10 Aug 2015

Somers-Hall, (3.4), Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition, ‘3.4 Kant and the Postulate of Representation (134–8/170–4)’, summary

Corry Shores
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[The following is summary. All boldface, underlining, and bracketed commentary are my own. Proofreading is incomplete, so please forgive my typos and other distracting mistakes. Somers-Hall is abbreviated SH and Difference and Repetition as DR.]

Summary of

Henry Somers-Hall

Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition:
An Edinburgh Philosophical Guide

Part 1
A Guide to the Text


Chapter 3. The Image of Thought

3.4 Kant and the Postulate of Representation (134–8/170–4)


Brief summary: 

We see the first four postulates of the problematic image of thought in Kant: 1) good sense: reason is adequate to thinking, with the limitation that it can only think by means of intuitions of the things themselves and not think those things themselves as themselves, as in Descartes. 2) common sense: the faculties operate cooperatively to synthesize the cognized object, although this is enabled by the transcendental unity of the self and not by the powers of reason, as in Descartes. 3) recognition: by means of the common sense operation of the faculties, we may recognize the object. 4) representation: the faculties recognize the object as a representation with the four problematic qualities of representations, namely, a) identity: that an object has a self-same unified identity to which the determinations relate, b) analogy: the determinations are grasped as belonging to that object by means of an analogy between their intuitive and their conceptual manifestations, c) opposition: the object’s determinations are selected in part by knowing which ones are opposed to it, and d) resemblance: and they are selected also on the basis of knowing which ones resemble one another in their common belonging to that object.



[Recall our discussions of Kant’s reliance on an active transcendental self in his accounts of representational thinking. This prevented him from giving an account of the passive synthesis that is responsible for the original genesis of that representational thinking.] “In the previous chapter, we saw that Kant’s reliance on the subject as constituting experience prevented him from developing an account of the genesis of representation” (108). Deleuze has an ambivalent relationship to Kant, since he also says that Kant was equipped to overturn the image of thought (108). Later SH will return to other ways Deleuze favors Kant. For now we look at how Kant’s  notion of reason goes against Descartes, and suggests that there are limits to what reason can accomplish. [I do not clearly understand this part of the text. Let me quote it:]

for now, we can note that Kant does not claim as Descartes does that thinking is naturally commensurate with things in themselves. Instead, objects are always given in an intuition of space or time: ‘Intuition and concepts constitute, therefore, the elements of all our knowledge, so that neither concepts without an intuition in some way corresponding to them, nor intuitions without concepts, can yield knowledge’ (Kant 1929: A50/ B74). These two claims lead to the fact that reason no longer has a ‘natural right’ to correspond to objects, and also to the claim that we | will explore later that if reason operates without reference to intuition, then it generates what Kant calls ‘transcendental illusions’. In this respect, Kant opposes the Cartesian view that the faculty of reason is, when operating in accordance with its own interests and without the negative influence of the other faculties, free from error. Rather than renounce the image of thought, however, Deleuze claims that Kant simply attempts to determine the bounds of reason, and to delimit its sphere of legitimate employment.

[So, there is a difference between how Descartes and Kant view the powers of reason, with Kant thinking it has less powers than Descartes. I am having a little bit of trouble understanding is exactly how they differ. Descartes thinks that “thinking is naturally commensurate with things in themselves”. So reason has a natural right to correspond to objects. But why is it that for Kant reason (at least sometimes) does not (have the right to) correspond to its objects? It has something to do with the fact that objects are always given in an intuition of space and time, and that knowledge is only possible when concepts and intuitions correspond with each other. But since this correspondence is required for knowledge, it would seem to be similar to Descartes’ notion that that reason is naturally commensurate with the things themselves. In other words, for Kant, our intuitions of things are commensurate with our understanding and perhaps also to our reason. So where is the difference? Is it that Kant’s intuitions are not the things themselves, and thus their correspondence with concepts is not a correspondence between reason and the things themselves? Or is it that reason is capable of thinking things to which no intuitions correspond? Or am I confusing reason and understanding in Kant? From the text that follows, it seems the problem is that reason cannot access the real world but only the intuitions, which are already synthetically structured a priori in a way which is distorted since it conforms to the structures of the understanding. At any rate, somehow for Kant, good sense as Descartes understands it does not hold. In the following text, I do not quite understand what is meant with the metaphor of “civil rights” in Deleuze saying that Kant’s critique gives “civil rights to thought considered from the point of view of its natural law”, but perhaps it reiterates the point that reason does not have full rights but only limited ones in understanding things. The next idea recalls the argument regarding incongruent counterparts. SH offers this very helpful example in the comments to section 2.2. “Another way to work through Kant’s points about incongruent counterparts is to consider a scalene triangle with sides 3cm, 4cm, and 5cm. If I just talk about the relations of parts, then we can say that the 3cm side is connected to the 4cm and 5cm sides, the 4cm side to the 3cm and 5 cm side, and so on. Even knowing all of the relations between sides, however, we could still construct two triangles (a left and a right handed triangle) which couldn’t be superimposed on one another on a plane. That shows that not all of the determinations of the triangle can be understood purely in terms of the relations of parts (as Leibniz would claim). To fully determine the triangle, we need an extra-conceptual notion of spatiality to capture their handedness.” So if we think of a 3-4-5 triangle, and we imagine the 3-side being on the left for one triangle and on the right for another, we would not on the basis of our understanding know which is which. We instead need a notion of spatiality which grants the figure the space to be flipped the other way. Concepts and intuitions are not entirely adequate to one another, and thus we conclude they are different in kind (I suppose since faculties which are like in kind would be fully adequate to one another. I am not sure however what would be an example of faculties that are like in kind so to better grasp this distinction. Perhaps for example imagination and intuition are more like in kind, since anything we can see we can imagine, and anything we can visually imagine can by some technical means be created for us to see. However, not everything we intuit can be conceived, since we can intuit but not conceptualize right and left handed triangles.) So this gives us the problem that we have faculties that differ in kind but somehow they operate commonly.]

