2 Nov 2008

Kant’s Common Measure and Normal Idea

by Corry Shores
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The imagination is able to "reproduce the image and shape of an object out of an immense number of objects of different kinds” by superimposing “one image on another and by means of the congruence of several of the same kind to arrive at a mean that can serve them all as a common measure” (§17 118c). Thus for example, the imagination superposes the thousands of grown men one has seen, and “in the space where the greatest number of them coincide and within the outline of the place that is illuminated by the most concentrated colors, there the average size becomes recognizable, which is in both height and breadth equidistant from the most extreme boundaries of the largest and smallest statures; and this is the stature for a beautiful man. (One could get the same result mechanically if one measured all thousand men, added up their heights, widths (and girths) and then divided the sum by a thousand. But the imagination does just this by means of a dynamic effect, which arises from the repeated apprehension of such figures on the organ of inner sense.)” (118-119).

This average is something’s normal idea (119b).

[CS: the mechanical means seems to correspond to the digital, and the dynamic to the analog.]

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

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