8 May 2010

Self & Synthesis: Summary of §16 'On the original-synthetic unity of apperception' in Kant's Critique of Pure Reason

by Corry Shores
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Self & Synthesis: Summary of <§16: On the original-synthetic unity of apperception

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
(Second) Section II: Transcendental deduction of the pure concepts of the understanding. (as in the second edition) (<§§15-27)

Important Points in this section:

- Our conscious acts are diverse. But we grasp phenomena as synthetic wholes. So there is already a unity to our diverse acts of consciousness. This is the "original apperception", the "transcendental unity of self-consciousness," the 'I think'. And, it is only on the grounds of this a priori unity of one consciousness that we may represent for ourselves the identity of our unified consciousness. For our acts of consciousness to be united with one another means that they belong together and belong to one self-same consciousness. This belonging is the mineness which serves as the ground for the common identity of all the conscious acts.

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

- For Deleuze, phenomena are not synthetic wholes. In a way, such unified objects would be anti-phenomenal, because the more homogeneity and recognizability, the less something strikes our attention, and hence the less phenomenal. Yet what makes a phenomenon so strikingly intense is the fact that phenomenal differences are contracted together. Something is phenomenal when incompatibilities are forced upon one another. So there is something like the a priori unity of consciousness in Deleuze, because there are forces that contract the fragmented parts together. However, synthesis for Deleuze is not like mixing red dye with blue dye to get purple. In that case, the red and blue get subtracted and together they synthesize into something beyond the parts. For Deleuze, the parts get pressed so tightly together that no time or space intervenes. In our consciousness, we have phenomenal experiences when our bodies are forced to process impressions which do not blend together like dyes. So on the one hand, we have something like an a priori unity of consciousness, because something forces the phenomenal differences together into a composite act of sensation. But the parts retain their distinctness, despite being pressed together so that nothing separates them. So the a priori 'unity of consciousness' in Deleuze's sense is more like two facets of a crystal. Both are distinct, yet both are crystallized together. We continually repeated that the different parts of consciousness are pressed so tightly that nothing extends between them. This fracture or crack, then, is not extensive, but rather intensive. The a priori 'unity of consciousness' is crystal consciousness, an intensive crack that fuses our internal fractured minds, which are our internal fractured selves. For Kant, our inner intuitions take the form of time. All our inner intuitions would all mix together if we did not already receive them as occurring successively in time. Because we already receive them as temporal, we must then have an a priori form of time. All things in time change, but this a priori form itself does not change. Deleuze calls it the empty form of time. But note again that what allows there to be a succession of mental acts is the fact that they are already united by one consciousness. So for Kant, it would seem that time is grounded on our a priori unity of consciousness, that is, our I think, our subjectivity, our ego, our 'I'. But as Deleuze shows, this unity of consciousness is based on a fracture in our selfhood. The I think cannot present itself simply and instantaneously. It requires that there be primarily a manifold of representations that secondarily are regarded as belonging to the same consciousness. Yet this requires that our selves split between (1) the part of us that sees the diversity of conscious acts all as one unified identity and (2) the parts of us as they express themselves in each of those acts which are secondarily unified. So in a way, our primary fractured selfhood allows us be self-consciously self-unified secondarily, and this unification of fractures is what allows there to be a succession of internal intuitions. For otherwise, if each act of consciousness were not somehow forced together so to belong with the others, they would not be thought to chain together, and hence there would not be the succession needed for temporality. Hence time arises on account of the inner fracture of our selfhood. It is only because our minds force parts together that they can obtain the forces which allow for one to crystallize with the next, to succeed one another. Deleuze characterizes the empty form of time with Ozu's still lifes, which express profound intense change in the image of changelessness. So for Deleuze, there is something like an empty form of time. But that form is structured around an internal fracture intensified by crystallization. In a sense, Deleuze's empty vessel of time is like a cracked vase, showing the effects of time, the forces of contraction and separation that provide the transcendental ground for time to come into its expressions.

