Imagination in Kant’s First Critique

This text is excerpted from Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, published in 2007 by Bloomsbury Publishing.  The question of the imagination, and of its differing treatments between the first and second editions of the Critique of Pure Reason, is essential for an understanding of the early, divergent interpretations of Kant’s Critical project.  This text can also be seen as an attempt to clarify Heidegger’s question of the imagination (temporality) in transcendental philosophy.  In this light, this text can be regarded as a companion piece to Heidegger’s Early Philosophy, especially Chapters 5-9, although the analysis below is not directly influenced or guided by Heidegger apart from the coincidence of the question of the status of the imagination.

James Luchte


Stars Upon Mountains


 The IMAGINATION then, I consider either as primary, or secondary. The primary IMAGINATION I hold to be the living Power and prime Agent of all human Perception, and as a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM. The secondary Imagination I consider as an echo of the former, co-existing with the conscious will, yet still as identical with the primary in the kind of its agency, and differing only in degree, and in the mode of operation. It dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to recreate; or where this process is rendered impossible, yet still at all events it struggles to idealise and unify. It is essentially vital, even as all objects (as objects) are essentially fixed and dead.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographia Literaria


Kant describes two stems of knowledge in the Introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason, a distinction between sensibility and understanding which becomes ever more elaborate as we examine the relationship between the two stems.  We will find that the explication of this relationship necessitates an examination of the primary role of the imagination in the grounding of synthetic a priori judgments.  In other words, through a consideration of the relationship betwixt the faculties of sensibility and understanding, and of the transcendental distance which separates them, we will begin to comprehend the necessity of a third primary faculty of knowledge, but one, paradoxically for Kant, which will not ultimately be considered either as a root, or a stem of knowledge.[1]

Sensibility, which deals with intuition, has the character of receptivity, as that which apprehends that which is given, whether as a pure intuition or an empirical intuition.  The understanding, on the other hand, which deals with the concept, has the character of spontaneity, of the act of thought.  The question of the possibility of synthetic a priori judgments finds its answer in the joining of these stems, as receptive spontaneity, or spontaneous receptivity.  Knowledge is a synthetic a priori union of opposites, each of which is incomplete without the other.  Kant writes:

Intuition and concepts constitute, therefore, the elements of all our knowledge, so that neither concepts without an intuition in some way corresponding to them, nor intuition without concepts, can yield knowledge. (A50, B74)

He writes further, regarding the status of the faculties, each to the other:

To neither of these powers may a preference be given over the other.  Without sensibility no object would be given to us, without understanding no object would be thought.  Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind. (A51, B75)

Kant concludes: ‘Only through their union can knowledge arise.’ (A51, B75) He furthermore writes:

Concepts are based on the spontaneity of thought, sensible intuitions on the receptivity of impressions.  Now the only use which the understanding can make of these concepts is to judge by means of them.  Since no representation, save when it is an intuition, is in immediate relation to an object, no concept is ever related to an object immediately, but to some other representation of it, be that other representation an intuition, or itself, a concept.  Judgment is therefore the mediate knowledge of an object, that is, the representation of a representation of it.  (A68, B93)

Judgment, says Kant, is a function of unity among representations.  But, it does not touch sensibility, it is not ‘immediate.’  Kant says that it is a ‘higher’ representation.  A problem seems to be looming on the horizon, an echo of our initial paradox.  For, if the concept cannot embrace sensibility directly, and if we are seeking to demonstrate the conditions of possibility for synthetic, a priori judgments, there must be some other power, which can serve as a link between sensibility and understanding.

The pure concepts have before themselves a manifold of pure intuition.  Yet, this manifold of pure intuition has no value for the concept in its ‘raw’ condition.  Kant writes of the synthesis which organizes the manifold:

But, if this manifold is to be known, the spontaneity of our thought requires that it be gone through in a certain way, taken up, and connected. (A77, B103)

And, he continues:

By synthesis, in its most general sense, I understand the act of putting different representations together, and of grasping what is manifold in them in one act of knowledge. (A77, B103)

Thus, a synthesis of the manifold of space and time engenders the mediate representation which is given to the concept, and thus, is ‘what first gives rise to our knowledge.’ (A78, B103)  Kant writes:

This knowledge may, indeed, at first, be crude and confused, and therefore in need of analysis. Still the synthesis is that which gathers the elements for knowledge, and unites them to form a certain content. It is to synthesis, therefore, that we must first direct our attention, if we would determine the first origin of our knowledge. (A78, B103)

What we require for an answer to the question of synthetic a priori judgments is a synthesis of the manifold which will transfigure the rhapsody of pure intuition into a ‘certain content,’ that ‘content’ which must be somehow available to the understanding.  By means of such a synthesis, the possibility of synthetic knowledge is linked to the necessity of an autonomous (pure) discursive understanding which must remain detached from the temporal priority of pure intuition.

Kant announces the answer we seek:

Synthesis in general, as we shall hereafter see, is the mere result of the power of imagination, a blind but indispensable function of the soul, without which we should have no knowledge whatsoever, but of which we are scarcely ever conscious.  To bring this synthesis to concepts is a function which belongs to the understanding, and it is through this function of the understanding that we first obtain knowledge properly so called. (A78, B103)

It is thus the imagination which brings a ‘certain content’ to the otherwise empty concept.  This is somewhat ironic considering the lengths Kant has so far gone to isolate the imagination from the kingdom of pure, a priori knowledge.  We can even hear the echoes of his polemic against Leibniz and Wolff.  For, we will recall, the description of the synthetic activity of imagination:

… framing out of the relations abstracted from experience something that does indeed contain what is general in these relations, but which cannot exist without the restrictions which nature has attached to them. (A40, B57)

What is missing from this contingent knowledge, of this ‘certain content’ is apodeictic certainty, that logical criteria of truth that allows a knowledge to be considered strict, necessary and universal.[2] Thus, this operation of synthetic framing is admitted in so far as it organizes a manifold as a pure synthesis of representations ‘… executed according to a common ground of unity.’ (A78, B104)  It stands betwixt sensibility and understanding as a operation of knowledge, a function of the soul, but is itself excluded from the domain of proper knowledge.  Kant writes:

What must first be given – with a view to the a priori knowledge of all objects – is the manifold of pure intuition; the second factor involved is the synthesis of this manifold by means of the imagination.  But even this does not yield knowledge.  The concepts which give unity to this pure synthesis, and which consist solely in the representation of this necessary synthetic unity, furnish the third requisite for the knowledge of an object; and they rest on the understanding. (A78-79, B104)

This gives us a preliminary answer to our question: there are two stems, or sources of our knowledge; and the stems, or sources, are brought together by the synthetic actions of the imagination.  But, can we not detect a great difficulty here?  If the imagination is only a creature of sensibility, and hence of the a posteriori, how can it play the mediating role that it does with respect to the faculties?  Must it not be a sort of hybrid of sensibility and the  intellectual, if it is to be a condition of mediation betwixt them?  And, if the imagination is capable of transcendental, and hence, a priori employment, would that not force us to revise Kant’s initial characterization of the imagination as a creature of experience, of the a posteriori?  For if not, then what will then serve to explain the central mediating role of the imaginative synthesis?  We will begin to consider these questions in an exposition of the treatment of the imagination in the Transcendental Deduction, A and B.

Transcendental Deduction: A and B Editions
Introduction: The Meaning of the Transcendental Deduction

Echoing his exclusion of empirical representation from the domain of the a priori, Kant emphasizes the necessity of a transcendental deduction of the pure concepts of understanding, considering the question of the legitimacy of the pure concepts to have an a priori knowledge of objects:

This demand for a deduction involves us in considerable perplexity, no clear legal title, sufficient to justify their employment, being obtainable either from experience or from reason. (A84-85, B117)

Kant repeatedly emphasizes the distinction between his proof of legitimacy from inquiries which seek, as with Locke, a ‘de facto mode of origination.’ (A85, B117)  Conspicuously, Kant distances himself from the inquiry he calls a ‘physiological derivation,’ in that the origin of the concept is to be discovered in experience.  Kant writes that the deduction of the concepts is not concerned with ‘occasioning causes of their production.’ (A85, B118)  That does not mean that Kant is unaware of these ’causes.’ However, he insists that the task of the Critique differs from a genealogy in that the former is concerned with right and not with fact, for the latter is excluded by the criteria of necessity and universality.  A genealogy is a contingent knowledge, and as with the empirical imagination, inductively frames general relations of experience.  Kant does not dismiss this knowledge as such.  He briefly engages in a ‘physiological derivation’ of his own with respect to those ‘first strivings of human knowledge:’

The impressions of the senses supplying the first stimulus, the whole faculty of knowledge opens out to them, and experience is brought into existence. (A 86, B118)

Kant is not troubled by this knowledge, as we also remember from his affirmation of the inductive, collocative imagination, which had an immediate access to objects, already there amidst objects.  The issue remains, as necessary within the critical endeavour, one of legitimacy, to establish the ‘legal right’ of a web of concepts which already dominate, but may have attained their supremacy through usurpation.  Kant, as we have seen, accepts this usurpation and the de facto existence of the sciences; he accepts the crime of Prometheus.  Yet, it is his task to reflect upon this knowledge in order to establish a grounding via a deduction which must establish both the purity of the concept, and its relation to the object of experience in an a priori manner.

