Maimon Reading Group: Chapter 2 – Sensibility, Imagination, Understanding, Pure A Priori Concepts of the Understanding or Categories, Etc Etc.

1. Buzaglo’s Interpretation and My Interest.

Chapter 2 is really important for Buzaglo’s interpretation of Maimon. The crucial background issue is Kant’s chapter on the schematism, where Kant presents a prima facie problem for applying pure concepts of the understanding (categories) to intuitions, and then argues that time presents an intermediate term between these two. Maimon uses examples from geometry to argue that Kant’s solution does not work, and motivates going back to a Leibnizian monistic view that does not accept a dualism between concept and intuition. For Buzaglo, Maimon’s own philosophical views all come from working this out.

Part of why I’m so interested in this is that there is a slightly non-superficial connection between the problem Kant presents in the schematism and two central problematics in contemporary analytic philosophy: the myth of the given problematic and the Kripke-Wittgenstein paradox. As Buzaglo states, “Perhaps the most interesting question is about the relation between Maimon’s critique of Kant’s dualism and modern discussions around the myth of the given (Buzaglo 2002, 76).”

In what follows I’ll briefly present these problems in terms of how they would effect Kant, and then present the problem of the schematism. Though they are seperate problems, my intuition is that solutions to the schematism problem would work as solutions to both the contemporary problems (and for that matter that Kant’s discussion of teleology in the Third Critique should be understood this way). I realize that this is all a bit of a stretch, but here goes anyhow.

2. Three Problems for Kant.

I should note here that in this context one should also discuss “the affection problem,” which concerns the issue of whether the Kantian must illegitimately apply the category of causation to the thing in itself. Atlas and Bergmann take this to be a central problem that moved Maimon. I should at this point note that as far as I can tell Maimon doesn’t mention the affection problem in the Essay, but rather discusses it in his book on logic and essay on Schultze. I think what happened is that his solution to the schematism problem ended up being a good solution to the affection problem.

2.1 The Myth of the Given

Here’s one way to spiel Sellars’ (1997) “myth of the given” problematic- If we think of intuitions as just brute givens to which concepts are then applied, a problem arises. Once we apply the concept we have a judgment, which is the kind of thing that can be justified by reference to other judgments that provide evidence for it. But these other judgments will also be arrived at by applying concepts to intuitions. If we ask what justifies these applications, we just get more applications of concepts to intuitions. Which yields a problematic regress. Clearly there are consistent theories that have internal coherence that are nonetheless false. At some point a judgment should be warranted by something other than just another judgment.

In the Kantian context, at some point you want to say that it is something about the intuition itself that justifies correct application of concepts to it. But if the intuition itself is just a brute given, then we can’t say anything about what justifies the correct application. For saying something about it is just to apply more concepts!

So if intuitions and concepts are dualistically conceived, with intuitions being just brute facts, there is a problem with providing a general account of why one internal coherent theory of the world can be true and another false. One can justify this theory in terms of its parts, but that doesn’t seem to be good enough since we know that self-justifying theories can be false.

Beiser interprets Maimon as being sensitive to something like this problematic.

It is notorious that Kant divides the understanding and sensibility into two completely independent and heterogeneous faculties. These faculties are independent of each other because the understanding creates a priori concepts that do not derive from sensibility, whereas sensibility receives intuitions that do not come from the understanding. They are also heterogeneous since the understanding is purely intellectual, active, and beyond space and time, while sensibility is purely empirical, passive, and within space and time. According to Maimon, Kant’s understanding-sensibility dualism is analogous to Descartes’s mind-body dualism, and all the problems of the latter hold mutatis mutandis for the former. Although there is no longer a dualism between distinct kinds of being or substance–a thinking mind and an extended body–there is now an equally sharp dualism between faculties within the sphere of consciousness itself. And just as Descartes cannot explain how such independent and heterogeneous substances as the mind and body interact with each other, so Kant cannot account for how such independent and heterogeneous faculties interact with each other.

Now Maimon argues that if understanding and sensibility cannot interact with one another, then it is hardly possible for the a priori concepts of the understanding to apply to the a posteriori intuitions of sensibility. According to Kant himself, a priori concepts apply to experience only if there is the most intimate interaction between understanding and sensibility. Understanding has to act upon sensibility to produce the form of experience (“intuitions without concepts are blind”), while sensibility has to supply its intuitions to give content to the concepts of the understanding (“concepts without intuitions are empty”). But, Maimon asks, how can understanding and sensibility interact with each other in this manner if they are such completely independent and heterogeneous faculties? How can the understanding create an intelligible form out of that which is nonintelligible and formless? How can it bring what is not under its control (the given) under its control? How indeed can its purely spaceless and timeless activity act upon the spatial and temporal world created by the forms of sensibility? All these questions are unanswerable, Maimon claims, given Kant’s original dualism. There would be no problem of applying a priori concepts to sensible intuitions if either the understanding created the intuitions of sensibility according to its laws or if sensibility produced the concepts of understanding according to its laws. But Kant rules out both these options tat the very beginning. He says that it is as wrong for Leibniz to intellectualize intuitions as it is for Lock to sensualize concepts. If either of these options were correct, though, the whole problem of applying a priori concepts to a posteriori intuitions would not arise in the first place, for the problem is created by the understanding-sensibility dualism. Thus the very dualism that creates the problem of the transcendental deduction, Maimon remarks, prevents the possibility of its solution (Beiser 1987, 291-292)

Unfortunately, there is no textual citation in this very rich passage. I think it is clear from Maimon’s ultimate views ((1 ) about how intuition reduces to understanding in an absolute limit, (2) that sensibility in general is only the result of understanding’s lack of complete knowledge, (3) the raw given in intuition is just an idea of understanding, and hence a regulative ideal, and (4) facts about such units of the given, “differentials,” are ultimately relational and hence reducible to understanding in the limit) that he is worried about this broader issue. But it is hard to pin him down in formulating it.

Buzaglo is much more specific in his discussion of Maimon’s problem with scheme-content, which he locates in Maimon’s dissatisfaction Kant’s solution to the schematism (discussed in 2.3 below), which is a narrower issue. However, again, as with the affection problem Maimon’s solutions to the schematism problem work as solutions to the myth of the given problematic (I think this is one measure of the greatness of a philosopher, the extent to which solutions to one problem ramify out in this manner).

The quietist (Rorty (2008), maybe McDowell (1996)) responds to the problematic by trying to disarm the desire to “provide a general account.” The panpsychic/pantheist (McDowell hints at this with his critique of “bald naturalism,” Galen Strawson (2008) is an explicit defender of panpsychism today; I’m going to read his books and see if he touches on anything like this issue) responds by undermining the distinction between intuition and concept. Maimon was the first person to suggest this in reaction to Kant (again, see 2.3 below for the similar problem that gave rise to Maimon’s view). But since concepts are mental objects, this means the world is thought of as being more mind-like. In the context of Maimon it is interesting to note that Kant characterized Maimon as as Spinozistic.

I should note here that panpsychism does not entail Berkeleyan Idealism. To say that the world is mind-like does not entail that either the existence of the world or its having the properties it does is causally dependent upon human or supernatural minds!

