Second Bernstein Lecture on Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason: Vocabulary

The second of Jay M. Bernstein’s series of lectures on Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason in HTML format. The source material can be found at

Lecture Two: Vocabulary

Part 1 of 2

00:00: The claim last week was that Kant’s fundamental breakthrough between rationalism and empiricism is that each of these believe that knowledge could come from one faculty: rationalism from reason; empricism from sense.

Kant’s first claim is the breakthrough claim of modern philosophy all knowledge (notice here we are not saying all thinking, just all knowledge) requires both thinking and sense.  Both concepts and intuitions.  And these have to be joined with one another.

And they are joined with one another in what Kant calls a “judgment”.

02:00: Kant wants to make use of the two-sidedness of thought: concepts without intuitions are empty; intuitions without concepts are blind.

03:00: The concept side is going to talk about form and what has form and informs.
It speaks to what is universal in knowledge—concepts are those things that take hold of more than one object.  That is what it means to be a concept—to take hold of more than one object.

Also on the concept side we have the idea of knowing as an activity—we are agents. As knowers we are agents.  That is what Hume didn’t understand.
Even when we are knowing we are acting, shaping and forming the world.

But this is a heavy thesis.  Unlike the rationalists for whom the ideas just build up—clear and distinct ideas—we really are going to say that knowing is a form of doing.  This is one of Kant’s revolutionary thoughts.  Knowing is a form of world-making.

04:30: On the other side we talk about the contents of thoughts, or the “matter” of thought, which is sense.

Intuitions are particulars.  And this is our passive or receptive relationship to the world—how the world imprints itself on us, how the world constrains us and plays a role.

05:30: The concept side is what allows for the a priori and the intuition side what allows for a posteriori.

So schematically we have the following dichotomy:

  • concepts – intuitions;
  • form – matter;
  • more than one object – particulars;
  • activity – passivity or receptivity;
  • a prioria posteriori.

06:00: Kant’s second thought was that not only does knowledge require thinking and sensing—concepts and intuitions—but the work of judgment, which is not a form of seeing.

For Descartes—for whom you should have clear and distinct ideas—you should get the idea so clear that you can hold it in one simple mental glance, whatever that means.

At least with empiricists, they have some idea that we receive sensory impressions, but that again is a seeing, a having of a sense impression.

Kant thinks that this idea of knowing as seeing is a mistake.

And the notion of judgment is going to claim that bring intuitions under concepts is what judgments do, which we will get to later.

08:00: The notion is that we have to put these together in a judgment and thus knowledge is always for Kant discursive. It is an activity of thought, an activity of putting things together and, therefore, to use Brandom’s language, to know something is to know relations.

That something is true is to know something else is true. Meaning that to know something is true means we are able to make inferences from it. If you believe X then you must believe Y and Z.

So this talk of judgment and discursivity is going to be about how knowledge forms logical and inferential and deductive chains of propositions and sentences that relate to one another.

So schematically then, a judgment brings together:

  • concepts – intuitions;
  • form – matter;
  • more than one object – particulars;
  • activity – passivity or receptivity;
  • a prioria posteriori.

09:30: In order to start getting this in motion we decided we needed a technical vocabulary having to do with the types and status of propositions and our capacity to evaluate them.

Our first thought was that thoughts can be either necessary or contingent.

A proposition can be necessarily true. When we talk about necessity and contingency and the like, philosophers call these “modalities”.

Necessary, actual, or possible are three “modalities of judgment”.

This is what gives you “modal logic”—the analysis of the relationship between necessity, actuality, and possibility.

11:00: So what is “necessary”?
The step from possible to actual is one move—but how do we take the step from actual to possible?

One way of talking about necessity is that it could not have been false.

We have a gap here between two types of necessity we will have to clear up later.

There is causal necessity and logical/propositional necessity.
Right now we are limiting ourselves to logical necessity.

Of course there is the question of whether there is any causal necessity—this is what Hume denies. Kant is terrified about is.

14:00: Another possible definition is that the converse or opposite is impossible.

Leibniz would say something is necessarily true in something which would hold in all possible worlds.

15:00: We will see that Kant has a problem with logical necessity.  He wants a notion of necessity that… he wants to find a space between logical necessity and causal necessity.

For the time being we will label this as transcendental or epistemic necessity.

The first thing Kant has is a modal vocabulary of necessity and contingency.

We also discovered last week he makes a distinction between a priori and a posteriori.

Something is a priori true if we can determine it to be true independently of experience.  Soemthing is a priori if and only if we can determine it without looking in the world, or searching out.  We can do it by reflection or thought.
So a priori refers to the mechanism of how we evaluate it, so something is a priori if we can evaluate it independent of experience.

Conversely, if evaluation is dependent on experience, then it is a posteriori.

18:00: And last time we ended up with the distinction between analytic and synthetic.

Analytic and synthetic describe not the way we know propositions, not how they are validated, but what type of propositions or judgments.

So schematically it seems to me we have made the following distinctions:


Modalities Necessary Actual Probable
Evaluation A priori vs. A posteriori
Types Analytic vs. Synthetic

18:30: Kant will say that analytic propositions are explicative while synthetic propositions are amplitive.

Something is analytic if we construe the judgment in such a way that the predicate of the judgment adds nothing to the concept of the subject. It is merely taking the subject proposition and breaking it up, analyzing it, so that the predicate is contained in the subject, and that we come to this by merely examining the subject concept.

20:00: Since we don’t have to look at the world in order to do this, if we are just analyzing a concept, then it will follow that analytic judgments can be known a priori.

Last time we said that concepts were mediate “marks” for a determination of an object. So to say that a judgment is analytic is to say that the predicate is a mark contained in the subject proposition.

21:30: To make it a bit more formal, we can say that a concept is nothing but a set of marks. So the concept apple has certain marks: fruit, round, red-green.

The concept apple is marked out by the further marks of fruit colored in a certain way, roundish, grows, etc. All of that is contained in the subject proposition.

So in technical jargon, predicates are marks of marks.

23:00: Kant’s other way of talking about analytic propositions is to say that a proposition is analytic if its denial ends up in a self-contradition.

So if we say this thing here is an apple and it is not a fruit, we will get involved in a contradiction, but without even looking at the object—we don’t have to examine it because fruit is built in to the idea of apple.

24:00: So the point here is that we have to different concepts of analyticity, both of which Kant likes:

  • containment; and
  • contradictory denial.

A synthetic judgment is one which adds to the concept of the subject a predicate that has not been “in any ways thought in it and which no analysis could possibly extract from it”.

So the idea is a synthetic judgment…

No examination of the concept apple will tell us whether an apple is ripe or not. This is because the claim we are trying to make here is not a claim about a concept but about an object in the world, and therefore we are making a claim about a “third thing”.

Third things come up a lot in Kant. And this is the beginning of Kant’s concept of judgment because what he is claiming here is that a judgment is more than an association of two impressions or ideas.

26:00: If you are an empiricist you would simply have an apple impression and a ripeness impression and they would be associated with one another.  But without any question about how they are connected.

For Kant, for a claim to be synthetic is to claim that the object picked out by the subject term has the property—that is what the “is” of predication is—picked out by the predicate term.

X = S is P, or “apple is ripe”.

X = some third thing, or some actualy object in the world about which we are saying both “apple” and “ripe” inhere.

27:00: So “Xs”—third things—tend to be in intuitions.

So synthetic knowledge is knowledge in which concepts determine an intuition.

28:00: Mitch asks whether it would be an analytic judgment whether or not an apple is “walking” or “happy”. This will end up, after more leg work, being determinable analytically because these are the kinds of predicate that cannot be said of that subject.

Lots of analytic judgments are not obviously analytic because you don’t see the contradiction immediately, the contradiction requires a lot of propositions.

Which is why the notion of containment can be tricky. Containment makes it look like analyticity is just a matter of investigating rather than complex inferential analysis.

