Kant on the Human Standpoint

Kant on the Human Standpoint

by Beatrice Longuenesse

Béatrice Longuenesse considers the three aspects of Kant's philosophy, his epistemology and metaphysics of nature, moral philosophy, and aesthetic theory, under one unifying standpoint: Kant's conception of our capacity to form judgments. She argues that the elements which make up our cognitive access to the world have an equally important role to play in


Béatrice Longuenesse considers the three aspects of Kant's philosophy, his epistemology and metaphysics of nature, moral philosophy, and aesthetic theory, under one unifying standpoint: Kant's conception of our capacity to form judgments. She argues that the elements which make up our cognitive access to the world have an equally important role to play in our moral evaluations and our aesthetic judgments. Her book will appeal to all interested in Kant and his thought, ranging over Kant's account of our representations of space and time, his conception of the logical forms of judgments, sufficient reason, causality, community, God, freedom, morality, and beauty in nature and art.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...a significant contribution to the project of exploring Kant's holistic and anti-foundationalist epistemology on the basis of a detailed textual analysis, a timely project undoubtedly inspired by the pioneering views of Michael Friedman." —Aaron Fellbaum, University of Graz: Philosophy in Review

Product Details

Cambridge University Press
Publication date:
Modern European Philosophy Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

Kant on the Human Standpoint

Cambridge University Press
0521834783 - Kant on the Human Standpoint - by Béatrice Longuenesse


This volume gathers some of the papers I wrote between 1995 and 2003, namely in the years that followed the publication of my earlier Kant book, first in French (Kant et le pouvoir de juger, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1993, hereafter KPJ), then in its expanded English version (Kant and the Capacity to Judge, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998, hereafter KCJ). Among the essays written during that period that I did not include in this volume are an essay on Kant and Hegel which belongs in a separate volume devoted to my work on Hegel; essays on self-consciousness and "I" which are part of a work in progress I hope to develop further; and finally a few essays that in one way or another overlap with those included here.

What unifies the essays selected for this volume is their relation to the central theme of my earlier book on Kant: Kant's conception of what he calls our capacity to judge (Vermögen zu urteilen) and its role in our forming an objective view of the world. However, in addition to the role of our capacity to judge in cognition, I now consider its role in moral deliberation and in aesthetic evaluation. Some of the essays have been revised in light of discussions I benefited from since they first appeared. Others, especially the more recent, remain mostly unchanged, except for editorial adjustments necessary to unify references throughout the volume and to tie the different topics together. Two of the essays are translated from the French and appear in English for the first time in this volume.

Beyond their common theme, the essays fall into three main categories, thus the three parts of the book. Part I ("Revisiting the capacity to judge") contains three essays that were written in response to comments on, and criticisms of, KCJ. Part II ("The human standpoint in the Transcendental Analytic") contains four essays that clarify some of the views I defended in the earlier book, but also significantly expand the explanations I gave on crucial points such as Kant's argument in the Metaphysical Deduction of the Categories (ch. 4), Kant's relation to earlier German philosophy (ch. 5), Kant's defense of the causal principle in the Second Analogy of Experience (ch. 6), or the argument and import of the Third Analogy (ch. 7). Finally, part III ("The human standpoint in the critical system") expands my discussion of Kant's view of judgment beyond the Transcendental Analytic of the Critique of Pure Reason. I analyze some aspects of the relation between the Transcendental Analytic, the Transcendental Dialectic of the Critique of Pure Reason, and the Critique of Judgment (ch. 8); Kant's view of moral judgment and its relation to the conception of judgment expounded in the first Critique (ch. 9); and finally, the use Kant makes of his analysis of logical forms of judgment in clarifying the nature of aesthetic judgments in the third Critique (ch. 10).