Kant admits that this apologia for the pure concepts will be difficult to construct since the ambiguity of the concept has aroused suspicion as to its ‘objective validity and the limits of its employment.’ (A88, B120)  In other words, since the concept cannot, out of itself, engender an object upon which it would ground its synthesis, it must enter into relation with possible experience, as that is its resistance.  Yet, even as these concepts are reaching out to experience, they must display an origin all of their own, ‘to show a certificate of birth quite other than that of descent from experience.’ (A86-87, B119)[3]  Pure intuitions, which ‘contain a priori the condition of the possibility of objects as appearances’ and through a synthesis of the imagination, engender the manifold.  In this pure intuition retains an intimacy with experience.  However, pure concepts must remain at a distance from experience, must not be the condition for the emergence of objects of experience.  Nor, on the other hand, do objects need conform to the understanding, unless of course, we are seeking a priori knowledge. (A89, B121)  The initial question, ‘how are synthetic a priori judgments possible?’ therefore becomes, ‘how are subjective conditions of thought to have objective validity?’ In a tone of ironic alarm, Kant suggests that it is ‘not at all obvious’ that we must affirm the legitimacy of the pure concepts.  He even engages in a quasi-cartesian thought experiment, describing a ‘possible’ a-conceptual world:

Appearances might very well be so constituted that the understanding should not find them to be in accordance with the conditions of its unity.  Everything might be in such a confusion that, for instance, in the series of appearances nothing presented itself which might yield a rule of synthesis and so answer to the concept of cause and effect.  This concept would then be altogether empty, null, and meaningless.  But since intuition stands in no need whatsoever of the functions of thought, appearances would none the less present objects to our intuition. (A90-91, B123)

This possibility of ‘non-intelligibility’ is that which stimulates Kant to undertake the transcendental investigation.  Kant describes the fate of the confused inquirer who avoids this Deduction:

Otherwise he proceeds blindly, and after manifold wanderings must come back to the same ignorance from which he started.  (A88, B120)

Kant writes further that if this deduction is not possible, then concepts must be ‘… given up as a mere phantom of the brain.’ (A90, B123)  What we can gather from this thought experiment is Kant’s admission that there is a modality of empirical knowledge which proceeds by virtue of the ‘blind, but indispensable’ power of imagination, and not by means of the concept.  However, pure knowledge must remain ultimately the ‘proper’ condition for the possibility of empirical knowledge.  And, Kant suggests that the criteria for this proper knowledge is, once again, the ‘strict universality of the rule.’ (A91, B124)  This strictness of the rule implies a plane of concepts at a distance from experience, and it is to this distance which Kant ascribes ‘dignity.’ (A91, B124)

Towards a resolution of the paradox, and thus to obtain an answer to his question, Kant sets up a decision:

 Either the object alone must make the representation possible or the representation alone must make the object possible. (A92, B124-5)

Once again, this sets up a contrast between concept and intuition, the two stems or sources of knowledge, and of the relations betwixt these stems.  Kant, in that his central focus remains the question of the validity of the concept, and of its apodeictic certainty, remarks that only the latter option will yield a priori knowledge, that the concept, as a pure representation, must make the object possible.  Moreover, the seeming clarity of the decision to be made allows Kant to translate the question as follows:

The question now arises whether a priori concepts do not also serve as antecedent conditions under which alone anything can be, if not intuited, yet thought as object in general. (A93, B125)

If Kant can establish that these concepts are indeed the conditions under which empirical objects are possible, then it will be shown that, even if objects may appear without apparent relationship to the functions of the understanding, all empirical knowledge would be dependent upon the web of a priori concepts.  And, since there is no genuine alarm about this a priori determinations of concepts, he simply asserts that empirical knowledge must be grounded upon pure concepts of understanding.  Kant reiterates his distinction between a physiological induction and a transcendental deduction:

Concepts which yield the objective ground of the possibility of experience are for this very reason necessary.  But the unfolding of the experience wherein they are encountered is not their deduction; it is only their illustration.  For on any such exposition they would be merely accidental.  Save through their original relation to possible experience, in which all objects of knowledge are found, their relation to any one object would be quite incomprehensible. (A94, B126-7)

This distinction between a deduction and an illustration plays itself out in a controversial revision made by Kant between the first (1781) and second edition (1787) of the Critique of Pure Reason, specifically that of the excised A94-95, which is displaced by B127-129, a text which further pursues the above distinction.  This revision plays a significant role in Heidegger’s destructive interpretation of the Kantian revisions, and hence, of the meaning of the Critique itself.  And, the question of the status of the imagination will play a very significant role in the emergence of the German Idealist Movement, as we will see below.  For now we will briefly consider the excision of A94 as a prelude to a consideration of the status and role of the imagination in each of the two Deductions.  The excised passage (A94-95, excised in B) is as follows:

There are three original sources (capacities or faculties of the soul) which contain the conditions of the possibility of all experience, and cannot themselves be derived from any other faculty of the mind, namely sense, imagination, and  apperception.  Upon them are grounded (1) the synopsis of the manifold a priori through sense; (2) the synthesis of this manifold through imagination; finally (3) the unity of this synthesis through original apperception.  All these faculties have a transcendental (as well as empirical) employment which concerns the form alone, and is possible a priori.  As regards sense, we have treated of this above in the first part; we shall now endeavour to comprehend the nature of the other two.

This passage accords with A78-9, B104 considered above with respect to three necessary constituents of a priori knowledge.  However, as suggested, it merely echoes the questions of the relation of the imagination to the other two sources or stems of knowledge.  This would also, in this context, be a question of the status and character of the faculty of imagination amidst a strict distinction between the sensible and the intelligible, one made more severe in the B Edition.  Moreover, the possibility, laid out in the A Deduction, of an transcendental and a priori power of the imagination raises problems with respect to the characterization of the imagination as merely a creature of sensibility.

The revised passages, the addition of B127-9, reiterate the distinction between a deduction and a physiological derivation, or illustration.  Kant fashions a pun upon ‘illustration,’ introducing Locke and Hume as illustrious men.  They both derive concepts from experience, and each therefore forsakes strict universality and necessity with respect to knowledge as such.  Once again, Kant is not denying that they have a knowledge.  However, he is emphatic in his assertion that their knowledge will remain only contingent.  Yet, Kant may not be worthy of such confidence in that he has been visited by the uncanny guest of the imagination as the third, as the in-between, a power which by being neither one stem of knowledge or the other, neither intuition nor concept, injects ambiguity into what was at first sight a very simple and clear cut decision between the concept and experience.  Such ambiguity, cast into relief by the metaphor of an unknown root ala Hamann and Heidegger, not only threatens the project of grounding the legitimacy of the pure concepts in their application to experience, but also that of an extension of knowledge beyond experience, one which requires the utmost care in the original explication of first principles.  We will now turn to the A Deduction to consider its treatment of the imagination.

Imagination in the A Deduction

In the A Deduction, Kant seeks to answer his earlier question of the relation between the two stems of pure, a priori knowledge, sensibility and understanding.  He seeks to ‘render comprehensible this relation of understanding to sensibility, and by means of sensibility, to all objects of experience.’ (A128)  That is, he seeks to establish that there is such a relation which would allow for an a priori determination of sensibility via pure concepts of understanding, if, in other words, that only through a concept ‘can an object be thought.’ (A96-97)  This possibility is made comprehensible through a further consideration of the three subjective sources of a priori knowledge, which were considered above with respect to A79, B103, and A94-95.

Kant, in section three of the Deduction, informs his reader that the ‘two extremes’ sensibility and understanding are brought into relation by ‘the mediation of this transcendental function of imagination…’ (A124)  Yet, this innocuous word ‘mediation’ does not begin to allow us to grasp the necessary role that imagination plays in the grounding of a priori knowledge.  However, the term ‘mediation’ remains significant in another way in that it implies that imagination possesses, as an a priori principle, facultative independence.[4]  If this were not the case, the word ‘mediation’ would indeed have no meaning.  Could principles mediate through a conduit which was not pure?

In the Preliminary Remark (A98-110), Kant begins to exhibit the complexities of this ‘mediation’ produced by the imagination.  He echoes his earlier discussion of transcendental logic when he invokes a spontaneity upon which sets a ‘threefold synthesis,’ of apprehension, of reproduction, and of recognition.  It might seem that the imagination, with its ambiguous status, has been placed safely in the middle, as with Aristotle, concerned with ‘merely’ reproducing the unity of the manifold of appearance at the behest of the concept and sensation.  Yet, this would be to overlook the originative enactment of pure imagination.  This implies of course an a priori, transcendental status, that has been admitted already by Kant.  In other words, the emphasis only upon an empirical, reproductive operation of imagination, prohibits a clear consideration of the entire activity of the ‘transcendental faculty of imagination.’ (A102)  For, a single example will show us that we must exercise care in our interpretation.  Kant writes with regard to the first source of knowledge: ‘But to such a synopsis a synthesis must always correspond; receptivity can make knowledge possible only when combined with spontaneity.’ (A97)

One might, if the imagination was to be considered only from an empirical, reproductive standpoint, designate this spontaneity in this case as apperception.  Yet, it is the blind imagination which engenders synthetic connection, and this synthesis is spontaneity with respect to the receptivity of the synopsis.  It is thus the spontaneity of the productive imagination which is meant in this case.  Or, is apperception that to which Kant alludes?  For, Kant next relates that this spontaneity is the ground of a threefold synthesis: apprehension, reproduction, and recognition, each of which corresponds to the ‘three subjective sources of knowledge, which make possible the understanding itself…’ (A97)  We will defer a clarification of this question until later.

