Norman Kemp Smith.

A commentary to Kant's 'Critique of pure reason,' online

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inserted later in order to tone down the flagrant contradiction
with the preceding paragraphs. In any case, even this
qualification is explicitly retracted in A 94.

A 95-7. The same standpoint appears in the first three
paragraphs of Section II. The categories are "the a priori

1 As we have already found (above, p. 27 n. i), it had not been attained at the
time when the Introduction to the first edition was written.


conditions on which the possibility of experience depends." x
By the categories alone " can an object be thought." 2 The
further important point that only in their empirical employ-
ment do the categories have use and meaning is excellently

" An a priori concept not referring to experience would be the
logical form only of a concept, but not the concept itself by which
something is thought." 3

A 110-14, II. 4. In this section also the argument starts
afresh, indicating (if such evidence were required) that, like
I. 14, it must have been written independently of its present
context. But the argument is now advanced one step further.
The categories are recognised as simultaneously conditioning
both unity of consciousness and objectivity.

" There is but one experience ... as there is but one space and
one time. . . ." "The a priori conditions of a possible experience
are at the same time conditions of the possibility of objects of
experience " 4 "... the necessity of these categories rests on the
relation which our whole sensibility, and with it also all possible
appearances, have to the original unity of apperception. . . ." 5

Now also it is emphasised that save in and through a priori
concepts no representations can exist for consciousness.

"They would then belong to no experience, would be without
an object, a blind play of representations, less even than a dream." 6
They " would be to us the same as nothing." 7

The wording is still not altogether unambiguous, but the
main point is made sufficiently clear.

These paragraphs are the earliest in which traces of a
genuine phenomenalism can be detected. The transcendental
object, one and the same for all our knowledge, is not referred
to. * Objects ' (in the plural) is the term which is used
wherever the context permits. The empirical object is thus
made to intervene between the thing in itself and the sub-
jective representations. But the distinction between empirical
objects and subjective representations on the one hand, and
between empirical objects and things in themselves on the
other, is not yet drawn in any really clear and definite manner.

A similar phenomenalist tendency crops out in Kant's
distinction 8 between objective affinity and subjective

1 A 95-96. s A 97. 3 A 95 ; cf. A 96.

4 A in. 5 Loc. cit. 6 A 112.

7 A in. 8 A 112-14.


" The ground of the possibility of the association of the manifold,
so far as it lies in the object, is named the affinity of the manifold."

None the less Kant's subjectivism finds one of its most
decided expressions in A 1 14.

Third Stage. A 119-23 = III. /3 ; A 116-19 = III. a ;

A 94-5 = 1- H Concluding paragraph); A 126-8 = 111.8;
A 128-30 = S(ummary) ; A 123-6 = III. y ; A 115-16 =111.
I(ntroduction) ; A 76-9 (B 102-4)= J O Transition to fourth

A 119-23, III. p (from the beginning of the seventh
paragraph to the end of the twelfth). The doctrine of
objective affinity already developed in the above sections is
now made to rest upon a new faculty, the productive
imagination. As Vaihinger remarks, the wording of this
section would seem to indicate that it is Kant's first attempt
at formulating that new doctrine. He has not as yet got
over his own surprise at the revolutionary nature of the
conclusions to which he feels himself driven by the exigencies
of Critical teaching. He finds that it is deepening into
consequences which may lead very far from the current
psychology and from his own previous views regarding the
nature and conditions of the knowing process and of person-
ality. As evidence that this section was not written continu-
ously with II. 4, 1 we have the further fact that though the
doctrine of objective affinity is dwelt upon, it is described afresh,
with no reference to the preceding account. Also, the empirical
processes of apprehension and reproduction, already mentioned
in A 104-10, are now ascribed to the empirical imagination
which is carefully distinguished from the productive.

III. a repeats "from above" the argument given in III. ft
" from below." It insists upon the close connection between
the categories (first introduced in II. 4 1 ) with the productive
imagination of III. p.

