Hegel’s Critique of Kant | Paperback | Sally Sedgwick | Oxford University Press 2014


 

By Sebastian Rand

At the center of Sally Sedgwick’s Hegel’s Critique of Kant is an innovative interpretation of Hegel’s charge that Kantian concepts are “empty”. According to Sedgwick, Hegel takes Kant’s famous dictum that “thoughts without content are empty” to reveal more about the master’s views than the master intended or could himself see. Hegel takes “thoughts” here to mean, first and foremost, concepts, and these he takes to be not only empty in the “official” Kantian sense—according to which they are “discursive” and thus “fulfill their function as forms of knowing […] only when applied to a sense content that is independently given” (p. 138)—but also empty in another, deeper sense: they are, in Sedgwick’s terms, “‘external’, or on the ‘other side’ of content” (p. 138). In other words, concepts are always and everywhere per se “without” intuitions. Sedgwick describes this deeper emptiness as follows:

As independent from common reality, our concepts are taken to owe nothing of their nature and origin to objects known, to the process of knowing, to the relation of the knower to what is known. They are “external” in that they are presumed to have a fixed and already-given nature. Although there is progress in human knowledge, this progress is not taken to affect the thought-forms themselves. Nor do these thought-forms, if truly external, bear any responsibility for the progress of inquiry. (p. 138)

As this passage suggests—and as many others in her book confirm—Sedgwick thinks that Hegel’s innovation beyond Kant consists in providing an alternative story about how our concepts do, in fact, owe a great deal of their nature and origin to the concepts known, to the process of knowing, and to the relation of the knower to what is known. Hegel’s views here, she says, reveal to us his “new account of conceptual form” (p. 125). Sedgwick, it seems to me, is right in all of this, and her careful development of the Hegelian criticism of Kant’s theoretical philosophy makes available wholly new and helpful ways of seeing the relation between these philosophers. But I will admit that she says quite a bit less on the positive side about Hegel’s account of conceptual form than I was hoping to read, given the powerful reconstruction of his criticism she provides. Of course, her book is entitled Hegel’s Critique of Kant, not Hegel’s Positive Doctrine in its Relation to Kant’s Philosophy, and in that sense my complaint is misplaced. But I suspect that at least some of Sedgwick’s unwillingness to say more about this new account of conceptual form is due to the way one part of her reading of Kant misses Hegel’s own reading, and thus obscures the Kantian resources he exploits in developing that new account.

Sedgwick’s reading is deeply engaged with the major tendencies and problems in recent Hegel and Kant scholarship, particularly the attack on nonconceptual content. Her contribution here is a thoroughly convincing demonstration that for Hegel—and here Hegel was surely right—there is no nonconceptual content, but neither is there any noncontentful form. Hegel’s new account of conceptual form, then, should be an account of this essentially contentful form, a point Sally makes by highlighting Hegel’s low estimation of our powers of abstraction. But while questions in the philosophy of mind—questions about the role of intuition, about powers of abstraction, and so on—surely play a large role in Hegel’s critique of Kant, they are not the whole story; there are questions, too, about formal, rather than transcendental, logic on both the Hegelian and Kantian sides. The two are not the same; otherwise put, Kant’s famous claim that “thoughts without content are empty”—itself verging on an empty tautology—is not quite equivalent to the similar-looking claim that concepts without intuitions are empty. The claim that thoughts without content are empty is crucially a more general claim than the substitute sometimes offered in its place, namely, that concepts without intuitions are empty. The problem of thought and its content has both a ‘merely’ logical aspect and a transcendental-psychological aspect. These aspects are not, however, two entirely isomorphic sides of one issue, for if I am right, by separating out these issues we can see a way in which the logical issue—one Hegel takes up in his interpretation of Kant’s treatment of the universal/particular relation in the third Critique—is perhaps deeper, or at least broader, than the transcendental issue—one about the concept/intuition relation as addressed primarily in the Transcendental Deduction of the first Critique.

In order to get a fully satisfactory picture of what Hegel is proposing with regard to conceptual form, we will need to add to Sally’s account a story about the deep systematic contribution made by Hegel’s transformative appropriation of Kant’s formal logic. Although I don’t have the time here to say anything concrete about what that might mean, I can offer the following vague hint: taking the logical points seriously means seeing Hegel’s own faculty-psychology in the Philosophy of Spirit as quite severely limiting the epistemic significance of our representational activities.

