Skip to main content Accessibility help

What Descartes Doubted, Berkeley Denied, and Kant Endorsed



According to Kant, there is some doctrine, which he sometimes calls ‘empirical realism,’ such that it was doubted by Descartes, denied by Berkeley, and endorsed by Kant himself. The primary aim of this paper will be to reconstruct Kant’s own narrative of the historical relationship between Descartes, Berkeley, and himself, in order to identify the doctrine Kant calls ‘empirical realism.’ I argue that the empirical realism that Descartes doubted, Berkeley denied, and Kant endorsed is the doctrine that the concept of extended substance has legitimate application.

Selon Kant, il existe une doctrine, qu’il appelle quelquefois le «réalisme empirique», à propos de laquelle Descartes aurait exprimé des doutes, qui aurait été niée par Berkeley, et que Kant lui-même aurait approuvée. L’objectif principal de cet article sera reconstituer le récit fait par Kant de la relation entre Descartes, Berkeley et lui-même, et ce, afin d’identifier la doctrine qualifiée par Kant de «réalisme empirique». Je soutiens que le réalisme empirique en question est la doctrine selon laquelle le concept de substance étendue a une application légitime.


Corresponding author


Hide All
Abela, Paul 2002 Kant’s Empirical Realism. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Allais, Lucy 2007 “Kant’s Idealism and the Secondary Quality Analogy.” Journal of the History of Philosophy 45 (3): 459484.
Allais, Lucy 2015 Manifest Reality: Kant’s Idealism and his Realism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Allison, Henry E. 1973 “Kant’s Critique of Berkeley.” Journal of the History of Philosophy 11 (1): 4363.
Allison, Henry E. 2004 Kant’s Transcendental Idealism. Revised and enlarged. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Bader, Ralf M. 2012 “The Role of Kant’s Refutation of Idealism.” Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 94 (1): 5373.
Berkeley, George 1709 An Essay towards a New Theory of Vision. In Works, 1: 161241.
Berkeley, George 1710 A Treatise concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge. In Works, 2: 21115.
Berkeley, George 1948–1957 The Works of George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne, edited by Luce, A.A. and Jessop, T.E.. London: Thomas Nelson and Sons.
Beyssade, Jean-Marie 2008 “Descartes’ ‘I Am a Thing that Thinks’ versus Kant’s ‘I Think,’” in Kant and the Early Moderns, edited by Garber, Daniel and Longuenesse, Béatrice. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 3240.
Bracken, Harry M. 1965 The Early Reception of Berkeley’s Immaterialism 1710–1733. Rev. ed. The Hague: Martinus Nijhof.
Buroker, Jill Vance 2006 Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Chignell, Andrew 2010 “Causal Refutations of Idealism.” Philosophical Quarterly 60 (240): 487507.
Dicker, Georges 2008 “Kant’s Refutation of Idealism.” Noûs 42 (1): 80108.
Emundts, Dina 2008 “Kant’s Critique of Berkeley’s Concept of Objectivity,” in Kant and the Early Moderns, edited by Garber, Daniel and Longuenesse, Béatrice. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 117141.
Emundts, Dina 2010 “The Refutation of Idealism and the Distinction between Phenomena and Noumena,” in The Cambridge Companion to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, edited by Guyer, Paul. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 171184.
Guyer, Paul 1987 Kant and the Claims of Knowledge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hanna, Robert 2000 “The Inner and the Outer: Kant’s ‘Refutation’ Reconstructed.” Ratio 13 (2): 146174.
Hight, Marc A. (ed.) 2013 The Correspondence of George Berkeley. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hume, David 1748/1999 An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding. Ed. Beauchamp, Tom L.. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Jacobi, F.H. 1785 Über die Lehre des Spinoza, in Briefen an den Herrn Moses Mendelssohn. In Vallée, The Spinoza Conversations, 78125.
Jacobi, F.H. 1786 Wider Mendelssohns Beschuldigungen in dessen Schrieben an die Freunde Lessings. In Vallée, The Spinoza Conversations, 150160.
Kail, P.J.E. 2008 “Hume, Malebranche, and ‘Rationalism,’” Philosophy 83 (3): 311332.
Kant, Immanuel 1764 “Essay on Maladies of the Head.” Tr. Wilson, Holly. In Anthropology, History, and Education, 6577.
