Synthesis and Imagination

  • Gary Banham


The attempts to substantiate a deduction strategy beginning either from the form of judgment or from the transcendental unity of apperception have proven unsuccessful and this has led to a substantiation of our view that it is in fact requisite to articulate a conception of the deduction beginning from a discussion of a priori synthesis. Thus far, the argument to this effect has proceeded by a process of elimination of alternatives but now it is necessary to show that we can illuminate the nature of the Transcendental Deduction in our preferred manner. This will require articulating principally the notion of the transcendental synthesis of imagination. As with our previous chapters we will not proceed here by first setting out a general hermeneutic strategy with regard to the texts of the deduction but rather from a process of reconstruction that will respond to readings of it that have brought to our attention what we take to be particularly pertinent considerations. However, we can state a number of points at the initiation of this reading that will set out parameters that will be important for us in assessing both Kant’s own discussions and reconstructions of them.


Deduction Argument Sheer Receptivity Transcendental Subjectivity Pure Intuition Transcendental Unity 
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  1. 1.
    Paul Guyer (1979) “Review” of Henrich (1976), The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 76, No. 3, p. 166.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    These problems relate fundamentally to Paul Guyer (1982b) “Kant on Apperception and A Priori Synthesis”, American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 17, No. 3, particularly p. 211.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    This is at any rate my reading of the account in Paul Guyer (1986) “The Failure of the B-Deduction”, The Southern Journal of Philosophy, Vol. XXV, Supplement.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Paul Guyer (1989) “Psychology and the Transcendental Deduction” in Eckart Forster (ed.) (1989) Kants Transcendental Deductions: The ThreeCritiquesand theOpus Postumum”, Stanford: Stanford University Press, p. 59.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    P. F. Strawson (1974b) “Preface” in Strawson (ed.) (1974c) Freedom and Resentment and Other Essays, London: Methuen & Co. Ltd, p. vii. I would like to thank Mike Garfield for bringing this volume, and particularly the essay on imagination in it which I will now be turning to, to my attention.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    P. F. Strawson (1970) “Imagination and Perception” in Strawson (ed.) (1974c), p. 45.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    Wilfrid Sellars (1978) “The Role of the Imagination in Kant’s Theory of Experience” in H. W. Johnstone, Jr (ed.) Categories: A Colloquium, Penn. State: Pennsylvania State University. I am not here referring, however, to the published form of this article but to the hypertext copy of it transcribed by Andrew Chrucky as part of his invaluable website Problems From Wilfrid Sellars. The URL for this article is and the version I downloaded was accessed on 10/04/02. Chrucky’s transcription retains the paragraph numbers of the original and it is to these I will refer.
  8. 13.
    The picture to which Sellars is objecting is well presented in the description of receptivity given by Rae Langton, a description correctly set out there as diametrically opposed to that of Sellars and, interestingly, couched in Strawsonian terms. See Rae Langton (1998) Kantian Humility: Our Ignorance of Things In Themselves, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, Chapter 2 passim. Google Scholar
  9. 14.
    Wilfrid Sellars (1967) “Some Remarks on Kant’s Theory of Experience” in W. Sellars (1974) Essays In Philosophy and Its History, Dordrecht and Boston: D. Reidel Publishing Company, p. 54.Google Scholar
  10. 22.
    Edmund Husserl (1920–5) Analyses Concerning Active and Passive Synthesis: Lectures on Transcendental Logic, translated by Robert Steinbock, Dordrecht and London: Kluwer, 2001, p. 410. These lectures are central for the formation of Husserl’s late notion of transcendental genesis, a notion that advances significantly on the early adoption of static analysis in the first formulations of phenomenology. The relationship between genetic methodology and transcendental thought in Husserl is one that requires considerable research, not least in relation to the development of Husserl’s responses to Kant and the Neo-Kantianism prevalent in the early decades of the twentieth century.Google Scholar
  11. 27.
    Edmund Husserl (1929) Formal and Transcendental Logic, translated by Dorion Cairns, The Hague: Martinus Nijhof f, 1969, §§99–100 states the thought adumbrated here that effectively Kant’s failure to transcendentally investigate logic itself results in a confusion of the production of sense with the activities of certain “faculties”.Google Scholar
  12. 28.
    Martin Heidegger (1927–8, §12, p. 103). This statement echoes one made in the pages of Being and Time where Heidegger states: “The first and only person who has gone any stretch of the way towards investigating the dimension of Temporality or has even let himself be drawn hither by the coercion of the phenomena themselves is Kant.” Martin Heidegger (1927) Being and Time, translated by J. Macquarrie and E. Robinson, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1978, p. 45.Google Scholar
  13. 42.
    This “speculative proposition” is one that perhaps indicates a certain short path from Kant to Hegel. It would though be one that would have the difficulty that the Hegelian movement, whilst beginning from a reflective comprehension of logic, has to relate such reflexivity to something that is modelled not on a Kantian limitative model but on a Fichtean expansive one, a movement that would require a great deal of philosophical work. For considerations of why it might not be a movement easy or worthwhile to make, see Karl Ameriks (2000) Kant and the Fate of Autonomy: Problems in the Appropriation of the Critical Philosophy, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

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© Gary Banham 2005

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  • Gary Banham

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