Transcendental realism

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Transcendental realism is a concept stemming from the philosophy of Immanuel Kant that implies individuals have a perfect understanding of the limitations of their own minds.

Kantian roots[edit]

Transcendental realism arguably has its roots in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant and refers to a form of transcendentalism that permits the subject to be fully cognizant of all limitations of their mind. Thus, they can adjust their cognition accordingly as one seeks to understand the things-in-themselves: the world as it actually exists. In this way, the subject is able to know the world of things-in-themselves, and, presumably, is able to scientifically test noumena (direct, intuitive knowledge).

It is important to note that Kant was himself not a transcendental realist, but rather a transcendental idealist. That is to say, he did not believe one could ever understand the realm of things.

Karl Robert Eduard von Hartmann called his philosophy a transcendental realism, because in it he professed to reach by means of induction from the broadest possible basis of experience a knowledge of that which lies beyond experience.

Transcendental realism in contemporary research methodology[edit]

It might be argued that a latent form of transcendental realism has permeated branches of contemporary perspectives on phenomenological research methodology within the social sciences, humanities, education and medicine. Some writers, in particular the economist Tony Lawson of the critical realist school, have suggested that researchers are capable of "bracketing-out" their own subjectivity within phenomenological research. Such claims, while not explicitly characteristic of transcendental realism, tend to overlook problems that are inherently shared (such as those discussed in the section below).

Problems with transcendental realism[edit]

A central problem with transcendental realism is the requirement of the individual to fully understand their own mind to the degree that one is able to identify with perfect certainty each and every limitation inherent and manifest within. This understanding would further need to be perpetually reevaluated given the developmental nature of mind and, presumably, the developmental nature of its limitations. While this is not theoretically impossible, it is, for all intents and purposes, a serious practical limitation of the transcendental realist position.