Kant, Immanuel 1786a “On the Philosophers’ Medicine for the Body.” Tr. Gregor, Mary. In Anthropology, History, and Education, 184191.
Kant, Immanuel 1786b “What Does it Mean to Orient Oneself in Thinking?” In Religion and Rational Theology, ed. and tr. Wood, Allen and di Giovannie, George. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996, 718.
Kant, Immanuel 1955 Vorarbeiten und Nachträge. Vol. 23 of Gesammelte Schriften. Ed. Deutschen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin. Berlin: De Gruyter.
Kant, Immanuel 2007 Anthropology, History, and Education, ed. Louden, Robert B. and Zöller, Günter. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Keynes, Geoffrey 1976 A Bibliography of George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne: His Works and His Critics in the Eighteenth Century. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Kinnaman, Ted 2002 “Epistemology and Ontology in Kant’s Critique of Berkeley.” Idealistic Studies 32 (3): 203220.
Leibniz, G.W. 1996 New Essays on Human Understanding, ed. and tr. Remnant, Peter and Bennett, Jonathan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Longuenesse, Béatrice 2008 “Kant’s ‘I Think’ versus Descartes’ ‘I Am a Thing That Thinks,’” in Kant and the Early Moderns, edited by Garber, Daniel and Longuenesse, Béatrice. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 931.
Malebranche, Nicolas 1674–1675/1997 The Search After Truth, tr. Lennon, Thomas M. and Olscamp, Paul J.. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Malebranche, Nicolas 1688/1997 Dialogues on Metaphysics and on Religion, tr. Scott, David. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Mattey, G.J. 1983 “Kant’s Conception of Berkeley’s Idealism.” Kant-Studien 74 (2): 161175.
McCann, Edwin 1985 “Skepticism and Kant’s B Deduction.” History of Philosophy Quarterly 2 (1): 7189.
Miller, George W. 1971 “Kant’s First Edition Refutation of Dogmatic Idealism.” Kant-Studien 62 (1–4): 298318.
Morgan, Vance G. 1993 “Kant and Dogmatic Idealism: A Defense of Kant’s Refutation of Berkeley.” Southern Journal of Philosophy 31 (2): 217237.
Nagel, Gordon 1983 The Structure of Experience. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Nitzan, Lior 2012 “Externality, Reality, Objectivity, Actuality: Kant’s Fourfold Response to Idealism.” Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 94 (2): 147177.
Pearce, Kenneth L. 2017a “Berkeley on Unperceived Objects and the Publicity of Language.” History of Philosophy Quarterly 34 (3): 231250.
Pearce, Kenneth L. 2017b Language and the Structure of Berkeley’s World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Plato 1997 Sophist, tr. White, Nicholas P., in Complete Works, edited by Cooper, John M.. Indianapolis: Hackett, pp. 235293.
Robinson, Hoke 1994 “Two Perspectives on Kant’s Appearances and Things in Themselves.” Journal of the History of Philosophy 32 (3): 411441.
Stang, Nicholas 2013 “The Non-Identity of Appearances and Things in Themselves.” Noûs 47 (4): 106136.
Stang, Nicholas 2017 “Transcendental Idealism without Tears,” in Idealism: New Essays in Metaphysics, edited by Goldschmidt, Tyron and Pearce, Kenneth L.. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 82103.
Turbayne, Colin M. 1955 “Kant’s Refutation of Dogmatic Idealism” Philosophical Quarterly 5 (20): 225244.
Vallée, Gérard (ed.) 1988 The Spinoza Conversations Between Lessing & Jacobi: Text with Excerpts from the Ensuing Controversy. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
Van Cleve, James 1999 Problems from Kant. New York: Oxford University Press.
Walker, R.C.S. 1985 “Idealism: Kant and Berkeley,” in Essays on Berkeley: A Tercentennial Celebration, edited by Foster, John and Robinson, Howard. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 109129.
Warda, Arthur 1922 Immanuel Kants Bücher. Berlin: Martin Breslauer.
Wilson, Margaret D. 1971 “Kant and ‘The Dogmatic Idealism of Berkeley’” Journal of the History of Philosophy 9 (4): 459475.
Winkler, Kenneth P. 1989 Berkeley: An Interpretation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Winkler, Kenneth P. 2008 “Berkeley and Kant,” in Kant and the Early Moderns, edited by Garber, Daniel and Longuenesse, Béatrice. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 142171.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

What Descartes Doubted, Berkeley Denied, and Kant Endorsed



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.