9 Apr 2010

Synthesizing Cinnabar: Summary of §2 'On the synthesis of reproduction in the imagination' in Kant's Critique of Pure Reason

Synthesizing Cinnabar: Summary of §2 'On the synthesis of reproduction in the imagination' 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)

§2: On the synthesis of reproduction in the imagination

[Consider how thunder is normally preceded by flashes of lighting. We come to associate the two. So when we see the flash, we then expect the thunderclap.] Kant writes: "It is, to be sure, a merely empirical law in accordance with which representations that have often followed or accompanied one another are finally associated with each other and thereby placed in a connection in accordance with which, even without the presence of the object, one of these representations brings about a transition of the mind to the other in accordance with a constant rule" (A100; p.229). [When our minds think of the lightning, they then reproduce the thunder. Hence] this 'constant rule' is a law of reproduction. But our minds would only associate thunder and lightning, for example, if they appeared together constantly in our experiences. Hence the world around us needs to have a coherence and regularity in order for our minds to have these consistencies in their associations:
This law of reproduction, however, presupposes that the appearances themselves are actually subject to such a rule, and that in the manifold of their representations an accompaniment or succession takes place according to certain rules; for without that our empirical imagination would never get to do anything suitable to its capacity, and would thus remain hidden in the interior of the mind, like a dead and to us unknown facility. If cinnabar were now red, now black, now light, now heavy, if a human being were now changed into this animal shape, now into that one, if on the longest day the land were covered now with fruits, now with ice and snow, then my empirical imagination would never even get the opportunity to think of heavy cinnabar on the occasion of the representation of the color red; or if a certain word were attributed now to this thing, now to that, or if one and the same thing were sometimes called this, sometimes that, without the governance of a certain rule to which the appearances are already subjected in themselves, then no empirical synthesis of reproduction could take place. (A100-101; 229d)

We only perceive appearances, and not things in themselves. In this section, Kant seems to be referring to two ways that the appearances are coherent. As we mentioned above, there needs to be regularities to how things appear to us. Then he discusses another ground for the coherence of objects. We might describe it as our always already being geared to pull parts of apprehensions together into a coherent whole. There is already a synthesis, even before we have experiences.

So perhaps it is not enough that things as they appear to us do so coherently and in regular ways. For it is conceivable that we still just apprehend their parts without putting them together. [Imagine if we have no short-term memory whatsoever. As we look from one end of a giant cathedral to the next, by the time we get to the other end, we have forgotten the beginning, and thus we do not realize the full extent of the structure. In fact, every instant of our viewing the cathedral would yield us just a part that we would regard as the whole. Hence] we must in the first place have some power of reproduction, to maintain the previous parts. But just as importantly, we need already, even before experiencing [the cathedral], to be geared to synthesize the apprehended parts in a coherent way. Since our experiences depend on this comprehension of apprehensions, what we need then, is a pure a priori transcendental synthesis of the imagination to ground the possibility for our experiences.

As we noted, our comprehensions require that we reproduce past apprehensions. Kant writes:
Now it is obvious that if I draw a line in thought, or think of the time from one noon to the next, or even want to represent a certain number to myself, I must necessarily first grasp one of these manifold representations after another in my thoughts. but if I were always to lose the preceding representations (the first parts of the line, the preceding parts of time, or the successively represented units) from my thoughts and not reproduce them when I proceed to the following ones, then no whole representation and none of the previousl mentioned thoughts, not even the purest and most fundamental representations of space and time, could even arise.
The synthesis of apprehension is therefore inseparably combined with the synthesis of reproduction. (A102; p.230)

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

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