As Kant has related, each of the sources of knowledge has an empirical and a transcendental capacity.  It is the latter power which serves as an a priori condition of knowledge.  But, to each of these sources must correspond a synthesis.  And, since the power of synthesis belongs to the ‘blind’ imagination, this latter source has a unique relationship to apprehension, reproduction, and also recognition.  In the synthesis of apprehension, it is time which is the receptacle of all representations, via which they are ‘ordered, connected, and brought together.’ (A98)  We suspect that a singular representation, as it occurs in a single moment (augenblick), holds within itself absolute unity.  Yet, our intuition already contains a manifold due to the proliferation of temporal moments, and thus, there is absolute multiplicity.  To fathom the unity we suspect, the manifold must be ‘run through, and held together…’ by means of a synthesis that is ‘directed immediately upon intuition…’ (A99)

We soon grasp that this synthesis of apprehension is the work of the transcendental imagination[5] (Heidegger describes a syndosis of the imagination in his 1927 lecture course, Phenomenological Interpretation of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason) when in a rather enigmatic statement by Kant continues, that this intuition ‘does indeed offer a manifold, but a manifold which can never be represented as a manifold, and as contained in a single representation, save in virtue of this synthesis.’ (A99)

The imagination thus has an immediate relation to intuition via its involvement in apprehension and its synthesis, but a relation which compels it to ‘conceal’ what it has apprehended.  The single moment of intuition cannot be represented since the imaginative synthesis represents and reproduces the play of difference which is inherent in the temporal association of ordered multiplicity.  That which is original in the singular moment of vision, in apprehension, is thus  akin to a myth, always displaced by the production and reproduction of the synthetic manifold (A102)  Yet, poiesis as the synthesis of reproduction is in turn grounded upon the transcendental synthesis of imagination, ‘as conditioning the very possibility of all experience.’ (A101)

In his consideration of the synthesis of recognition in the concept, Kant reminds us that his main concern lies in logical truth and apodeictic certainty.  In this context, this concern has transfigured into that of logical identity and the necessity of a unified consciousness, or a formal unity of consciousness, of the numerical identity of the ‘I.’  The organized series of connected representations may well be generated by the synthetic activity of the imagination, but without a consciousness of the series, it would not ‘form a whole,’ for unity, in the sense of totality, is imparted by consciousness.

What the concept contributed to knowledge is to be explained through the distinction between generation and outcome.  Kant writes that the concept need not be involved in the actual generation of representations, but is concerned with the outcome, as it is conscious of the unity of the outcome.  It does not itself need to do anything, as it is the visual recognitive counterpart to an imagination which exudes a ‘blind play of representations, less even than a dream.’ (A112)[6]  Kant writes that the synthesis of empirical imagination must be grounded upon the transcendental power of imagination, thus providing a rule for the simple coherence of representations.  Moreover, he infers that there must be a transcendental ground for the unity of this act of the synthesis of representations, and hence, for the transcendental imagination itself.  Kant writes:

All necessity, without exception, is grounded in a transcendental condition.  There must, therefore, be a transcendental ground of the unity of consciousness in the synthesis of the manifold of all our intuitions, and consequently also of the concepts of objects in general, and so of all objects of experience, a ground without which it would be impossible to think any object for our intuitions; for this object is no more than that something, the concept of which expresses such a necessity of synthesis. (A106)

Kant designates this ground as transcendental apperception, which is a ‘pure original unchangeable consciousness.’ (A107)  He further writes: ‘To render such a transcendental presupposition valid, there must be a condition which precedes all experience, and which makes experience itself possible.’ (A107)   Kant declares that the [numerical] unity of apperception is the a priori ground of all concepts, just as pure intuition is the a priori ground of sensibility.  Transcendental apperception is thus not merely an inspector of the work of the imagination, but is its original instigator and commander.  He alleges that consciousness may ‘often be only faint, so that we do not connect it  with the act itself… (A103)  But the unity of apperception is always there as the consciousness which initially envisages a synthetic manifold and allows it into our knowledge.  This manifold, synthesized and represented for consciousness by imagination is the outcome that allows the self an intimation of its hidden truth.  Kant writes:

For the mind could never think its identity in the manifoldness of its representations, and indeed think this identity a priori, if it did not have before its eyes the identity of its act, whereby it subordinates all synthesis of apprehension (which is empirical) to a transcendental unity, thereby rendering possible their interconnection according to a priori rules. (A108)

To this apperception corresponds the transcendental object to which a manifold of synthetic experience must be ultimately related with respect to the necessity of a relation of knowledge to an a referent.  We are not to know this object, for only appearances are immediate, but must the necessity of its existence, and think, beyond the web of representations.  Kant writes:

This relation is nothing but the necessary unity of consciousness, and therefore also of the synthesis of the manifold, through a common function of the mind, which combines it in one representation. (A109)

Yet, once again we must be careful in our interpretation of this claim that we know nothing about this transcendental object, or of that which transcends the labyrinth of conscious representations.  According to the logical criteria for proper knowledge, as that which exhibits universality and necessity, we do not know things, and must forsake such a knowledge, for knowledge must be a priori, and hence, is possible only if we consider appearances to be merely the web of our own representations.  Yet, we have already seen that the imagination acts inductively and synthetically amidst objects (and represents to us that which is not present), but, as we are within the strictures of the Kantian a priori, and inside his representational theory of consciousness, we are thereby forbidden to consider, with Husserl and Heidegger, the ‘things themselves’.

In this phenomenological sense, the imagination would not be simply a ‘mediator’ between sense and understanding, but would open up an intentional space, where there would be a mode of transcendence of consciousness amidst phenomena, as the ‘things themselves,’ and not, according to the Kantian framework, as mere appearances.  For Kant, we do not ‘know’ that which is not given to the concept, but we can and may think of these things in the sense of the ‘first strivings’ of any knowing, or, as the ‘coherent content’ of the synthesis of representations, which is given to the concept.  But, this is not knowledge in the strictest sense, for all knowledge, as Kant writes, ‘demands a concept.’ (A106) Thus, imagination, as it is harnessed to perform work on behalf of the concept, has the status of a ‘common function of the mind,’ as a standing reserve, or matrix, of ubiquitous, but blind activity.

The primacy, for Kant, of the concept and of consciousness is underlined in his assertion that there is one single experience in which all perceptions are represented as in ‘thoroughgoing and orderly connection, just as there is only one space and one time in which all modes of appearance and all relation of being and not being occur.’ (A110)  In this passage there is a rejection of the Leibnizian severance of contingency and necessity in the notion of infinite possible worlds.  Against Leibniz, Kant asserts that the world which we experience is the only possible world, irrespective  of whether or not it is the best.  The proscription of imagination, the fount of possible worlds, as with the exclusion of inductive procedures from the domain of a priori knowledge, exposes for us the discipline which orchestrates the activity of the imagination designed through the directives of the concept.  As Kant explains later in the first Critique in ‘The Discipline of Pure Reason:’

If the imagination is not simply to be visionary, but is to be inventive under the strict surveillance of reason, there must always previously be something that is completely certain, and not invented or merely a matter of opinion, namely, the possibility of the object itself.  (A770, B798)

This requirement of the possibility of the object adheres to the logical criteria of apodeictic certainty, with its equation of the conditions of possibility of experience as such with the conditions of possibility for the objects of experience.  Or, there can be no escape from the surveillance of reason, for in the situation of an intuition which severed its ties with experience and consciousness, and thus persisting without necessity and strict universality, ‘all relation of knowledge to objects would fall away.’ (A111)  This is not a refusal of an ‘intuition without thought,’ but, an exclusion since these intuitions would be without an object, thus ‘merely a blind play of representations, less even than a dream.’ (A112)

In Section 3 of the Deduction, in which Kant performs the deduction proper, he suggests that the manner of presentation in the previous Remark was not to be confused with a physiological derivation of the concepts from experience.  On the contrary, he writes that a systematic presentation of the deduction must begin and end with the ultimacy of transcendental apperception, self-consciousness; with the notions of unity and numerical identity, which constitute the affinity of manifold of experience, and are thus the grounds of the possibility of not only of knowledge as such, but also of ‘nature’ itself.  Kant writes:

We are conscious a priori of the complete identity of the self in respect of all representations which can ever belong to our knowledge, as being a necessary condition of the possibility of all representations. (A116)

Knowledge then is a vast connection of representations into one consciousness, and its necessary identity is a condition of its existence.  But, Kant also acknowledges the imagination since it remains the work of this latter power to synthetically originate and reproduce the manifold of intuition.  Kant writes:

This synthetic unity presupposes or [my emphasis] includes a synthesis, and if the former is to be a priori necessary, the synthesis must also be a priori.  The transcendental unity of apperception thus relates to the pure synthesis of imagination, as an a priori condition of the possibility of all combination of the manifold in one knowledge.  But only the productive synthesis of the imagination can take place a priori; the reproductive rests upon empirical conditions. (A118)

The disjunction expressed in the phrase ‘presupposes or includes a synthesis’ can be fathomed to exhibit the difference between the A and B Edition Deductions.  To foreshadow, in the B Deduction, the inclusion of a synthesis within apperception itself is suggested, as the distinction between generation and outcome, as it implied a region of activity outside the strictures of the concept, fades along with the explicit independence of productive imagination, as the power of combination is that of the understanding.  In the A edition, on the contrary, it is suggested that apperception itself must depend upon a presupposition of the imaginative synthesis.  As  Kant writes, in a sentence with controversial implications (A118):

Thus the principle of the necessary unity of pure (productive) synthesis of imagination, prior to apperception, is the ground of the possibility of all knowledge, especially of experience.

There is an implication which would suggest that apperception, the seat of unity, could necessarily presuppose imagination for its own act of spontaneity, that there is no apperception without synthetic fabrication via imagination.  But, this is not to suggest that the imagination could be a candidate for the origin of the concepts or of consciousness itself, as Heidegger would.  For, within the parameters of the Kantian a priori, even if all the work is done by the power of imagination, the alpha and omega of knowledge, in the strict sense, must be the unity of apperception, a self-consciousness that is conceived as having its origin in ‘something different’ than experience.  Thus, the imagination, from this logical standpoint deals only with that which is, in the strict sense, nothing.  Moreover, for Kant in the B Deduction, there is not a transcendental imagination which has an integrity independent of the concept, as imagination acquires its transcendental status only in its relation to apperception.

