STEFANIE GRÜNE | Blinde Anschauung. Die Rolle von Begriffen in Kants Theorie sinnlicher Synthesis | Klostermann 2009
By Stefanie Grüne
McLear’s elaborate and challenging comments concern four different topics. I will reply to them in turn in Sections 1a/b to 4a/b below.
1a. The generation of intuition: Some minor issues
In the first part of his paper, McLear disputes my claim that Kantian intuitions only arise as a product of synthesis. I will first respond (in this Section) to two smaller points he makes in this section and then (in Section 1b) discuss his main objection, namely that on my interpretation Kant’s view on the formation of intuitions is not compatible with his characterization, in the Transcendental Aesthetic, of our pure intuitions of space and time.
First small point: McLear begins by putting forward Van Cleve’s objection that one should not attribute the view to Kant that the generation of intuitions presupposes a sensible synthesis, because this view is phenomenologically implausible. When we intuit for example a line, we are not aware of generating this intuition successively, but we intuit the whole line at once.
I completely agree that Kant’s position would be phenomenologically implausible, if it implied that we cannot intuit objects at once. But Kant’s position does not have this implication. As I have pointed out in Blinde Anschauung (pp. 104, 196), Kant describes synthesis as “the mere effect of the imagination, of a blind though indispensable function of the soul […] of which we are seldom even conscious” (B103/A78). Since, according to Kant, synthesis is an activity of which we are not conscious, his claim that the formation of an intuition presupposes sensible synthesis does not imply that we can intuit objects only successively. The formation of intuitions takes place successively. Since we do not have any awareness of this process of formation, but only of the result of this process, the conscious intuition of an object takes place in an instant.
Second small point: McLear refers to Clinton Tolley who argues that according to Kant sensible synthesis is not a presupposition for the generation of an intuition but is necessary only for having consciousness of the manifold in an intuition.
I agree with most of what is said here. Sensible synthesis is not a presupposition for the generation of the sensible representations that intuitions are composed of. As McLear remarks in a footnote, to supply sensible representations (the sensible manifold) is not the function of sensible synthesis, but of synopsis. The function of sensible synthesis, by contrast, consists in making these sensible representations conscious (and, against McLear, to confer a relation to an object on them). Still, this does not imply that sensible synthesis is not necessary for the generation of an intuition. In the Stufenleiter Kant characterizes intuitions as conscious singular representations, which have an immediate relation to objects. Thus, since sensible synthesis is necessary for making sensible representation conscious (as is assumed not only by myself, but also by Tolley and McLear), it is necessary for the generation of an intuition. Yet, as I also point out in Blinde Anschauung Kant does not always use the term ‘intuition’ in accordance with the characterization from the Stufenleiter (pp. 30ff., 76ff., 152). In at least three passages Kant allows for unconscious intuitions. Furthermore, there are several passages in which by ‘intuition’ he understands sensible representations that do not relate to an object. And in some places, he is willing to countenance unsynthesized sensible representations as intuitions. Thus, I can even grant that there is a sense of ‘intuition’ according to which sensible synthesis is not a presupposition for the generation of an intuition. Yet, what I insist on is that this is not the dominant ‘sense’ of intuition.
1b. The generation of intuition: The main point
According to McLear, my view on intuition implies that the generation of pure intuition requires sensible synthesis, but the Transcendental Aesthetic is incompatible with this assumption. As McLear sees it, in the third argument of the Exposition of space and time Kant claims that the pure intuitions of space (and time) are prior to the representations of its parts. Thus, pure intuitions exhibit a part-to-whole structure. Such a structure cannot be brought about by synthesis, since every representation that is produced by synthesizing several representations is a representation whose parts are prior to the whole representation. Therefore, the claim that pure intuitions are generated by means of synthesis is incompatible with the Transcendental Aesthetic.
