Attempting to Exit the Human Perspective: A Priori Experimentation in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason

Rachel Zuckert*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


I consider a problem for Kant’s transcendental idealism if one construes it as a claim that human beings know from a particular, specifically human perspective. Namely, ordinarily when we speak of someone seeing from a perspective, we understand other people to have other perspectives, and think that people can change their perspectives by moving away from them, to a different one. So one may recognize that one’s own perspective is a perspective by comparing to others, by seeing a former perspective from a new vantage point. But Kant denies such plurality and variability for the perspective he identifies; it is the human perspective as such. Thus, one may worry that Kant’s view is incoherent: Kant claims that we can know only from one perspective, yet, in order to recognize that perspective, he himself must stand “outside” of it. I consider a potential Kantian response to this charge, in the form of an interpretation of the Dialectic section of the first Critique. When one attempts to know things that lie beyond the human perspective — to exit it — one falls into contradictions and empty thinking. These failed attempts to exit the human perspective constitute its horizon, a limit recognizable without one needing truly (but impossibly) to occupy a different perspective. Such failed attempts, I argue, are some of the confirming results of the a priori experimentation Kant proposes in the Preface to the Critique: his hypothesis of transcendental idealism is shown to identify the dividing line between successful and failed, productive and contradictory attempts at human knowledge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSynthese Library
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages18
StatePublished - 2020

Publication series

NameSynthese Library
ISSN (Print)0166-6991
ISSN (Electronic)2542-8292


  • A priori knowledge
  • Kant’s critique of rationalist metaphysics
  • Kant’s theoretical philosophy
  • Perspective
  • Philosophical methodology
  • Transcendental idealism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History and Philosophy of Science
  • History
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Logic


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