Apperception and Synthesis

  • Gary Banham


The result of the investigations of the last two chapters has been to show that on the one hand there is a limit to “austere” constructions of an account of objectivity from the very nature of judgment alone but that once one admits to the need for an account of synthesis there are parallel difficulties with comprehending how “synthesis” is itself possible. What any cautious philosophical inquiry into the nature and possibilities of a transcendental description of experience would deduce from these outcomes is that we need, in the first instance, to describe how the description of apperception can reveal reciprocal connections between the nature of consciousness and the nature of its awareness of “objects”. This requires us to think of the model of a form of “transcendental psychology” that can be based on an account of apperception that is still conceived of in an “austere” way, that is with minimal reference to the machinery of synthesis. The prime exemplar of such an approach is Strawson’s description of the strategies for a transcendental argument that will justify the notion of objectivity from what seems to be required even to have a conception of consciousness itself. The nature and the limits of this approach will hence be our first quarry.


Numerical Identity Transcendental Subjectivity Entailment Thesis Functionalist Reading Transcendental Unity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 2.
    P. F. Strawson (1966) The Bounds of Sense: An Essay on KantsCritique of Pure Reason”, London and New York: Routledge, p. 72.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    For an important recent critical reconstruction of Fichte’s appeal to the notion of reflection in the context of tracing an Idealist trajectory that begins with an account of the transcendental deduction, see Kryiaki Goudeli (2002) Challenges to German Idealism: Schelling, Fichte and Kant, London and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, especially Chapter 3.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Dieter Henrich (1969) “The Proof -Structure of Kant’s Transcendental Deduction”, The Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 22, p. 642.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    Paul Guyer (1986) “The Failure of the B-Deduction”, Southern Journal of Philosophy, Vol. XXV, Supplement, p. 73.Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    Guyer could of course reply that our view as given here involves a more complex chain of argument than Kant gives in §15 but to this it is possible simply to state that Kant’s argument here has condensed the chain of considerations that we have adduced and that the point in any case is primarily to think of what the required premises of Kant’s arguments are, not whether he in each case states them all. When we referred in the text above to “experience” in the standard empiricist sense we were of course thinking of the difficulty of capturing the two senses of “experience” that Lewis White Beck has well described in his distinction between “Lockean” and “Kantian” experience (or L and K experience). See Lewis White Beck (1975) “Did the Sage of Konigsberg Have No Dreams?”, Essays on Kant and Hume, New Haven and London: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  6. 13.
    James Van Cleve (1999) Problems From Kant, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, p. 79.Google Scholar
  7. 15.
    Patricia Kitcher (1990) Kants Transcendental Psychology, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, p. 122. On these grounds she denies that what is described by the transcendental unity of apperception are, as Strawson thought, properties of “persons”, stating that Kant’s theory is one “of ‘mental’ rather than ‘personal’ unity” (p. 123).Google Scholar
  8. 17.
    Patricia Kitcher (1999) “Kant on Self-Consciousness”, The Philosophical Review, Vol. 108, No. 3, p. 381.Google Scholar
  9. 19.
    Andrew Brook (1994) Kant and the Mind, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 55–6.Google Scholar
  10. 22.
    Pierre Keller (1998) Kant and the Demands of Self-Consciousness, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 22–3.Google Scholar
  11. 23.
    There is an intriguing parallel to this passage in Husserl who writes the following at one point: “If now we perform an act of cognition, or, as I prefer to express it, live in one, we are ‘concerned with the object’ that it, in its cognitive fashion, means and postulates. If this act is one of knowing in the strictest sense, i.e. if our judgement is inwardly evident, then its object is given in primal fashion (originar). The state of affairs comes before us, not merely putatively, but as actually before our eyes, and in it the object itself, as the object that it is, i.e. just as it is intended in this act of knowing and not otherwise, as bearer of such and such properties, as the term of such relations etc.” Edmund Husserl (1900–1901) Logical Investigations, translated by J. N. Findlay (1970), partially modified by D. Moran, London and New York: Routledge, 2000, p. 145, my emphasis. Noticeably however here for Husserl it is the identity of the state of affairs that is presented in this way, not the identity of the act of presentation of it by a principle like the unity of apperception. That Husserl increasingly came to feel such a principle was however necessary led to his adoption of a position he termed “transcendental idealism” subsequently. Charting the relationship between this notion and Kant’s and the relationship and difference between the two conceptions of apperception would be a major work which I hope to attempt elsewhere. Suffice it here to say however that when Husserl arrives at this principle in Ideas I he draws directly upon the discussion of apperception in §16 of the B-Deduction.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Gary Banham 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gary Banham

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations