University of Notre Dame
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Critical Belief in the Unconditioned: Kant's Antinomy as a Positive Response to Skepticism about Reason

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posted on 2009-07-24, 00:00 authored by James Christopher Hebbeler
I argue for a reading of the Critique of Pure Reason that addresses several related inadequacies in Kant scholarship. First, I argue that the problem of skepticism with which the Critique is centrally concerned is not the problem of skepticism about the external world or about ordinary knowledge but rather the problem of skepticism about reason. This latter problem of skepticism, I argue, is rooted in the difficulty of providing a philosophical account of the faculty of theoretical reason that preserves its unity while at the same time doing justice to its various intrinsic, but seemingly incompatible aims. Second, I argue that, in order to understand the Critique as responding to this problem, we need to rethink this work as providing not just a metaphysics of experience but also a metaphysics of reason. I provide an account of the nature of theoretical reason that reveals its teleological structure, including the aims both of the understanding and of reason as the highest intellectual faculty. With this account I argue that Kant's positive theory of reason extends beyond the Transcendental Analytic and ultimately into the Antinomy of Pure Reason chapter of the Dialectic, where the problem of skepticism about reason and its eventual solution are fully articulated. Third, I offer a novel reading of Kant's solution to the Antinomy by showing how Kant's conception of belief is implicitly at work in it. With this reading I provide a new account of Kant's justification for the doctrine of transcendental idealism, understood metaphysically. That is, I argue that Kant's solution to the Antinomy and his completed account of the metaphysics of reason involves the justified assertion that there exists a non-spatial, non-temporal, unconditioned ground of natureÌ¢‰âÂ'a thing in itself. My reading of Kant's account of the unity of theoretical reason has implications for Kant's account of the unity of reason as a whole. It shows Kant to have established a much tighter relation between theoretical and practical reasonÌ¢‰âÂ'and, with it, a more sophisticated and comprehensive response to the Enlightenment need for a rationally grounded account of faithÌ¢‰âÂ'than is generally recognized in the literature.


Date Modified


Defense Date


Research Director(s)

Dr. Karl P. Ameriks

Committee Members

Dr. Fred L. Rush Dr. Paul W. Franks Dr. G. Felicitas Munzel


  • Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Level

  • Doctoral Dissertation


  • English

Alternate Identifier



University of Notre Dame

Program Name

  • Philosophy