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«ABSTRACT I argue that Kant’s distinction between the cognitive roles of sensibility and understanding raises a question concerning the conditions ...»

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two kinds of unity in the CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON one is representing a particular portion of space and a particular quality as filling or bounding that space. In this way, intuition offers only the awareness of spatially and temporally grouped manifest qualities without any further representation of their underlying unity in a particular object.

Thus, according to my reading of Kant, acquaintance with the empirical qualities of objects is not sufficient for putting one in a position to have empirical knowledge precisely because the presented sensory qualities are not represented as related to one another beyond their possession of a spatial and temporal unity.

The fact that various sensible qualities are represented as having a common spatial position (e.g. color, extension, impenetrability) does not mean that there is any representation of some individual as having those qualities. The kind of synthesized empirical cognition that grounds cognition (Erkenntnis) and knowledge (Wissen), in contrast, requires that there be some represented individual grounding the unity of the manifest qualities in a relation mirroring the subject-predicate relation in a propositional judgment. It is precisely in giving this structure to our consciousness of the things with which we are acquainted that our consciousness comes to have discursive unity. Such unity allows the transition from a presentation of something in a spatially and temporally contiguous manner—for example, the perceptual presentation of shape and coextensive color—to the presentation of some particular thing as colored and shaped.

So we have two forms of unity: aesthetic and discursive. An intuition has aesthetic unity in that it presents to consciousness a shaped, located, solid, and colored region of space, the consciousness of which, though episodic, may nevertheless persist over some period of time. Here the subject is consciously en rapport with features of her environment. But she is not yet in a position to make any propositionally structured claims about this tract of her environment. Being in a position to make such claims requires that the second, discursive, form of unity be present in her experience.

Discursive unity binds together the subject’s fragmented, episodic representations of the various qualities presented in sensory experience (empirical intuition), and makes possible conscious transitions from an awareness of a sensory quality manifested by some mind-independent object to an awareness of the object manifesting those qualities, that is, a persisting substance. I do not here make any specific claim concerning the exact nature of Kant’s argument for how this is possible. That would involve a discussion of the transcendental unity of apperception, among other things. But this sketch of the position shows how Kant could consistently conceive of aesthetic unity as a distinct and independent form of unity, and allow that intuition counts as a form of objective representation despite the absence of synthesis, while nevertheless requiring discursive unity among a subject’s states if she is to acquire empirical knowledge.

Before closing I want to address the question of how to understand Kant’s claim, quoted in §1 above, that the “same function” that unifies conceptual representations in a judgment also unifies representations in an intuition (A79/ B104–5). Intellectualism takes this as indicating that an intuition lacks unity—and thus is not an objective representation—unless synthesized by the understanding.

But, as I have argued above, the unity in question here need not be construed as 106 journal of the history of philosophy 53:1 January 2015 one concerning the conditions required for objective representation, but rather only the conditions required for representation of some collection of perceived qualities as belonging to one and the same object. My interpretation agrees with Intellectualism that, as specified by the “same function” passage, there is one fundamental act of mind that explains the capacity both for judgment, in the bringing together of a complex of concepts into a unitary proposition, and in perception, in the bringing together of a complex of sensory representations into a unitary representation of an object as an object. But my interpretation importantly disagrees with the Intellectualist claim that the role of the understanding in generating such unities implies that intuition depends on the understanding (or the higher cognitive faculties more generally) for its status as a form of objective representation. As I argued in the first half of this paper, intuition has its own form of unity, which grounds its status as an objective representation. Hence, on my view, Kant’s concern is not to show that the same discursive acts of mind make all forms of objective representation possible. Instead, he wants to show that the same discursive acts of mind make all representation of objects as objects possible.

Representation of an entity as an object requires a unity of consciousness, and Kant argues that such unity depends upon categorical synthesis. According to my suggested interpretation, we can acknowledge all of these points without thereby concluding, as Intellectualism does, that intuition itself, as an objective representation, requires synthesis.