Kant therefore moves to remove any trace of the power of imagination as independent in any meaningful way.  However, even if the revised B Deduction has presented the Deduction in a systematic way (hence to remove the random groping, which he likens to the Egyptians), the discrepancy remains as to the status of imagination vis-a-vis the understanding, not to mention the primacy of imagination as such.[7]  Returning to the A Deduction, but keeping this latter in view, the transcendental imagination may be subordinated to unity as the command and incitement of apperception, but, yet, it seems to have a more original relation with apperception than does understanding, a mere faculty of rules and ‘birth place’ of concepts.  Kant throws us into confusion (if we remain merely in the B Deduction):

The unity of apperception in relation to the synthesis of imagination is the understanding; and this same unity, with reference to the transcendental synthesis of the imagination, the pure understanding. (A119)

In many respects, this is an astounding claim by Kant.  This would seem to suggest that the imagination, in both of its employments, is an original presupposition for the faculty of concepts.  Kant has already suggested this earlier in the disjunctive phrase.  In this way, Kant seeks to demonstrate, in this Deduction, a relation of concepts and the synthesis of representations, a deduction that seems to rely upon the originary power of imagination.  Kant shows us the means by which he has achieved his solution:

In the understanding there are then pure a priori modes of knowledge which contain the necessary unity of the pure synthesis of imagination in respect of all possible appearances.  These are the categories, that is, the pure concepts of understanding. (A119)

Once again, Kant saves the purity of the concepts from any question of physiological origination.  Apperception, the understanding, the affectivity of the concepts, may presuppose the synthetic activity of imagination, but this again is mock heroics, as it is the former which ‘must be added to pure imagination, in order to render its function intellectual.’ (A124)  Imagination is necessary, but it remains fragmentary without the unifying direction of apperception.  The integrity of the pure concepts, grounded in apperception, was never a serious problematic.  The imagination is activity, but action that is blind, merely generating ‘accidental collocations’ (A121), even an affinity of appearances, but never a knowledge that is proper with the characteristics of absolute necessity and strict universality.[8]  Indeed, Kant suggests that we may not even be conscious of these chance dependent collocations, writing, ‘For it is only because I ascribe all perceptions to one consciousness (original apperception) that I can say of all perceptions that I am conscious of them. (A122)  This echoes the claim made earlier that we are ‘scarcely ever conscious’ of the synthesis of imagination. (A78, B103)

Kant is restating that this blind imagination, although it is already deployed at the behest of conscious directives, can be brought to light, to knowledge, via the concept, containing as it does the unity of logical design which must elude this intuitive power.  However, whether or not, and it is doubtful, the deduction proves the legitimacy of the concepts is another matter.  For if it does not prove a relation to an appearance which is itself the product of the deployment of synthesis according to the strictures of unity.  We could simply charge Kant with the construction of a mere tautology, however elaborate the disguise.  Moreover, even if we accept the quid juris, what of the quid facti, which cannot, if the transcendental distinction of sensibility and intelligibility is to be maintained, be answered?

Imagination in the B Deduction

Kant prefigures to a great extent the form of the B Edition Deduction in Section 3 of the A Deduction, where he writes that a ‘systematic’ deduction of the pure concepts of understanding would begin and end with transcendental apperception.  Yet, this concern for formal presentation must not distract us from what is certainly different about the B Deduction.  Firstly, the B Deduction directs its attention almost exclusively upon the unity of transcendental apperception.  No longer are there the myriad traces of the play of imagination which characterize the A Deduction.  Indeed, it is not even mentioned until Section 24.  Secondly, and with astonishment upon the face of the reader, Kant seems to transfer the power of synthesis to the understanding.[9]  Kant writes with regards this ‘… combination (conjunctio)…’:

an act of spontaneity of the faculty of representation; and since this faculty, to distinguish it from sensibility, must be entitled understanding, all combination – be we conscious  of it or not, (my emphasis) be it a combination of the manifold of intuition, empirical or non-empirical, or of various concepts – is an act of the understanding.  To this act the general title ‘synthesis’ may be assigned, as indicating that we cannot represent to ourselves anything as combined and that of all representations combination is the only one which cannot be given through objects.  Being an act of the self-activity of the subject, it cannot be executed save by the subject itself. (B130)

In the A Deduction, we saw that Kant frequently had the habit of attributing to the understanding or to apperception an act which was indeed that of the imagination.  But in the B Deduction, there is a procedure of equivocation of imagination and understanding, for example, in the manner of attributing the synthetic act to a vague ‘self-activity of the subject.’  This notion of subject, in this case, stands in the way of a closer look at the relationship between the principles of imagination and of understanding.  We are always already standing in the way of ourselves.

In the A Deduction, Kant makes the distinction between generation and outcome, asserting that his conception of a priori knowledge is concerned only with the latter.  Thus, in what surely amounts to abbreviation, Kant calls this synthesis an act of the understanding, for the latter in the end is the ground and command of the outcome.  But we ‘know’ that this is only true with respect to the outcome, and not to which faculty performed the work.  Yet, we cannot and must not simply assume that this heuristic strategy of abbreviation is also at work in the B Deduction.  For, as we have alluded to before, the B Deduction had decided in favor of containment with respect to synthesis.  Kant submerges, or disperses, the synthetic power into his concept of combination: ‘But the concept of combination includes, besides the concept of the manifold and of its synthesis, also the concept of the unity of the manifold.’ (B130-131)

This notion of ‘combination’ gathers into one operational frame what, in the A Deduction, seemed to be discrete activities that were performed via an independent facultative principle.  In the B Deduction, even the hint of any possible disunity or of relations amongst the faculties is displaced by an exposition of a ubiquitous transcendental apperception.  Kant writes that this apperception ‘… contains a synthesis of representations, and is possible only through the consciousness of this synthesis.’  (B133)  Whereas a similar passage in the A Deduction allowed for ambiguity to arise with respect to the status of the respective powers of pure a priori knowledge, i.e., imagination and apperception, in this instance, this passage does not, while it may provoke other questions, contain the former ambiguity since the synthesis has lost its status as a presupposition.[10]

What is striking in all of this is the sharp contrast in the respective treatments of the imagination.  The usurpation of the imagination and its synthesis is barely concealed in the Leibnizian notion of ‘concept containment.’  In this context, we will invoke Kant’s own earlier question of right (quid juris), and inquire whether or not this containment can be shown to be legitimate with respect to the a priori imagination.

What is different in the B Deduction is not simply its paucity of mention, but of what is said of the imagination when it finally does come to light.  A consideration of the treatment of imagination in Section 24 is thus necessary if we are comprehend the meaning of the revisions with respect to the significance of the imagination in its broader references.  For instance, the Critique of Practical Reason was published in close proximity to the second edition of the first Critique (1787).  In this context, we may be led to assume or suppose that the second Critique would be likely to accord with the presentation of the imagination in the B Deduction.  We will consider whether of not this is the case in detail when we turn to the Critique of Practical Reason.

In Section 24 of the B Deduction, Kant describes the synthetic activity of pure concepts, ‘forms of thought’ which also contain a synthesis.  The synthesis, as with the A Deduction, relates to the unity of apperception, but in B, it is not imagination relating to apperception, but understanding to the latter.  Yet, we will recall that, in the A edition, ‘The unity of apperception in relation to the synthesis of imagination is the understanding…’ (A119)  In the B edition, however, it is the understanding and its concepts which contain within themselves the power of synthesis, the synthesis of the understanding, which Kant describes:

The synthesis, therefore, is at once transcendental and also purely intellectual.  But since there lies in us a certain form of a priori sensible intuition, which depends on the receptivity of the faculty of representation (sensibility), the understanding, as spontaneity, is able to determine inner sense through the manifold of given representations, in accordance with the synthetic unity of apperception, and so   to think synthetic unity of the apperception of the manifold of a priori sensible intuition – that being the condition under which all objects of our human intuition must necessarily stand. (B150)

Kant declares that this spontaneity of understanding alone gives it access to the object of experience in the sense of mere appearance.  This takes a different take on the task ‘to render comprehensible this relation of understanding to sensibility, and, by means of sensibility, to all objects of experience,’ (A128) expressed in the A Deduction.  In the latter, there were mock heroics, which, even if insincere, do exhibit traces of an humility that is implied in the context of a ‘tribunal of reason.’  In other words, there remains the critical sense that there is a problem to be solved by the Deduction, working with which, Kant testifies in the A Preface, ‘cost me the greatest labour – labour, as I hope, not unrewarded.’ (Axvi.)  Indeed, the ‘mock heroics’ was a strategy to excite our interest, but it was also a symptom that there are difficulties involved in the relation of understanding and sensibility.  This, of course, alludes to the status of the power of imagination, that which was the bridge which brought the stems together.

The question arises immediately: how did Kant get rid of the problem, where is the ambiguity, the question, to which a deduction of the pure concepts was an answer?  Or, in other words, how is it that the concept comes to contain the power of synthesis, or, has Kant built up an ideal matrix, a regime of ‘combination,’ in which each of the sources that are to be brought together somehow dwell together in some ‘pre-established harmony,’ in which all suspicion of the murky origins of concepts has been silenced?  Kant gives us plenty of testimony for us to answer these and other questions, in the form of a distinction, mentioned only in the B edition, between ‘figurative’ and ‘intellectual’ syntheses.  This distinction casts into relief a reigning-in and a diminution of the imagination.

The figurative synthesis (synthesis speciosa) in that of the manifold of sensible intuition, analogous to the syntheses of the productive and reproductive imaginations in the A Deduction.  The intellectual synthesis (synthesis intellectualis), on the other hand, which is the source of the ‘combination’ at issue, is that ‘which is thought in the mere category in respect of the manifold of an intuition in general.’ (B151)  Both of these syntheses have an a priori capacity; yet, the figurative synthesis, in its a priori capacity, is entitled, Kant writes, the ‘transcendental synthesis of the imagination.’ (B151)  Kant explains this title by means of an unexpectant exposition of imagination.  Kant begins:  ‘Imagination is the faculty of representing in intuition an object that is not itself present. (B151)  This interpretation harkens back to the synthesis of apprehension, described in the A Deduction.  In the latter, we will recall, the imagination, acting immediately upon intuition, offers a ‘manifold which can never be represented as a manifold, and as contained in a single representation…’ (A99)

This synthesis (‘save in virtue of such a synthesis’) runs through and holds together the manifold in the moment of vision, and it reproduces this unified experience in relation to temporality.  Of course, apperception, for Kant, is always in the background in order to fulfil the logical criteria of pure knowledge.  But, for Kant in the A Deduction, apprehension, an act of imagination, is the ‘transcendental ground of knowledge,’ and thus, is a necessary, a priori, function of the soul.

