Attention and Synthesis in Kant's Conception of Experience

Philosophical Quarterly 67 (268):571-592 (2017)
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In an intriguing but neglected passage in the Transcendental Deduction, Kant appears to link the synthetic activity of the understanding in experience with the phenomenon of attention (B156-7n). In this paper, we take up this hint, and draw upon Kant's remarks about attention in the Anthropology to shed light on the vexed question of what, exactly, the understanding's role in experience is for Kant. We argue that reading Kant's claims about synthesis in this light allows us to combine two aspects of Kant's views that many commentators have thought are in tension with one another: on the one hand, Kant's apparent commitment to naïve realism about perception and, on the other, his apparent commitment to the necessity of synthetic activity by the understanding for any kind of cognitive contact with external objects.

Author Profiles

Markos Valaris
University of New South Wales
Melissa M Merritt
University of New South Wales


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