Tuesday, 15 July 2008

2. What is the aim of the transcendental deduction?

(Critique of Pure Reason §§9, 10, 13, 15)

In §9 of the Critique Kant argues that judgments differ from each other on four dimensions (quantity, quality, relation and modality) and on each dimension they can have three possible characteristics. For example on the dimension of 'relation', i.e. how it relates its parts to each other, a judgment can either be 'categorical ' (asserting a predicate of a subject), 'hypothetical' (asserting 'if .. then …') or 'disjunctive' (asserting 'either ... or ….'). This gives a total of 12 'functions of unity' in judgments.

In §10 he argues that in order to cognise an object I must not only be given a manifold of representations but must also synthesise (i.e. combine) these representations into a single whole using certain fundamental concepts. Furthermore I must use exactly the same faculty, namely the understanding, for combining representations so as to cognise an object as I do for combining concepts into a judgment. Therefore the same basic 'functions' of this faculty appear on the one hand as the functions of unity of judgments and on the other as the fundamental concepts through which objects are cognised, or what he calls the 'pure concepts of the understanding' or 'categories':

"The same function that gives unity to the different representations in a judgment also gives unity to the mere synthesis of different representations in an intuition, which, expressed generally, is called the pure concept of understanding. The same understanding, therefore, and indeed by means of the very same actions through which, in concepts, it produced the logical form of a judgment by means of analytic unity, also brings a transcendental content into its representations by means of the synthetic unity of the manifold in intuition in general, on account of which they are called pure concepts of the understanding that pertain to objects a priori ..." (g211-2, k112-3)

"Dieselbe Function, welche den verschiedenen Vorstellungen in einem Urtheile Einheit giebt, die giebt auch der bloßen Synthesis verschiedener Vorstellungen in einer Anschauung Einheit, welche, allgemein ausgedrückt, der reine Verstandesbegriff heißt. Derselbe Verstand also und zwar durch eben dieselben Handlungen, wodurch er in Begriffen vermittelst der analytischen Einheit die logische Form eines Urtheils zu Stande brachte, bringt auch vermittelst der synthetischen Einheit des Mannigfaltigen in der Anschauung überhaupt in seine Vorstellungen einen transscendentalen Inhalt, weswegen sie reine Verstandesbegriffe heißen, die a priori auf Objecte gehen ..." (A79-80, B104-105)

For example to the 'categorical' function of unity in judgments there corresponds the category of 'substance and accident', to the 'hypothetical' function there corresponds the category of 'cause and effect', and so on. So we can derive from the functions of unity in judgments a full list of 12 categories through which all objects must be cognised.

What is the transcendental deduction for, then? In §13 Kant explains that we need a 'deduction' of the pure concepts of the understanding in order to allay the worry that, even though we can cannot but use the categories in order to combine our representations, nevertheless those representations as they are given to us might not be 'fit' for combining in this way. We can be sure that any manifold of sensible representations will be characterised by time and space because time and space are the pure forms of intuition, but we cannot be sure in the same way that any such manifold will be suitable for combining through the categories:

"[T]hat objects of sensible intuition must accord with the formal conditions of sensibility that lie in the mind a priori is clear from the fact that otherwise they would not be objects for us; but that they must also accord with the conditions that the understanding requires for the synthetic unity of thinking is a conclusion that is not so easily seen. For appearances could after all be so constituted that the understanding would not find them to be in accord with the conditions of its unity, and everything would lie in such confusion that, e.g., in the succession of appearances nothing would offer itself that would provide a rule of synthesis and so correspond to the concept of cause and effect, so that this concept would therefore be entirely empty, nugatory, and without significance. Appearances would nonetheless offer objects to our intuition, for intuition by no means requires the functions of thinking." (g222-3, k124)

