3 Nov 2008

Deleuze’s Uncommon Interpretation of Kant’s ‘Common Sense’

Corry Shores
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When discussing Kant’s notion of common sense, Deleuze adds an unconventional meaning, the common exercise of the faculties, which might at first seem unfounded in Kant’s text. The following will explore the paragraphs in the Critique of Judgment which provide for Deleuze’s interesting construal of Kant’s common sense.

In §20, Kant distinguishes common sense from common understanding. Judgments of taste may be made according to either a subjective or objective determination. In subjective judgments of sensory taste, one still presumes that this judgment holds universally, but does not come to that conclusion by means of concepts. To presume that one’s judgments of sensory taste hold universally for all people requires the principle of common sense, which means that one holds that all people subjectively sense something in such a similar manner as to come to the same judgment about it. In contrast, when one makes a judgment of taste by means of concepts that leads one to believe that the judgment holds universally and necessarily, then the judgment was made according to a principle of common understanding (122b).

We can know that a judgment or mental state is common sense (shared universally) when it is communicable, which occurs even in cases of sensuous comprehensions. Objects are given to us sensuously in pieces, in a series of apprehensions, and the imagination synthesizes this manifold and unifies it with a concept in the understanding. This harmonious exercise of the faculties has a pleasant feeling that although subjective is universally communicable, because the same object activating the same faculties in all people should produce the same feeling, and this is Kant’s common sense (§21 122-123).

So because the common sense that is universal among all people is grounded individually in everyone’s harmonious facultative exercises, Deleuze connects these two sorts of common sense under the same term, and writes “Our supposition of a ‘communicability of feeling’ (without intervention of a concept) is therefore based on the idea of a subjective accord of the faculties, in so far as this accord itself forms a common sense (CJ paras 39,40)” (Deleuze 49).

Deleuze, Gilles. Kant’s Critical Philosophy: The Doctrine of the Faculties. Transl. Hugh Tomlinson & Barbara Habberjam. London: The Athlone Press, 1984.

Kant, Immanuel. Critique of the Power of Judgment. Transls. & Eds. Paul Guyer & Eric Matthews. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000

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