Particularity and singularity

Most basically, my claim is that we should not conflate the problem Hegel sees in Kant’s version of the universal/particular relation with the problem he sees in Kant’s version of the concept/intuition relation. My further claim is that Sedgwick’s presentation in her book is complicit in such a conflation. A primary culprit here is a common English philosophical usage of the term ‘particular’, in which one understands by this term something in the manner of a particle—one uses the word ‘particular’ to refer to a single distinct bit. This usage appears in the secondary literature on German idealism, and in Sedgwick’s book, in such phrases as ‘sensible particular’, which have effectively no analogues in Kant or in Hegel.[1] When Kant elaborates his doctrine concerning intuitions, he does not characterise them logically as particular in form, but as singular, and he contrasts their logical singularity with the logical universality or generality of concepts. Indeed, particularity plays no role in the concept/intuition distinction at all; Kant invokes particularity only when he wants to talk about the relative generality of two universals, one of which ‘stands under’ the other. In such instances, the (so to speak) more universal universal—the genus—gets to keep the name ‘universal’, and the less universal universal—the species—is called the ‘particular’. My first step, then, is to point out that particularity does not, for Kant or Hegel, designate singularity, or particle-like-ness—the separateness of the isolated bit—but rather designates a limited universality explicitly conceived as subordinated to another, higher, more general universality.

Thus in very broad terms, my point about the possibly conflated distinction here can now be put in more precise Kantian terms: the issues surrounding the concept/intuition relation are transcendental-psychological issues about the relation of a representation that is universal in form to a representation that is singular in form, while the issues surrounding the universal/particular relation are logical issues about the relation of two things that are universal in form: the universal and particular ‘themselves’, or, to use the familiar old terms, the relation of the genus to the species.

Of course, to say that the issues surrounding these relations are different is, in good Hegelian style, to say that they are related. And their ways of being related reveal two temptations to the conflation I want to resist—and that I think Hegel resists, as a central part of his general struggle against subjectivism, the struggle Sedgwick herself is so tenacious in laying out. So before I go on, I want to sketch two such ways in which Kant’s own views in theoretical philosophy can lead us to assimilate (incorrectly) the universal/particular and concept/intuition distinctions.

The first Kantian temptation: The doctrine of judgements

The first way Kant tempts us to this assimilation is through a peculiarity of his view about judgement—a peculiarity that I have found my upbringing in a Fregean logical culture makes somewhat hard to keep in view.[2] For Kant, judgements are combinations or syntheses of general representations—combinations, that is, of concepts. Thus the only kinds of representations that can show up in a judgement directly are universals. Singular representations cannot appear in judgements at all, and when you see something that looks like a singular representation in a judgement—for instance, this body in the judgement This body is heavy—what you have espied is the singular use of a general or universal representation.[3] In addition to this singular use, universals in a judgement can have a particular use, when, e.g., a universal appears in the subject term, and the judgement subordinates this subject to the predicate. For instance, in the judgement All bodies are heavy, the subject term all bodies is particular in relation to the universal predicate; bodies are a species of the genus of heavy things.

The singular use of universals is related to their generality, in both its universal and particular forms; when we use a universal as a singular in the subject position of a judgement, we are using it as a particular at the same time (or at least, we paradigmatically do so). For example, in representing the subject of This body is heavy through this body, we not only pick it out as this single thing, but pick it out through its membership in a species relative to the predicate-genus. Thus because in one sense a subject term subordinated to the predicate term is a particular with respect to it, and because in another sense the subject term, while general, is used to refer to a single thing, we end up with judgements in which something correctly identified, logically, as a particular is used to refer to what shows up in intuition (that is, transcendentally-psychologically) as a singular.

Now, so far, this is all just logical doctrine, and nothing much transcendental-psychological has entered in. But consider this logical doctrine in relation to two of Kant’s ideas about the faculties of the human mind: first, his characterisation of concepts as universals and intuitions as singulars; second, his insistence that the activity of the understanding is always an activity of judging. In relation to these ideas, we can now say that what is taken up in intuition through singular representations is taken up in judgment through a particular concept, and the temptation will be to talk at the transcendental-psychological level about intuitions and particulars interchangeably—supported by our peculiar (and recent!) English use of the word ‘particular’ to pick out particle-like bits.