2.2. Kripkenstein

The Kripkenstein paradox (Kripke 1984) really arises once you take Kant’s revolution in how to think about concepts seriously. In the chapter on the schematism Kant explicitly argues that the view that concepts are like pictures makes no sense.

In fact, it is schemata, not images of objects, that lie at the basis of our pure sensible concepts. No image whatever of a triangle would ever be adequate to the concept of a triangle as such. For it would never reach the concept’s universality that make sthe concept hold for all triangles (whether right-angled or oblique-angled, etc.), but would alwasy be limited to only a part of this sphere. The schema of the triangle can never exist anywhere but in thoughts, and is a rule for the synthesis of imagination regarding pure shapes in psace. Even less is an object of experience or an image therof ever adquate to the empirical concept; rather, that concept always referes directly to the schema of imagination, this schema being a rule for determining our intuition in accordance with such and such a general concept. The concept dog signifies a rule whereby my imagination can trace the shape of such a four-footed animal in a general way, i.e., without being limited to any single and particular shape offered to me by experience, or even to all possible images that I can exhibit in concreto (B180/A142; Pluhar 213-214)

And in his earlier discussion of concepts in “On the Understanding’s Logical Use as Such” Kant explicitly states that concepts are functions which dynamically act to arrange groups of presentations as being under one common presentation. So a concept isn’t a static picture, but rather a rule that allows us to group things together when we make judgments.

This is where the Kripkenstein paradox comes in. If concepts are rules that apply to certain sets of individual intuitions, then many concepts will be infinitary, such as addition. Now Kripke asks what it is in virtue of a person (with a finite intelligence) that is such that they are following the addition rule correctly when they say 25 + 15 = 40 rather than following the quaddition rule incorrectly (quaddition is just like addition but any numbers over 20 yield quums of 5 when quadded to another number). In Kripke’s book, he goes through a number of possible answers to this problem and none of them work very well. Obviously, for the reasons Kant gave, it can’t be a matter of a picture, for we need rules for knowing that the intuitions in question are an instance of the picture. And the answer that I’m disposed to do one thing or the other doesn’t work very well either: (1) I am disposed to make all sorts of mistakes, so the rule can’t be just what I’m disposed to do, and (2) it strains credibility to say that I have addition dispositions for numbers that are too big for me to write out.

And, as with the myth of the given problematic, nothing about an intuition can now tell me what concept to apply either positively (it is “red”) or negatively (“it is not red”) to it, because nothing about the intuition can tell me what concept I attach to the word “red.”

Interestingly, Kant himself was aware of something like the Kripkenstein problem, if we spiel it the way Robert Brandom (1994, 20-23) does in Making it Explicit. Brandom takes the paradox to reduce to absurdity the view that all norms are given by explicit rules. The problem is that not only do rules state norms, but explicit rules can themselves be correctly applied or misapplied. But then since this is a normative issue, the view that all normas are given by explicit rules would require another explicit rule. And this generates an infinite regress. In terms of Kripke’s presentation, you would need another rule interpreting ‘plus’ as the addition function rather than the quaddition function. But then, again, this rule is something you could get right or wrong, so it’s application is again normative. And the view that all norms need an explicit rule would require yet another explicit rule about how to apply the rule “In applying ‘plus’ you must add,” etc. etc. etc.

Well Kant is very clear about the possibility of a rule regress in the Introduction to the Analytic of Principles, which is the section immediately prior to the schematism section discussed below.

If understanding as such is explicated as our power of rules, then the power of judgment is the ability to subsume under rules, i.e., to distinguish whether something does or does not fall under a given rule (is or is not a casus datae legis). General logic contains no prescriptions whatever for the power of judgment; nor can it. For since general logic abstracts from all content of cognition, there remains for it nothing but the task of spelling out analytically the mere form of cognition as found in concepts, judgments, and inferences, and of thus bringing about formal rules for any use of understanding. Now if general logic wanted to show universally how we are to subsume under these rules, i.e., how we are to distinguish whether something does or does not fall under them, then this could not be done except again by a rule. But for this rule, precisely because it is a rule, we need once again instruction from the power of judgment. And thus we find that, whereas understanding is capable of being taught and equipped by rules, the power of judgment is a particular talent that cannot be taught at all but can only be practiced (B171/A132-B172/A133; Pluhar 206)

If the problem of the schematism is supposed to address this problem (that’s a big if that I’m not sure about), then Kant thinks that the rule following paradox is not a problem for either analytic a priori or synthetic a posteriori judgments, but that it does pose a problem for the synthetic a priori judgments that involve applying a pure concept of the understanding to impure intuitions (normal objects we perceive). As I will show (following Buzaglo) Maimon aruges that it is also a problem for synthetic a priori judgments that involve applying pure concepts of the understanding to pure intuitions (such as space and time), and because of this Kant’s solution in the schematism does not work. However, Beiser again attributes to Maimon something like a concern with the broader Kripkensteinian issue. In the context of Beiser’s discussion of the schematism problem, he writes,

Maimon’s main argument is that Kant cannot have a criterion to determine when his synthetic a priori concepts apply to a posteriori intuitions. In other words, he can have no way of knowing when these concepts apply because he has no means to distinguish cases where they apply from those where they do not. Without this criterion, there is no basis for the belief that these concepts ever do apply. For if it is doubtful that they apply in any particular case, it is also doubtful that they apply in general.

To prove his point, Maimon argues that neither experience nor understanding provides a criterion for the application of a priori concepts to a posteriori intuitions.{/footnote Maimon Werke, II, 187-188, 370-373; V, 489-490} On the one hand, there is nothing in experience itself that tells us when an a priori concept applies to it. A contingent constant conjunction of perceptions is identical in its empirical content to a universal and necessary connection between them; or, as Hume puts it, all the evidence of our senses justifies only the belief that there is a contingent conjunction between events. On the other hand, there is nothing in an a priori concept that tells us when it applies to experience (Beiser 1987, 289).

This is quite similar to the Kripkensteinian regress launched by the demand for a rule telling us how to apply a rule.

Again, the quietist tries to disarm the felt need for any such justification. I’m not sure the extent to which Maimon’s move of panpsychically undermining the distinction between intuition and concept gets us purchase here. If intuitions (or objects in the world for that matter) themselves are somehow normatively laden, then maybe the intuition itself can draw me to use the concept red when I judge correctly that it either is or is not red. Brandom ((2009) in strange Hegelian terms of the world obligating us) and McDowell (with the critique of bald naturalism) talk this way sometimes, but I don’t think that they are as serious as Strawson is with his pantheism. McDowell has the quietist streak and Brandom always pulls back when he ventures too closely to Hegel’s metaphysics (see a post of mine HERE on this topic). In any case, the fact that Maimon’s solution to the schematism suggests an approach to rule following shows that Maimon might have viewed the schematism problem as an instance of the more general rule following problem that Kant discusses in the section immediately prior to the schematism.

Finally, Brandom says something really interesting about the previous Kant passage.

