Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Klassische Deutsche Philosophie

A Study of Kant's Transcendental Method of Proof


Bianca Ancillotti



My dissertation offers a comprehensive study of the demonstrative procedure characteristic of the transcendental proofs Kant proposed in the Critique of Pure Reason to show that certain synthetic a priori principles are objectively valid for all objects of possible human experience.

It has often been acknowledged that transcendental proofs display a rather unique kind of argumentation. Kant himself often stresses the unicity of his proofs, and the fact that the reasoning he develops to ground the results of transcendental philosophy requires a wholly new perspective in the field of metaphysics and epistemology, a revolutionary change in our way of thinking.

Approaching Kant's transcendental proofs from either the analytic or the historical perspective, their unicity has often been understood to mean an idiosyncrasy in the way of reasoning and argumentation.

Motivated by the scope and force of the negative results reached from those perspectives, my study proposes a meta-philosophical approach to the problem of the transcendental proofs focusing on the methodological principles governing the demonstrative procedure. The meta-philosophical perspective is suggested by Kant in the rather neglected chapters of the Transcendental Doctrine of Method and it highlights the fact that the proofs are proposed with a double purpose. They are supposed to prove that certain principles are objectively valid, but they are also proposed normatively to determine a general procedure through which we can recognize and prove the truth of necessary and universal principles.

Besides the possibility of gaining new insight in the neglected field of Kant's philosophical methodology, my dissertation provides an attempt to solve systematic and interpretative problems that prevent a unified view of Kant’s method of proof. Through the study of the methodological principles governing philosophical proofs, it becomes possible to explain the unicity of the Kantian transcendental method, while at the same time integrating it in a general and systematic picture of a consistent philosophical practice. A new solution is proposed for the contraposition between Kant’s philosophical conclusions and their antagonist positions, scepticism and dogmatism, by spelling out a methodological normative thesis and a notion of philosophical construction, which show the rational preferability of the procedure proposed by Kant over the procedure that motivates the sceptical doubt.


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