This position obviously requires much filling out, and several issues, such as the necessity with which the categories apply to experience, remain unaddressed.





But I hope at least to have shown the intelligibility of a Sensibilist reading of the Transcendental Deduction, and thus the plausibility of interpreting Kant’s characterization of cognition (Erkenntnis) as requiring both intuitions and concepts, while nevertheless allowing that each makes a separate and unique contribution (cf. A50–52/B74–76).

4. summary I have argued that Kant’s distinction between the cognitive roles of sensibility and understanding raises a question concerning the conditions necessary for objective representation—representation of features of a mind-independent empirical reality. I distinguished two opposing interpretive positions—namely, Intellectualism and Sensibilism. According to Intellectualism all objective representation depends, at least in part, on the unifying synthetic activity of the mind. In contrast, Sensibilism argues that at least some forms of objective representation, specifically intuitions, do not require synthesis. I then argued that Kant’s position concerning the holistic structure of our representations of space and time is incompatible with holding that such representation depends on a synthesis, and thus is incompatible with Intellectualism. This leaves us in an interpretive bind, for though Sensibilism seems to better describe Kant’s position in the Aesthetic, Intellectualism seems much closer to his stated position in the argument of the Deduction. So either Kant maintains Sensibilism in the argument of the Aesthetic and Intellectualism in the argument of the Transcendental Deduction (resulting in an incoherent two kinds of unity in the CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON position), or we need to reject Intellectualism at the seeming cost of making the argument of the Deduction unintelligible. What is needed is an account according to which intuition has a unity independent of any synthesis, but nevertheless requires a different and further kind of unification in order to count as a fullblown cognition of an object.

I then sketched such an account. I argued that for Kant intuitions represent particular sensory qualities of things in particular spatial and temporal locations.

Thus the aesthetic unity of an empirical intuition consists in its representation of, for example, a particular region of space as bounded and colored in specific ways. But such objective representations, though potentially quite complex, are not representations of objects as objects—namely, as individuals that ground the complex of qualities attributed to them. The possibility of this latter form of representation depends on what I have called the “discursive” unity generated by synthesizing intuition, such that a complex of sensory representations is combined into one unitary representational complex via their connection in a unitary trans-episodic state of consciousness. The possibility of knowledge of objects depends on this discursive unity being generated among merely aesthetically unified representations. I argued further that this account makes sense of the Transcendental Deduction’s aim to demonstrate the legitimacy of the a priori categories by interpreting the argument there as a reply to Locke (and empiricism more generally) concerning the capacities necessary for the generation of complex representations, including, paradigmatically, representations of substances. Since complex representation is a necessary condition of scientific knowledge of the natural world, the use of the a priori categories in bringing about such complex representations must be legitimate, for without them no knowledge of the natural world would be possible.63

bibliography and abbreviations

Abela, Paul. Kant’s Empirical Realism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Adams, Robert. Leibniz: Determinist, Theist, Idealist. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. [Leibniz] Allais, Lucy. “Kant, Non-Conceptual Content and the Representation of Space.” Journal of the History of Philosophy 47 (2009): 383–413. [“Non-Conceptual Content”] Allison, Henry. Kant’s Transcendental Idealism: Revised and Enlarged. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004. [Idealism] Ameriks, Karl. “Kant and Short Arguments to Humility.” In Kant’s Legacy: Essays in Honor of Lewis White Beck, edited by Predrag Cicovacki, 167–194. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2001.

[“Short Arguments”] Anderson, R. L. “It Adds Up After All: Kant’s Philosophy of Arithmetic in Light of the Traditional Logic.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 69 (2004): 501–40. [“It Adds Up”] ———. “The Wolffian Paradigm and its Discontents: Kants Containment Definition of Analyticity in Historical Context.” Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 87 (2005): 22–74. [“Wolffian Paradigm”] Aquila, Richard. “The Holistic Character of Kantian Intuition.” In Kant and Contemporary Epistemology, edited by Paolo Parrini, 309–29. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1994. [“Holistic Intuition”] Thanks to Lucy Allais, Andrew Chignell, Catharine Diehl, Corey Dyck, Michael Friedman, Till Hoeppner, Des Hogan, Thomas Land, Michelle Kosch, Derk Pereboom, Andrew Roche, Nico Silins, Clinton Tolley, Eric Watkins, two anonymous referees for this journal, and audiences in Princeton and Berlin for many helpful comments and discussions.