"Denn daß Gegenstände der sinnlichen Anschauung den im Gemüth a priori liegenden formalen Bedingungen der Sinnlichkeit gemäß sein müssen, ist daraus klar, weil sie sonst nicht Gegenstände für uns sein würden; daß sie aber auch überdem den Bedingungen, deren der Verstand zur synthetischen Einheit des Denkens bedarf, gemäß sein müssen, davon ist die Schlußfolge nicht so leicht einzusehen. Denn es könnten wohl allenfalls Erscheinungen so beschaffen sein, daß der Verstand sie den Bedingungen seiner Einheit gar nicht gemäß fände, und alles so in Verwirrung läge, daß z.B. in der Reihenfolge der Erscheinungen sich nichts darböte, was eine Regel der Synthesis an die Hand gäbe und also dem Begriffe der Ursache und Wirkung entspräche, so daß dieser Begriff also ganz leer, nichtig und ohne Bedeutung wäre. Erscheinungen würden nichts destoweniger unserer Anschauung Gegenstände darbieten, denn die Anschauung bedarf der Functionen des Denkens auf keine Weise." (A90-91, B122-123)

Of course we find that our appearances are so constituted that the category of cause and effect applies to them, but Kant's point is that this is just an empirical fact. What we need is to show that any possible appearance must be so constituted that this and the other categories apply to it. This must be what he means by saying that we need to see how 'the subjective conditions of thinking' have 'objective validity' (g222, A89, B122). Showing that appearances are so constituted that the categories apply to them is the aim of the transcendental deduction. It is called a 'deduction' because in law a deduction means a proof of entitlement and if we can show that appearances must be so constituted that the categories apply to them then this will prove that we are rationally entitled to use them.

But this immediately raises a serious problem. What can Kant mean by the idea of an appearance 'corresponding to' a category? (I have tried to paraphrase this as the idea of the intuitions of the appearance being 'fit' for combining through the category, or the the idea of the category 'applying to' the appearance, but these reformulations don't help much.) He cannot mean that the appearance gives rise to (or is composed of) representations that are already somehow combined though that category, because Kant is emphatic that representations as they present themselves to us are not combined in any way. Combining them is something that we have to do, as he says in §15:

"[T]he combination (conjunctio) of a manifold in general can never come to us through the senses, and therefore cannot already be contained in the pure form of sensible intuition; for it is an act of the spontaneity of the power of representation […] we can represent nothing as combined in the object without having combined it ourselves …" (g245, k151)

"Allein die Verbindung (conjunctio) eines Mannigfaltigen überhaupt kann niemals durch Sinne in uns kommen und kann also auch nicht in der reinen Form der sinnlichen Anschauung zugleich mit enthalten sein; denn sie ist ein Actus der Spontaneität der Vorstellungskraft […] wir uns nichts als im Object verbunden vorstellen können, ohne es vorher selbst verbunden zu haben … " (B130)

So what else is it for an appearance to 'correspond to' a certain category? We need to know this before we can understand the aim of the transcendental deduction, which is just to prove that appearances must correspond to the categories.

(Edited: 23 July 2008)

Saturday, 5 July 2008

1. Hegel and the unity of apperception

In the Transcendental Deduction in the Critique of Pure Reason Kant attempts to show that 12 'pure concepts of the understanding' or categories must characterise any possible object of experience.

His essential argument goes something like this: (1) In order to combine a manifold of representations into an experience of an object I must first be able to think of all of those representations as mine, as belonging to one and the same 'I'. (2) Therefore the concepts that I use to combine a manifold of representations into an experience of an object must somehow be intrinsic to the act in which I think of all my representations as mine. (3) But the concepts I use to combine a manifold of representations into an experience of an object must be the same as the concepts that are implicit in the 12 'forms of judgment' that I use to combine several concepts into a judgement (or proposition), since I use the same faculty, namely the understanding, for both kinds of combination. (4) So these 12 concepts must be intrinsic to the act in which I think of all my representations as mine. (5) So I must use these same 12 concepts to combine any manifold of representations into an experience of an object.

The point of the Deduction seems to be not so much to show that the 12 concepts that Kant finds implicit in the forms of judgment (namely substance, cause etc.) must characterise any possible object of experience of a being that uses these 12 forms of judgment, but to show that both these concepts and these forms of judgement are grounded in the very act through which any subject thinks of its representations as all belonging to it.

Furthermore this act is for Kant the only way in which I ever become self-conscious. My self is not an object of which I can become conscious like other objects. I can only become conscious of it as 'that which has all these representations'. Kant adds that I can only think of a number of representations as belonging to the same self in this way through being conscious of an act in which I synthesise (or combine) these representations with each other.