I think this is an extremely interesting and difficult objection. In order to counter it in a satisfying manner one would have to give a very elaborate reply. For reasons of space, I will only sketch such a reply. If one wants to evaluate the force of this objection, it is very important to note that Kant distinguishes between two different kinds of pure intuition, namely between the intuition of a single infinitely large space (or time) and intuitions of finite spatial (or temporal) regions (as for example the pure intuition of a line or a triangle). Now, in the third argument of the Exposition of space Kant only claims that the pure intuition of a single infinitely large space is prior to its parts. He does not claim that pure intuitions of finite spaces are prior to its parts. Thus, the Transcendental Aesthetic does not imply that pure intuitions of finite spaces (and times) cannot be generated by synthesis. It only implies that the intuition of infinite space (and time) cannot be generated by synthesis. But this last claim does not pose any problem for somebody who believes that empirical as well as pure intuitions are generated by sensible synthesis. Here is the reason why: One should not attribute the view to Kant that human beings indeed have an intuition of infinite space. At least one should not attribute this view to Kant, if intuitions are understood as conscious occurrent mental states.
There are three reasons for denying that according to Kant we have occurrent intuitive states that represent a single infinitely large space. The first reason is that the assumption that we do have such states phenomenologically is extremely implausible. To me at least, it is unclear what it might mean to have a conscious occurrent sensible representation of something that is unbounded in extent. The second reason is that the pure intuitions of space and time as well as the categories are not innate representations, but are originally acquired. Yet, Kant does not have the resources to explain how the pure intuition of infinite space is acquired. As far as I can see, Kant offers only two explanations of how a pure intuition of space might be formed. It is formed either by abstracting from all empirical aspects of an empirical intuition, or it is formed by construction of a concept. Both explanations serve only to explain how pure intuitions of finite spaces are formed, but are not apt to explain the formation of an occurrent pure intuition of space as an infinitely large object. The third reason is that there are passages which very much suggest that Kant denies that we do have an intuition of infinite space. The most important text in this respect is Kant’s commentary on Kästner. In this commentary, Kant distinguishes between geometrical space, which is finite, and metaphysical space, which is infinite. He claims that only the first is objectively given, whereas the second is subjectively given. As one would have to argue in more detail, it is very plausible to interpret “objectively given” in this text as “ given as an object”, whereas I would suggest to interpret “subjectively given” as “given as a feature of the subject’s mental constitution”. According to this interpretation, in the commentary on Kästner, Kant claims that in contrast to geometrical or finite space, metaphysical or infinite space is not given as an object.
If what I have said so far is convincing, the Transcendental Aesthetic only implies that the intuition of infinite space (and time) cannot be generated by synthesis. It does not imply that pure intuitions of finite spaces (and times) cannot be generated by synthesis. Furthermore, that the intuition of infinite space cannot be generated by sensible synthesis does not imply that we have an occurrent pure intuition that is given in sensibility independently of sensible synthesis. This is because we do not have an occurrent pure intuition of infinite space. Thus, according to my interpretation the Transcendental Aesthetic does not imply that there are any occurrent pure intuitions of space (and) time that are given in sensibility independently of sensible synthesis.
2. The problem with animals
In the second part of his comments, McLear criticizes my interpretation for having the consequence of denying intuitions to animals. In Blinde Anschauung, I have tentatively suggested that it is an open question whether Kant could ascribe obscure concepts and therefore intuitions to animals. In his comment, McLear objects that this is not an open question. The reason why, according to him, Kant cannot ascribe obscure concepts to animals is the following: To possess an obscure concept, very roughly, is to have the capacity to combine or synthesize sensible representations. Yet, Kant explicitly claims that synthesis or combination is an act that can be performed only by the understanding. Thus, since in the Kantian picture animals do not have understanding, they do not have the capacity to combine or synthesize representations and therefore they cannot possess obscure concepts. I completely grant McLear this point, but contrary to him I do not think that it poses a problem for my interpretation. The reason is that I do not agree with McLear that there “is significant textual evidence in favour of reading Kant as endorsing the possibility (and perhaps even the actuality) of non-rational animal intuition”. In order to substantiate his view, McLear refers to (i) a passage in Kant’s oeuvre, in which intuitions are ascribed to animals, (ii) several passages in which animals are said to have sensory representations of their environment, and (iii) a passage in the Jäsche Logic, where it is claimed that animals are acquainted with objects though they do not cognize them. Concerning this textual evidence I would like to make the following remarks:
First, as far as I know, in Kant’s whole oeuvre there is only one passage in which intuitions are ascribed to animals, namely the passage McLear refers to. This passage comes from notes to one of Kant’s logic lectures, thus is not even written by himself. Clearly, this is not sufficient evidence for ascribing the view to him that animals actually do have intuitions. More strongly, the fact that Kant nowhere claims that animals have intuitions, even though there are many passages in which he describes the mental constitution of animals and easily could say that they have intuitions, speaks in favour of assuming that he does not want to ascribe intuitions to animals.