108 journal of the history of philosophy 53:1 January 2015 ———. “Infinitude, Whole-Part Priority, and the Ambiguity of Kantian ‘Space’ and ‘Time.’” In Kant und die Berliner Aufklärung: Akten Des IX. Internationalen Kant-Kongresses, edited by Volker Gerhardt, RolfPeter Horstmann, and Ralph Schumacher, 99–109. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2001. [“Infinitude”] Bach, Kent. Thought and Reference. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987.

Baumgarten, A. G. Metaphysica. Halle: Gebauer, 1739.

Bell, David. “The Inaugural Address: Some Kantian Thoughts on Propositional Unity.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes 75 (2001): 1–16. [“Propositional Unity”] Bennett, Jonathan. Kant’s Dialectic. London: Cambridge University Press, 1974.

Burge, Tyler. Origins of Objectivity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Dickerson, A. B. Kant on Representation and Objectivity. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Dyck, Corey. “The Divorce of Reason and Experience: Kant’s Paralogisms of Pure Reason in Context.” Journal of the History of Philosophy 47 (2009): 249–75.

Engstrom, Stephen. “Understanding and Sensibility.” Inquiry 49 (2006): 2–25.

Falkenstein, Lorne. Kant’s Intuitionism: A Commentary on the Transcendental Aesthetic. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995. [Kant’s Intuitionism] Friedman, Michael. Kant and the Exact Sciences. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992. [Exact Sciences] ———. “Kant on Geometry and Spatial Intuition.” Synthese 186 (2012): 231–55. [“Spatial Intuition”] George, Rolf. “Kant’s Sensationism.” Synthese 47 (1981): 229–255.

Ginsborg, Hannah. “Kant and the Problem of Experience.” Philosophical Topics 34 (2006): 59–106.

———. “Was Kant a Nonconceptualist?” Philosophical Studies 137 (2008): 65–77.

Griffith, Aaron M. “Perception and the Categories: A Conceptualist Reading of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.” European Journal of Philosophy 20 (2012): 193–222. [“Perception and the Categories”] Grüne, Stefanie. Blinde Anschauung. Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 2009.

Guyer, Paul. “The Deduction of the Categories.” In The Cambridge Companion to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, edited by Paul Guyer, 118–50. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

––––––. Kant and the Claims of Knowledge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Haag, Johannes. Erfahrung und Gegenstand. Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 2007.

Hanna, Robert. “Kant and Nonconceptual Content.” European Journal of Philosophy 13 (2005): 247–90.

Heck, Richard G. “Nonconceptual Content and the ‘Space of Reasons.’” The Philosophical Review 109 (2000): 483–523. [“Nonconceptual Content”]

Heidegger, Martin. Phenomenological Interpretation of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Bloomington:

Indiana University Press, 1997. [Interpretation]

Hume, David. A Treatise of Human Nature. Edited by L. A. Selby-Bigge and P. H. Nidditch. Oxford:

Clarendon Press, 1978.

Janiak, Andrew. “Kant’s Views on Space and Time.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2012 Edition). Edited by Edward N. Zalta. URL = http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2012/ entries/kant-spacetime/.

Kant, Immanuel. Kants gesammelte Schriften. Edited by the Akademie der Wissenschaften. Berlin: Georg Reimer (later Walter De Gruyter), 1900–.

———. The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant. Edited by Paul Guyer and Allen Wood.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992–.

———. Critique of Pure Reason. Translated by Werner S. Pluhar, with an introduction by Patricia Kitcher.

New York: Hackett Publishing, 1996.



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