29:30: Another question:

We can say that we can’t transform a synthetic into an analytic judgment because synthetic judgments require a material extension.  It has to refer to the third thing.

This is why Kantian synthetic judgments cannot be rerouted into analytic judgments.

We will come back to the original question here when we get to the Quine problem.

30:30: The point here is that synthetic judgments are material extensions of the subject concept. By material extension we mean everything that was on the right hand side of our earlier schema (intuitions, matter, particulars, passicity or receptivity, a posteriori).

So synthetic judgments really add to what we have, so we have to check out the world.

31:00: So the basic definition of a judgment is a relation between a subject and predicate which is not merely an association of their ideas but an assertion—and those who do Frege can understand why he thought he needed an assertion sign—Frege saw that there was something more involved in a judgment and he wanted to get it through an assertion sign.

A judgment is that an assertion of a connection between the subject and predicate terms holds in the object denoted by the subject terms.

Therefore there must be some third things between the subject and predicate, which Kant calls “X”, into which S and P of a synthetic judgment are related and through which they are related to one other.

They are related to one another through their being related to the third thing.

33:00: Remember that intuitions are immediate representations of things.

This said we might suppose, as do all the rationalists and all the empiricists, it would seem rational to suppose that all synethetic propositions must be known a posteriori and all analytic judgments must be known a priori—and the only propositions that we can know a priori are analytic propositions.

That just follows from the definitions we have been examining.

But Kant wants to say there is another possibility. The claim is that there can be synthetic propositions that we can know a priori. There can be propositions that have a material extension that we can know a priori.  There is a third thing, yet we can know it a priori.

Which is to say there are contentful propositions—propositions about intuitions—which can be necessarily and universally true and cannot be falsified.

We might have knowledge of the world—real material extension, not just moving around in concepts—and it be universal and necessarily true, a priori.

35:00: Question:

On the containment analysis, anything that is analytic is a priori. Because if I can know some truth just by closing my eyes and thinking of it, so anything I can know about apples simply by lying in bed on a Sunday morning, we are going to call that a priori.

Kant says famously that all knowledge derives from experience. Trivially, there is going to be no knowledge that we haven’t got through our interactions with the world, but not all knowledge depends on experience for its truth.

And it is the notion of depending that is crucial.

38:00: Let’s begin getting into synthetic a priori by asking: do we think there are any propositions that might qualify as synthetic a priori?

In the introduction, Kant says that 7 + 5 = 12 is synthetic a priori.

He thinks that 12 is a material extension, but why?

On the containment theory…

But what if we say 7 + 5 = m – n, we can imagine an infinite number of numbers that would satisfy m – n as placeholders.  At the very least, it is the case that 7 + 5 = x is not contained in these two concepts m and n.

41:00: We all agree that 7 + 5 = 12 is necessarily true, but we are trying to see why Kant says it is synthetic.

What we have been trying to show is that on the containment theory, we cannot analyze 7 + 5 to get 12.  So at least on the containment theory it is synthetic.

But what about the contradiction view?

You might think that the denial of 7 + 5  = 12 will lead to a contradiction. That is what Frege, Russell, and Whitehead thought.  The thought that—and if it is false, it gives at least some legs to what Kant is trying to get at—of all arithmetic.

Poor Whitehead in all of the hard work of writing out the Principia Mathematica, the thought was that arithmetic could be cashed out purely in logical terms, using just the terms of formal logic, 108 axioms of symbolic logic, plus some extras.

The objection to that—which would take a whole course in itself—there are two standard objections to the Russellian-Leibnizian program.

  1. At least some of the axioms are questionable.  Like the axiom of infinity which is meant to guarantee an infinity of possible mathematical objects. But some wonder how you are going to get that thought out of pure logic. That looks like a hefty extra thought. So it is not clear that all the axioms are purely logical.
  2. Gödels theorem, the incompleteness theorem, states that there cannot be any finite and consistent set of axioms from which every mathematical truth can be derived.

That would at least help us get going on the notion that 7 + 5 = 12 is synthetic.

45:30: Question:

But the point is, to short-cut through a lot of logical work, that it turns out that if you want to base 7 + 5 = 12 in logical analysis, you end up needing a lot more logical baggage then you might expect.
Indeed, it does look in retrospect—and this is what gives rise to the Quine problem—that 12 is just what we mean by 7 + 5, but it turns out that at least formally it can’t be cashed out in terms of either containment or contradiction.

So that something is or is not analytic may not be obvious.

46:30: Another proposition that Kant doesn’t discuss: we probably think that ‘nothing can be red and green all over’ is necessarily true, but Jay wants to argue that it has got to be synthetic.

Why would someone argue otherwise?

First of all it is necessarily true—we can’t imagine a possible world in which something is both red and green all over.

The reason that it must be synthetic is that the way to make it analytic is that red by definition is not green, yellow, purple… you just do it by negation, so you can say that it is contradictory.

But that doesn’t end up working. This is because at some point in this dictionary definition, I look up red which says ‘whatever is not green, yellow, purple…’

But when we look up yellow we get ‘whatever is not purple, red…’

This would be the analytic account of why nothing can be red and green all over, but is this still unsatisfactory?

At some point you have got to have some version of an ostensive definition, you have to go outside the series of concepts and bring in an individual.

50:00: Gabe asks: what if you leave actual colors out of it altogether and simply say ‘something cannot be covered by both color X and color Y’?

Jay wants to say that this will involve us in a definition of color and to go Aristotelian, you can’t have a notion of ‘color’ without ‘colors’.

51:00: But in any event, all we are trying to do is problematize what seem to be obvious analytic a prioris to make synthetic a prioris at least seem less crazy.

Let’s look at the case that really worried Kant, and that is Hume’s argument, of which there are two propositions that are connected.

A: The first is the proposition of the causal maxim:  everything that has a beginning has a cause.

B: The second is that particular causes must necessarily have certain effects. That is, there is a bond of necessity linking cause and effect.
The claim of classical causal theory: if the causal event happens, then necessarily the effect event is going to happen.

Hume discovered that at least the second one—and Kant interestingly never actually denies this claim—that this second one is false.

Hume does this by counter-examples. When I perceive the cause and I perceive the effect, I do not perceive a necessary bond between them. All that happens is that first I see one, then I see the other, but all that happens is that usually or regularly when I see A I see B—this isn’t called the “regularity theory of causality” for nothing—and there is nothing more to it.

There is no magical necessity—no glue of the universe holding causes and effects together.

55:30: Kant says in the Prolegomena that it was that demonstration that awoke Kant from his dogmatic slumber.

And what Hume further thinks is that if B is false, if not B, then he thinks not A. If I can show that there is no ontological necessity in the world, then it follows that the causal maxim is not necessary.

56:30: So near the end of the book, at A766:

“That sunlight should melt wax and yet also harden clay, no understanding, he [Hume] pointed out, can discover from the concepts which we previously possessed of these things, much less infer them according to a law. Our experience is able to teach us such a law [… But, as we have discovered in the Transcendental Logic, although we can never pass immediately beyond the content of the concept which is given us, we are nevertheless able, in relation to a third thing, namely, possible experience, to know that the law of its connection with other things, and to do so in an a priori manner…].  If, therefore, wax, which was formerly hard, melts, I can know a priori that something must have preceded, ([that something being] for instance [in the case] the heat of the sun), upon which the melting has followed according to a fixed law, although a priori, independently of experience, I could not determine, in any specific manner, either the cause from the effect, or the effect from the cause. Hume was therefore in error in inferring from the contingency of our determination in accordance with the law the contingency of the law itself.”

By the way, this is pretty much the argument of the entire Critique of Pure Reason.

59:00: Hume’s argument in the Treatise was something like… we’ll break here and start with this in the next section.

