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On Brentano's Objections to

Kant's Theory of Knowl edge Stephan Kdrner


ABSTRACT. The mai n p u r p o s e of t hi s essay is t o exami ne
Br ent ano' s r ej ect i on of Kant ' s t heor y of a pr i or i c onc e pt s and
synt het i c a pr i or i j udgment s . The essay begi ns by recal l i ng t he vi ews
of Des car t es and Locke about t he acqui si t i on of knowl edge, si nce
Br e nt a no r egar ds t he m as on t he whol e c or r e c t o r , . a t l east , as
poi nt i ng in t he ri ght di r ect i on and si nce he r egar ds Kant ' s epi s t emol -
ogy as obs cur ant i s t and r eact i onar y ( Sect i on l ) . The r e f ol l ows a br i ef
char act er i zat i on of Br e nt a no' s c onc e pt i on of knowl edge as bas ed on
sel f - evi dent i nner pe r c e pt i on and anal yt i c pr opos i t i ons , i.e. pr opos i -
t i ons whi ch ar e t r ue ex terminis ( Sect i on 2). Next s ome as pect s of
Kant ' s epi s t emol ogy ar e c o mp a r e d wi t h c or r e s pondi ng f eat ur es of
Br ent ano' s doc t r i ne ( Sect i on 3). I n t he light of t hi s c ompa r i s on t he
validity of Br ent ano' s cr i t i ci sms is exami ned ( Sect i on 4). In concl u-
si on an i nde pe nde nt vi ew of t he f unct i on of c onc e pt s and of t hei r
r el at i on t o pe r c e pt i on is bri efl y out l i ned and cont r as t ed wi t h t he
vi ews of Kant and Br e nt a no ( Sect i on 5).
1. De s c a r t e s and Lo c k e o n k n o wl e d g e and its
a c qui s i t i o n
Descartes, who according to Brentano "initiated
modern philosophy", proposed the methodological
principle "not to admit without proof any proposition
which is not immediately evident". Brentano regards
this requirement as "fully justified". 1 For our purpose it
is sufficient to consider Descartes' 3rd Rule 2 that in
order to acquire scientific knowledge (scientia) one
"must seek that which we can see clearly and with
evidence (clare et evidenter) or deduce with certainty
(certo deducere)". Knowledge, to put it even more
briefly, is based on intuition and deduction. To agree
with this requirement - - as did Brentano and many
others -- is not necessarily to accept what Descartes
meant by "intuition" and "deduction".
Indeed the main shortcoming of Descartes' various
attempts at characterizing these notions is that he does
not succeed to make their meaning clear. This is why
comment at ors frequently disagree about their meaning,
why those who use his definitions as criteria of certainty
or self-evidence frequently arrive at different results and
why his successors, in particular Brentano and Husserl,
Topoi 6 ( 1987) , 11- - 17.
9 1987 by D. Rei del Publishing Company.
considered it necessary to replace the Cartesian notions
of intuition and deduction by their own rather different
ones. It is sufficient here to recall Descartes' definitions
given in Rules f or the Direction of the Mind. There he
defines intuition or, more precisely, intellectual intuition
as "the conception free from doubt of an unclouded and
attentive mind" which comes "from the light of reason
alone". 3 And he defines deduction as the recognition of
a necessary connection which consists in "one thing's
being so implied in the concept of another in a confused
sort of way that we cannot conceive either distinctly, if
we judge them to be disjoined from each other". 4
While it does not seem necessary here to demon-
strate the ambiguity of Descartes' notion of intellectual
intuition, it seems useful to emphasize that his notion of
"deduction" is that of an ampliative and not of a
deductive inference. That this is so follows not only
from his definition of necessary connection, but also
from his disdainful remarks about deductive logic,
which he identified with the largely Aristotelian logic of
his day. A characteristic remark on the alleged useless-
ness of that logic, as compared with his own method of
extending knowledge, is found in the second part of the
D&cours sur la M&hode. There he remarks that "the
syllogisms and the greater part of the other teaching
served better in explaining to others the things one
knows . . , than in learning what is new".
