I understand Kant's categories, however I don't understand their value in arguing against skepticism.

  • 1
    the categories are not generally considered identical to the transcendental argument by most scholars. Most locate the clearest transcendental argument in the "Refutation of Idealism" which denies the non-reality of space and time. What are you reading that inspires the question?
    – virmaior
    Dec 13, 2015 at 1:29
  • @virmaior revising for an exam using an a-level textbook. Are there any resources you can direct me to? Or examples that clarify this. Thank you
    – Geometry
    Dec 13, 2015 at 1:30
  • The problem with helping you so far is that at least for me is that the question in the title and the question in the body are different. Where is the prompt coming from? Is there a study guide or something you are using that suggests this or did you randomly construct two major issues in Kant?
    – virmaior
    Dec 13, 2015 at 2:00
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    Categories are a priori knowledge from the faculty of understanding. If there is knowledge a priori, that is something that a sceptic cannot question. Insofar categories limit scepticism, as well as other knowledge a priori does.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Dec 13, 2015 at 17:06
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    @virmaior Perhaps she means the Analogies rather than the Refutation. The second one especially is an argument against Humean skepticism of causality from our ability to discern temporal succession of events, i.e. from the same basis as the anti-skeptical argument about external objects in the Refutation. The enterprise of Analogies generally is to show that the same syntheses that underwrite application of temporal concepts also underwrite application of the categories of substance, cause, and community, thus making them necessary conditions of the possibility of knowledge contra skeptics.
    – Conifold
    Dec 13, 2015 at 23:49

1 Answer 1


I take Kant's transcendental philosophy to be a non-dogmatic (contemporary the contender was the "Spinozian") way out of the Agrippan Trilemma. The Agrippan Scepticism does say that there may be no certainty in any knowledge, because all sceptic questioning leads to one of the three outcomes of the trilemma (it isn't that correct, because Agrippa had five principles, but I will not go into it for now).

Now, as I wrote in an answer here with some textual support, kantian transcendental philosophy asks for the conditions of the possibility of our reference to objects (of representations).

Taking this for granted, scepticism is to some extend (as absolute scepticism and as solipsism) self refuting, because it actually has to use concepts (modern speech: language), sensual intuitions and representations to even formulate its position. By this, space and time as forms of the intuitions and the categories of pure understanding have to be involved.

As you can see, transcendental philosophy of course does not work against all scepticism. It is for itself a highly sceptic philosophy, working against all kinds of metaphysics that proclaims entities without corresponding intuitions, like wolffian metaphysics, which were quite popular back then. But it works against some radical forms of scepticism by virtue of dictating them their conditions of possibility as necessary a priori.

The main value of transcendental philosophy against scepticism can therefore be considered as showing the boundaries of the usefulness of scepticism as philosophical method.

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