Part 2 of 2

A handout was passed around between sections whose contents were as follows:

The Problem before Kant

Transcendental realism: Space and its contents are real but never directly known, a position you can attribute to Descartes, Newton, Locke and many others.

This has as its corollary:

Empirical idealism: Experience consists of ideas and some tour de force is needed to show that ‘knowledge’ of bodies isn’t a mere illusion, e.g., God’s veracity, occasionalism, causal theory of perception.

These moves, however, don’t work and one is landed in skeptical idealism or dogmatic idealism, where our experience may be or must be illusory.

Kant’s Solution to the Problem

Transcendental idealism: Things-in-themselves can’t be known — we can make no judgements of the form “things-in-themselves are really x“.

This Kant believed had the corollary of:

Empirical realism: Experience consists of ideas and appearances that are real. No doubt some are illusory, but we discover this by incoherence. The distinction veridical/illusory is between appearances and not a distinction between appearances and reality.

0:00: We begin with the argument that Hume puts forward in this Treatise, 133, saying that if something is a priori, its denial involves a contradiction.

This tells us that, on Hume’s thinking, the a priori must be a matter of analysis.  Therefore, if x implies a contradiction, then x is inconceivable—and Kant is going to have great worries about this notion of conceivability, because this notion turns out to be psychological and not logical.

If x implies a contradiction then it is inconceivable for Hume.

The denial of the causal maxim is conceivable and Hume thought it was conceivable because he thought that the denial of the particular causal bond entailed the denial of the causal maxim.

Hume’s thought was that if a cause occurs, not only is there not a particular effect, but from this cause you could have this, that, or the other effect or perhaps no effect. That is conceivable too.

2:30: So we can conceive or imagine that when I punch you in the face, a rose would bloom out of your nose or nothing would happen at all.

Hume thought that all of these were just regularities, which we could conceive or imagine to be otherwise.

Therefore, the denial of the causal maxim is conceivable.  Therefore, the denial of the casual maxim does not imply a contradiction, hence the causal maxim is not analytically true, therefore the causal maxim is not a priori.

3:30: That is what motivated Kant, because if you think in this way, then it will turn out that not even mathematics is a priori.

That would be because we can do conceivability games in which 7 + 5 = 17 or 7 + 5 = a tomato.

About this issue, Kant said that Hume’s good sense saved him from going down this route. Hume realized that math is better than this, but still he can’t give an account of how.

Kant’s strong claim is that mathematics must be synthetic a priori, and, therefore, there must be other things that are synthetic a priori as well—among these he wants to include the causal maxim itself.

5:00: The question now becomes: if we are going to save knowledge from both rationalism and empiricism, then Kant wants to say that it will be a body of synthetic a priori propositions, and such a body of propositions will provide us with a “metaphysics of experience”, those features of our experience that we are going to hold with necessity and universality.

6:00: So if metaphysics concerns what is invariant and unchanging, then Kant wants to say that there is something about experience itself that is invariant or unchanging, namely its form or structure.

We’ve been arguing that Kant claims that there are two sources of knowledge—concepts and intuitions or reason and sense.

Therefore, if there are going to be synthetic a priori truths, then there must be two things:

  1. pure non empirical concepts, or concepts not derived from experience, but which we bring to experience in order to form or shape it; and
  2. these pure or formal or non-empirical concepts must yield knowledge, which is to say that the knowledge must apply to something.

8:00: Kant wants to hold to the thesis that concepts without intuitions are empty. So if these pure concepts are not empty, then they must refer.  And if they refer, if they are material then they must relate to, some x:

apple (s – subject) is (x – the object being referred to) ripe (p – predicate)

But that x cannot be from empirical intuition, because if that was the case, the concept could only be validated a posteriori and would not be pure. Hence, if there are pure concepts at all, if there are any, they themselves have to refer to something that is itself pure.

And Kant is going to call these “pure intuitions”, or non-empirical intuitions.

9:30: So in Allison (page unknown) from Kant’s text On the Progress of Metaphysics, we have the key to the Critique of Pure Reason (CPR):

“Knowledge is a judgment from which a concept arises which has objective validity (and now we know what objective validity means for Kant — it means that there is some corresponding object in experience that can be given) if and only if there is some object in experience corresponding to it which can be given.  Otherwise the object is a mere thought thing. (the object has got to refer)”

You might say that this is Kant’s own—this is why some of the empiricists actually like him—empiricist, positivistic, verificationist moment.

We can’t get it from thought alone; we have got to refer to some object.

“All experience, however, consists of the intuition of the object.  An immediate and singular representation through which the object is given to knowledge and of a concept in need of representation to a mark that is common to several objects through which it is thought.  One of these two modes of representation alone cannot constitute knowledge and it is therefore to be synthetic a priori there must also be also be a priori intuitions as well as concepts.”

11:30: There must be intuitions, singular immediate representations of particular objects that we can know independently of experience.

There are two fundamental pure intuitions—space and time.

The thought here which then gives us the structure of the entire book is that if there are to be synthetic a priori intuitions, then like any judgment…

Judgments are composed of concepts and intuitions and it is a matter of bringing intuitions under concepts, and Kant is going to call the pure concepts “categories” and the pure intuitions, the x we have been looking for, are going to be space and time.

Thus, for an empirical intuition, apple (s) is (x) ripe (p), and for a pure intuition, x refers to space and time — not objects of experience, but objects of the possibility of experience.

Synthetic a priori intuitions are going to be bringing the pure intuitions of space and time under the categories of thought.

13:30: If you look at the Table of Contents, that gives you the structure of the book. After the Preface and Introduction—these are the parts we have been going through— you get the first part which is called the “Transcendental Aesthetic”.

The “Transcendental Aesthetic” is an inquiry into what we can know about our capacity for receptivity a priori, that is the Transcendental Aesthetic is the attempt to elucidate the fact that above all that space and time are a priori intuitions.

Next week we still try to see how space is an a priori intuition. Time as well, but for Jay (the lecturer) space is more fun.

15:00: The next bit of the text, the Transcendental Analytic, is the analysis of the Pure Concepts, the Categories, and the claim that they are necessarily applicable to space and time, or that we cannot have experience with out them.

The categories that are the most fun are the categories of substance and causality.

The claim of the text is going to be that we can know through transcendental reflection. By ‘transcendental’ we mean ‘whatever is a necessary condition for the possibility of experience.’ A transcendental inquiry is an inquiry into the necessary conditions for the possibility of experience.

16:30: If Kant can show that certain things are necessary for the very possibility of experience, namely that there be a unified spatial world in a unified temporal continuum and we can only have knowledge of that unified spatio-temporal world if and only if we employ the categories of substance, causality, and the like, then he will have shown that we have synthetic a priori knowledge—that is, truths that are true—but not in all possible world.

His critique of Leibniz is that he does not know what is possible in all possible worlds, and, furthermore, we shouldn’t care.  Why care about other possible worlds?

18:00: So modal logic—like Saul Kripke—is just fiction.

Modal logic concerns, according to Kripkean semantics, which is a Leibnizian project, what is true in all possible worlds. Kant says that that notion of necessity is of complete disinterest to us. We are transcendental philosophers—we are inquiring not into what is true in all possible worlds, but we are ratcheting down to ask what is necessarily true to us if we are to have experience of this world.

How must the world be if someone like me can have experience of it?  We underline ‘if someone like me…’ because that is the Copernican Turn.

19:00: Preface, B xvi-xvii:

“Hitherto it has been assumed that all our knowledge must conform to objects…”

This is the correspondence theory of truth—how do I know that my representations, my propositions, how do I know they correspond to the object?

And Kant thinks that this very question, this is his most radical move, is the wrong question.  All metaphysics has presumed the question ‘how do I know my knowledge conforms to the world’, and the simple reason why he thinks that this is a bad question is because—it assumes that our access to things out there…

For Kant, our access to things in the worlds like cups is through our judgment. But when we ask ‘how do I know that my judgment that the cup is white corresponds to the cup’, that looks to Kant like an impossible question because it is only through my representation or experience of the cup that I have access to the cup.