Brentano contrasts not only Descartes' protora-
tionalist but also Locke' s protoempiricist conception of
knowledge with the allegedly decadent conception of
Kant. Locke shares with Descartes the conviction that
all knowledge is based on either "intuition" or "deduc-
tion" or, as he puts it, is either "intuitive" or "demonstra-
tive". Locke' s conception of intuitive and demonstrative
knowledge differs from Descartes' , even though --
according to Brentano - - both conceptions incorporate
important insights. Locke holds that the human mind
contains no innate ideas, that its particular ideas are
"received from particular objects" and that general ideas
are derived from particular ideas through abstraction,
12 STEPHAN KORNER
i.e. t he power of t he mi nd t o "make part i cul ar ideas,
r ecei ved f r om part i cul ar obj ect s t o be c ome general ", s
He hol ds t hat intuitive knowl edge consists in t he mi nd' s
percei vi ng "t he agr eement or di sagr eement of t wo i deas
i mmedi at el y by t hemsel ves, wi t hout t he i nt er vent i on of
any o t h e r . . . " , e.g., when it per cei ves "t hat whi t e is not
bl ack" or t hat "t hr ee" are "equal t o one and t wo". 6 And
he hol ds t hat demonst r at i ve knowl edge consists in t he
mi nd' s "percei vi ng t he agr eement or di sagr eement of
any ideas, not i mmedi at el y", but "by t he i nt er vent i on of
ot her i deas" - - a pr ocess whi ch we "call ' r easoni ng' " 7
and whi ch is exempl i fi ed by "t he new t rut hs, bef or e
unknown t o t he wor l d" whi ch have been di scover ed
by "Mr. Newt on in his never - enough- t o- be- admi r ed
book" .8
For our pr esent pur pos e it is not necessar y t o
exami ne Locke' s not i on of intuitive knowl edge or t o
compar e it with t hat of Descart es. What is, however ,
i mpor t ant is to emphasi ze t hat t he Lockean concept i on
of demonst r at i ve knowl edge and i nf er ence - - like
Descar t es' concept i on of "deduct i on" - - implies its
ampliative, non- deduct i ve charact er. To see this one
onl y needs t o consi der Locke' s assert i on t hat Newt oni an
physics is t he result of demonst r at i on. For it is, I think,
qui t e obvi ous t hat t he t hr ee laws of mot i on are n o t
logically i mpl i ed by t he obser vat i onal and exper i ment al
pr oposi t i ons on whi ch t hey wer e based by Newt on. That
t hey are not logically i mpl i ed. by t hese pr oposi t i ons is,
of course, an elliptical st at ement whi ch has to be
compl et ed by indicating t he logical t heor y in whi ch t he
logical i mpl i cat i on is defi ned. However , t he st at ement
remai ns valid f or any syst em of deduct i ve logic known
to Locke, his cont empor ar i es or successors.
2. Brentano's conception of knowledge and of its
acquisition
Br ent ano' s concept i on of knowl edge and its acqui si t i on
is cl ear er and mor e pr eci se t han are t he concept i ons of
Descar t es and Locke, to bot h of whom he acknowl -
edges his i ndebt edness. To t hei r di st i nct i on bet ween
intuitive and deduct i ve or demonst r abl e knowl edge
t her e cor r es ponds his di st i nct i on bet ween i mmedi at el y
evi dent and medi at el y evi dent j udgment s. Bot h are
ei t her j udgment s of fact or j udgment s of reason. The
evi dent j udgment s of fact are descri pt i ve of i nner
per cept i on. The evi dent j udgment s of r eason are based
on an analysis of concept s whi ch are descri pt i ve of
exper i ence, by pr oposi t i ons whi ch are t r ue e x t e r mi n i s
and, hence, apodi ct i cal l y true. Logi c is accor di ng t o
Br ent ano a syst em of medi at el y evi dent j udgment s
resulting f r om an analysis of t he i mmedi at el y evi dent
law of cont radi ct i on. Ar i t hmet i c and geomet r y consi st
accor di ng t o hi m of pr oposi t i ons whi ch are e x t e r mi n i s
t r ue and resul t f r om t he logical analysis of empi ri cal
concept s. The pri nci pl e of causality also expresses such
a pr oposi t i on. In all t hese cases - - ari t hmet i c, geomet r y,
t he pri nci pl e of causality - - we must distinguish bet ween
t he anal yzed concept s, whi ch are descri pt i ve of experi -
ence (and in this sense n o t a p r i o r i ) and t he anal yzi ng
pr oposi t i ons whi ch ar e t r ue e x t errai n& (and in this
sense analytic and a pr i or i ) . 9
A few comment s are in or der . Even t hough
Br ent ano' s concept i on of logic is ver y nar r ow, his
der i vat i on of this logic f r om t he pri nci pl e of non-
cont r adi ct i on depends on implicit assumpt i ons which he
fails to make explicit. For our pur pos e it suffices to
ment i on t hat not even t he law of excl uded mi ddl e can be
der i ved f r om t he law of cont radi ct i on. If it coul d be so
deri ved, t hen t he di sput e bet ween intuitionists and
classical logicians as to whet her t he classical or t he
intuitionist logic is cor r ect , coul d be deci ded by demon-
strating t hat one of t he t wo t heori es is sel f-cont radi c-
t ory. Si nce our mai n t opi c is Br ent ano' s criticism of
Kant , it is not necessar y to consi der t he pr obl em of
al t ernat i ve logics. In or der to avoi d discussing it, it will
f or t he sake of ar gument be assumed t hat Br ent ano and
Kant not onl y hol d t hat t her e is one and onl y one logic,
but t hat t hey also agree on its cont ent .
