9 Apr 2010

The X of Apperception: Summary of §3: 'On the synthesis of recognition in the concept' of the 'Transcendental Logic' in Kant's Critique of Pure Reason

by Corry Shores
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The X of Apperception: Summary of §3: 'On the synthesis of recognition in the concept' 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)

Previously Kant explained certain conditions for us mentally grasping an object. To do so, in the first place there must be some coherence to the object. Its features must be found together in most of its appearances. That way they have a sort of coherence to how they appear. On the other hand, there needs to be a coherent way that we synthesize its parts together into one object. This means that we need already to be geared to bring parts together (to comprehend the apprehensions) in order for us to mentally grasp the object or the concept for it. Thus there must be in the imagination an a priori transcendental synthesis, which we might think-of as our being-geared to bring parts together, or our way of receiving parts as parts that will come to make-up a hole.

§3: On the synthesis of recognition in the concept

[Consider if we are mentally grasping something. For example, we are examining an antique vase. What would happen if each instant we were not aware that what we saw was identical with what we just saw? It would not matter then if we could remember what we saw in previous moments, because we would not have reason to bring them together, to comprehend them as parts of one whole object. So even though we have a common act of gradually perceiving its parts, those parts will not be able to relate to this act insofar as it is an ongoing action. And thus] because there would not be a unity of consciousness of the object, there would then also be no unity to the object itself. "If, in counting, I forget that the units that now hover before my senses were successively added to each other by me, then I would not cognize the generation of the multitude through this successive addition of one to the other, and consequently I would not cognize the number; for this concept consists solely in the consciousness of this unity of the synthesis" (A103; p.230).

To conceive something is to take-in-together and unify a manifold. This requires that there be one consciousness doing so. Concepts, then, require this unified consciousness.

Now we will consider the objects that correspond to cognitions. Things that appear to us are sensible representations. But concepts that we cognize are not appearances or sensible representations in this way. So within conception itself, there are only concepts, and not appearances. Hence the object corresponding to cognition cannot have sensible determinations. It must rather be 'something in general = x' (A104).

Just as a concept for an object has a certain unity, our cognitions of that object must likewise agree with each other.

The unity of the object (X) then is our consciousness' already being geared to organize representations; that is to say, it is the 'formal unity of the consciousness in the synthesis of the manifold of the representations'.

Now let's consider the example of a triangle. We will conceive it as a figure with three lines. This is not only a rule for how to conceive, but also how to recognize it. In fact in an even more profound sense, our imaginations, when perceiving the lines of a triangle, synthesize it according to a rule, namely, that if we see three lines coming together in a triangular way, then we organize and synthesize our apprehensions so that we see a triangle. But this same rule is what our cognitions use to conceive a triangle as a concept. The triangle as a concept is a rule of its composition. Kant writes:

we say that we cognize an object if we have effected synthetic unity in the manifold of intuition. But this is impossible if the intuition could not have been produced through a function of synthesis in accordance with a rule that makes the reproduction of the manifold necessary a priori and a concept in which this manifold is united possible. Thus we think of a triangle as an object by being conscious of the composition of three straight lines in accordance with a rule according to which such an intuition can always be exhibited. Now this unity of rule determines every manifold, and limits it to conditions that make the unity of apperception possible, and the concept of this unity is the representation of the object = X, which I think through those predicates of a triangle. (A105; 231-232)

Hence there is a rule shared by our cognitive faculties and by our imagination that serves to bridge our concepts and perceptions. This rule governs the coherence of the object. The concept for the unity of the object's parts is the object = X. In this case, we are thinking the object = X when we conceive the predicates of a triangle, that is, the rule for synthesizing its apprehended parts.

So, there must be a unity to our consciousness, which allows us to conceive of objects and to comprehend them from our apprehensions. When speaking of a unity of consciousness, we seem to be hinting at a self or a consciousness of oneself. We need some ground for why consciousness is already unified, and this would seem to be explainable in terms of a unified self or self-consciousness that has this comprehensions and cognitions.

We might then think of two sorts of self-consciousness. Consider again when we view a vase or a cathedral. We have a stream of different sensory apperceptions. Likewise, we can sense ourselves and have a stream of inner impressions of ourselves. They would be then empirical apperceptions. But these are variable. They do not by themselves have a unity. Hence there must be a transcendental apperception that provides the ground for all other such apperceptions. For there to be any objectivity unity, our intuitions and conceptions need to be related to such a transcendental apperception.

Kant writes that if our minds could not be aware that there is one same activity that unifies a manifold into one cognition, then our consciousness would not have this unity which we say is the grounds for these other unifications. Kant goes on to write: "the mind could not possibly think of the identity of itself in the manifoldness of its representations, and indeed think this a priori, if it did not have before its eyes the identity of its action, which subjects all synthesis of apprehension (which is empirical) to a transcendental unity, and first makes possible their connection in accordance with a priori rules" (A108; p.233b).

The object = X is a unity. All appearances relate to it, but it never appears to us. And the object = X correlates to our concepts, but we cannot conceive it. It is related to the unity of our consciousness which is the grounds for our perceptions and conceptions to share correlated coherences. This all requires that there be rules for the unifications of appearances. Kant writes regarding the relation between the unity of a manifold of consciousness with its object that
this relation, however, is nothing other than the necessary unity of consciousness, thus also of the synthesis of the manifold through a common function of the mind for combining it in one representation. Now since this unity must be regarded as necessary a priori (since the cognition would otherwise be without an object), the relation to a transcendental object, i.e., the objective reality of our empirical cognition, rests on the transcendental law that all appearances, insofar as objects are to be given to us through them, must stand under a priori rules of their synthetic unity, in accordance with which their relation in empirical intuition is alone possible, i.e., that in experience they must stand under conditions of the necessary unity of apperception just as in mere intuition they must stand under the formal conditions of space and time; indeed, it is through those conditions that every cognition is first made possible. (A109-110; p.233-244)

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

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