8 Apr 2010

The Undetermined Objects of Our Judgments: Summary of 'On the logical use of the understanding in general' in the Critique of Pure Reason

by Corry Shores
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The Undetermined Objects of Our Judgments: Summary of 'On the logical use of the understanding in general' of the 'Transcendental Logic' in the 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 I: On the clue to the discovery of all pure concepts of the understanding

Section I: On the logical use of the understanding in general

Kant previously defined understanding negatively: it is the non-sensible faculty of cognition. Now, all intuitions involve sensibility. So because the understanding is non-sensible, it is also not a faculty of intuition. Intuition is one type of cognition. And understanding is another type. But there are no other sorts of cognition. So whenever we cognize by means of concepts, we use the understanding, and it is a discursive understanding and not an intuitive one.

Our intuitions are sensible, hence they require that we be affected in some way. But conceptual understanding will not be conducted by means of affection. So rather it is a spontaneous ordering of different representations under a common one. Kant calls the unity of the action doing this ordering a 'function'. So, "All intuitions, as sensible, rest on affections, concepts therefore on functions" (A68/B93; p.205a).

The only thing that our understanding can do with concepts is to judge by means of them. Recall that only in intuitions do our representations relate immediately to their object. Concepts then would never relate immediately to an object. Rather, their relation is always mediated by some other representation, which could be an intuition (or to some other concept that is again related to an intuition either immediately or mediately). [When we judge something, we predicate it with a concept. This would produce a representation of that concept. But the concept is already a mediate representation, hence] judgment is a mediate cognition of an object and is thus the representation of a representation of it.

Consider a judgment: "All bodies are divisible." In all judgments, we have a concept that holds of many. In this case, divisibility is a concept that holds of many bodies. The concept of many bodies is related immediately to intuitions of bodies. So in the judgment "All bodies are divisible", the concept of divisible is related to various other concepts, here namely, the concept of body, which itself is related to "certain appearances that come before us". In this way, the appearing objects are mediately related to the concept of divisibility. So we see that a judgment is a function (a concept-organizing activity) that unites many representations under a higher one. This way, many possible cognitions are drawn into one cognition. Now, all actions of the understanding involve these sorts of judgments. Hence we may consider the understanding as a faculty for judging.

When we think, we cognize by means of concepts. And these concepts are predicates of possible judgments, just as 'divisible' is a concept that predicates 'all bodies' in the judgment "All bodies are divisible". [But, because they are only mediately related to objects,] concepts as predicates are related to representations of still undetermined objects. So what makes 'bodies' a concept is the fact that other representations are found under it, and form the grounds for 'bodies' to be related to objects. For this reason we may say, "Every metal is a body," because 'metal' is such a concept falling under 'body' (and metal can be related to our intuitions of metals in our actual experiences).

From the text of the Meiklejohn translation:

The understanding was defined above only negatively, as a non -- sensuous faculty of cognition. Now, independently of sensibility, we cannot possibly have any intuition; consequently,


the understanding is no faculty of intuition. But besides intuition there is no other mode of cognition, except through conceptions; consequently, the cognition of every, at least of every human, understanding is a cognition through conceptions -- not intuitive, but discursive. All intuitions, as sensuous, depend on affections; conceptions, therefore, upon functions. By the word function I understand the unity of the act of arranging diverse representations under one common representation. Conceptions, then, are based on the spontaneity of thought, as sensuous intuitions are on the receptivity of impressions. Now, the understanding cannot make any other use of these conceptions than to judge by means of them. As no representation, except an intuition, relates immediately to its object, a conception never relates immediately to an object, but only to some other representation thereof, be that an intuition or itself a conception. A judgement, therefore, is the mediate cognition of an object, consequently the representation of a representation of it. In every judgement there is a conception which applies to, and is valid for many other conceptions, and which among these comprehends also a given representation, this last being immediately connected with an object. For example, in the judgement -- "All bodies are divisible," our conception of divisible applies to various other conceptions; among these, however, it is here particularly applied to the conception of body, and this conception of body relates to certain phenomena which occur to us. These objects, therefore, are mediately represented by the conception of divisibility. All judgements, accordingly, are functions of unity in our representations, inasmuch as, instead of an immediate, a higher representation, which comprises this and various others, is used for our cognition of the object, and thereby many possible cognitions are collected into one. But we can reduce all acts of the understanding to judgements, so that understanding may be represented as the faculty of judging. For it is, according to what has been said above, a faculty of thought. Now thought is cognition by means of conceptions. But conceptions, as predicates of possible judgements, relate to some representation of a yet undetermined object. Thus the conception of body indicates something -- for example, metal -- which can be cognized by means of that conception. It is therefore a conception, for the reason alone that other representations are contained under it, by means of which it can relate to objects. It is therefore the


predicate to a possible judgement; for example: "Every metal is a body." All the functions of the understanding therefore can be discovered, when we can completely exhibit the functions of unity in judgements. And that this may be effected very easily, the following section will show.

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

Full text taken from:
Kant. Critique of Pure Reason. Transl. J.M.D Meiklejohn.
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