito, judgement can be given content from elsewhere. The next chapter evaluates the empiricist doctrine that operations of the senses by themselves give content to judgement and can vindicate it as empirical knowledge. I contend that Kant deepens Hume’s finding, that empiricism fails to enable us to explain empirical knowledge, into the more radical insight that empiricism fails to enable us to understand the senses as providing any content. I conclude that the senses alone are blind and that our account of empirical knowledge must privilege neither sensory givenness nor intellectual self-consciousness. The third chapter contrasts two readings of Kant on the cooperation between sensibility and understanding in empirical knowledge. I argue, against many Kantians, that the Transcendental Deduction shows that instead of understanding this cooperation compositionally – so that operations of sensibility are intelligible independently of acts of the understanding – we must conceive of it hylomorphically – so that the operations of sensibility and understanding constitute the mutually dependent matter and form of empirical knowing respectively. The final chapter substantiates this hylomorphism by explicating the form of knowledge as synthesis. Following Kant, I argue that inference is a species of synthesis and provide a synthetic explanation of inference. The resulting account simultaneously illustrates synthesis, addresses a prominent contemporary problem regarding the nature of inference, and explains how our capacity to know provides not just isolated glimpses of empirical reality, but a unified conception of it.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Tegtmeyer, Maximilian Lukas Karl Ernstmaximilian.tegtmeyer@pitt.edumat1870000-0001-7428-1499
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMcDowell,
Committee MemberEngstrom,
Committee MemberBoyle,
Committee MemberWhiting,
Committee MemberThompson,
Date: 4 August 2023
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 3 August 2022
Approval Date: 4 August 2023
Submission Date: 26 July 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 179
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Philosophy
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant, Empiricism, Transcendental Idealism, Transcendental Deduction, Intuition, Inference, Knowledge, Objectivity, Self-Consciousness, Skepticism
Date Deposited: 04 Aug 2023 20:04
Last Modified: 04 Aug 2023 20:04


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