In the preface to the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant proclaims ‘a call to reason to undertake anew the most difficult of all its tasks, namely, that of self-knowledge, and to institute a tribunal which will institute to reason its lawful claims, and dismiss all groundless pretensions, not by despotic decrees, but in accordance with its own eternal and unalterable laws’ (Kant 1929: Axi–xii). For this reason, Deleuze claims that Kant’s critique ‘at most amounts to giving civil rights to thought considered from the point of view of its natural law’ (DR 136/173). In attempting to show that the object conforms to our forms of cognition, Kant’s project can be seen as a radical attempt to formulate a coherent image of thought, with the core of the Critique concerning itself with the problem of common sense. While objects may conform to our sensibility, concepts and intuition are different in kind, as the incongruent counterparts argument shows. The central problem of the transcendental deduction can be interpreted along these lines as determining how a common sense can exist between faculties that differ in kind in this way.

Kant’s transcendental deduction solves this problem, since each of the faculties contributes in their own way the conditions of possible experience. Intuition provides the manifold of data that is to be synthesized and recognized. But the connections between the parts of the manifold are provided by the imagination. And the understanding provides the unity to these parts which allows them to be recognized as determinations of one same object.

The transcendental deduction solves this problem as each of the faculties plays a role in meeting the conditions of possible experience. The procedure involved three syntheses. First, the manifold is ‘run through’ by the faculty of intuition. In order for it to appear as connected, however, these connections need to be taken up by the imagination, as we need to not simply reproduce past moments, but also to recognise them as reproduced. Finally, to provide coherence to these various moments, they need to be seen as moments related to the same object. This final stage therefore relies on a conceptual determination of the experience as the successive presentation of the same object.

[Recall that the first three postulates of the image of thought are good sense (that reason is adequate for thinking), common sense (different faculties work in common to recognize a common object, which is an ability shared commonly by all people), recognition (I think, that the object synthesized by the common sense can be recognized as this or that object, although possibly erroneously. Deleuze writes: “(3)  the postulate of the model, or of recognition (recognition inviting all the faculties to exercise themselves upon an object supposedly the same, and the consequent possibility of error in the distribution when one faculty confuses one of its objects with a different object of another faculty)” (DR Continuum edition, p.167).) We see these three postulates in Kant’s model. The good sense is the notion that thinking can produce knowledge, but with the limitation that it can only work with intuitions (and I am not sure what it is unable to work with, for Kant. Perhaps it is the things in themselves). The common sense is perhaps the unity of the transcendental self which provides the unity for the synthesis of the manifolds. (But I am not sure. SH writes: “In fact, for Kant, common sense is not this ‘I think’, which is rather a result of the operation of common sense at a transcendental level. Common sense is therefore provided by the transcendental unity of apperception.” Perhaps the idea is that the faculties have different representations of different kinds. So the understanding for example might have a conceptual representation for a triangle, and intuitions give us sense intuition representations, and the imagination gives us organized image representations. And perhaps the “I think” accompanies all three sorts of representations. The reason it can do so is because all three types of representations find their unity on their own level on the basis of a unified transcendental self and as well the unity of their coordination in that same unity of the self. The difference with Descartes then might be that for Descartes, the cognitive act itself has the power to unify all the representations, but for Kant it lacks that power, and rather, there is before that a unity of the self which provides the unity for the unities of thinking.). I do not understand the rest of the paragraph, which is about recognition, so I will quote it. I am sorry that I cannot take it apart. My best guess is that the idea is the following. In Kant, the object is unified from the start on account of the unity of apperception. Thus it is not unified through our reason or understanding, like in Descartes.]

