Reality and knowledge in Locke and Kant

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Ramon M. Lemos, Committee Chair


This dissertation shows that Kant was perhaps more deeply influenced by Locke than most historians of philosophy have realized and than even Kant himself might have recognized. While the standard view of their relation emphasizes their difference, the dissertation examines important similarities between the philosophy of Locke and that of Kant that have not so frequently been noted. Locke's empirical enquiry is "propaedeutic" to Kant's transcendental enquiry. Although both Locke and Kant seek to justify Newtonian physics in terms of their theories of knowledge, Kant, like Locke, cannot consistently hold both his philosophy of physics and his epistemology. As far as their rejection of innatism is concerned, Kant takes up where Locke left off. For Kant space and time are pure intuitions, and categories are not innate ideas. Kant's view of experience complements Locke's view. Kant's distinction between the passivity and the activity of the mind corresponds to Locke's distinction between the passivity of the mind with respect to simple ideas and the activity of the mind with respect to complex ideas. Kant's view of synthetic a priori judgments has its root in Locke's discussion of the certainty of general propositions and of the certainty of knowledge. Locke's propositions about substances and mathematical propositions are, to use Kant's terminology, synthetic a priori.



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