The Unity of Cognition and the Subjectivist vs. “Transformative” Approaches to the B-Deduction—Comments on James Conant

 

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.[1] This is the so-called “additive” theory of cognition, more specifically of the relation between sensibility and the understanding.[2] 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).
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The Separability of Understanding and Sensibility: A Reply to James Conant

 

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 first 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 first instalment, Sacha Golob critically discusses James Conant’s recent article on the Transcendental Deduction, soon to be followed by an essay from Dennis Schulting and James Conant’s reply to both

 

By Sacha Golob

James Conant’s recent article, ‘Why Kant Is Not a Kantian’, offers a sophisticated and provocative account of the relationship between sensibility and understanding. It is also an account that I think is mistaken. One consequence is that Conant is unable to do justice to both the differences and the deep continuities that exist between us and non-rational animals. Kant’s own views in this regard, I argue, were both more flexible and more attractive.
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