Secondly, the fact that Kant ascribes sensible representations of their environment to animals does not show that he endorses the possibility or even actuality of animal intuition. Since intuitions are conscious representations, in order to prove that Kant endorses the possibility or actuality of animal intuition, one has to show that he ascribes conscious sensible representations of their environment to animals. Yet, it is unclear whether Kant is willing to ascribe such representations to animals. First of all, there are several passages in which he denies inner sense to animals. And without inner sense animals cannot have intuitions. Yet, one should not overestimate the importance of these passages, because they all stem from the pre-Critical period, so it might be the case that Kant has changed his view on this topic. Secondly, there is a letter from Kant to Markus Herz from 1789, which shows that even though Kant allows animals some kind of consciousness of sensible representations, this kind of consciousness is not sufficient for the having of intuitions. In this letter, Kant claims that the form of appearances is dependent not only on the form of our intuition, but also on our understanding, because it is dependent on the combination of a manifold in one consciousness. According to this letter, we only have experiences of objects, if the manifold is combined in one consciousness. What is important for the present discussion is that in the further course of the letter, Kant speculates about what would be the case, if the manifold were not combined in one consciousness. In this case, he writes that
[data of the senses] could still (if I imagine myself to be an animal) carry on their play in an orderly fashion, as representations connected according to empirical laws of association, and thus even have influence on my feeling and desire, without my being aware of them (assuming that I am even conscious of each individual representation, but not of their relation to the unity of representation of their object, by means of the synthetic unity of their apperception). (AA 11:52)
This passage shows that animals, according to Kant, only have consciousness of individual sensations. Yet, being conscious of individual sensations is not sufficient for having an intuition. Intuitions are complex representations that display a (necessary) unity. Thus, in order to have an intuition I have to be conscious of a complex representation that displays a (necessary) unity. But this is exactly what, according to Kant’s letter to Herz, is missing in animals: They do not have consciousness of the relation of individual sensations to the unity of the representation of their object. Thus, they do not have intuitions.
Of course, this letter does not sit well with the passage from the Jäsche-Logic in which it is claimed that animals are acquainted with objects though they do not cognize them. This passage seems to imply that animals have conscious sensible representations of objects and thus seems to be compatible with ascribing intuitions to animals. Yet, for my purposes it is enough to show that one can find textual evidence both for assuming that Kant ascribes intuitions to animals, as well as for assuming that Kant denies intuitions to animals. As long as it is unclear what Kant thought about this question, the fact that my interpretation is only compatible with one of the two options, should not speak against it.
3. The content of intuition
In the third part of his paper, McLear claims that I ascribe to Kant “a version of what, in the philosophy of perception, has come to be known as the ‘Content View’, according to which sensory states count as perceptual experiences just in case they possess correctness conditions”, and he gives two reasons which are supposed to show that for Kant intuitions do not have correctness conditions. I think that both reasons do not show what they are supposed to show.
The first reason is that there are several passages in which Kant claims that only judgements, but not intuitions are assessable for truth and error. I completely agree with McLear that according to Kant, intuitions are not assessable for truth and error, but I do not think that this implies that they do not have correctness conditions. As I see it, Kant’s reason for denying that intuitions are assessable for truth and error, is that only representations with propositional content can be assessable for truth and error, but intuitions do not have propositional content. Yet, the fact that a representation does not have propositional content does not imply that it does not have correctness conditions. Tim Crane for example argues that perceptual experiences do have correctness conditions, even though they do not have propositional content. In order to argue for this claim, he compares perceptual experiences with pictures and points to the fact that pictures are correct or incorrect without having propositional content. Thus, what the passages that McLear quotes and refers to, show is that intuitions do not have propositional content. Yet, since not having propositional content is compatible with having correctness conditions, they do not show that intuitions do not have correctness conditions.
McLear’s second reason for assuming that intuitions cannot have correctness conditions is the following: Kant distinguishes between logical possibility and real possibility. Logical and real possibility are explained by McLear in the following way:
The subject matter of a thought is logically possible if the thought’s constituent concepts may be combined in judgement without contradiction.
