Kant, Infinite Space, and Decomposing Synthesis


Draft for presentation at the 14th International Kant-Congress, September 2024. Abstract: Kant claims we intuit infinite space. There’s a problem: Kant thinks full awareness of infinite space requires synthesis—the act of putting representations together and comprehending them as one. But our ability to synthesize is finite. Tobias Rosefeldt has argued in a recent paper that Kant’s notion of decomposing synthesis offers a solution. This talk criticizes Rosefeldt’s approach. First, Rosefeldt is committed to nonconceptual yet determinate awareness of (potentially) infinite space, but I argue that such awareness is (1) prima facie implausible, as well as contravened by textual evidence from Kant’s (2a) definitions of ‘infinity’ and (2b) account of geometrical construction. Second, scrutiny of how Kant thinks awareness of potential infinity is afforded by geometrical construction (e.g., extending a line segment ad indefinitum) indicates no essential role for decomposing synthesis. Familiar synthesis from parts to wholes is sufficient.

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Aaron Wells
Paderborn University


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