Vaihinger places III. 8 next in order, on account of the
connection of its argument with 1 1 1. a. 2 But it dwells only
upon the chief outcome of the total argument, viz. that the
orderliness of nature is due to understanding. That pro-
ductive imagination is not mentioned, is taken by Vaihinger
to signify Kant's recognition that it can be postulated only
hypothetically, and that as doctrine it is not absolutely
essential to the strict deduction.

1 A 110-14.

2 I. 14 C Vaihinger regards as intermediate in date, but it is a comparatively
unimportant paragraph, and may for the present be left out of account. Cf.
below, pp. 225-6.


S summarises the entire argument, and in it "pure
agination " receives mention.
Within this third stage III. y is subsequent to the above
four sections. For it carries the doctrine of productive
imagination one step further. In III. ft, III. a, and S, pro-
ductive imagination has been treated merely as an auxiliary
function of pure understanding.

"The unity of apperception in relation to the synthesis of
imagination is the understanding ; and the same unity with reference
to the transcendental synthesis of the imagination is the pure under-
standing" 1

It is now treated as a separate and distinct faculty. So
far from being a function of understanding, its synthesis " by
itself, though carried out a priori^ is always sensuous." 2 It is

" one of the fundamental faculties of the human soul. . . . The two
extreme ends, sensibility and understanding, must be brought into
connection with each other by means of this transcendental function
of imagination." 3

In this section there also appears a new element which
would seem to connect it with the next following stage,
namely, the addition to the series, apprehension, association,
and reproduction, of the further process, recognition. As
here introduced it is extremely ambiguous in character. It
is counted as being empirical, and yet as containing a priori
concepts. This decidedly hybrid process would seem to
represent Kant's first formulation of the even more ambiguous
process, which corresponds to it in the fourth stage.

In III. I recognition is again mentioned, but this time in
a form still more akin to its treatment in the fourth stage.
It is not recognition through categories, but, as a form in
apperception, is the

" empirical consciousness of the identity of the reproductive repre-
sentations with the appearances by which they were given." 4

In all other respects, however, the above six sections
agree (along with I. 14 C) in holding to a threefold division
of mental powers : sensibility, imagination, and apperception.
This third stage is thereby marked off sufficiently clearly
from the second stage in which pure imagination is wanting,
and from the fourth stage in which it is dissolved into a
threefold a priori synthesis.

In both I. 14 C and in III. I the classification which
underlies the third stage is explicitly formulated. Their

1 A 118-19. 2 A I2 4- 3 Loc. cit. 4 A 115.



statements harmoniously combine to yield the following tabular

1. The synopsis of the manifold a priori through sense,
i.e. in pure intuition.

2. The synthesis of this manifold through pure tran-
scendental imagination.

3. The unity of this synthesis through pure original
transcendental apperception.

At this point Vaihinger adds to the above section the
earlier passage IO T. 1 It is even more definitely than III. y
and III. I transitional to the fourth stage. It must be classed
within the third stage, as it holds to the above threefold
classification. But it modifies that classification in two
respects. First, in that it does not employ the term synopsis,
but only speaks of pure intuition as required to yield us a
manifold. The term synopsis, as used by Kant, is, however,
decidedly misleading. 2 His invariable teaching is that all
connection is due to synthesis. By synopsis, therefore, which
he certainly does not employ as synonymous with synthesis,
can be meant only apprehension of external side-by-sideness.
It never signifies anything except apprehension of the lowest
possible order. Kant's omission of the term, therefore, tends
to clearness of statement. Secondly, the classification is also
modified by the substitution of understanding for the unity of
apperception. Apperception is, however, so obscurely treated
in all of the above sections, that this cannot be regarded as
a vital alteration. What is new in this section, and seems to
connect it in a curious and interesting manner with sections
in the fourth stage, is its doctrine of

"a manifold of a priori sensibility." "Space and time contain a
manifold of pure a priori intuition." 3

That is, in this connection, an entirely new doctrine. In
all the previous sections of the deduction (previous in the
assumed order of original writing) the manifold supplied
through intuition is taken as being empirical, and as consist-
ing of sensations. Kant here also adds that the manifold,
" whether given empirically or a priori" ' 4 must be synthesised
before it can be known.

