Kantian Journal

2020 Vol. 39. №4

The Concepts of “Appearance” and “Phenomenon” in Transcendental Philosophy (Kant, Husserl, Fink)


This study aims, first, to delimit the seemingly synonymous concepts of “phenomenon” and “appearance” and second, to trace the functions of each in Kant’s philosophy and the phenomenological tradition. The analy­sis is based on Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and the central works of Edmund Husserl and Eugen Fink. Kant does not explicitly distinguish the two terms and only speaks about phenomena when he deals with the categorial application of reason. With Husserl, appearance is linked with the area of the natural attitude while the phenomenon is absolute. Fink’s position is interesting in that it differs from the views of the main representatives of transcendental philosophy, Kant and Husserl. According to Fink, appearing is the foundation of the fact that what exists is and that appearing is being. Fink takes a different approach to the meanings of appearance as opposing the thing in itself which possesses true but unknowable being (Kant) and appearance as taking place in the “relative” sphere of the natural attitude (Husserl): with Fink, appearance (or, as Fink constantly writes, “appearing”) turns out to be the condition of the existence of objects. Appearance, understood through the prism of the human being which perceives something as Vorschein, implies an inherently open world. Following Fink, I analyse these provisions and examine, first, light as the metaphysical source of cognition, second, the human being as a special kind of being, third, the pre-Socratic treatment of being and, fourth, the formation of a distinct phenomenological idiom. I come to the conclusion that the metaphysical-ontological method of phenomenological analysis of appearance proposed by Fink affords a new insight into the a priori principle and the nature of Kant’s “thing in itself” and proposes a new grounding of Husserl’s thesis which questions Kant’s agnosticism.

Download the article