Kant’s Conception of Logical Extension and Its Implications

Dissertation, University of California, Davis (2012)
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It is a received view that Kant’s formal logic (or what he calls “pure general logic”) is thoroughly intensional. On this view, even the notion of logical extension must be understood solely in terms of the concepts that are subordinate to a given concept. I grant that the subordination relation among concepts is an important theme in Kant’s logical doctrine of concepts. But I argue that it is both possible and important to ascribe to Kant an objectual notion of logical extension according to which the extension of a concept is the multitude of objects falling under it. I begin by defending this ascription in response to three reasons that are commonly invoked against it. First, I explain that this ascription is compatible with Kant’s philosophical reflections on the nature and boundary of a formal logic. Second, I show that the objectual notion of extension I ascribe to Kant can be traced back to many of the early modern works of logic with which he was more or less familiar. Third, I argue that such a notion of extension makes perfect sense of a pivotal principle in Kant’s logic, namely the principle that the quantity of a concept’s extension is inversely proportional to that of its intension. In the process, I tease out two important features of the Kantian objectual notion of logical extension in terms of which it markedly differs from the modern one. First, on the modern notion the extension of a concept is the sum of the objects actually falling under it; on the Kantian notion, by contrast, the extension of a concept consists of the multitude of possible objects—not in the metaphysical sense of possibility, though—to which a concept applies in virtue of being a general representation. While the quantity of the former extension is finite, that of the latter is infinite—as is reflected in Kant’s use of a plane-geometrical figure (e.g., circle, square), which is continuum as opposed to discretum, to represent the extension in question. Second, on the modern notion of extension, a concept that signifies exactly one object has a one-member extension; on the Kantian notion, however, such a concept has no extension at all—for a concept is taken to have extension only if it signifies a multitude of things. This feature of logical extension is manifested in Kant’s claim that a singular concept (or a concept in its singular use) can, for lack of extension, be figuratively represented only by a point—as opposed to an extended figure like circle, which is reserved for a general concept (or a concept in its general use). Precisely on account of these two features, the Kantian objectual extension proves vital to Kant’s theory of logical quantification (in universal, particular and singular judgments, respectively) and to his view regarding the formal truth of analytic judgments.

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Huaping Lu-Adler
Georgetown University


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