The regress-of-rules argument is here explicitly acknowledged, and the conclusion drawn that there must be some more practical capacity to distinguish correct from incorrect, at least in the case of applying rules. Very little is made of this point in the first two Critiques, however. Kant’s own development of this appreciation of the fundamental character this faculty of acknowledging norms implicit in the practice of applying explicit rules, in the third Critique, has an immense significance for Hegel’s pragmatism (Brandom 1994, 657).

I think the reason Kant didn’t go into the problem more in the first critique is because he then thought the solution to the schematism problem is a solution to this problem. The longer term question I’d like to research is why he went on to bring in teleology in this regard in the third critique. I’m pretty sure he was working on the third critique when he received the draft of Maimon’s Essay, and they actually wrote letters to each other about the schematism (Kant 1967). On the basis of these letters Bergman thinks it is clear that Kant read and understood Chapters 2 and 3 of the Essay.

2.3. The Schematism Problem

Kant starts by claiming that there is no problem with applying the concept “circle” to a plate when you judge that a plate is circular. This is because “the empirical concept of a plate is homogeneous with the pure geometrical concept of a circle, inasmuch as the roundness thought in the concept of the plate can be intuited [also] in the circle (B176/A137; Pluhar 210).”

The problem for Kant arises when we try to apply a pure concept of the understanding (those involving necessity and as such for Kant being something that cannot be perceived, but must be assumed prior to the possibility of experience) to empirical intuitions.

Pure concepts of understanding, on the other hand, are quite heterogeneous from empirical intuitions (indeed, from sensible intuitions generally) and can never be encountered in any intuition. How, then, can an intuition be subsumed under a category, and hence how can a category be applied to appearances–since surely no one will say that a category (e.g., causality) can also be intuitied through senses and is contained in appearances (B176-177/A137-138; Pluhar 210)?

Kant says that the need for a doctrine of the power of judgment is just the need to answer this question. His solution in the first critique (I haven’t read the Critique of Judgment in fifteen years; I know it’s relevant but don’t remember how) is to posit a third term that can link pure concepts of understanding with empirical intuitions. He thinks that time does the job admirably.

Now, a transcendental time determination is homogeneous with the category (in which its unity consists) insofar as the time determination is universal and rests on an a priori rule. But it is homogeneous with appearance, on the other hand, insofar as every empirical presentation of the manifold contains time. Hence it will be possible for the category to be applied to appearances by means of the transcendental time determination, which, as the schema of the concepts of understanding, mediates the subsumption of appearances under the category (B177-178/A138-139; Pluhar 211).

Kant’s discussion of each of the categories in this section are pretty interesting, but we’re more interested here in the upshot, which Buzaglo is really clear on.

Kant solves the problem by means of a mediator, in a manner reminiscent of a puzzle in which one has to join two pieces with nonmatching ends and thus must search for a third piece, one end of which fits onto one piece and the opposite end of which fits onto the other. This missing part is none other than the sensuous a priori, which is revealed or designed in the “Aesthetics.” (Buzaglo 2002, 31)

Kant’s solution here would not address the myth of the given or the Kripkenstein problem as far as I can see (though I think that the account of teleology in the third critique almost certainly does). But Maimon argues that it actually doesn’t address the problem of the schematism either. And Maimon’s solution is relevant to the other two problems.

3. Maimon’s Critique of Kant’s Solution.

Maimon thinks that this problem is far more general than Kant does. He takes the mind/body problem and the problem of the creation of matter (62; Midgley et. al. 37) to be instances of it. His critique of Kant’s solution is brief.

Kant certainly tries to get around this difficulty by assuming that space and time and their possible determinations are a priori representations in us, and therefore that we can legitimately ascribe the concept of necessity, which is a priori, to determine succession in time, which is also a priori. But we have already shown that even if they are a priori intuitions are still heterogeneous with concepts of the understanding, and so this assumption does not get us much further (64; Midgley et. al. 38).

So the sensuous a priori does not bridge the gap. “If you thought the relation between the category and the a posteriori phenomenon required a special explanation because they are not homogeneous, why do you not follow the same reasoning with regard to the relation between pure concept and a priori intuition (Buzaglo 2002, 32)?” Weirdly, in the letters between Kant and Maimon, Kant sort of takes the quietist route to this new challenge, suggesting that a solution to Maimon’s problem would require a different intuition than the one we possess. But,

Kant’s reply to Maimon’s question is not satisfactory in any respect. Kant’s explanation of synthetic a priori knowledge does not prove the intelligibility of the connection, but simply assumes it as a fact. Indeed, this fact is assumed in order to explain the existence of synthetic a priori knowledge, but it is not explained. In a monistic position the quid juris question receives an answer, which proves that it is meaningful. Finally, the attempt to reduce Maimon’s question to a position that requires the ability to perceive things-in-themselves, or even to one requiring the existence of an observing intellect does not tell against Maimon. For he does not accept Kant’s premises with regard to things-in-themselves, a completely different philosophical position on what to him is the correct answer to the quid juris (Buzaglo 2002, 34-5)

Maimon focuses on mathematical examples in this chapter in part because they give examples of judgments that bridge the gap between pure concepts of the understanding and a priori intuitions. The judgment that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points is an example of such a judgment. By his philosophy of mathematics, “shortest distance” involves magnitude which is a concept from arithmetic. For Maimon, arithmetic concepts are “pure” in the sense that they are products of the understanding alone. His actual account in his Logik is really very interesting and has a lot in common with contemporary structuralism in the philosophy of mathematics. Maimon holds that the being of numbers is determined entirely from relations, to be the number four is just to be the spot in the set of relational truths (greater than 3, greater than 2, etc.) that hold of the number four. [Note: this allows him to say that arithmetic claims are analytic, by the account of analyticity implicit in his discussion of the problem of the synthetic a priori in the Introduction!] Geometric concepts on the other hand are impure, yet still a priori.

Something is pure when it is a product of the understanding alone (and not of sensibility). Everything that is pure is at the same time a priori, but not the reverse. . . So a circle is an a priori concept, but it is nevertheless not on that account pure, because it must be grounded in an intuition (that I have not produced because it must be grounded in an intuition (that I have not produced form out of myself according to a rule, but that has been given to me from somewhere else, though it is still a priori (56; Midgley et. al. 34)

But then, the judgment that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points links together the sensuous a priori and the pure a priori in exactly the way Kant took time (sensuous a priori) to be linked to the pure concept of causality. So Maimon goes to geometry to show that there are judgments we make where pure concepts are applied heterogeneously to a priori intuitions. So Kant’s solution to the problem of the schematism suffers from the same problem as he took himself to be solving. As I noted earlier, Buzaglo takes this to be the linchpin to the development of Maimon’s own philosophy.

Brandom (2009) takes the “problem of reference” to have arisen in its modern form from Descartes realizing that you could use numbers to prove things about geometry. The numerical equations represented geometric shapes, but they weren’t like them at all. This was the beginning of the realization that represented and representation were radically different, and the beginning of the worry about how we could have knowledge of the represented. Buzaglo traces the worry back to Aristotle’s assertion that you could not prove a geometric proposition arithmetically or vice versa, and Maimon realizing that contemporary mathematics disproved that, and then seeing that the way it undermined Aristotle’s assertion caused a problem for Kant’s solution to the problem of the schematism.

