You are on page 1of 10

1 University Of Warwick

PH201 - History of Modern Philosophy II (Kant)

Assessed Essay

Is an ‘austere reading’ of the thesis that space and time are the forms of intuition defensible?

University Number: 0703008

There will be a focus on space as the form of outer intuition. but it is found only to support the sufficiency of space in individuating objects. If such textual support is lacking. this version of ‘a priority’ cannot hold. “Particular items”. it is shown that Warren’s analysis stays more true to the text and also retains important elements of Kant’s broader theory which Strawson rejects.2 Is an ‘austere reading’ of the thesis that space and time are the forms of intuition defensible? This essay will argue that P. hence the fundamental ground of identity of particular items” (Strawson. in ignoring this aspect of Kant’s thesis on space and time. Strawson outlines the positive role of space and time as grounding the identity of particular instances of concepts. The claims Warren thinks Kant is making in the Aestheic are not so strong as to be necessary for a coherent conception of experience. The Amphiboly seems to suggest an austere reading. Strawson’s version involves necessity for a coherent conception of experience. whereas on Warren’s understanding of the role of space and time in the Transcendental Aesthetic. The philosophical promise of the thesis regarding space and time is necessarily linked to the position taken on the intentions of Kant’s wider project. can only be identified as being . is therefore found to be an indefensible reading. Henry Allison offers support for this interpretation while Daniel Warren’s close textual reading seems to pose difficulties for his reading ‘outside of’ as ‘distinct from’. as it is granted that the argument for time runs primarily in parallel. This wider view is influenced by the position taken on Kant’s ‘a priori’. Warren’s view that ‘a priority’ corresponds to situation ‘in us’ is shown to be crucial in Kant’s project of seeking justification for the application of the concepts of space and time in experience. it may be philosophical promise which leads Strawson to an austere reading. The core role space and time play in Strawson’s austere reading he states as follows: “spatiotemporal position provides the fundamental ground of distinction between one particular item and another of the same general type. Although Strawson’s view of the thesis may have more immediate philosophical promise. Strawson’s ‘austere reading’ of the thesis that space and time are the forms of intuition is not defensible as a reading of that thesis as presented in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. F. such as transcendental idealism. The ‘austere reading’. or ‘instances of concepts’. 49).

in which Kant argues that the representation of space is presupposed when we represent one thing as ‘outside of’ another thing or as outside ourselves. There is little textual evidence. it is necessary to know they are “located in different places” (Alison. Henry Allison’s more thorough treatment of Kant’s text retains a similar view to Strawson in this regard. B39/A24). One source for such a reading is the Metaphysical Exposition. otherwise there would be no grounds on which to differentiate instances of kinds which are. 182). this reading seems to go against the textual evidence. therefore. A potential source of support for Strawson’s view can be found in the ‘Amphiboly’. on the grounds that numerical identity and qualitative identity don’t necessarily coincide because representations are not only conceptual. ‘general’.3 particular instances by being located in time and space. and at that point in the text. those sensations do not fall under ‘general concepts’. Furthermore. where Kant does not seem concerned with epistemological or ontological identification of concepts or objects. and things as being ‘alongside’ one another (Warren. A236/B319). and concluding that in order to be aware of objects as “numerically distinct”. Another difficulty with Strawson’s positive role for space and time. rather than a necessary ground as Strawson requires. to support the idea that space is meant to play a necessary . Kant argues against Leibniz’s principle of the ‘identity of indiscernibles’. In this way space is the ground for the numerical identity of particulars which are qualitatively identical. explicitly reading ‘outside of’ as “distinct from”. However. In the Metaphysical Exposition. with things as being spatially ‘outside of’ the subject. Kant is concerned with “certain sensations” being represented as “outside and alongside one another” (Kant. is that Kant does not seem concerned with indentifying particular instances of concepts until Transcendental Deduction. which is concerned with the ‘understanding’ rather than space and time as forms of intuition. 83). 1983. Crucially however. but also intuitive. Kant is explicit in stating that space is only a “sufficient ground for admitting the numerical difference of the object (of the senses)” (Kant. and this resonates with Strawson’s view. Kant assigns the role of ‘distinguishing’ individual objects to the Categories. but rather. as Warren points out. by definition. during his discussion of “unity and plurality”.

