JAMES CONANT | ‘Why Kant is not a Kantian’ — Philosophical Topics 44(1) (2016): 75–125 / “Die Einheit des Erkenntnisvermögens bei Kant” —In A. Kern & C. Kietzmann, Selbstbewusstes Leben. Texte zu einer transformativen Theorie der menschlichen Subjektivität, pp. 229–69 | Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2017 / ‘Kant’s Critique of the Layer-Cake Conception of Human Mindedness in the B Deduction’—In J. O’Shea (ed.), Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason: A Critical Guide (Cambridge UP, 2017), pp. 120–39
This is the second essay in a series of critical engagements with important recent articles or papers by prominent Kant or Hegel scholars, including two or more critics and a reply by the author. In this second instalment, Dennis Schulting critically discusses James Conant’s recent article on the Transcendental Deduction; Conant’s reply to both this and Sacha Golob’s essay, published earlier, will be published in due course
By Dennis Schulting
In an illuminating new essay ‘Die Einheit des Erkenntnisvermögens bei Kant’ (Conant 2017a), James Conant critically addresses what he argues is a widespread assumption in modern philosophy, namely, the assumption that our rational capacity to know is a capacity that is somehow “added” or tacked on to the capacity that we humans share with other animals, that is, our receptive capacity for sensations, our sensibility. This is the so-called “additive” theory of cognition, more specifically of the relation between sensibility and the understanding. He addresses this assumption by looking at the main argument of Kant’s Transcendental Deduction. Let me say upfront that I think Conant’s paper is one of the very few long-form pieces on the central thrust of the Deduction that I have read from the last twenty years or so, if not longer, that are as rhetorically strong as they are, on the whole, both interpretatively and philosophically appealing. I believe it is one of those papers that will, or at any rate should, be seen as a standard reference in the same way that Dieter Henrich’s influential article on the ‘two-step’ procedure of the B-Deduction has been—Conant indeed also refers to Henrich’s now famous ‘two-step’ proposal, but thinks that his own construal avoids what, in Conant’s view, can be seen as the delusive nature of Henrich’s overall framework, which suggests that there are indeed two independent, separably intelligible “steps in a proof” (Conant 2016:111).