The second Kantian temptation: The contingency of the system of nature

The second aspect of Kant’s theoretical philosophy that can tempt us to conflate the universal/particular relation with the concept/intuition relation is his conception of what a proper systematic knowledge of nature must look like—a conception on which Sedgwick sheds a great deal of light in her book. Although Kant holds that, in the case of the rational investigation of the system of our a priori representations, we can have a priori knowledge of a completely determined system of universals and particulars—that is, an ordered totality of genus/species concepts—he also holds that we have no reason to expect experience to confirm such an ordered knowledge of nature. We can have no such reason because the objects of nature can be known by us only through the deliverances of sensibility—that is, through sensible intuition. And while theoretical philosophy shows us a priori that the objects of experience must be causally related to one another, must have spatio-temporal structure, and must be both qualitatively and quantitatively determined, our more determinate knowledge of these objects (for instance, determinations about which kinds of qualities they have, and how those qualities are related) must be gleaned from the content of our given sensible intuitions. And since this content is, precisely, given—since it is a deliverance of sensibility, and not the product of spontaneity—the concepts through which we represent this content in our cognition may not arrange themselves into neat genera and species at all.

Here the temptation to assimilate lies in the nature of Kant’s account of why, precisely, the sensible origin of empirical content accounts for our inability to know that nature, properly reflected upon, must be systematically arranged in a genus/species relation. This account involves appeal to intuitions and to their role in the reflective activity through which we arrive at our empirical concepts, all of which are, qua empirical, logically particular in relation to genus-concepts that are not directly instantiated in experience.[4] Thus it can look as though the singularity of intuitions, their non-conceptual form, rather than their having ‘content’, is the ground of the possibility that our particulars may totally resist hierarchical systematisation. And hence it can look as though the concept/intuition distinction is the real root of the problematic relation between universal and particular in the idea of a complete systematic science of nature.

Resisting the temptations

It is not hard, I think, to see the force in these temptations. But they should be resisted nonetheless. Just as the particulars that can be used in the subject positions of judgements to refer to singulars are nonetheless universal in form, so the possibility of a non-hierarchically-organised realm of particular concepts is not at all due to the formal singularity of intuitions. And more generally, the concept/intuition distinction does not on its own give rise to the supposed difficulty with the universal/particular relation. After all, it is not the intuitions themselves, qua singular representations, that are possibly too chaotic for systematisation; it is rather the particular concepts I reflectively generate to represent those singulars in judgements that are possibly too chaotic. Thus the problem addressed by Kant in the third Critique is not just a repetition of the problem addressed in the Transcendental Deduction, about the synthetic ordering of singular intuitive representations, but is one about how to understand the possibility of a complete system in which less general, but still general, particular representations are subordinated under other, more general universal representations. Indeed, because the system in question—the system of cognitions of nature—is a system of judgements, singular representations have no role in it at all.[5]

But although the singular form, along with the non-spontaneous origins, of intuitions is irrelevant to the systematicity issue, the content of empirical concepts, a content that makes its transcendental-psychological debut in intuitions, is quite relevant. Its relevance stems from Kant’s logical conception of specific difference—the determinacy through which the species is distinguished from both its genus and its coordinate species. This difference must somehow be both within and without the genus at once—to use Kant’s own language, he insists that while the species must stand under the genus, it must not be contained within the genus. For instance, ‘rational animal’ stands under ‘animal’, and hence rational things are subsumed under ‘animal’. But rationality, the specific difference, is not contained within ‘animal’; on the contrary, since there are irrational animals, rationality, for Kant, cannot possibly be contained in ‘animal’. But if the specific difference is not contained within the genus itself, it has to come from outside. This ‘externality’ of specific difference drives Kant’s systematicity problem with respect to empirical concepts, and persists even if the conceptual form of intuited content is recognised. It is therefore a logical problem that cannot be reduced to a transcendental-psychological one.