§16: On the original-synthetic unity of apperception

[Let's recall some points Kant made previously. We receive phenomena in parts that are given to us through succeeding moments. Because they are in fragments, they themselves are not already synthesized together into more complete apprehensions of phenomenal objects. However, we receive them as pieces even before we form them into wholes. So there is already a unity to them. But this unity is not found in the pieces, hence it must lie in our consciousness itself. There would need already to be a synthetic unity to our series of conscious moments. So they would all need to belong to one same consciousness, which is us, the "I". Because it is an act of consciousness, this I is always thinking (or performing some other similar act of consciousness), so we may consider it as the "I think". It is necessary for us to mentally grasp any full phenomenon or concept. If we did not have this unifying 'I think', then we would have internal representations that could not be unified and thought about. Now we can only think about what is represented in our minds. Representations come when we mentally grasp something, that is, have intuitions. In order for the 'I think' to hold together over the different moments of consciousness, there needs to be a reflexive and reflective dimension to it, where it is self-aware throughout its changing acts. So the 'I think' must itself be some sort of representation that can be mentally grasped. But it precedes all experience, so it cannot be a posteriori. It must instead be an a priori intuition.] Kant explains that "The I think must be able to accompany all my representations" in the form of an intuition. "Thus all manifold of intuition has a necessary relation to the I think in the same subject in which this manifold is to be encountered." [B132; p.246d] But as we noted, this intuition is a priori. I cannot come about by means of our sensibility. It must rather arise spontaneously.

I call it the pure apperception, in order to distinguish it from the empirical one, or also the original apperception, since it is that self-consciousness which, because it produces the representation I think, which must be able to accompany all other and which in all consciousness is one and the same, cannot be accompanied by any further representation. I also call its unity the transcendental unity of self-consciousness in order to designate the possibility of a priori cognition from it. For the manifold representations that are given in a certain intuition would not all together be my representations if they did not all together belong to a self-consciousness; i.e., as my representations (even if I am not conscious of them as such) they must yet necessarily be in accord with the condition under which alone they can stand together in a universal self-consciousness, because otherwise they would not throughout belong to me. [B131; p.246-247]
Our empirical consciousness is fragmented in accordance with the fragments of phenomena that appear to us. So our own identity as a subject is not found in our empirical consciousness. It is also not found in the fact that I am conscious in each fragment. Rather, the unity and identity of us as subjects comes from the fact that we add one representation to another and are conscious of their synthetic unity [which is grounded in the a priori unity of our own acts of consciousness].

Therefore it is only because I can combine a manifold of given representations in one consciousness that it is possible for me to represent the identity of consciousness in these representations itself, i.e., the analytical unity of apperception is only possible under the presumption of some synthetic one. The thought that these representations given in intuition all together belong to me means, accordingly, the same as that I unite them in a self-consciousness, or at least can unite them therein, and although it is itself not yet the consciousness of the synthesis of the representations, it still presupposes the possibility of the latter, i.e., only because I can comprehend their manifold in a consciousness do I call them all together my representations; for otherwise I would have as multicolored, diverse a self as I have representations of which I am conscious. Synthetic unity of the manifold of intuitions, as given a priori, is thus the ground of the identity of apperception itself, which precedes a priori all my determinate thinking. Combination does not lie in the objects, however, and cannot as it were be borrowed from them though perception and by that means first taken up into the understanding, but is rather only an operation of the understanding, which is itself nothing further than the faculty of combining a priori and bringing the manifold of given representations under unity of apperception, which principle is the supreme one in the whole of human cognition. [B134; p.247bc-248]
[In order for various different acts of consciousness to synthesize together, there must already be a unified consciousness. For consciousness to be unified, one act of consciousness must already belong with the others, and all must belong to one consciousness. This belonging-together and belonging-to is the mineness that underlines the unified identity of all my acts of consciousness.]

Note also that this unity of apperception is self-identical. [In a sense, it is like a tautology, so ] it is an analytic proposition rather than a synthetic one. Nonetheless, we can only have this self-identity if there are different acts of consciousness that come to be identified with one another. So the I think must be given through a manifold, which is combined in our consciousness and unified. [In other words, even though our identity is not made-up of parts, it can only be realized by means of parts which bear the unity of our consciousness and that can be identified as our own.]

Now this principle of the necessary unity of apperception is, to be sure, itself identical, thus an analytical proposition, yet it declares as necessary a synthesis of the manifold given in an intuition, without which that thoroughgoing identity of self-consciousness could not be thought. For through the I, as a simple representation, nothing manifold is given; it can only be given in the intuition, which is distinct from it, and thought through combination in a consciousness. An understanding, in which through self-consciousness all of the manifold would at the same time be given, would intuit; ours can only think and must seek the intuition in the senses. I am therefore conscious of the identical self in regard to the manifold of the representations that are given to me in an intuition because I call them all together my representations, which constitute one. But that is as much as to say that I am conscious a priori of their necessary synthesis, which is called the original synthetic unity of apperception, under which all representations given to me stand, but under which they must also be brought by means of a synthesis. (B135-136; p.248b.c)

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

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