However, Kant changes his tone in the B Deduction.  He limits the imagination within subjective parameters, and since it has been defined as an intuitive faculty, relegates it to merely the domain of sensibility.  In this way, Kant recasts the imagination in such a way that it is removed to a distance from the exclusive domain of pure knowledge.  However, he must still admit that ‘imagination,’ at least as a ‘formal indicator’ of a necessary cognitive function, has a transcendental, a priori dimension.  Yet, his admission only exacerbates the problematic of the imagination.  For, a figurative synthesis has the character of spontaneity, and this determinative capacity eludes mere receptivity.

This synthesis, even as it finds itself confined within the horizons of transcendental apperception, exceeds the limits of sensibility, which is after all, as suggested in our reading of the A Deduction, one of the necessary conditions for any possible mediation between sensibility and understanding.  Yet, just as soon as we seem to detect a continuity in the treatment of the imagination, as a transcendental imagination, even if one that must be ‘incarcerated’ within the disciplinary unity of apperception, Kant confronts us with more difficulty:

This synthesis is an action of the understanding on the sensibility; and is its first application – and thereby the ground of all its other applications – to the objects of our possible intuition. (B152)

This figurative synthesis differs from that of the intellectual in  the inclusion of the imagination in its operation.  But, since the imagination can be included in this a priori synthesis, Kant calls it productive.  This inclusion, of course, is due to the direction from, and hence, its relation to apperception.  Thus, a productive capacity of imagination is only possible due to the connection of the latter with apperception. Or, the containment itself is the true source and reality of a transcendental imagination, and thus, the autonomous (from scientific consciousness) creative imagination becomes at best, a mere myth, at worst, an occult enthusiasm.  The reproductive imagination, having played such an important role in the A Deduction, even deemed transcendental, is cast away into the contingent domain of psychological research.

But, what is most remarkable is his characterization of the intellectual synthesis as that which ‘is carried out by the understanding alone, without the aid of imagination.’ (B152)  This depiction forces us to as a very simple question:  Is such a synthesis possible by the understanding – alone?  For after all, each and every synthesis is the ‘mere product of the power of imagination…’ (A78, B103)  Moreover, what has happened to the characterization of transcendental logic in which a ‘pure synthesis of representations’ is brought to the concept? (A78-79, B104)  For this is quite a different matter than a figurative synthesis, one which is ‘an action of understanding on the sensibility.’  There is, of course, the allusion to the participation of imagination, but it is merely a conduit of access to sensibility, and is no longer exhibits the status of the A Deduction.[11]  This seems to be possible due to some ‘innate’ power of understanding to perform synthetic acts, an exclusive power that is nowhere demonstrated.

It is in this context that Kant alludes to the paradox which surrounds the distinction of appearance and thing in itself.  As already encountered, this distinction, and the confinement of our knowledge to the former is required if this knowledge is to have necessity and strict universality.  However, and this is where the paradox re-emerges into the light.  Kant describes:

… we intuit ourselves only as we are inwardly affected, and this would seem to be contradictory, since we should then have to be in a passive relation [of active affection] to ourselves.  (B153)

Or, in other words, the self, as it is grounded upon the unity of apperception, must also be in some sense a non-unity, as activity and passivity, spontaneity and receptivity.  It is these stems which must be brought together into a mediating relation in such a way that spontaneity, and therefore, transcendental unity, remains the highest principle.  Yet, Kant achieves this unity, and removes the paradox in a questionable fashion.  Kant reiterates that it is the understanding which has an ‘…original power of combining the manifold,’ the product of which it brings ‘under an apperception.’ (B153)  However, the understanding is not a faculty of intuitions, neither intellectual, nor sensible.  In the figurative synthesis, it required imagination, i.e., a synthesis, which it contained in itself.  Thus, what Kant is calling an intellectual synthesis is one allegedly performed by the understanding; but it acts neither on intuition (figurative), nor upon concepts themselves, for this would contradict the project of a critique of pure reason.  Kant specifies the synthesis of the understanding:

Its synthesis, therefore, if the synthesis be viewed by itself alone, is nothing but the unity of the act, of which, as an act, it is conscious to itself, even without [the aid of] sensibility, but through which it is yet able to determine the sensibility. (B153)

This pure a priori unity of the act of apperception, as pure spontaneity, assures that the understanding and its concepts can determine ‘sensibility inwardly.’ (B153)  Significantly, Kant writes:

Thus the understanding, under the title of a transcendental synthesis of imagination, performs this act upon the passive subject, whose faculty it is, and we are therefore justified in saying that inner sense is affected thereby.  Apperception and its synthetic unity is… very far from being identical with inner sense.  (B153-54)

The diversity of consciousness, indicated by the distinction between inner sense and apperception, allows Kant to resolve the paradox of a ‘passive relation of active affection’ to oneself.  Inner sense, or time, is at once the form of pure intuition and the receptivity of the passive relation.  It must be runs through and held together in a figurative synthesis in order for there to be any determinate intuition.  But it is not merely a synthesis of the manifold, but a consciousness of this synthesis.  Kant writes:

… consciousness of the determination of the manifold by the transcendental act of imagination (synthetic influence of the understanding upon inner sense), which I have entitled  figurative synthesis. (B154)

Kant also describes the synthetic action, in a passage which echoes  poorly the treatment in the A Deduction:

The understanding does not, therefore, find in inner sense such a combination of the manifold, but produces it, in that it affects that sense. (B155)

In each of these references, it can be ascertained that synthesis is being taken over from the imagination, but the transformation is rather messy, as Kant seems to be making every effort to diminish any notion of an imaginative capacity which is not in actually the work of the understanding.  It is either a title for a particular act of the imagination, or it is the understanding itself either producing the manifold of appearance, or acting upon inner sense.  In any event, it must be admitted that there has been a radical shift in the status of imagination, to the extent that there is a real question of its existence as a faculty at all.

For in the A Deduction, where imagination was a presupposition of apperception, and thus, of the understanding, it is implied that the understanding would find objects presented to itself from the synthesis of imagination, i.e., recognition of an outcome.  In other words, and even though apperception incites and gives logical unity to the endeavour, and hence a determinate connection, a proper knowledge, the imagination still had control over its own sphere of operations, as with differing artisans upon the floor, and not yet as various ‘appendages to the machine’ with respect to the totality of consciousness.  For, imagination has an immediate contact with objects of intuition, displaying a knowledge, while not necessary in a strict sense, concerned with being in the world.

What has changed between the two deductions is therefore more than a mere change in presentation.  If the unity of apperception must be the alpha and omega of pure, a priori knowledge, then it would seem that the imagination would be somewhere in-between, in either edition.  Yet, the status of the imagination would differ, as we have seen, depending on whether it were a presupposition of apperception in a genealogy of synthetic knowledge, or if it were contained in apperception, and to that extent only its name, as a formal indicator, remained, as it is absorbed in the ‘cybernetic loop’ of a single, unchangeable, and total consciousness.

As Kant claimed in his discussion of Leibniz and Wolff, the synthesis of imagination is not only necessary, but can, without logical or conceptual accompaniment build an empirical knowledge, which, while not ultimately necessary, persists as the modality of inductive and inventive terrestrial knowledge.  Such a space of non-logical, non-conceptual ‘knowledge’ seemed assured by the A edition, which emphasized the imagination as a third basic faculty of the soul.  But, the scenario of a totalitarian consciousness, of an original unity of apperception, seems to suggest that, while we may speculate as to the existence of a non-logical world, one that is not related to apperception, there is emphatically no outside, and that there is nothing that can be represented, to be known, if it is not brought before consciousness.

As Kant commanded, all combination, ‘be we conscious of it or not,’ is the mere result of the understanding, effectively made the product of understanding in that imagination has been absorbed into apperception.  And in this way, its pure act could be deemed a synthesis, but only if the imagination is contained within the understanding, or, as a modality of consciousness.  It is still left to be decided whether or not this usurpation has any legitimacy, which is another way a stating the paradox.

Transcendental Judgment: Schematism and Principles

The principles of pure understanding are generated through the ‘mother-wit’ of transcendental judgment, which Kant describes as a ‘…faculty of subsuming under rules.’ (A132, B172)  That which is subsumed under concepts is the manifold of appearance; sensibility is given rules via judgment.  In this way, it is judgment which is the mediating bridge between sensibility and understanding.  Or, as it was formulated in the B Deduction, transcendental judgment is a synthetic action of understanding upon sensibility.  In the A Deduction, this transcendental judgment would occur via a synthesis of representations and of its recognition by the concept.  In both cases, the implication is that the imagination, whether it is the presupposition of apperception, or is contained therein, brings the stems or sources of knowledge together into a synthetic experience.

However, what is meant by the claim that it is the imagination that somehow is responsible for judgment?  Is this not the jurisdiction of logic?  But, as we have already seen, Kant unfolds a distinction within logic, that between general and transcendental logics.  Kant reminds us that the former exhibits the pure forms and faculties of thought, abstracted from all content, alone unto itself.  Or, as he suggests toward the end of the work, general logic is a ‘canon for understanding and reason in general…’ (A796, B825)  This formal logic, unable to prescribe any rules for sensibility, is therefore unlike transcendental logic which must be involved with a ‘certain content,’ or, as in A, a synthesis of representations, if, that is, there is to be any knowledge.  We are not concerned therefore with general logic in that we are seeking synthetic a priori knowledge of the manifold of objects of appearance.[12]

Transcendental logic shows us our capacity to found an a priori knowledge which extends beyond merely analytic criteria of truth or of a dialectical logic of illusion, the antinomial matrix of the non-objective inferences of reason.  What distinguishes transcendental from formal logic is thus the involvement of the synthesis of imagination as a necessary condition for the fabrication of experience and knowledge.