Again, I’m interested longer term in the extent to which Maimon’s solution to the problem of the schematism suggests approaches to the myth of the given problematic and the kripkenstein paradox. So that’s something I want to keep further in mind.

4. Maimon’s Solution.

Buzaglo trenchantly argues that much of the catchphrases associated with Maimon’s solution (e.g. “the sensible is a picture of the intellectual,” “the intellectual and the sensible branch out from the same trunk”) are not very illuminating on their own. He takes one key passage from Chapter 2 to tell us how to interpret many of these metaphorical claims. Here I quote it in full (using Midgley et. al.‘s translation):

. . .we will here have an example of how the understanding can make a concept of reflection into the rule for the production of an object. . . The reason is that in order to produce a straight line as object, the understanding thinks the rule that it should be the shortest between two points (it cannot make ‘it should be straight’ into a rule because being straight is an intuition and consequently outside its domain); this rule is in fact a concept of reflection (a relation of difference with respect to magnitude), concerning pure magnitudes prior to their application to intuition, and cannot be supposed otherwise, becaue it is only by means of such relations that the magnitudes become objects in the first place. Here the inner (the thing in itself) does not preced the outer (the relation to other things) as is the case with other objects, but rather the reverse; i.e. without the thought of a relation [ein gedachtes Verhaeltnis] there is indeed no object of magnitude (in pure arithmetic; geometry does provide us with objects prior to their subsumption under the category of magnitude, namely figures that are already determined through their position). Being straight is, as it were, an image [Bild] or the distinghishing mark [Merkmal] of this relational concept: as a result it cannot be used as a concept of the understanding in order to infer any consequences from it. If we go through all the propositions concerning the straight line, we will find that they follow not in so far as it is straight but only in so far as it is the shortest; similarly, nothing can follow from any other sensible intuition than that it is what it is. It is the same with all propositions that hold of everything without distinction (as well as of nothing), because they too are correct symbolically, i.e. not of determined objects, but of objects in general. The expression straight line is used merely because it is short. But the fact that we already have cognition of this proposition by means of intuition alone prior to proof rests only on the following: we perceive its distinguishing mark or image in intuition (although it can only be made clear, not distinct). . . It appears to be a paradox because in this case it is customary to believe that being straight is an inner determination (a relation of the parts to one another) and being the shortest is an outer determination. But on closer inspection we find just the opposite, namely, that being straight or the identity of direction of the parts already presupposes that they have arisen. So this definition of the stright line is useless as well. The Wolffian definition cannot avoid this difficulty because the similarity of the parts to the whole can only be in direction and consequently it already presupposes lines. However, the property of being the shortest begins precisely when it arises and is at the same time an internal relation (69-70; Midgley et. al. 40-41)

There is a lot of fascinating stuff in this passage. You get the quasi structuralist view of pure concepts, with the arithmetic objects in question being determined entirely by their relations (“Here the inner (the thing in itself) does not precede the outer (the relation to other things) as is the case with other objects, but rather the reverse; i.e. without the thought of a relation [ein gedachtes Verhaeltnis] there is indeed no object of magnitude”). Then the key claim is that the sensuous property of being straight is “as it were, an image [Bild] or the distinghishing mark [Merkmal] of this relational concept.” If I understand this right, then somehow “a straight line is the shortest distance between two points” is justified because we define in the understanding “the shortest distance between two points” and then get an image of this as something straight. But the image itself as an intuition is normatively inert in a way that more than gives a hint of the myth of the given problematic (“nothing can follow from any other sensible intuition that that it is what it is”). Finally there is the strange application of this thought to tautologies and contradictions (“It is the same with all propositions that hold of everything without distinction (as well as nothing)”).

Buzaglo says that a big difference between Kant and Maimon here is that Kant sees the proposition that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points as one where the predicate “the shortest distance between two points” is applied to the subject “a straight line,” whereas Maimon sees it as an identity claim. Then,

To state that the straight line is the shortest line amounts to claiming that the property of “straightness” is reducible to being “the shortest.” Indeed, if I had chosen to construe this identity in anology with the identity between 2 + 1 and 3 (or that between the evening star and the morning star), I would have missed–owing to the symmetry between the terms of the equation–Maimon’s point: by identifying, one asserts that one term underlies the other. In the reduction relatio we preserve the identity while avoiding the symmetry, since in the general case there is no inverse reduction (Buzaglo 2002, 60).

This really increases the interest of Maimon’s seeing the mind-body problem as an instance of his problem with Kant’s solution to the schematism problem. If I’m parsing all of this correctly we have that geometry is reducible to arthimetic but not vice versa; so Maimon would hold that body is reducible to mind but not vice versa.

In the “Notes and Clarifications” to the “Short Overview of the Whole Work” Maimon explicitly says that the intuition of space itself is both a concept and intuition, but as an intuition it is itself a picture of the conceptual relation of difference. So he generalizes his point about specific geometric intuitions to be about all of space itself.

In Chapter 3 of his book, Buzaglo discusses a lot of mathematics (including a nice detailed explanatin of sine and cosine) to show that the phenomena Maimon was bringing to light is one of the key tropes in the development of mathematics. In case after case the use of pictures in demonstrations is shown to be superfluous when the intuitive phenomena is reduced to to something more abstract.

The conclusions of Maimon’s response to the quid juris question are closely related to the mathematical developments of his time. The erosion of the special status of geometry amongst mathematicians began as early as the seventeenth century, and geometry gradually gave way to arithmetical methods and algebra. Euler applauds the algebraic method of analysis, Lagrange praises the abstract method of calculus and demands that we avoid drawing diagrams altogether, and Laplace remarks on the fertility of the analytical method as opposed to geometry. Maimon was aware of these developments, and he exhibited a profound understanding of their implications, which he eventually expresse in his critique of Kant (Buzaglo 2002, 67)

And, later in the chapter,

Euclidean geometry and Greek analysis resorted to intuition at each step. In Descartes’ work, and in Netwon’s and Leibniz’s analyis, appeal to intuition diminishes in favor of the conceptual. Weierstrass and Cauchy continued in this vein very successfully. Nowadays we appeal t oour intuition of the continuum only in order to establish the connection between real numbers and the straight line. In proving psopositions we do not consult our picture of the continuum, since the picture provides us with no theorems about the continuum. In fact, the picture does not enable us to distinguish between the line of real numbers and the set of rational points on that line. In proofs of propositions about the continuum we use Cantor’s definition. The intuitive straight line is perceived through this lens, hence through set theory, which is presupposed by Cantor’s definition. But, as set theory is incomplete, the manner whereby we apprehend the continuum is also incomplete. This is manifested by our inability to decide every question regarding the continuum (Buzaglo 2002, 74).

