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NAKS Book Prize 2016: Lucy Allais -- "Manifest Reality"

29 Sep 2016 5:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

NAKS is very happy to announce that Lucy Allais has won the NAKS book prize for 2016 for her Manifest Reality: Kant’s Idealism and his Realism.

Lucy Allais is jointly appointed as Henry Allison Chair of the History of Philosophy at the University of San Diego, California and Professor of Philosophy at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (Wits). She did her undergraduate degree at Wits and post graduate degrees in Oxford. Her work on Kant has focussed on his transcendental idealism and issues to do with conceptualism in his epistemology, though she has also published on Kant on giving to beggars and on Kant’s racism. She also works on forgiveness as well as related issues to do with punishmentShe is currently working on Kant’s account of free will and the relation between this and issues to do with moral psychology and forgiveness. Her articles include ‘Kant, Non-Conceptual Content and the Representation of Space,’ Journal of the History of Philosophy, 2009, 47, no. 3, pp 383–413, “Kant’s Idealism and the Secondary Quality Analogy,” Journal of the History of Philosophy, vol. 45, no. 3,  2007, pp 459-84, “Wiping the slate clean: The Heart of Forgiveness,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, 2008, 36(1) pp 33–68, “Retributive Justice, Restorative Justice, and the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, 39 (4), 2011 and “Freedom and Forgiveness” Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility, volume 2 edited by Neal Tognazzini and David Shoemaker, 2014.

Manifest Reality presents an interpretation of Kant’s transcendental idealism. One its central aims is to find a way of understanding Kant’s position that does justice to his being an idealist—his holding that physical objects in space and time depend on our minds in some sense and to some extent—at the same time as accommodating his explicit rejection of understanding this mind-dependence as anything like Berkelean idealism which sees physical objects as existing as constructions out of what exists merely in the mind. Further, the book aims to do this in a way that accommodates Kant’s holding that the things that appear to us have a way they are in themselves, independently of us, that grounds the way they appear to us, and which we cannot cognize. Finally, it aims to present an interpretation that illuminates the connections between transcendental idealism and Kant’s account of cognition, with respect to both empirical and metaphysical cognition. The book is divided into three parts. The first part goes through the basic textual claims Kant makes concerning transcendental idealism, as well as summarizing and responding to the main competing interpretations in the literature. Allais argues that the abundance of apparent textual evidence as well as philosophical considerations that can be appealed to in support of opposing interpretative extremes, as well as the fact that both have serious problems, seems to keep the literature in a state of oscillation between them. Many extreme idealist interpreters are rightly dissatisfied with deflationary readings that cannot do justice to the parts of the text in which Kant expresses his idealism; they frequently seem to assume that the only way to do justice to these texts is through seeing Kant as a phenomenalist. On the other hand, many deflationary and bare empirical realist interpreters are rightly dissatisfied with interpretations that see Kant as a phenomenalist, and from this they conclude that he is not an idealist.  She argues that to reach a stable interpretation we need an account of idealism that is not phenomenalist and that does justice to Kant’s empirical realism, and we need an account of what it means to say that things have a way they are in themselves which does not involve a commitment to intelligibilia.

The second part of the book presents Allais’s positive account of the nature of the mind-dependence of Kantian appearances, as well as her account of Kant’s argument for the position. It also presents, as a central part of her approach, her way of understanding Kant’s central notion of intuition, the role intuition plays in cognition, and the relation between this and Kant’s idealism. The third part of the book presents Allais’s reading of Kant’s commitment to there being a way things are in themselves and the relation between this and his idealism about appearances as well as his empirical realism. She presents an account of his argument in the Transcendental Deduction of the Categories, one part of which she sees as compatible with realism, and as well as an account of the relation between Kant’s idealism and his explanation of the possibility of metaphysics. She sees the Deduction as containing an epistemological argument for the claim that applying the categories is a condition of referential empirical concept application. Kant then is able to convert this conditional claim about those objects we can cognize to a claim about all objects in space and time because he has already established that objects in space and time are limited to the conditions of our cognizing them. Thus, on her reading of the argument, transcendental idealism is not an explanation of cognition of synthetic a priori judgments in general. Rather, the explanation of the possibility of synthetic a priori cognition in geometry is a priori intuition. The idea of a priori intuition, and the role it plays in organising empirical intuition, leads to transcendental idealism. This has implications for how we understand the idealism, because it enables us to take seriously the role of the idealism in explaining the possibility of metaphysics without taking the explanation to be that it is because our minds ‘make’ objects in certain ways that we can know a priori claims about objects. Rather, the synthetic a priori claims are established as conditional claims about the conditions of empirical cognition; they are converted into unconditional claims about spatio-temporal objects once we grant that spatio-temporal objects do not exist independent of the possibility of our cognizing them.


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