The Transcendental Method


1. A Difficult Thought

That method called ‘transcendental’ is characterised by a remarkable plasticity—to which Kant, Fichte and Cohen have already drawn attention—but also by an equally well-documented difficulty. There are three reasons for the difficulty of the ‘transcendental’ and the philosophical style that defines it. The first stems from the manner in which the notion is introduced. Sometimes it is presented in scholastic form, through definitions drawn from Kant but isolated from both their effects and the manner of thinking that gives them their concrete meaning; sometimes it is confused with doctrinal systems, without its own features being identified, forming mixtures with objects and goals that are not necessary to it: Newtonian physics (Kant), ethics and right (Fichte), the phenomenological description of the world (Husserl, Heidegger), etc. To avoid these extremes, we shall delimit the characteristic and stable features of the transcendental ‘gesture’, the invariants that make it a style and which are found, in distinct concrete forms, in the doctrines of thinkers ranging from the scholastic to the contemporary…