The notion of reduction is really important here. All of the statements involving the intuitive components (e.g. “straight line”) will in the ideal end of enquiry be translatable into statements that only make reference to pure components (e.g. “shortest distance between two points”), and all of the true statements will be provable in the language that only involves pure components. This is what has happened over and over again in the history of mathematics. However, the reducing theory may be incomplete (and given our finitude, perhaps there will always be such incompleteness) in the sense that there are reduced theorems that are not provable in the reducing theory. This presumably will call for more reductions, showing that the intuitive picture still plays a role. I think the extent to which the intuitive picture correctly guides the reduction is the extent to which Maimon is not a formalist. Unfortunately though, this gets us into myth of the given territory. The intuitive picture is intert in proofs for Maimon, yet it is still in some sense guiding the reduction. How is this possible?

Buzaglo also shows the manner in which Maimon prefigures twentieth century formalism as a philosophy of mathematics (Maimon even realized the possibility of non-Euclidean geometries far more concretely than Kant did), but also shows the way in which Maimon is not a formalist. Even though Maimon’s thinking about symbolic cognition prefigures formalism in a lot of ways, unlike the formalists Maimon does not think that axioms are just conventional postulations. He does not think that consistency is sufficient for truth. And he does not use his reductions to dispense with intuition.

Others may regard intuition as a constituent of the context of discovery, owing to which constituent we are able to discover the definition of R, whereupon we may ignore it. Maimon, by contrast, would argue that Cantor’s definition of the continuum is nothing but a theory of the continuum that appears in intuition (Buzaglo 2002, 75).

For how this view of reduction lets Maimon consider a response to a kind of skepticism that grows from transcendental idealism, we will have to study Chapter 9.

4. Conclusion.

If Buzaglo is correct, everything follows from the material in Chapter 2 I’ve discussed above. Maimon’s monistic, rationalist doctrine of the reduction of sensibility to understanding is presented to solve the problem of the schematism. Buzaglo shows that it came as a result of Maimon’s profound understanding of developments in mathematics, the rationalist tradition, and Kant’s philosophy. That he was able later to show that this reduction solves the affection problem attests to its power, and is probably one of the main reasons he became the engine from Kant to Fichte then Hegel.



Atlas, Samuel. 1964. From Critical to Speculative Realism. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.
Beiser, Frederick. 1987. The Fate of Reason: German Philosophy from Kant to Fichte. Cambridge: Harvard University Press
Bergman, Samuel. 1967 (originally 1932). The Philosophy of Solomon Maimon. Translated by Noah Jacobs. Jerusalem: Magnes.
Brandom, Robert. 1994. Making It Explicit: Reasoning, Representing, and Discursive Commitment. Harvard: Harvard University Press.
Brandom, Robert. 2009. Reason in Philosophy: Animating Ideas. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Buzaglo, Meir. 2002. Solomon Maimon: Monism, Skepticism, and Mathematics. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.
Kant, Immanuel. 1996 (originally 1781 and 1787). Critique of Pure Reason. Translated by Werner Pluhar. Indianapolis: Hackett.
Kant, Immanuel. 1967. Philosophical Correspondence, 1759-1799. Edited and translated by A. Zweig. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Kripke, Saul. 1984. Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Languages: An Elementary Exposition. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Maimon, Saloman. 2010 (originally 1790). Essay on Transcendental Philosophy. Translated by Nick Midgely, Herny Somers-Hall, Alistair Wechman and Merten Reglitz. London: Continuum.
McDowell, John. 1996. Mind and World. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Rorty, Richard. 2008 (originally 1978). Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Sellars, Wilfrid. 1997 (originally 1956). Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Strawson, Galen. 2008. Real Materialism and other essays. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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About joncogburn

Cogburn is a stereotypical beatnik, with a goatee, "hip" (slang) usage, and a generally unkempt, bohemian appearance, studiously avoiding anything resembling work, which he seems to regard as the ultimate four-letter word. Whenever the word is mentioned, even in a line like "That would work," he jumps with fear, yelping, "Work?!" He serves as a foil to the well-groomed, well-dressed, straitlaced Mikhail, and the contrast between the two friends provides much of the humor of the Reading Group.

13 thoughts on “Maimon Reading Group: Chapter 2 – Sensibility, Imagination, Understanding, Pure A Priori Concepts of the Understanding or Categories, Etc Etc.

  1. This is mind-blowing (excuse my excitement) – printed it out at home, it’s 8 single-spaced pages. Anyone who claims there’s no real philosophy taking place on the blogs should be ashamed. Looking forward to parsing this dense summary (luckily, it’s shorter than the original chapter).

  2. This is fascinating!

    I think you’re absolutely right about the the 4 upshots of Maimon’s criticism. Your exposition is really helpful.

    I’m left wondering, though, whether the myth of the given and the kripkenstein paradox don’t require a rather thorough reformulation to be applicable here. I’m unfamiliar with both Beiser’s treatment of these issues, as well as Buzaglo’s, so if I’m reproducing something already considered, you have my apologies in advance.

    So let me rephrase my concern as a question: (1) why isn’t the schematism a solution to the myth of the given, and (2) why isn’t the Kripkenstein paradox blocked by both the power of judgment itself and then again by the provisions in the Amphiboly and the fact that totalities and infinite hypothetical series belong to the antinomies of of Reason?

    Ad 1) It seems that intuitions and concepts aren’t actually dualistically conceived. there’s that pesky third faculty of the imagination that’s responsible for the first two syntheses in the transcendental deduction (apprehension and anticipation), which are then codified in the schematism itself.

    Now, the way the myth of the given is framed here seems to be that intuitions cannot be seemlessly taken up by the understanding. Have I understood correctly? Assuming I have, there seems to be a leap here: it’s one thing to say that Kant’s attempt to sidestep the myth via the imagination and the schematism fails, but it’s quite another to say that he’s therefore committed to the myth itself.
    Furthermore, I’m not sure that intuitions are really brute givens (empirical intuitions, at least are discrete, unified objects, rather than sense data or qualia); on this point, I think McDowell’s reading of nature as conceptually saturated is actually very close to the truth of Kant.

    Ad 2) I’m sympathetic to the Kripkenstein problem, and I wonder if perhaps the solution isn’t the nature of our Urteilskraft plus the Amphiboly, since you can’t even form the paradox without applying our concepts to a transcendent series of operations; there’s simply no possible object of experience given by that rule. Again, Kant seems to have an explicit answer here, it’s just a matter of whether it’s compelling.

    None of this takes away from Maimon’s critiques, though, It’s just a question of accent, perhaps: Kant’s solutions fail, therefore…

    Many thanks for this.

  3. Great post! I’m somewhat behind on the Maimon reading at the moment, which is a shame, so I don’t think I can contribute anything of substance to how to interpret him, but I do think there are a few points to be made about Kant. Before I say anything though it does strike me that the way you lay out Maimon’s position on mathematics has some strange resonances with the position I laid out in the TR essay (Mikhail has said as much to me already). This idea that mathematics is conceptual rather than intuitive, but that it must nonetheless have some connection with intuition (or rather, observation), even if it is a connection that can be retrospectively elided, is precisely the idea I’m pushing.

    Moving on to Kant, I think it’s important to get my greatest confusion about the post out of the way. I do think that Kant says a lot more about the schematism and his potential solution to rule following issues in the 3rd Critique, but I don’t think it has anything to do with the work on teleology presented there. I’m really not sure how you draw the connection here, but I’d be interested to hear it.