in the Metaphysical Exposition. Space and time are therefore investigated because they are “essential to empirical knowledge” in their role ‘individuating’ particular items. if the textual support is lacking. though. Kant seems to be interested. then for Kant to say that the representation of space is necessarily presupposed when we represent objects outside us as spatial may seem tautologous or insubstantial.4 role in grounding the difference between instances of objects or concepts. The justification we have for applying concepts must come from the nature of the concept to be applied. For Strawson. 18). with empirical concepts. This seems to move towards a ‘psychological’ undertaking. Strawson may have opted for a reading which is not explicit within the text to avoid this consequence. rather than what spatial relations are a condition for. we can know we are justified in applying it in experience because we know the concept was originally derived from experience. but laying the groundwork for substantial philosophical points later on. and may motivate Strawson to make the ‘austere’ reading he does. However. we are looking for conditions under which we can justifiably apply a given concept to an object. this is an accusation made by Allison. locating the origins of space in the human faculties. What is at issue here is how the examination of space fits into Kant’s wider philosophical project. Strawson himself points to Kant’s principle of significance as a key part of Kantian philosophy. Similarly with judgements which are about things in experience: if the judgement . But we can start to understand why Kant was interested in the origins of the representation of space by thinking about the way in which we are justified in applying concepts. is not making a substantial philosophical point at this point. What Kant may be doing. rather than looking at the ‘limiting framework’ of knowledge. and the nature of a concept seems to involve the origins of the concept. in what the conditions are for the representation of spatial relations. or even meaningful. that there can be “no legitimate. employment of ideas or concepts which does not relate them to empirical or experiential conditions of their application” (Strawson. However. Kant’s wider project is “the investigation of that limiting framework of ideas and principles the use and application of which are essential to empirical knowledge” (Strawson. In talk about experiential conditions of application. 16). For example.

the origin is said to be in the form of our sensibility. A87/B119). for example. which do not require some more general representation to be presupposed.5 originated in experience. Spatial relations are contrasted with other relations. posits the idea that with spatial relations many a priori claims are involved about. then we know the judgement is justified. and what the role of the Metaphysical Exposition is. Why must spatial relations presuppose a more general representation of space when empirical relations do not? Kant seems to regard this as sufficiently evident. 197). The textual support for this could come from the idea that either the ‘one . remain. and this is how Kant legitimizes use of the concepts of space and time in experience. and Kant thinks that an empirical account of the ‘objective validity’ of space would have to begin with representations of spatial relations in experience and then follow the Leibnizian account of deriving the concept of space from those relations. non-logical presuppositions. what combination of spatial relations are possible. With the representations of space and time. Kant attempts to show that “the representation of space is presupposed by the representation of objects as spatially related (namely. In Kant’s words. the issue of justification cannot simply be referred to whether it was derived from experience. which are ‘prior to experience’. This seems to have more textual support than the Allison/Strawson reading of ‘distinct from’ in an ontological or epistemological sense. but it must be shown that this is not simply tautologuous or vacuous. Liebniz moves from the relations between things to derive the notions of place and space. With ‘a priori’ concepts. Warren contends that Kant is repudiating a Liebnizian-empiricist account of the origin of the concept of space. if not read along ‘austere’ Strawsonian lines. Warren. and that these are special. and he appeals to it “without further explanation” (Warren. He argues that. The related questions of how Kant does in fact trace the sources of space and time. Daniel Warren offers a reading which allows us to answer both of these questions. rather than being concerned with the individuation of particular items. he has “traced concepts of space and time to their sources” and in doing so has “explained and determined their a priori objective validity” (Kant. as spatially outside of me or outside of one another)” (Warren. such as empirical relations like ‘brighter than’. thinking about how it could be self-evident. 207).

In doing this. stating that space is necessary for “the representation of an object or an objective state of affairs” (Allison. because we cannot envisage experience without this individuating of particulars. Allison supports the Strawsonian view connecting a priority with necessity for a coherent conception of experience. 50). as opposed to the Strawsonian explanation of space as to do with individuating objects. Another possibility Warren posits is that the recognition of necessary features of spatial relations requires a representation of space (Warren. is that his ‘austere’ interpretation of a priority “ignore*s+” the connotation of ‘a priori’ as location “in us” (Strawson. and move away from close textual support.6 unbounded space’ or the propositions of Euclidean geometry are presupposed in spatial relations. is at odds . Strawson can accommodate the idea that some representation analogous to that of space is necessary in any conception of experience. While he has doubts about space being necessary for experience. 10). due to other conceptions of experience such as a sequence of musical notes not requiring space. and analysing space in the Metaphysical Exposition to be a pure intuition. and this is why it is necessary. However. and therefore to the justification of our use of the concept of space in experience. 1983. 49). Kant rules out what he sees as the primary way in which space could be derived from experience. It seems. Space allows us to individuate particular instances of concepts. which entails that there is no possibility of tracing the origins of a concept back to the form of our cognitive faculties. even the austere reading of space and time. then. In repudiating the Leibnizean-empiricist account of the origins of the representation of space. space and time are “a priori” because the link between them and experience is “so vital that it cannot be broken without nullifying the whole conception of experience” (Strawson. that Kant can tell a story about the representation of space as presupposed in spatial relations. On Strawson’s view. Kant moves closer to confirming the origins of space. One reason why Strawson may not choose the interpretation Warren does. This seems a viable account of how in the Metaphysical Exposition Kant moves towards the origins of the representation of space. or ‘a priori’. 207). ignoring a crucial part of Kant’s argument regarding space and time being the form of our sensibility.