The chapters of this book, having initially been written as independent essays, can be read separately and in any order that best suits the reader's own interests. Nevertheless, I think it may help to read them in the order in which they are presented here - the book does have its own systematic unity. My hope is that it will provide an easier access to some of the central theses of my earlier book, while also developing them in new directions, progressively unfolding Kant's view of what I call, borrowing the expression from Kant himself, "the human standpoint" (cf. Critique of Pure Reason, A26/B42).1 Part I provides the general background against which the particular arguments of part II can best be understood. Part II follows the systematic order of Kant's argument in the Transcendental Analytic (although of course it covers only some of its central themes). Part III builds on the lessons of the Transcendental Analytic to illuminate the unity of the critical system and the relation between the different uses of our capacity to judge: theoretical, practical, aesthetic.

"The human standpoint" expounded in the first Critique is that standpoint on the world which, according to Kant, is proper to human beings as opposed to non-rational animals, on the one hand, and to what a divine understanding might be, on the other hand. As opposed to non-rational animals, human beings are endowed with what Kant calls "spontaneity," namely a rule-governed capacity to acquire representations that are not merely caused by the impingements of the world, but actively integrated into a unified network, where the ways in which the mind combines representations make it possible to discern when they ought to be endorsed (as veridical) or rejected (as non-veridical). The rules according to which representations are thus integrated are rules for forming judgments, which themselves determine rules of reasoning. The capacity to form judgments according to those rules is thus, according to Kant, what is characteristic of the human mind, as opposed to non-human animal minds.2 However, as opposed to what a divine understanding might be, human minds are, like all other animal minds, also passively impinged upon by a reality that is independent of them, which they have not created. Nevertheless, even under that essentially passive, receptive aspect, the human mind, according to Kant, has a peculiar capacity to order in one whole the objects of the representations thus received, and thus to anticipate further representations and the unity in which their objects might stand with the objects of present and past representations. This ordering and locating of individual objects of representations in one whole is made possible by the a priori forms of our receptive capacity: space and time. From the fact that we have such a priori modes of ordering, forms of intuition as well as forms of our capacity to judge (forms of judgments), Kant derives a complex argument to the effect that we also have a priori concepts that have their origin in the understanding alone and nevertheless are true of all objects given to our senses: such concepts are what he calls, borrowing the term from Aristotle, categories.3

In KCJ I argued, against standard interpretations, that in order to understand Kant's doctrine of the categories, and in order to understand Kant's argument to the effect that such concepts have applications to objects of experience (i.e. that all objects of experience fall under the categories), one needed to take seriously the origin Kant assigns to these concepts in logical functions of judgment. In chs. 1 and 2 of the present volume I address some of the objections that have been raised against this claim. I have been fortunate in benefiting from the comments of outstanding critics on the occasion of two "author meets critics" sessions at meetings of the American Philosophical Association in the spring of 1999: one at the Pacific Division in Berkeley, the other at the Central Division in New Orleans. Richard Aquila and Michael Friedman were my critics on the first occasion, Henry Allison and Sally Sedgwick on the second. Richard Aquila did not submit his comments for publication. Michael Friedman published his comments in the form of an extensive essay which appeared in Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie. The editors of Archiv then offered to publish my response, which has now become (with the addition of some developments I had to cut to respect length limitations in Archiv) ch. 2 in this volume. Henry Allison's and Sally Sedgwick's comments, as well as my response to them, were published in one and the same issue of Inquiry, and my response has now become ch. 1 in this volume. In both chapters I give extensive references to the papers I respond to. But these chapters also provide an independent, self-standing overview of what I take to be most original - and thus also, no doubt, most controversial - about my interpretation of Kant's views in the first Critique.

