Pure Understanding, the Categories, and Kant's Critique of Wolff

In Kate Moran (ed.), Freedom and Spontaenity in Kant. Cambridge University Press (2018)
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The importance of the pure concepts of the understanding (i.e. the categories) within Kant’s system of philosophy is undeniable. As I hope to make clear in this essay, however, the categories are also an essential part of Kant’s critique of Christian Wolff. In particular, I argue that Kant’s development of the categories represents a decisive break with the Wolffian conception of the understanding and that this break is central to understanding the task of the Transcendental Analytic. This break, however, is not merely that Kant affirms while Wolff and his followers deny a sharp distinction between sensibility and the understanding, which is the aspect of Kant’s rejection of Wolff that scholars most frequently note. Rather, this break concerns differences in their views about the understanding itself. For while Wolff conceives of the understanding as a mental capacity to extract and make distinct content already present in the senses, Kant conceives of the understanding in its “real use” as a capacity to produce purely intellectual content.
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