In Defence of Reinhold’s Kantian Representationalism: Aspects of Idealism in Versuch einer neuen Theorie des menschlichen Vorstellungsvermögens

Dennis Schulting


In this paper, I want to zero in on the Kantian idea that,whilst things in themselves must logically be presupposed as the ground underlying appearances and things are not reducible to their representations, (1) objects as appearances are not properties of things in themselves, and (2) things in themselves or the thing in itself cannot properly be represented or even thought. To do this, I turn to one of the earliest defenders and champions of the Kantian philosophy, Karl Leonhard Reinhold, and specifically to his first major work Versuch einer neuen Theorie des menschlichen Vorstellungsvermögens, published in 1789. I am here interested neither in the extent to which Reinhold’s interpretation of Kant is correct or even adequately represents Kant’s thought in all of its aspects, nor whether Reinhold’s attempt to present a systematic philosophy based on a rigorous deduction from a single principle (his strong foundationalism) stands up to scrutiny. I am here solely interested in some of Reinhold’s positive insights, in the Versuch, concerning elements of his representationalism that may shed light on Kant’s idealism, specifically, the relation between appearances (as objects of knowledge) and things in themselves, i. e., points (1) and (2) described above. I read the early Reinhold of the Versuch as confirming the Kantian view that objects as appearances are not properties of things in themselves and that we are radically ignorant of things in themselves, in the sense that we can neither know things in themselves (through the senses) nor even intellectually grasp things in themselves through the understanding alone.

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The Kant Yearbook is an international journal that publishes articles, historical or systematic, on the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. It is the Kant Yearbook’s goal to intensify innovative research on Kant on an international scale. Articles are double-blind peer reviewed by an internationally renowned editorial board. Each issue is dedicated to a specific topic announced through a call for papers.