Two objections are worthy of special notice. The first, raised by Henry Allison (discussed in ch. 1), is that by insisting as I do on their origin in logical functions of judgment, I end up depriving Kant's categories of any role of their own, and instead substitute for them the corresponding logical forms of judgment. The second, raised by Michael Friedman (discussed in ch. 2), is that by giving as much importance as I do to Kant's logical forms of judgment, which are based on the traditional, Aristotelian subject-predicate form, I end up downplaying what is most novel about Kant's transcendental logic - its relation to the Newtonian model of mathematical principles of natural science - and instead tend to attribute to Kant an ontology of nature that is fundamentally Aristotelian in inspiration. Although the two objections were raised independently of one another, I am struck by their convergence. Both concern the respective weights of Aristotelianism and of the new, mathematical science of nature in Kant's epistemology and in his ontology (albeit an ontology of appearances, things as they appear to us). Now in my opinion what is most striking about Kant's view is that he indeed makes use of an Aristotelian subject-predicate logic, but in such a way as to ground an ontology of appearances that is decidedly non-Aristotelian. This is of course made possible by the appeal to the forms of intuition as being what alone makes possible the representation of individual objects, identified and re-identified only by way of their relations in space and time and the universal correlation between their respective states and changes of states. Only insofar as they determine what Kant calls the "unity of synthesis" according to forms of intuition do logical functions of judgments become categories, concepts guiding the combination of what is given to sensible intuition so that it can eventually be thought under (empirical and mathematical) concepts, combined according to the logical forms of judgments whose table Kant sets up in the Transcendental Analytic of the first Critique. Both Allison's and Friedman's challenges have helped me to make clearer (at least for myself, and I hope for others as well) my interpretation of Kant's view, as have Sally Sedgwick's questions concerning the ways in which one should understand the a priori character of the categories.

Allison's and Sedgwick's comments also converge in an interesting way with the questions raised by Michel Fichant, which I address in ch. 3. In 1997 Michel Fichant published in the French journal Philosophie the first translation into French of a text which, to my knowledge, is to this day not translated into English: Kant's essay, unpublished in his lifetime, "Über Kästner's Abhandlungen," "On Kästner's articles." Fichant also offered an extensive commentary of Kant's essay on Kästner in the course of which he took me to task for maintaining that according to Kant, space and time as forms of sensibility, namely as forms in which what is given to our senses is ordered and related, depend on spontaneity, or more precisely on what Kant called the "affection of sensibility by the understanding." In emphasizing this point, Fichant warned, I seem to bring Kant perilously close to his German Idealist successors, who denied any validity to the Kantian dualism of receptivity and spontaneity, of passivity and activity, in our representational capacities. But I do not think I in fact cross that line, although I do argue that space and time are each represented as one only if they are brought under what Kant calls the "unity of apperception," and thus the understanding. In ch. 3, I revisit this point and explain why it is decisive to Kant's argument in the Transcendental Deduction of the Categories.

The stage is thus set for part II of the book. Here one of my goals is to correct what I think may have been a one-sided understanding of the view I defended in KCJ. Even the most careful readers of that book have tended to focus their comments on what I say of the logical forms of judgment and their role in analysis (or the process of comparison, reflection, and abstraction by which, according to Kant, we form any kinds of concepts) and have devoted comparatively less attention to my interpretation of Kant's notion of synthesis and its role in constituting what I just described as the "human standpoint," according to the Transcendental Analytic of the Critique of Pure Reason. This imbalance may have been due partly to the structure of KCJ: the logical forms of judgment, and their role in analysis or reflection on the sensible given, are expounded in great detail in part II of the book, synthesis according to the categories is explained only in part III. In the present book, in each of the four chapters of part II, I jointly present, in connection with a particular point of Kant's argument in the Transcendental Analytic, Kant's view of general logic and the role of logical forms of judgment, and Kant's view of transcendental logic and the way those logical forms, related to forms of sensibility, account for the role of a priori concepts of the understanding in guiding the syntheses that make possible any representation of objects.

Chapter 4 was originally written for the new edition of the Cambridge Companion to Kant, edited by Paul Guyer. In this chapter I sketch out a history of Kant's question, "How do concepts that have their origin in the workings of our minds apply to objects that are given?" and I explain how Kant came to think he could find the solution to that problem in investigating the ways in which our discursive capacity (our capacity to form concepts, which depends on spontaneity) and our intuitive capacity (our capacity to form singular representations immediately related to objects, which depends on sensibility or receptivity) work together. I then closely follow the structure of Kant's argument in ch. 1 of the Transcendental Analytic, "the Leading Thread for the Discovery of all Pure Concepts of the Understanding," in which Kant justifies his claim that pure concepts of the understanding have their origin in what he calls "logical functions of judgment," and prepares the ground for the central argument of the first Critique, the Transcendental Deduction of the Categories.