    I think the major contribution made in the 3rd Critique is the idea of the technical as opposed to schematic use of the faculty of judgment. Judgment is schematic when it is legislated for by the understanding, i.e., when the understanding (as the faculty of rules) supplies it with a rule that it must apply. Judgment is technical when it legislates for itself, i.e., when it creatively improvises rules that are not set down in advance. This idea of technical judgment is used to solve various problems of underdetermination left over from the other Critiques. For instance, the reason it is called ‘technical’ is because it is linked to what Kant calls the domain of technical knowledge which connects the practical and theoretical domains. Theoretical knowledge tells us *how things are* (1st Critique), practical knowledge tells us *what we should do* (2nd Critique), and technical knowledge tells us *how we should do it*. The underdetermination problem left over from the 1st Critique was that theoretical knowledge + practical knowledge didn’t completely determine the relevant technical knowledge. The addition of technical judgment allowed for the possibility of both creative improvisation and implicit dispositions which fill in the gaps.

    Now, this doesn’t necessarily solve the rule-following regress. What it does is defend against the doubt that the regress would make it impossible for us to *try* and act in accordance with a rule, but it doesn’t defend against the worry that it is impossible to *succeed*, insofar as the rule doesn’t adequately determine success conditions.

    This does connect up to the schematism, but I think I’ve got to lay down how I interpret the significance of the schematism in order for any of this to make sense:-

    1. Concepts are rules for inference. What this means is that a concept qua concept does not legislate for its application to any given intuition. One can know everything that one can legitimately infer from something being a dog (e.g., that it is a mammal, that it will ordinarily have four legs, that it is carnivorous, and that it is domesticable, etc.) and yet still be unable to identify a dog in experience. The capacity to use concepts and the capacity to apply them are distinct. This is another way of thinking about the problem of the split between concepts and intuitions.

    2. Schemata are meant to solve this, at least to some extent, insofar as they provide rules for the synthesis of images within intuition. One should remember that discontinuous appearances are *apprehended* in intuition and then *reproduced* into spatio-temporal continuities, or images. So, when a dog runs across my field of vision, I synthesise all of the various isolated appearances into a single spatio-temporal continuity, an image of the dog which extends in time as well as in space. A schema is supposed to provide a rule for this kind of imaginative synthesis. Thinking of it a different way, if grasping the concept of ‘dog’ enables one to understand the role of claims about dogs within the space of reasons, then the schema of ‘dog’ enables one to understand the ways that individual dogs inhabit space and time. Putting it differently again, grasp of a concept lets one understand *discursive possibilities*, whereas grasping a schema lets one understand *intuitive possibilities*.

    3. This leads to a point which a lot of people miss about Kant’s account of experience, which is that as well as allowing for a *retentive* dimension of experience (in reproduction) he also allows for a *projective* dimension of experience. Once I have applied a schema to a dog, I am not only able to retentively synthesise the ways it has moved in a consistent way, but also able to projectively synthesis the ways it will move. Schemata allow for intuitive expectation.

    4. When talking about ‘transcendental time determinations’, it’s important to bare in mind that Kant is not talking about something other than rules. Both concepts and schemata are rules, and this means that both pure concepts (the categories) and pure schemata (the schemata of the categories) are also rules. Empirical schemata are meant to bridge the gap between concepts and intuitions because insofar as they share their rule-character with concepts and they share the manifold in which their operations are performed (at minimum, time) with intuitions. The same holds of transcendental schemata, which play the crucial linking role between the categories and the forms of intuition.

    5.What Kant calls the transcendental schematism, or the transcendental synthesis of the imagination, is just the manifold of intuition being brought under the categories insofar as the schemata of the categories are applied to it. If the deduction shows that the forms of intuition must be somehow subject to the categories, the transcendental schematism explains what this consists in. To understand what all this means it is important to understand that just as the categories provide the *form* of concepts, the transcendental schemata provide the form of schemata. They are both rules for rules, albeit rules for different kinds of rules (discursive and perceptual). What it means for the transcendental schemata to be applied for the forms of intuition is that whatever empirical matter appears within the manifold, it will be ordered in such a way that it is suitable for imaginative synthesis into images guided by empirical schemata, and thus suitable for subsumption under concepts corresponding to these schemata.

    We can now move on to the connection between schemata and technical judgment:-

    6. The problem with the account of schemata in the 1st Critique (insofar as there is any worked out account at all) is that it is not explained how schemata are themselves applied to intuitions. In essence, how do we know *which* rules to apply in synthesising the manifold into discrete spatio-temporally continuous images? It seems that as soon as I’ve applied the *schemata* of dog to something that I’ve automatically thereby applied the *concept* of dog to it, and so the schemata don’t seem to solve the basic problem of how we apply concepts in the first place.

    7. Kant answers this problem in the 3rd Critique by reconfiguring his account of the transcendental psychology and adding the notion of technical judgment, in order to make his idea of what happens in experience more clear. Whereas in the 1st Critique (A edition) he proposed three syntheses (apprehension, reproduction, and recognition) without explaining where schemata fit into the account, in the 3rd Critique he provides a revised set of syntheses that make their role explicit (apprehension, comprehension, and presentation). In this revised account, the imaginative syntheses which are guided by schemata (originally apprehension and reproduction) are combined under the heading of ‘apprehension’. Comprehension is the subsumption of the image produced by these syntheses under a concept, and presentation is the application of the schema of that concept to the image in intuition, thereby allowing for the full projective experience of its futural possibilities. This makes very explicit that the schema corresponding to a concept is not directly mediating between intuitions and concepts.

    8. Technical judgment solves the problem, by allowing the schema to indirectly mediate between the two. In essence, although there will always in practice be various schematic rules in play in any situation, insofar as we already have some conceptual grasp of our surroundings, when there are parts of experience that are yet to be brought under such rules, technical judgment guides their imaginative synthesis. What this means is that technical judgment improvises rules for synthesising whatever it is we’ve come across. It doesn’t do this ex nihilo however, because the understanding has a whole plethora of schemata that it can plunder (“Is it a bee, or a wasp, or something similar?”). There is thus also a constant comparison between the rules it spontaneously develops and the schemata corresponding to the various concepts. This means that once the process settles on a stable rule it can settle on a schema, and thereby subsume the image under the corresponding concept.

    9. This process can be much more complicated and involve a reciprocity between comprehension and presentation, insofar as we can proceed through levels of generality. We can *comprehend* that something we’ve seen is an insect, thus applying a general set of schema to it, but yet be unsure whether it is a beetle, or something else. We can then recognise it as a beetle, *present* a more determinate schema in intuition, and yet still not identify the kind of beetle. One can thus see how technical judgment can play an important role in the process of concept creation insofar as it is involved in the *reflective* process of moving from individual to species, finding general rules that sit within existing hiearchies of generality.

    10. Moreover, the free play between the understanding and the imagination (legislated by judgment) that Kant talks about in the experience of the beautiful is nothing other than the process whereby technical judgment improvises rules for synthesis. In essence, what happens in the encounter with the beautiful is that the initial improvisation with rules for imaginative synthesis that occurs in all experience to some extent never settles down into a stable rule, and thus never leads to the application of a concept.