The transcendental deduction therefore provides Kant’s own model of the first three postulates of the image of thought. The good nature of thought is maintained, albeit only when thinking is related to a manifold of intuition. As we saw in the previous chapter, Kant claims that ‘It must be possible for the “I think” to accompany all our representations’ (Kant | 1929: B131–2). As Kant noted, however, it is not necessary for the ‘I think’ always to accompany our representations, and we often just find ourselves preoccupied with the world without any explicit reference to ourselves. In fact, for Kant, common sense is not this ‘I think’, which is rather a result of the operation of common sense at a transcendental level. Common sense is therefore provided by the transcendental unity of apperception. In this sense, Kant differs from Descartes in that for Descartes, common sense is provided by the cogito, whereas for Kant, since the transcendental unity of apperception precedes experience to make it possible, we have what Deleuze calls a ‘logical common sense’ (DR 137/173) that makes possible the analytical unity of the ‘I think’. We can further note that whereas Descartes proceeds from the axiom of the cogito to common sense, and the recognition of the object through judgement, for Kant, common sense and the notion of the object presuppose one another. Thus, as we saw, Kant claims that the subject can only recognise itself as a self if it is able to distinguish itself from its representations. This in turn is only possible if those representations are taken as referring beyond themselves to the object. But the notion of an object is in turn only possible as the result of the synthetic activity of the subject: ‘it is the unity of consciousness that alone constitutes the relation of representations to an object’ (Kant 1929: B137). Deleuze therefore claims that what Kant has really provided is a corrective to Descartes’ project: ‘Therefore the real (synthetic) formula of the cogito is: I think myself and in thinking myself, I think the object in general to which I relate a represented diversity’ (KCP 15–16/14).
(SH 110)

We turn now to the fourth postulate of the image of thought, which is representation. We saw it for the most part already when discussing Aristotle’s logic in the first chapter. Here he says there are four “shackles” of representation that we can map onto Aristotle’s taxonomy of species and genera (110).

There are four principal ‘aspects’ to reason, in so far as it is the medium of representation: identity in the form of the undetermined concept; analogy, in the relationship between ultimate determinable concepts; opposition, in the relations between determinations within concepts; resemblance, in the determined object of the concept itself. (DR 29/37)
(SH 110)

We will see now how they map onto the moments of Kant’s transcendental deduction. 1) Identity: our various representations are unifiable by relating them to a central unity, and this is “the identity of the object in the synthesis of recognition” (110-111). 2) Analogy: in order for representations to be related to that central unity, there needs to be an affinity between the way we know things and they way they are structured as objects. [It is “an analogy between the rules governing our knowledge of objects and the rules governing the structure of objects themselves” (111).] 3) Opposition: there are temporally various moments that must be taken together as moments of the same object. For this, we need to know that it is the same object now that it was in the past. This requires that we know what it would be like for it to be otherwise, as we need to know which moments not to include. 4) Resemblance: but we also need to know which ones to include, which we do on the basis of their resemblance. We also note how common sense is at work, since any of these operations requires more than one faculty [for example, to know that one intuition resembles another, we no longer have the other one available to intuition, so we need to compare it to one retained in the imagination. I may not have interpreted this part of the paragraph correctly, so let me quote it:]

First, in order to have experience, we need to relate our different representations to a | central unity (the identity of the object in the synthesis of recognition). This in turn relies on an analogy between the rules governing our knowledge of objects and the rules governing the structure of objects themselves. Now, in order for these various moments to be related together into a unity, they must have some kind of affinity with one another. This affinity requires that the same properties obtain in the object now and at some moment in the past (if cinnabar were not always red, ‘my empirical imagination would never find opportunity when representing red colour to bring to mind heavy cinnabar’ [Kant 1929: A100–1]). In order to determine whether a present object is an instance of a type, we therefore need the notion of opposition (red/not-red). Finally, in order to recognise this affinity, we need to be able to determine whether the object presented by a memory and the object presented by perception have the same property. As we are dealing with different representations, this is achieved by a comparison that determines whether the representations resemble one another. Thus in order for recognition to function, we require the structures of representation to provide the machinery for recognising that we are dealing with the same object, through the diversity of perceptual experience. We can note further that apart from the identity of the transcendental unity of apperception, which is the fulcrum of Kant’s theory of common sense for Deleuze, each of the other operations takes place between faculties (so, for instance, resemblance is a resemblance between representations given to the imagination and intuition), and so provide the notion of communicability between faculties which is the foundation of common sense.

Citations from:

Somers-Hall, Henry. Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition. An Edinburgh Philosophical Guide. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University, 2013.

Or if otherwise noted:

Deleuze, Gilles. Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton, New York: Columbia University Press, 1994/London: Continuum, 2004.

Deleuze, Gilles. Kant’s Critical Philosophy: The Doctrine of the Faculties, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984/London: Continuum, 2008.

Kant, Immanuel (1929), Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith, London: St. Martin’s Press.





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