Kantian Conceptualism

In Guenther Abel & James Conant (eds.), Rethinking Epistemology. De Gruyter. pp. 1--197 (2011)
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Abstract
In the recent debate between conceptualists and nonconceptualists about perceptual content, Kant’s notion of intuition has been invoked on both sides. Conceptualists claim Kant as a forerunner of their position, arguing that Kantian intuitions have the same kind of content as conceptual thought. On the other hand, nonconceptualists claim Kant as a forerunner of their own position, contending that Kantian intuitions have a distinctly nonconceptual kind of content. In this paper, I argue first, that both sides are wrong about Kant, secondly, that neither side can properly account for the epistemic function of intuition, and thirdly, that Kant’s own notion of intuition contains the resources for a third alternative. The epistemic function of an intuition for Kant is to furnish the sensory representation of an object of cognition. Conceptualism cannot account for this function because it construes perception as a species of thought. As a proper appreciation of Kant’s reasons for insisting upon the heterogeneity of thought and perception puts one in a position to see, any view that does this will fail to do justice to the distinctly sensory nature of intuition. Nonconceptualism, on the other hand, cannot account for the epistemic function of intuition because it views intuition as self-standing, and thus as completely independent from thought. As a consequence, nonconceptualism is not entitled to claim that an intuition is itself a cognitive state. I show that Kant’s actual view avoids both these extremes because it involves a different way of conceiving how perception is informed by conceptual thought. Building on this conception, Kant is able to preserve the distinctly sensory nature of intuition, while also securing proper cognitive standing for it. As a result, Kant’s notion of intuition provides the resources for an alternative account of how thought relates to the senses – one that avoids the shortcomings of the positions staked out in the contemporary debate
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The Kantian (Non)‐Conceptualism Debate.Colin McLear - 2014 - Philosophy Compass 9 (11):769-790.

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