By Karin A. Nisenbaum
Kant developed a distinctive method of philosophical argumentation, the method of transcendental argumentation, which continues to have contemporary philosophical promise. Yet there is considerable disagreement among Kant’s interpreters concerning the aim of transcendental arguments. On ambitious interpretations, transcendental arguments aim to establish certain necessary features of the world from the conditions of our thinking about or experiencing the world; they are world-directed. On modest interpretations, transcendental arguments aim to show that certain beliefs have a special status that renders them invulnerable to skeptical doubts; they are belief-directed. This paper brings Kierkegaard’s thesis of the “subjectivity of truth” to bear on these questions concerning the aim of transcendental arguments. I focus on Kant’s argument for the postulate of God’s existence in his Critique of Practical Reason and show that Kierkegaard’s thesis of the subjectivity of truth can help us construe the argument as both belief and world directed. Yet I also argue that Kierkegaard’s thesis of the subjectivity of truth can help us understand the source of our dissatisfaction with Kant’s transcendental arguments: It can help us understand that dissatisfaction as an expression of what Stanley Cavell calls the “cover of skepticism,” the conversion of metaphysical finitude into intellectual lack.
Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell, 2018