Br ent ano hol ds t hat ari t hmet i c and geomet r y are
analytical sciences, based on definitions, but that t hei r
concept s ar e empirical. 10 It is best t o consi der geomet r y
first. If Br ent ano' s thesis means t hat t he conj unct i on of
t he Eucl i dean post ul at es is an analytical pr oposi t i on,
t hen t he thesis is obvi ousl y i ncorrect . For it has been
pr oved - - as was known t o Br ent ano and ver y likely t o
Kant - - t hat if Eucl i dean geomet r y is consi st ent so is
non- Eucl i dean geomet r y, in whi ch t he parallel post ul at e
is r epl aced by its negat i on. That t he conj unct i on of t he
post ul at es and t heor ems of Eucl i dean or non- Eucl i dean
geomet r y is synt het i c does not pr event us f r om d e f i n i n g
a concept ' x is Eucl i dean' by ' x is char act er i zed by t he
post ul at es of Eucl i dean geomet r y' and a concept ' x is
non- Eucl i dean' by ' x is char act er i zed by t he post ul at es
of non- Eucl i dean geomet ry' . It i s t hen trivially obvi ous
that, e.g., ' Ther e exists no x whi ch is bot h Eucl i dean and
cont ai ns a triangle whose sum of angles differs f r om
180 ~ is analytic, t r ue ex t e r mi n i s or t r ue by definition.
ON BRENTANO' S OBJECTIONS TO KANT' S THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE 13
Brent ano' s view of geomet ry is as a conj unct i on of
an analytic and a synthetic proposi t i on and is, thus,
synthetic. The analytic proposi t i on is that, if ' x is
Eucl i dean' is defi ned as indicated, t hen all the post u-
lates and t heorems of Eucl i dean geomet ry are true by
virtue of this definition. The synthetic proposi t i on is t hat
the concept ' x is Eucl i dean' and all concept s logically
implied by it are applicable to percept ual space,
whereas ' x is non-Eucl i dean' is not so applicable. The
reason for the applicability of the former and the
inapplicability of the latter concept is accordi ng to
Brent ano that the f or mer concept is self-evidently
descriptive of percept ual space. For two incompatible,
descriptive concept s cannot bot h describe the same
spatial structure or ot her perceived object.
Similar remarks apply to Brent ano' s view of arith-
metic. It is again sufficient to not e that there are
different concept i ons of arithmetic, since, e.g., being a
number -- whet her natural, rational or real -- implies
being a member of an infinite series and since infinity
can be, and has been, conceived in di fferent ways. Thus
there is again not hi ng which prevents us from defining,
say, a concept ' x is Cant ori an' by ' x is charact eri zed by
(some version of) Cant or' s infinitistic set -t heory' and a
concept ' x is non- Cant or i an' by ' x is charact eri zed
by (some version of) a constructivistic set theory' .
Brent ano' s view can t hen again be represent ed by the
conj unct i on of an analytic proposi t i on to the effect that
' x is non- Cant or i an' implies by definition the postulates
of some finitist arithmetic (the nat ure of which is not
clear f r om Brent ano' s writings); and a synthetic pro-
position to the effect that onl y ' x is non- Cant or i an' and
all concept s logically implied by it are applicable to all
percept ual l y given aggregates, because self-evidently
descriptive of them. It might reasonabl y be argued that
when Brent ano speaks of geomet ry and arithmetic, he
refers onl y to particular geometrical or arithmetical
proposi t i ons which he regards as analytical, such as
'5 + 7 = 12' or Pyt hagoras' t heorem. However, the
validity of these proposi t i ons depends not onl y on the
definitions of the terms occurri ng in them, but also on
the ot her non-logical postulates, which Brent ano fails to
notice or ment i on.