Thus I want to say that Hegel’s response to Kant’s treatment of this issue is not to take away Kant’s source of specific difference by reforming the concept/intuition relation. It is to make such an appeal unnecessary, by reforming the universal/particular relation directly. Here is a sketch of how he does that, a sketch I propose as a possible emendation to parts of Sedgwick’s book.

An important note from the Transcendental Deduction

In the spirit of such an emendation, I will try to follow Sedgwick’s lead in giving a clear reading of what Hegel does and does not take from Kant’s presentation of his view on a given topic. I shall consider in some detail a passage from §16 of the Transcendental Deduction, to which I think Hegel paid special attention. The passage is found in a footnote to B133, and it reads as follows:

The analytic unity of consciousness pertains to all common concepts as such, e.g., if I think of red in general, I thereby represent to myself a feature that (as a mark) can be encountered in anything, or that can be combined with other representations; therefore only by means of an antecedently conceived possible synthetic unity can I represent to myself the analytic unity. A representation that is to be thought of as common to several must be regarded as belonging to those that in addition to it also have something different in themselves; consequently it must antecedently be thought in synthetic unity with other (even if only possible) representations, before I can think in it the analytic unity of consciousness that makes it into a conceptus communis. (B133n.; translation modified)

Kant’s main move in this note is to identify and relate two kinds of unity involved in the representational activity of consciousness: analytic unity and synthetic unity. Kant’s view is that our concepts enjoy only analytic unity—or, to use the language of the Critique of Judgement, that we think only by means of analytic universality, while an intuitive intellect would think by means of synthetic universals; hence his claim here about “the analytic unity of consciousness that makes [a representation] into a conceptus communis“. As Sedgwick shows in ample detail, it is this merely analytic unity or universality that Hegel decries as “emptiness”.

Kant’s example in this note of a universal enjoying analytic unity is a standard property universal, ‘red’. In virtue of its analytic unity, this universal represents “a feature that […] can be encountered in anything, or that can be combined with other representations.” It is obviously not true that red “can be encountered in anything”—just think here of pure mathematical objects—but we can see what Kant means if we consider the other kind of unity he talks about: synthetic unity. This synthetic unity is not the (analytic) unity of a property universal, but the unity of a kind of thing or object—a unity in which multiple property-determinations are combined to jointly constitute the nature or unity of the thing. Thus Kant says that an analytic unity names “a feature that (as a mark) can be encountered in anything” because the analytic unity formally picks out a property whose logical nature is such as to be found contained within a synthetically unified kind universal. In such a universal the property is one of many, whence Kant’s claim that kinds or synthetic unities include, “in addition to” whatever property is picked out by means of a given analytic unity, “also something different in themselves”. That is, for red to be an analytic universal is for it to unify in itself multiple distinct kinds, or synthetic unities (that is, all the red things); but each of these must be thought of also as distinct from the others, and thus as being unities of multiple distinct properties beyond red. For ‘red’ to pick out, in the manner of analytic unity, this brick, that stop sign, and that sports car over there, those objects must be both red and something else, different in each case.[6]

Note that the synthetic unities Kant is talking about must be conceived formally as kinds or as universals, and not as singular objects or singular representations. Because synthetic unities are articulated in terms of properties that themselves constitute analytic unities, and because analytic unities are themselves necessarily general, synthetic unities can never reach down to the infima species. Hence the synthetic unities Kant is talking about must be conceived formally as kinds or as universals, and not as distinct objects, individual things, or singular representations. Indeed, such a view of conceptual determinacy neither requires nor allows singularity to play a role in any strictly logical sense (as is fitting for a theory such as Kant’s in which there is, strictly speaking, no such thing as singularity of logical form). Thus no matter how thoroughly any given such synthetic unity or kind has been determined, it can always be determined further, without thereby losing its generality of form, and each such determination is in turn a determination of a species of the genus picked out by the previous, less-determinate version of the kind.

