Critique of Pure Reason

Terms and phrases

  • a priori versus a posteriori
  • Analytic versus synthetic
  • Appearance
  • Category
  • concept versus object of sense perception
  • Empirical versus pure
  • intuition
  • Manifold of the appearances
  • Object
  • Phenomena versus noumena
  • Schema
  • Transcendental idealism
  • variant translations of Vorstellung: presentation or representation

Intuition and concept

Kant distinguishes between two different fundamental types of representation: intuitions and concepts.

  1. Concepts are "mediate representations" (see A68/B93). Mediate representations represent things by representing general characteristics of things. For example, consider a particular chair. The concepts "brown," "wooden," "chair," and so forth are, according to Kant, mediate representations of the chair. They can represent the chair by representing general characteristics of the chair: being brown, being wooden, being a chair, and so forth.
  2. Intuitions are "immediate representations" (see B41), that is, representations that represent things directly. One's perception of the chair is, according to Kant, an immediate representation. The perception represents the chair directly, and not by means of any general characteristics.

Kant divides intuitions in the following ways:

  1. Kant distinguishes intuitions into pure intuitions and empirical intuitions. Empirical intuitions are intuitions that contain sensation. Pure intuitions are intuitions that do not contain any sensation (A50/B74). An example of an empirical intuition would be one's perception of a chair or another physical object. All such intuitions are immediate representations that have sensation as part of the content of the representation. The pure intuitions are, according to Kant, those of space and time, which are our mind's subjective condition of coordinating sensibilia. Our representations of space and time are not objective and real, but immediate representations that do not include sensation within those representations. Thus both are pure intuitions.
  2. Kant also divides intuitions into two groups in another way. Some intuitions require the presence of their object, i.e. of the thing represented by the intuition. Other intuitions do not. (The best source for these distinctions is Kant's Lectures on Metaphysics.) We might think of these in non-Kantian terms as first, perceptions, and second, imaginations (see B151). An example of the former: one's perception of a chair. An example of the latter: one's memory of a chair that has subsequently been destroyed. Throughout the Transcendental Aesthetic, Kant seems to restrict his discussion to intuitions of the former type: intuitions that require the presence of their object.

Kant also distinguished between a priori (pure) and a posteriori (empirical) concepts.

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