Kant's (Non-Question-Begging) Refutation of Cartesian Scepticism

Marshall, Colin. "Kant's (Non-Question-Begging) Refutation of Cartesian Scepticism." Kantian Review 24, no. 1 (2019): 77-101.

Kant’s Refutation of Idealism presents an interpretive dilemma: it seems to either beg the question against the Cartesian skeptic or else offer a disappointingly Berkeleyan conclusion. In this paper I offer an interpretation of Kant’s Refutation of Idealism on which it does not beg the question against the Cartesian skeptic. The skeptic Kant is concerned with doubts the existence of spatial objects. After defending a principle about question-begging, I identify four assumptions that Kant could have safely used against the skeptic, concerning concern affection, perception, spatiotemporal qualities, and transcendental criteria of experience. These assumptions are compatible with several readings of Kant’s transcendental idealism, though they fit particularly well with metaphysical one-world readings. With the assumptions in place, I offer a reconstruction of Kant’s Refutation that avoids the interpretive dilemma. I then assess the overall merits of Kant’s argument, concluding that while the argument has its limitations, it also has significant virtues.