29 Apr 2010

Self, the Swarm: Summary of §4 'Provisional explanation of the possibility of the categories as a priori cognitions' in Kant's Critique of Pure Reason

by Corry Shores
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Self, the Swarm: Summary of §4: 'Provisional explanation of the possibility of the categories as a priori cognitions' of the 'Transcendental Logic' in Kant's Critique of Pure Reason

Immanuel Kant
The Critique of Pure Reason
I. Transcendental Doctrine of Elements
Part 2: Transcendental Logic
Division 1: Transcendental Analytic
Book I: Analytic of Concepts
Chapter II: On the deduction of the pure concepts of the understanding
Section II: On the a priori grounds for the possibility of experience. (as in the first edition)

Important Points in this section:

-The unity of consciousness implies that there is just one overarching experience.

-Empiricism cannot explain such necessary laws as for example causation; for, to regard one impression as associatively following another is to already have an a priori unity of consciousness that makes possible our bringing together those two different impressions in the first place.

Points Relative to Deleuze [to be revised as we learn more. These points are mere speculations.]:

- Kant's unity of consciousness is a form of self-awareness. Yet this implies an internal split within oneself between the self as perceiver and self as perceived. The parts of ourselves that we are perceiving would be internal appearances of ourselves. Internal intuitions are conditioned by the a priori representation of time (for they come in succession). So we could only appear to ourselves if those appearances happened in time. But note two things: 1) This empty form of time is metaphorically like a space or room (an empty vessel) that allows successive mental acts to be brought together. But this bringing together of various actions presupposes there is already a unity of consciousness. 2) For our disjoint self-perception, we need to unify the appearances of ourselves, which also implies a unity of consciousness. For Deleuze this unity of consciousness is a disjunction. So time in its most fundamental form is based on an internal disjunction of ourselves. Time in this way is 'out of joint,' and this disjunct time is also the unchanging a priori (empty form) of time that contains change but does not itself change. As always disjunction, it is always difference. This is one of the ways that for Deleuze, time is derived from difference itself.

Summary of the Prior Section:

When we mentally grasp something, we take it in part-by-part. When counting to ten, we could not have forgotten the nine before arriving at the ten. Likewise, we could not have forgotten the eight before landing on nine. And so on. With each counted number, there is an overall unification of all the preceding parts that compose the object we are grasping. So previously we discussed how when we are mentally grasping (intuiting) an object, there must be a unity not just among the parts of the object but also among the successive mental acts of perceiving this object. Now, in order for all the different acts of consciousness to be united, they must all be the actions of one unified consciousness.

Our successive acts of apprehending an object we sense will each tell us something determinate about that object. We learn bit-by-bit the object's properties. After our imagination synthesizes the parts and comprehends them together into a unified object, we may match the object with its concept in our faculty of understanding. But this concept is not something that has the determinate particulars of our sense perceptions. It is as if our minds know how to select from our synthesized objects what qualifies as being some particular concept, even though that concept does not contain descriptions of the particular determinations of that object we recognize. So our concept for apple, perhaps, would not include all the sense data that we detect when viewing some actual apple. The concept may tell us the apple could be red, green, or yellow, but the actual shade of color that we see in apples is only a part of our perceptions. Our imaginations then work from the perspectives of both our senses and from our understanding at the same time, to keep them in accord. It does so by means of rules telling it both how to organize our partial apprehensions while at the same time telling us how to recognize the object once it is synthesized. So for example, the concept of the triangle tells our imagination that when sensing something whose parts suggest triangularity, to bring those parts together as a triangle. Of course, we don't know at the very beginning that what we see is a triangle. It could be a diamond. Hence this might perhaps be why there is a free play of our faculties. The imagination synthesizes and recognizes according to rules, but it is at the same time free to play around with different possibilities for organizing our perceptions, before finding the right fit.

Our concepts then enable us to recognize all particular instances of apple only because the concept has been stripped of determinations. Kant calls it the object = x. We might regard the object = x in an even more general way. The very fact that while apprehending the world around us, we go about already as though what we see are parts and not wholes. So even before comprehending the parts together to make a whole, we already behave as though we can be sure these parts will make-up some whole. The continuous unity of our consciousness might more properly be called the transcendental non-empirical object = x.

This unity of our consciousness also suggests that there might be some self-same self in us who is one self having many different acts of consciousness. So while viewing the parts of the triangle, we have apprehensions of its parts. But these apprehensions also form representations within us. Thus if we go about mentally grasping things as though there is a pre-given unity to all the different apperceptions, then perhaps it is because part of us in some way is continually aware of the unity of all these acts of consciousness. It would be like an implicit form of self-consciousness. Because it grounds all the various acts of awareness, we might call it the transcendental apperception.

§4: Provisional explanation of the possibility of the categories as a priori cognitions

Because there is this pregiven unity of consciousness, we would say then that there is just one underlying experience, and all our individual experiences are really just parts of this one overarching experience.

Without this unity "it would be possible for a swarm of appearances to fill up our soul without experience ever being able to arise from it" (A111; p.234b). But also, because this unity is what allows us to unify the parts of objects that we apprehend, without it, we would not be able to relate to objects. We would have intuitions without thoughts, but never any cognitions.

Kant now clams that the concepts of understanding (the Table of Categories) are "the conditions of thinking in a possible experience" (A111; p.234c). Because they are the conditions of possibility for cognition, they have a priori objective validity.

These categories enable us to unify and recognize our apprehensions. Hence they depend on the unity of consciousness, "the original apperception, in which everything is necessarily in agreement with the conditions of the thoroughgoing unity of self-consciousness, i.e., must stand under universal functions of synthesis, namely of the synthesis in accordance with concepts, as that in which alone apperceptions can demonstrate a priori its thoroughgoing and necessary identity" (A111-112; p.234-235). So consider our concept of causation. It allows us to unify one appearance with another that follows it. There must be an a priori unity of consciousness holding even before these appearances are synthesized.

[Note how for Hume, the concept of causation is not an a priori concept. We find that one impression often follows another. So when we next have the first impression, we have a strong tendency to call into mind the second one. See this entry for more.] Kant is saying that in order for us to associate two impressions to begin with, there needs already to be an a priori principle of unification that makes the unity possible from the start. And also, we think of causation as applying with necessity. Yet our experiences only tell us about appearances that customarily follow one another, not ones that necessarily follow. Nonetheless, we associate the manifold parts of our apprehensions because within the object we find some kind of affinity between the parts, "by means of which they stand under constant laws and must belong under them" (A113; 235c).

This affinity between apperceptions lies in the fact that they are all shared by one numerically-identical original apperception.

This unity of apperception holds universally for all our apperceptions. Thus it is a rule or law. (if it "can be posited [it] is called a rule, and if it must be so posited, a law"). "All appearances therefore stand in a thoroughgoing connection according to necessary laws, and hence in a transcendental affinity, of which the empirical affinity is the mere consequence" (A113-114; 235-236).

Yet we see then that nature appears to us according to our own subjective laws, and this might seem strange. However, nature is merely a 'sum of appearances', a 'multitude of representations'. The unity of this sum is only possible if there is a unity of our consciousness. If Nature gave herself to us as it is in itself independent of our subjective unity of consciousness, then we would not then consider nature as a unified object to begin with. (A114; 236b)

Summary based on:
Kant. Critique of Pure Reason. Eds. & Transls. Paul Guyer and Allen Wood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

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