Brent ano' s view of non-mat hemat i cal knowl edge
resembles his view of mat hemat i cal knowl edge - - as
becomes clear when one considers the way in which he
tries to establish the principle of causality. He does so in
two steps: the first is to establish the analytic charact er
of the principle, the second is to establish the non-
emptiness of the concept ' x causes y' . That ' x is an event
logically implies its being caused by some ot her event' is
analytic follows accordi ng to Brent ano from the logical
impossibility of absol ut e chance. ll However, if quant um
mechani cs is internally consistent, t hen the principle of
causality can without logical absurdity be repl aced by ' x
is an event logically implies t hat x is probabilified by
some ot her event with a probability which may be
smaller t han 1'.
Brent ano' s second step consists in giving examples of
the concept ' x causes y' . One of t hem refers to situations
in which a person' s acknowledging the t rut h of the
premises of a deduct i ve inference "causes hi m" to
acknowl edge the t rut h of the conclusion. Yet even if one
accepts this and similar situations as exemplifying the
concept ' x causes y' , one is not t hereby commi t t ed to
the principle of causality accordi ng to which ' being an
event' logically implies ' being caused' . The same applies
to the principle of continuity. That is to say t hat one may
well accept Brent ano' s descriptions of cont i nuous
change and of empirical cont i nui t y (and even regard
t hem as an i mprovement of the Ari st ot el i an description,
given in the sixth book of the Physics) while not
accepting a definition of change accordi ng to which
' being a change' logically implies ' being cont i nuous' and
accordi ng to which 'natura non facit saltus' is true ex
terminis.
3. On s ome aspect s of Kant's theory o f knowl edge
Accordi ng to Brent ano a concept is applicable to - -
inner or out er - - percept i on if, and onl y if, it is descrip-
tive of it. 12 This view agrees with, or at least closely
resembles, the view of Locke accordi ng to which all
general ideas are abst ract ed from particular ideas of
sensation or reflection and the view of Hume t hat all
legitimate ideas are either impressions or copies of
impressions. Yet, in spite of this agreement that onl y
concept s which are descriptive of percept i on are
applicable to it, Brent ano and Locke hol d that the
concept of causality is descriptive of percept i on and
hence applicable to it while Hume hol ds t hat the con-
cept of causality is not descriptive of percept i on and
hence inapplicable to it. Kant agrees with Hume that the
concept of causality is not descriptive of percept i on and
with Locke and Brent ano that it is applicable to it. He
calls concept s which are non-descri pt i ve of percept i on
14 STEPHAN KORNER
and yet applicable to it "a pr i or i concept s of the under-
standing" or "non-mat hemat i cal a pr i or i concept s".
Kant ' s mai n reason for acknowl edgi ng non- mat he-
matical a priori concept s was the apparent di fference
bet ween j udgment s t hat somet hi ng is subjectively given,
i.e. given in a person' s percept i on, and j udgment s t hat
what is subjectively given is also objectively given. If I
compar e the merel y subjective j udgment to the effect
t hat somet hi ng s e e ms t o me to be a table with t he
objective j udgment t hat what seems to me to be a table
is a table, the two j udgment s do not differ in their
percept ual cont ent , but in t hei r concept ual characteriza-
tion. To assert the second j udgment is to apply not onl y
the concept s applied in asserting the first j udgment , but
also the concept ' x is objective' or some ot her concept
or concept s implying ' x is objective' .