Kant’s own emphasis in this footnote is on the alleged priority of synthetic unity—a unity he notably does not refer to as a unity “of consciousness”—over analytic unity. This priority is supposed to follow from their formal difference: the way ‘red’ binds together all the different red things is not the way each of these unites all its different properties, and the former is parasitic on the latter—behind any representation of analytic unity, Kant tells us, lurks a prior representation of synthetic unity, a prior representation of a concrete kind of thing with many properties related complexly to other things. But merely paying attention to Kant’s own idea that synthetic unities are unities—that is, are per se combinations of distinct determinations—shows that we find ourselves committed here, through the nature of analytic property universals (Hegel’s ‘abstract universals’), not only to their logical dependence on synthetic kind universals (Hegel’s ‘concrete universals’), but also to a system of such universals, both of the property type and the kind type. Such a system would have to consist of interlocking analytic and synthetic unities—properties shared across multiple kinds, and kinds differentiated by some, but not all, the properties they contain. And without such a system—without, that is, a degree of mutual interdependence of analytic and synthetic unities—we could have no instances of either.

Furthermore, that system cannot be merely a mass of otherwise disordered properties and kinds. For we could not coherently claim that the synthetic unities brought together in a single analytic unity were also (as is required) differentiated without the analytic unities being further grouped into types of properties, such as colour, shape, material, and so on. It is through such kinds of properties that the determinate differences among kinds grouped under any given property are differentiated. Consider, for instance, the case in which the property universal ‘red’ unifies this brick, that jewelry box, and that lamp over there, and in which the first two also share (imagine) the same cuboid shape. But ‘red’ is possible only if the synthetic unities it depends upon are also different; hence the brick and the jewelry box must be different in a different way than each is different from the (presumably non-cuboid) lamp. Such differences of difference make up the types of properties in question. And of course this situation involving types of properties also involves the idea of synthetic universals that share more than one property term, and their distinction from synthetic universals that share more, or share fewer, property terms. Thus we have a full logical array of complexly ordered, and even hierarchically ordered, ‘concrete’ and ‘abstract’ universals. And importantly, we can’t help but generate such a full logical array—there can be no determinacy at all without such an array of determinacies, including many which exhibit synthetic, rather than analytic, unity.[7]

Now, it may seem that this is not enough to show that our concepts of natural objects will arrange themselves into a system of neatly ordered genera and species; after all, such a neatly ordered system assumes that some properties are more important than others. If I were to make a kind term more determinate by adding an insignificant property to its content, I might well not hit upon a species properly so called. And of the important properties or kinds, some may not in fact show up in nature in all their possible variations. For instance, there are biped mammals, and quadruped mammals, but no hexapod mammals (or if there are, then no octopods, or no decapods, or no dodecapods…). Yet I have to get out into the world to learn such things, don’t I? And isn’t this just what Kant means by his appeal to external content to deliver the specific difference?

If this is what Kant means, then he is right, and Hegel agrees with him completely, despite his apparent protests to the contrary.[8] But Sedgwick—unless I’m reading her quite wrongly—doesn’t take Kant’s point this way, and doesn’t think Hegel takes it this way, either. The important Kantian point isn’t that we might fail to discern the right things about natural objects; it is that we might know all there is for us to know about all the objects of nature, and still fail to be able to arrange them in species and genera—not because of some logical ineptitude on our part, but because the objects and their properties might not be such as to be so arrangeable.

It seems to me that the kind of reflecting I am saying Hegel does on the logical structures discussed in Kant’s B133 footnote eliminates such a possibility. But perhaps Hegel makes a mistake about those structures. After all, the unities Kant discusses there are “unities of consciousness”, and perhaps his point is that these unities are only unities of consciousness, and not unities of determinacy per se.

It is certainly the case that Hegel takes this note—or something like this note he finds elsewhere—to have general significance for the idea of determinacy per se. For Hegel this passage captures a deep truth about what it is for something, anything, or things in general, to be one way rather than another, to have any kind of determinacy at all. Any determinacy, even if very abstract, as in the case of red, brings along with it an enormous array of other related determinacies, including the idea that red must be a member of a type or kind of determinacy, and that it must have members in turn. Hence if there is any way that anything is at all, whether it is ‘knowable’ by us or not, then there are a host of things and a host of ways that they are. Moreover, this host of things and host of ways forms a single, unified way, precisely insofar as that totality both determines and is determined by its members—in other words, determinacy, as articulated in this footnote, is necessarily organic and systematic. But for it to be organic is for it to determine its parts via the whole, and to array itself into genera and species. That we have to go out into the world to find out what these genera and species are, and how they are organised, is (largely) a separate issue.

