Kant on the Givenness of Space and Time

European Journal of Philosophy 30 (3):877-898 (2022)
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Famously, Kant describes space and time as infinite “given” magnitudes. An influential interpretative tradition reads this as a claim about phenomenological presence to the mind: in claiming that space and time are given, this reading holds, Kant means to claim that we have phenomenological access to space and time in our original intuitions of them. In this paper, I argue that we should instead understand givenness as a metaphysical notion. For Kant, space and time are ‘given’ in virtue of three related facts: (i) they are necessary grounds of the existence of all other spatial and temporal possibilities; (ii) in virtue of being such grounds, they are metaphysically linked to all other represented spatiotemporal things; and (iii) as representations, space and time issue from the nature of our faculty of sensibility rather than from an arbitrary act of choice. Understanding givenness in this non-epistemological way helps us recover what is plausible in both ‘intellectualist’ and ‘anti-intellectualist’ readings of the Transcendental Aesthetic. Anti-intellectualists are correct that space and time are given in mere sensibility, but intellectualists are correct that we depend on the understanding for consciousness of space and time.

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Rosalind Chaplin
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


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