Subsuming ‘determining’ under ‘reflecting’: Kant’s power of judgment, reconsidered

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy (2021)
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Kant’s distinction between the determining and reflecting power of judgment in the third Critique is not well understood in the literature. A mainstream view unifies these by making determination the telos of all acts of judgment (Longuenesse 1998). On this view, all reflection is primarily in the business of producing empirical concepts for cognition, and thus has what I call a determinative ideal. I argue that this view fails to take seriously the independence and autonomy of the ‘power of judgment’ [Urteilskraft] as a higher cognitive faculty in its own right with its own a priori principle. Instead of seeing merely reflecting judgments as failed or incomplete acts of judgment, I argue that these are in fact paradigmatic of the activity of the power of judgment. More precisely, the reflecting power of judgment just is the power of judgment. Accordingly, reflecting judgment takes precedence over determining judgment; while the former operates according to a law that it gives itself, the latter requires another higher cognitive faculty to provide its principle. On my view, reflecting judgment should be understood as the capacity for purposive subsumption—most clearly seen in the activity of mere reflection.

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Nicholas Dunn
Bard College


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