But, what type of involvement does the imagination have in this practise of transcendental judgment?  And, can the contours of this involvement shed light on the previous question of the treatment of the imagination in the two Deductions?  Moreover, in an attempt to answer the previous question, since Kant has implied that judgment in this way is distinct from understanding, does this imply that transcendental judgment, as the application of empty concepts to a manifold of appearance in concreto is an operation of imagination, which thus has a distinct status with respect to the understanding?  And, does not this imply that understanding, as a ‘stupid’ faculty of mere rules is utterly dependent upon a power which straddles the vast ditch which separates understanding from sensibility?  Is this natural gift of judgment, as distinct from the empty recitation of rules by the understanding, not simply the fortunate exercise via imagination of a mediating synthesis between ‘severed’ extremes?  Kant describes the purpose of transcendental philosophy with respect to these questions:

It must formulate by means of universal but sufficient marks the conditions under which objects can be given in harmony with these concepts.  Otherwise the concepts would be void of all content, and therefore mere logical forms, not pure concepts of the understanding. (A136, B175)

The objects are to be given in harmony with pure concepts, which have been distanced from the logical functions of judgment.  In this context, judgment indicates a cultivation of harmony between the object and the concept in order for these to be given together as a unified experience.  We can fathom from the terms ‘marks’ that there is to be a bridge between the universal and the particular by means of the ‘marking’ judgment.  But what is this judgment if it is not the logical function of judgment discussed earlier?  In order to answer this and the other questions which have been raised, we will turn to Chapter 1, ‘Schematism of the Pure Concepts of Understanding,’ a section which, as we will see, is emphasized by Heidegger in his interpretation of the significance of the revisions in Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics.  This will be followed by a sketch of the principles of pure understanding, which Kant declares to be synthetic a priori judgments proper, the main goal of his inquiry.

Imagination and the Schematism

Kant introduces his discussion of schematism by reminding his reader of the purpose and the procedure of transcendental judgment, i.e., the ‘subsumption’ of an object under a concept.  For Kant, a subsumption, as it implies a ‘contact’ betwixt heterogeneous poles, between sensibility and understanding, requires that there is some homogeneity which would serve as a ‘conduit’ for the subsumption.[13] Recalling his designation of the imagination as the mediating power between sensibility and understanding at A124, Kant writes:

Obviously there must be some third thing, which is homogenous on the one hand with the category, and on the other hand with the appearance, and which thus makes the application of the former to the latter possible.  This mediating representation must be pure, that is, void of all empirical content, and yet at the same time, while it must in one respect be intellectual it must in another be sensible. (A138, B178)

The representation which fulfils the criteria for the mediation is the transcendental schema, which as a transcendental determination of Time (the formal condition of inner sense), provides the conduit for an ‘indirect’ meeting of the category and appearance.  A schema is homogenous with the category in that it provides the unity which is required for there is to be a singular temporality.  Further, it is homogenous with appearance since ‘… time is contained in every empirical representation of the manifold.’ (A139, B178)  It is thus the schema which, as a necessary third thing, is solely responsible for the application of the category to appearance.  And, the schema is ‘… always a product of the imagination.’ (A140, B179)[14]

Kant asserts that this schema, while not equivalent to either the category or to the manifold of appearance, is somehow contained by the concept, as an a priori and formal condition of sensibility (inner sense).  What this seems to imply is that the schema must operate at the behest of the category, in the sense of a schema of the concept.  Such a requirement, as we have seen in our previous reading, is extant in both Deductions in greater or lesser extents.  However, it remains difficult to grasp how such a mediation is possible if the mediating schema is contained by the concept.

This notion of containment seems to be a distinct claim than that involved in the distinction between an image and a schema, where the latter must act in accordance with the directives of apperceptive unity, while the former need not act in accord with this unity.  What this suggests is that the schema is the product of imagination which is orchestrated for the understanding, even if it remains possible to consider its other operations.  Moreover, if apperception contains the synthesis, how is it to obtain a mediate relationship with time?  If it contained this synthesis, and if the schema was produced by this synthesis by means of a relationship of determination vis-a-vis temporality, would not apperception have in its own heart the anxiety of its own finitude?

What is at stake in Kant recasting of the Deduction is the meaning of an a priori containment of the formal conditions of sensibility, and of the power of synthesis, within the concept.  Is such a notion compatible with the workings of schematism?  Or, is this notion of containment merely a cognitive principle, setting forth the requirement of an ‘I think’ besides every representation?  Yet, such a notion of containment is not the same as that which is operative in the B Deduction, for in the latter, there is not only the cognitive requirement of an ‘I think,’ but the productive claim of ‘I make, I synthesize.’  For the understanding is imagination in so far as the former is, in B, a synthetic power.  Indeed, one is tempted to conclude that the term imagination is maintained only for the sake of custom.  As a strong contrast, Kant writes in his description of the Schematism:

This schematism of our understanding, in its application to appearances and their mere form, is an art concealed in the depths of the human soul, whose real modes of activity nature is hardly likely ever to allow us to discover, and have open to our gaze. (A141, B180-81)

It would be hasty to dismiss such a description as mere poetizing on the part of Kant, for it suggests that there is a dimension of the activity of the power of imagination which remains concealed from the gaze of the understanding, or, in other words, that the truth of the works of the power of transcendental imagination are inaccessible, and distinct from, the domain of consciousness.

Such poetical language suggests that Kant has been confronted with the limits of expression, limits which symptomatize limits in access to the totality of relevant experience.  Such limitations, or better, the realization of such limits, throw the previously unproblematic presupposition regarding the unity of apperception into serious question.  In such a case, if the orchestrations of the imagination must remain hidden from the gaze of consciousness, there are the presuppositions of this consciousness, are we not obliged to consider the question of unity unanswered?  Does not such an assertion of unity transcend the limits of experience, if that is, we do cannot verify such a claim of unity for the relevant data must remain hidden from our conscious surveillance?

However, Kant does not question the unity of apperception, and in his presupposing of this unity, specifies the ‘third thing’ that will allow for his apperceptive unity to ultimately rule a manifold of appearance.  This ‘third thing’ is necessary for a mere image, as a product of the reproductive imagination, as with an accidental collocation, cannot be congruent with the concept.  Thus, a schema, the product of the productive imagination, may be congruent with the concept in that it cannot be brought into an image.  It is a monogram of the pure a priori imagination, is the pure synthesis itself, which as we have seen may be sublimated in the concept in accordance with its directives of unity.[15]

Kant defines the schema as a

… product which concerns the determination of inner sense in general according to conditions of its form (time), in respect of all representations, so far as the representations are to be connected a priori in one concept in conformity with the unity of apperception. (A142, B181)

In the previous, Kant seems to uphold the principial distinction of pure a priori imagination and understanding.  Moreover, he repeats his earlier enigmatic language with respect to an ‘art concealed in the depths of the human soul,’ an art which will remained concealed from our gaze.  Such language, in its acknowledgement of the limits of human understanding, seems to be out of tune with that of the B Deduction in its assertion of the total reach of conceptual unity, ‘be we conscious of it or not.’  Such an assertion, together with the rather forced identification of the transcendental imagination with the understanding, as a mere title of an act of understanding,  seems to be out of step with the intrinsic constitution of human knowledge and of its conditions of possibility.  It seems that such language indicates the possibility of other truths, but ones which are beyond the parameters of the theoretical project.[16]

Yet, this does not alter the necessity for the imagination to act in accord with the unity of apperception, if we are to preserve the intrinsic meaning of the Kantian a priori.  After Kant itemizes the schema for each of the concepts of understanding, he informs us that the schema ‘contains and makes capable of representation only a determination of time.’ (A145, B184)  He writes furthermore:

The schemata are thus nothing but a priori determinations of time in accordance with rules.  These rules relate in the order of the categories to the time-series, the time-content, the time-order, and lastly to the scope of time in respect of all possible objects. (A145, B184-85)

Thus, in conjunction with the categories and intuition, the pure, a priori power of imagination generates the nexus of temporality.  To this extent, it is the mediating bridge betwixt the antitheses of understanding and sensibility.  It is by means of its capacity for direct contact with the manifold of intuition that imagination provides the preconditions for an indirect correspondence betwixt apperception (spontaneity) and the pure intuition of inner sense (receptivity).  In the absence of schemata, which realise and restrict the concepts, the latter have a merely logical meaning, as the ‘functions of the understanding for concepts; and represent no objects.’ (A147, B187)  It would seem that such a schematic power of realization and restriction of the concept would confirm the vital independence of imagination.[17] How else is apperception to have at least a theoretical distance from temporality?

The Pure Principles of Understanding      

The principles are those transcendental judgments which are achieved a priori by a synthesis of imagination, the activity of which has been subsumed under a rule-matrix of an understanding.  More precisely, the system of principles catalogues the variation of conceptual subsumptions of the syntheses of imagination, via a fourfold specification of the schemata, as principles, the Axioms, Anticipations, Analogies, and Postulates, this fourfold divided in between two respective classes regarding their respective natures of certainty, whether immediate, intuitive, i.e., mathematical, or mediate, discursive, i.e., dynamical.  Kant writes:

The principles of pure understanding, whether constitutive a priori, like the mathematical principles or merely regulative, like the dynamical, contain nothing but what may be called the pure schema of possible experience. (A236, B296-97)

This schema, a transcendental determination of time, is a work of the imagination, according to the directives of apperception.  In other words, the schema of imagination allows a representation to be given to consciousness of time, which otherwise cannot be an object of possible intuition.  The schema is the possibility of a ‘third thing’ which can serve as the locus of mediation between the stems or sources, understanding and sensibility.  Or, schema allow for there to be a relation between apperception and time, of the unity of the concept and the forms of inner sense.  Schemata, as the principles of the pure understanding, are thus purported to be the answer to the original question proposed by Kant: how are synthetic a priori judgments possible?  And, since this question is the same which asks after the possibility of a unity of experience in general, Kant unifies the four principles by the assertion of a highest principle of synthetic judgment: ‘… every object stands under the necessary condition of synthetic unity of the manifold of intuition in a possible experience.’ (A158, B197)  Unity, in this sense, is thus the highest schema of pure experience.