Conclusion: Logical form and subjective spirit

I have tried to show how Hegel finds in Kant’s Transcendental Deduction itself the materials for his dialectical theory of conceptual form, and more narrowly the materials for his dialectical theory of the conceptual relation of universality and particularity, as it relates to the idea of a system of concepts. Most importantly, I have tried to show that the problem Kant identifies for a system of empirical concepts need not involve any difficulty with singular representations, which can’t enter into such a system in any case. In his published texts of the Jena period, Hegel only hints at the efforts he is making in this regard, but his evolving logical doctrine can be seen in his remaining system manuscripts, and the results can be found in the developed form he gave that doctrine in the Science of Logic—a doctrine which includes the kinds of points made above about the interdependence of abstract and concrete universals, or of properties and kinds.

I have also tried to suggest how separate this problem is from any questions about concepts and intuitions, by laying out Kant’s position on synthetic and analytic unity and its implications for Hegel without any reference to that faculty doctrine. These two problems are related—not least in terms of the way that Kant wants to characterise singular representations as enjoying a kind of synthetic unity. And we could make observations similar to the ones I’ve made here about, say, Hegel’s treatment of the relation of general determinations to singular determinations, both in the Phenomenology and in the Logic, where he talks about the incoherence of self-sufficient singulars, and in the Philosophy of Spirit, where he offers his own model of intuition and concept-formation. But in these treatments of the relation of the singular to the general, Hegel presupposes that the general comes articulated into a system of genera and species. In the Phenomenology, this ‘presupposition’ comes in the idea that every episode of sense-certainty is an instance of sense-certainty, and in the subsequent discussions of perception and understanding, as well as the idea of self-consciousness as life. In the Philosophy of Spirit, this presupposition comes in the form of the conception of the intuitive field and the objects within it as always implicitly interconnected in determinately rich ways. Hence both the epistemic model of the Phenomenology and the psychological model of the Encyclopedia rely heavily on this presupposition, delivered by the Subjective Logic.

We cannot see this reliance if we do not distinguish, from Hegel’s earliest Jena writings, between the criticism of Kant’s universal/particular relation and that of his concept/intuition relation. I have not, of course, offered any details here as to the precise implications making this distinction sharply would have for the argument of Sedgwick’s book. The short answer is that it would require that Hegel’s appeals to history, embodiedness, culture, and contingency be seen as responses to his logical discovery that we cannot but be saddled with an immense interlocking set of concepts, including substantive commitments to the kinds of synthetic unities that make up the constituents of reality, and the properties unified in those unities. This discovery is, perhaps, just another instance of Hegel’s generally low estimate of our powers of abstraction, so clearly and consistently brought out in Sedgwick’s book. And although I have dedicated my comments to articulating this distinction in a way in which I think Sedgwick overlooks, I cannot close without saying that it is one I would not have seen if it were not for her book. Which is just to say, that even if it’s true that it is overlooked, it is nonetheless also made visible, by Sedgwick’s penetrating, patient, and generous book.

This essay is a revised version of my original comments on Sally Sedgwick’s book, given at a panel hosted by the Chicago-Area Consortium in German Philosophy in November, 2013. My revisions are intended to clarify the expression of the claims I made that afternoon; I’ve made little attempt to eliminate the traces of the informal, discussion-oriented context in which they were made—for instance, I’ve left in a number of sweeping claims and I’ve provided little in the way of references. I’ve made no attempt to reflect Sally’s response, the comments presented by Bill Bristow (our co-panelist), or the Q&A and discussion afterward. I am grateful to Sally Sedgwick for her outstanding book, to Bill Bristow for his contribution, to the Institute for the Humanities at the University of Illinois-Chicago for hosting us, and to Rachel Zuckert and the Consortium for organizing what was for me a very fruitful exchange.