Kant's argument in the Leading Thread depends on the relation he lays out between analysis and synthesis: analysis of sensible, individual representations into concepts, and of less general ("lower") concepts into more general ("higher") concepts; and synthesis of individual elements (entities or parts of entities) into wholes (what Kant calls "unified manifolds"). The latter notion has been the object of much suspicion in the past forty years, especially under the influence of Strawson's claim that it belongs to the "imaginary subject of transcendental psychology."4 For Strawson, taking seriously the role assigned to synthesis in Kant's argument is endorsing the worst kind of armchair psychology and losing track of what is truly groundbreaking in Kant's Critique of Pure Reason: the invention of a new kind of philosophical argument, which Strawson calls transcendental argument, in which some general features of objects (and thus some general concepts, or categories, under which they are thought or known) are proved to be necessary conditions for the possibility of ascribing one's representations to oneself, and thus for any experience at all. Transcendental arguments are thus a special kind of anti-skeptical argument, in which no appeal at all needs to be made to dubious psychological notions such as Kant's notion of a transcendental synthesis of imagination, supposed to condition any representation of object.

Interestingly, it is not just Kant's notion of synthesis that Strawson rejects. It is also Kant's table of logical functions of judgment, which Strawson evaluates in the light of contemporary truth-functional logic. This being so, Strawson's charge against Kant is really not just one of "armchair psychology." For Strawson, the kind of logical argument Kant makes in support of his doctrine of the categories (their nature, and the grounds we have for asserting their relation to objects existing independently of our minds) is also irrelevant. Indeed its results are "so meager as to render almost pointless any critical consideration of the detail of Kant's derivation of the categories from the Table of Judgments."5

Now my own claim is that indeed Kant's table of logical forms has no justification at all if we read it in the light of contemporary truth-functional logic and first-order predicate logic. Nor does the relation Kant goes on to draw between forms of judgment as forms of analysis, and what he calls "schemata" of the categories as forms of the unity of synthesis. To understand this relation, one needs to consider the early modern version of logic Kant is working with, and the notion of judgment he has himself defined. I defended these points in KCJ. What I did not do is provide a step-by-step analysis of the chapter in which Kant expounds and defends the central thesis of his metaphysical deduction of the categories: the view that logical forms of judgment provide a "leading thread" for the establishment of a table of categories. Such an analysis is what I now offer in ch. 4. At the end of the chapter I also offer some suggestions about how we might think of the relation between Kant's logic, and the role Kant assigns to it in his transcendental project, and later developments in logic and natural philosophy. The same issue is taken up again later in the book, e.g. at the end of ch. 7, where I suggest again that Kant's limited notion of logic (a science of the rules of concept subordination, in which objects and their relations have no place) is to be kept in mind if one is to understand its role in Kant's system and its relation to post-Fregean logic and ontology.

In ch. 5, I consider an issue that played a decisive role in the development of Kant's transcendental philosophy: Kant's criticism of his rationalist predecessors' "proof" of the "principle of sufficient reason," and his argument for his own proof of the same principle. I follow the development of Kant's view from the pre-critical New Elucidation of the Principles of Metaphysical Cognition (1755) to the Critique of Pure Reason (1781). What initially intrigued me was Kant's statement that his argument for the universal validity of the causal principle in the Second Analogy of Experience provided precisely the proof of the principle of sufficient reason that his predecessors had been unable to provide. In investigating Kant's relation to his rationalist predecessors from the pre-critical writings to the Critique of Pure Reason, I discovered that even in his earliest texts what was original about Kant's approach was his defining the notion of reason or ground (ratio, Grund) in relation to propositions. Whereas for his rationalist predecessors the notion of reason was primarily a metaphysical one (and the principle of sufficient reason stated that nothing is, or comes to be, or exists, without a reason or ground for its being, or coming to be, or existing), for Kant the notion of reason or ground is primarily a logical one. In his formulation, the principle of sufficient reason states that no proposition is true without there being a reason or ground for its truth.

