Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Philosophy



First Advisor

David Freeman


Kant's statement limiting the material of cognitive categories to the empirical--that which appears to us in the manifold of sensible intuition--is examined in its relation to the concept of a Thing presumed by definition to be nonempirical or transcendent of the empirical, the God of modern theism. Kant's limiting statement forbids the application of the a priori concepts of understanding, the categories of Existence, Causality, and determinate Necessity, in three proofs of the existence of a transcendent ens realissimum. Rather the application of these categories is limited to natural states of affairs in the sections of Kant's Dialectic devoted to three traditional arguments for God's existence.

In what follows the Kantian theory of existence is explored in close detail as is Kant's limitation of the meaning of causality and necessity. Each proof is given in the formulation Kant examined, with reference to the source of that formulation. A summary of Kant's treatment is then set forth and exposed to analysis.

If Kant's negative criticism of the three proofs under examination depends on his limiting statement, then we are naturally led to inquire after the logical status of that statement and Kant's defense of it. While it is beyond our scope to set forth and expound the theoretical foundation of Kant's principle of cognitive limitation, it becomes clear through analysis that that principle fails to limit to sensibilia the application of the categories, since that principle is itself the knowledge-claim that the category Limitation applies to the abstract and nonempirical class of all conceptual acts of knowledge. That is, Kant's statement of limitation knows what it professes not to know, that the category Limitation has an application outside objects of possible experience.

Thus, if Kant's limitative statement failed as a knowledge-claim in the manner indicated, it would appear that we need to seek elsewhere for a general epistemological principle for the criticism of theistic arguments.



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