The subject matter of a thought is really possible, in contrast, if it can be shown that the subject matter to which the thought corresponds consists of properties which are mutually empirically compossible and not, in Kant’s terms, ‘really repugnant’.
In addition, McLear quotes a passage in which Kant claims that real possibility has to be proved by “the testimony of experience” (Bxxvi).
After having pointed out all this, McLear writes:
If experience is to provide proof of real possibility, […] then it must have features which thought alone does not. If experience is conceived along the lines suggested by Grüne, what would those features be?
McLear seems to have two reasons for doubting that on my view intuition or experience has such features. The first reason is that on my view intuitions and thoughts both are attitudes to content and the content in both cases sets correctness conditions. From this he concludes that intuitions and thought are so similar to each other, that intuition cannot have features that thought does not have and that are necessary for proving real possibility. The second reason is that on my view an intuition is not dependent on the existence of the object it represents. Since the same intuition can be had whether its objects exists or does not exist, the having of an intuition cannot prove the real possibility of the object of a corresponding thought.
My reply to the first reason goes as follows: I do not think that the reason why we need experience or intuition in order to provide the real possibility of objects of thought is that intuition or experience has features that thought does not have. Instead, we need intuition, because there are many objects of thoughts of which we do not have any intuitions. And those objects of which we do not have any intuition, are objects whose real possibility we cannot prove. For example, we cannot prove the real possibility of the object of the thought that every soul is a simple substance, because we do not have intuitions of souls. Thus, the reason why we need intuitions in order to prove real possibility is not that they have a feature that thoughts do not have, but the reason is that the amount of objects that we can think about is much bigger than the amount of objects that we can intuit. Every object that we can only think about, but that we cannot intuit, is one, whose real possibility cannot be proven. Therefore, the fact that both intuitions and thought have content and correctness conditions does not prevent intuitions from being necessary for proving the real possibility of objects of thought.
What about McLear’s second reason? Does the fact that on my view intuitions do not depend on the existence of the objects they represent imply that they cannot prove the real possibility of objects? I take it that McLear’s idea behind this objection is the following: If we could have intuitions of non-existing objects, then we could have intuitions of objects that have properties which are not mutually empirically compossible but are really repugnant. Thus, we could have intuitions of objects that are not really possible. Therefore, the having of intuitions does not prove real possibility. The main problem with this objection is that it ascribes to Kant a notion of real possibility that, in my view, he does not have. Kant explains his notion of real possibility in the Postulates of Empirical Thinking. There he writes:
Whatever agrees with the formal conditions of experience (in accordance with intuition and concepts) is possible (A218/B265).
Even though, in this passage, Kant only uses the term ‘possibility’, from the context it is clear that he talks about real possibility. For a little bit later he equates “objective reality of the concept” with “possibility of such an object as is thought through the concept” (A220/B268). And in other passages he equates objective reality with real possibility (see for example AA 20:325ff.). If objective reality is equated with possibility as well as with real possibility, then possibility in the Postulates of Empirical Thinking has to be the same as real possibility. According to the passage I have just quoted, real possibility does not have anything to do with empirical compossibility of properties. Instead, according to this passage, an object is really possible if it conforms to the sensible and conceptual formal conditions of experience. Clearly, every object of intuition or experience conforms to the sensible formal conditions of experience, since every object of intuition or experience is spatio-temporally structured. Furthermore, on my view every object of experience or intuition conforms to the conceptual formal conditions of experience, that is conforms to the categories. This is, because on my view every intuition is generated by a synthesis that takes place in accordance with the categories. Thus, every intuition, regardless of whether the object it represents exists or does not exist, conforms to the formal conditions of experience and therefore is the representation of an object that is really possible.
4a. Intuition and presence
In the fourth and last part of his comments, McLear continues to challenge my claim that for Kant intuitions are not dependent on the existence of their objects they represent. He first gives an exegetical reason, which is supposed to show that my interpretation is wrong and then develops an alternative account according to which intuitions and hallucinations are different kinds of representation
, both of which have an existing object . I will first discuss the exegetical reason and then turn to McLear’s own proposal.