    Right, drawing some conclusions from the above:-

    11. What Kant provides in the 3rd Critique is a clarification of the role of schemata in the synthesis of experience and generation of concepts, along with a few interesting consequences of this (the sublime and the beautiful).

    12. This helps us better understand what the upshot of the Transcendental Deduction is supposed to be: that all intuition is supposed to be synthesizable in accordance with schemata, in virtue of the transcendental schematism.

    13. It also helps us see how Kant thinks it is possible for us to apply concepts to intuitions, even if it does not necessarily adequately address the issue of whether we are ever justified in doing so.

    14. Ultimately, the real problem for the Kantian account is not that he’s unclear about how schemata are supposed to connect between concepts and intuitions, but rather that the question of the determinacy of rules posed by the rule-following regress is not properly addressed. The real problem with schemata is that there is no good sense in which these could be expressed in the form of explicit rules whose application can be socially assessed. They are pretty much the kind of intrinsically private rules that Wittgenstein repudiates. This means that Kant’s account of *perception* is ultimately unable to be supplemented by the kind of Hegelian story about the social determination of content that Brandom proposes, even when his basic account of *judgment* can.

    • The Wolfendale Maneuver!

      Seriously, that’s fantastic stuff.

      As far as the relevance of Kant’s discussion of teleology, I think I’d just completely misremembered from the last time I read the third critique (over fifteen years ago).

      Independent of Kant, if you have a rich enough notion of teleology, you can get out of the problem. If doing addition contributes to human flourishing more than doing quaddition then you *ought to* be doing addition (more broadly- Any realist about human flourishing can keep just about everything Rorty says in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature without ending up in his weird relativism).

      Of course there is the problem with addition being infinite, but I think that’s pretty solvable just because all of these things decomposes to a finite set of abilities that are within our ability (carrying the ten place, etc.- see the footnote to me in Tennant’s “Taming of the True” for how this works). And if that doesn’t work, then maybe you can bring in a regulative ideal or two to get you the appropriate kind of potential infinity at least. . .

      Hey Pete, if you have time, could you (or anybody else reading this who knows Kant a lot better than me, e.g. all the perverse egalitarian regulars) specifically respond to Brava’s point prior to yours? What he writes is interesting, but beyond my ability to respond to in an interesting manner.

  4. I’ll see what I can do🙂

    Jon: I think you’ll have difficultly finding a rich enough notion of teleology without regressing into some static Aristotelian schema, which basically amount to solving the problem by fiat (i.e., why should we do x? – because it is decreed metaphysically). This is difficult to avoid, because it’s got to be strong enough not to fall into the same trap that vitiated pragmatism, namely, that at some points it might be more useful to misapply the rule. Tying it in to some notion of flourishing might do the trick, but only if this notion of flourishing is suitably static. For instance, McDowell’s virtue ethics ends up linking flourishing in any given instance to a set of virtues that is in some way communally determined. If you want to ground mathematics and other such suitably ‘ahistorical’ norms on this, then you’ll have to show how there is some hard invariant core to the notion of flourishing, and this is not an easy matter without falling back on the ad hoc metaphysical solution.

    I think the decomposability of mathematical practices and the notion of regulative ideals is a much better way to go. As you know, with regard to mathematics I think we can even appeal to transcendental norms to some extent, insofar as we can show that practices of quantification are an essential part of rationality.

    Brava: Let’s take your first two questions in reverse order. The kripkenstein paradox isn’t blocked by the power of judgment because although it allows us to make judgments without an infinite set of rules for making judgements, it nonetheless doesn’t solve the problem of how we determine the standard of correct application of rules in each case. Kant might be able to make things a little better in the case of transcendental rules (such as categories, transcendental schemata, and mathematical operations), insofar as he can just say that we all have some intrinsic grasp of them, but he’s got no way to solve this problem for empirical concepts and schemata. None of the other stuff he adds in the antinomies of Reason is going to make any of this better, because it doesn’t deal with anything empirical.

    The reason that the schematism doesn’t solve the myth of the given then is that a) there can be variance in the application of empirical schemata, b) there’s no way in which the operations we perform on intuition (in accordance with schemata) can be directly assessed, and thus no way in which facts about variances in application can be brought into the space of reasons. In short, there’s still no way in which any facts about intuition enter into the rational assessment of the application of concepts to those intuitions.

    I think this should answer your other questions for the most part, but I’ll add that there is some sense in which intuitions are brute givens. The problem is that the term ‘intuition’ is more general than either ‘appearance’ or ‘image’. Appearances are fairly brute on my reading. We only get discrete unified objects at the level of images, but these must be synthesised out of something, namely, the matter of sensation which has been taken up in the form of appearances.

    However, I do accept that Kant’s account of perception is more subtle than he’s usually given credit for though. It’s perfectly acceptable in Kant’s framework for us to ‘perceive’ the table as having another side that we can’t currently see (and have not in fact seen). This pre-empts Husserl’s horizonal approach to perception. However, what’s important to note is that the unity of the image as an object is supplied by it’s subsumption under the concept of an object in general (the object=x or transcendental object), and that this is a thoroughly logical rather than intuitive unity. This is why I’d oppose Graham’s claim that Kant thinks the object is a bundle of qualities. It’s not. It’s got both perceptual horizons and a logical unity that’s independent of any particular concepts I apply to it.

  5. Thanks for the response Pete.

    My sense, however, is that you’re still applying pressure in the wrong place. I agree that the schemata doesn’t work (at least in light of Maimon’s criticism), but that doesn’t change the fact that the Sensibility-Imagination-understanding relationship as mediated by the schematism provides explicit attempt to solve Sellars’ Myth (intuitions, as Walsh put it years ago, are ‘proleptic concepts’; they’re already within the space of reasons). But even if we disagree at that level, I don’t see how Kripke’s problem is coherent within a Kantian paradigm, either transcendentally or empirically. Let me spell this out more clearly, since there’s three interrelated issues here: (1) the ‘grammar’ of the paradox, (2) the character of truth for Kant, (3) the transcendental point you’ve made.

    Ad 1) I don’t think you can even formulate Kripke’s paradox, because it demands that we apply concepts to concepts, which is something Kant explicitly bans in the Amphiboly. Jon’s point about the infinitary character of addition doesn’t really work for Kant since he’s a constructivist — I would venture so far as to say he’s a strict finitist — and hence the magnitudes actually have to be constructed in intuition in order for us to count (this is the immeidate upshot of the 5+7 = 12 example), so the Quaddition is imply nonsense from the get go. There’s no rule governing the application of the rule (that would be n amphiboly), there’s a given magnitude constructed in intuition according to a priori and necessary principles. It’s the intuition that serves to determine the correct application of a rule, not another rule. on this point Kant does hold a rather standard realist theory of truth (adequation or correspondence to phenomena). We may find this unsatisfactory, but that is a distinct problem from kripkenstein.

