October 18-19, 2008


“’Pre-Conceptual’ Intuitions, The B Deduction and the Myth of the Given”

Nate Zuckerman (University of Chicago)

Sunday, October 19, 10:30AM (EDT)

Béatrice Longuenesse writes, “one of the benefits of my interpretation [of the Critique of Pure Reason] is its making clearer how Kant could remain true to [the] distinction [between receptivity and spontaneity] while radically challenging what we have come to call, after Sellars, ‘the Myth of the Given’.”  In this paper, I question her right to this claim.

First, I set up an interpretive problem: Henry Allison claims that the B edition transcendental deduction (specifically its second half, §§24-26) proves at most that the categories are the necessary conditions of the possibility of perception (i.e., the subjective unity of consciousness in the empirical synthesis of apprehension), while the intended goal of the deduction is to prove that the categories are the necessary conditions of the possibility of experience (i.e., the connection of perceptions under the unity of apperception in the logical form of objectively valid, truth-evaluable empirical judgments).

Second, I explain how Béatrice Longuenesse suggests a way to answer this problem. On her reading, categories are such as to play two transcendental roles: Not only do they make experience possible by serving as those concepts of objects under which the manifold of intuition gets reflected in the form of empirical judgments; the categories, under the guise of the capacity to judge, also make perception possible by guiding a synthesis of the manifold that occurs in some sense ‘prior to,’ and as a ‘preparation for,’ that conceptual reflection in experience. In playing both roles, the categories make possible both perception (the ‘preparatory’ synthesis of the sensible manifold) and experience (the discursive synthesis proper which constitutes experience), and so the deduction can be read as fully demonstrating what it set out to prove.

Third, I explain the textual and theoretical reasons that make both Allison and Longuenesse commit Kant to the idea of ‘pre-conceptual’ intuitions, that is, manifolds of representations given in sensibility that are somehow already geared up to be (or susceptible to being, or ‘proleptically’) objective representations reflected under pure and empirical concepts. I then focus on Longuenesse’s explanation of this pre-conceptual status, particularly in her appeal to Kant’s ‘epigenetic’ account of the origin of the categories and the formal intuitions of space and time. I conclude by suggesting that her appeal may itself harbor a version of Sellars’ protean myth.