This bald assertion of unity of the concept is however limited by its embeddedness amidst the horizons of possible experience, as in their status as synthetic, and not analytic, judgments, there must be a consideration of ‘content’ as a condition of possibility of experience as such.  Yet, this limitation purportedly allows the understanding to know with complete, a priori certainty the realm of phenomena, since the manifold of appearance is a construction of its own spontaneous and synthetic consciousness.  It knows what it has placed there itself.  In this island of truth, we would be, for Kant, certain of a unity between the concept and intuition, by means of the schema of imagination.

This is not a question of knowledge of any things themselves, if we are to construct the conditions for a priori knowledge in the Kantian sense.  The mediation is between differing representations, as a synthesis of these representations, which was originally incited into active invention, via the requirements of unity amidst a possible apperception.  And, by reflective inference, the mediation is the unification of the faculties of the soul, or in other words, the subsumption of the imagination under the unity of the concept of understanding, and a subsumption of imagination in its a priori, transcendental sense under the Ideal of Reason.  It is this drive to unity in consciousness which answers the question of the possibility of synthetic a priori judgments.  Kant writes:

Synthetic a priori judgments are thus possible when we relate the formal conditions of a priori intuition, the synthesis of imagination and the necessary unity of this synthesis in a transcendental apperception, to a possible empirical knowledge in general.  We then assert that the conditions of the possibility of experience in general are likewise conditions of the possibility of the object of experience, and that for this reason, they have objective validity in a synthetic a priori judgment. (A158, B197)

Synthetic a priori judgments are possible if there is a unity of a possible experience in general.  Or, the schema of unity must have the capacity to project its design upon another synthetic schema, and, in a relationship of priority, as the condition of unity for the monogram of the synthesis of representations.  Keeping aside our prior question of the legitimacy of the presupposition of a transparent unity as such, we may ask a rhapsody of questions: what relationship do synthetic a priori judgments have to the question of quid facti?  Why are synthetic a priori judgments deemed necessary?  Why must the manifold of experience be subsumed under a matrix of rules, if this possible experience can show no necessary relationship to the world of facts, of life?  Is such certainty worth the subjection of the imagination to a matrix of rules of understanding?  Is this assertion not indeed a violence which thus renders Kant’s claims self-refuting and hypocritical?  Why not a contingent knowledge, of an a posteriori consciousness, whose ‘a priori’ was existence itself?  But, this takes us outside the confines of the Kantian project and his sense of the a priori.

Since Kant assumes that his various demonstrations are unproblematic, and that he has given his question a general answer which needs only to be unfolded in a detailed treatment of the principles, he proceeds to show in each principle in what sense the imagination is subsumed under the matrix of unity.  For instance, in the Axioms, extensive magnitudes arise from the ‘successive synthesis of the productive imagination in the generation of figures.’ (A163, B204)  This power of synthesis is simply the power of adding part to part, but, as Kant asserts, the imagination can do many things, but it can never decide: which one?  Kant writes:

If I assert that through three lines, two of which taken together are greater than the third, a triangle can be described, I have expressed merely the function of productive imagination whereby the lines meet at any and every possible angle.  (A164-65, B205)

The undecidibility of the blind imagination, is due, for Kant, to the absence from the works of imagination of a specific type of unity, one that is the condition of necessary and universal connections betwixt representations.  Once again, imagination, by itself, can never generate an a priori knowledge (although it may itself operate in accordance with another notion of the a priori), even though it possesses transcendental status (either by nature (A Deduction), or by mere association with the unity of apperception (B Deduction).  In a note to the Axioms added in the B edition, Kant makes a distinction between composition and connection, the former having no necessary connection, recalling the collocative framing in the Aesthetic, the latter having constituents that ‘necessarily belong to one another, as… the accident to some substance, or the effect to the cause.’ (B201)

While it might appear unjustified that the concept would subsume the synthesis of representations under its conditions of unity, the discussion in the Axioms deems the imagination to be indecisive, a charge which Kant wants to make stick, for it allows him to win his argument via other means.  For, if this charge were in fact true, the synthesis of imagination would need, if there was to be a determinate, yet, pure knowledge, the unity of the concept due to its own lack of capacity, incompleteness, blindness.

Although it is beyond the purpose of this paper to provide a detailed exegesis of each of the principles, these latter can each be described as a similar attempt to characterize the imagination and its synthesis as in some manner deficient, or insufficient to the requirements of a priori knowledge.  Therefore, with the next principle, the Anticipations, even though the imaginative synthesis is the faculty of instantaneous apprehension, the moment of vision, since it occurs via the ‘repetition of an ever-ceasing synthesis,’ apprehends, a posteriori, a continuity of intermediate sensations, possible realities.  Thus, imagination is essentially a posteriori and discontinuous.  This lack of continuity, of course leads to the association of the imagination with the unity of apperception.   Similarly, in the Analogies, the imagination orchestrates a three fold synthesis, each synthesis corresponding to a modality of temporality in its relationships with the composition of a manifold of appearance (duration, succession, and co-existence).

What is at stake is a ‘necessary connection’ of perceptions.  This principle demands that the unity of apperception is projected as the seat of the alleged unity of time, as a subjectum of inner experience.  To  recall the distinction made in the A Deduction between connection (synthesis) and determinate connection (recognition), imagination is not capable of making a necessary connection, and once again, must submit to the concept, if appearance is to be subsumed under a concept via a schema of merely possible experience.

Each of the modalities of time have an analogy, or a schema that allows it a conscious representation, respectively: substance, as a surrogate for a hidden time, a regulative ground of permanency as against the ever-ceasing synthesis of imagination.  Moreover, in the Analogy of Succession, the imagination connects a past with the present in a synthesis, for example, in the figure:

A   ——   B

However, Kant informs us that the imagination can make either of the two successive times the first or last, and vice versa.  It once again possesses no rule by which it may decide which one is first and which is last.  It thus has no rule to confer objective validity, proper order and necessary connection.  It is in this light that Kant explains the seeming mystery of objectivity:

We can extract clear concepts of them from experience, only because we have put them into experience, and… experience is thus itself brought about only by their means. (A196, B 241)

Furthermore, the Third Analogy, that of co-existence, or principle of reciprocity, closely resembles the back and forth play of the power of imagination.  However, once again, Kant asserts that the imagination cannot hold these two representations together with a necessary connection, and therefore, that a rule would be needed which would claim that the ground or condition of each was in the other, in other words, as a community.  Kant gives a summary of the Analogies, which provides a description of temporalization as such, as a synthesis according to rules, when he writes:

Our Analogies portray the unity of nature in the connection of all appearances under certain exponents which express nothing save the relation of time (in so far as time comprehends all existence) to the unity of apperception – such unity being possible only in synthesis according to rules. (A216, B 263)

But, in this passage, we are given the reason why the concept has  its association with the imagination, since not only can this power give a coherent content for the actualization of this unity, but it can also allow for a mediate relationship between the spontaneous act of apperception and the receptive affectation of sensibility.  Once again, and especially with the usage of the phrase a ‘third thing,’ this raises the question of the status of imagination.

In the Postulates, the mantra that the works of imagination have no necessity is delineated in more detail, from possibility to actuality, and then to necessity.  The possible is anything that is in agreement with the formal conditions of experience, concepts and intuitions.  The actual is bound up with material conditions, with sensation.  Necessity is the actual in agreement with the universal conditions of experience.  With regard to the first, imagination is painted as a mere dreamer, thinking possibility after possibility, just as long its works are not monsters which violate the law of contradiction.  Within these logical horizons, therefore, the power of imagination and its ‘natural’ relationship to possibility is harnessed for its synthetic activity ‘in relation to experience, and within its limits.’ (A224, B271)

The Postulate of Actuality, or existence, is possible without perception; it can be known, or suspected by means of inference, for example.  The role of content for the concept is that it provides the mark of actuality.  In this attempt to glance at this mark, Kant adds in B a ‘Refutation of Idealism,’ a charge which was made of the Critique by many contemporaries, especially Schulze.[18]  In this refutation, imagination becomes the culprit of idealism, that our experience is merely illusion, imaginary.  In a specific way, Kant seems to be distancing himself from the perceptive imagination in a note in the A Deduction in which he states that imagination is involved in perception.  Indeed, the criteria for a refutation of idealism becomes to ‘show that we have experience, and not merely a mere imagination of outer things.’ (B275)  The question of objects ‘outside us’ becomes the question of an ‘outer sense,’ distinct from an ‘outer imagination.’ (B277)  Thus, Kant thought that he had to rebuke the power of imagination in order to escape the charge of solipsism and/or subjective idealism.

Finally, with respect to the Postulate of Necessity, Kant writes that without the hypothetical necessity of subsumption under concepts, laws, etc., there could be no ‘nature.’  This latter is fully articulated via a nexus of laws.  Kant, in a direct echo of his earlier characterization of imagination as blind, writes that no necessity in nature is blind, which of course is a restatement of the highest principle of synthetic a priori judgments, stated in differing terms, that time must stand under the necessary unity of apperception.  It is the nexus of the concept which projects unity upon the accidental compositions and rhapsodies of imagination.

