Reconsidering Kant’s Rejection of Indirect Arguments in Transcendental Philosophy

In: History of Philosophy & Logical Analysis
Marcel Buß Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts, Friedrich Schiller University Jena Jena Germany

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Immanuel Kant states that indirect arguments are not suitable for the purposes of transcendental philosophy. If he is correct, this affects contemporary versions of transcendental arguments which are often used as an indirect refutation of scepticism. I discuss two reasons for Kant’s rejection of indirect arguments. Firstly, Kant argues that we are prone to misapply the law of excluded middle in philosophical contexts. Secondly, Kant points out that indirect arguments lack some explanatory power. They can show that something is true but they do not provide insight into why something is true. Using mathematical proofs as examples, I show that this is because indirect arguments are non-constructive. From a Kantian point of view, transcendental arguments need to be constructive in some way. In the last part of the paper, I briefly examine a comment made by P. F. Strawson. In my view, this comment also points toward a connection between transcendental and constructive reasoning.

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