So the question how do I know that my representation corresponds to the cup is trying to get me to get out of my skin, out of my propositions, over to the other side, to the object. That is what the Cartesian circle is all about, jumping out of your skin, only you can’t, so you say something else jumps out of your skin—call it God—then you have this silly story about having a thought in me bigger than me, that is God, therefore…

In order to do what?  To bring me in touch with what I am already in touch with. So the very question ‘how do I know that my knowledge corresponds to the object’ denatures me, it is a denial of my relationship to the object, because it is a denial of the things that make the object available to me.

23:00: So Kant thinks that if metaphysics is always that, then metaphysics is an attempt to know the world by a denial of the means by which we know the world.
And of course he gives that a dirty name: intellectual intuition, the God’s eye point of view.

23:30: “Hitherto it has been assumed that all our knowledge must conform to objects.  But all attempts to extend our knowledge of objects by establishing something in regard to them a priori, by means of concepts, have, on this assumption, ended in failure.”

And this is because it looks like if philosophy is the game of a priori thinking, how much by means of mere thought can I figure out about the nature and structure of the world and experience? It looks like that is simply an absurd question.

How can I by just sitting in my arm chair figure out what the world independently of anything I might think, reason, or believe be like?

So the very question looks like it is self-defeating. It is not just that it did end in failure, it had to.


“Hitherto it has been assumed that all our knowledge must conform to objects.  But all attempts to extend our knowledge of objects by establishing something in regard to them a priori, by means of concepts, have, on this assumption, ended in failure.  We must therefore make trial whether we may not have more success in the tasks of metaphysics, if we suppose that the objects must conform to our knowledge.”

Jay takes this “trial” language very seriously.

The Copernican turn is an event. It is something we undergo. It is not as if we know exactly how to do it, but we have to try it in order to achieve a different, new standpoint.

26:00: And the word “must” is doing all the work in the passage above. Because if we drop the notion of must—that all objects must conform to our knowledge—then we have nothing but nominalism and constructivism.
The world wouldn’t then have any say. We can just say anything we want to say.

27:00: Kant wants to ask if there is any way we can demonstrate that there is a necessity to objects appearing in a certain way?

Is there any grounds for it to be the case that if I have an experience, then it must be of an object in space and in time that is causally connected to other objects, by necessity?

Because he wants to say if that isn’t true—this is the argument of the book—then there is no experience, there is no knowledge…

The Copernican Turn is the turning around of this and that entails Transcendental Idealism.

28:00: So far we have said that there are two sources of knowledge. Knowledge is either discursive, and Kant’s final achievement is his notion of Transcendental Idealism in which you can say there are two ineliminable ways of viewing the world.

You might even want to call this a “two worlds” thesis.  But in any event this is all opposed to realism.

What do we mean by Transcendental Idealism? What is Kant’s “two world’s” hypothesis? What is it to undergo this Copernican Turn?  What do we have to eliminate in order to do it?

30:00: The first statement is that our knowledge must conform to objects.  We are going to give this object a new name: “thing-in-itself”.

We will define the thing-in-itself as the object that is independent of our knowledge and our means of knowledge of it.

That is, the thing-in-itself is the object conceived of as external to any human knowing.

In other words, it is the object “as God might see it”.

31:00: So Kant’s thought is trying to figure out of our representations of the object conform to the object is a hopeless endeavor.

Hopeless because if our relationship to the object is via our representations of the object, then we are not going to be able to find a way of matching our representation with something that is in principle something that is wholly independent of that representation.

Kant’s way of thinking about this is to say let’s just drop it and draw a boundary against the world of things-in-themselves.

Transcendental idealism is the thesis that we know appearances only. We know things in relation to our representations of them. Therefore, we are going to say that our means of representation are our body of synethtic a priori judgments.

The structure of experience—what gives us a representation—is treating things in terms of space, time, categories.

So what we know now is an internal correlate of our judgment, so that what the synthetic a priori propositions gives us is our concept of an object.

So there can be no object for us independent of the concept of an object for us.

And the idea of the concept of an object for us is what emerges in the light of our acts of judging and representing and the like, in terms of using the categories.

34:30: To call this idealism is simply to say that everything that appears does so under a description. And the description it appears under minimally is given, or specified by, the body of synthetic a priori judgments.
Therefore, for something to be an object, it is already embraced within these categories and intuitions.
We can think about this new object, we know appearances only and not things in themselves, that statement is true only as a transcendental statement.

37:00: Looking at the handout, of course Kant is an idealist, but the fact that he is an idealist doesn’t mean that he lived in a world any different than that which you and I live in, with chairs and tables and hard things. Therefore, the purpose of our claim here, the statement that we know appearances only and not things-in-themselves is transcendental and not empirical.

We have to get the right perspectival relationship of philosophical understanding to ordinary experience.

38:00: Something about appearance talk is offensive.

Here we start by looking at the world through Kantian lenses with transcendental realism. This is Kant’s way of thinking about both empiricism and rationalism. For Kant, both empiricists and rationalists, including Berkeley, were realists. What makes a realist a realist is that they believe that there is a world that exists independently of my thoughts and beliefs about it. And the question is: how do I get connected up to it?  That is what realism is.

39:00: This transcendental realism is what Husserlians call “the natural attitude”.  This whole movement can also be done in terms of Husserl and the question of transcendental bracketing.

This can be done in terms of the natural attitude, but Jay thinks the Kantian route is much more thorough, although Husserlians disagree.

Here space and its content are real. They have always existed, there was a big bang, there is a world out there, it is real.

What empiricists and rationalist all agree is that it is never directly known—we can only know the thing by thinking if you are a rationalist or by having experiences if you are an empricist. But one way or another, I am tied to my representations of the world.

40:00: So what I know of the world is not what it is in itself, but I know it indirectly through my representations. Therefore, if you are a transcendental realist, you are inevitably going to become an empirical idealist.

You are going to believe as an empirical idealist, since you believe there are things out there but you can’t touch them, all you have is representations, then you will ask: what do I know?  What is it I have experience of?

The empirical idealist says: I experience ideas in my mind. So experience consists of ideas, whether they are impressions of the empiricist sort or ideas of a rationalist sort, and then we are going to somehow hook up my ideas with the world.

To do that we are either going to need something like God’s veracity… that would be to know the world by faith?

That is the claim of all these characters, Locke, Hume, Berkeley, Leibniz.

42:00: So empirical idealism ends up in one of two places: you either end up a skeptic like Hume; or you become a crazy dogmatist like Leibniz and you go towards theodicy.

The Kantian claim is that the remedy to this impasse is empirical realism, which is the claim that experience consists of ideas and appearances, but these are real. The appearance of the chair is just the chair—it is not an idea in my head but an object in space and time that causally interacts with other things. Of course, sometimes I am mistaken and sometimes I get cut off from experience, which is why bad dreams are so bad because it is as if they were real.

43:30: But that just tells us how committed we are to empirical realism.

But empirical realism can be the case only if you are a transcendental idealist.

You can have a world of concrete things in the sense that you are not cut off from them, only if you agree that these things must conform to our knowledge.

44:00: There is a Wittgensteinian version of this same argument. There is a beautiful essay by Jonathan Lear called The Disappearing We.

There is a version of Wittgenstein that says that he is a transcendental idealist because he thinks that the necessary conditions for the possibility of knowledge are forms of life, language games, practices, etc.

An object is only an object in the context of all that stuff.  Those are the necessary conditions for the possibility of experience, to use Kantian talk. That is what the Wittgensteinian ‘meaning as use’ means, which ties meaning to agency and practice.

45:00: What follows from that is that for any proposition we must put before it a kind of bracketing.  Kant says ‘the ‘I think’ must accompany all of my representations’.  That is Kant’s way of doing the Copernican Turn.

