Passive Knowledge: How to Make Sense of Kant’s A Priori——Or How Not to Be “Too Busily Subsuming”
Constantin Antonopoulos
DOI: 10.4236/ojpp.2011.12008   PDF    HTML     7,789 Downloads   14,190 Views   Citations


Subjectivists, taking the “collapse” of the observation-interpretation contrast much too seriously, are led to imagine that even perceptual knowledge is active. And therefore subject dependent. Turning the tables on this popular trend, I argue that even conceptual knowledge is passive. Kant’s epistemology is conceptual. But if also active, then incoherent. If synthetic a priori truths are to follow upon our mental activity, they were neither true nor, far less, a priori before that activity. “A priori” and “active” are contradictory attributes of knowledge. As, indeed, are “a priori” and “subject-dependent” to begin with. Nothing a priori can be dependent on anything except itself, and least of all on the human subject. Kant does consider the active aspect of thought. The difference is that for him the more active it becomes, the less it is to be trusted. For we are no longer in the province of the Understanding, and its necessary truths, but in the realm of Pure Reason and its dialectical antinomies. Cognition activists who take a liking to Kant have simply mistaken Reason for the Understanding. And Reason is to Kant “the seat of all transcendental illusion”.

Share and Cite:

Antonopoulos, C. (2011). Passive Knowledge: How to Make Sense of Kant’s A Priori——Or How Not to Be “Too Busily Subsuming”. Open Journal of Philosophy, 1, 39-47. doi: 10.4236/ojpp.2011.12008.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Antonopoulos, C. (1989). Innate ideas, categories and objectivity. Phi- losophia Naturalis, 26, 2.
[2] Antonopoulos, C. (1993). Neither-nor statements and neither-nor states. History and Philosophy of Logic, 14, 183-199. doi:10.1080/01445349308837217
[3] Austin, J. L. (1964). Sense and sensibilia. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
[4] Barnes, B. (1974). Scientifc knowledge and sociological theory. Lon- don: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
[5] Bohm, D. (1967). Causality and chance in modern physics. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
[6] Epstein, L. (1987). Correlations in separated quantum systems: A consistent history analysis of the EPR problem. American Journal of Physics, 55, 11. doi:10.1119/1.14965
[7] Feyerabend, P. K. (1978). Science in a free society. London: NLB.
[8] Hume, D. (1968). Treatise of human nature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
[9] Kant, I. (1973). Critique of pure reason, transl. Norman Kemp Smith. London: McMillan, Abbreviated as CPR.
[10] Katz, J. (1979). Semantics and conceptual change. The Philosophical Review, 88, 327-365. doi:10.2307/2184955
[11] Kuhn, Th. (1970). The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
[12] Longino, H. (1997). Alan Sokal’s “transgressing boundaries”. Inter- national Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 11, 119-120. doi:10.1080/02698599708573557
[13] Machina, K. (1972). Kant, quine and human experience. The Philoso- phical Review, 81, 484-497. doi:10.2307/2183889
[14] Odenwald, S. & Fienberg, R. T. (1993). Galaxy redshifts reconsidered. Sky and Telescope, pp. 31-35.
[15] Strawson, P .F. (1966). The Bounds of Sense. London: Methuen.

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.