The passage which according to McLear shows that intuitions are dependent on the existence of their objects, is the following passage from the Prolegomena:
An intuition is a representation of the sort which would depend immediately on the presence of an object. It therefore seems impossible originally to intuit a priori, since then the intuition would have to occur without an object being present, either previously or now, to which it could relate, and so it could not be an intuition (AA 4:281–2).
As Andrew Stephenson has pointed out, in characterizing that on which an intuition is dependent, Kant here uses the indefinite article (“the intuition would have to occur without an object being present, either previously or now”). Thus, according to this passage, empirical intuition only depends on the presence or previous presence of some object or other. As Stephenson writes: “Not only need the particular object of intuition not be present at the time of the intuition—the particular object of an intuition need never have been present.” The claim that in order to have an empirical intuition some object or other has to have been present to the subject of the intuition at some point or other, is clearly compatible with my claim that having an intuition does not imply the existence of its object. Thus, the passage from the Prolegomena does not show that my interpretation is wrong.
Let me now turn to McLear’s own proposal. He quotes several passages, mainly from Kant’s Nachlaß, which are supposed to show that for Kant hallucinations and dreams are inner intuitions, which are produced by the reproductive imagination. Since according to this position, hallucinations and dreams are not outer intuitions, it clearly implies that outer intuitions are object-dependent. Furthermore, McLear takes the position to imply that “in the case of inner intuition what is present is an image [Bild]—a reproduction in some sense—of the originally perceived object”. This proposal is incompatible with my position in two respects: First, according to it, intuition in general is object-dependent. Outer intuitions are dependent on the existence of their outer objects, inner intuitions are dependent on the existence of pictures. Secondly, outer intuitions and hallucinations or dreams are different kinds of representation
. By contrast, on my view intuitions are not object-dependent and hallucinations are representations of the same fundamental kind as outer intuitions.
Concerning McLear’s proposal, I would like to make two remarks. The first remark is that even though I agree with McLear that the passages he cites convey the impression that for Kant hallucinations are inner intuitions, I am not convinced that this position can unproblematically be regarded as Kant’s considered view. Take for example the following passage from the Transcendental Aesthetic:
Time is the a priori formal condition of all appearances in general. Space, as the pure form of all outer intuitions, is limited as an a priori condition merely to outer intuitions. (A34/B50ff.)
Clearly, dreams and hallucination can be about objects in space. Yet, according to this passage, in which Kant states one of the central assertions of the Critique of pure Reason, space is the form of outer intuitions, and therefore is only a condition of outer intuitions. Thus, inner intuitions cannot be intuitions of spatial objects. But this means that whatever Kant claims in his Nachlaß, it is by no means obvious that he can treat dreams or hallucinations of outer objects as inner intuitions.
Yet—to come to my second remark—even if one grants that for Kant hallucinations and dreams are inner intuitions, this assumption does not have the implication McLear takes it to have. As I have already pointed out, McLear seems to assume that by showing that hallucinations are inner intuitions brought about by reproductive imagination, he also shows that the objects of hallucinations are pictures or “inner ersatz object[s] generated by imagination”. That the assumption that hallucinations are inner intuitions has this implication is important for McLear, because what he wants to argue for is that hallucinations and outer intuitions are different kinds of mental states. And if hallucinations and outer intuitions have different objects, then they are different kinds of mental states. Yet, I do not understand why McLear believes that hallucinations, insofar as one understands them as inner intuitions brought about by reproductive imagination, have pictures as their objects. Of course, there are passages in which Kant claims that imagination has the function of forming pictures. Here are two passages from the A-deduction and the section on schematism respectively:
There is thus an active faculty of the synthesis of this manifold in us, which we call imagination […]. For the imagination is to bring the manifold of intuition into an image; it must therefore antecedently take up the impression into its activity, i.e. apprehend them. (A120)
[T]he image is a product of the empirical faculty of productive imagination. (A141/B181)
In both of these passages the function of forming a picture is not ascribed to reproductive imagination. Instead, in the first passage, it is ascribed to imagination in general, in the second it is ascribed to empirical productive imagination. What McLear claims, in contrast, is that pictures are formed by reproductive imagination. Since it is not the function of empirical productive imagination to generate dreams or hallucinations, the fact that pictures are the product of productive imaginations speaks against the view that the objects of dreams or hallucinations are pictures. Thus, there is not only no textual evidence for, but rather textual evidence against assuming that according to Kant the objects of hallucinations or dreams are pictures or inner ersatz objects. But if McLear is not successful in proving that in the case of hallucinations or dreams other objects than outer objects are present to the mind, then he neither shows that intuition in general is object-dependent, nor does he show that hallucinations and outer intuitions are different kinds of mental states.