Blindnesses: The Status of Imagination in the First Critique

It would be difficult to deny that the imagination would not hold up that well within the parameters of the Kantian criteria of a priori knowledge, as this latter is determined, ultimately, by the unity of theoretical reason, the understanding.  However, and even if the true meaning of the possibility of synthetic a priori judgments is in fact the possibility of a legitimate subsumption of the imagination under the unity of the concept, there would still be flexibility with respect to the means by which such a subsumption was performed.  For instance, in the A Deduction, it seemed that the imagination was in fact autonomous, except when it was required by the unity of apperception in order to construct a particular a priori judgment.  In this light, there would be a wider notion of consciousness, or in other words, the awareness of waking life, without the necessity of a limited, apodeictic consciousness, surveilling each and every contour of this awareness.  However, such is the main implication of the B Deduction, that every representation, ‘be we conscious of it or not,’ is subject to the unity of apperception.  This is why an a-logical, a-conceptual world is that of myth.

However, another question could be asked: can the requirements of apodeictic certainty truly be met in a situation in which there is, as in the A Deduction, an imagination that is presupposed as a condition of possibility for the unity of apperception?  Could the a priori of the Critique be satisfied if it were possible that the understanding and its concepts resulted from autonomous syntheses of the imagination?  For, even if Kant incessantly seeks to lower the status of imagination, and thereby emphasize its need of the concept, he still is forced to acknowledge, with qualifications, the significance of imagination.  For example, Kant writes with respect to the unconditioned itself:

This unconditioned is always contained in the absolute totality of the series as represented in imagination.  But this absolutely complete synthesis is again only an idea; for we cannot know, at least at the start of this enquiry, whether such a synthesis is possible in the case of appearance. (A416, B444)


… the unconditioned is necessarily contained in the absolute totality of the regressive synthesis of the manifold in the [field of] appearance – the synthesis being executed in accordance with those categories which represent appearance as a series of conditions to a given conditioned – reason here adopts the method of starting from the idea of totality, though what it really has in view is the unconditioned, whether of the entire series or of a part of it.  Meantime, also, it leaves undecided whether and how this totality is attainable. (A417, B444,445)

Once again, we see that the transcendental imagination has a power to potentially synthesize the absolute series of conditions, and it thereby allows for an ideal projection of a totality which contains the idea of the unconditioned.  It seems only to be its relations with time that keep it from attaining its goal.  However, the goal of totality is not that of imagination, but of reason.  The former, because of its relationship with time, because of its merely mortal status, will never live up to the ideal of reason to create a world in its own image.  And, since the imagination fails in this way, it thereby loses its right to independence; it is deemed by reason and its tribunal, ‘Guilty!,’ sentenced to an indefinite period of hard labour without ever comprehending its alleged crime.

In this way, an allegedly blind imagination is punished by a blind reason, blind to the indigenous needs, rhythms and contours of the work and life of this synthetic power, and blind to its own emergence as “reason” in the self-suppression of the imagination in the event of the sublime (Kant’s Critique of Judgement).  This blindness by reason, moreover, as it has not been shown de juris that the concepts have a right to subject the world to its narrow notion of a priori truth (as Kant seems to confront Rousseau and Hume with his own latent rationalist prejudices), is thus a violence, but one that it can never notice itself, as its blindness is due to its gaze upon a mere idea of totality in the unconditioned.  It is here that reason, not imagination, is indecisive since it is unable to decide if its vision of completeness is attainable in the world, as its ideals may only remain regulative.  In the end, mere reason alone must rely on the synthesis of sensibility and understanding by the imagination, but this synthetic experience, this supply of expressive temporality merely tempts it, leaving it forever undecided and unsatisfied.

The alternative (traversing the various pathways of Holderlin, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Marx, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, Bataille, Foucault, Derrida, Kristeva) is a sensuous reason, a mortal thought, a thinking and creativity upon the topos of the ultimate double bind of mortal existence.

[1]     I do not wish to confine Kant to this single metaphor, since there are clearly others operative throughout the text, such as the building metaphor and that involving a spring of water.  It is the “root” metaphor which would play such a central role in Heidegger’s interpretation of Kant.

[2]     Compare A121: ‘If however representations reproduced one another in any order just they happened to come together, this would not lead to any determinate connection of them, but only to accidental collocations; and so would not give rise to any knowledge.’

[3] Consider Nietzsche’s parody of this pathos of reason (ratio) in Beyond Good and Evil, Aph. 2:

 How could something originate in its antithesis?  Truth in error, for example?  Or will to truth in will to deception? Or the unselfish act in self-interest?  Or the pure radiant gaze of the sage in covetousness?  Such origination is impossible; he who dreams of it is a fool, indeed worse than a fool; the things of the highest value must have another origin of their own: they cannot be derivable from this transitory, seductive, deceptive, mean little world, from this confusion of desire and illusion! In the womb of being, rather, in the intransitory, in the hidden god, in the “things in itself” – that is where their cause must lie and nowhere else!

[4]     This is implied in the A Deduction despite the undertow of the logical identity, and hence, ultimacy of the apperceptive act.

[5]     Kant writes at A120: ‘There must therefore exist in us an active faculty for the synthesis of this manifold.  To this faculty I give the title, imagination.  Its action, when directed upon perceptions, I entitle apprehension.  Since imagination has to bring the manifold of intuition into the form of an image, it must previously have taken the impressions up into its activity, that is, have apprehended them.’ Also in a note at A121: ‘Psychologists have hitherto failed to realise that imagination is a necessary ingredient of perception itself.’

[6]     The metaphor of vision and blindness in the A Deduction, a metaphor which is not present in the B Deduction, implies at least a duality betwixt imagination and understanding, as vision implies distance between the viewer and the viewed.  The B Deduction, on the other hand, abandons the metaphor of blindness since it fails to distinguish the imagination from the understanding, and thus, remove any distance which would allow for a detachment of the faculties with respect to their principles of composition.

[7]     The undeniable discrepancies which exist between the A and B Deductions indicates a point of susceptibility of the Kantian text to the destruction performed by Heidegger, with his emphasis upon the ‘phenomenological’ deduction carried out in the A edition.

[8]      This once again underlines Kant’s overriding logical criteria which proscribes the significance of the ontological questions which arise in the avenue of the imagination.

[9]     Compare this to A125 in the A Deduction which lists the empirical employments of imagination ‘in recognition, reproduction, association, and apprehension.’ It is the imagination which acts in this scenario, but acts according to the rules of apperception.  In the B Deduction, responding to the charges Berkeleyian idealism, to the attacks upon reason by Jacobi and Hamann, and to criticisms of his style, Kant takes his position to its logical conclusion.  He was therefore willing to sacrifice the dignity of the creative and transcendental imagination in order to save his notion of truth.

[10]     With respect to the clarification of the ground to the three fold synthesis in the A Deduction, we could answer that each, in its own way, is the ground, one in terms of generation, the other in terms of outcome.  This of course is distinct from the question of the legitimacy of the concept to command the imagination, or in what amounts to the same thing, whether or not the imagination is truly in need of the unity of the concept.

[11]     Furthermore, the reproductive imagination, which in the A Deduction, was described as a ‘transcendental act of the mind,’ is relegated in the B Deduction to the domain of psychology.

[12]     However, Kant does not thereby overthrow formal logic, but encloses it within its own domain of purity.  This ‘purism’ of the laws of logic (and thus of reason, which cannot relate to objects) was an absurdity for some of Kant’s contemporaries and has become a problem for many subsequent inquirers, Heidegger among them.  It could be suggested however that the emphasis on exclusion of logic in its formal sense from ‘center stage’ shows a continuity with the A Deduction and not with the B Deduction which brings logic to the foreground in the same movement which diminishes imagination.

[13]     I would have preferred to write ‘negotiation,’ but it is difficult conceiving of a negotiation which is working toward a ‘subsumption,’ except in a negotiation of surrender or annexation.  Yet, such a hierarchial relationship conflicts with the lip-service Kant gives about the lack of precedence among the faculties.  This claim is obviously not true, and Kant’s entire project is a history of the conflict between reciprocity and logical precedence.

[14]     Note the stylistic continuity of this passage with the A Deduction, and not with the usage of the B Deduction.  For Kant does not write that the schema is a product of the understanding, under the title of imagination, but a product of the imagination.

[15]     Kant justifies the subjection, or effective containment of the imagination to the principle of the unity of apperception when he contrasts the works of imagination with the ideal of reason in what could be described as a prejudicial, but consistent remark:

‘Such is the nature of the ideal of reason, which must always rest on determinate concepts and serve as a rule and archetype, alike in our actions and in our critical judgments.  The products of the imagination are of an entirely different nature; no one can explain or give an intelligible concept of them; each is a kind of monogram, a mere set of particular qualities, determined by no assignable rule, and forming rather a blurred sketch drawn from diverse experience than a determinate image – a representation such as painters and physiognomists profess to carry in their heads, and which they treat as being an incommunicable shadowy image of their creations or even of their critical judgments.’ (A570-71, B598)

Thus containment can be considered as expressing no more than the harnessing of the results of the power of imagination by means of the cognitive (and not the operational) principle of the unity of apperception.  What becomes clear is the narrow notion of truth that is allowed by Kant’s conception of a priori knowledge, which we can fathom from his own allegory of an island of truth amidst the story ocean of darkness threatening on all sides. (A235, B294)

[16]     In ‘The Discipline of Pure Reason’ (A770, B798), he writes, acknowledging tacitly that he must remain blind to other visions:

If the imagination is not simply to be visionary, but is to be inventive under the strict surveillance of reason, there must always previously be something that is completely certain, and not invented or merely a matter of opinion, namely the possibility of the object itself.

[17]     The issue of the status of the imagination with respect to its independence is another way of considering the separability of the concept from the determination by the imagination by means of the limits inherent in possible experience, or existence.  At stake is the possibility of a plurivocity of truth, or truths without the hierarchialization inherent in the Kantian architectonic.

[18]     Beiser, The Fate of Reason, pp. 266-284.

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