My goal is to examine solipsism and discover how Immanuel Kant's Transcendental Idealism could be subject to a charge of being solipsistic. Following this, I will briefly review the destructive impact this charge would have on certain of Kant’s positions. After the case for solipsism is made, I intend to describe a possible line of rebuttal from Kant’s perspective that could be made to the charge.
The issue of solipsism is intriguing in that it seems to be universally rejected as a basis of metaphysics. Yet, the modern tradition has had difficulty supporting this rejection. Antony Flew defines solipsism as, "The theory that I am the sole existent. To be a solipsist I must hold that I alone exist independently, and that what I ordinarily call the outside world exists only as an object or content of my consciousness" (330). According to solipsism, I see the world through my eyes. The world is only as I see it. Reality is only that which seems real to me. Knowledge is what I know. Egoism is the ethic. Politics and social conditions do not concern me. My pain is the only pain. My welfare is the only concern. As Rene Descartes stated in the second meditation, the contents of his mind seemed to be directly available to him.
I am, however, a real thing, and really existent; but what thing? The answer was, a thinking thing...since it is now manifest to me that bodies themselves are not properly perceived by the senses nor by the faculty of imagination, but by the intellect alone; and since they are not perceived because they are seen and touched, but only because they are understood [or rightly comprehended by thought], I readily discover that there is ...
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...he realm of appearances is sufficient to imply the necessity for rational beings to assume the existence of one’s own mind and other minds. Further, I believe from this basis one can refuse to accept the possibility that Kant’s Transcendental Idealism could be reduced to solipsism.
Descartes, Rene. "Meditations on the First Philosophy". The Rationalists. New York: Doubleday, 1960. 121-127.
Flew, Antony. A Dictionary of Philosophy. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1979. 330.
Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Practical Reason. Trans. Lewis White Beck. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1993. 141-149.
Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason. Trans. Norman Kemp Smith. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1929.
Kant, Immanuel. Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals. Trans. T. K. Abbott. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1988.
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