Kant on the "conditions of the possibility" of experience
Is part ofTranscendental inquiry ; p. 1-20
The aim of this paper is to set out some features of Kant’s conception of transcendental philosophy. I would like to argue that this philosophy, although it is situated at a higher level of discourse than common knowledge, does not essentially transcend the limits that it sets to this knowledge. In order to achieve this, I stress the fact that Kant regards experience as a mere “possibility.” Now, the Critique of Pure Reason explains that the human understanding cannot conceive of an absolute possibility, but only a relative one, namely a possibility that is tied to conditions. And possible experience as a whole is no exception here. Hence the expression “conditions of the possibility of experience” which designates the topic of the Transcendental Analytic. This also means that experience is “contingent” (A 737/B 765). It is not in itself necessary; rather, it is dependent upon certain conditions. But then we learn that the most important transcendental conditions for this experience, i.e., the dynamic principles, are themselves “contingent” (A 160/B 199). Consequently, these transcendental conditions are not unconditioned; they in turn depend on empirical conditions, over which they have no control.