Getting Acquainted with Kant

In Dennis Schulting (ed.), Kantian Nonconceptualism. London: Palgrave-Macmillan. pp. 171-97 (2016)
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My question here concerns whether Kant claims that experience has nonconceptual content, or whether, on his view, experience is essentially conceptual. However there is a sense in which this debate concerning the content of intuition is ill-conceived. Part of this has to do with the terms in which the debate is set, and part to do with confusion over the connection between Kant’s own views and contemporary concerns in epistemology and the philosophy of mind. However, I think much of the substance of the debate concerning Kant’s views on the content of experience can be salvaged by reframing it in terms of a debate about the dependence relations, if any, that exist between different cognitive capacities. Below, in Section 2, I clarify the notion of ‘content’ I take to be at stake in the interpretive debate. Section 3 presents reasons for thinking that intuition cannot have content in the relevant sense. I then argue, in Section 4, that the debate be reframed in terms of dependence. We should distinguish between Intellectualism, according to which all objective representation (understood in a particular way) depends on acts of synthesis by the intellect, and Sensibilism, according to which at least some forms of objective representation are independent of any such acts (or the capacity for such acts). Finally, in Section 5, I further elucidate the cognitive role of intuition. I articulate a challenge which Kant understands alethic modal considerations to present for achieving cognition, and argue that a version of Sensibilism that construes intuition as a form of acquaintance is better positioned to answer this challenge than Intellectualism.

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Colin McLear
University of Nebraska, Lincoln


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