The “I think” means this whole apparatus.

Wittgenstein is going to give us something different.  He is going to give us the “We think”.

So 2 + 2 = 4, if we want to be accurate about why that is compelling, why we are convinced that 2+2=4, it depends on our form of life, that we are counting creatures, etc. All that goes into 2+2=4, then we are going to say “we think 2+2=4”.

That is to treat the proposition 2+2=4 as a consequence of its being bounded by the transcendental conditions of possibility.

46:30: So we can now understand from a transcendental perspective that the proposition 2+2=4 as “we think 2+2=4”, but now if we think about it, the “we think” is opposed here to what?

The “we think” doesn’t contrast with anything, and once we realize that, we can drop it altogether and say “2+2=4” and now we are back to being empirical realists.

47:00: In the next twelve weeks, we want to be able to show that transcendental idealism, exactly by saying that we know appearances and not things-in-themselves, is the only thing that gives back to us the concreteness of experience—that is, allows for thick empirical realism and, therefore, there isn’t going to be a “veil of perception”—the problem of classical epistemology—standing between us and the world.

Our claim is that our judgments put us in touch with the world.  All the world I’ll ever know…

The Bernstein Lectures on Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason: Lecture One: The Introduction

Jay M. Bernstein conducted a series of lectures on Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason in 2006 that were recorded by his students. I found these lectures and their transcriptions at, and they came to be invaluable in my study of Kant. So now, I provide the transcribed notes, at least to the first lecture, here in HTML format.

Lecture One: Introduction

Tape 1 of 3

00:00: Kant is the modern philosopher, the crossroad through which all modern philosophy passes, both analytic and continental.

All the interesting problems in modern philosophy are located in Kant. It is not that modern philosophy stays with Kant, but it moves on in directions from Kant.

1:00: Kant as “the modern philosopher” in an odd way puts to an end what many thought to be the very questions of modern philosophy.

A famous characterization of modern philosophy is that it departs from the Medieval and Aristotelian question “what is there?” or “what is the world like?”, and begins with Descartes’ question “how do I know what is there?”

2:00: Modern philosophy is the idea that epistemology is first philosophy rather than metaphysics or ontology.

This is certainly what Descartes intended—this is picked up in the rationalist and empiricist programs following in line from Descartes.

2:30: Kant is challenging this very program. He challenges it first in a footnote in a preface to the first edition: (editor’s note: this should be in the second preface)

However harmless idealism first may be considered in respect to the central aims of metaphysics, it still remains a scandal to philosophy.

Jay points out that the CPR begins, not with a philosophical problem, but a scandal. A certain naughtiness. And also a rumour, an unsettledness floating around in the environment:

…it still remains a scandal to philosophy and to human reason in general that the existence of things outside us, and from which we derive our whole material of knowledge, even for our inner sense must be accepted merely on faith.

That is Descartes idea that we only know from God or Leibniz’s idea of theodicy as the condition for the possibility of knowledge. In that case, we would only know some object like a table is in front of us on the basis of faith.

Kant says this is outrageous. And any philosophy operating on this condition is a scandal.

4:30: Kant’s philosophy is not quite epistemology but a kind of displacement of epistemology, and exactly how that displacement occurs, how successful he is, is what the book is about.

His successes are idealist, like Hegel, or existentialist, like Heidegger—Being and Time wants to say the same thing about the scandal.

5:00: Kant’s critical system depends on there being three critiques:

  • Critique of Knowledge/Pure Reason
  • Critique of Morality/Practical Reason
  • Critique of Judgment/Beauty and Teleology

The three critiques are a displacement of the transcendentals of medieval metaphysics, those items taken to be the structures of the cosmos in medieval thought, which are in Kant broken up.

That means that the world is broken up. That is why Kant is modern. There is no longer a whole intelligible universe in which we are going to locate ourselves and find our place. That was the medieval, Aristotelian, Platonic view: there is a whole, a cosmos, of which we are a part, have a place.

7:00: The three critiques all by themselves are a displacement of that cosmological-metaphysical view of the world.

Therefore they announce modernity by saying that what used to be thought of as features of the cosmos—the nous, truth, beauty—are best thought of as features of human reason—modes or ways of thinking about or apprehending the world.

Truth or knowledge is a way of encountering objects, morality is a way of enacting our life with others, beauty is a way of appreciating objects.

8:00: The turn away from the world…

This is the fragmentation of the original unity of the world. That is part of Kant’s modernity. There is no longer a great God as the unity.

What we have to investigate is not the world in its unity but our different and irreducibly different ways of encountering the world.

What we are interested in is the world as seen not from the perspective of God, but from our own perspective.

9:00: The self-consciousness grounding Kant’s program is that he wants to think the problem of the meaning of the world as the ways in which human beings approach or encounter the world; the ways in which we take it up.

Which is to say, he is trying to articulate the very nature of what it means to be human in terms of the ways in which we encounter the world.

He tries to define what makes the human perspective on the world, human, our perspective, not some lesser way of trying to be a god or a saint, or whatever

So what Kant does to modern philosophy is changes the question, changes the topic. This is what all great philosophy does.

Tape 2 of 3

00:00: It is not a question of how human knowing approaches divine knowing. It is not the question of how we can get a God’s eye view of the natural world—which is still for many the project of natural science. The view from nowhere, as in Thomas Nagel or Bernard Williams on Descartes.

Kant says that that view is untintelligible. That project of trying to attain a God’s eye view from nowhere is untintelligible.

1:00: He doesn’t ask either how humans can approach saintliness or mimic divine goodness. The last thing you want to try to do is be like Jesus.

Kant says in the first chapter of the GMS, ‘if Jesus should appear, walking down 5th Avenue, what we need to ask is does is behavior conform to the character of the categorical imperative’. Does he behave as a good moral person as we understand that.

It is not our job to mimic him, he has to conform to our modes of morality, or he isn’t good.

This is Kant’s Copernican turn.

2:00: So Kant’s question becomes: what is it for human beings to have access to the world?

And to ask that question Kant thinks is equivalent to a view about who we are—it is a question of self-knowledge.

He says in the first introduction, p. 12:

It is a call to reason to undertake anew the most difficult of all its tasks (namely that of self-knowledge) and to institute a tribunal which will assure to reason its lawful claim and will dismiss all groundless pretensions not by despotic decrees but in accordance with its own eternal and inalterable laws. The tribunal is no other than the critique of pure reason…”

3:30: We have this idea with Kant that this book, this quest for self-knowledge, in which we are, reason is, both the judge, the prosecutor, the defendant, and the jury.

How is that possible to take up all those stances is what Kant is trying to think in his notion of ‘critique’.

‘Critique’ is that process of self-criticism that allows for that process of evaluation.

4:00: So on the story as we are telling it, Kant is the first self-conscious philosopher of finitude—trying to assert the meaning of the human against any theological metaphysical view of the human.

Therefore Kant is enacting a ‘critique of metaphysics’, as he says.

5:00: What is Kant’s essential strategy?

He tells us that what he wants to do is displace both rationalism and empiricism—displace epistemology altogether.

He wants to dissolve the dispute between rationalism and empiricism.

And the strategy is an interesting one, because in order to dissolve the stalemate, he is going to do what has come to be called using Ramsey’s maxim.

Frank Ramsey was a Cambridge philosopher who was around during the time of Wittgenstein. Ramsey’s maxim states:

it is a heuristic maxim that the truth lies not in one of two disputed views, but in some third possibility which has not yet been thought of, and which we only discover by rejecting something assumed as obvious by the two disputants

So the strategy to get around the two views in impasse, rationalism and empiricism, is to find a third view. But we find this third view by first discovering something both the disputed views agree on and negate it. You negate the premise of their debate and you start a third view.

7:00: So what then is the central thesis that both empiricists and rationalist to be true?

What are the crude mythologized view of these two positions?

