Cambridge Kant Reading Group — fourth session 12th of February

As part of our Semester 2 Research Seminars, today we’ll discuss selected portions of the First Introduction to the Critique of the Power of Judgment (AA 20: 205-218).

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3 Responses to Cambridge Kant Reading Group — fourth session 12th of February

  1. Katharina Kraus says:

    In this week’s session, we went back to Kant himself. We focussed on sections IV.-VII. of the First Introduction to the Critique of the Power of Judgment. We enquired these sections with respect to the issue of empirical concept formation that came up in our earlier sessions. Could Kant’s distinction between reflecting and determining judgment help us here? How exactly do the reflecting and determining power of judgment relate to the understanding and to reason, as these are understood in the Appendix in the CpR? Furthermore, how does this distinction help us in coming to grips with Kant’s conception of the “system of nature”? – These were the main questions of our discussion.
    In section IV, we found some puzzling comments on the “system of nature” and the “system of possible empirical cognitions”. Kant writes: “We have seen in the critique of pure reason that the whole of nature as the totality of all objects of experience constitutes a system in accordance with transcendental laws, namely those that the understanding itself gives a priori (…). For that very reason, experience, in accordance with general as well as particular laws, (…) must also constitute (in the idea) a system of possible empirical cognitions. For that is required by the unity of nature (…)” (AA 20:208) Kant here seems to move – in only a few lines – from the system constituted by the transcendental principles of the understanding (CpR, Trans. Analytic) via the system of possible empirical cognitions to the unity (or system) of nature. But to what extent do the principles constitute the systematic character of experience; to what extent do they contribute the unity of nature? Do they need to be assisted by any other principle in order to justify the unity of nature? – In the next sentence, Kant appeals to the “principle of thoroughgoing connection of everything contained in this totality of all appearances”. We spent quite a bit of time discussing what exactly Kant means by this principle? Does he merely refer to the application of the principle of causality? Or rather, does he allude to the idea of systematic unity, the idea of reason, which exceeds the mere application of the principles of the understanding?
    A second issue that caught our attention was his distinction between “objective reality” of the system of appearances in experience and “the subjective necessary transcendental presupposition” of the “unity of nature in time and space” (AA 20:209). In this passage, Kant seems propose a new type of “transcendental conditions”, namely the “subjective transcendental conditions”. This reminded us of Grier’s suggestion of distinguishing between two different kinds of “transcendental laws”, namely constitutive and regulative laws, both of which are nevertheless “transcendental”. Hence, “transcendental” does not necessarily mean “constitutive”. This passage seems to suggest exactly this interpretation.
    Our discussion then turned to the reflecting power of judgment, which is defined as “the faculty for reflecting on a given representation, in accordance with a certain principle, for the sake of a concept that is thereby made possible” (AA 20:211). This already indicates its essential role in the process of empirical concept formation. It is exactly the power that is at work when we encounter a representation given through our senses for which a determinate concept has not yet be found or made (formed). In order to accomplish the formation of empirical concepts, the reflecting power of judgment requires a principle – the “principle of reflection on given objects in nature”, i.e., the principle that “for all things in nature empirically determinate concepts can be found” (AA 20:211). In a long footnote, Kant discusses the nature of this principle and finally shows its connection to the idea of the systematic unity of nature. “The power of judgment presupposes a system of nature which is also in accordance with empirical laws and does so a priori, consequently by means of a transcendental principle” (AA 20:212). The idea of reason (unity of nature) is presupposed by the reflecting power of judgment in their acts of concept formation. The power of judgment is the faculty that finally brings the theoretical idea of reason in contact with the empirical laws and thus has an essential, mediating role between the laws of the understanding the intuitions given in the senses. The power itself is guided by reason. But how exactly should we understand the relation between the reflecting power of judgment and reason, which Kant here carefully distinguishes (e.g., “the concept of a purposiveness of nature, indeed as a special concept of the reflecting power of judgment, not of reason”, AA 20:216)?

  2. Ansgar Seide says:

    First of all, I am very happy that you share the discussions of your Research Seminars in this Blog. I follow it frequently and have gained some interesting insights. Thanks for that!

    I’d like to offer some fragmentary thoughts on some of the points that you raise in your comment in the hope that they might be helpful, although I am still puzzled myself on some of them.