Let us call a concept the application of which
distinguishes a merel y subjective j udgment from a
correspondi ng objective j udgment or which, in ot her
words, confers objectivity on an ot herwi se merel y
subjective percept i on an "objectivity-concept". The con-
cept of causality is for Kant an exampl e of such a
concept . In ot her words, the j udgment t hat a certain
change is subjectively percei ved is t urned into an
objective j udgment by j udgi ng the change to be caused,
i.e. to be a link in a causal chain. Since Kant does not
regard the self-evidence of j udgment s which are
descriptive of i nner percept i on as establishing their
objective validity, but ascribes this validity to the
application of non-descri pt i ve, objectivity-concepts, he
sets hi msel f the task of listing these concept s in t hei r
c ompl e t e ne s s and of exhibiting and justifying their
application as necessary c ondi t i ons o f obj ect i ve k n o wl -
edge. To formul at e these condi t i ons is to state synthetic
a priori propositions. Thus, to assert the principle of
causality is not to assert an analytic proposi t i on, the
negat i on of which is i nt ernal l y inconsistent, but a
synthetic proposi t i on, the negat i on of which is i ncon-
sistent with the possibility of any objective experi ence or
experi ence of obj ects.~ 3
It is wort h not i ng t hat Kant and Brent ano agree to a
large ext ent on the principles t hey regard as necessary,
e.g. arithmetic, geomet ry and the principles of causality
and continuity; t hat t hey t ry to establish the necessity
of these principles in di fferent ways; and that their
at t empt s at establishing their necessity must - - because
of the acceptability and actual accept ance of i ncom-
patible principles - - be regarded as having failed.
Brent ano' s at t empt failed because he regarded concept s
which are not descriptive of a percept i on as descriptive
of it and, hence, as not replaceable by i ncompat i bl e
concept s descriptive of the same perception. In con-
sidering the reasons for Kant ' s mi st aken belief to have
proved the absol ut e or uni que necessity of the synthetic
a pr i or i proposi t i ons one must distinguish - - as he di d
- - bet ween the mat hemat i cal and the non-mat hemat i cal
ones.
As regards the latter - - e.g. the principles of causality,
cont i nui t y and the conservat i on of subst ance -- he
mi st ook, it seems to me, condi t i ons of objectivity to
which no alternative was conceivable to him or his
cont emporari es for condi t i ons to which no alternative
was logically possible. One might i ndeed argue t hat the
modest , correct core of Kant ' s t ranscendent al deduct i on
is an "argument f r om so far inconceivable alternatives".
It woul d in Kant ' s case consist on the one hand in his
poi nt i ng out that as far as he coul d j udge f r om his own
experience and f r om his knowl edge of the sciences, in
part i cul ar physics, nei t her commonsense nor scientific
thinking can proceed wi t hout the condi t i ons of objec-
tivity exhibited in the Cri t i que o f Pur e Re as on; on the
ot her hand in challenging his opponent s to formul at e
such conditions, i.e. to "put up or shut up" ) 4
Kant recogni zed (in accordance with the domi nant
views of our own time) t hat the axioms and t heorems of
arithmetic and geomet ry are synthetic proposi t i ons, i.e.
proposi t i ons the negat i ons of which are not logically
impossible. He did, however, also hol d t hat these
proposi t i ons are necessary in the sense of admi t t i ng no
alternatives. The reason for their uni queness he t ook to
be, as did Brent ano, t hei r being descriptive (though not
of i nner percept i on, but of the pure intuitions of space
and t i me in one or bot h of which all objects of
percept i on are located). The acceptability and actual
accept ance of alternative and mut ual l y i ncompat i bl e
geomet ri es and set t heori es raises, to put it mildly, a
serious difficulty about Kant ' s account of their necessity.
The difficulty might be resolved by one of two types of
answer: on the one hand a thesis t hat of the two
i ncompat i bl e mat hemat i cal descri pt i ons of space and
time onl y one can be correct and t hat the Kant i an
descri pt i on can be "seen to be" or is "self-evidently"
correct; and, on the ot her hand, the thesis t hat of two
compet i ng mat hemat i cal systems nei t her describes a
percept ual structure, but t hat each of t hem is an
idealization of it. The second is the answer which I
woul d give and try to justify. (See Section 5).
ON BRENTANO' S OBJECTIONS TO KANT' S THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE 15
4. An exami nat i on o f Brent ano' s obj ect i ons t o Kant's
epi st emol ogy
Br ent ano' s obj ect i ons to Kant ' s epi st emol ogy are f ound
mainly in an essay, publ i shed in 1903 and ent i t l ed
' Down with t he Prej udi ces' , i.e. with Kant' s synt het i c
pr oposi t i ons a priori. Ther e is, as far as I know, no
r eason to bel i eve that Br ent ano changed his mi nd in
his l at er years. What makes Br ent ano regard Kant' s
synt het i c a pri ori pr oposi t i ons as blind prej udi ces is not
t hei r cont ent but t hei r justification. If Kant had simply
consi der ed t hem as self-evident, e.g. aft er the fashion of
Descart es, he woul d not have ar oused Br ent ano' s anger.