In order to get what is going on in Kant, you have to have a good amount of Leibniz and Hume in your back-pocket. Along with Descartes and Locke, these are his constant talking points.

8:00: Rationalism:

For the rationalist position, Kant was always thinking Leibniz, and not Descartes, and Leibniz’s disciple Christian Wolff. Kant used Wolff’s textbook of metaphysics for many years.

Rationalism is the claim that all knowledge is rational, derived from pure reason. All ideas are, at least virtually, in us. For Leibniz, they are in us in “petite perception”—a forerunner of the unconscious—or simply as modifications of the mind before they are brought to the full light of consciousness.

For the rationalists, our perceptions of the physical world are only confused conceptions. Hence, clear and distinct sense perceptions of the kind we get through counting and measuring must conform to, if not be identical with, clear and distinct conceptions of number and magnitude.

Ultimately, it is the reducibility of ordinary perceptual knowledge to the claims of mathematical physics—in Descartes and Leibniz.

They took it that mathematical physics was a rational product of the mind.

So for the Leibnizian view, the idea is the perception = consciousness and consciousness is nothing different than the person, which is nothing different than the soul, which is no different than the “windowless monad”.

The model for Leibniz the way a Cartesian mind is at the end of the first Meditation. We don’t need to go further for Leibniz.

11:00: The question is now: how is it that if we are locked up in our own minds, if we are windowless monads and the only thing we can know is what is in our own minds—that is the claim of rationalism, then how is it that what you see and I see are the same?

June 16, 1712, in a letter to (Debass ?), Leibniz writes:

It is true that what occurs in the soul ought to agree with what takes place outside it… (but that assume there is something outside my mind, and that is what has already been denied) but for this, it is enough that events taking place in one soul correspond both with one another… (the events taking place in my soul must be internally consistent and coherent) and with those taking place in another soul. Nor is it necessary to posit anything outside all souls… (because really everything else is a soul too, even rocks, they are just low-grade souls. All the universe is nothing but souls of different levels and intensities).

13:30: This is the thesis of the pre-established harmony.

The idea is that at the beginning of time God created billions of monads, and each monad is nothing but a computer program.

The thought is that all these computer programs are coordinated with one another. So, the entire universe is formally nothing but one complex analytic judgment—it is just the program unwinding as it was set by the principles of God. God operates on some principles of elegance, like sufficient reason and non-contradiction, simplicity, etc., and this is how the universe is designed.

15:00: So for the rationalist, all knowledge is on the model of mathematics, which is to say all knowledge is taken as in principle analytic. True in terms of what it is to be that program—something that can derived from the logical manipulation of symbols.

One of the best books on Leibniz is by Bertrand Russell—a beautiful as (?)—because they are so wacky and buy into the simplicity and elegance of logic and run with it as the principle of the universe. And Russell and (?) do.

16:00: All knowledge is on the model of mathematics.
Sense perception requires pre-established harmony and is nothing but confused conceptual analysis.

The theorems of physics depend on an appeal to theodicy. The idea is that knowledge is grounded in faith. You need some idea of God who is really good, beneficent believer in analytic simplicity to design all this—the ‘great computer program in the sky’.

And Einstein thought this—God does not play dice with the universe. That is his critique of quantum physics. He thought quantum physics was simply theologically incoherent.

16:30: For this view of the computer program set for all times and places, then freedom is nothing but a wretched subterfuge. You may say as an exaggeration that there is a tacit equation between activity and understanding.

Perception is a confused conception. So if I step back from my perceptions, when I become active, instead of receiving or thinking I am perceiving, when I begin to analyze, then I grasp objects.

17:30: Empiricism:

Our mythologized empiricism begins from the thought that we learn everything from experience. Our connection to the world occurs through sensible affection.

Kant believed that if this thought were followed through consistently—and he thought that what saved Hume was that he was too sensible to follow through consistently—that if it would be followed through consistently it could only lead to skepticism.

18:30: The skepticism would be totally anti-metaphysical, anti-science, and anti-mathematics. That is what really bothered Kant.

Another way in which Kant is modern is that he takes it for granted that the best account of the physical world is the one given by Newtonian physics.

All these philosophers took for granted that if you wanted to know about the constitution of the natural world, ask natural science, which gives us the lowdown on nature.

19:00: Therefore if Humean account could not account for Newtonian science, then it was to be dismissed.

The problem for the empiricists is that universal statements are inductive and merely probable.

But since mathematical truths are necessarily true and not merely probable, empiricism must be false.

One could say that mathematics is simply the logical manipulation of symbols. And Hume takes this view in the Enquiry.

Hume has two different accounts of mathematics. One in the Treatise, which is inductive and probabilistic, and one in the Enquiry, in which he goes for an analytic account of mathematics.

There he says propositions of this kind, geometrical or mathematical, are:

…discoverable by the mere operation of thought without dependence on what is anywhere existent in the universe. Though there never were a circle or a triangle in nature, the truths demonstrated by Euclid would forever retain their certainty and evidence.

21:00: Mathematics is then just like the laws of thought itself—the manipulation of symbols in accordance with the laws of thought or logic.

This doesn’t satisfy Kant because it won’t give us what we want: an account of Newtonian physics, which includes a Euclidean account of space, because for Kant that Euclidean account of space is not just true of thought, it is true of the world.

Therefore, Hume’s view here in the Enquiry (laws of thought) is as skeptical as the first in the Treatise (inductive and probabilistic) because there is no way of justifying the application of merely logical truths of geometry to the space of physics.

If you think the physical world really is constituted in a Euclidean way, then you will be dissatisfied with empirical epistemology.

22:00: So it is still the case for empiricism that knowledge of exiting things is based on the sense.

What we will see later is that Kant’s real worry is Hume’s theory of causality.

Hume’s skepticism amounts to the thought that there is no objective knowledge of matters of fact either in or beyond experience. This is to say that there are no necessary truths about the world. It is all contingent, probable, inductive, could be the opposite. But that is to say that every bit of knowledge could be the opposite—every truth could be false.

23:00: Leibniz’s dogmatism conversely wants to claim a priori knowledge both of what is in and what is beyond experience.

Leibniz things that if you sit down at your desk and you think long and hard you can discover the truth of everything.

That is why it is said that Leibniz was the last to know everything there was to know.

24:00: Hume and Locke made all knowledge sensible or sensualized and therefore made us always passive in our relationship to the world.

Leibniz intellectualized appearances, things that seemed to be passive receptions were better realized to be analytic truths, dependent on the mind.

25:00: So what is the thesis these ostensible opposite share? What is their shared premise?

There is but one ultimate faculty of knowledge.

Mind or the sense, take your pick, but it is one or the other.

Rationalism says all knowledge comes form the mind, empiricism says all knowledge comes from the senses.

Kant says there is not one ultimate faculty of knowledge. On the contrary—this is the driving thesis of Kant, this is why at some moments Kant is screamingly obvious—his big thought is that all knowledge requires thinking and sensing in coordination with one another.

At some level it has got to be true. At some level we are both minds with active powers and bodies who receive and engage the world by sensibility, and that knowledge involves somehow coordinating these two streams—how did anyone not think of this earlier?

27:00: You have to see the power of the desire for one ultimate faculty to see the power of Kant’s breaking with that thought.

So Kant wants to claim that in order to know and to act it is necessary to both see and think.

That leads to some of the most famous passages in the CPR:

A51: Thoughts without content are empty; (so that is his critique of rationalism. Thoughts without sensible affection are empty, you can’t just have ideas in your head and think that it says something about the outside world. The world matters, you have to be in contact with it) intuitions (singular representations, sensory bits of awareness) without concepts are blind (I get bombarded by sensations. That doesn’t do anything. I’ve got to so something with them. I’ve got to work them up. Merely having a sensual perceptions, until I do something with them—which we will call conceptualizing—until I conceptualize it, it isn’t worth anything. It is just a ‘causal episode’).

