Having discussed the fate of transcendental reasoning in the analytic tradition, Reynolds and Chase (in Postanalytic and Metacontinental: Crossing the Divide) turn to the continental side, wherein transcendental reasoning is “perhaps even permanently contested terrain…but not controversial enough to induce general abstinence.” The authors suggest:
…the implicit rationale seems to be a bit like Pascal’s Wager–believing in the efficacy of transcendental arguments, if they work, may result in tremendous results (a Copernican revolution); if they do not, some important concepts will have nonetheless been created. Better that, on this view, than disbelieving and being the under-laborer of science (37).
At the end of the article, Reynolds and Chase claim:
The analytic community has, by and large, decided not to trust such arguments; the continental community. by and large, has put a significant degree of faith in them. As William James made clear in a more general epistemic context, the precise trade-off between the goal of avoiding false beliefs and the goal of seeking true beliefs can differ from agent to agent, and that is the situation we have here between the traditions. The analytic decision is arguably reasonable given the difficulties there are in finding a constructive role that transcendental reasoning can play within the norms of the analytic community. The reasonableness of the continental decision requires consideration of the value of engaging in this Wager while also critically reflecting, and the value of the perspective that dual combination affords (48).
The authors conclude with a comment about rapprochement between the two traditions: transcendental reasoning will only serve to deepen the divide, not bridge it. I think this may just be the understatement of the year (or something like that). Nonetheless, is it that analytic community doesn’t “trust” transcendental arguments whereas those starry eyed Continentalists go by some sort of feeling of absolute dependence with regards to transcendental arguments? Weird. I suppose if transcendental arguments/philosophy are to be regarded as an attempt to maintain and/or achieve the goal of philosophy as radical inquiry, by which I mean freedom from prejudices and other types of presuppositions, this means that not only does philosophy have to offer a transcendental grounding of science (a la Kant), but moreover, philosophy must become aware of and justify its own presuppositions. This is to say, well, philosophy has to explain itself, it needs to be self-justifying. While say, Kant can offer an account of the conditions of possible experience and of possible objects of experience, as some versions of the story go, he can’t (or does not) provide an account of his ability to do so. Perhaps this is what Reynolds and Chase are claiming with regards to transcendental arguments and faith: Kant–for one example– doesn’t explain how transcendental knowledge itself is possible, let alone justify it. Let’s just bracket whether or not this is accurate for now, but I know this has been a large debate in the literature (revolving around synthetic/analytic justification of TA vs “genetics”). Nonetheless, in the section “The Discipline of Pure Reason” in the CPR Kant writes:
In transcendental knowledge, so long as we are concerned only with concepts of the understanding, our guide is the possibility of experience. Such proof does not show that the given concept (for instance, of that which happens) leads directly to another concept (that of a cause): for such a transition would be a saltus which could not be justified. The proof proceeds by showing that experience itself, and therefore the object of experience, would be impossible without a connection of this kind. Accordingly, the proof must also at the same time show the possibility of arriving synthetically a priori at some knowledge of things which was not contained in the concepts of them. (A783=B811)
I think it’s clear that for Kant, the justification of any type of transcendental proposition indicates experience wouldn’t be possible unless the proposition was true. If memory serves, this is exactly what Kant does in the Transcendental Deduction. So, I’m just not quite sure if the characterization of transcendental arguments is a sort of wager at all, but I’ll have to think some more on it (hoping Mikhail weighs in).