Kant on Apperception and the Unity of Judgment∗

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Stellenbosch]On: 08 May 2013, At: 12:31Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T3JH, UK

    Inquiry: An InterdisciplinaryJournal of PhilosophyPublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/sinq20

    Kant on Apperception and theUnity of JudgmentTimothy Rosenkoetter aa New York University, USAPublished online: 25 Oct 2006.

    To cite this article: Timothy Rosenkoetter (2006): Kant on Apperception and theUnity of Judgment , Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy, 49:5, 469-489

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00201740600937989


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  • Kant on Apperception and the Unityof Judgment*


    New York University, USA

    (Received 3 August 2005)

    It is safe to say that more has been written in an attempt to come to terms

    with Kants second-edition Transcendental Deduction (TD) than has been

    written on any other similarly sized section of his theoretical philosophy. As

    might be predicted from this fact, new contributions to the secondary

    literature are often characterized by the slight revisions that they make to

    earlier forays. Yet the array of available interpretations is sufficiently diverse

    that a survey can easily lead one to despair of progress. A monograph which

    systematically applies bold and in many cases unusual claims regarding

    representation, objectivity, and apperception to the interpretation of the TD

    is a particularly welcome addition in this context. Whats more, A.B.

    Dickersons Kant on Representation and Objectivity (KR&O) paints an

    attractive picture. Kant is reconstructed as having a sensible, even inviting,

    position that lacks any obvious confusions or hopeless arguments.

    Though KR&O is advertised as a study of the B-deduction, Dickerson

    arranges pursuit of that goal so that he first lays out his positions on a number

    of the core issues that confront any interpretation of Kants theoretical

    project (chapters 1 and 2). This general interpretation is then put to the test of

    making sense of the B-deduction (chapters 3 and 4). It is an ambitious work.

    Indeed, one of its strengths is that its form and coverage make it appropriate

    for use as one of the main secondary sources in a course on Kants theoretical

    philosophy, something that cannot be said of most studies of the TD.

    Furthermore, though it can and will be read with profit by specialists, this

    *A.B. Dickerson. Kant on Representation and Objectivity (Cambridge: Cambridge University

    Press, 2004).

    Correspondence Address: Timothy Rosenkoetter, Department of Philosophy, New York

    University, 1000 Washington Square East, Silver Center 503, New York, NY, 10003, USA.

    Email: tr37@nyu.edu


    Vol. 49, No. 5, 469489, October 2006

    0020-174X Print/1502-3923 Online/06/05046921 # 2006 Taylor & Francis

    DOI: 10.1080/00201740600937989




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  • book is sufficiently readable, and its author sufficiently patient in his

    explanations, that it should not overwhelm talented undergraduates. This

    ability to speak to both audiences is as much a virtue as it is a rarity.

    Dickerson tells us that he intends KR&O to be a contribution to what

    Robert Sleigh calls exegetical history, rather than just a variation on a

    Kantian theme. As such, his ambition is to produce sentences such that

    we know what propositions those sentences express and those propositionsare the very ones our author accepted.1 With few exceptions Dickerson

    quite successfully avoids producing terminology-laden sentences to which

    we can attach no determinate proposition. However, I have more

    reservations about whether they are in fact the propositions that Kant

    accepted. In some cases my disagreements are relatively minor. There are

    places where Dickerson has simplified to the point of distortion. (The

    authors quite successful efforts at producing a very readable work have

    perhaps exacted a toll here and there.) But even in cases where I think thatDickersons interpretation is on the wrong track, it often manages to be

    provocative in a way that can be quite useful in spurring those who disagree

    to explain why it is wrong.

    Dickerson belongs to the camp of interpreters that understands the TD

    not as a response to skepticism but rather as primarily an analysis of the

    concept of human cognition (p. 206). This should not, Dickerson hastens

    to add, lead us to assume that its goals are modest. It aims to prove that if

    our minds are receptive in cognition or constrained by an independentreality, then our cognition must be governed by the categories (p. 208).

    Dickersons most general take on the goal and method of the TD is not

    particularly new or startling (though not for that reason any less welcome).

    For this reason, I have chosen to focus the following discussion on the

    background theory which Dickerson employs in his detailed interpretation

    of the argument of the TD, since it contains several original theses that form

    the basis for his detailed claims regarding the TD. Now, though I will be

    passing over much of the latter, I want to stress that there is much that isinteresting and useful there. (Those who desire an informative overview

    might begin with the master presentation of the argument in twenty-six steps

    at p. 201.) Further, as Dickerson stresses, the success of the background

    theory in accounting for details of Kants text has the potential to provide

    evidence of its correctness. However, I believe that there are some questions

    that are usefully posed in relative abstraction from Dickersons reconstruc-

    tion of the argument.

    I. Representationalism, pictures, and apperception

    The starting point for Dickersons interpretation is his claim that Kant is a

    representationalist. Kant clearly believes that objects produce representa-

    tions in us, which when considered merely as modifications of our sensibility

    470 T. Rosenkoetter




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  • are termed sensations.2 Kant is a representationalist, according to

    Dickerson, because these internal modifications or determinations are

    then the immediate objects of awareness (p. 6). Dickerson takes himself to

    be opposing direct realist readings of Kant and he believes that this move

    should not be controversial. The exegetical historian simply has no room to

    maneuver on this point, for the language of Kants texts plainly indicates

    that representations are the objects of our mental actsas objects of

    consciousness or awareness (pp. 910). In the first of several straightfor-

    ward analogies that Dickerson employs throughout the book, he compares

    the Kantian subject to a viewer who is within a hollow globe of opaque

    plastic. As the globe is depressed by external forces the subject can see

    nothing but the internal surface of the globe.

    It should be noted up front that Dickerson takes Kants representation-

    alism to explain a commitment that he believes is Kants: that sensations as

    such are intrinsically unavailable to the subjects awareness because they are

    not self-revealing (p. 85) and the subject, in relating to them, is aware of

    them as objects (e.g., buckets and chairs) rather than as sensations. Thus, it

    is more than a little misleading for Dickerson to refer (as he routinely does)

    to sensations as objects of consciousness or awareness (pp. 910). Think

    of them, instead, as the forever-hidden raw materials of consciousness.

    If we are trapped within a globe with modifications of our sensibility (i.e.,

    sensations) as our sole epistemological aid, how shall we account for our

    knowledgeknowledge which is, at least in part, of independent objects?

    Two historically influential strategies suggest themselves. First, one can infer

    from ones awareness of representations to their external causes (e.g.,

    Descartes). Second, one can insist that objects are in fact identical to some

    set of representations, so that an immediate awareness of objects is in fact

    retained (Berkeley). At least part of what leads interpreters to deny or

    downplay Kants representationalism, on Dickersons diagnosis, is their

    understandable wish