«ABSTRACT I argue that Kant’s distinction between the cognitive roles of sensibility and understanding raises a question concerning the conditions ...»
CJ 5:251–54). These parts are run through, gathered together, and related to one another in the process Kant terms “synthesis” (A77/B103; A99). Hence, any spontaneous activity on the part of the intellect, whether it be conceptual application in a judgment, or implicit rule-governed construction (such as in the careful imagination of complex shape), the nature of the activity must proceed via a movement from part to part, out of which a representational whole may be fashioned. Note that this is completely compatible with Kant’s claim in the later footnote to B162 that one and the same understanding can perform both an imaginative and a conceptual synthesis. But since it is the very same understanding at work in both cases, I take it that the synthesis carried out in each case will manifest this part-to-whole structure, insofar as it is a fundamental characteristic of the understanding to act in such a manner.30 Thus, if a representation has a structure in which the parts depend on the whole rather than a structure in which the whole is dependent on its parts, that representation cannot be a product of intellectual activity, but must rather be given in sensibility independently of any such activity.31 How then should we understand the footnote? If space and time, as pure forms of intuition, have an independent unity, it cannot be the case that the unity of intuition that Kant talks of in the footnote is in fact the aesthetic unity of the pure forms.
The view presented here is in stark contrast to the discussion of synthesis and representation in Dickerson, Kant on Representation and Objectivity. Dickerson there construes synthesis as essentially holistic. This characterization is guided by what he takes to be Kant’s endorsement of the priority of whole judgments over their conceptual parts, and of this priority view as a solution to the problem of the unity of the proposition—see esp. 51–52, 119–22, 131–48. Though I agree that Kant is concerned with issues of propositional (in Kant’s terms, “judgmental”) unity, and that he does endorse some form of the priority of judgment over its conceptual parts, I do not see this as requiring or sanctioning a view of intellectual synthesis as holistic. There is an important sense in which a discursive subject’s consciousness is holistic, but the intellectual activity of synthesis is not. For further discussion of Dickerson’s view, with particular emphasis on the issue of self-consciousness, see Rosefeldt, “Review.” Kant also denies that the understanding generates, in any way, the forms of intuition in a letter to Herz in May of 1789 (11:49–51). For further discussion of the footnote, see Onof and Schulting, “Space as Form of Intuition and as Formal Intuition.” two kinds of unity in the CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON singular wholes. Kant’s point in the third and fourth arguments of the Metaphysical Exposition is that no ﬁnite intellect could grasp the extent and nature of space and time as inﬁnite wholes via a movement from part to whole. The appeal to a preconceptual synthesis does not avoid this objection, for it presumes that the unity of the forms of intuition is also something dependent upon intellectual activity, and thus must involve the discursive (even though not conceptual) running through and gathering together of a given multiplicity (presumably of different locations or moments) into a combined whole.33 Kant’s arguments in the Expositions of space and time require that the fundamental basis of our representation of space and time does not proceed from a grasp of the multiplicity of features of an intuited particular to the whole that has those features. Instead the form of pure intuition constitutes a representational whole that is prior to that of its component parts (cf. CJ 5:407–8, 409).34 Hence, Kant’s position is that the pure intuitions of space and time possess a unity wholly different from that given by the discursive unity of the understanding (whether it be in conceptual judgment or the intellectual cum imaginative synthesis of intuited objects more generally).35 The unity of aesthetic representation—characterized by the forms of space and time— has a structure in which the representational parts depend on the whole. The unity of discursive representation—representation where the activity of the understanding is involved—has a structure in which the representational whole depends on its parts.36 Once we see that intellectual activity, including synthesis, must operate in this broadly discursive manner of running through and gathering together a manifold, it becomes very difﬁcult to understand how any such rereading of Kant’s argument Note that this need not commit Kant to denying that we can have the concept inﬁnity. This is because inﬁnity need not itself have an inﬁnite number of parts or marks that require grasping.
The inﬁnite extent of the natural numbers, for example, is not grasped via a grasp of each member of the series (i.e. via a grasp of the extension of the series). Instead, it is grasped by means of a recursive deﬁnition using the notion of a successor.
Kant’s extremely brief discussion of the “synopsis of the senses” may be indicative of the special nature of our intuitive grasp of things; see A94, A97. Heidegger makes much of this notion as well, especially in the discussion of his notion of syndosis; see Heidegger, Phenomenological Interpretation, 95–96, 180–88.
Kant’s argument here is directed very much against the Leibnizian view that all representation is purely intellectual. The Leibnizian explains the perception of space and spatial relations as a product of the intellectual confusion inherent in the ﬁnite perceiver’s conceptual representation of a fundamental monadic order. Kant thinks that this would result in a concept with inﬁnite content (i.e. different conceptual marks for each different space). If we were to attempt to grasp such a representation discursively, we would be faced with the inﬁnite task of running though representations of the inﬁnite number of spaces and times that constitute the wholes of space and time (A25/B39–40, A32/ B47–48; CJ 5:409). This is a task Kant thinks could never be accomplished by a ﬁnite mind; cf. note 21 above. For further discussion see Adams, Leibniz ch. 9; Janiak, “Kant’s Views on Space and Time.” One might wonder what explains, for Kant, our capacity for a holistic cognition in intuition. It is not clear that he has an answer to this question. However, it is not clear that Kant needs an answer to this question. All Kant needs is a relatively clearly deﬁned notion of conceptual or intellectual activity (which he does have) with which he can contrast the kind of cognitive capacity needed to account for the awareness of space and time. If Kant’s previous arguments in the Metaphysical Exposition for the a priori awareness of space and time are correct, then he can argue that we must have whatever capacity is required to explain this awareness. So the further explanation as to what explains this capacity is not a necessary part of Kant’s argument.