" The spontaneity of our thought requires that this manifold [of
pure a priori intuition] should be run through in a certain manner,
taken up, and connected, in order that a knowledge may be formed
out of it. This action I call synthesis."

1 A 76-9 = 6 102-4. Not yet commented upon.
2 Cf. Vaihinger, kc. cit. p. 63. 3 A 77 = B 102. Cf. above, pp. 96-7. 4 Loc. cit.



Fourth Stage. A 98-104; A 97-8. As already noted, there
are in Kant two persistent but conflicting interpretations of
the nature of the synthetic processes exercised by imagination
and understanding, the subjectivist and the phenomenalist. 1
Now, on the former view, imagination is simply understanding
at work. In other words, imagination is merely the active
synthesising side of a faculty whose complementary aspect
appears in the logical unity of the concept. From this point
of view the transcendental and the empirical factors may be
taken as forming a single series. The transcendental and the
empirical processes will vary together, some form of tran-
scendental activity corresponding to every fundamental form
of empirical activity and vice versa. Such an inference only
follows if the subjectivist standpoint be accepted to the ex-
clusion of the phenomenalist point of view. But since Kant
constantly alternates between them, and never quite definitely
formulates them in their distinction and opposition ; since, in
fact, they were rather of the nature of obscurely felt tendencies
than of formulated standpoints, it is quite intelligible that an
inference derived from the one should be drawn even at the
very time when the other is being more explicitly developed.
This, it would seem, is what actually happened. When we
come to consider the evidence derivable from the Reflexionen
and Lose Blatter^ we shall find support for the view that after
January 1780, on the very eve of the publication of the
Critique, while the revolutionary, phenomenalist consequences
of the Critical hypothesis were becoming clearer to him, he
unguardedly allowed the above inference to lead him to recast
his previous views in a decidedly subjectivist manner. The
view that transcendental imagination has a special and unique
activity altogether different in type from any of its empirical
processes, namely, the " productive," is now allowed to drop ;
and in place of it Kant develops the view that transcend-
ental functions run exactly parallel with the empirical
processes of apprehension, reproduction, and recognition.
Accordingly, in place of the classification presented in the
third stage, we find a new and radically different one
introduced into the text, without the least indication that
Kant's standpoint has meantime changed. It is given in
A 97:

A. Synopsis of the manifold through sense.

B. Synthesis.

i. Synthesis of apprehension of representations in
[inner] intuition.

1 For explanation of the exact meaning in which these terms are employed
and for discussion of the complicated issues involved, cf. below, p. 270 ff.


2. Synthesis of reproduction of representations in


3. Synthesis of recognition of representations in

the concept.

And Kant adds in explanation that "these point to three
subjective sources of knowledge which make the understand-
ing itself possible, and which in so doing make all experience
possible, in so far as it is an empirical product of the under-
standing." What, now, are these three subjective sources of
knowledge? They certainly are not those classified in the
table of the third stage. A roughly coincides with its first
member ; consequently B I is left without proper correlate.
B 2 is altogether different from the previous synthesis of
imagination, for in the earlier table transcendental imagination
is regarded as being solely productive, never reproductive. 1
It is now asserted to be reproductive a contradiction of one
of his own most emphatic contentions, which can only be
accounted for by some such explanation as we are here stating.
Nothing is lacking as regards explicitness in the statement
of this new position. " . . . the reproductive synthesis of
imagination belongs to the transcendental acts of the soul,
and, in reference to it [viz. to the reproductive synthesis], we
will call this power too the transcendental power of the
imagination." 2 Lastly, even B 3 does not coincide with the
pure apperception of the other table. B 3 is more akin to
the recognition which in the third stage is declared to be
always empirical. In any case, it is recognition in the con-
cept ; and though that may ultimately involve and condition
transcendental apperception, it remains, in the manner in
which it is here developed by Kant, something very different.
But this is a point to which we shall return. There is an
added complication, running through this entire stage, which
first requires to be disentangled. The transcendental syn-
theses are declared to condition the pure representations of
space and time no less than those of sense-experience.