    1) A very helpful account of the issue of empirical concept formation in the First Introduction is given by Henry Allison in the first chapter of his book „Kant’s Theory of Taste“, especially in section II (pp. 20-30).

    2) „How exactly do the reflecting and determining power of judgment relate to the understanding and to reason, as these are understood in the Appendix in the CpR?“ – In the CpR, the power of judgment is identified with what is called “the determining power of judgment” in the third Critique: “If the understanding in general is explained as the faculty of rules, then the power of judgment is the faculty of subsuming under rules, i.e., of determining whether something stands under a given rule (casus datae legis) or not.” (CpR, A 132/B 171)
    According to Rolf-Peter Horstmann („Why Must There Be a Transcendental Deduction in Kant’s Critique of Judgment?“, in: E. Förster (ed.): Kant’s Transcendental Deductions, Stanford 1989, pp. 157-176, here: 173) and Allison (Kant’s Theory of Taste, 15), Kant newly introduces the reflecting power of judgment in the third Critique to provide the space for an a priori principle of the power of judgment, something that seems not to be possible in the framework of the first Critique. (The power of judgment in its determining use, i.e. the power of judgment of the first Critique, only applies the laws of the understanding and, accordingly, is not an independent faculty supplying its own principles. Cf. CPJ, AA 5: 179.) For a discussion of these considerations concerning the architecture of Kant’s critical system, see pp. 171-173 of Horstmann’s paper.

    3) „In the next sentence, Kant appeals to the ‘principle of thoroughgoing connection of everything contained in this totality of all appearances’. We spent quite a bit of time discussing what exactly Kant means by this principle? Does he merely refer to the application of the principle of causality? Or rather, does he allude to the idea of systematic unity, the idea of reason, which exceeds the mere application of the principles of the understanding?“ – I think that in this sentence he clearly means the principle of systematic unity, which is the principle of the reflecting power of judgment to be worked out in the following paragraphs. What Kant explains in the rest of this paragraph (AA 20: 209) is that nature, while necessarily standing under the laws of the understanding (for example the principle of causality), could be (or could seem to be?) unsystematic from our restricted empirical point of view („[…] the multiplicity and diversity of these laws, along with the natural forms corresponding to them, being infinitely great, were to present to us a raw chaotic aggregate and not the least trace of a system […]“. So in the first paragraph of section IV, Kant probably means that the transcendental laws (the principles) give nature a systematic form, albeit one that could be too complicated to be grasped by us. (The principle of the reflecting power of judgment then just says that nature is such that we ARE able to grasp the systematic unity of nature.)

    4) „But how exactly should we understand the relation between the reflecting power of judgment and reason, which Kant here carefully distinguishes (e.g., ‘the concept of a purposiveness of nature, indeed as a special concept of the reflecting power of judgment, not of reason’, AA 20:216)?“ – I do not think that Kant here means reason in the sense of the Appendix of the Transcendental Dialectic, i.e. theoretical reason. i) In the third Critique, Kant seems to move the principle of systematicity, formally known as an „idea of reason“, to the newly introduced reflecting power of judgment. It seems to me that he is completely silent on this move, although (or because?!) it may have important consequences for the architecture of his whole account. (For some bibliographical references on this point, see Floyd, Juliet: Heautonomy: Kant on Reflective Judgment and Systematicity, in: H. Parret (ed.): Kants Ästhetik/Kant’s Aesthetics/L’Esthétique de Kant, Berlin & New York 1998, pp. 192-218, here: p. 212, fn. 11.) ii) In the rest of the paragraph, Kant explains that there is an analogy between the concept of a purposiveness of nature and the concept of a purposiveness as it belongs to PRACTICAL reason: „[N]atural laws, however, which are so constituted and related to each other as if they had been designed by the power of judgment for its own need, have a similarity with the possibility of things that presuppose a representation of themselves as their ground.“ (AA 20: 216) The last part of the sentence refers to action as the realization of an end. (See also Kant’s definition of „end“ at CPJ, AA 5: 219 f.) So by saying „the concept of a purposiveness of nature, indeed as a special concept of the reflecting power of judgment, not of reason“ Kant probably wants to stress that the analogy between the purposiveness of nature and purposiveness as it belongs to practical reason is ONLY an analogy. (On this point, see also Thomas Land’s comment on your third session.)

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