Yet one can well i magi ne a Kant i an bl ami ng Br ent ano' s
view of sel f-evi dence as based on conj unct i ons of
descri pt i ve and analytic st at ement s as blind prej udi ce. In
any case nei t her Kant ' s nor Br ent ano' s justification of
t he uni queness of t hei r accept ed ari t hmet i c, geomet r y
and non- mat hemat i cal pri nci pl es is successful f or t he
simple r eason t hat t hese pri nci pl es are not uni que, but
admi t of accept abl e and accept ed alternatives.
Br ent ano is right in rejecting Kant' s di st i nct i on
bet ween synt het i c and analytic j udgment s as t oo nar r ow
because it consi ders onl y cat egori cal j udgment s. 15 A
cor r ect di st i nct i on woul d fol l ow nei t her Kant ' s nor
Br ent ano' s met hod, but first of all explicitly state the
logic - - e.g. classical or intuitionist - - with respect t o
which analytic st at ement s but not also synt het i c state-
ment s are logically valid. Br ent ano is also right when, as
Fri es bef or e him, he accuses Kant of a vicious circle,
namel y of trying t o justify t he validity of synt het i c a
pri ori st at ement s by means of synt het i c a pri ori state-
ments. But he r~i sunderst ands Kant ' s assert i on that
analytic st at ement s are clarifying r at her t han amplifying
j udgment s ( " Er l dut er ungs abe r kei ne Er wei t er ungs ur -
teile"). 16 For Kant ' s di st i nct i on is logical and not psy-
chological. He does not deny that in deduci ng, say,
Pyt hagoras' t heor em f r om t he Eucl i dean axioms one
may l earn somet hi ng that one di d not know before.
What he does deny is that deduct i ve i nference - - as
oppos ed t o vari ous t ypes of non- deduct i ve i nference - -
results in concl usi ons whi ch are not logically i mpl i ed by
t he premi ses of t he i nference.
Br ent ano is also mi st aken in his assert i on that "a
great deal of what Kant decl ares to be a blind synthetic
a pr i or i j udgment , possesses in fact analytical evi dence,
as do f or exampl e mat hemat i cal axi oms"? 7 Br ent ano' s
mi st ake is her e twofold. For he is first of all wr ong in
regardi ng mat hemat i cal axi oms as analytic in t he sense
of being logically valid. And he secondl y forget s or
over l ooks that on his own view t he uni queness of, say,
Eucl i dean geomet r y or t he pri nci pl e of causality is
based on a synt het i c pr oposi t i on, namel y t he conj unc-
t i on of a synthetic pr oposi t i on, whi ch is alleged to be
descri pt i ve of an i nner per cept i on, and an analytic
pr oposi t i on exhibiting t he meani ng of a concept appl i ed
to t he per cept i on.
An adequat e discussion of Br ent ano' s obj ect i on to
Kant' s t r anscendent met aphysi cs, in part i cul ar his
di st i nct i on bet ween t he phenomenal and t he noumenal
worl d woul d r equi r e a prel i mi nary clarification of t he
nat ur e of t he theses and argument s of this br anch of
phi l osophi cal thinking. For our pr esent pur pose it is,
however, sufficient t o make t wo fairly obvi ous points.
First, Br ent ano' s and any ot her versi on of realism, i.e.
t he view t hat t he worl d as it appear s t o human beings
does not - - or will in due cour se not - - di ffer f r om t he
worl d, as it exists i ndependent l y of its bei ng experi -
enced, is no less specul at i ve t han Kant ' s or any versi on
of idealism accor di ng t o which t he worl d of exper i ence
and t he worl d in itself are necessari l y di fferent f r om
each ot her. Second, what ever t he cont ent of a specu-
lative or t r anscendent met aphysi cs and t he nat ur e of
t he argument s in its favour, t hey must be logically
consistent. J 8
Wi t hout trying t o compar e t he merits and short -
comi ngs of Br ent ano' s real i sm with t hose of Kant' s
t ranscendent al idealism, one must, it seems t o me, agree
with t wo of Br ent ano' s obj ect i ons t o Kant ' s t r anscend-
ent metaphysics. One is t he poi nt - - made al ready by
Schopenhauer - - t hat Kant ' s assumpt i on of a plurality a
noumena and of t he cor r es pondence bet ween noumenal
and empi ri cal selves is i nconsi st ent with his general
di st i nct i on bet ween phenomena and noumena. The
ot her is Br ent ano' s poi nt t hat it is, to say t he least, not
cl ear in which respect s, if any, t he rel at i on bet ween t he
noumenal and t he phenomenal worl d is a causal rel at i on
and, if so, how this rel at i on compar es with t he Cat egor y
of causality.