" This synthesis of apprehension also must be executed a priori^
i.e. in reference to representations which are not empirical. For
without it we could not have the a priori representations either of
space or of time, since these can be generated only through the
synthesis of the manifold which sensibility presents in its original
receptivity. Thus we have a pure synthesis of apprehension " 3
" . . . if I draw a line in thought or desire to think of the time from
one noon to another, or merely represent to myself a certain number,
I must, firstly, apprehend these manifold representations one after

1 Cf. A 118. 2 A 102. 3 A 99-100.


e other. But if the preceding representations (the first parts of
the line, the antecedent parts of time or the units serially repre-
sented) were always to drop out of my thought, and were not
reproduced when I advance to those that follow, no complete
representation, and none of all the aforementioned thoughts, not
even the purest and first basal representations of space and time,
could ever arise." 1

This, as Vaihinger remarks, is a point of sufficient im-
portance to justify separate treatment. But it is introduced
quite incidentally by Kant, and obscures quite as much as it
clarifies the main argument.

It is convenient to start with the second synthesis.
Kant's argument is much clearer in regard to it than in regard
to the other two. He distinguishes between empirical and
transcendental reproduction. Reproduction in ordinary ex-
perience, in accordance with the laws of association, is merely
empirical. The de facto conformity of appearances to rules is
what renders such empirical reproduction possible ;

"... otherwise our faculty of empirical imagination would never
find any opportunity of action suited to its capacities, and would
remain hidden within the mind as a dead, and to us unknown power." 2

Kant proceeds to argue, consistently with his doctrine of
objective affinity, that empirical reproduction is itself tran-
scendentally conditioned. The form, however, in which this
argument is developed is peculiar to the section before us,
and is entirely new.

"If we can show that even our purest a priori intuitions yield no
knowledge, save in so far as they contain such connection of the
manifold as will make possible a thoroughgoing synthesis of
reproduction, this synthesis of the imagination must be grounded,
prior to all experience, on a priori principles ; and since experience
necessarily presupposes that appearances can be reproduced, we
shall have to assume a pure transcendental synthesis of the imagina-
tion as conditioning even the possibility of all experience." 3

In the concluding paragraph Kant makes clear that he
regards this transcendental activity as being exercised in a
twofold manner : in relation to the empirically given manifold
as well as in relation to the a priori given manifold. How
this transcendental activity is to be distinguished from the
empirical is not further explained. I discuss this point
below. 4

The argument of the section on the synthesis of appre-
hension, to which we may now turn back, suffers from serious

1 A 102. 2 A 100. 3 A 101. Cf. below, p. 255. 4 Pp. 238, 263 ff.


ambiguity. It is not clear whether a distinction, analogous
to that between empirical and transcendental reproduction, is
being made in reference to apprehension. The actual word-
ing of its two last paragraphs would lead to that conclusion.
That, however, is a view which would seem to be excluded by
the wider context. Kant is dealing with the synthesis of
apprehension in inner intuition, i.e. in time. By the funda-
mental principles of his teaching such intuition must always
be transcendental. Empirical apprehension can only concern
the data of the special senses. The process of apprehension
referred to in the middle paragraph must therefore itself be

But it is in dealing with the synthesis of recognition that the
argument is most obscure. It is idle attempting to discover
any possible distinction between an empirical and a transcend-
ental process of recognition. For the transcendental process
here appears as being the consciousness that what we are
thinking now is the same as what we thought a moment
before ; and it is illustrated not by reference to the pure
intuitions of space and time, but only by the process of
counting. It may be argued that empirical recognition is
mediated by transcendental factors by pure concepts and by
apperception. But unless we are to take transcendental
recognition as synonymous with transcendental apperception,
which Kant's actual teaching does not seem to justify us in
doing, such considerations will not enable us to distinguish
two forms of recognition. Apart, however, from this difficulty,
there is the further one that the concepts in and through
which the recognition is executed are here described as being
empirical. The only key that will solve the mystery of this
extraordinary section, hopelessly inexplicable when viewed as
a single continuous whole, is, it would seem, the theory of
Vaihinger, namely, 1 that from the third paragraph onwards
(already dealt with as forming the first stage of the deduction)
Kant is making use of manuscript which represents the earliest
form in which his explanation of the consciousness of objects
was developed, with the strange result that this section is a
combination of the latest and of the earliest forms of the
deduction. While seeking to make out a parallelism between
the empirical, conscious activities of imagination and under-
standing on the one hand, and its transcendental functions on
the other, he must have bethought himself of the earlier
attempt to explain consciousness of objects through empirical
concepts conditioned by transcendental apperception, and so
have attempted to expound the third form of synthesis by