 


Notes:

[1] An electronic search of Kant’s and Hegel’s writings turns up no such phrase as “sinnliche Besondere” or “sinnliche Besonderheit” in either author, with the exception of a few such phrases in the posthumous editorial compilations of student lecture notes on Hegel’s aesthetics. Sedgwick slips into this usage precisely when trying to relate the issues about universals and particulars in the third Critique to issues of concepts and intuitions from the first Critique (see, e.g., p. 22 and p. 22n.). It is to be found, however, here and there in the secondary literature. Sedgwick attributes something like it to Allison (p. 20n12), and in passages from Guyer she cites, he uses “particular object” and “particulars” in a way that strongly suggests the “particle” usage (p. 19n11). There, she understands the intuitive intellect’s capacity to generate particulars as equivalent to a capacity to generate intuitions, that is, singular representations. If I am right, these capacities are not the same (though they may well both be enjoyed by an intuitive intellect on Kant’s view). Kant himself does use closely related phrases, such as “particular object”, “particular perception” etc., but they occur very infrequently (once or twice each in the first Critique, for instance) and are not used to articulate the major points in question. The most widely-used Hegel translations in English use such phrases constantly and in deeply misleading ways, as do a number of translations of (Hegelian moments in) Kierkegaard (for instance those of Hannay).

[2] Longuenesse’s Kant (in Kant and the Capacity to Judge, Princeton: Princeton UP, 1998) is much closer to Frege; see also Paul Redding’s 2013 Pacific APA paper (available here) for more on these lines.

[3] See both the Jäsche Logic and the discussion of singular judgements in the first Critique. Kant endorses the same view in both, namely, the view that there are singular judgements, and that the subject term in singular judgements is a universal with only one object standing under it. What he objects to in the first Critique is the further claim that singular and universal judgements have the same form in virtue of this fact about their subject terms. In other words, Kant claims that the difference in the use of a formally identical general representation (as subject-term) within these two kinds of judgement is enough to give the judgements themselves distinct forms.

[4] See, e.g., the first Critique’s discussion of pure air, pure earth etc.

[5] It’s not clear to what extent particular representations used singularly can appear in such a system, either. Would it include statements about, e.g., the Earth, or Mercury? Or only general laws?

[6] So, we might specify the analytic unity ‘red’ by listing the red things: {Object1, Object2, Object3, …}, and then specify each of those as a synthetic unity, e.g. Object1: {Red, Round, Metal}, Object2: {Red, Round, Wood}, Object3: {Red, Square, Metal}, etc. If there are not (possibly) multiple objects under ‘red’, then it cannot be a conceptus communis. But for those objects to be distinct is for them to exhibit, beyond the property of being red, some other properties, which must themselves be sufficient to make those objects distinct from one another. Yet since there is no infima species, each ObjectN unity is, while synthetic, inherently general, or is the unity not of a single thing but of a kind. It must (possibly) have not only individuals under it, but further more specific kinds (that is, species); For I can always add another determination. Furthermore, the analytic unity of ‘red’ is possible only through the synthetic generality of ObjectN. But that synthetic generality is a kind, and is possible only through the distinction among properties (its and others’) into kinds of properties. That distinction in turn allows for genus/species arrangement, along the axes of such kinds-of-properties that are variable for the kind of object it is (e.g., objects can be distinguished by colour, shape, material) and along the more-and-less determinate kinds themselves. For Hegel, the question of how to conceive of the interrelation of property kinds (abstract universals) and object kinds (concrete universals) is the task of, first, the Objective Logic and, second, the Realphilosophie. But the proof that it can be done is the Subjective Logic.

[7] But what about the wholly normal way in which kind terms—especially since Frege—tend to be treated as analytic unities, or as defined extensionally? It seems to me probably Kantian, and definitely Hegelian, to say that in these cases we have an analytic use of a synthetic unity.

[8] One of Hegel’s favourite remarks to make about nature and the natural order is that there is nothing rational about there being precisely 63 species of parrot; the number is better understood as the expression of nature’s ‘impotence’ than of any kind of rationality.

© Sebastian Rand 2015.


Sebastian Rand is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Georgia State University, Atlanta. He works mainly on issues in German Idealism and the philosophy of nature. Recent publications include ‘What’s Wrong with Rex? Hegel on Animal Defect and Individuality‘ (European Journal of Philosophy) and ‘Apriority, Metaphysics, and Empirical Content in Kant’s Theory of Matter‘ (Kantian Review). Current projects are, among other things, a book on Hegel’s philosophy of physics and mathematics, and a pair of articles on Hegel’s treatment of pregnancy and birth.

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