What is characteristic of Kant's pre-critical period is that he thinks that this principle of sufficient reason of propositions directly maps the way things are: just as a proposition is true only if there is a reason for its being true (a principle for which Kant thinks he has a proof), a state of affairs obtains, or comes to be, or a thing comes into existence, only if there is a reason or ground for the state of affairs' obtaining, or coming to be, or a thing's coming to exist. But in the critical period, what Kant argues is that our capacity to order states of affairs and individual entities in time depends on our capacity to relate the truth of propositions to the reasons or grounds for their being true. So now it is not simply assumed that logical relations (relations between propositions) perfectly map real relations (relations between states of affairs). Rather, our discursive ability to think logical relations, once related to the forms of our intuition (and here, more specifically, to the form of time), allows us to introduce into what is given according to these forms the kinds of ordering that will allow us to recognize things, their states, and their changes of states or alterations: to order them in time.

Chapter 6 is directly connected to the argument of ch. 5. Here I analyze Kant's argument in the Second Analogy of Experience. Since I have already devoted a long chapter in KCJ to all three Analogies, one might wonder what remains for me to say on the issue. First, I relate my understanding of Kant's argument to recent prominent interpretations of the Second Analogy. Second, I refine my analysis of the relation between Kant's logical argument and his account of time determination. Finally, I now offer what I believe to be a more complete account of the ways in which Kant calls upon the unity and continuity (denseness, in contemporary vocabulary) of time and space, as objects of our a priori intuition, to complete his argument in the Second Analogy. If I am right in thinking that these features of space and time play a decisive role in completing the argument, it should come as no surprise if challenges against Kant's view of space and time as a priori forms of appearances are generally paired with challenges against the strong version of the causal principle I take Kant to be defending in the Second Analogy of Experience (all events in nature are subject to strictly necessary causal laws). This is a point that would certainly merit further investigation.

Just as in ch. 6 I revisit my account of the Second Analogy, in ch. 7 I revisit and expand my account of the Third Analogy of Experience and of Kant's many-faceted category of community. I argue that the category of community, rather than that of causality, should be seen as the central category for the whole critical system, from the Third Analogy of Experience in the first Critique to the community of rational agents in the second Critique and Metaphysics of Morals, to the sensus communis that grounds aesthetic judgment in the third Critique.

This provides the transition to part III of the book, where I consider Kant's view of the human standpoint in the critical system as a whole.

In ch. 8, I analyze the "principle of complete determination" that Kant introduces at the beginning of the chapter on the Transcendental Ideal, in the Transcendental Dialectic of the Critique of Pure Reason. My initial motivation in undertaking this analysis was my surprise at the way Kant introduces this principle. According to Kant, this principle is at work in generating the rationalist idea of an ens realissimum (most real being) represented as the source of all reality in finite things. One might think that the illusion Kant denounces in the idea he also denounces in the principle on which the idea depends. But at the beginning of the chapter on the Transcendental Ideal, the principle is presented without any kind of disclaimer on Kant's part. My initial question was: is there a critical, legitimate version of the principle, to which Kant claims one can retreat once its illusory, illegitimate interpretation is properly undermined on the basis of the critical standpoint established in the Transcendental Analytic? I argue that indeed there is. Moreover, laying out the critical version of the principle brings to light an interesting connection between notions of systematicity at work in the Transcendental Analytic, in the Transcendental Dialectic, and in the First Introduction to the third Critique.

I argue that Kant's claims concerning the unavoidable and epistemically indispensable character of what he calls the illusions of reason, especially the illusion carried by the Transcendental Ideal, are not well supported. I claim that the appendix to the Transcendental Analytic (On the Amphiboly of Concepts of Reflection), together with the account of systematicity in the First Introduction to the Critique of Judgment, provide enough tools to dispel the purported inevitability of the theological illusion expounded in the Transcendental Ideal. One way

© Cambridge University Press

Meet the Author

Béatrice Longuenesse is Professor of Philosophy at New York University. Her numerous publications include Kant and the Capacity to Judge (1998).

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >