Kant’s Threefold Synthesis on a Moderately Conceptualist Interpretation

  • Dennis SchultingEmail author


In this chapter, I advance a moderately conceptualist interpretation of Kant’s account of the threefold synthesis in the A-Deduction. Often the first version of TD, the A-Deduction, is thought to be less conceptualist than the later B-version from 1787 (e.g. Heidegger 1991, 1995). Certainly, it seems that in the B-Deduction Kant puts more emphasis on the role of the understanding in determining the manifold of representations in intuition than he does in the A-Deduction. It also appears that in the A-Deduction the seemingly pre-conceptual aspects of a priori synthesis, namely those of the synthesis of apprehension and the imagination, are more prominently featured than in the B-Deduction. And the fact that in the A-Deduction judgement does not appear to play any significant role reinforces the view that the A-Deduction is less strongly conceptualist. I believe that Kant is a conceptualist also in the A-Deduction (as much as in the B-Deduction) in the sense that all syntheses, which are expounded in the second section of the A-Deduction, must be seen as involving the categories or the understanding as the seat of the categories. However, despite some apparent strong modal claims regarding apperception in the A-Deduction, I argue that Kant is a moderate conceptualist in the sense that he allows for the real possibility that some representations are apprehended that are not subsumed or subsumable under the categories, or determined or determinable by the understanding as the seat of the categories. Not all representations must be synthesised and hence be conceptualised (by means of the categories), nor are all representations necessarily conceptualisable (by means of the categories). More in particular, I shall argue for the claims that (1) appearances to the contrary, all three levels of syntheses in the A-Deduction, including the synthesis of recognition, are interdependent and are not to be seen as operating singly or independently of each other, and hence of the categories; (2) ‘mere’ apprehension, or ‘mere’ intuition, is not dependent on the understanding and the application or possible application of the categories; and that (3) ‘mere’ apprehension does not even invoke a priori synthesis of apprehension and hence is as such fully lawless in terms of Kantian a priori laws. In this context, I also address Kant’s argument in the A-Deduction about the role of the imagination in the production of spatial objects and explain his apt use of the example of cinnabar to show that the kind of association that is at issue here concerns the possibility of knowledge, not the possibility of mere association, as is often assumed.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Independent ScholarCarboneraItaly

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