    Ad 2) I’ve already made the crucial point: truth for Kant is correspondence between phenomenon and judgment, and this correspondence is triangulated among speaker, (transcendental) community, and world. And, as Habermas is fond of saying, the world fights back against false impositions.We can talk about this more, but I take it that this is sufficient to block the ‘Regulism’ of Kripke’s paradox. Again, it’s not another concept that determines truth or falsity, or even correct application, it’s the world. This is why So no paradox.

    Now, about the Myth of the given: I don’t think that the local variations you note really matter; E.G. I can be color-blind and still make true and false statements about the color of ties and apples, while giving sufficient reasons for them. Let’s be precise: the myth of the given has to do with what can in fact count as a reason. The problem with ‘the given’ is that it’s supposed be both a cause and an explanation, both above and below the line. And it can’t be. With respect to Kant, however, we don’t encounter this problem, because what’s below the line — the Ding an sich — doesn’t figure in experience and reason-giving at all. Furthermore, even when we try to pose the problem at the level of phenomena, we find that there is no immediate integration of givenness and judgment, precisely because of the scematism. Although Kant’s account fails, he doesn’t fall pray to the myth. These are two different objections.

    • Brava,

      Thanks tons. That’s really helpful.

      I’m hoping that Pete chimes in again in response to your great points, just because this is so interesting to me and I want to see the debate continue.

      My initial thoughts are (1) Kant has to resort to strict finitism to avoid kripkenstein, then kripkenstein is very much a problem for him, and (2) similarly, the Ding an sich as “cause” (or rather the necessity and inability of a transcendental idealist to affirm this) is exactly the problem that led to Fichte, Schopenhauer, and Hegel. So you just trade the myth of the given for the affection problem.

      Again, I hope Pete and/or somebody else chimes in though. I know just enough Kant to know that Brava’s Kant is a lot better than mine!

      • I’m hoping to address yours, Pete’s and Brava’s points as soon as I get a chance to finish my Rejoinder – my brain is steaming from all the angles and ideas.

      • Glad to be even a modicum of help.

        Brain power depleted, having trouble parsing sentence:

        “[If] Kant has to resort to strict finitism to avoid kripkenstein, then kripkenstein is very much a problem for him”

        I can’t chose between two possible readings here: (a) Kant’s strict finitism = a response to kripkenstein, therefore the paradox is in fact a problem he was aware of (and attempts to resolve thusly), or (b) Kant’s strict finitism entails Kripkenstein.

        I’m fine with (a), but I don’t think I understand (b). Do you mean the latter? if so, maybe I need a refresher on kripkenstein — how does/ would strict finitism entail this paradox?

        Your second point about affection is indeed the crux of the problem (but that’s equally a problem for Sellars, Brandom and McDowell). This said, I think Piché’s right when it comes to Kant (in the paper Mikhail linked to). Though I don’t know how satisfying that is going to be. And anyway, I don’t want to sound as if I’m defending Kant to the hilt or trying to make out that there are no problems — there are plenty, including what it could possibly mean for an intuition to be proleptically conceptual (the fitness problem is perhaps the biggest one I can think of, and Maimon’s point that intuitions reduce at their limit to concepts is a cogent response to this issue) — we just tend to pounce on the affection problem a bit to quickly.

  6. Looking over my last response, I realize that I forgot to mention Pete’s point about appearances being brute givens. Here goes:

    Appearances are pure intuitions (in Pluhar’s translation, ‘formal intuitions’ in Kemp Smith’s). They’re possible objects of experience that have yet to be materially determined (i.e. sensed, cf B34f) and related to an object of actual experience. ‘Intuition’ in other words is a broader category than appearance. At any rate, Kant is pretty explicit that givenness =constructedness with possible relation to an experience (B195). So it’s really the opposite of the kind of ‘the givens’ that Sellars is criticizing.

    hope that’s clearer.

  7. Brava,

    My screen won’t let me respond to your response to my response. I definitely meant (a), and I agree with everything else you wrote (especially and emphatically the claim that the affection problem hits Pittsburgh neo-Kantians too).

  8. I wish I could have responded to this post yesterday, but it was graduation. Amazing job, Jon. Thanks.

    Looking over the NDPR essay on Galen Stawson et al, Consciousness and Its Place in Nature: Does Physicalism Entail Panpsychism?, it is hard to tell how Stawson’s position dovetails (or doesn’t) w/ Maimon, but it seems very congenial to the point you make to the effect that panpsychism ≠ idealism. In fact, while I admit this might be a case of every problem looking like a nail to a Heideggerian with a hammer, Strawson’s position seems to stand in close proximity to a certain ‘international movement’ that some on this blog love to hate. Consider, e.g., “The inscrutability of matter is the key to Strawson’s panpsychism…. he holds that science only tells us about abstract, structural features of matter. … Eddington puts it even more succinctly: ‘science has nothing to say about the intrinsic nature of the atom.'” (The fit is not exact, but for “is inscrutable” read “withdraws” and you’ll see what I mean).

    Speaking of withdrawal….On the matter of Kant & the regress, does it strike anyone else that the infinite regress, the infinitesimal in differentials, and the withdrawal (Heidegger’s entzug) are quite close? The difference seems to be, the regress violates parsimony; it’s the principle of sufficient reason running away with itself. The differential’s infinitesimal, on the other hand, does not “multiply” entities beyond necessity; it divides them.

    This is more than just cute, I think. Recall that it is just such a perpetual division that underlies Zeno’s arrow paradox and makes motion and change ‘impossible’.

    I have been re-reading the Prolegomena to any future metaphysics, and in addition to really loving the beautifully methodical nature of Kant’s prose, I have been struck by the way he lines up mathematics with space and time. Space is geometry, time is arithmetic. (First Part, sec. 10). Now Kant does a good deal more in the Prolegomena w/ space than he does w/ time, and I suspect there’s a reason for this, to wit, that the spatial pertinence of geometry is a good deal more obvious than the temporal pertinence of arithmetic. For some reason I think this smacks of Spinoza giving us extension and thought as the two modes of God we can access.

    Also, and I can’t quite articulate why, this feels like it pertains to an argument Meillassoux makes, namely that the case of the tree falling in the forest (Meillassoux actually uses some occurrence far away in a different galaxy, in principle unobservable by sentient life) is different from that of the “ancestral” event that happened in a time long before the emergence of life. For M., temporal inaccessibility is a more decisive problem for correlationism (and specifically for Kant) than is spatial.

  9. Since you mentioned Galen Strawson, this might be of interest (if you haven’t already had a look):
    The New Hume Debate

    For decades scholars thought they knew Hume’s position on the existence of causes and objects – he was a sceptic. However, this received view has been thrown into question by the ‘new’ readings of Hume as a sceptical realist.

    For philosophers, students of philosophy and others interested in theories of causation and their history, The New Hume Debate is the first book to fully document the most influential contemporary readings of Hume’s work. Throughout, the volume brings the debate beyond textual issues in Hume to contemporary philosophical issues concerning causation and knowledge of the external world and issues in the history of philosophy, offering the reader a model for scholarly debate.

    This revised paperback edition includes three new chapters by Janet Broughton, Peter Kail and Peter Millican.

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