5. On t he relation of concept s t o percepti on
In concl usi on it will be bri efl y argued t hat Br ent ano' s
rej ect i on of Kant ' s a pri ori concept s and synt het i c
proposi t i ons a pri ori is based on t oo rest ri ct ed a view of
t he rel at i on bet ween t he concept s whi ch are appl i cabl e
t o somet hi ng t hat is given in per cept i on and t hat to
which t hey are applied. It will f ur t her be bri efl y argued
16 STEPHAN KORNER
t hat Kant ' s view of this relation, t hough wi der and mor e
adequat e t han Brent ano' s, is still not wide enough. It
seems best to begin by distinguishing - - i ndependent l y
of Br ent ano and Kant - - bet ween t hree ki nds of
concepts, namel y i nt erpret at i ve concepts, descriptive
concept s and idealizing concept s. 19
Let P(x) and Q(x) be two concept s which are
applicable to somet hi ng given in percept i on. Let us
furt her say t hat P(x) is i nt erpret at i ve of Q(x) if, and
onl y if, (i) P(x) and Q(x) do not di ffer in their
percept ual cont ent or, briefly, if t hey are co-ostensive
and (ii) (the applicability to an object of) P(x) logically
implies (the applicability t o it of) Q(x) while the
converse implication does not hold. Let us furt her call
any concept which is i nt erpret at i ve of some ot her
concept an i nt erpret at i ve concept . For our present
pur pose and for t he sake of brevity it will be sufficient to
consi der a species of i nt erpret at i ve concepts, which
earlier have been called "objectivity-concepts". (See
Section 3.) An i nt erpret at i ve concept is an objectivity-
concept if, and onl y if, its appl i cat i on t o somet hi ng t hat
is merel y subjectively given implies t hat what is so given
is also an objective fact. Exampl es are ' x is the
subjective appear ance of a table' (' x seems to me to be a
table' ), briefly T~(x), and ' x is a table' , briefly To(x ). Now
To(x ) logically implies T~(x), while the converse implica-
tion does not hold. However - - accordi ng to classical
logic and t he logic accept ed by Kant and Br ent ano - -
t here must be a concept , say O(x), such t hat Ts(x ) and
O(x) logically implies and is logically implied by To(x ).
Since Ts(x) and To(x ) do not differ perceptually, O(x) is
an exampl e of a concept which, t hough not descriptive
of what is subjectively given in percept i on, is yet
applicable to it. It is a non-descri pt i ve or pure
objectivity-concept, exemplified by t he Aristotelian, t he
Kant i an and some ot her concept s of substance.
Br ent ano di d not acknowl edge non-descri pt i ve,
objectivity-concepts, but was convi nced t hat if a concept
is applicable to what is percept ual l y given, the concept
is i pso facto descriptive and does not admi t any
i ncompat i bl e alternatives. Kant di d acknowl edge non-
descriptive objectivity-concepts, e.g., the Cat egori es of
subst ance and cause, but also did not admi t alternatives
to them. As I have argued elsewhere, 2~ we must - -
unlike Br ent ano - - acknowl edge not onl y descriptive,
but also i nt erpret at i ve concepts; and we must - - unlike
Kant - - acknowl edge the possibility of mut ual l y i ncom-
patible i nt erpret at i ve concept s, in part i cul ar objectivity-
concepts, which are i nt erpret at i ve of the same descrip-
tive concept s and applicable to t he same percept ual l y
given data. It seems wort h emphasizing t hat while no
objectivity-concept is descriptive, not every interpreta-
tive conc.ept is an objectivity-concept. It shoul d also be
not ed t hat a concept P(x) which at one t i me is
consi dered descriptive - - because no concept Q(x) is
known which is co-ostensive with P(x) and unilaterally
implied by it - - may later t urn out to be interpretative.