92 journal of the history of philosophy 53:1 January 2015 in the Transcendental Aesthetic concerning the intuition of space and time could cohere with his broader commitments.37 Such a rereading threatens the success of Kant’s argument in the Aesthetic as a whole, for it threatens his argument to establish space and time as forms of intuition and thus as transcendentally ideal.
It therefore seems implausible that Kant’s argument in the Deduction requires the rejection of arguments central to a fundamental tenet of his critical philosophy— namely, that space and time are forms of subjectivity and not things in themselves.38 Moreover, Kant maintains his views concerning both the nature of our discursive intellect and the holistic character of intuition in later published works. For example, the third Critique, written a decade later, also expresses views concerning the holistic character of intuition and the partial character of discursive thought (CJ §§26–27, 76–77). This suggests that the arguments made in the Aesthetic Grifﬁth (“Perception and the Categories”) fails to address this point in a discussion of issues surrounding a conceptualist interpretation of Kant. He says, “The only obvious sense in which the representations of space and time are nonconceptual (according to the Aesthetic) is the sense in which those representations are themselves not concepts” (24). But the passages above clearly show that this trivial claim is not the only thing to be said about the argument of the Aesthetic. Indeed, failure to appreciate the distinctive nature and unity of the intuitions of space and time means a failure to appreciate the problem which Kant sets for himself in the Analytic—viz. how it is that discursive thought can grasp a non-discursively disclosed given.
Longuenesse comes closest to answering my challenge in her 2005 discussion of the imagination’s role in the representation of space and time. She says, “[W]hen Kant says that what is thus isolated [i.e. time and space] is a ‘being of imagination,’ in my view he can only mean that it is the imagination which makes space and time present to us: although it does not produce them by a process of Dichten or Zusammensetzen (as it does for imaginary representations and geometrical ﬁgures), it grounds on them all its Dichtungen and Zusammensetzungen” (Standpoint, 75). But the fact that the representations of space and time, in their unity of form, do not depend on a composition or “a process of Zusammensetzen” does not mean that their unity is provided in a way that does not require moving from part to whole. As I argued in the text above, it is a general feature of our intellectual activity that it must proceed from part to whole, and this is equally true of other forms of activity (e.g. gathering-together or “comprehension” [Zusammenfassung] as it is of composition; cf. CJ 5: 251–52). Longuenesse assumes, in my view without justiﬁcation, that it is only conceptual composition (Zusammensetzung) that is at issue. Relatedly, Friedman (“Spatial Intuition”) suggests that Kant’s account of our representation of an all-encompassing (allbefassende) space (and similarly time) requires that the form of space be comprehended (zusammengefasst) in a pre-conceptual act of the understanding (cf. Longuenesse, Capacity to Judge, 215–16). However, I think it is an error to identify the unity of all-encompassing space, qua form of intuition, with an intellectual act for precisely the reasons I have set out above. A further point in favor of my separating the “allbefassende” space from a “zusammengefasst” space is Kant’s discussion of the representation of spatial magnitudes in §26 of the third Critique. There he argues, To take up a quantum in the imagination intuitively, in order to be able to use it as a measure or a unit for the estimation of magnitude by means of numbers, involves two actions of this faculty: apprehension [Auffassung] (apprehensio) and comprehension [Zusammenfassung] (comprehensio aesthetica). There is no difﬁculty with apprehension, because it can go on to inﬁnity; but comprehension becomes ever more difﬁcult the further apprehension advances, and soon reaches its maximum, namely the aesthetically greatest basic measure for the estimation of magnitude. For when apprehension has gone so far that the partial representations of the intuition of the senses that were apprehended ﬁrst already begin to fade in the imagination as the latter proceeds on to the apprehension of further ones, then it loses on one side as much as it gains on the other, and there is in the comprehension a greatest point beyond which it cannot go (5:251–52).
It is altogether unclear why comprehension (Zusammenfassung) would have such difﬁculty with inﬁnite magnitudes if, as per Friedman’s suggestion, the all-encompassing unity of the form of space as an inﬁnitely given quantity (B39–40) were due to an act of comprehension in the productive imagination.
two kinds of unity in the CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON cannot be simply reinterpreted in light of arguments presented (or thought to be presented) in subsequent parts of the ﬁrst Critique, for the Intellectualist rereading of the Aesthetic would require not just a rejection of Kant’s arguments as put forward there, but also a rejection of positions he held consistently over the span of the critical period.
This ends the ﬁrst step of the argument. If this argument is correct, then the Intellectualist interpretation of the argument Kant puts forward at B160–61 is in deep tension with Kant’s position in the Aesthetic, for it cannot be the case that the unity of the forms of intuition itself depends on discursive activity, preconceptual or otherwise.
2.2 Step Two: Perception and Unity I have argued that the pure forms of intuition must have their own form of unity independent of anything offered by the discursive activity of the intellect. Therefore premise (2) of the Intellectualist argument is false. Intuitions and judgments do not have a common source of unity in the nature of discursive activity. Instead, the unity of intuition is given rather than made.
However, one might object that this argument does not yet demonstrate that impure intuition—i.e. empirical intuition—is independent of intellectual activity.
Perhaps intellectual activity is required for perception in a way in which it is not required for a priori intuition. In this case Intellectualism argues for a revised,