The antinomies of rational cosmology in Kant
McGoldrick, Patricia Mary
Burch, Robert W.
Master of Arts
The transcendental illusions of rational cosmology are a set of four formally valid arguments concerning the origin of the universe, which result in contradictory conclusions. Their existence is of great embarrassment to reason since in the face of such a dilemma it is tempting to abandon reason in favor of skepticism of dogmaticism. Kant attempts to save reason from this fate by giving an account of how the illusions arise in the first place. His account shows that they are founded upon a mistaken assumption, namely that our experience is of the world in itself rather than a transcendentally subjective experienced world. The thesis is an attempt to set out and defend an interpretation of the structure of these illusions. This interpretation is founded upon Kant's account of their origin. The interpretation is firstly that the thesis and antithesis of each illusion represents, respectively, "the finite and infinite alternative of the unconditioned condition of the series of conditioned things. It is by virtue of this that the illusions are antithetical since these two alternatives are mutually exclusive, and thus the arguments contradictory. Secondly, that each antinomy is concerned with a different series of conditioned things and consequently, that the unconditioned condition of each is distinctly different from the other three. In the exposition of Kant's account of how the illusions of rational cosmology arise, set out in the first two chapters, it becomes apparent that the interpretation of the antinomies argued for is the only one which is consistent with his account of their origin. It is further argued in the final chapter that any other interpretation leads to many problems in the form of internal inconsistencies in the antinomies themselves.