Bot h Kant and Br ent ano regard the concept s of
geomet ry and of arithmetic as descriptive. Accor di ng
to Kant t hey are descriptive of the pure intuitions of
space and time, while accordi ng t o Brent ano t hey are
descriptive of i nner perception. The possible accept-
ability and actual accept ance of mut ual l y i ncompat i bl e
geomet ri es and set-theories i mpl y their non-descri p-
tive character. Indeed the consi derat i on of examples
shows t hat the concept s of pure mat hemat i cs are exact
in a sense which surpasses the power of percept ual
discrimination. Ther e is t hus no way to distinguish
percept ual l y and with the hel p of the best measuri ng
apparat us whet her space is Eucl i dean or curved to an
extent which cannot be perceived or ot herwi se deter-
mi ned by empirical means. Agai n t here is no way to
distinguish in this manner bet ween an irrational number,
such as f 2, and every rat i onal number which is smaller
or great er t han it. The concept s of arithmetic and of
geomet ry differ f r om empirical ones not onl y because of
their absol ut e exactness but also, as has been ment i oned
earlier, because of their implying various concept s of
infinity, e.g., t hat any number is a member of an infinite
set or t hat every line cont ai ns an infinity of points (in
one of the various senses of "infinity").
If t he concept s of mat hemat i cs are not i nst ant i at ed by
what is percept ual l y given, t hey are also not i nt erpret a-
tive. For interpretative concept s are i nt erpret at i ve of
descriptive concept s and t hus t hrough t hem i nst ant i at ed
in perception. (For example, the highly i nt erpret at i ve
concept ' x is a table in the sense explained by Leibniz' s
Monadology' is i nt erpret at i ve of ' x is a table as
concei ved by commonsense' which in t urn is i nt erpret a-
t i ve of ' x is the appearance of a table' ). An investigation
into the application of mat hemat i cs to empirical
structures shows t hat the concept s of mat hemat i cs are
idealizing concepts, t hat it to say concept s which for
certain purposes and in certain cont ext s can be
identified with - - t reat ed as if t hey were - - descriptive or
i nt erpret at i ve concepts, zl As a result of the precedi ng
remarks we can replace the vague met aphor t hat
all concept s stem f r om experi ence or percept i on
ON B R E NT ANO' S OB J E C T I ONS TO KANT ' S T HE OR Y OF KNOWL E DGE 1 7
( " s t a mme n aus Wa h r n e h mu n g s v o r s t e l l u n g e n ) 22 b y t h e
p r e c i s e d i s t i n c t i o n b e t we e n d e s c r i p t i v e , i n t e r p r e t a t i v e
a n d i d e a l i z i n g c o n c e p t s a n d t h e i r d i f f e r e n t r e l a t i o n t o
p e r c e p t i o n .
No ~ s
i Versuch iiber die Erkenntnis, hrsg. von Al fred Kastil, erweitert
und neu eingeleitet von Franzi ska Mayer-Hi l l ebrand (Hamburg
1925 and 1970), p. 4, hencef or t h referred t o as Versuch.
2 Rules f or the Direction of the Understanding.
3 Comment s to rule III.
4 0 p . cit., comment s t o rule XII.
5An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book II, Ch. XI,
Section 9.
6 0 p . cit., Book IV, Ch. 11, Section 1.
7 Loc. cit., Section 2.
Op. cit., Book IV, Ch. VII, Sect i on 11.
9 For an excellent and aut hori t at i ve summary of Br ent ano' s views
see Al fred Kastil, Die Philosophie Franz Brentanos (Bern, 1951),
especially Ch. VII.
10 See, e.g., op. cit., pp. 330, 331.
i1 See op. cit., 227f.
12 See Versuch, pp. 26ff.
13 See, e.g., Critique of Pure Reason, B 87.
~4 See my discussion of non-sophi st i c rhet ori c in Metaphysics: Its
Structure and Function (Cambri dge, 1984, pp. 191f.).
15 Versuch, p. XVIII.
16 Versuch, p. 10.
17 Op. cit.,p. XI Xandp. 25.
~8 For a discussion of t r anscendent metaphysics see Metaphysics: Its
Structure and Function Cambri dge, 1984, Ch. IV, XI and XI1.
19 For details see, e.g., Metaphysics: Its Structure and Function, Ch.
1, Section 3 and Ch. VI.
zo Loc. c i t .
21 For details see, e.g., Experience and Theory (London, 1969),
Ch. X.
:z E.g., Versuch, p. 267.
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