To introduce Kant's own terminology: to apperceive a representation is roughly to see it as mine, or to say to myself of it 'I am having this representation' or 'I am thinking this' (thus Kant refers to the act of apperception as 'the I think'). The analytic unity of apperception is the unity or united character that a number of my representations have through my seeing them as all belonging to one and the same I. The synthetic unity of apperception (or original-synthetic unity of apperception) is the unity that they have through my being conscious of an act of synthesising or combining them with each other, which is a necessary condition of the analytic unity of apperception. Kant uses the phrase transcendental unity of apperception, to indicate that the unity in question is a condition of the possibility of the experience of objects, following his own definition of 'transcendental', but when he uses the phrase it is not always clear whether he has the analytic or the synthetic unity of apperception in mind, so I will try to avoid this phrase. (All this is in §16 of the Transcendental Deduction, in the Critique of Pure Reason k152-4, g246-7, B131-4)

So for Kant the pure concepts of the understanding (of which all our everyday concepts are specifications or combinations) are grounded in self-consciousness, which in turn is grounded in an original act of synthesis. Here is how he summarises his view:

"[A]n object, however, is that in the concept of which the manifold of a given intuition is united. Now, however, all unification of representations demands unity of consciousness in the synthesis of them. Consequently the unity of consciousness is that which alone constitutes the relation of representations to an object, thus their objective validity and consequently is that which makes them into cognitions and on which therefore even the possibility of the understanding rests." (g249, k156)

"Object aber ist das, in dessen Begriff das Mannigfaltige einer gegebenen Anschauung vereinigt ist. Nun erfordert aber alle Vereinigung der Vorstellungen Einheit des Bewußtseins in der Synthesis derselben. Folglich ist die Einheit des Bewußtseins dasjenige, was allein die Beziehung der Vorstellungen auf einen Gegenstand, mithin ihre objective Gültigkeit, folglich daß sie Erkenntnisse werden, ausmacht, und worauf folglich selbst die Möglichkeit des Verstandes beruht." (B137)

In the Science of Logic Hegel homes in on this deep connection between concepts and self-consciousness in Kant, quoting the above passage. He says:

"It is one of the profoundest and truest insights to be found in the Critique of Pure Reason that the unity which constitutes the essence of the concept is cognized as the original-synthetic unity of apperception, as the unity of the 'I think', or of self-consciousness." (SL 584, §1293)*

"Es gehört zu den tiefsten und richtigsten Einsichten, die sich in der Kritik der Vernunft finden, daß die Einheit, die das Wesen des Begriffs ausmacht, als die ursprünglich-synthetische Einheit der Apperzeption, als Einheit des 'Ich denke' oder des Selbstbewußtseins erkannt wird." (WL 253)

A little earlier he says a bit more about what he thinks Kant has seen: namely that 'I is the pure concept itself':

"The concept, when it has blossomed into such an existence that is itself free, is none other than I or pure self-consciousness. True, I have concepts, that is to say, determinate concepts; but I is the pure concept itself which, as concept, has come into existence." (SL 583, §1291)

"Der Begriff, insofern er zu einer solchen Existenz gediehen ist, welche selbst frei ist, ist nichts anderes als Ich oder das reine Selbstbewußtsein. Ich habe wohl Begriffe, d. h. bestimmte Begriffe; aber Ich ist der reine Begriff selbst, der als Begriff zum Dasein gekommen ist." (WL 252)

However, it seems doubtful whether when Hegel says 'I is the pure concept itself' he means the same thing as Kant might have meant if he had used the same phrase. In this blog I want to explore what Hegel takes up and what he rejects in Kant's account of the self. Specifically, is something akin to the 'original-synthetic unity of apperception' at the heart of Hegel's notion of spirit in the Phenomenology of Spirit? If so how does this fit with Hegel's account of spirit as constituted by mutual recognition between free individuals?

In the next posts I will start by working my way through the B-version of the Transcendental Deduction so as to get a proper grip on Kant's idea of the original-synthetic unity of apperception.


* Underlining indicates that I have modified the translation. In this case Miller says ;the nature of the Notion', but 'essence' is the correct translation of Wesen and Begriff in Kant is standardly translated as 'concept' so it makes sense to keep to the same translation.

(Edited: 8 July 2008)