1 Cf. above, p. 211.


means of it. As thus extended it involves a distinction
between transcendental and empirical apperception, and upon
that the discussion, so far as it concerns anything akin
to recognition, altogether turns. But there is not the least
further mention of recognition itself. As transcendental, it
cannot be taken as the equivalent of empirical apperception ;
and as a synthesis through concepts, can hardly coincide with
pure apperception. The title of the section, " the synthesis
of recognition in the concept," is thus no real indication of
the astonishing fare prepared for the reader. The doctrine of
a threefold synthesis seems to have occurred to Kant on the
very eve of the publication of the Critique. The passage
expounding it may well have been hurriedly composed, and
when unforeseen difficulties accumulated, especially in regard
to recognition as a transcendental process, Kant must have
resolved simply to close the matter by inserting the older

III. Evidence yielded by the " Reflexionen " and "Lose Blatter"
in support of the above analysis

The evidence, derived by Vaihinger from the Reflexionen
and Lose Blatter, briefly outlined, is as follows. 1 (i) In the
Reflexionen zur Anthropologie relevant passages are few in
number, and represent a standpoint very close to that of the
1 770 Dissertation. Imagination is treated only as an empirical
faculty. 2 Recognition, which is only once mentioned, 3 is also
viewed as merely empirical. The understanding is spoken
of as the faculty through which objects are thought. 4 The
categories are not mentioned, and it is stated that the under-
standing yields only ideas of reflection. " All knowledge of
things is derived, as regards its matter, from sensation the
understanding gives only ideas of reflection." 5 So far, these
Reflexionen would seem to coincide, more or less, with the first
stage of the deduction. They contain, however, no reference
to transcendental apperception ; and are therefore regarded by
Vaihinger as representing a still earlier standpoint.

(2) In the Reflexionen zur Kritik der reinen Vernunft
there is a very large and valuable body of relevant passages.
No. 925 must be of the same date as the letter of 1772 to
Herz ; it formulates its problem in practically identical terms. 6
Nos. 946-52 and 955 may belong to the period of the first stage.
For though the doctrine of the transcendental object as the

1 'For Vaihinger's own statement of it, cf. op. cit. pp. 79-98.

2 ,Nos. 64-5, 117, 140-5. 3 No. 146. 4 Nos. 41, 81.

5 No. 104. Cf. Nos. 964-5.


opposite counterpart of the transcendental subject is not
mentioned, the spiritualist view of the self is prominent. In
No. 946 it is asserted that the representation of an object
is " made by us through freedom."

" Free actions are already given a priori, namely our own." l " To
pass universal objective judgments, and to do so apodictically, reason
must be free from subjective grounds of determination. For were
it so determined the judgment would be merely accidental, namely
in accordance with its subjective cause. Thus reason is conscious
a priori of its freedom in objectively necessary judgments in so far as
it apprehends them as exclusively grounded through their relation to
the object." 2 "Transcendental freedom is the necessary hypothesis
of all rules, and therefore of all employment of the understanding." 3
"Appearances are representations whereby we are affected. The
representation of our free self-activity does not involve affection, and
accordingly is not appearance, but apperception." 4

It is significant that the categories receive no mention.

Online LibraryNorman Kemp SmithA commentary to Kant's 'Critique of pure reason,' → online text (page 30 of 72)