29:00: That is, “it is just as necessary to make our concepts sensible as it is to make our intuitions intelligible”, to bring them under concepts.

Thoughts without content are empty; intuitions without concepts are blind. It is just as necessary to make our concepts sensible, that is to add the object to them in intuition as to make our intuitions intelligible, that is to bring them under concepts.

30:30: So the crux of the matter is that episodes that we are going to count as knowing of the world is a matter of bringing intuitions under concepts.

Next we have to get straight what are concepts, what are intuitions, and how are they going to get hooked on to one another?

31:30: Questions:

A windowless monad is a consciousness that has no relationship to anything external to it. So the most obvious thing to say about the Leibnizian world is that there is no “trans-uent” (?) causation. That is one thing externally affecting another thing is incoherent.

Windowless means everything is contained in my head. Monads are coordinated with one another but cannot touch one another. There could not be a Leibnizian account of touch.

This is Descartes’ first meditation.

Berkeley thinks that God is active. So a Berkeleyan universe is really a crazy paranoid universe—no matter where you look, God is there. You see a tree and it is God fooling with your mind.

Jay recommends Arsinage’s (?) book on Berkeley because she shows that Berkeley is a neo-Deluezian.

Kant is saying that this idea of the view from nowhere, because it imagines you could see the world from somewhere and nowhere at the same time, is a contradiction in terms.

So what we think of as modern naturalism is for him a contradiction in terms, or high-theology.

Empiricism doesn’t allow for Newtonian physics because it makes all knowledge merely probable.

The claim for Newton is that the laws of causation and all that are necessarily true.

With empiricism you have either analytic and trivial or empirical and contigent.

Tape 3 of 3

00:00: We have to acquire a certain Kantian vocabulary.

We begin with concept.
A concept is a general representation of what is common to several objects. All concepts are general. Only the use of concepts can be divided into general and particular and singular.

At A320, Kant says “A concept refers to an object mediately by means of a feature [eines Merkmal—a mark] which several things may have in common.”

Concepts refer to objects mediately. The “mediately” is important here because this is really about mediation. And the idea is that we are not in immediate contact with objects but we respond to objects by mediate features of them, which several objects have in common.

2:00: The other definition he gives of a concept is at A106 where he says that “A concept is something universal that serves as a rule”.
A rule for organizing, gathering, and “synthesizing” the objects in front of us. It is a rule governed operation.

So concepts are organizing principles for consciousness. And concepts are derived from reflection upon what appears to us.

We will talk in detail about this, because this is one of Kant’s great insights, concepts are not “mental images”

3:00:Intuition: At A320, Kant defines an intuition as a “singular representation that refers immediately to its object.”

Intuitions are a kind of representation. Namely, they are singular representations, that refer immediately to their objects.

4:00: Concept and intuition vocabulary in Kant is a version of the distinction between general and particular instances.

If any item, Kant contends, is ever to enter into our conscious experience, we must be able to classify it, to recognize it as possessing some general characteristics which it shares or could share with other items. And which are distinguishable from other such characteristics.

In order to recognize an object we must be able to see it as having some general characteristics which it could share with other objects.

So it has to be:

  1. shareable, in principle usable more than once; and
  2. it must be distinguishable from other such characteristics.

5:30: So the concept “red” refers to all the different instances of red. It is a general characteristic, multiply usable, and it is distinguishable from the concepts of yellow, green, blue, purple, as well as round, square, etc.

The concept, therefore, of “yellow” must be a general concept applicable to more than one object. And to be a legitimate empirical concept, it must be capable in principle of applying to at least one object, otherwise it is empty.

As such, there must be objects to which it might apply, even if it does not in fact because they are blue or purple.

To say that we must have concepts in order for empirical knowledge to be possible is just to say that we must have such recognitional abilities. And this is the crux of the matter.

For Kant a concept is a capacity or an ability we have. To recognize to classify, discriminate, and to organize.

7:30: That is why, as opposed to empiricism and to rationalism, a concept is not a mental image.

Both empiricism and rationalism though of concepts on the model of a mental image. That is, an impression or an idea.

What would red be for an empiricist: an impression of red.

That is nothing for Kant. Rather, to possess the concept red is to posses an ability to pick out and discriminate red objects from yellow ones.

And if you cannot do the work of discrimination, you do not have the concept.

So concept possession is tied to recognitional capacities and abilities.

8:30: So Kant is already breaking from the percpetual conception of knowledge. He is not saying that to know is to see something, to have an idea in the mind’s eye, to have some intuitive awareness. Rather for him to know is to have an ability. Hence, knowledge for Kant, all knowledge is discursive. It is a matter of judging—of doing things with concepts in relationship to objects.

9:00: No less evidently, if these abilities are ever to be exercised, we have to have something to exercise the ability on, otherwise our abilities are just sad and lonely.

There must be material on which I exercise the concepts. And these are particulars of the general concepts that I encounter in experience.

We think with concepts. Instances of concepts are always sensible, they are presented to us in sensibility. An instance is always something sensible. And the process of intuiting—Kant’s word for becoming sensibly aware—is the process for Kant whereby we become aware of particulars.

So intuitions for Kant are synonymous with what we become aware of through the process of intuiting.

11:00: This vocabulary already does get us into the two-part theory of knowledge. The very vocabulary of concepts and intuitions already requires that episodes of knowledge involve thinking—an active recognitional capacity in relation to a sensible instance in which I subsume, classify, recognize, the instance under the concept.

12:30: So Kant’s classifactory system—the concept-intuition structure—is really his way of dealing with four structural dualisms:

  • concepts against intuitions;
  • form against matter (what orders and what is ordered)
  • general or univeral against the particular;
  • spontaneous or active against passive;
  • intelligible against sensible.

And with that Platonism is gone.

14:00: The divided line is not a divided line, but is a matter of what is connected up in order to make knowledge.

It is about the synthesis of the intelligible and the sensible, that is how knowledge occurs.

The left side was rationalist, the right, empiricist.

Kant’s simple thought is that all knowledge involves both thinking and sensing. The application of concepts to intuitions is simply the overcoming of that dualism.

15:00: There is a problem here that we will come back to often.

Kant wants to say that episodes of knowledge involve the application of concepts to intuitions.

But he also wants to say that it is because of concepts, because we bring the intuition under the concept, subsume it, that we recognize the thing as the thing it is, by bringing it under a concept.

Here is the question: if we only know what a thing is in light of its being brought under a concept, how do we know which concept to apply to it?

16:30: That is, if concepts do all the work of making the sensible intelligible, then what role do intutions play independently of the concept?

They seem to get all their meaning from the concept.

One quick answer—found in Henry Allison’s book (p. 67)—this is the answer that was given by Jay’s PhD supervisor which he spent four years criticizing.

Allison says that, admitting a problem:

nevertheless, a tension if not an outright contradiction has often been noted between the official definition of an intuition as a singular representation and the account of sensible intuition. The problem is that according to Kant’s theory of sensibility, sensible intuition provides the mind only with the raw data of conceptualization, not with determinate knowledge of objects.

Such knowledge requires not only that data be given in intuition, but also that it be taken under some general description or ‘recognized in a concept’, as Kant phrases it.

So Kant says only then can we speak of the representation of an object. Only when we have used a concept can we talk about something as a representation of an object. Up to then all we have is ourselves in some indeterminate sensory state. Just a sensible state.

Kant gives clear expression to this central tenet of his epistemology in his famous formula. Intuitions and concepts constitute, therefore, the elements of all our knowledge, so that neither concept without an intuition in someway corresponding to them nor intuitions without concepts can yield knowledge.

The key to the resolution of this conflict was well expressed by WH Walsh who remarks that a Kantian sensible intuition ‘is only proleptically an awareness of a particular’.

The point here is simply that although intuitions do not in fact represent or refer to objects apart from being brought under concepts in a judgment, they can be brought under concepts, and when they are, they do represent objects.