and this does not seem compatible with the ‘austere’ reading of a priority. 50) that space is necessary for experience. then it undermines the austere interpretation of Kantian a priority. and he himself admits that this is the “sense which is uppermost” (Strawson. but only demonstrates its sufficiency for doing so. then. even Strawson admits that Kant has carried out an important part of his project. This omission seems to be difficult to reconcile with a defensible reading of the forms of intuition. fits to the text and to Kant’s overall programme with more ease than Strawson’s. because by locating the “source” of the “concepts of space and time” in the forms of human sensibility. The only necessity in the Metaphysical Exposition is regarding the necessity of the presupposition of the representation of space in the representation spatial relations and outer intuition in general. and that this is necessary for a coherent conception of experience. Strawson himself claims that “in the Transcendental Aesthetic Kant does not argue for. 208). the Amphiboly appears to offer some support for space individuating particular items. If you take Warren’s view. In determining the justification for our application of the concepts of space and time in experience. As noted above. there is no suggestion that there is some further problem concerning the conditions on individuating objects which is ultimately motivating Kant’s views in this section” (Warren. posits that space and time are necessary for individuating particular items. that “in the Aesthetic generally. which is built on the very premise that space and time are necessary for identifying particular items. The ‘austere reading’ of the thesis that space and time are the forms of intuition. broadly. Kant feels he has “explained and determined their a priori objective validity” (Kant. or even explicitly assert” (Strawson. and more specifically for space and time within the form of sensibility. There are strong textual difficulties to be overcome . It seems that in this light.7 with Warren’s view of the text argued for above. then. Strawson leaves out the “in us” when interpreting Kant’s sense of a priori. Warren’s explanation of ‘a priori’ as the locating of the origins of the concepts of space and time within the human faculties. 51) in the Transcendental Aesthetic. A87/B119). looking to other parts of the Critique of Pure Reason for support.

the above shows that. and seems to confirm that the ‘austere reading’ is not a defensible one. in fact. this allows Warren’s position to become even more pointed.8 regarding the individuation of particulars. by focussing on the origins of the representation of space. also seems a point on which we might want to move away from the austere reading. Kant must necessarily inquire into the origins of the representations of space and time in order to resolve the philosophically substantial issue of the justification of our application of those concepts in experience. The ‘austere reading’ does seem to offer a more immediately ‘philosophically fruitful’ approach to the text than Warren. Warren’s retention and incorporation of ‘a priori’ as location ‘in us’. as opposed to Strawson’s discounting of this crucial element of Kant’s thought. Although Allison supports and expands on Strawson with some crucial points. and it seems that Warren can offer an interpretation which is closer to the text than the Strawson. However. .

Kant’s Transcendental Idealism. (1983). Vol. pp. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2009 Edition). 107. Trans. Kant’s Transcendental Idealism. I. D. No. “Kant and the Apriority of Space” in The Philosophical Review. 2 (Apr. H. (2004). Duke University Press Word Count (excluding bibliographical entries): 2..475 . Burnham. Indiana: Indiana University Press. Bloomington. H. D. Critique of Pure Reason. London: Routledge Warren. URL = <http://plato. "Kant's Views on Space and Time". (1966) The Bounds of Sense.). (2008). P.edu/archives/fall2009/entries/kant-spacetime/>. (M. 1998).) London: Blackwell. Young. Janiak. New Haven: Yale University Press. (2007). Kant. H.9 Bibliography Allison. Zalta (ed. Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. Weigelt. Strawson. Allison. London: Yale University Press.F.stanford. 179-224. Edward N. A.

10 .