4b. Intuition and presence: My own view
I would like to end by sketching in a very rough way, how I myself see the relation between imagination and outer intuition. First of all, on my view images are not objects of intuitions but intuitions themselves, namely intuitions in the sense of mental states or representational vehicles. As Kant points out in the passage from the A-deduction I have quoted above, imagination is the faculty of synthesizing a manifold of sensible representations. In the further course of this passage, he argues that in order for a picture to be formed, sensible representations have to be apprehended and reproduced by the imagination and that this synthesis of apprehension and reproduction has to be “grounded a priori on rules” (A123). Thus, the conditions of forming an image are the same conditions (apprehension, reproduction and recognition) as the conditions that Kant elucidates in the sections on the so called threefold synthesis at the beginning of the A-deduction. Since in Blinde Anschauung, I interpret these conditions as conditions for the generation of intuitions, it follows that on my view images are nothing else than intuitions.
Secondly, as I see it there is only a very minor difference between outer intuitions and hallucinations: Whereas in the case of outer intuitions, the sensible representations that are synthesized by (productive) imagination are supplied by sensibility, in the case of hallucinations the sensible representations that are synthesized are supplied by reproductive imagination. In the case of an outer intuition and a subjectively indistinguishable hallucination, the intuition and the hallucination thus only differ with respect to the faculty that supplies the sensible representations. Apart from that there is no difference: The sensible representations in the two cases are qualitatively identical, they are synthesized in the same way and the result of the synthesis is the formation of two intuitions which consist of the same intuitive marks. According to this interpretation, an outer intuition and the corresponding hallucination are mental states of the same kind.
Thus, on this view intuitions are not dependent on the existence of their objects in the following sense: For every veridical intuition it is true that one could be in a mental state of the same kind (namely in the state of a subjectively indistinguishable hallucination), even if the object of that state did not exist. This interpretation is even compatible with the assumption that for Kant hallucinations and imaginations are inner intuitions. If this were Kant’s view, this would only mean that Kant reserves a term, namely the term ‘outer intuition’ for veridical intuition (just as we can use the term ‘perception’ as a success verb). But the fact that Kant uses such a term does not imply anything concerning the question of whether the mental state one is in, when one has such a veridical outer intuition, is a state of the same kind or of a different kind than the state one is in when one has a subjectively indistinguishable hallucination. Thus, even if Kant treated hallucinations and imaginations as inner intuitions, this would not have any consequence for the question of whether for him the state one is in when one has an outer intuition is object-dependent or not. So, I adhere to my claim that for Kant intuitions are not object-dependent.
 See also A291/B347. For an English translation of Kant’s original manuscript on Kästner’s essays, see I. Kant, ‘On Kästner’s Treatises’, Kantian Review 19,2 (2014): 305–13. For a detailed interpretation of Kant’s distinction between metaphysical and geometrical space, see C. Onof & D. Schulting, ‘Kant, Kästner and the Distinction between Metaphysical and Geometric Space’, Kantian Review 19,2 (2014): 285–304.
 That imagination, insofar as it is responsible for apprehending and reproducing sensible representations, is productive imagination follows from the fact that it is grounded a priori on rules. The reason why in the section on schematism Kant characterizes it as empirical productive imagination is that the sensible representations that are synthesized in the formation of empirical intuitions are empirical representations.
© 2014, Stefanie Grüne.
Stefanie Grüne is Wissenschaftliche Assistentin at the University of Potsdam, Germany and is currently pursuing a Habilitation. She obtained her Ph.D. degree in philosophy from the Humboldt Universität Berlin in 2007. Her work focusses on the history of early modern philosophy, especially Kant, and the philosophy of mind. Apart from her dissertation Blinde Anschauung (Klostermann, 2009) she has published ‘Is There a Gap in Kant’s B Deduction’ in International Journal of Philosophical Studies and various contributions on Descartes, Kant, Hegel, and Sartre.