21:00: Intiutions have the power of being a potential representation of an object, but it only actualizes that potentiality when it is brought under a concept.

The question is simply how do we know which concept we need to actualize that potentiality if the possibility of awareness all comes from the concept?

So there is a puzzle here. On the one hand, what Kant says seems to be obviously true, that knowledge involves concepts and intutions, a using of our capacities to receive data from the world and then to shape it and to form it in representations of a world and of objects.

On the other hand, it is hard to understand exactly how this process can occur in a way that allows the sensible side to do its job.

23:00: We will call this the problem of judgment.

But let’s assume for now that we can somehow overcome this problem.

24:00: Now that we have this framework, let’s see what it can do by itself.

Kant believes that just by putting this framework into place—all knowledge requires concepts and intuitions—he can refute dogmatic rationalism, metaphysics.

He does this simply by carrying on the tradition of empiricism.
Since all knowledge requires intutions, sensible perceptions of particulars, then whatever subject matter is such that no intuitions are available, then those things are outside knowledge and are nothing to us epistemically.

25:00: For example, the concept ‘God’, unless you can have an intuition of God, a sensible appearing—God, the immortality of the soul, freedom, the self, the Cartesian subject, these are all things for which no sensible intutions are available therefore we can have no knowledge of them—they are irrelevant to knowledge.

These are things that are just outside our ken, and we don’t have to exert much energy worrying about them.

Although Kant does spend some time showing what he thinks is wrong with some accounts of these things.

27:00: But Kant thought that he could do more with his conceptual apparatus. He also thought that he could refute Humean skepticism.

The challenge of rationalism for Kant is easy because there is obviously an empiricist aspect to Kant. The critique of empiricism is more complicated and difficult. Hume challenges the validity of the causal principle—namely the principle that every event has a cause, or the principle that if something occurs, something else follows from it according to a rule. These are the two different versions of the causal principle.

Kant thinks, this is part of the big game of this book, Kant thinks that the causal principle is part of the intelligibility of the world. For Kant, the thought of an uncaused event is the thought of something “miraculous”.

If you deny the causal principle, you are agreeing that there can be miracles—events that happen for no reason at all. Kant thought that that made the activity of knowing the world impossible. What do you do with a world in which miracles happen?

There is no science, there is no reasoning or argument, there is no knowledge, there is no instrumental control.

Kant is committed to the idea that we are committed to the idea that every event has a cause, and he argues even more strongly that in the second analogy, that this is necessary to imagine the temporal unity of the world. To imagine a miracle is to actually imagine a rupture in the temporal ordering of the world as a whole.

29:00: Hume argues that this principle cannot be empirical, because if it is empirical, then it is not necessary. For Hume everything empirical is contingent, and therefore not necessarily true.

But equally it could not be a truth of reason either, because then the following event would not be something that was logically distinct from its cause.

The idea of necessary connection wants to hold together two thoughts: that the cause and the effect are distinct but necessarily connected.

So for Hume, and of course he is right, heating water to 212 degrees Fahrenheit and the water boiling is not a logical truth. Clearly, there could be a world in which water boils at different temperatures.

31:00: The truth of a causal episode is not true in virtue of the meanings of the terms involved. And therefore it cannot be an analytic truth, in Humean terms.

Therefore, for Kant it is not an empirical truth because it is not necessary and it is not an analytic truth, because causality involves events that are not logically distinct.

Hence, the causal principle must be false.

32:00: A lot of the CPR is meant to answer this dilemma, and it takes about 350 pages. But in order to think about it, Kant has to come up with a whole bunch of concepts again.

He has to get rid of this Humean idea that everything is contingent and everything in the mind is analytic.

That is what is causing the problem. He has to come up with a strange new notion—the notion of the “synthetic a priori ”.

So the causal principle is going to be a synthetic a priori truth: the notion of a truth that is neither what follows from the meaning of a word—an analytic truth—nor an empirical truth that we discover in the world.

33:00: To do this we need a new vocabulary.

With Kant we are always trying to master a language, and then you figure out the practices that go along with it.

It may take 14 weeks, but the CPR is actually a very simple book. But you have to do a lot of work to get to the simplicity.

34:00: There are three sets of notions that Kant uses:

  1. a priori vs. empirical (a posteriori)
  2. analytic vs. synthetic
  3. necessary vs. contingent

36:00: Looking first at the a priori

Kant wants to say that the project of the CPR, we haven’t yet broached the program, is to show how much understanding is possible apart from all experience.

He wants to say that apart from our scientific business of looking at the world and doing experiments and coming up with theories, there is a way of standing back and reflecting back on our experience of knowing and in which we can come up with knowledge about the possibilities of knowing that do not themselves depend upon any particular episodes of knowing.

It is a question of how much we can know apart from all experience.

38:00: That is the same for him as the question of how are synthetic a priori judgments possible.

The truths of philosophy that interest Kant are synthetic a priori , but so are the truths of mathematics, geometry, and the axioms of mathematics.

So there is a whole lot of synthetic a priori truths. A priori judgments are those whose truth can be validated independently of experience.

Kant suggests no more than that necessity and universality are both sufficient conditions for something being a priori .

That is, if something is necessarily true, we have to be able to know that it is true without looking at the world—this is what it is to know independently of experience.

39:00: It follows from this that whatever is known to be true a priori cannot be falsified by experience.

Therefore what can be falsified by experience, if it is true at all, is true a posteriori.

Further, what is a posteriori true cannot be necessarily true. It contains only assumed and comparative universality for Kant, never strict universality which allows no exceptions.

Hence, any empirical causal judgment is not necessarily true.

40:30: The crux here is that a priori and a posteriori refer to the way in which judgments are validated.

A priori here means a priori before experience and a posteriori means after experience.

So a priori is simply a way of asking what can we know independently of experience, before any concrete particular experience.

41:30: If you are an empiricist, the usual claim is that the only things that can be known a priori are analytic truths.

Analytic truths and synthetic truths are types of propositions or judgments or statements and do not refer to how they are validated.

An analytic truth is a judgment or a proposition in which Kant actually gives to versions or criteria of analyticity: the container thesis and the container thesis.

43:00: The container thesis is the thesis in which Kant says the “predicate term is included in the subject term”.

So the predicate, like ‘yellow’, is included in the concept ‘gold’. Or the predicate ‘extended’ is included in the subject ‘body’.

Therefore, you don’t have to look at the world to know that a body is extended; it is true in virtue of the meaning of the concept.

It is discoverable simply through analyzing, pulling apart, the subject term.

analysis—luein, to take apart, dissolve.
[Medieval Latin, from Greek analusis, a dissolving, from analūein, to undo : ana-, throughout; see ana- + lūein, to loosen; see leu- in Indo-European roots.]

44:30: For technical reasons, this turns out to be too narrow a definition of analyticity, so analytic philosophers operate with another version—the contradiction thesis.

The contradiction thesis states that we can discover whether or not a proposition is analytic by trying to negate it. If the negation of a proposition is a contradiction, then the proposition is analytically true.

It is simply a contradiction to say ‘this is a body and it is not extended’, because what we mean by a body is that it fills space. The criterion is that holding the opposite of the proposition is impossible.

46:00: A synthetic proposition, therefore, is one in which we add to the concept of the subject a predicate which has not in any way been thought in the subject.

Subject is a concept, predicate is a concept, and we are saying that the predicate adds something to the subject.

So we better also say that we are not merely putting these two ideas together—as an empiricist would imagine it—we are not simply associating one idea with another, but we are claiming that the subject term, “table”, picks out an object of which it is true of that third thing that the predicate holds “is brown”.

So a synthetic judgment is a relationship between the subject and predicate concept with reference to a third thing.

And let’s say that the third thing is an intuition.

48:30: Synthetic judgments relate subjects and predicates to intuitions.