Kant on Apperception and the Unity of Judgment∗
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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
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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
Correspondence Address: Timothy Rosenkoetter, Department of Philosophy, New York
University, 1000 Washington Square East, Silver Center 503, New York, NY, 10003, USA.
Vol. 49, No. 5, 469489, October 2006
0020-174X Print/1502-3923 Online/06/05046921 # 2006 Taylor & Francis
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
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